12 Best Guitars for Blues in 2018
We want you to have the blues: the good kind of blues that come from the best guitar for blues!
We know that finding the right guitar for your favorite sound can be intimidating, but we hope that with a little bit of information, we can show you to find the sound you want.
From the Mississippi Delta to the big sound of Chicago Blues to the Clapton-influenced sound of British blues, our detailed guide below will help you understand how to find the right guitar for your needs and budget.
Top 12 Guitars for Blues Ultimate Table
|Design||Name||Type||Solid or Hollow||Rating (1-5)|
|1. Martin Custom MMV Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Natural||Acoustic||Hollow||4.9|
|2. Gretsch G9200 Roundneck Boxcar||Acoustic||Hollow||4.7|
|3. Fender CD-60CE Dreadnought Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar||Acoustic + Electric||Hollow||4.6|
|4. Gibson Les Paul Studio Faded 2016 T Electric Guitar||Electric||Solid||4.5|
|5. Fender Standard Stratocaster Electric Guitar||Electric||Solid||4.4|
|6. Fender Standard Telecaster Electric Guitar||Electric||Solid||4.4|
|7. Fender Special Edition Custom Telecaster FMT HH Electric Guitar||Electric||Solid||4.4|
|8. Epiphone ES-339 Semi Hollow body Electric Guitar||Electric||Hollow||4.3|
|9. Epiphone DOT ES Style Semi-Hollowbody Electric Guitar||Electric||Hollow||4.3|
|10. SX LAP 1 NAT Natural Lap Steel Guitar||Electric||Solid||4.0|
|11. Gibson USA 2017 M2 Solid Body Electric Guitar||Electric||Solid||3.8|
|12. Sawtooth ST-ET-LH-SGRW Left Handed Electric Guitar||Electric||Solid||3.8|
The best guitar for blues is as much about you as it is about the instrument. We’ve outlined some of our favorite instruments, but knowing a bit about what you want is going to make a big difference in finding the right instrument for you.
What’s Your Style?
Like barbecue and the weather, every part of the world has their unique flavor, and the blues is no different. Even with all those regional variations and stylistic differences, a little bit of information is all you need to find your best guitar for the blues.
- Delta Blues – If you love the simple, traditional style of an acoustic guitar and a single voice telling a story, you’re a fan of the Delta blues. Originating in the area between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, this is the style that was popularized by Son House, Robert Johnson, and John Lee Hooker.
Delta blues is associated with the acoustic guitar, but even John Lee Hooker played electric, so you could really go either way. Being able to play with a slide is a great skill, but it’s not required.
- Texas Blues – As African-American workers moved from the South to Texas during the Depression, they brought the blues with them. This style started in the acoustic sounds of the pre-war era, but it really took off with the sounds of Stevie Ray Vaugh, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and ZZ Top.
An acoustic guitar can get you that jazz-inspired Texas Shuffle sound, but an electric guitar is what you need if you want to play something like SRV’s Pride and Joy or ZZ-Top’s La Grange.
- Chicago Blues – Depression-era movements out of the south also went north to Chicago, and artists like Elmore James and Howlin’ Wolf developed an up-tempo sound that began to incorporate full bands.
If you’re competing with a piano player, drummer, and horns, you definitely want to go electric. Chicago Blues is a great style for acoustic-electric guitars, as it appreciates the acoustic sound of the Delta while also incorporating the modern benefits of electricity.
- Jump Blues – This is the style that borrowed a swinging, high-energy style from jazz musicians, and would eventually give way to rock ‘n roll. Artists like Joe Turner and Louis Jordan are some of the standouts.
If Jump Blues is your jive, then you need an electric. Hollow-body electrics have a classic look, and you can’t go wrong with something like BB King’s Epiphone Dot or a Gretsch hollow-body.
The Slippery Slope of the Slide
Once you start playing slide guitar, you may never want to come back. Slide guitar is an essential blues skill that you’ll want to learn. Whatever guitar you choose, we recommend picking up a slide as well.
Slides don’t need to be expensive or fancy. Early blues musician would use a piece of pipe or the neck of a glass bottle. Just don’t forget to practice your regular fingerings too. Otherwise you’ll have the lacking-fundamentals-blues.
