Shoegaze is known for its ambience and heavy use of effects. Lots of reverb, delay and gain.
If you’re looking to play shoegaze you’ll want a guitar that can get a good distorted tone but also is capable of doing that ambient, droning almost sleepy sound. You might want a tremolo too.
So let’s take a look at some of the best guitars for shoegaze. I’ve covered most budgets, from the very affordable to expensive and high end models. I’ve also tried to cater for different types of showgaze sounds (dream pop etc). So I’m confident you’ll find a guitar that suits the sound you’re aiming for.
Best Guitars for Shoegaze
- Best Overall: Fender Jazzmaster – The classic shoegaze guitar. With its distinctive jangly tone and floating tremolo system the Jazzmaster is a staple in the shoegaze genre. It’s ideal for creating those lush, dreamy soundscapes and looks the part too.
- Best Value for Money: Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster – A budget friendly alternative that doesn’t compromise on quality. If you can’t afford the full Fender this will give you the Jazzmaster tone at a great price.
- Best for Atmosphere: Rickenbacker 330 – Known for a real rich and chimey sound the Rickenbacker 330 is a go to for shoegaze guitarists looking to create atmospheric sounds.
- Best for Versatility: Gibson SG – A classic choice that offers the well known Gibson warm, sustained tone. The SG’s versatility makes it suitable for both the heavier parts of shoegaze and the ambient sounds.
- Best for Dream Pop: Fender Stratocaster – An obvious choice but a good one. With its bright and clean tones the Stratocaster is excellent for the lighter and dreamier side of shoegaze and dream pop.
Fretboard: Pau Ferro
Pickups: 2 Humbuckers
- Good quality for an affordable price
- Unique tremolo system
- Humbucker pickups for distortion
The Fender Jazzmaster is simply the quintessential shoegaze guitar. It’s renowned for having it’s own unique, jangly sound. And because of that sound it’s been a staple in the genre since it began.
The Jazzmaster features a distinctive floating tremolo system and wide, single-coil pickups. These give you a range of sounds from clean and bright to fuzzy and thick gain. This makes them perfect for creating the signature shoegaze sound.
The tremolo allows you to get that warble that is also synonymous with shoegaze. The tremolo arm is slightly longer too which helps to nail that specific technique where it might be trickier on other guitars.
What makes the Jazzmaster particularly appealing is its ability to handle a lot of effects pedals without compromising tone. Which is key for shoegaze.
It doesn’t matter what you throw at it – lush reverb or heavy delay – a Jazzmaster will hold its clarity and character regardless of the layers of effects that you use.
Also, it may not be the most important reason for choosing a guitar, but the biggest names in shoegaze have all used Jazzmasters.
The Fender Player Jazzmaster is the best value and not an overly expensive way to get a Jazzmaster. The Fender American Professional Jazzmaster is a big step up in terms of price and I’m not convinced it’s worth it. The same for the Vintera model.
At the time of writing this they’re both close to double the price of the Player model. That feels like too much considering the differences. The Vintera will be more traditional – vintage voiced pickups, thicker necks etc. – but when it comes to shoegaze this isn’t really important.
Whichever you choose though if you play shoegaze and can afford it then there’s very little chance of you being disappointed with a Jazzmaster.
Pickups: 2 Single Coils
- Good quality for an affordable price
- Excellent feel to and playing neck
- Good sounding single coil pickups
- Synthetic nut
- Not as high quality as more expensive options
If you want that Jazzmaster sound but without the price tag the Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster is the perfect alternative. The signature model of Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis, it offers the classic Jazzmaster tone and feel at a much more accessible price.
If you don’t know much much (or anything) about Dinosaur Jr. they’re not strictly a shoegaze band, although definitely had an influence on the genre. But don’t let that put you off. The Mascis Jazzmaster is pretty much universally praised as being not only a great guitar but phenomenally good value.
It features a slightly modified body shape that actually makes it a little easier to play than the regular Jazzmaster. It has the unique pickup configuration you get with Jazzmasters for their characteristic sound.
