Over the past few months we’ve been busy compiling a round-up of our all-time favorite blues guitars. After plenty of arguing and making up we’ve finally managed to narrow it down to a list that we all agree on. If you’re looking to get yourself a guitar to play the blues on you can’t go far wrong with one of the options recognized in our round-up.
Here’s a list of what we believe are 6 of the best blues guitars around!
1. Taylor 114ce
This beautiful Grand Auditorium guitar is perfect for soulful blues music. The wood on the back and sides is Walnut. For the top, you will find Sitka Spruce. Both the neck and heel are made from Sapele. The fingerboard is Ebony. You can get a wide range of tonal qualities out of this Taylor. It features top-notch quality hardware that not only looks great but sounds great as well.
There are 20 frets on this acoustic. It has a wide Tusq bone nut that features beautiful pearl dot inlays. The scale here is 25.5 inches. There is a double varnish finish to ensure that your new instrument looks great for years to come.
Many people love this guitar for its sturdy build. It is also a joy to play for season pros and beginners alike. The smooth neck and body shape make it comfortable to play for extended sessions. Be aware there is no onboard tuner, but other than that, this is close to a perfect instrument.
2. Fender American Special Stratocaster
Here you have a more modern take on a blues guitar. It features a 9.5″ fretboard radius, a satin finish on the neck, and 22 jumbo frets. The belly cut of this instrument makes it easy to hold and play. There is also a contour arm bevel built into the top of the body.
Fender’s Grease Bucket Tone circuit is great because it allows you to roll off your high frequencies without adding any unwanted bass. As a Stratocaster, this instrument features the Synchronized tremolo that Fender is so famous for.
This instrument is made up of an Alder body and Maple neck. There are 22 jumbo frets as well as 3 Texas Special pickups. The satin urethane finish on top of the 2-color sunburst style gives you an attractive instrument that will stand up to the test of time. This guitar is also available in 5 other colors, including Olympic White and Mystic Seafoam.
3. Martin 000-15M
This large guitar is made from pure Mahogany. Having every part, including the neck, made from that wood gives this instrument an insane amount of resonance. It also makes it a very stable and durable instrument, which is good, considering the hefty price tag. Despite being a sturdy neck, it is slim and completely playable. Rosewood makes an appearance on the bridge. The pick-guard is on the small side, giving this guitar an elegant look. Die-cast tuners help add to the Martin look that guitarists have loved for decades.
Even though this guitar is great for blues music, it is more than capable of playing other genres as well. This is due to the warm and mellow sound. Guitarists love the expressive low-end frequencies. Unlike resonator guitars, the music made by this instrument is not as gritty. Many people think of Martin when they think of blues music, and this guitar does not disappoint.
4. PRS CM2VST SE Custom
You can get this guitar in either vintage sunburst or whale blue. You get a beveled Maple top with a Flame Maple Veneer. This works great with the Mahogany back. The neck of this guitar is made from Maple and the fretboard is Rosewood. It features bird inlays, 22 frets, and a 25″ scale length.
The manufacturer patented their Tremelo Bridge that works well with the 3-way toggle switch. PRS also designed their own tuners and give you nickel hardware. When buying this guitar, you also get a great padded gig bag.
This is a great guitar for anyone who is used to playing on a 22-fret instrument. The dual humbuckers help it produce a sound that works well with blues, as well as rock and jazz. It has a pronounced mid-range and clarity. The result is a full tonal bass. This instrument is ideal for playing in a band due to the way its sound can blend.
5. Squier by Fender Classic Vibe Telecaster
Here is another great option from Fender for someone looking to play the blues. This is a very lightweight instrument. It is made from Mahogany in a semi-hollow body that features to F holes. The gloss polyester finish is both attractive and useful. This is a one-piece guitar that features a modern C shaped neck. You get a 9.5-inch radius Maple fingerboard and 21 medium jumbo frets.
You get Master Volume and Master Tone controls. There is a 3 position pickup selector switch. To give this instrument a vintage feel, this guitar has a classic see-thru-body Tele bridge works great with the three Chrome Barrel Saddles. Fender gives you 2 custom Single-Coil Tele Pickups with AlNiCo V Magnets. The sound of this guitar is great for blues music. It gives you warmth, clarity, and just the right amount of punch. It is also great for those looking to play rock or jazz.
6. Gretsch G9200
This unique looking guitar is like no other. It has Mahogany on both the body and neck, which is rounded. The fingerboard is Rosewood. This is a 25″ scale length instrument. Being a resonator with six-strings, this is an ideal guitar for anyone looking to play the blues.
The F holes in the body of the instrument give it a classy look. There are 19 frets and white dot markers. Although the round neck is a bit unusual, it is slim enough to play comfortably. For a six-string guitar with resonance, this one is surprisingly small. That being said, it is a full-sized instrument.
