The music we hear at church has changed vastly from years past. Having a full band is no longer abnormal and can be much more inspiring than the traditional vocal choir or organist setup. Worship guitar, sometimes called P&W (praise and worship) has become a hugely popular style of playing over the past several years.
One of the defining characteristics of modern worship bands is that they are typically large bands with a very dense mix. Some bands have up to 5 guitarists at times, as well as multiple keyboard and synth players, and because of this it can be challenging to find the right spot for your guitar in the sonic space without making things sound too muddy.
The role of the electric guitar in worship music is usually focused on ambient subtle sounds, and if you’re not using the correct guitar, you may have a hard time achieving this. Price is a less important factor when it comes to worship, the most important thing is what you can get from your guitar.
In this article, we will look at 9 of the best electric guitars for worship music. We’ll cover guitars of all pickup styles, prices, and semi-hollow and solid body construction.
The Best Praise and Worship Guitars
- Fender Player Stratocaster – Best Overall
- Fender Player Telecaster – Runner-Up
- Epiphone Les Paul Standard 59 – Best Single Cut
- PRS SE Custom 24 – Most Versatile
- Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster – Budget Pick
- G2622 Streamliner – Best Under $500
- PRS SE Silver Sky – Best Under $1,000
- PRS SE Hollowbody Standard – Best for the Money
- Epiphone ES-335 – Best Semi-Hollow
Fender Player Stratocaster – Overall Best Electric Guitar for Worship
We’ll start our list off with the classic Fender Stratocaster, specifically the current Player Series Stratocaster. You may think of the Stratocaster as the classic solid body blues and rock guitar that we’ve all heard and seen on countless records, but it has a few key features that work very well for worship music.
The reason this gets our pick for the best overall guitar for worship is the amount of tonal flexibility because of the 3 single-coil pickups and 5-way selector. Having this many options allows you to always find the right sound for the moment. The neck pickup is glassy and rounded, which sits back in a mix perfectly, the middle position and in between positions (4 & 5) will cut or boost certain frequencies, and the bridge position is perfect for standing out and making those lead lines heard.
If you’re playing in a worship band with many members, it can be hard to find that sweet spot where you’re being heard but not stepping on others frequencies, so the Stratocaster allows you the flexibility to sit back or stand out.
The Player Series Stratocaster starts off with a comfort contoured alder body, with a gloss polyester finish. Alder is the most popular tone-wood used by Fender guitars, and offers a rich warm sound that pairs very well with the single-coil pickups that are typically found on their guitars. The neck on this guitar is made of maple and features maple fretboard, but also has a satin finish on the back of the neck so you can move smoothly up and down the fretboard.
Another feature that lends itself well to this style of music is the 2-point synchronized tremolo. Being able to add a little wiggle to a note or chord is just something to add a little subtle movement to the song and when done properly, it sounds amazing.
Fender Player Telecaster – Runner-Up
Our runner up to best overall pick is the Fender Player Telecaster. Similar to the Stratocaster we just spoke about, the Telecaster is another amazing choice from the Fender lineup.
Like Stratocasters, the single-coil pickups in a Telecaster are an excellent option for worship music. They’re not too powerful or bassy, which makes them sit well in a mix. They’re also very responsive to touch and feel, so it’s easy to pull back a little bit on your picking and make your playing a little more subtle, and then be able to dig in harder to get some extra volume and make your notes heard.
As you might expect from Fender, we have an alder body with a maple neck, but this time we have a pau ferro fretboard, which is very similar to the classic rosewood. It is worth noting that you can also choose to have a maple fretboard with certain body color options. It does also include the satin finish on the back, for an easy playing feel.
While you do have less options tonally than the Stratocaster, the Telecaster with its 2 pickup / 3-way selector switch configuration, you can still cover a ton of ground with a good Telecaster. The neck pickup is very quiet and subtle, while the bridge can get as bright as you’d like. There’s something really special about the middle position on Telecaster though, that you can’t really get on a standard wired Stratocaster. It provides a subtle low frequency cut and makes the highs a little more glassy like the neck pickup of a Strat, and since both pickups are running in series it also cancels any hum issues just like a humbucker does.
Epiphone Les Paul Standard 59 – Best Single Cut Worship Guitar
Vintage-inspired aesthetics, rich tonal resonance, and iconic design. Crafted with precision, it delivers legendary sound, ensuring a timeless musical experience for guitar enthusiasts.
