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Country music has evolved quite a bit since the early days of the genre. But, one thing that has remained consistent is that the guitar is an integral part of the genre’s sound.
With so many guitars available on the market, it can be difficult to decipher what is actually worth your time when shopping for this genre. If you’re stuck in a pickle, consider looking at the following guitars to help you get those iconic tones.
Fender Player Telecaster – Best Overall
There is no other guitar most commonly associated with country music than the Telecaster. Many of the genre’s earliest guitar phenoms put down their greatest phrases with these guitars, and in turn, inspired countless generations to do the same.
Today’s guitar players are offered a scrumptious buffet of different Telecaster options compared to what was available back in the day. For the guitarist with a moderate budget looking for a solid Telecaster, the Fender Player Telecaster (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a fantastic offering.
On paper, the Player Telecaster is a basic Telecaster through and through, with some nice modern upgrades. Since Telecasters are essentially designed to be simplistic, the Player Telecaster checks all of the boxes one typically has when seeking these guitars out.
This means you’ll get a Telecaster with an Alder body, a Maple neck, and the option of either Maple or Pau Ferro for the fretboard. The modern features that are included here include:
- 22 frets
- 6-saddle bridge design
- Thin modern C-shape neck contour
Of course, you’re probably wondering if this Telecaster can deliver the twang. Rest assured, its Fender-designed Player Series Alnico V Tele single-coils handle the job perfectly, with a bit of added oomph for modern sounds, too.
While more inexpensive Telecasters can be found, the Player Telecaster plays extremely well thanks to its satin-finished neck and its lacquered fretboard (only on the Maple option). This guitar meets where tradition and modern thinking collide, producing a solid entry it’s Fender’s product line that is both consistent and reliable.
For most people, the Player Telecaster will easily get the job done, and they may never think about making upgrades. But the Telecaster is known for modifications, and the Player Telecaster does provide an excellent platform for somebody that wants to tweak different aspects of their guitar.
Gretsch G6120T-59 Vintage Select 1959 Chet Atkins – Best Premium
Not everybody has the desire to strap on something that produces a hefty dose of twang. Many people opt to seek out a guitar that produces a tone more influenced by that heard in country jazz.
One of the most famous guitarists in country music history who utilized this sound is Chet Atkins. It only makes sense that the Gretsch G6120T-59 Vintage Select 1959 Chet Atkins (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) would be what you’re seeking if you desire to have that legendary sound.
As its name suggests, the G6120T-59 is a faithful recreation of Chet’s legendary hollowbody Gretsch from 1959. And while this guitar looks astonishing, its playability ensures that you’re not just spending a hefty price for something that looks nice.
The G6120T-59 features a laminated Maple body decked out in a period-correct gloss nitrocellulose finish. In 70 years, this guitar will likely share the aged look that the originals have today.
Its neck is crafted from Maple, featuring an Ebony fretboard with 22 frets outlined by thumbnail inlays. The neck itself features a Vintage V-shape contour, allowing the thumb to have something to pivot on during complex chord changes and fast runs.
Of course, let’s not forget that this guitar is equipped with a pair of TV Jones Classic humbuckers. These really do enhance the natural depth and richness of resonance that this hollowbody naturally produces.
The G6120T-59 is also equipped with a Bigsby vibrato system, which not only adds to the guitar’s aesthetic charm but opens up a realm of expressive capabilities. If you’ve never played a Bigsby before, you might just find that it’s something that you adore about this guitar.
Make no mistake about it, the G6120T-59 is priced well out of the comfortable budgets of most average players (even those who play semi-professionally). However, it really is the next best thing to forking over exponentially more money for an actual 1959 model.
At least it comes with a hardshell case so that you don’t have to worry about having extra funds on hand. Nobody in their right mind would travel with this guitar hanging out loosely on a seat in their car (even if it is buckled in).
Squier Classic Vibe '50s Telecaster – Best Budget
Squier’s reputation where the Telecaster is concerned has improved significantly since the early 2000s. Now, almost every Telecaster Squier produces has excellent quality at a reasonable price, with each guitar offering something unique.
Any country guitar nerd will tell you that the original run of 1950s Telecasters (with the black pickguard) are some of the most coveted guitars on the planet. These guitars were extremely influential in defining the sound of country music from the 1950s and 1960s, and beyond.
Not everybody can afford a real Black Guard (much less even a faithful recreation), which is where the Classic Vibe '50s Telecaster really shines. You’ll be getting a guitar that approaches period-correct design without having to take a 2nd mortgage on your house.
The Classic Vibe '50s Telecaster features a Pine body with a Maple neck/fretboard. A standard C-shape neck contour is provided, with 21 frets like the traditional Fender guitars used to have.
