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Best guitar for the blues


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I'm getting ready to make a purchase. I'm 62 and just learning the guitar. I am a blues man from way back, grew up along the Mississippi, I have always loved the genre. I"m been learning out of books and on the web. It's slower than I'd like but I'm not gonna invest in a real teacher until I've got some legs. I use a Strat, I"m not good or experienced enough to say which is better for what style of playing. I've heard from several sources, internet polls, guitar reviews etc., that the best guitars for whatever depends on the player. However, with that in mind, the advice was basically 3 guitars. ES 335, god bless BB. A Les Paul variety that is a semi hollow? Is there such a creature and are bluesmen and women playing it? Now there's an ES 339 series, Epiphone offers one at a decent price, I think. In any case, Could I please get some feed back from you old veterans of the blues and what you think is the best for a guy with my experience and limited resources. A 3000 dollar Gibson is not on the list because it is way out of my price range. With that in mind, could I please get some feed back , specifically, is the semi-hollow preferred over the hollow body? Is Les Paul even in the running? I'm attracted to the 339 because it is described as a little smaller and easier to handle. I"m not going to be doing any 4 set gigs so I'm not sure this is a real issue. I would love to hear from the pros. Thank you for any consideration.



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Go to the music store and play them and find out what suits you best. The Les Paul is a Les Paul ES and there are models by Gibson and Epiphone. I'll argue that your Strat is good enough, but I understand GAS. The original blues players all used acoustics, electric is basically a development of the last 40 years.

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I have an ES-355 and an ES-335. While both will kick out the blues very nicely, the -355 does it just a little bit better. I attribute this to it's Humbuckers, whereas the -335, as a 2015, has Burstbuckers. Before this I believe -335s had Humbuckers. I think you could find a nice, used, older -335 for less than $2,000.


Good luck and welcome.

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There is no "best guitar for blues". They all bring their own tones that you as a player pull out of them.


There are two broad tones, single coils (like Strats and Teles) and dual coils (like Gibson Les Pauls, ES335, etc.).


Have a listen to the blues players that you personally love, their tone, their licks, the style of blues they play.

You will find yourself drawn to what pleases you the most, what really tickles the ear, what lights you up.

And finally, play as many guitars as you can until you begin to discern the sounds that move you as a player.


Fortunately, today's guitars come in at many price points and the quality is generally quite respectable, an Epiphone

guitar can be an excellent choice for you. They make so many great sounding guitars that you'd really have to try many out

for sound, feel and ergonomics.

As well, your Strat can be a superb blues guitar so you're already half-way there. [thumbup]

I play blues on both my Strats and my Epiphone semi-hollow Dot, and though they all sound different, they all fit the blues perfectly.

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Way too hard for me to answer to provide any sense of the direction you are seeking.


Gretsch G5135? Will do. Telecaster? Will do. Les Paul? Will do. Stratocaster? Will do. SG 400? Will do. And those are only some electrics.


Simply get into a music store if you can and just play as many as you can. Do not be shy about just starting out. You will at some stage discover a guitar that talks to you. Never be afraid to ask questions. If the staff are disdainful because you are a beginner, take your money with you as you walk out - and let them know it. It's one lost current sale, and possibly future ones.


The people who operate the stores in my area are professional. Sure they want to make a sale but they also want their customers to get the right unit for the stage they are at in music. I suggest you look for that attitude.

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BB King style? ... buy one like his Epiphone Lucille or if you have money to burn... and lets face it a shroud has no pockets :) a Gibson Lucille ES355. All you need after that is the ability to make the wonderful tone and sound that BB King did... that is the difficult bit but the fun trying great :)

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Blues can be played on any guitar although gut or nylon strings classicals are rarely used on stage. Considering all the guitars that feature six steel strings, there are virtually no limitations except for your taste.


When comparing semi-hollows to the Strat you're accustomed to, I think the first point would be differences in playability. You may have to discern between playing postures while sitting and standing. The body proportions become rather important when sitting, and standing will call for a properly balanced instrument.


