There are plenty of great acoustic guitars out there, but what if you want one specifically for playing blues?
Well, then you’ll need a guitar that’s fit for the job. Sure you can play the blues on just about any guitar, but a few types of guitar sound better than the rest, you just need to know which ones.
In this article, we’re going to show which are the best blues acoustic guitars, and help you decide which is the best.
Table of Contents
- Best Blues Acoustic Guitars
- What Makes an Acoustic Guitar Perfect for Blues?
- Which Acoustic Blues Guitar Should I Buy?
Best Blues Acoustic Guitars
Gretsch G9511 Single-0 Parlor
The Gretsch G9511 is a 12-fret Parlor with laminated mahogany backs and sides, and a solid Sitka spruce top providing some excellence resonance. The sound is rich and resonant as you’d expect from this type of acoustic guitar, with a surprising amount of volume owing to its X bracing (which boosts the mid-tones). The low bridge also gives it a fullness which is silky as well as clean. There are open back tuners which give it a more vintage appearance, and there’s a larger lower bout than upper bout like the L series Gibsons.
The fingerboard is rosewood, guaranteeing a smooth playing experience and adding to the silkiness of the tone, and it has a slim, C shaped neck which makes it easy to handle and comfortable to play. There are no strap-buttons, which some players might miss but it’s so light that you don’t really need them.
It’s suited to players who like the richness of a 12-fret guitar which tends to promote a warmer, richer sound. It’s not the most appropriate for slide/bottleneck style playing either.
Gretsch G9200 Roundneck Boxcar
The Gretsch G9200 is a resonator. Its body, back, top and sides are all made of laminated mahogany that all helps with resonance. The neck shape is a soft V, making it seem extra old-school, and it has a long body design in keeping with 1930s resonators. The cones are made of pure aluminum, resulting in a lot of volume making this an excellent choice for playing slide guitar.
There are no strap buttons, but it’s unlikely that you’d need them if you’re playing with it across your lap. The headstock is also solid, with the logo emblazoned in rather large letters.
The aluminum resonator cone delivers an impressive volume and exceptional quality of tone, and the 12 fret neck enables a warm, rich sound.
Just remember, the G9200 is less suited to playing fingerstyle or fingerpicking.
Eastman E20 Parlor
The Eastman E20 Parlor has solid rosewood back and sides, giving it a warm, rounded sound. It has hand-carved X bracing to add to the richness and which helps with the precision of tone.
There’s a solid Adirondack spruce top for added resonance which makes it sing. The fingerboard, bridge (including bridge pins) are all made of ebony. It also has a slotted headstock, so it really looks true to those vintage blues guitars. It comes with your choice of LR Baggs, SL, or Element electronics, so you can plug it in on stage.
There are 12 frets before the neck reaches the body and a C-shaped neck.
The Martin 000-15M is made entirely of solid mahogany giving it a rich, warm tone. There’s a 14 fret neck which increases your fretting options and gives it a brighter attack than 12 fret guitars.
It uses X bracing to boost volume and added sound depth and both the fingerboard and the head plate are made of solid East Indian rosewood. The neck is a modified low oval shape, so it’s comfortable to hold. It looks and sounds smooth, and can come with a premium fitted pickup – though this is a limited edition bonus feature. With or without the pickup, the tone is both classic and quality and even benefits from a solid Sitka spruce top.
Like the Eastman, the Martin 000-15M is perfect for the professional musician who plays the blues. The 14 fret neck might be better suited to those with a larger frame, or those who prefer a brighter sound. It also has a solid headstock, which some prefer over slotted headstocks. It will be less suited to musicians who require a small scale, or those looking for a slide guitar.
Taylor 522e Grand Concert
The Taylor 522e is a 12 fret electro-acoustic guitar that’s made entirely of solid mahogany. Its got a rich tone both acoustically and plugged in, and the built-in pickup and superb preamp are designed by Taylor using their ever-improving technology.
There is also bracing to bring out the best tones, as well as a slotted headstock making it true to the aesthetic of vintage guitars and V-shaped necks.
