7 Best Guitars For Blues

This is our review of the best guitars for blues.

I’ve played guitar for 16 years, and in my opinion a great blues guitar should not only sound good but also look and feel the part. As difficult as it was to decide on a winner among these guitars, we found that the  PRS SE Starla  landed on the number one spot.

Now, every guitarist is different, so I’ve compiled a list of the brands and models that I found to be totally awesome for the blues.

Let’s get started!

Our Top 7 Guitars For Blues

Epiphone Sheraton-II Pro Thin-Line

Body: Maple

Neck: Maple

Fretboard: Pau Ferro

Pickups: Probucker with Coil-Splitting

Tuners: Grover Rotomatic

Bridge: Tune-o-matic

Scale length: 24.75”

Profile: 60´s SlimTaper

Frets: 22 Medium

What can I say; gorgeous looking and gorgeous sounding! This Epiphone gem is about as bluesy as they come, and will please anyone who plays it.

Playability is very high, as it’s quite lightweight and comes with a very comfortable Slim Taper neck. Stability and comfort get high marks, and the way it’s built makes it a very balanced guitar that anyone can play with ease. Action was a little high right out of the box, but you can of course lower it a bit without losing too much sustain.

And soundwise? Well, here is where the Sheraton II Pro really shines. Equipped with ProBucker pickups for both neck and bridge you get incredibly vintage sounding smooth tones. And with their coil splitting abilities you get tonal versatility that really kicks it up a notch. The neck pickup as a single coil sounds truly amazing.

All hardware is good quality, giving it a very premium feel, even though I have to say it felt like the frets needed a bit of polishing. Also, the fretboard didn’t feel super smooth, but that’s perhaps a minor issue considering this a really well built guitar for its price tag.


Fender Player Telecaster

Body: Alder

Neck: Maple

Fretboard: Pau Ferro

Pickups: Two Player Series single-coil Telecaster pickups

Tuners: Fender

Bridge: String-through-body Bridge with block saddles

Scale length: 25,5”

Profile: Modern C shape

Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo

An absolute classic guitar, and one that has served many blues players around the world. The Player series is a modernised version of the classic Telecaster, and is actually lighter than its predecessor, which is a blessing.

This guitar sits very nicely in your hands, and the neck is super comfortable and very smooth. No adjustments needed here, which tells you a little about Fender quality and attention to detail. The fit and finish is simply spot on.

The tone on this thing is fantastic, especially on a clean channel. The bridge pickup is actually very well rounded, and not quite as bright as is perhaps more common on these guitars. And when switching over to the neck pickup you’ll immediately get a much more mellow sound. Add a bit of drive and you’ll notice both pickups produce a lot of punch. Great for bluesy lead stuff.

Although this guitar is quality through and through, there’s one thing that’s slightly annoying. If you’re like me, who rests their hand on the bridge while picking, you might want to consider swapping out those bent-steel saddles for standard blocks. But that aside, if you’re looking for an easy-to-play Tele packed with that classical bluesy single coil sound, you will not be disappointed.


PRS SE Starla

Body: Mahogany

Neck: Mahogany

Fretboard: Rosewood

Pickups: DS-02 Push/Pull

Tuners: Grover Rotomatic

Bridge: Grover Two-Piece

Scale length: 25”

Profile: Wide fat

Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo

Paul Reed Smith makes awesome guitars, and the Starla is no exception. Factory setup is top notch and the action is set surprisingly low. This gives you high playability from the start, making this guitar very hard to put down. It’s almost impossible to find any flaws in it, but the neck is a bit too wide for my liking.

The carved mahogany body, even though a bit on the heavy side, is incredibly comfortable and perfectly balanced with easy access to all frets.

What about those DS-02 pickups? Yes, you don’t see these on many PRS guitars, and they don’t sound very much like PRS either. They’re actually designed to get a more Gretsch/Rickenbacker-like tonality. If you like the cleaner, crunchier side of guitar tone, be it older blues or rockabilly, you’ll feel the love right away. Add a dab of reverb and you’re golden! And did I mention the coil splitting? Yeah, you get single coil tones as well.

This is by anyone’s standards a well built premium guitar that is just perfect for blues, and it’s quite difficult to find any downsides with it. That said, even though most PRS guitars are way more expensive than this you’ve still got to part ways with a big chunk of your hard earned money here. So if you’re on a budget there are alternatives that will suit you better.


