It’s not enough to know what notes to play to play the blues. Anyone can learn that. You need to know ‘why’ and ‘when’ those notes need to be played. Well, that’s our opinion.
The working songs and spiritual music born in the cotton fields of the Deep South and sung by slaves is where the blues came from. It matured and grew in the area we know as the Mississippi Delta just along the river from the home of Jazz in New Orleans.
Both musical forms influenced each other and as the 20th century arrived, it had become what we recognize today. Almost certainly the most dynamic and emotive of all the musical styles.
But, what guitar do we play the blues on? There are so many to choose from.
So, let’s have a look at some and decide on the Best Blues guitar for you…
- Top 8 Best Blues Guitars In 2020 Reviews
- So, Let’s Go Play The Blues…
- What Sort Of Blues Sound Are You Looking For?
- So, What’s The Best Blues Guitar?
Top 8 Best Blues Guitars In 2020 Reviews
1 Martin 000-15M – Natural
Martin, of course, needs little introduction. They have been producing quality guitars suitable for a variety of genres since 1833. And, over that time have gained a reputation as being one of the best.
They insist on producing instruments with a warm tone and for this reason, build them from the finest mahogany. The neck is mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard. The bridge is also made from rosewood. Tuners are open-geared nickel.
All quality materials…
Just the look of this guitar with its dark wood mahogany finish says its a class act, and it is. Elegant is probably the word that might best describe it.
Suitable for most styles of music this guitar sounds great with either a finger-picking style or strummed. It, therefore, lends itself beautifully to blues players who often like to utilize both styles of play.
The tones are warm and mellow but can be a little twangy if you want them to be. Whichever your style you choose the sound is clear.
No booming bass notes…
One problem that is sometimes encountered is a booming bass note that seems to overshadow everything else that is going on. That is not the case with this guitar, and the frequencies at the bottom are very well balanced.
There is no doubt this is a class guitar and well suited to the original style of blues playing. It is a purely non-electric instrument which adds to its vintage authenticity, and the purists are going to love the feel and the sound it puts out.
Being made almost entirely from mahogany, it is very durable and is going to last you a long time.
It comes with a hard case.
It is not what you would call cheap, but given the quality, it is not expensive either.
2 Epiphone Limited Edition ES-335
When you see the numbers 335, it can only mean one thing – The Blues.
BB King, Otis Rush, Chuck Berry and closer to home for us, Alvin Lee from Ten Years After. The 335 is and always was a mean machine. It was the world’s first semi-acoustic archtop guitar that was made commercially and still holds its status today as one of the great designs.
This particular model is the Epiphone 335, not the Gibson, but it carries the hallmark of its illustrious predecessor. This guitar turns back the clock to when the 335 and those that played it ruled the music world.
But, what about the construction…
The top is made from maple with a mahogany neck finished off with a rosewood fingerboard and the standard 22 frets. Quality block inlays in the fingerboard and the classic white binding finish the job nicely.
And what do we have creating the noise? Humbuckers of course. Two of them…
The Alnico Classic Pro taking its place in the neck position and the Classic Pro Plus at the bridge. Enough power and drive to remove your shoes and socks if you let it get out of control.
The hardware is completed with Wilkinson tuners created in a vintage style and the standard Lock-Tone bridge and tailpiece.
Epiphone have got it exactly right on this one. Quality everywhere you look and a sound that will take your breath away. The only question we were left with was how they could produce a guitar this good at such a price. We are, however, not complaining!
It looks pretty, and it’s well made, but the sound – it just crackles at you and screams play the blues.
It’s a phenomenal guitar for the price and an instrument that anyone will be proud to own and play.
It is not a Gibson, but it is a 335, so, go play some blues. Say no more.
3 Fender American Special Stratocaster, Maple Fretboard
Fender or Gibson, 335 or Strat it was always the same argument. In bass guitar circles the choice between Fender and Gibson was no contest but guitars to play the blues? It is close.
Just as Gibson can parade a host of great guitarists, Fender, and the Strat can do the same. Beck, Blackmore, Gilmour, Harrison, Trower and later Hendrix and last but not least one of the all-time great blues players Rory Gallagher (until his Strat was stolen).
The Fender American Special Stratocaster has been released by Fender in an effort to make this special guitar available to as many people as possible.
And, if there is one body shape in guitars that everybody knows it’s this one…
Made with an Alder body and a maple neck with a satin finish. They have produced this particular version in two-tone sunburst adding to its vintage look and feel.
The hardware is from the top end and features a synchronized tremolo bridge with six saddles that are fully adjustable. Tuning is courtesy of Fender ‘F’ tuners which hold the strings tuning perfectly.