12 fret neck gives it a vintage vibe and enables a warmer, more rich sound. As for the hardware, it includes two pickups and a preamp which nicely provide natural-sounding amplification.
The Taylor 522e is a great looking and sounding guitar that’s suited to the stage as well as in the studio.
Epiphone Hummingbird PRO Acoustic-Electric Guitar
The Epiphone Hummingbird PRO Acoustic-Electric Guitar is a budget guitar with solid spruce top, slim tapered D profile neck, and set neck. It comes with a rosewood fingerboard, Grover tuning heads, and the hardware uses a Fishman Sonitone pickup which is known for its quality.
Gibson J-45 Progressive Acoustic-Electric Guitar
The Gibson J-45 Acoustic-Electric Guitar is a dreadnought guitar with lovely tonewoods, clear thumping bass, balanced and unflinching mid-tones, and a clean bell-like treble. Dreadnoughts aren’t typically what you’d think when you think blues guitar, but this one is worth consideration for country blues at least / fingerpicking blues at least, not perhaps for Robert Johnson delta blues.
It has an autumn vintage burst finish and an engraved truss rod cover, mother of pearl dot fretboard markers, and mother in pearl on the headstock. As for hardware, it has chrome Grover rotomatic tuners. The titanium saddles allow easy string height adjustments and help with intonation.
Fender CD -60S All-Mahogany Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
Another dreadnought, albeit much, much cheaper, is the Fender CD -60S All-Mahogany Dreadnought. Single-cutaway for upper fret-access, and with mahogany back, sides and top to help with that all-important sustain.
Scalloped X bracing, and gizmos like onboard electronics and built-in tuner, this is a very good option for beginners. The Fishman low-profile pickup/preamp.
What Makes an Acoustic Guitar Perfect for Blues?
There are plenty of superb electric guitars for blues, but in this article, we’re focusing on acoustics. So what makes an acoustic perfect for blues?
For a start, the body tends to be smaller. Blues players prefer smaller body guitars for one simple reason: they produce less sustain than larger bodies and bring out high-end frequencies that can produce piercing notes. Blues playing doesn’t take particularly well to sustain, and players of the style try to avoid it.
However, dreadnoughts can be used, especially for fingerpicking blues and we’ve included a couple in the round-up.
In terms of guitar tonewoods, mahogany is the preference for its punchy qualities and darker sound. It brings out mid-range tones, giving the tone more clarity (and gets better as it matures with age).
X bracing (as opposed to Ladder bracing used back in the day) is commonly seen on acoustics built for the blues to help with sound projection which gives you a tighter, more focused mid-range sound. The X refers to the wooden struts that are used to support the guitar’s top (it’s arranged in an X shape).
Traditionally, these guitars also have slotted headstocks. They’re called ‘slotted’ headstocks because the strings go through bars that are slotted into the headstock. Some believe this produces a crisper tone than a solid headstock. However, this tonal difference is debatable, and many people choose slotted over solid for aesthetics alone.
Finally, there’s another type of acoustic blues guitar called a ‘resonator’ that uses metal cones to amplify the sound and are often favored by bottleneck/slide players thanks to their high action and distinctive tone. They’re often played in ‘lap steel style’, where you lie one across your lap to play it. However, they can also be held conventionally.
Which Acoustic Blues Guitar Should I Buy?
As you can see, there are several decent options on the market, and the one you choose will mostly be dependent on your budget, body size and your style of playing.
If you’re a slide fanatic, the resonator Gretsch G9200 will be the best option for laying on your lap and running a bottleneck down. On a budget? The Gretsch G9511 is an excellent option. Those looking for something to be used professionally have the choice between the Eastman E20 Parlor, the Martin 000-15M or the Taylor 522e for acoustic.
The Eastman and the Taylor are both 12 fret guitars, giving them warmth as well as a vintage vibe. The Martin has 14 frets before the neck meets the body, which some people may prefer as it gives you more options and can be easier to hold for those with a larger frame.