Fender Player Stratocaster

Body: Alder

Neck: Maple

Fretboard: Pau Ferro

Pickups: Player Series Alnico 5 single-coil Stratocaster pickups

Tuners: Fender

Bridge: 2 Point Tremolo Bridge

Scale length: 25,5”

Profile: Modern C shape

Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo

Perhaps the most iconic guitars of all time, and one of the all-time greats. And this one has of course the classical setup with three single coil pickups and a 5 way selector switch.

I guess there is a reason why so many blues guitarists favor this guitar. Strats have some of the most comfortable necks I’ve ever played, and the Player series all have satin necks to enhance that experience even more. The carved body of the strat also lends itself to incredible comfort, no matter whether you stand up or sit down and play. Only downside is that if you play with your picking hand kind of open, with fingers sticking out, you risk hitting the selector switch when in neck position.

It stays in tune very well, and all hardware is as expected good quality. But, the machine heads were a bit stiff and took a little more effort to turn than usual. A bit unexpected to say the least, especially if you’re used to smooth-turning Grover tuners. Definitely not a deal breaker, but still worth mentioning.

Strats are strats, and they all somehow live up to past great models as far as sound goes. Not to say all strats sound exactly alike, because they don’t, but there is a distinct stratty sound that can be found in almost all of them. But man, that’s a great thing. The tone on this guitar is absolute killer, for both clean and overdriven tones. Pure joy for the ears, especially if you like the blues.


Epiphone Les Paul Standard

Body: Mahogany

Neck: Mahogany

Fretboard: Indian Laurel

Pickups: ProBucker

Tuners: Grover Rotomatic

Bridge: Tune-o-matic

Scale length: 24.75”

Profile: 60´s SlimTaper

Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo

Speaking of iconic guitars, the mighty Les Paul is right up there next to the Stratocaster when it comes to rock and blues. This particular model is an Epiphone, and it’s a beast!

I’m not going to lie, this slab of mahogany is heavy. Anyone who’s ever picked up a Les Paul will know what I’m talking about. And it seems ergonomics were never high up on the priority list either. That aside, this guitar comes with the 60´s Slim Taper neck, which is a huge plus when it comes to comfortable playing. I guess my hands aren’t big enough for the old 50’s neck…

The hardware and build of this guitar is good across the board, and all controls are nice and tight. The action was just right as it was, and the setup was flawless.

And what does it sound like? Damn fantastic! These ProBuckers are phenomenal, with a huge dynamic range that should satisfy any blues player. It caught us by surprise to tell you the truth, and although I wouldn’t compare it to a Gibson, it does have that huge low end that’s really clear and tight, and that warm, punchy mid range which helps create that rich sound we all love. If you’re a fan of Joe Bonamassa, this is the guitar for you.


Gretsch G5220 Electromatic Jet BT

Body: Mahogany

Neck: Mahogany

Fretboard: Walnut

Pickups: Black Top Broad’Tron Humbucker

Tuners: Die-cast Chrome

Bridge: Anchored Adjusto-Matic bridge

Scale length: 24.6”

Profile: Thin U

Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo

Next on the list is actually also a mahogany single cut guitar that may look like a Les Paul wannabe, but is anything but. The Gretsch G5220 is a very sleek, timeless, great looking guitar with an impeccable build. And really bluesy it turns out.

The neck is surprisingly comfortable, even though it’s on the chunky side, and the guitar just feels really good in your hands. It stays in tune very well, and is not as heavy as the Les Paul. The control layout is unfortunately a little confusing and awkward, especially the positioning of the master volume knob.  Something you will get used to though I’m sure.

I know that many guitarists think of Rockabilly when they hear Gretsch, but the GT5220 will surprise you. The two Black Top Broad’Tron Humbuckers are actually bright and articulate, but have enough bass to support a good bit of overdrive, bringing a lot of edge and character to the sound. It looks and sounds the part, and we definitely like it. Especially the friendly price tag.


Epiphone SG Special P-90

Body: Mahogany

Neck: Mahogany

Fretboard: Indian Laurel

Pickups: Epiphone P-90 PRO Soap Bar

Tuners: Epiphone Deluxe

Bridge: Lightning Wrap Around bridge

Scale length: 24.72”

Profile: 60´s SlimTaper

Frets: 22Jumbo

Last but not least, the Epiphone SG Special P-90. And what’s so special about it? Well, let’s find out.

