Best Blues Guitars On The Market In 2020: Our 6 Standouts

So you want to find the best blues guitar for playing the blues.

Maybe you just picked up a guitar for the first time and want to sound like Muddy Waters, or maybe you used to be a shredder and your Schecter 7-string just doesn’t have the right tone.

Fear not! This article will walk you through six of the best blues guitars available today, spanning all budgets and all styles.

Snapshot: Top 6 Best Blues Guitars

  1. Epiphone Limited Edition ES-335 PRO
  2. Fender Stratocaster / Squier Affinity
  3. PRS SE Custom 24
  4. Gretsch G5420T Electromatic Hollow Body
  5. Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Standard Plustop PRO
  6. Ibanez Artcore Series AS73 Semi-Hollow Body

The 6 Best Blues Guitars

The blues is one of the oldest genres of music, with deep roots in American history. It spawned the birth of rock and roll while still living on as its own genre. It’s a starting ground for most guitar players, and now you want to master it.

To get those exact tones you need an axe fit for the job. In this curated list we examine guitars traditionally used by blues artists, as well as a few off the beaten path. Every model on this list can play clear as a bell, while still holding the warmth of tone needed for one of the most expressive forms of music.

There are blues guitars from all price points on this list and while some of them are budget options, none of them feel “cheap”. All are built of quality materials by brands famous for their fit and finish.

Every model here could go to the studio and record the next great blues LP. So read on, and find the right guitar for your journey in blues.

1. Epiphone Limited Edition ES-335 PRO

Epiphone Limited Edition ES-335 PRO

The only way to start this list is with the blues guitar that B.B. King built his career with. The first “Lucille” was an ES-335, all subsequent models were based off of this flagship Gibson model with design input from B.B. himself.

With stunning tone, great playability, and heritage to boot, its one of the best guitars for blues and it’s no wonder that the ES-335 made the list. While not available in the iconic black, the Cherry finish is no slouch, and a personal favorite. 

Body & Neck

The double cutaway semi-hollow body is the heart of the ES-335. This guitar can jam unplugged just fine, and sings when plugged into a vintage tube amp. The neck is a traditional Gibson/Epiphone, being made of Mahogany topped with a Rosewood fretboard. It’s got a round profile that will fit snugly into your hand and feels just right for playing the blues. The cutaways allow access to the 22 medium jumbo frets for hitting those high note bends that are absolutely vital to a good solo.

Electronics & Hardware

This is the classic Gibson/Epiphone affair. Two humbuckers are connected to a 3-way switch that goes through two tones knobs and two volume knobs. This 4-knob system allows for a virtually endless combination of sound. What’s unusual for this ES-335 is that it has split coil pickups.

By pulling up on the volume knobs, the humbucker turns into single coil pickups. This allows for even more tone options and perfect customization of your sound. A Tune-O-Matic bridge makes sure your intonation is on point while the Wilkinson vintage tuners keep everything taught. There’s nothing not to love.

Sound

Epiphone Split-Coil Alnico Classic Pro Humbuckers: These pickups are crazy. Two pickups in one means that if you are a lifelong Gibson/Epiphone player you can get Those Fender tones without having to actually get a Fender. The humbuckers sound warm and full with a lot of bass, while completely coming to life when played with a slide.

Put it into single coil mode and the guitar picks up more high end, but loses that signature bass. Since, you can split each pickup independent of the other, there are 8 different pickup configurations possible. That’s a lot of options in one package. While the semi-hollow body is a little more prone to feedback than the Les Paul, it also has an extra warmth that must be experienced in person to fully appreciate.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Maple
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups:  Epiphone Split-Coil Alnico Classic Pro Humbuckers
  • Bridge: Tune-O-Matic

A lot of options in one package

Final Thoughts on the Epiphone Limited Edition ES-335 PRO

This is such a versatile guitar. Play with an amp or without an amp. Play single coil or humbucker. Play blues or play rock. With no limits, and heritage to boot, this guitar is a must have for any blues guitarist.

2. Fender Player Stratocaster

Fender Stratocaster Squier Affinity

This blues guitar is also here because of its pedigree. Being one of the most iconic guitars of all time, It’s been played by a few legends; Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and John Mayer just to name a few. With the Strat being the Swiss Army knife of guitars, it’s no wonder that it shows up on this list of blues guitars.

Body & Neck

There’s a reason blues guitarists love this guitar. The Alder body with its deep double cutaways available in a ton of colors fits as comfortably as your favorite hoodie. The body is contoured on the back to sit flush with you, while also having the part under your right arm rolled so you don’t hit the edge, like you usually do with its brother the Telecaster.