As a beginner it is best to put the guitar on the thigh on the fretting hand's side when sitting. This is much closer to playing when standing and prevents the need to unlearn bad habits. The striking hand's position close to the breastbone allows for better control of string attack. Some guitars have output jack positions not suitable for that like my Gibson SG Supra. After more than 35 years of playing I still hate putting guitars on my right thigh since it means limitations for attacking and fretting as well. It might do in a pinch at a campfire for strumming only and going no further up than the 7th fret, but that's it.


The next aspects of playability are neck and fret profiles. I don't know what exact Strat you play, but it is likely that most guitars you are considering have a larger neck radius. Most modern Strats come with Medium Jumbo frets, so there probably will be no difference. Full-size ES guitars will feel longer despite of shorter scale. Their bridge is positioned significantly higher than on Strats. By the way, SG guitars are the longest-feeling common solid-bodies, sometimes paired with a distinct neck-heaviness. ES-339 models may feel closer to a Strat than full-size ES models do.


Finally there will be tone. Blues can be played on any guitar but none will ever replace another one of different build. The pickups do a lot to the sonic result. You will have to check out what might fulfil your desire.


The amp will play a role, too, the more distorted, the bigger its impact. Some amps may produce a "signature tone" contributing to the final sound as much as strings, picks, guitar, and pickups. However, the player's hands are what creates the outcome, no matter what guitar or amp are used.


It would be interesting to know what amp you currently use when playing your Strat.

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the "blues" comes from the player, so it really doesn't matter what you'll settle on


a strat can cover a lot of ground.


so the 1st thing to know... what is your budget?


if you're into a semi hollow or hollow, there's a lot to choose from if your in the +/- 1$k price break, some excellent choices to be found

epiphone has a few


339 /335 pros,

Sheraton II Pro (I picked one up a few months back, excellent!)


Swingster (I have a white Royale, great guitar for the money)

and as mentioned the BB's signature model



Gretch has several attractive hollow bodies in the $700/800 range, they are going to sound a bit different as Gretch has their own "thing" going on with the pickups they put in their guitars.


ibanez and washburn offer similar models to what Epiphone is offering in that price break as well, but they tend to not be as popular around here, albeit very good values.


Telecasters are great choices too. They are quite different from a strat


Les Pauls are about as complete as it gets, so don't forget about those either. (again, your budget will depend on a USA Standard, Traditional / Studio or one of the Epiphone variants, which are very good guitars)


I guess the first thing to do is what's already been suggested, find a local store that has a decent selection of guitars in the price range you're willing to invest. Guitar center is a good place to window shop... if you want to go with an online retail for the final purchase, there is no place better to make a purchase than Sweetwater.



Spend some time, ask questions, it's the only way you'll really know what you like and what best fits your hands/body/ears.

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While it's hard or impossible for some to pin down, I think all Blues guitars and players have one thing in common with a Blues axe:


Blues guitars tend to be more expressive, more natural sounding. More of a vintage spec, than a modern spec. Lower output pickups, for example, as opposed to high output pickups that sound good with high-gain sounds and the like.


Blues, what most call it, to most people is more about expression, "tone" than which notes and how many. More about how many ways and sounds you can get from an E chord played over and over than how many chord changes one can do.


For that, I think an electric that sounds good acoustically, and a guitar that responds well to different picking is going to be the most expressive, and best for Blues. Usually, that means "vintage spec" types.

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Blues is a wide genre. All guitars CAN be great "blues" guitars. Even "Classical" nylon stringed

versions, in the right hands.


What style of "Blues" are you most comfortable in? Chicago, Delta, Texas, Urban (sometimes called Jazz Blues),

Acoustic, Electric, Resonator (acoustic or electric), etc. LOTS of choices, and styles. ES-335-345-355, have

been great "blues" guitars, for decades. As have the Strat and Telecaster. LP's and SG's too, with Humbuckers,

or P-90's, equally. Other "blues" players have used the more "Jazz box" electrics, for their special type of

"blues" styling's. So, the sky's the limit, so to speak.