Coming in well under the price of the US Gibson version, we have this gorgeous looking SG. As expected very light and easy on your shoulders but perhaps not perfectly balanced, as the neck dips a little when you play standing up. Also, the setup leaves a little to be desired, and you need to do a bit of tweaking.

Overall this guitar feels really solid, with tidy fretwork and tight and responsive controls. However, the wrap around bridge might cause intonation issues. If you’re picky about this, perhaps a tune-o-matic would have done a better job.

The P90’s sound awesome though. They are for sure the middle ground between humbuckers and single coils. Even with a single coil anatomy they still produce that darker sound, like a vintage humbucker, with great low end. Great organic sound through the clean channel, and offers both sizzle and grit with the gain cranked up. Great for classic rock and blues. 


Guide To Buying A Blues Guitar

There are a number of things to consider before making any purchases aimed at a particular genre or style of music. And if you’re a blues person, you know this already. Needless to say, the blues can of course be played on any guitar. It’s often more about the player and their way of expressing themselves rather than the instrument itself. That said though, it’s no coincidence that certain types of guitars always end up in the hands of our blues heroes. They simply do a better job!

Now, what’s right for you may not be right for everyone, so let’s look at what you really should consider before buying.

Buy the right one for you

The blues is a very expressive music style, with lots of feelings and emotions attached to it. If you’re looking at buying a guitar with this genre in mind, the below points are very important to keep in mind.

Different types of blues

What style of blues do you like? What are you influenced by? In which camp do you find most of the guitar legends you like? Blues can be a bit complicated in that way, with many sub genres like Delta blues, Chicago blues, Texas blues, Country blues etc. All these styles are unique in their own way.

Perhaps you’re a fan of them all and are just looking for an overall blues guitar that can do them all justice.

Different pickups and sound

Is there a particular sound that is more appealing to you? The single coil sound is very different from the humbucker, and there are even tonal differences within the single coil and humbucker families. Telecasters often have a slightly brighter and sharper sound than Stratocasters for example.

Do you prefer the thicker fuller sound of the humbucker, like that of Gary Moore, B.B. King, Joe Bonamassa and Billy Gibbons? Or are you more into the twangy, clear and bright sound of the single coil, like that of Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton and John Mayer?

Budget

You certainly don’t have to go with the most expensive option to get a great sounding guitar, but you should never go for the cheapest ones either. After all, you do get what you pay for. Decide on a budget that works for you, and stick to it. No need to bust the bank.

A guitar that looks great

As already mentioned, blues is a very expressive style of music. And with that in mind you’d certainly want a guitar that looks the part. It may come across as shallow and insignificant, but it really isn’t. This is after all an instrument you want to connect with. For more tips about finding the right guitar for you, check out our guide on How to choose a guitar

What makes a great blues guitar?

Low output pickups are great for blues, as they are best suited for creating the sound of the early day blues that we all love. They also make for a more subtle and nuanced playing.

Thicker necks are usually preferred by blues players, with a slightly higher action for those slides and bends that make the style so expressive. We’re not going for speed here.

And again, the aesthetics do make a difference. A great blues guitar should definitely have that retro look about it.

This is of course purely opinion, but my friends and I all agree on these points, and most of them have been playing for nearly 30 years.

Which guitars to avoid

I know this should be obvious by now, but just in case it needs pointing out here we go:

Don’t go for guitars with hot pickups, or active pickups. Powerful pickups are better suited for distortion, and are great for hard rock and metal. Not as good for styles that favor nuance and dynamics.

Stay clear of 7 string guitars, Baritones etc. And just avoid metal looking guitars altogether.

Guitars with slim necks are more intended for a low action, and are more geared towards fast licks and shred-like playing. Not very helpful for blues.

Our Verdict

We recommend the  PRS SE Starla  for any blues player out there seeking a versatile sound from a reputable brand.

This roundup review demonstrates that not only is it versatile and covers a lot of ground, it also sounds amazing, and is very comfortable to play. And yes, it certainly looks the part.

The fastest way to learn guitar!

Learning guitar should be easy and fun, so check out our friends at Guitar Tricks. Award-winning online guitar lessons, with over 3 million taught since 1998.