There aren’t many things cooler than a Les Paul, so we had to drop one in the list. The Gibson Les Pauls from 1959 are probably the most sought after and expensive guitars in the world and this Epiphone pays a great tribute to those legendary guitars.
The Epiphone Les Paul Standard 59 is from the “inspired by Gibson” series that Epiphone has been doing for the past few years, which puts more emphasis on the traditional Gibson design staples like the “open book” headstock shape, upgraded tonewoods, upgraded pickups, etc. These premium appointments have made these guitars a big improvement over Epiphone’s from previous years, and this Les Paul is no different.
For tonewoods Epiphone is using real mahogany just like you’d find in the Gibson lineup as well as a AAA flamed maple top that looks phenomenal. The neck is made of mahogany as well, but features a really nice Indian laurel fretboard. The neck profile is based on real 50’s Les Pauls so you get that true ‘59 feel.
They’ve used real Gibson pickups based on the classic 50’s PAF humbuckers. There’s a common misconception that humbuckers aren’t ideal for worship music because they’re too thick sounding, but that simply isn’t true. These PAF-style humbuckers are much lower output and sound more like a single coil than they do a high-output humbucker like an EMG. This lower output makes them have a less overbearing bass frequency range, and allows them to have plenty of high end sparkle.
If you’re a big fan of the single-cut Les Paul style guitars, this Epiphone Les Paul Standard 59 would be an excellent choice that lends itself well to all the qualities you’d want in a worship guitar.
PRS SE Custom 24 – Most Versatile Worship Guitar
If you’re a frequent reader on the GuitarAdvise site it’s no secret that we’re big fans of PRS guitars. Their attention to detail and outstanding quality are just some things that keep us coming back. The PRS SE Custom 24 is a super flexible instrument that can work for any music style, so let’s dig into what we think makes it great for praise & worship.
The sound and playability offered on the SE Custom 24 are second to none. The contoured mahogany body is one of the most comfortable guitars available today, and tonally it provides excellent resonance and sustain. The wide-thin neck profile feels great in your hands, and the maple provides outstanding sonic balance when paired with the mahogany body. 24 frets provide you with 2 full octaves just in case you need to hit that furthest note and provide that full dynamic range.
PRS’s 85/15 coil-splitting humbuckers are the real stars of the show. It’s not common to find a pickup of this super high-quality in a guitar under $1000, but PRS refuses to cut quality even on their imported guitars. They work equally well in humbucking or single-coil mode and give you as much flexibility as you could ever ask for in a guitar. The low end in humbucking mode isn’t overbearing, and the highs are smooth, so you won’t have anyone holding their ears when you hit those lead melodies high on the fretboard. When you pull the tone-pot to get those single coil sounds, you’ll have all the chime and sparkle of a Stratocaster pickup. It’s great to have all of these sounds in one guitar.
We’ve also got a PRS tremolo, which works very similar to that you’d find on a Fender, so that you can add some subtle tremolo to the song. This, paired with the pickup switching options, makes this our most versatile pick on this list. It truly is a guitar that works for nearly any style or situation.
Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster – Best Cheap Worship Guitar
As we mentioned before, price isn’t a huge factor when selecting a praise and worship guitar, so with that out of the way let’s dig into the Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster and explain why we feel this is an excellent pick for those on a budget.
It’s hard to understate how great the Squier Classic Vibe series has been in recent years. These guitars are on-par if not better than many guitars that are listed at twice the cost, and if you’re not hung up on the Squier name on the headstock (you shouldn’t be), then there’s no good reason why you shouldn’t go out and try one out.
One of my favorite features on these 50’s 50-style Squier Classic Vibe Stratocasters is the use of pine bodies. Pine is an incredible tonewood, and if you’re hip to Fender history, you’ll know that it was used on most of their guitars in the 50’s and 60’s because of how lightweight and resonant it is. The main reason they moved away from pine and switched to alder is that pine can be a bit soft, so touring musicians complained about the wear and tear from being on the road. These days, the paint and lacquer used on guitars, like the gloss polyurethane on this model, is much tougher, so this isn’t a big concern anymore. In addition to the pine body, Squier is using maple necks with a beautiful darkened tint to add to the old-school 50s vibe.
For pickups, Squier is using a set of Fender-designed AlNiCo single-coil pickups which are designed to sound just like the pickups used in the 50’s and 60’s but with less noise and hum. Paired with the 5-way pickup selector, you’ve got a plethora of great tones at your disposal.
Just like any good Stratocaster, there is also a synchronized tremolo which works great for adding a little extra vibrato to leads or chords.
This Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster is simply an amazing pick at an even more fantastic price point.
Gretsch 2622 Streamliner – Best Worship Guitar Under $500
Gretsch guitars are becoming more and more popular in worship for their unique sound. Gretsch’s Streamliner series was introduced a few years ago and has really taken off. Prior to the Streamliner series, Gretsch had very few affordable models to offer the average player. Let’s take a look at the Gretsch G2622 and explain why it’s a great pick for worship players these days.
The semi-hollow construction lends itself well to worship styles because of a certain snapiness and smooth midrange that is hard to achieve on solid-body guitars. The G2622 has a 5-play maple arched top which sounds open and punchy. Inside, there is a long spruce center block which helps prevent unwanted feedback while still giving you that semi-hollow attack and tone.
Gretsch’s “BroadTron” pickups are the real feature that makes their guitars sound unique. These humbucking pickups provide an incredible amount of clarity compared to other humbuckers, along with a unique bite and warmth that you can really only achieve from a Gretsch guitar. They also have a very unique control scheme which includes a master volume, a master tone, and an individual volume for each pickup which makes blending pickups to get a particular tone easy to do.
While many Gretsch’s come equipped with a Bigsby style vibrato, the G2622 Streamliner features a “V” stoptail and tune-o-matic bridge which provide perfect intonation as well as tuning stability and sustain.
PRS SE Silver Sky – Best Worship Guitar Under $1,000
The PRS Silver Sky was an instant success as soon as it hit the market. While John Mayer isn’t a worship guitarist, his tone and play style are hard not to love no matter what style of music you play. The PRS SE Silver Sky was released earlier this year, offering a top notch “S” style guitar at an affordable price point.
We’ve already discussed two “S” style guitars in this list and we already know how well they can work for praise and worship guitar playing, but the PRS SE has a few things that make it unique.
The heart of the sound here comes from a set of custom designed 635JM “S” specially designed by PRS with input from John Mayer himself. These are the exact same pickups you’ll find in the Core model of the Silver Sky. They are based on the pickups that John Mayer prefers which come out of Fender Stratocasters produced from 1963-1965. A unique thing about these is that they are actually all the same pickup, but sound different based on their relative location between the neck and the bridge. Using three identical pickups ensures that they all are all perfectly balanced in volume with one another, so no matter which position the pickup selector is in, you won’t have any unwanted frequency spikes like you might have on other “S” style guitars.
We also have a unique neck profile called the 635JM again based on Fender guitars from 1963-1965. It has a unique fretboard radius that sits somewhere between vintage and modern at 8.25”, which feels great whether you’re used to more vintage-style guitars or modern-style guitars.
For hardware PRS went with vintage-style non-locking tuners, and a reliable 2-point tremolo system.
PRS SE Hollowbody Standard – Best Worship Guitar for the Money
When we say best for the money, we’re really talking about the amount of high-quality components and build quality that you can get for a reasonable price point. The PRS SE Hollowbody Standard makes it easy to see why we chose this. Not only is this one of the best looking guitars in our list, it’s also one of the best playing and sounding guitars here. Let’s see what PRS has to offer on the SE Hollowbody Standard.
Starting off we’ve got a gorgeous mahogany figured carved top paired with mahogany back and sides that provide an unmatched clarity and rich warm tones. You’ll notice two “F” holes meaning this is a true hollowbody, albeit much slimmer and smaller than a traditional hollow body like a Gretsch. The way this PRS is constructed provides you with the warm clarity you’d expect from a hollow body guitar but keeps the sustain you’d find in a traditional solid body guitar.
The neck is a wide-fat profile set neck which feels great in your hands and works really well with the feel of this guitar. Don’t let the word “fat” steer you away if you like thinner necks, as it isn’t too chunky compared to other guitars. The ebony fretboard is a great premium appointment that looks and sounds incredible.
Two vintage voiced 85/15 pickups provide a classic PAF style tone you’d want from a classic-styled guitar like this. They are fairly low output so they shouldn’t sound too boomy through most amps, and sit perfectly in a mix.
Unlike other PRS guitars, it does have a stop tail wraparound bridge for perfect tuning stability when paired with the PRS-designed tuners.
While this isn’t the cheapest on this list, it does have the highest construction quality and many premium appointments, which you won’t find in other guitars at this price point.
