What makes a blues guitar good for playing the blues?
This week on Acoustic Tuesday, I’m tackling a question that thousands of guitarists have asked for the last 100 years.
This week’s blues-infused episode will also cover the 5 best modern blues guitars, a few blues guitar resources, and a blues duo that you can’t miss.
As always, you can watch Acoustic Tuesday at 10am every Tuesday in these four places:
- Acoustic Life YouTube channel
- We Play Every Day Facebook Community
- Get show notes emailed directly to your inbox.
- Listen to audio-only below or in iTunes
This Week on Acoustic Tuesday…
This episode is blues-infused. As such, almost everything featured in this episode has to do with the blues.
I’m building a blues guitar course that’s going to come out on Tony’s Acoustic Challenge in January. To get you ready, I’m focusing on the blues…
- Blues is the basis of so many different musical genres
- The historical significance cannot be ignored by any guitar geek
- Sometimes, the blues is the perfect medicine for a variety of moods
For those reasons and more, I’m bringing you some awesome blues guitar content!
3 Criteria for a Good Blues Guitar
1. Tone — You want your blues guitar to sound good, plain and simple. Specifically, you’re looking for focused projection and a sense of bark and grit in it. In addition, look for blues guitars that don’t have rich sustain and overtone qualities. You’re looking for a punchy, direct sound.
2. Vibe — Whether you want to call it looks, aesthetics, or mojo, the vibe of a blues guitar is important. When you’re playing a blues guitar, you want to convey that you mean business. It can be something as simple as a matte finish or as complex as a vintage headstock inlay.
3. Playability — Pay close attention to finger-style comfort. Keep your nut width wide so you can do more intricate chord voicings, your string spread wide so you have more room to fingerpick, and your neck to be comfortable in your hands.
5 Best Blues Guitars
Using these 3 criteria, I put together a list of the 5 BEST blues guitars made recently.
These blues guitars may not be able to compete with vintage classics, but they’re well worth the investment if you want to play blues guitar.
5) Waterloo WL14L
Waterloo has made some great guitars, and the WL14L is no exception.
While the jet-black finish might throw you off, the tone on this guitar is killer.
Check out this review to learn and hear more about the Waterloo WL14L.
4) Martin 00L17
For a stand-out, modern-made blues guitar, look noo further than the Martin 00L17.
There’s a balanced tone in the 00L17 that I really appreciate. It has a little grittiness but maintains a warm tone in certain registers.
To hear this beautiful guitar in a blues setting, be sure to check out this review.
3.) Beard Deco Phonic Sidecar
This smaller-body design is very similar to some of the other guitars on this list.
This big exception is how punchy and focused the tone of this guitar is. There are few guitars like the Beard Deco Phonic Sidecar.
While the back and sides are birch laminate, I want you to move past the idea that laminate=cheap.
The use of laminate in this guitar cuts down on overtones and sustain, which is extremely helpful in playing the blues.
You can check out more of the Sidecar in AT episode 103.
This guitar is a reconstruction of Lonnie Johnson’s 12-string guitar.
In fact, Charlie Parr played this very guitar.
This particular guitar has a shorter scale and a grittiness that you just cannot ignore. It’s powerful, loud, and not to be ignored.
Unassuming and extremely playable, Gretsch’s Jim Dandy guitar is an awesome, affordable guitar.
Here’s an awesome clip of Eric Bibb playing the song “Turner Station” on a Jim Dandy guitar.
It’s got the vibe, tone, and comfort, all at an affordable price.
Blues Guitar Resources
If you’re interested in learning about the production history of blues guitars or you’re looking to research a possible purchase, I have a couple of resources for you.
The Stella Guitar Book
If you’re at all interested in hunting for vintage blues guitars in pawn shops and antique stores, you have to know about Stella Guitars.
Specifically, there’s an awesome book written by Neil Harpe called “Stella Guitars: The history and lore of the guitars of Oscar Schmidt.”
Filled with tons of pictures, facts, and information about a legendary company, this book is an awesome resource for anyone looking to purchase a blues guitar.
Vintage Blues Guitars Website
If you’re ready to make a purchase or you just want to drool over some awesome guitars, be sure to check out this website.
There are some unforgettable guitars in their inventory, as well as a variety of online resources.
Last but not least, I’m featuring Piedmont Bluz.
Comprised of Valerie and Ben Turner, Piedmont Bluz is a dynamic, lively, and memorable blues duo.
Valerie lays down some great blues lines while Ben absolutely shreds on percussion, specifically, washboard.
To read more about Piedmont Bluz, check out this article here.
Here are some of my favorite songs by Piedmont Bluz:
Great ladder braced vintage blues acoustic guitars. 1963 Harmony Sovereign H1203 and 1965 Epiphone Caballero FT-30 same as Gibson LG0.
Eastman E1P parlor guitar – great little blues box. 12-fret, addy top, hog bag & sides. Wonderful vintage dark brown finish on top.
What about the Martin 0015 M. I love this mahogany ruiter fors blues
Tony – I hail from Hoboken NJ and we had a Maxwell House coffee plant on the far end of town. Every time it rained, the smell of coffee enveloped my 1-square mile hometown. The plant closed in the 80’s – but the memories linger on. Good to the last drop indeed!
My Larrivee legacy series 0 mahogany with bear claw Sitka spruce top
Fairbanks make a bunch of great blues guitars, ask Catfish Keith. For a new blues machine these things scream check me out.
Really enjoyed the show today #121. Thank you for sharing the 5 blues guitars, it was very informational and I learned a lot from the show today. The segment on the Turners and her style of picking and his percussion abilities was enjoyable to listen to.
Thank you for bringing Acoustic Tuesday show each week. I have learned so much since watching the show. Keep up the great work.
I use my 12 fret SJ Special. Very expressive and touch sensitive.
Hey, can we get Charlie Parr for Acoustic Life Festival 2020??? BTW, Mary Flowers plays a Fraulini Angelina and she’d be another great addition to ALF 🙂
You completely missed resonators. Nothing sounds like fine brass and it doesn’t need to be torified. Sun House used a National Duolian as well as other early blues players. Maybe you consider it a different category. But only a few choices; National, Mule, Republic, Recording King, etc. Could discuss steel vs brass and tri-cone vs single cone.
Tony, where is your side kick ?
I have been an avid watcher since episode 20 ish. have played my guitars for a few years now and will send in a guitarsenal in the future . love your attitude and mindset about guitars and guitar playing in general……guitar geeks unite… But the main reason I am leaving this comment today is to ask….where is Noah J Heckmann jr? I haven’t seen him in a while Hope he is doing well
D25 Vega Duo Tone older than hell but great sound
sorry typo ..duo tron
Nice review! I’d also recommend the G9521 Style 2 Triple-0. Got one. LOVE it. (And I have a Jim Dandy. Listening to your review made me realize I need to restring that bad boy.)