Find the guitar type, size, model, and sound, YOU like. The rest is in your heart and hands! [thumbup][biggrin]



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For many years, the only guitar I had was a classical acoustic “cat gut” sting guitar. Blues is my main things, so she sang the blues. Used her so much, I wore a hole in her near the sound hole, just like Willie Nelson’s.


I have a very wide range of electric guitars now, including a Stratocaster. The Stratocaster has done alright by Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Jimi, SRV, and several others. I’ve come to prefer solid body, set neck guitars with hum buckers, like the Les Paul. That said, I’ll still play my Strat a lot, too. She’s an old friend who’s been very loyal.


Another big factor in getting the right sound for blues, maybe more so than the “right guitar”, is the right amp. It will help a whole lot to get a nice tube amp. Just get a small watt tube amp so you can coax nice tones and break ups without scaring the cats and dogs too much (like a 4 watt Vox or 5 watt Bugera).


As far as taking lessons to learn how to play the blues, save your money. Just listen to the artist you like, who’s styles suit your taste. Watch some videos online, check out some books, learn your basic blues scales, but I would not suggest taking actual lessons. If you wanted to learn to play classical music or to read notations, etc, yes, then take lesson. Blues is different. I’m sure others here might take issue with my stance, but it’s just my opinion.


There are so many blues legends that don’t actually play things “right” or “correctly”. Had they taken lessons, they may never have developed their individual style and sound. I was watching a documentary on BB King the other night, he was saying how, “I don’t play no chords”. He couldn’t read or write music notation, either. But he hits just one note, and it cuts right through to your marrow. That can’t be taught.


There, my two cents. :rolleyes:

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If you don't know the blues... there's no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music.

Keith Richards


Simple music is the hardest music to play and blues is simple music.

Albert Collins


Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art.

Charlie Parker


Blues is a natural fact, is something that a fellow lives. If you don't live it you don't have it. Young people have forgotten to cry the blues. Now they talk and get lawyers and things.

Big Bill Broonzy


Music isn't just learning notes and playing them, You learn notes to play to the music of your soul.

Katie Greenwood

Sounds like the blues are composed of feeling, finesse, and fear.

Billy Gibbons

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The original blues players all used acoustics, electric is basically a development of the last 40 years.

No, not the last 40 years. While it's true that the earliest blues players were working before the advent of electric guitars, let's get the numbers right here. 40 years ago was 1976. At that point (which happens to be when I started playing/collecting/studying blues guitar music), the electric guitar had already been featuring prominently in the world of blues music (urban blues especially) for 30-40 years, going back to T-Bone Walker and other pioneers that rose to prominence in the 1940's. Many people these days associate the term "electric guitar" only with solidbodies, which is erroneous. So to be clear here, electric archtops (with built-in pickups) like the ES-150, ES-250, ES-300, ES-350, ES-5, etc, were "electric guitars". Those (at least in terms of popular Gibsons used by top players) were the guitars that started the ball rolling in electric blues, before the Les Paul, the Fender models, and the 335/345/355 were ever available. People forget that B.B. King was using hollowbody archtop electrics for years before the 355 was invented (and that T-Bone Walker, who came before him, was the main electric blues pioneer, and a huge influence on B.B.).

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You already have a Strat, a most wonderfully versatile guitar for playing the blues.


You could invest a modest amount of money into an Epiphone Les Paul Special II and tune it to Open G, also known as Spanish tuning. That will give you a great instrument for playing a whole raft of classic blues tunes, especially if you get yourself a slide or bottleneck. If you do go down that road, try taking the heavy E string off and play 5-string Open G like Keith Richards.

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The 339 may be the way to go. If you've been playing a Strat and you're over 60, IMHO you should forget about a Les Paul. That guitar is HEAVY, man! I've played lots of LPs and Strats, and the LP always feels like it weighs too much. I'm well over 60 as well and I ended up with an Epiphone DOT, nice size, plays good sitting down, all the tone and power for a good price. That said, the 339 is a smaller version of the same sort of thing. Try 'em both, side-by-side (that means finding a shop that has both). DON'T buy a pre-loved one - almost always been mucked up by somebody. The Epiphones are great guitars at affordable prices; Gary Clark Jr. is not wrong!

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