The 22-fret neck makes the highest frets feel just as comfortable as the first, and its either Maple or Pau Ferro fretboard feels perfect under your fingers. Everything about this blues guitar feels natural, and it belongs in your guitar collection.

Electronics & Hardware

The three single coil pickups have a 5-way pickup selector that allows for blending that bright fender sound to be what you need. The two-tone knobs control the tone of the neck and middle pickup, with the bridge always set to “As Bright As Possible”. Because of this you can get a nice mellow tone on two of the pickups, and then throw it to the bridge for you bend- filled solos.

 A tremolo bridge gives you a little more wiggle room, allowing a lot of bending down and a little bending up. Just be careful, there’s no locking nuts or tuners, so if you treat the whammy bar like you’re Steve Vai you may go out of tune. The Six-on-a-side headstock (the best style of headstock) has standard Fender tuners that do their job effortlessly.

Sound

Player Series Stratocaster Single Coils: These might as well be the official pickup of the blues. While there have been countless variations of the Strat single coil pickups, they all have a central theme that the Player Series models hold true to; exceptionally bright high end with their “Fender Sparkle” and warm mid sounds.

This guitar is bright and loud on the bridge, really warm and rounded on the neck, and the middle pickup (shocker) is a half way between each. My favorite pickup setting for this guitar is bridge and middle, and throwing down to just bridge when you just need to shred a little. No matter what you want to sound like, this is one of the best guitars to get blues tones and much more. 

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Alder
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Pau Ferro or Maple
  • Pickups: Player Series Stratocaster Single Coils
  • Bridge: Two-Point Tremolo

This is the guitar of the greats

Final Thoughts on the Fender Player Stratocaster

This do-anything guitar is one of the best guitars for blues. The hardware on this guitar allows the pickups to shine, while the iconic body makes playing feel effortless. It’s no wonder so many of the greats chose this guitar. It’s an absolute star and would be great for your Blues career. Pick one up and start playing already!

If you want this shape and tone but at a cheaper price tag, check out the Squier Affinity Stratocaster kit that made our Best Beginner Electric Guitars list.

3. PRS SE Custom 24 Zebrawood

PRS SE Custom 24

Okay time to switch it up. This is a guitar guys guitar. A truly fantastic model that tends to go under the radar. Paul Reed Smith guitars are favorites of jazz players, metal players, rock players, and of course blues guitar players. These guitars came on the market in the 80s, yet have a timeless and distinct look.

Body & Neck

First we have to talk about the zebrawood on this guitar. It is an aesthetic veneer over a maple body and looks wild. It does also come in Vintage Sunburst, Trapas Green, Fireburst Red, as well as a few other colors. While this veneer doesn’t do a lot for the sound of the guitar, it does make it feel a little more special than the rest.

This maple and zebrawood body is connected to a “wide thin” maple neck with a rosewood on fretboard. PRS also have lovely bird inlays instead of dots or trapezoids. The 24 (that’s right, 24) frets are easily accessible through the unique double cut-away body which has nice contours that make playing it super comfortable. They’re real fun to play and sound great to boot.

Electronics & Hardware

This is one of those blues guitars that has split coil picks, controlled by pushing and pulling the tone knob. However, with the coil tap controls both pickups, you are either in humbucker mode or in single coil mode, you can’t blend the two. There is a 3-way switch connected to one volume and one tone knob, and while you dont have the same level of blending as there is on Gibsons, the PRS pickups sound so good that it honestly doesn’t matter.

A PRS tremolo allows for some fun, light bends to give you more expressive playing, but with standard PRS tuners don’t treat it like a Floyd Rose. Overall this guitar feels refined and high quality.

Sound

PRS 85/15 Humbuckers with coil splitting: The humbuckers on this guitar are second to none. They have good bass, mids, and treble while sounding incredibly warm and polished. They are one of my favorite pickups ever made and I don’t say that lightly. The coil split is another story. This coil split doesn’t change the tone in the same way that it does on the ES-335.

This split makes the pickups sound more raw and edgy. They are still bassy, but have a little extra at the high end at the cost of some noise. In humbucker mode you can play this on a clean amplifier with stunning clarity, then kick on some overdrive and play some truly wicked blues. Honestly give them a listen and you will be instantly in love with them.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Zebrawood veneer, Maple body
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups: 85/15 PRS Humbuckers with coil splitting
  • Bridge: PRS Tremolo

A truly fantastic guitar that goes under the radar

Final Thoughts on the PRS SE Custom 24

I am a little biased. I’ve had the chance to play many PRS guitars. From the modern SE series to a ‘86. Each and every one of them has sounded as amazing as they felt. I’ve heard them scream the blues and I genuinely believe that they are one of the best brands at doing this. You have to try this blues guitar out to see why it is so special. Stop reading this and go play a PRS!

