Looking for an acoustic guitar that's made for blues? Cool. You're in the right place. Choosing a guitar with playing the blues in mind is a very personal quest. You'll want to find a guitar that lets you play from the heart, never holds you back and lets you go wild whenever you darn well please!
- One word of warning: these guitars ain't cheap. We've thrown in a reasonably cheap blues guitar (the Fender) but the price tags of the rest are, shall we say, eye-watering!
- At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best Acoustic Blues Guitar On The Market
- 5 Best Acoustic Blues Guitar
- So which should I buy?
At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best Acoustic Blues Guitar On The Market
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One of the first things you'll want to consider is what kind of feeling you're looking to make.
Is it a downbeat, soulful croon, or an aggressive hard foot stompin' kinda groove? Keep this in mind when choosing a guitar, as the tonewoods will have a real impact on this as much as your playing will.
All of the guitars mentioned here are primarily mahogany, which gives a very warm tone to your playing.
Secondly, you'll want something that lets your fingers slide all over the fretboard fast, otherwise you'll be finding it very difficult to get the speed you need for certain blues styles. An oily rosewood fretboard can really help with this, as can a good set of strings.
And lastly, a true blues guitar needs to have character, or it just ain't the blues!
5 Best Acoustic Blues Guitar
Ok let's look at each one in more detail. To make things easier for you, we've added pros and cons for each one, as well as a video demonstration so you can them in action.
1. Martin 000-15M
A truly beautiful auditorium size guitar, made completely from solid mahogany with a rosewood fretboard. If you like a guitar that looks good and gets more character with age, this will satisfy those needs. Over time the wood 'opens' and the tone changes gently after a couple of years, and the satin finish wears off in an appealing manner giving it a unique character.
- All solid mahogany build gives a really warm 'bluesy' tone.
- Handles heavy chord strumming, fingerstyle and crazy bend and double-stopped solos all equally well.
- Smooth rosewood neck really helps with those long delta style slides.
- No cut out for those high fret bends and tremolos.
- A little out of a beginners budget, but not the most expensive on the list by any means, which is a shame as it's a great guitar to learn with.
- Without the right set of strings the tone (depending on how sensitive you are) will sound a little off, mellow is the key so you might want to pick up a new set.
2. Fender CD-60S Dreadnought (Budget Choice)
This is very similar to the Martin, but much more affordable. It's bigger than the Martin, so it has a boomier voice, whilst still retaining the same mellow feel thanks to the mahogany body.
- Another all mahogany body and neck.
- Scalloped bracing boosts the dreadnought's natural resonance even further, making it a powerful guitar for lead and rhythm playing.
- Much cheaper than the similarly all mahogany Martin, which makes it an easy addition to your collection or even a stunning first guitar.
- No cut out.
- Can lose it's tuning faster than you would expect, so it'll need some attention to keep it in tune during long periods of play.
3. Gretsch G9200 Roundneck Boxcar
The Gretsch is a resonator guitar, so instead of the sound being a result of the vibrations within the wood, it's mostly picked up by a large metal plate. These types of guitars have a very unique look and sound to go with it. The Roundneck is less suited to playing with a slide, but the action is still high enough to make it a great option.
- Resonator guitars have a unique sound perfectly suited to blues playing, and pair brilliantly with a slide. In fact, if you haven't got a slide all ready, you should get one just to make that sweet sweet blues come to life.
- Surprisingly cheap.
- Since most of the sound comes from the resonator, the wood is much thicker than in most guitars so it's very solid and can take a beating.
- Resonators have a very specific sound, so this guitar is better as part of a collection rather than your sole instrument.
- Being manufactured in China to the company specs means that sometimes it can be a little rough and in need of a full service before you can get the best out of it.
- The neck is quite short, joining the body at the 12th fret.
4. Gibson Keb Mo Signature Acoustic / Electric Guitar
- This is not a cheap option. Only consider this guitar if you are financially secure.
It's a very versatile sounding guitar, and was custom designed to replace Keb Mo's favourite songwriting guitar which he lost. Unfortunately, the name seems to be where most of the price tag comes from. Whilst it is a very high quality instrument, the cost has less to do with this than the signatures.
- The slightly smaller body means you can switch it up with fingerstyle or picking without losing playability as it holds the resonance from low to high tones very well despite the small size thanks to a good combination of tonewoods.
- Comes with a hard case with a thick fabric interior for safe keeping, which you'll be glad of after the amount of money spent.
- Hardly ever goes out of tune thanks to the headstock having tuners with a 14:1 ratio.
- The extreme price puts it firmly out of most people's reach, but if you've got the cash to burn then it's a beautiful sounding guitar.
- The original 300 were signed by Keb, but the model was continued. Although this is the same guitar, it won't come with the autograph so if that's what you were looking for you'll need to get in touch with someone that has one of the originals!
- It's strength is mellow, with more aggressive playing producing a twang that lends itself well to 'train whistle' blues bends, but doesn't work as well for other styles of music.
5. 2016 Gibson Acoustic J-45 Acoustic-Electric Guitar (Editor's Choice)
This guitar is also on the expensive end, but unlike the Keb, it's worth every penny. It seems that literally everything Gibson have learnt over the years has gone into designing a guitar that not only looks good, sounds good but plays good, being an extremely comfortable instrument in your hands.
- Solid choice of woods, Sitka and Mahogany produce really clean and vibrant tones.
- Very slick rosewood fretboard with rounded off edges helps to make the guitar super smooth to play.
- Very attractive looking guitar, with a 20s/30s aesthetic at heart.
- Although cheaper than the Keb Mo, this guitar is firmly in the high end of price ranges, although the craftsmanship and attention to detail makes it worth the cost.
- With sloppy playing the high tones will lose their clarity quickly.
- Better suited to plectrum than fingerstyle, although you might not notice this if it's your main guitar.
So which should I buy?
Straight away it's clear that the Gibson J-45 is a beautiful sounding guitar, the only real concern being the hefty investment you'll need in order to get your hands on one. If a high price puts this one out of your league, then you can choose between the Martin, which is more a mid-range option, or the Fender if you really need to save every penny.
Thankfully, the Martin and the Fender have extremely high quality and design choices so that no matter what your budget ranges to, you'll find a guitar that can really produce an old school river of blues.
Have you ever played any of these guitars, or do you think there's another we should have mentioned? Leave a comment below, and don't forget to subscribe for more!
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Djangology’ and when he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his Campervan.