The satin neck is especially popular and well thought of on the J Mascis model. They feel excellent and are super easy to play.
As a budget option goes it’s a fantastic one. For a similar price you can get the Classic Vibe 60’s Jazzmaster which is also great, although I think the Mascis model is marginally better. But I’ve talked at length about the quality of the Classic Vibe range and the Jazzmaster is no different.
If these are still too expensive or you’re a beginner and don’t want to spend too much when staring out then the Squier Affinity Jazzmaster is roughly half the price of the Classic Vibe and J Mascis models. It won’t be up to the same standard in terms of hardware quality but is perfectly decent.
I started with a Squier Affinity Stratocaster and it was more than good enough for a beginner. They’re aimed at beginners so you get a decent guitar for a price you can justify as a starter.
Pickups: 2 Single Coils
- Very high quality
- Amazing tone
- Unique pickups
- Very Expensive
- Distinct tone might not suit everyone
Rickenbacker’s are known for having a very jangly and chimey sound. This comes from their pickups which are built in house and wired differently to most other guitars.
That jangly sound and special pickups suit shoegaze surprisingly well. You usually want a lot of treble for shoegaziness and the high end sparkle the Rickenbacker produces is ideal. It will cut through the mix when there’s a lot of effects being used and you’ve got a real dense sound.
The semi hollow body of the 330 gives it a full and ringing tone which combined with the high output pickups means you can get some awesome atmospheric and dreamy textures.
They’re also exceptionally well built. No attention to detail is missed. But they aren’t cheap.
You will have to pay premium to get one.
Brand: Gibson SG
Pickups: 2 Humbuckers
- Fantastic sustain
- Very lightweight
- Easy to play
- Can be prone to neck dive
Probably better known for straightforward rock, SG’s are actually very versatile. When it comes to shoegaze a Gibson SG would do a good job of switching between the heavier and mellow sides.
You get the sustain and warmth associated with Les Paul’s but the ability to get heavy and aggressive if needed. That thick and fuzzy wall of sound you get in shoegaze is going to sound great with through the SG pickups.
And whilst they usually come with humbuckers (you can get P90 versions too) they’re still capable of cleaning up nicely too.
From a playability point of view the SG is super lightweight and comfortable. If you’re playing live and do a lot of moving around on stage then a light SG is going to be preferable to something like a heavier Les Paul, or even a Jazzmaster.
If the full Gibson version is a little too expensive then the Epiphone model punches well above its weight. A good price so you can try out the SG feel and sound to see if you like it.
Pickups: 3 Single Coils
- Excellent quality for the price
- Very versatile
- Might not do high gain or wall of sound type sound
If you’re looking to play the lighter and more melodic type of shoegaze – so dream pop, basically – then a Strat will be a great choice. Strats can do pretty much anything and because of their bright tone they’re well suited to
You’ve got the tremolo too. And whilst the Jazzmaster system is a little better for shoegaze the Strat will still get the job done.
Those iconic single coil pickups give you a crisp sound that retains its clarity while cutting through the layers of effects used in shoegaze.
The Stratocaster’s versatility and ease of play make it a great choice for virtually anything. The single coils won’t be able to do that fuzzy, wall of sound as well but you could get an HSS configuration if you really wanted a Strat.
For the best value at the moment it’s hard to beat the Player Stratocaster. It’s extremely good value for a fully fledged Fender. The 60’s Vintera is more expensive, although not by a lot. So if you prefer a vintage vibe that’s the one to go for.
The American Professional II will be an amazing guitar but is priced highly. If you’ve got the cash then go for it but it’s hard to recommend otherwise considering the cheaper options.
What to Avoid
Honestly, lots of guitars are going to be fine for playing shoegaze. The ones above are what I think are the best but you won’t go wrong with most models. I didn’t mention Mustangs or Jaguars which are also great options.
However there are a few types of guitars to avoid. Any guitar with active pickups just isn’t going to work.
Active pickups are designed for very high gain and are going to be too aggressive for most types of shoegaze.