The Stratocaster comes top of the list because it is the most influential blues guitar of all time. If anyone wants to argue against that, they need their head reading. The list of guitarists who have played blues on at Strat would fill this entire article, people such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, etc.
If you want to buy a new Strat, the good news is Fender is doing really well these days since Fender regained control of their own company back in the ’80s (yes, there was a time when media giant CBS owned them and started making some, let’s say, peculiar design alterations). Now they’re firmly back on track, and there’s no better time to buy a new Strat.
The one we have here is the Fender American Special Stratocaster. It’s an absolute beast of a guitar and comes with many of the things we’ve come to expect on a Strat, only reimagined for modern time. The single coil pickups (Texas Special ones) classic C-shaped neck makes it super comfortable to hold and to find those blues tones.
The rosewood fretboard gives it a smooth, warm sound. There’s a five-way pickup selector, offering you greater tonal flexibility. As you’d expect it comes with a whammy bar, so you can start playing some of those Jeff Beck pitch bends.
We also wrote an entire piece around the best strats if you want to delve deeper.
The Gibson Les Paul Traditional electric guitar is another classic that many a blues guitar player has used. Even though both are blues guitars, the design of the Les Paul is vastly different compared to the Strat.
For a start, it comes with humbucker pickups which omit a much warmer, rounder sound than the single coils found on a Strat. The set neck improves sustain (versus the bolt-on) and the weight of the thing is considerably more (a factor you should consider if you have back issues and you plan to play it standing up).
The scale length is shorter too, making it slightly easier to play for small hands. This one has a one-piece rosewood fingerboard, 57 Classic humbuckers, and a classic sunburst finish.
If you like to play hard rock, go with a Les Paul (the godfather of rock Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page played one of these). It’s one of the best guitars for blues, period.
If you’re shopping on a budget, go with an Epiphone Les Paul or many of the other Copies available.
This Gibson ES-339 Semi-Hollowbody electric guitar has the classic ES-335 shape body.
It comes with a set of quality retro-style Grover tuners which not only look the part but dramatically improve tuning accuracy, and are smooth as anything. There is also added thickness to the peghead for better strength and stability too.
This guitar is a dream to play too. The lower fret height helps with playability and accurate intonation.
As for sound, the pickups are the Burst Bucker 1 & 2 type which are calibrated for each position to give you a balanced output and bright sound, which give you a balanced, harmonically rich sound. The ABR-1 bridge and titanium saddles ooze quality too.
Ibanez AS153AYS Artstar Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar
Ibanez are another quality brand that you should consider too.
This Ibanez AS153AYS Artstar semi-hollow electric guitar is an absolute pearl, with set neck and flamed maple top, back and sides for some very sweet tones. The bound ebony fretboard is fitted with medium frets that are easy as pie to play, and have Art star fret edge treatment.
The pearl and abalone block inlay looks pretty spectacular too. The sustain block the pickups are mounted to help to reduce feedback and increase sustain. The ART-1 bridge oozes quality too.
The Telecaster is another absolute classic, played by a whole host of famous guitar slingers from blues players like Chuck Berry and Keith Richards to indie guitarists like Blur’s Graham Coxon. It’s particularly good for country music as well as blues and rock.
This Fender American Special Telecaster is one of the latest modern offers from Fender and has all the hallmark traits you’d expect from a Tele. The C shape neck, 9.5″ fretboard radius, jumbo frets and loaded with two texas special pickups (the neck pickup is the quintessential sleek, chrome-covered soap bar shape). To finish it off, you get a lovely satin-finished neck and grease bucket tone circuits that rolls off high frequencies without adding extra bass.
This Gibson SG Standard electric guitar is one that deserved to be mentioned on this list at the very least. This guitar became a very mentioned one in the music industry, and many professional guitar players started using it ever since. It has a double-cutaway beveled mahogany body, a set mahogany neck with rounded ’50s profile, a bound rosewood fingerboard with trapezoid inlays and a Tune-O-Matic bridge with stop bar tailpiece. As I said, many guitar players have been using it for a wide variation of genres, but mostly blues or rock are the ones that this guitar has been used for the most.
The Gibson SG Standard electric guitar is another legendary guitar popular with blues, rock, and metal fans alike. It simply has to be on any list of best electric guitars for blues and has been played by blues guitarists like Angus Young, Tony Iommi and Robby Krieger.