There’s no need to worry about whether you’ll have to swap the bridge out here. A vintage-style ashtray 3-barrel saddle bridge is featured, though it doesn’t come with the actual ashtray cover (which is fine, because you shouldn’t be smoking anyways).
While this might be a budget guitar, the included Fender-designed single-coil pickups are actually surprisingly good. Even if you felt like they are mediocre at best, the Classic Vibe '50s Telecaster is a worthy platform for a pickup swap.
You can get this guitar in a number of color options, including:
- Butterscotch blonde
- White blonde
- 2-color sunburst
The way that the body’s stain finish allows the wood grain to peek through is truly worthy of a chef’s kiss.
Let’s face it, not everybody will want to play the electric guitar when playing their brand of country music. For the singer-songwriters, the Martin D-28 (see price on Sweetwater, Guitar Center) remains a timeless, classic choice.
The dreadnought acoustic guitar has had a long history in country music. You might even say that, in a way, the genre itself necessitated its body design to be much larger to be able to provide enough sound to match an electrified band.
When it comes to the dreadnought design, none is more iconic than the D-28. This is the guitar that every person who has mentally imagined a dreadnought acoustic thinks of.
Sure, the D-28 might be pricey, but it does feature some of Martin’s finest craftsmanship and build components. This includes an East Indian Rosewood body, a Spruce top, and an Ebony fretboard.
The D-28 has ample projection thanks to its coward-shifted X-bracing architecture. This modern approach makes the guitar truly sing with resonance.
While the D-28 does take much of its inspiration from its vintage predecessors, its neck contour is perfect for modern musical applications. Maybe the only drawback that could be seen here is that it isn’t equipped with any electronics for amplification purposes.
However, for the studio, the D-28 is one guitar that just makes total sense for somebody looking for the best in acoustic tones.
Gibson Les Paul Standard ‘60s
Not many people would readily consider the Les Paul to be a guitar fit for country music given its legacy in rock music. However, many people forget that Les Paul was not that far away from being considered a country guitarist himself.
The Gibson Les Paul Standard ‘60s (see price on Sweetwater, Guitar Center) is especially ideal for somebody looking for a Les Paul with vintage feel and tones. Gibson has seemingly gone the extra mile in attempting to reproduce a Les Paul to 1960s schematics with this model.
The Les Paul Standard ‘60s features a Mahogany body with a AA Figured Maple top and is finished in gloss nitrocellulose lacquer. Its neck is also Mahogany and features a comfortably fast SlimTaper contour.
One of the hallmark staples of the Les Paul aesthetic is its trapezoidal fretboard inlays. These are featured here along its 22-fretted Rosewood fretboard, which has been Plek’d for optimal playability.
For pickups, the Les Paul Standard ‘60s is stocked with a pair of Gibson-designed 60’s Burstbucker humbuckers. These have been carefully reconstructed from the original pickups used in actual vintage models and produce a tone that is extremely reminiscent of those glory days.
Pick one of these up and you’ll quickly see why the Les Paul has been so notorious throughout its existence. You will be quite surprised at how tonally versatile this guitar really can be, which, alone, is worth its price tag.
Fender American Ultra Telecaster
Simple Telecasters are great and all, but what if you want something a bit more…extra? If you have the money, the Fender American Ultra Telecaster (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) could just be the very guitar you’ve been looking for.
On the surface, this might look like an ordinary Telecaster, but you’d be quite mistaken if you thought so. This Telecaster has been modernized in almost every regard while still providing that classic utility the guitar is traditionally known for.
One of the upgrades here is that its Alder body has contours for the arm and stomach. This means you won’t be getting some brutal bruises on your body from the edge of the guitar digging into you during a long gig.
Another upgrade is that its Maple neck has a D-shape contour and is finished with an insanely smooth satin finish. To complement this, its fretboard (Rosewood or Maple) offers 22 frets and a compound radius of 10” to 14”.
For pickups, this guitar is stocked with a pair of Fender-designed Ultra Noiseless Vintage Tele single-coils. The guitar even comes with a switch so that you can engage them together as a humbucker for an expanded range of tones.
Even the hardware on the American Ultra Telecaster is upgraded here, offering a bone nut and locking tuners. A modern 6-style bridge is also included, which may or may not be to your fancy if you’re a traditional purist.
To be fair, though, the American Ultra Telecaster is not what somebody who prefers traditional Telecasters would seek out. This lush guitar is built for modern expectations, and, amplified by its binding-ornamented aesthetics and modern designs, is sure to meet those expectations.
Gibson SG Standard
After all, the SG is known for being the guitar that produced the sound of The Doors, Black Sabbath, and AC/DC. All of those bands are completely in a different ballpark than country music.