4. Gretsch G5420T Electromatic Hollow Body

Gretsch G5420T Electromatic Hollowbody

Are you looking for vintage blues sound?

Look no further, Gretsch has the guitar for you! This hollow body (not semi-hollow body, just hollow body) is a time-capsule. It looks straight out of the big band era, and packs an absolutely insane tone. While Gretsch guitars are more traditionally associated with rockabilly and surf rock, it can play the blues like nobody’s business.

Body & Neck

This hollow body is made of maple, with F-holes to allow for the pickups being directly below the strings. The maple neck, with a C-profile, is halfway between the size of an electric and an acoustic. This gives the guitar an interesting feel that is both fast and robust. Since this is a hollow body guitar it sounds amazing unplugged, with good resonance for a non-traditional acoustic.

It is on the bulky side when compared to a solid body electric guitar. It feels more like traveling with an acoustic guitar than anything else. One of my favorite things about this guitar is the finish. Available in Fairlane Blue, Aspen Green, and Orange Stain this guitar looks absolutely insane. My favorite is the orange, nothing stands out like an orange guitar.

Electronics & Hardware

So this guitar is wired very strangely. It has a 3-way pickup selector, a volume knob for the bridge pickup, another volume knob for the neck pickup, a tone knob, and then a master volume knob. Because of this you can blend your two pickups to your heart’s desire, and then control the volume through the master knob, preserving the tone that you dialed in.

What makes this guitar super cool though is the Bigsby Tremolo.

First off it looks so cool. In functionality it allows for super smooth and precise bends down. This is firmly a “Tremolo” and nowhere close to a “Whammy Bar”. Since its a gradual change with the Bigsby, the Gretsch open-back tuners are more than capable of handling it. There’s also an Adjusto-Matic bridge that lets you dial in your intonation exactly how you want it, much better than a fixed bridge on most hollow body guitars.

Sound

Blacktop Filter’tron Humbuckers: So this guitar’s magic is in the combination of pickups and hollow body. The pickups are mid heavy, with a nice balance of high and low end. They can be clean or distorted. They don’t care. They’ll power through it. But what’s insane is the sustain!

This guitar just keeps ringing, it’s astounding. If you’ve never played a hollow body electric it’s something to try. Keep in mind that a hollow body guitar will require a lot more fiddling with your amp and noise gates to avoid feedback. 

When not plugged in it sounds like a truly wonderful acoustic. With warmth of tone and outstanding projection the Gretsch is a star. The only thing to keep in mind is the strings you put on it. Electric strings vs. acoustic strings really changes the sound of this guitar. Choose the setup that works best for your playing style and give it a go.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Maple
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups: Blacktop Filter’tron Humbuckers
  • Bridge: Adjusto-Matic with a Bigsby Tremolo

The sustain is insane on this guitar

Final Thoughts on the Gretsch G5420T Electromatic

I’m a little speechless. I never thought that I would like a hollow body guitar this much. The G5420T has really changed the way I feel about this whole style of guitar. This guitar plays the blues like it was built specifically with that task in mind. The quality at this price point is mind-blowing, and you should definitely consider this guitar for your journey through the blues.

5. Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro

Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Standard Plustop PRO

If a Strat makes the lists, then the Les Paul has to as well. Almost every blues musician who wasn’t on the Strat was on some type of Gibson. Albert King had a Flying V, Derrick Truck had a SG, and Johnny Winter had a Firebird. All of them were chasing that sweet Gibson tone and now you can have it with a little more flair with the Les Paul Pro.

Body & Neck

This maple body comes in a wonderful Honey Burst finish with cream bindings. All of the plastic parts are in the same cream binding providing a sense of cohesion to the whole instrument. The classic Les Paul single cutaway shape, while slab-y, feels good and allows effortless access to most of the higher frets.

The Pro has a slim-taper neck that feels nice in hand and is topped with a rosewood fretboard with traditional trapezoid inlays. Every Les Paul feels great, and this guitar is no exception.

Electronics & Hardware

Yet again, this guitar is a split coil affair. Normal Gibson/Epiphone wiring is present: a 3-way pickup selector, two volume knob, and two tone knobs. Like the ES-335 Pro you pull up on the tone knobs to turn on split coil mode.

The bridge is an Epiphone branded Tune-O-Matic style fixed bridge with a stopbar backing it up. This means all the bending will have to be done on the fretboard. Grover tuners on the traditional Gibson headstock work smoothly and hold their tuning well.

