The electric guitar has been used in blues music since the 1940s. Muddy Waters bought his first electric in 1944 and quickly hit the clubs, asking for an amp everywhere he went with his band. “Can’t nobody hear you with an acoustic,” he used to say, as he electrified Chicago.
In this article, we review the best electric guitars for blues and cover all the main differences between the most popular guitars in this genre.
At a Glance: Our Pick of the Best Electric Guitars for Blues
- Fender Vintage Modified Telecaster
- Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO
- Epiphone Limited Edition ES-335 PRO
- Fender American Special Stratocaster
- Gretsch G5420T Electromatic Hollow Body
Ok, here’s what we’ll cover.
Blues Electric Guitars
While the acoustic guitar was the originator of blues music, the electric guitar has taken the style to a new level. When it comes to electric guitars for blues you have three main options:
- the Fender Stratocaster
- the Fender Telecaster
- the Gibson Les Paul
…or a copy of any of these (Les Paul style guitars being the most popular). These three electric guitars have dominated the world of music and have been used in most guitar-based music ever since they were first released, over fifty years ago.
Product Round-Up and Reviews – Best Electric Guitar for Blues
Fender Vintage Modified Telecaster
The Fender Vintage Modified Telecaster is a budget-friendly instrument with a bite. It has a C-shaped neck which makes it easy to play, so it’s perfect for beginners, and there are volume and tone controls for each of the two pickups, giving you excellent controllability. There is one single-coil pickup and one humbucker, affording you the option of switching between their sounds and the bolt-on neck means that you can trust this guitar to take a knock or two. The neck is maple, which is less popular than rosewood due to its brighter tone, but it might suit players seeking that cutting sound.
While it’s not the best Telecaster available, it will certainly be suited to players on a budget looking for a high-quality electric instrument. It will be less suited for electric players hunting for the sweet sustain of something like a Les Paul.
- The C-shaped neck makes it comfortable and to play and easier to reach chord shapes.
- The combination of single-coil and humbucker pickups makes it versatile.
- Volume and tone controls for each pickup gives you excellent controllability.
- Basswood is inferior to some other woods and might not suit some players.
- There’s no tremolo or place to put one.
- Maple fretboard isn’t as smooth as a Rosewood fretboard.
Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO
The Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO offers an excellent sustain, thanks to its set neck and an angled headstock. It’s also made of mahogany, which gives it a rich, warm tone that is popular in blues music. There’s a rosewood fretboard for a smooth playing experience and also contributing to the warmth of this guitar. The pickups are humbuckers, which gives the sound a Slash-like beefiness and there are jumbo frets to make it a little easier to play.
It will suit rock blues players (the grandfather of rock blues, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page plays one of these) who want something beefy and substantial – less suited to players looking for an authentic blues sound, or who want something that doesn’t mind being thrown around.
- Set mahogany neck and body offer a rich tone that lends itself to the blues.
- The rosewood fretboard gives you a smooth playing experience and a warm tone.
- Volume and tone controls for each pickup give you excellent controllability.
- There’s no tremolo, or option for one.
- All pickups are humbuckers, so you can’t access that single-coil tone.
Epiphone Limited Edition ES-335 PRO
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. It offers the best of both worlds in acoustic trueness and adaptability to electric sounds due to its semi-hollow body, and its large shape will be well suited to larger players who want something to complement their frame.
It will be less suited to petite players, or to those looking for something purely electric or acoustic.
- Slim Pau Ferro fretboard offers a similar sound to Rosewood but with an added brightness.
- Humbucker pickups reduce the risk of feedback.
- Maple body and mahogany neck give it a rich resonance.
- There’s no tremolo.
- The pickups are both humbuckers, so you won’t get single-coil sounds.
- It’s quite big and chunky, so it might not suit the smaller player.
Fender American Special Stratocaster
Arguably the best Stratocaster available, the Fender American Special Stratocaster is a beast of a guitar. This model has a C-shaped neck, making it easy to handle and to get into chord shapes and its rosewood fretboard gives it a smooth, warm sound.
There’s a five-way pickup toggle, offering you superior flexibility of tone and there are two tone controls as well as a volume control. As you’d expect it comes with a whammy bar, so you can start getting some of that Jeff Beck sound.
This one is for the serious enthusiast or pro musician who wants a quality product that will last them a lifetime.
- Includes a whammy bar for extra expression.
- Rosewood fingerboard on a C-shaped neck offers a comfortable playing experience with a warm sound.
- The amount of possible differences in tone gives you exceptional flexibility and versatility.
- All of the pickups are single coil.
- It’s very expensive.
Gretsch G5420T Electromatic Hollow Body
The Gretsch G5420T is an excellent hollow-bodied guitar that offers a pure and powerful tone. There are humbucker pickups, which help to reduce the feedback that can be associated with hollow-bodied alternatives and its entirely made of maple. There’s a rosewood fretboard which ensures a smooth playing experience as well as a high quality of tone and there’s a tremolo 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 – it’s less suited to electric guitarists who want to play distorted rock blues.
- Includes a tremolo to allow for extra expression.
- Humbuckers help to reduce the risk of feedback and humming.
- Rosewood fretboard ensures a smooth playing experience and a high-quality tone.
- Both pickups are humbuckers, reducing your option of having a single-coil sound.
- The large body might not suit smaller players.
So, Which Should I Choose?
Everything we’ve reviewed has its merits, there isn’t a dud one here. If you’re looking for something high-end and versatile, opt for the Fender American Special Stratocaster Guitar which is a classic that’s been proven perfect for blues and beyond, time and time again.
If you’re after a more heavy-sounding guitar, to play rock blues that kicks ass, the Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO might be more suited to your requirements.