Epiphone ES-335 – Best Semi-Hollow Body Worship Guitar
Semi-hollow guitars like the 335 work great for worship, as they have a soft attack, additional resonance, and a unique midrange that is hard to achieve with solid-body guitars. The 335 is a legendary Gibson guitar used famously by everyone from blues to rock to jazz to country and everything in between. Let’s check out the Epiphone ES-335 from the “Inspired by Gibson” lineup.
Much like the Les Paul Standard 59 that we looked at earlier, this ES-335 is from their “inspired by Gibson” line, which has many upgrades from previous years’ Epiphones. Some notable upgrades on the 335 include Alnico PRO pickups, graph tech NuBone nut, and real mother-of-pearl fretboard inlays.
The body on the Epiphone ES-335 is a single-ply layered maple semi-hollow construction, which is snappy and full sounding. This body type paired with the Alnico PRO pickups provides the “bell-like” tone we all hear about.
The Epiphone ES-335 uses the familiar Gibson pickup control layout featuring a volume for each pickup, a tone for each pickup, and a 3-way selector switch that allows lots of tweaking and pickup blending to get the right tone for the moment.
These features and great tones make this our pick for the best semi-hollow guitar at a reasonable price point.
How to Choose The Best Electric Guitar for Worship – Buyer’s Guide
Materials & Build Quality
The materials and build quality will vary slightly depending on which brand or body style you prefer.
All of the guitars we looked at in this list are imported guitars, so they will not have as many handcrafted or high-end parts as the USA models from each brand might have. On this same point, the materials and build quality for affordable guitars have really improved a great deal over the past several years.
There are so many brands putting out really great guitars for under $1000 or even $500, that the market competition has forced builders to put better and better guitars out. There’s never been a better time to be a guitar player when you look at all of the options we have available to us.
Each body style has its benefits and drawbacks, so let’s point out a couple characteristics of each:
- Solid Body
- Increased sustain
- Usually smaller in size, possibly more comfortable
- Resistant to feedback
- Usually very balanced tonally
- Semi-hollow body
- Closer tonally to solid bodies than hollow bodies
- Less sustain
- More boomy low end
- Very resonant
- Possible feedback issues
- Most low end “boom”
- Softer attack
- Very pronounced mid-range
Sound & Music Genre
These days, with the way guitars are built, most guitars can work for every play style, but some tend to work better for others.
The solid body guitars we looked at like the Stratocaster, Les Paul and PRS guitars will typically be the most versatile. The semi-hollow guitars may have a bit of trouble with feedback when using lots of distortion or fuzz.
Just as important as the sound of a guitar, is how easily you can play it.
All of the guitars we covered today have certain features or measurements that will determine how easy they are for you to play. For example, the Fender / Squier guitars we talked about have a 25.5” scale length, which means it has a pretty large distance between frets. If you have small hands, this is something you may not get along with too well. The Epiphone guitars and even the PRS guitars have shorter scale lengths, which you might prefer.
My best recommendation would be to stop by your local music shop, or maybe even the Sweetwater showroom if you find yourself in Indiana, to get your hands on some guitars and find out what sizes and features are most comfortable for you.
All the guitars we looked at today were around $1000 or less, and we did our best to include only guitars that are a great value at their price.
The least expensive guitar that we discussed is the Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster, coming in at well under $500.
We’ve proven with this list that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get a high quality instrument anymore. If you’re looking for an extremely high end instrument you can spend as much as makes sense to you, but it’s not always necessary.
Can you lead worship with an electric guitar?
Absolutely! It’s becoming more and more popular these days for praise and worship bands to be fronted by guitarists. Electric guitar being such a flexible tool, you can cover any bit of ground from handling the majority of the melody and lead work, to sitting back and handling the structure of the song.
Are Stratocasters good for worship music?
100% yes. You can get nearly any tone that you’d like from subtle harmony, to searing leads. The single coil pickups work particularly well for worship and sit in a very particular frequency range allowing you to sit back or be right up front.
Are semi-hollow guitars good for worship?
Of course! The semi-hollow tone isn’t much different from solid body instruments like the Strat or Tele, but they do have their own unique sound and feel. If you are in a worship band that has many guitarists who play solid body instruments, playing a semi-hollow could be exactly what you need to diversify yourself and fill out the sonic spectrum with something a little different.
Today, we’ve looked at 9 of the best guitars on the market and explained what makes each unique and suitable for worship music.
We covered a large range of body styles and prices, proving that they can all be useful in their way.
We hope this list helps you narrow your search and find the perfect instrument to get the most out of your worship guitar playing!