No unwanted buzz…
The Strat has a very recognizable sound generated by its 3 pickup configuration, and Fender has stayed true to the formula. Three single coil pickups are the mainstay, and in this particular model, a revised circuitry keeps any unwanted buzz to an absolute minimum.
This guitar plays and sounds like it looks, just great. To some, the archetypal blues guitar that generates real power yet can also be moody and subtle.
For a US Fender this is not expensive to buy and whilst there may have been one or two corners cut in an attempt to make it as cost effective as possible, it is still the real deal with an authentic Strat sound, and we all know how good that can be.
Comes with a gig bag rather than a case, which is one of the cost savings we just mentioned.
4 Squier By Fender Classic Vibe Telecaster Custom
We must confess, with apologies to Fender. We get a little bit perplexed when we hear them say in there marketing blurb that this guitar or that guitar is great to learn on. It might be, but they shouldn’t underplay it.
This Fender Classic Vibe Thinline Telecaster might be good to learn with, but it’s an awful lot more than that.
This is a stunning guitar with its semi-hollow body made from mahogany which gives a great combination of the Telecaster sound and adds a natural resonance from the semi-open body. The crafted f-hole in the body giving it a sense that this guitar is something extra.
The ‘c’ shaped neck is a single piece of maple, and it also has a maple fingerboard with black dot inlays, and the design finished off perfectly with its white shaped pickguard.
The bridge is the traditional through body style with three barrel saddles for adjustment. And tuning is courtesy of vintage style machine heads. Of course, two single-coil pickups give us the sound and control comes from the familiar single volume and tone controls and a three position pickup selector.
So, what about the sound?
The rich mahogany body and the resonance of the semi-hollow design all mixed in a pot with a traditional Telecaster sound and what do we get?
A gritty, punchy sound combined with a richness of tone that is quite staggering. The sound of a Telecaster but with a little bit more. Well, quite a bit more, to be honest.
If anyone needs convincing Squier can make great guitars then pick up one of these, and we are not even considering the price. This guitar stands on its own with its more supposed illustrious brethren as a stunning blues/jazz guitar.
Bring the cost of it into the equation, and surely you must have one of the best instruments around.
5 Epiphone Les Paul Standard
If you are talking playing blues guitar and maybe playing it loud, then you cannot exclude a Les Paul version in the discussion somewhere.
So, enter the Epiphone Les Paul Standard, a quality instrument.
It is well made in China from good quality materials. It has a solid mahogany body with a maple veneer top. The neck is also mahogany with a standard fingerboard made from rosewood.
At the headstock are the Grover machine heads for accurate tuning and are also the standard on all Gibson guitars. It features a Tune-o-Matic bridge with its six adjustable saddles.
It is all well put together, but what about the sound?
The noise is created by twin humbuckers, what else? Two Alnico classic pickups, one at the neck and one at the bridge. Controls are the familiar one volume and one tone per pickup and a toggle switch to move between them. All a very standard set up and arrangement for a Les Paul.
This Epiphone though is no cheap copy of a Gibson. It is about a quarter of the price of its famous cousin, but the Epiphone stands out as a quality guitar.
It has the look, and the feel and the sound is excellent. But, it’s not fair to judge it as a copy. The action on the fingerboard is smooth and fast, and it is well-balanced which makes it easy to play.
Vary your blues style…
The twin humbuckers will give you enough sounds to vary your blues style with the mood of the music from mellow and almost jazzy to something right in your face.
This guitar can stand up and stake its claim as a good guitar to play some blues and at the price is a very attractive option.
6 Gretsch G9200 Roundneck Boxcar
Simply made to play the blues, a resonator guitar offers a whole new playing experience, and this Gretsch model is a very good place to have that experience if you have not had it before.
Made from mahogany, resonant in itself as a wood for guitar manufacture, it has two f-holes to add to the character of the sound, as well as, the Ampli-Sonic cone which dominates the look of the guitar. The neck is also mahogany, ‘c’ shaped, with a rosewood fingerboard and is 25-inch scale with 19 frets.
The hardware is completed with a spider cone and bridge and plastic tuning pegs.
It looks a class act…
It is visually very attractive, and with good quality woods used in the manufacture, it looks a class act. Physically it is quite small compared to many of its contemporaries, though it is, in fact, full-size, which makes the deep, resonant sounds it makes even more surprising.
This is a remarkable instrument that seems to just fit neatly into whatever style you fancy offering it. From a fingerpick style that can be either hard or more mellow to a heavyweight ‘delta style’ rhythm it handles them all.
However, perhaps its most endearing attribute is the way it sounds when given the slide guitar treatment. It sounds like the guitar was made for this style as it resonates with clarity and power. There is no doubt it is a unique guitar with a unique sound that just asks to be given some blues to play.
It’s made in China where they have used good materials.
