WE TAKE A LOOK AT 5 OF THE BEST BLUES GUITARS. FROM THE FENDER STRATOCASTER TO THE GIBSON ES-335, THESE GUITARS HAVE CEMENTED THEMSELVES AS SOME OF THE BEST GUITARS FOR BLUES IN THE WORLD.
We round up some of the best blues guitars ever crafted - so you can make your guitar cry as hard as your heart. You don’t have to be an amazing guitarist to play the blues, you just need some general knowledge of some blues scales, some chord sequences and the will to play - a little heartache helps too.
Regardless of whether you’re playing Delta Blues, Chicago Blues or your own brand of blues-infused music, the feeling is all that matters. With that said, there are a few guitars out there that certainly lean more towards the blues end of the spectrum, and can really help you convey that heartache you're feeling a little better than others.
So today, we’re looking at the 7 best blues guitars to get you started on your train to blues country.
WHY ARE THESE THE BEST BLUES GUITARS?
We’ve picked out some of the best guitars that have an exceptional clean sound with a bright, resonant attack ideal for soloing and articulate chord progressions - something that the blues relies heavily on.
Although all of these guitars are extremely versatile, and you can play a wide range of music comfortably with them, they’re commonly associated with the blues, so you’re in good company if you throw one of these over your shoulder.
We've also included a couple of bonus guitars that you might see on the blues circuit, too.
1. FENDER STRATOCASTER
Since the Blues started in the USA, we’re starting with an American made guitar and an absolute icon in the world of blues music. The Fender Stratocaster has probably appeared on more blues records than any other guitar, and is still helping artists pour their hearts out ever since they were first produced in 1954.
Artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric “Slow Hand” Clapton and Jimi Hendrix made a career out of playing the blues with these guitars, so they’re definitely one of the best blues guitars around. The Fender Strat has a distinctive sound that is instantly recognisable on record thanks to the three single coil pickups.
The smooth mellow sounds of the neck pickup are ideal for those warm chord progressions whilst the punchy sounding bridge pickups have plenty of attack for when you’re pulling out a lead lick or heartbreaking solo.
Throw a little gain at the guitar with a tube amp, and you’ve got a blues machine ready to be the conduit you need to pour your soul out on stage. All you have to do is slowly bend a note on one of these things and the guitar itself sounds like it’s crying its heart out.
The Fender American Professional Stratocaster, along with the Fender American Elite Stratocaster, is the ultimate ticket to Blues-Ville. Although each guitar has some differences, they both feature a resonant Alder Body and 22 frets to play with as well as that classic Stratocaster 3 pickup setup. American Elite has now been discontinued - alternatively, you can now shop the new and improved American Ultra Range.
The Stratocaster is hands down one of the best guitars for Blues. If you don't want to stretch to the price of a USA made version, the Fender Player Series Stratocaster, like the one pictured, is made in Mexico. Often players prefer the sound of a Made In Mexico Stratocaster to the USA range due to differences in electronics.
They're made with the same focus on quality, they just sound a little different. For those in need of a more budget-friendly option, the Squier Stratocaster series makes a great first guitar too. Whether you’re using it for its glass-like cleans, or want to make it howl with a little distortion, you can’t go wrong with the good old Strat as it's definitely one of the best guitars for blues.
Although its commonly associated with heavy metal, the Gibson SG Standardhas been a solid partner for blues musicians for decades. Artists such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Derek trucks and Robby Krieger earned their status as guitar icons with the help of a Gibson SG, so you’re in good company when you pick up one of these.
The combination of a mahogany body and mahogany neck provides a warm and resonant sound, whilst the lack of maple tonewoods (as per the Les Paul) provide an overall darker tonal quality.
Featuring two, or in some cases three humbuckers, this guitar offers a myriad of different tones that sound amazing when clean or when coupled with some distortion. The versatility of this guitar really shines through when you crank your amplifier and use the volume pots to dictate the amount of gain and attack you want, which is why Blues players love it so much.
The double-cutaway ensures you have a great deal of room to play on the higher registers of the neck, making it an ideal option for slide guitar players and blues guitarists who enjoy hitting those high notes past the 12th fret.
This guitar will cry if you want it to, just ask Derek Trucks. Fast forward to 3:20 to hear what an SG can really do!
The Gibson SG Standard is still the go-to guitar for fans of the SG and easily one of the best blues guitars ever made. If you want to be able to go heavier when the time calls for it, the humbuckers provide that extra power when you need it. View all Gibson SG Guitars
3. GIBSON LES PAUL
Obviously we need a Gibson Les Paul in here... Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Joe Bonamassa, Gretchen Menn – the list of Gibson Les Paul Blues Players goes on and on. A combination of a solid mahogany body (no weight relief thank you), mahogany neck and fat sounding humbuckers made these guitars sing like bird.
The sustain was incredible and for those players who wanted their solos to ring out loud and clear, it was a perfect guitar. The Gibson Les Paul is a perfect Blues guitar as it’s extremely versatile. Whether you want to play clean or you’re driving it harder with some distortion for some Blues-Rock, it’ll handle it all and sound amazing whilst doing so.
There’s no genre of music that this guitar cannot do thanks to the PAF style humbucker pickups. Thanks to the single-cutaway design, you have access to the upper frets – ideal for those high-end solo lines and the comfortable rosewood fretboards (now back on the Gibson Original Line) are a breeze to play.