And while all of that is true, I’m here to tell you that this devilish guitar offers more than you readily assumed. Today’s SG Standard offers the same playability and sound that the guitar has come to be known for, with its stylish Mahogany body and neck, and its Rosewood fretboard.
But, to really get to the nuts and bolts of the matter, the SG Standard has a unique sound that is more than appropriate for country. It’s equipped with a pair of humbuckers that provide a smooth bark as well as some surprising twang.
If you’re a country guitarist who often plays with a slide, forget about it! There’s a reason why the SG is so well-known for being a slide player’s guitar of choice.
The SG does have its quirks, namely where the neck is concerned. Because the body and neck are joined at the 22nd fret, the neck is usually a bit more heavy than the actual body of the guitar itself.
Once you get accustomed to preventing neck drive during performances, the SG becomes extremely easy to play. Plus, it has plenty of twang without veering off into the ear-piercing levels of treble that Telecasters can often get in trouble for.
Taylor 214ce Deluxe
This guitar is essentially Taylor’s version of a dreadnought. When looking at this guitar, your eyes will deceive you into thinking that the guitar is actually much smaller than it really is.
The 214ce Deluxe features a body made of layered Rosewood, with a top made of Sitka Spruce. Its forward-shifted X-bracing architecture helps to project its natural tone with supreme balance and distinction.
The guitar’s neck is made of Sapele, with Ebony used for the fretboard. What’s nice here is that the guitar’s body features a cutaway design, ensuring that you’re not limited to just playing cowboy chords if you have the chops to play leads.
Another great feature here is that the 214ce Deluxe includes Taylor’s ES-2 pickup system. This is equipped with a preamp with adjustable knobs hidden away at the guitar’s shoulder.
Overall, the 214ce Deluxe displays the reputation that Taylor has gained over the years. Any stage performer or studio musician would be served well here, and the price is reasonable for most professionals to bear.
Plus, you won’t have to save any extra funds to get a case. It comes included with a hardshell case, ensuring it’s gig-ready right out of the box.
PRS SE Custom 24
If there’s one thing that’s become apparent over the years, it's that PRS makes some of the most versatile guitars on the market. The PRS SE Custom 24 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is no exception, offering the same wealth of utility at a fraction of the cost of the company’s American models.
If your only exposure to the Custom 24 is by means of 2000s butt-rock bands, you need to abandon the notion that that’s all it’s good for. The SE Custom 24 has an expansive range of tones with a construction that makes for an unbelievably comfortable and smooth playing experience.
Perhaps the SE Custom 24’s biggest asset is the fact that its PRS-designed 85/15 “S” humbucker pickups can be split into single-coil pickups. This means that you get the best of both worlds without having to settle for 1 pickup type.
Not to mention, there’s a massive range of color options available so that you can ensure that the guitar meets your aesthetic preferences. Plus, it’s even equipped with a molded tremolo system so that you can add some more expression to your playing.
Fender Player Stratocaster
In the realm of country music, the Stratocaster might not be as popular as the Telecaster. However, the Stratocaster is more than capable, and the Fender Player Stratocaster (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is an excellent modern choice for somebody with a decent budget.
Like the Player Telecaster, the Player Stratocaster offers a no-frills entry into all of the things that have made the Stratocaster so iconic over the years. All of the standard Stratocaster specs are featured here, which include:
- Alder body
- Maple neck
- 9.5” fretboard radius
- 25.5” scale length
- Tremolo system
While this might be a fairly basic Stratocaster by most standards, Fender has offered multiple options for fretboard materials. These woods include:
- Roasted maple
- Pau Ferro
Part of the Stratocaster’s charm is its fat and rounded low-end combined with its sparkly top and quacky mid-range. The Player Stratocaster delivers the goods with its trio of Player Series Alnico V Strat single-coil pickups.
This guitar is a fantastic choice for somebody who likes to get a little swampy with their country tone. It can provide the twang when needed, but really excels at that iconic quack, which is great when you’re playing some Jerry Reed.
The EJ-200SCE is Epiphone’s affordable version of the iconic Gibson J-200, which features a jumbo body style. This really was intended for country players when they discovered that traditional dreadnoughts often couldn’t keep up with amplified instruments.
The EJ-200SCE features a body crafted of Maple, a top made of Solid Spruce, and a Maple neck. It’s Pau Ferro fretboard is ridiculously easy to navigate thanks to the neck’s SlipTaper D-shape contour.
This guitar definitely has a large sound like you would expect it to have. However, modern applications often require acoustic guitars to be amplified, and the EJ-200SCE is prepared by featuring a Fishman Sonicore pickup combined with a Presys preamp.