This new SG has a thin, mahogany solid body with those unmistakable twin cutaways, pointed horns and beveled edges. It comes loaded with a pair of Gibson’s own screamin’ humbuckers that deliver superb resonance and sustain, a bound rosewood fretboard with trapezoid inlays to jazz things up, and the classic Tune-O-Matic bridge with stop bar tailpiece. It’s known as the fastest neck in the business, and this one shows no sign of slowing down.
This Godin 5th Avenue CW Electric Guitar is a jazz or blues guitar. Godin have gone after the 1950s archtop look with this affordable hollow-bodied guitar. It boasts a Canadian silver leaf maple neck, single-cutaway shape, and classic f-holes in the top that suits vintage archtop guitars and gives it a timeless feel. The tortoiseshell floating pickguard is a nice touch too.
As for hardware, the Kingpin comes equipped with an adjustable sustain-enhancing TUSQ bridge, a vintage style chrome tailpiece, and two P90 single-coil pickups. Add to that sealed chrome tuning machines, and you have yourself a very sweet guitar that has a great twang for delta blues, and even early rock.
This Epiphone ES-339 Semi Hollow Body electric guitar has a Slim Taper “D” profile neck that is good for both comfort and fast action, a Mahogany neck, and an all nickel plated hardware. Aside from that, it features a double-cutaway body shape, laminated body material, and gloss body finish.
With a rosewood fretboard, a P-90T bridge, and neck, Deluxe tulip tuning machines and controls such as volume and tone, you will be able to experiment with how you sound, to make it as unique as you want.
If you’ve ever listened to bluesman BB King, you’ll be familiar with the ES-335 as that’s the guitar the great man played.
The Epiphone Limited Edition ES-335 Pro is a semi-hollow rock ‘n’ roll machine that looks vintage and similar to those used in 60s blues music. There’s a mahogany neck that has a distinctive 1960s ‘D’ shape, similar to a C but a bit wider.
There are four controls to adjust neck and bridge pickup tones and volumes separately, and both of the pickups are humbuckers which reduce the risk of feedback often associated with semi-hollow bodied guitars.
Slim Pau Ferro fretboard offers a similar sound to Rosewood but with an added brightness. Maple body and mahogany neck give it a rich resonance.
It will be less suited to petite players, and as it’s a semi, its not ideal if you’re looking for something purely electric or acoustic.
The Gretsch G5420T is an excellent hollow-bodied guitar that offers a pure and powerful tone. There are humbucker pickups that help to reduce the feedback commonly associated with hollow-bodied guitars.
There’s a rosewood fretboard which gives you a nice smooth playing experience plus a tremolo like the Strat (see above) to give you extra means of expression in your playing.
There are two tone controls and two volume controls, giving you extra controllability as well as versatility, and there’s a three-way toggle to switch between pickups.
It will be suited to those looking for true transparency of tone and a clean, acoustic sound that is amplified, and even sounds great played through an acoustic simulator pedal.
Should I Buy an Electric Blues Guitar or an Acoustic Blues Guitar?
You won’t be the first or the last to ask yourself this. The easy answer is ‘buy both’ but if, like most people, you’re on a tight budget that doesn’t help.
Electric guitars are generally a lot more versatile than acoustics. There are some great sounding acoustic guitars designed for blues out there that sound great for blues but not much else. An electric guitar like a Strat, Tele or Les Paul can be used for blues one minute and funk or jazz the next. You can play it clean or dirty it up with distortion. That’s because a great deal of the guitar’s sound comes from the ancillary equipment around the guitar, namely the pedals, and the amp.
Unless you’re hell-bent on getting an acoustic blues sound and only that, I’d go with one of these electric guitars to start with. They are way more versatile.
So, Which Should I Choose?
If you want to play the blues in the style of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Joe Bonamassa or the others (see above) then go with the Fender Stratocaster.
Love blues and a bit of country (or even jazz, check out Mike Stern who plays great modern jazz on a Tele)? Go with a Tele.
Love metal and hard rock? Go with a Gibson for that extra sustain.
Ged is the Founder of Zing and guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band Django Mango. When he's not writing or noodling on a guitar, he's tinkering with his vintage Campervan.