We won’t talk about the trouble Gibson have had lately, but instead sing their praises with the incredible new Original range. The Gibson Original Les Paul guitars have been designed to spec with the 50s and 60s style Les Pauls – the type that players really want and the models that put the brand on the map.
The Fender Telecaster is a musical chameleon, consistently appearing in a wide range of musical genres from rock, to prog and of course Blues.
Originally designed and better known as a country guitar, the Tele has become synonymous with the blues thanks to the likes of Keith Richards, Albert Collins and Jimmy Page championing this versatile guitar and moulding their own blues infused music with one of these over their shoulder.
The Telecaster was also the guitar of choice in the final battle between the Devil's guitarist (Steve Vai) and Ralph Macchio's character in the film Crossroads -a film loosely based on famous blues musician Robert Johnson.
Full of twang thanks to the bright single coil Tele pickups, the articulation of a Telecaster is hard to ignore, which is why blues players love it so much. Every note you play can be heard in exquisite detail.
Although the appearance and shape of the telecaster have remained the same throughout the years, there have been a few small improvements that make a huge difference.
The Fender American Professional Telecaster features an Ash body as well as V-Mod Single Coil pickups that improve sustain, offer greater dynamics and remove that single coil hum that can sometimes occur on older models, so cranking your amp and enjoying the tones within your guitar won't be a problem.
It still carries all the prestige of the Telecaster as well as the playability and familiar twang you want for a blues guitar but with a more budget-friendly price tag. View all Fender Telecaster Guitars.
5. GIBSON ES-335
Finally, we couldn't have a blog about the best blues guitars without the Gibson ES-335. This beautiful guitar has been a ubiquitous presence in the world of blues thanks to the likes of BB King, Chuck Berry, Freddie King, Eric Clapton and many more musicians relying on this to get their sound.
The full-bodied tonal qualities and resonance from its semi-hollow construction are instantly recognisable thanks to the Maple body which is renowned for its sustain and attack. The 335 also features 2 glorious humbuckers packed full of grunt when you need it but with enough articulation that those silky smooth lead lines shine through when you're running it clean.
The addition of a wooden block running through the centre of the body ensures superior resonance and helps to curb some of that feedback that you can get from a hollow body if you crank the amplifier too much. However, if you're playing the blues, you might not want too much gain anyway.
Add a little drive with a tube screamer when needed, but let the 335 do its thing! BB King chose to play a 335 throughout his career and even had his own signature guitar called "Lucille". Of course, his Gibson Memphis 2016 B.B. King Lucille signature model is a great option for fans of the blues legend, but the Gibson ES-335 Antique Faded Cherry from the new Gibson Original range is also one of the best blues guitars around if you want to delve into the world of the blues on your own terms. For those on a budget, the Epiphone Dot ES-335 Semi-Hollowbody is a great choice and an extremely affordable option, too. We'd actually reccomend exploring the whole Epiphone Dot range. View all Gibson ES Guitars & Epiphone ES Guitars
6. IBANEZ ARTSTAR SERIES
The Ibanez Artstar series of guitars is a high-end selection of hollow body semi-acoustics that have been crafted for both Jazz and Blues guitarists.
The Ibanez AMV100FM-TSL Artstar Vintage in Yellow Sunburst LG, in particular, has been created to lean more towards the blues end of the spectrum providing enough versatility for guitarists who want the super clean leads but with the option to throw in the extra growl when it's needed.
Not quite as deep sounding as the Gibson 335 models, the Ibanez AMV100FM-TSL Artstar features a Flamed Maple body so it not only looks amazing but sounds a lot more snappy when compared to that of a mahogany body. This means those short fire blues licks really kick out hard with plenty of attack.
The Super 58 pickups have been beautifully crafted to provide an increased amount of articulation, which is also why Jazz musicians love the Artstar series so much too. The bone nut is also a great little addition (among many) that vintage guitar enthusiasts will appreciate thanks to the greater tuning stability and sustain provided, whilst the ebony fretboard provides you with the canvas with which to paint your heartache upon!
Whether you want bluesy dirty tones, all-out blues-rock freakouts or gentle hollow body clean tones, the Artstar series will get you there. The different Artstar models all have their unique looks and sounds and depending on your style, will gladly join you on your journey through the Blues. View all Ibanez Artstar Guitars.
7. PRS JOHN MAYER SILVER SKY
Thanks to the likes of Santana, PRS guitars have secured a permanent place in the world of Blues. They’ve gone one step further here and created a signature guitar for today’s modern Blues legend, John Mayer.
For almost two decades, John Mayer has been setting the music world alight with his impressive skill on the guitar and his Blues infused music that appeals to almost all demographics. Mayer was widely associated with the Fender Stratocaster guitar until 2017, when his relationship with PRS hinted at more signature guitars.
In 2018, the PRS John Mayer Silver Sky was revealed and set the world of Blues alight yet again. We think this is one of the best Blues guitars as it features three specially-designed 635JM single-coil pickups that provide a higher signal-to-noise ratio than traditional single coils which means less hum when you’re playing clean or cranking your amp up loud.
The reverse PRS headstock is a signature design feature which allows for a far more comfortable hand position whilst you’re playing chords or soloing up towards the nut.
Of course, it has a particularly familiar body, but with a design that replicates the best parts of the neck design seen on '63 and '64 guitars that Mayer and Paul Reed Smith own. This is extremely comfortable to play, especially with the addition of the trademark PRS Scoop which allows access to the upper frets.
A vintage-style tremolo bridge has also been included so you can enjoy wailing on those dive bombs! A beautifully designed blues guitar.