While the sound and playability are enough to wow you, there’s no denying that its aesthetics have a certain charm. Its ornate bridge, fretboard inlays, and pickguard really help to provide that down-home feeling.
One of the absolute best things about the EJ-200SCE is that it’s actually more affordable than you’d guess just by looking at it. This means that any beginner singer-songwriter can begin to look the part without dumping a massive investment into a guitar, especially if they only play it on a few songs.
What To Look For When Buying A Guitar For Country Music
If you’re just getting started learning how to play country guitar, you might not know what to look for when shopping for a guitar that has the sound you’re looking for. While having almost infinite options to choose from is great, it doesn’t make things any easier when you’re admittedly clueless.
The following points will help you whittle down your search by assessing certain things that you’ll need to answer for yourself. After all, if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, you might not end up with the guitar that meets your desires.
Before you do anything, the first thing you need to figure out is the budget you have to work with. It sucks to say it, but your budget is likely going to play more of a role in the guitar you buy than you would want to admit.
For the most part, anything beyond $1000 should probably be left for those who are able to earn an income playing music. Intermediates and serious hobbyists are free to spend anywhere up to that point, and, of course, some exceptions can be made in certain instances.
However, if you’re just a beginner, it’s probably not wise to spend more than $300 on your guitar. In general, $150 is ideal for somebody who has never played before, with the slightly more expensive range ideal for those who need a bit of an upgrade.
If you want the most bang for your buck, it’s always wise to look around to see what people are selling. Buying a used guitar will cost you less money, and frequently, may almost be identical in condition and appearance to that of a brand-new guitar.
Another popular method is to pay for the guitar in installments, whether it be through a credit card or an installment loan service like Klarna or Affirm. It’s best not to go into debt over a guitar, but if you have enough gigs that can raise you the money for a monthly payment, they can work to your advantage.
In general, it’s best to have the money on hand to pay for the guitar outright. Doing so will build your patience and discipline and force you to analyze your choices rather than opting for instant gratification.
Traditional Vs Modern
Country music has changed in sound so much over the years that people of all decades have had the opinion that the popular country music of their time wasn’t “real” country. Heck, even today’s popular country music is barely country music and leans more towards full-on pop sound aesthetics than anything else.
With that being said, there’s a fair chance that you have an idea of your style. Are you somebody that wants something more modern-sounding, or something that sounds like it came from the 1960s?
These answers will help you determine the style of guitar you want, as well as the pickups they have. Single-coil pickups are traditionally used for that bite-y twang, but humbuckers are exceptional for throaty country jazz and can be a little twangy.
If you’re having trouble deciding, see if there is a guitar that allows you sounds from both pickup styles. There is a guitar for everybody to be found on the market.
Consider Your Amp
Another important thing to consider is the amplifier you’re using. You’ll want to be using an amp that is more aligned with that clean vintage Fender tube sound, which is a bit biased toward the treble EQ ranges.
Best Brands For Guitars Designed For Country Music
With so many guitar companies producing guitars, it can be difficult to know what is worth your time. After all, some manufacturers seem to tailor their guitars toward the requirements of specific genres.
All of the following brands are well-known in the world of country music. Seek these out if you’re looking for a classic sound backed by a solid reputation.
Fender might just be the most famous guitar brand in the entire world. This American company is known for many things, but its Telecaster has had an integral role in shaping the sound of country over the last 60+ years.
More often than not, guitarists will seek out Telecasters exclusively when shopping for a guitar to play country music with. Many other guitars emulate the twang but the Telecaster is one of the few that actually deliver the real thing.
Gibson is another American company that is known worldwide for its range of electric guitars. These guitars remain incredibly traditional but are packed with features that are worth any modern guitarist’s time.
The Gibson Les Paul and the SG are 2 guitars from the company’s lineup that can do that country guitar sound exceptionally well. These guitars might not be the most affordable but, depending on the year and location of manufacture, they do tend to be some of the most premium offerings on the market.
Gretsch has some of the most iconic guitar designs that are full of 1950s vibes. The company is known for its excellent range of hollowbody guitars, which found widespread use in both jazz and country.
These are the guitars you’ll want to seek if you want that warm, country jazz sound. Gretsch guitars are also extremely popular among rockabilly guitarists, which is closely related to country-style guitar in many ways.
Top Guitars For Country Music, Final Thoughts
The average listener is usually not aware of how much guitar technique is required to pull off that classic country sound. When compared to something like metal, country guitar is overlooked simply because of its melodic nature.
It’s only when you attempt to emulate that sound yourself that you begin to realize that your chops may need some work. Of course, having a guitar that can accommodate those sounds and techniques makes things a little bit easier.