Consider Your Budget before You Get the “No Money” Blues
There’s a wide range of blues guitars and an equally wide range of prices available to you. Just because the bluesmen of old played beat-up, second-hand guitars doesn’t mean that you need to go cheap.
You also don’t need to spend top dollar right out of the chute, but if you’re an experienced player, that high-quality instrument might give you the feel that you’re looking for.
We recommend that you buy what feels right for you, and don’t get influenced by legends about authenticity or other outrageous claims. If you feel the blues, you’ll find a way to make them come out of your instrument.
Top 5 Best Guitar for Blues Reviews
For an authentic Delta sound, you can’t go wrong with the Martin Custom MMV Dreadnought. This particular model has been in production for over a century, and many a bluesman has made their living with a guitar just like this one.
The body is made from East Indian Rosewood with a Sitka Spruce top and Mahogany neck. High-quality gold tuners and a low-oval nut help you find that perfect action.
The tone and volume of this guitar has remained unchanged in over a century, and the sound you hear is the sound that you would have heard by musicians over the generations. This model was first made in 1916 and has since set the standard for what an acoustic guitar should be. It also includes a hard-side case.
For the price, you just can’t beat the rich tone and good looks of this acoustic resonator guitar. The mahogany top has a hand-spun metallic cone that gives it a truly unique voice.
The round neck plays like any other guitar, but the action on this guitar is set a bit higher than normal, making it great for a slide or to play on your lap like a steel guitar. The tone never sounds metallic, thanks to the pair of resonating F-holes up toward the neck. A rich finish and a classic sound make this an excellent blues guitar.
The price also makes it very affordable, while still offering a high level of quality that you would expect from a Gretsch instrument. The faux-pearl inlay on the headstock adds a truly vintage feel.
Fender is no slouch when it comes to guitars, and while their line of electric guitars are what made them famous, Fender’s Dreadnought is a solid offering in the acoustic/electric category.
The reinforced mahogany body offers a deep, warm tone while the low action on the 20-fret, rosewood fingerboard makes it easy to get the sound you want while still staying mobile.
The deep, natural color of the multi-layer finish gives it a rustic, old-world feel. The book-matched veneers on the top add a lively motion that you don’t find on a lot of acoustics.
The Fishman Isis with onboard pre-amp makes it easy to plug in, and it even gives you adjustments for bass, mid, and treble. Whatever style of blues you play; this guitar is going to get that sound working.
Like Coke and Pepsi, you’ll find people who prefer Gibsons to Fenders every day of the week, but with the high-quality of the Les Paul Studio Faded 2016 T, you can certainly see why.
A pair of humbucker pickups gives this guitar a tight, active sound that will let you do anything from slow work on a slide to delicate picking to jump and jive.
The solid wood body features the iconic curved top, and you get that solid sustain and deep, clear voice that the Les Paul is known for. The dense maple neck with trapezoidal inlays not only looks fabulous, but it gives you a solid, straight playing surface that you’ll be able to rely on right out of the box.
From the gears to the nut, this guitar is a stripped, down, no-frills version of the classic Les Paul, and an excellent instrument for blues styles both classic and modern.
Muddy Waters may have invented electricity, but Leo Fender gave him the tools to do something with it, and the Fender Standard Stratocaster has earned it spot as the go-to guitar for all musical styles. The solid ash body is made exactly the way it was 60 years ago, and you’ll love the way it sounds as much as they did back then.
Blues players will love the high level of response that comes from the trio of single-coil pickups, and the shielded design of the interior cavities that prevent electronic hum. The ultra-flat fingerboard and oversized frets provide an easy surface for soloing, chords, or slide-work.
The solid alder body is strictly electric, so you won’t be making any noise without an amp.
If you want to feel your blues with a bit of punch behind it, you can’t go wrong with this classic American instrument.
There’s no right way and no wrong way to play the blues, and the best blues guitar for you is a personal choice that you’re going to have to make yourself. We say that you should try out a few of these options, and see which one really speaks to you. When you find the one that just feels right, you know you’re on a road that leads back to the Delta.