Sound

ProBucker 2 & ProBucker 3: In humbucker mode these pickup sound classic Gibson. The bridge pickup has an exceptional midrange, with good bass and high end. The neck pickup has a rounder sound. It’s smooth but lacks the clarity of the bridge pickup. Both in combo make a fantastic tone that is perfect for both 12-bar and a few solos.

In single coil mode there is more of a hum, but nothing a noise gate can’t handle. The tone is a little more raw on single coil mode. It gets gritty and that is only amplified by distortion. Both are brighter at the trade off of low end.

I personally like using the bridge in humbucker mode and the neck in single coil mode combined to make a super sweet sound. When you pick this guitar up be sure to mess around with the knobs until you’ve found the tone that works best for you.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Maple
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups: ProBucker 2 & ProBucker 3
  • Bridge: Tune-O-Matic style Epiphone Bridge with Stopbar

Great feel, great sound, great price

Final Thoughts on the Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro

Gibson has always had a place in the blues, most recently being represented by Joe Bonamassa and his Les Paul. This Epiphone is an even more exotic sounding version of the old staple and might be the key to your perfect blues sound.

Split coil humbuckers are a favorite feature of mine and will help you perfect your sound. Great feel, great sound, great price. Give it a try and see where it takes you.

6. Ibanez Artcore Series AS73 Semi-Hollow Body

Ibanez Artcore Series AS73 Semi-Hollowbody

The last guitar on this list mirrors the first. Another semi-hollow body with dual humbuckers, but Ibanez manages to bring the cost down while still being a fantastic player’s guitar. With Ibanez’s “A” series showing up on several of our lists (including our Best Electric Guitars for Kids list) it only seemed fitting that one make an appearance here as well.

Body & Neck

The semi-hollow body is resonate and fairly slim for its class of guitars, feeling comfortable and extremely light. The all maple construction shines in the Tobacco Burst and Transparent Cherry Red finishes, but it is also available in Olive Metallic as well as a dark Red.

The mahogany neck is topped with an Indian laurel fretboard housing 22 medium frets. The neck is not the traditional flat “metal” shape of their electric guitars, it’s a more rounded neck somewhere between a Les Paul and a Telecaster. It’s traditional and feels at home with the blues.

Electronics & Hardware

This one is wired dirt simple. Two pickups, a three-way selector switch, two volumes, and two tones. No coil taps on this one. The ART1 bridge is similar to a Tune-O-Matic with ample adjustability. One of my favorite Ibanez features is the stopbar. It has channels cut on the top to allow for extraordinarily fast string changes.

 If you’re on stage and you break a high E, you can wrap the string around the tuner first and then feed the string into the stopbar. I wouldn’t try this with any other setup.

Sound

Classic Elite Humbucker Pickups: These caught me off guard. They are exceptionally bright humbuckers, while still having decent mids and bass. Being a matching set of pickups, they have incredibly similar sounds. The bridge is a bit airier and janglier than the neck, but they both have similar shapes to their sounds.

These pickups aren’t afraid of playing a little rougher. With a bit of distortion they pick up a very Delta blues sound. They’re not as warm as the ones found on the Epiphone, but I like the way they sound. If you plan on playing with a distortion pedal, or just have a distorted amp, this is a must pick.

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Maple
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard Material: Indian Laurel
  • Pickups: Classic Elite Humbucker Pickups
  • Bridge: ART1 Bridge

A low cost, high quality guitar

Final Thoughts on the Ibanez Artcore Series AS73 Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar

This is a great guitar to end the list on. A modern retelling of a vintage guitar. It’s an accessible model that is great for both new players and old pros. Whether in your living room or out on tour, the Ibanez can handle whatever is thrown at it.

Final Thoughts on the Best Blues Guitars

All of the guitars on this list are perfect guitars for blues and have blues in their blood, or were specifically designed to recapture that sound. There isn’t a slacker in the bunch and while they’re all a little different, they each have what it takes to be that guitar sound that the blues is famous for.

So go forth! Grab your axes, start practicing, and learn one of the oldest and most expressive genres of music. Or if you want to take a shortcut, maybe hit up your nearest crossroads.

If you want to learn more about what strings to put on your guitar, check out our 11 Best Electric Guitar Strings On The Market article to better your tone and improve your quality of life.

Further Reading:

 

 

About Tim Grgas

I am a freelance writer and musician, currently based out of New York. I love making music and all the tools involved in the process. I love sharing my knowledge in a way that helps other musicians on their own journey, and helps build and improve their craft.