So, you’ve decided to play electric guitar, great! The kind of music you'll want to play on it the most will determine what's best for you. Identify bands or players who's songs you want to learn. When you know what they play, that'll give you a better idea of what guitar to get.
Essentially, there's 2 camps of electric guitars with some sub groups; single coils, ala the Strat and Tele and humbuckers, ala the Les Paul, PRS, etc. You can get Strats w/humbuckers and you can get Les Pauls w/single coils, but a different type of single coil than a Strat pickup. A Strat and Tele sound the way they do because:
1. The scale length is 25.5" and requires more tension to tune than a shorter scale w/the same gauge string.
2. The single coil pickups.
3. Where the single coil pickups are placed under the strings.
4. Construction materials/methods; typically the necks are maple and bolted to the alder bodies.
Les Pauls/SG's sound the way they do because:
1. The scale length is 24.75" meaning the strings are not under as much tension.
2. The humbucker pickups.
3. Where the humbucker pickups are placed under the strings.
4. Construction materials/methods; typically the necks are mahogany and glued or 'set' into a mahogany body and often with a maple cap/top surface.
Most electric guitars are ‘solid body’ guitars meaning that the body of the guitar is solid wood; there is no acoustic chamber inside the body. Popular models of solid body electrics include:
The Les Paul
The Flying V
And many, MANY others including copies and variations of the above mentioned models. Solid body guitars are predominately used in Rock, especially hard Rock and Metal. Because they don’t feature an acoustic chamber they resist feedback at much higher volume levels. They are also commonly found in Country and Blues.
Another type of electric guitar is the ‘semi-hollow body’. These guitars do feature a small acoustic chamber. Popular models include:
And many, MANY others including copies and variations of the above mentioned models. Semi hollow body guitar are used quite often in Rock, Country, Blues, and Jazz.
A final type of guitar, for this discussion, is the ‘hollow body’. As the name would suggest, these electric guitars feature a large acoustic chamber. Popular models include:
Several models by Gretch including the White Falcon
And many, MANY others including copies and variations of the above mentioned. Hollow body guitars are used quite often in Jazz as they are the most prone to feedback in high volume situations, however, some Rock guitar players are known for this using this body style such as Brian Setzer and George Thorogood.
There are obviously many variables to the electric guitar: scale length, pickups, materials/methods of construction, body styles, etc. The more you move away from a clean tone the less any of these factors is apparent. Ultimately, w/pedals, amps, and processors you can make any guitar sound like anything BUT a guitar.
For the sake of this discussion, I'm not going to cover active electronics.