With the tonewood on this instrument, it is no surprise that it produces power and punch, with just the right amount of mellow tones to make it a great guitar for playing the blues. If you are looking for twang, this is the right instrument for you.
Blues Guitars Buyers Guides
Finding the best guitar for playing the blues can be tricky. There are a lot of options on the market, and many instruments shy away from catering to one style of music too much. That being said, blues music can be somewhat hard to define. Unlike heavy metal, which requires a couple of humbuckers and a high amount of output, the requirements for a blues guitar are a little harder to define. This guide will help highlight some of the key things to look for when shopping for one.
Types of Blues Music
Before deciding on your guitar, you may have to narrow down the types of blues music you are interested in playing. Blues music developed differently in different parts of the country. Some areas were more heavily influenced by jazz than others. The main types of jazz music you will hear are:
Classic Country Blues
Also known as Delta Blues, this is the first type of the style to develop. It is played on acoustic instruments. This type of music often features a harmonica and a piano.
Also known as Kansas City Blues, this is the style that led to Rhythm and Blues in the 1940s and eventually gave birth to rock and roll. This type of blues music is heavily influenced by jazz and often features a very upbeat tempo.
This type of music built on the Delta Blues, but is louder more energetic. There is a large amount of jazz influence here, and there is usually the incorporation of a horn section in the music.
Here you have the style of music played by the King of the Blues himself, B.B. King. It is known for being a cross between Delta and Chicago blues and has more of an uptown sound. This is easily one of the most popular styles of the music out there.
These are songs that are more mellow and relaxed. They are often piano-based songs. This is a very sophisticated version of blues music.
West Coast Blues
Here you have a very “swingy” form of blues. People consider this style to be both jazzy and sophisticated. The rhythms are groovy and often feature both piano and horns. In order to be authentic West Coast Blues, the music has to have an edge while still sounding smooth.
This would be the style of blues that sounds the most like rock and roll. There is a lot of variety within this subgenre of blues music.
Acoustic vs. Electric
Many people associate the blues with an acoustic guitar, and with good reason. It is the type of guitar that was originally used. Nowadays, there are many beautiful acoustic guitars on the market that are ideal for playing this style of music. You are not limited to acoustic guitars.
[quote-box]Many of the most famous blues songs of all time were actually played on electric guitars.[/quote-box]
If you have the funds and are serious about playing the blues, you may want to consider investing in both an acoustic and an electric guitar.
Steel vs Nylon Strings
Traditionally speaking, steel strings are a better choice for blues music. They have the ability to sustain a note much longer than nylon ones. Nylon strings are considered to be warmer and struggle to produce the crying sound that blues music calls for. Steel strings were used in the development of much blues music because they were cheaper to get than nylon ones.
The wood your new guitar is made of will greatly impact how “bluesy” it can sound. Mahogany is a popular choice. This is because it allows for a lot of resonance, something that is very important to blues music. Other popular woods include maple and walnut. Often, the style of the body (solid, braced, etc) impacts the sound just as much as the type of wood.
The price range for blues guitars can vary greatly. You should try to decide how serious you are about playing this genre before deciding how much you are willing to spend. If you normally play in a country or rock band, you may not want to break the bank on a blues guitar. However, if you are new to playing and are certain that blues is the genre for you, go ahead and make a big investment. Buying a cheap one can cost you more down the road when you have to replace it way too soon. Look for an instrument that has a good warranty to make sure it lasts you for years to come.
Tips for Playing the Blues
Your own personal style will be the biggest consideration in finding the best blues guitar for you. Once you have found one, there are some important things to remember in order to become the best blues guitarist you can be. Getting started in this genre can be challenging. Tips to keep in mind are:
- Start with Rhythm: Although not the most glamorous part of the blues, learning how to have a confident rhythm is the first building block for playing. The shuffle, in particular, is important to know before moving on to more complex blues music.
- Practice Your Favorites: By learning some of the greatest songs and solos of all time, you will be learning blues phrases that can be used in developing your own music. If you are feeling as if you are in a rut with your music development, try learning a new classic for inspiration.
- Try Learning with Your Ears Instead of Eyes: One way to become a great blues player is to learn how to play famous songs by listening to them instead of looking up the chords online. This can be a frustrating undertaking, but getting an ear for the music can greatly improve your playing and songwriting abilities.
For further tips on playing the blues check out this useful guide.
Buying a blues guitar requires all of the same considerations as any other – tonewoods, durability, onboard equipment, etc. You will want to make sure you are getting a high-quality product no matter what. Which tonewoods and onboard effects you will want, however, depends on what type of blues music you are wanting to play. Whether you want to play the blues exclusively or be more versatile is a factor, as well. Hopefully, this guide served to give you a better idea of what type of music you are wanting to play. Additionally, it should have given you some food for thought on which type of guitar is best for you and how to get the most out of your new instrument.