It does fit into a specific blues playing mode, and if this is what you look for, then this guitar is going to be worth a close look.
Very realistic price.
7 Squier By Fender Affinity Telecaster
Have a Telecaster, play the blues. Our second Telecaster to look at, again from Squier.
This one a solid body traditional style made from Alder. The body stain is a beautiful butterscotch color that allows the grain of the wood to show through. The neck is maple with a maple fretboard. That vintage Telecaster look.
Twenty-one frets on a 25.5 inch bolt on neck. The neck is satin not glossy and is in the comfortable ‘C’ shape design with black dots emphasizing the maple of the neck.
So familiar Telecaster style…
The black pickguard is in that now so familiar Telecaster style and just to add to its traditional feel the headstock is as per all Telecasters.
The fittings are as you might expect – with two single coil pickups, one at the neck and one at the bridge. They are controlled by a single volume and single tone control that operate both and a three-way pickup selector control.
There are six saddles on the fixed bridge that can be adjusted as required. The strings are loaded on top through the bridge and do not pass through the body of the guitar as is the norm with a Telecaster. The tuners are chrome and of good quality.
Simplicity is still this guitars driving force…
It was built with simplicity in mind, and sixty years later it is still this guitars driving force. That and the ability to sound and play with some style.
It has always been a guitar that blues players could enjoy and get the best from, which is why it was often chosen, and the bridge pickup setting on this guitar gives you a hard bluesy sound. Yet with one switch of the selector, it reverts to a mellow near jazzy feel. So simple, so effective.
Squier has done a great job with the Affinity Telecaster, not only by the way it sounds but also with how it looks.
At a price that is so attractive this guitar is a serious contender.
8 PRS Paul Reed Smith SE Custom 22
PRS guitars are of the highest quality though at times not appreciated by some. Nevertheless, they are highly regarded by the many that play do them.
The body is made from the tried and tested mahogany with a maple top. And the double cutaway design allows full access to the top frets. The beveled top adds extra comfort when playing, whilst also adding a lot to its looks and the flame maple finish on top is quite stunning.
The neck is made from maple with a rosewood fingerboard. The neck though is an area where PRS have deviated from the norm a little in that it is very wide and quite thin. Some players feel uncomfortable with that, but it is really only what you are used to.
Fast and comfortable…
This neck is fast and comfortable and makes the guitar easy to play. In our opinion a great addition to the guitar. The hardware is well crafted and of PRS’s own design. The tremolo bridge and tuners being nickel coated.
It all looks very impressive but how does it sound?
Two PRS 85/15 S humbuckers provide the noise, and it is some noise. Start to drive this guitar in a blues break mid-song, and it’s going to take no prisoners. They can also be quite mellow and easy on the ear, but in whatever mode they are crisp and clear.
The pickups are controlled by a single volume and single tone control making it easy to set up your basic sound. There is a three-way toggle switch for pickup selection. Simple, easy to use controls that generate a powerful sound.
This is a powerful guitar full of great sounds for blues playing and with a neck that will allow speed and comfort if that is what you want.
It is not the cheapest of the guitars we have reviewed, but it is still great value.
It’s a well-made guitar and is definitely worth considering.
So, Let’s Go Play The Blues…
In our efforts to identify and pick the Best Blues guitar, we have been fortunate enough to have looked at some real quality. The options have been varied but made more so by the inclusion of an acoustic and even a resonator.
What Sort Of Blues Sound Are You Looking For?
This is the defining question and will lean you one way more than the other. If you intend to play at smaller venues, or even just at home, then there is a great choice which includes the acoustic and the resonator that will give you real authenticity.
Will you be using slide or bottleneck styles in these smaller venues? If so, the resonator is a must to have a look at. What a sound it has.
Maybe though the venues are bigger and you will need some serious volume. Which guitar packs the punch?
If you have decided to go down the electric route another decision looms up. Single-coil pickups or humbuckers? What sort of sound do you want?
We have heard some say that the humbucker style blues is commercial, whereas the single-coil guitars offer a more authentic sound. Others say the humbuckers deliver real power to dig out those bluesy riffs and the single coil is too thin in the sound.
All personal opinions of course, but how you see the sound you want will determine which guitar you go for. These are the Best Blues guitars around, so have fun deciding what is the best one for you.
So, What’s The Best Blues Guitar?
Such a difficult decision as there were so many credible options. Do we go for the acoustic, authentic feel of blues playing or something that uses its sounds to the full? It will be determined on the venues to be played to a certain extent.
However, we decided in the end that the best guitar of the lot for playing the blues is the…
Great sounds with its semi-hollow body and well made, it will deliver a variety of blues styles. It has great action and works well as a slide guitar. All that and an unbelievable price, it just had to be the winner!