The guitar is an incredibly popular instrument and it encompasses a wide variety of musical styles and genres. It is a very versatile instrument and it can come in many different types and shapes.
While this is great as every type of musician can have something uniquely suited to his or her style, it can also lead to some confusion as to which guitar to choose for a certain genre. This is particularly true for Bluegrass. There are no guitars made specifically for Bluegrass.
Today, we will unravel any mystery that might be there regarding this while also helping you out with a few great options to choose from at different price points.
What Type Of Guitar Is Needed For Bluegrass?
To put it very simply, you just need a good acoustic guitar to be able to play bluegrass music. However, there are plenty of variabilities when it comes to acoustic guitars as well.
The first thing to look out for is the strings. They should be steel-stringed and have the standard six strings. Medium gauge strings are usually preferred.
The guitar should be a flattop. As the name suggests, this is a guitar that is flat and not arched and it should have a round sound hole as opposed to f-holes.
Guitars with a tailpiece are also generally not recommended for bluegrass and the bridge should be glued-on. Body shape also plays an important role. The classic dreadnought shape is the one that is usually preferred.
Top 3 Budget Bluegrass Guitars
While it was once true that to get quality instruments you had to pay considerable amounts of money, that is no longer true. If chosen correctly even an affordable instrument can serve the purposes of a bluegrass musician quite well. Here are the three best budget options you can get for under $200.
1. Fender Squier Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
Fender is one of the biggest names in the world of guitars and while many of their instruments can cost a lot of money, their Squier line-up has been producing excellent guitars at very reasonable prices. The Squier Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar is perfect for anyone wishing to play bluegrass music on a tight budget. It is well-built, is decent-sounding, and even has the X-bracing preferred among bluegrass guitarists. It also comes with a few extras like a clip-on tuner and a few picks making this quite the bargain.
2. Yamaha FD01S Solid Top Acoustic Guitar
Another manufacturer that has been making quite the name for themselves in the world of affordable guitars is Yamaha and the FD01S is a perfect example of that. It is visually pleasing, has all the right attributes from an acoustic point of view, and plays quite well. If you are an absolute beginner in bluegrass music and are looking for a dependable guitar then this is it. Having said that, it will serve just as well as a backup guitar for the more accomplished musicians out there.
3. Best Choice Products 41in Full-Size
Normally, it is not recommended to go below $100 when it comes to a bluegrass guitars but if you really have to then this is a worthy option to look at. It has a decent build quality and looks alright. It plays pretty well and comes bundled with a few freebies like an extra set of strings and picks among other things. While it may not compare to some of the more pricey bluegrass guitars in terms of sound quality, it isn’t bad either and perfectly useable for someone just starting out.
Top 3 Mid-range Bluegrass Guitars
Every musical instrument has that perfect sweet spot where you get the maximum bang for the buck when it comes to sound and build quality. For a bluegrass guitar, that sweet spot seems to be about the $700 to $800 mark. You can get some really beautiful sounding guitars at this price point and they can even be used in a professional or studio setting. These guitars are for those who do not want to make an upgrade for a long time and who are willing to pay a little more but get good returns on their investment. Here are three such guitars:
1. Blueridge Br-141
We start off with a very good instrument. Usually, there are a few names that get thrown around when looking for a high-quality bluegrass guitars such as Martin or Taylor but it is always a good idea to take a look outside these renowned names and among them, this guitar by Blueridge really stands out. It has a cool name, a distinct look, and plays and sounds really well. It is a thing of beauty and even comes with a padded gig bag. It has a solid Sitka spruce top and scalloped braces and sounds just right for bluegrass music.
2. Takamine GD93-NAT
This one is for those who cannot stretch their budget to the $800 mark and are looking for something more in the $500 range. It is somewhat of an underappreciated gem and actually sounds really great for this price segment. It is also one of the most stunning-looking bluegrass guitars you can get without shelling thousands of dollars. It has a sweeter sound than most bluegrass guitars thanks to the use of a lot of Rosewood and if that is the sound you are looking for then go for the GD-93 by all means.
3. Taylor 214ce Grand Auditorium
This is the gold standard among mid-range bluegrass guitars. Taylor guitars have been the go to brand when it comes to bluegrass music and while most of their guitars feature a four-digit price tag, the 214ce has a relatively more palatable price. It may not have the standard dreadnought shape that bluegrass guitarists tend to prefer but that is not a detriment here. Its features a Sitka Spruce, Rosewood sides, Mahogany neck, and West African Ebony fretboard. All these different woods combine to give this guitar a very aristocratic look while also sounding exquisite. If you are looking for something tried and tested this is as good as it gets at this price range.
Top 3 High-end Bluegrass Guitars
As is the case with any other musical instrument, there is pretty much no limit on how much you can spend on a bluegrass guitar. However, at some point, the returns on your investment do not justify the price and that is a pitfall that should be avoided with high-end bluegrass guitars. These three guitars all cost more than $1000 and are perfect for people looking to buy the ultimate instrument.
1. Taylor 200 Series Deluxe 224ce
This is a bit different than most bluegrass guitars at this price point as it needs a little time and effort to get break in enough to suit the tonal characteristics needed for bluegrass music. At first, this guitar will sound a bit too bright but once you keep playing it, it will start sounding more and more like a bluegrass guitar. Why should you invest so much effort and time when you are already spending so much money? That is because the sound that you can out of it after a few weeks of playing is just so sweet and exquisite. Made primarily of Koa Laminate, it does have a unique look to it and while it may not sound like every bluegrass guitar it suits this style of music in its own way.
2. Martin Guitar Standard Series
If you do not want to spend a lot of time doing research and just want to get something that will just work without any tinkering or fiddling then this is it. While it may not look very different from some of the budget options, all you have to do is hold it and play a few notes to understand why it has such a premium price tag. If you are looking for the ultimate upgrade for your bluegrass rig then you cannot go wrong with this guitar. You will literally be making Chef’s kiss gestures the first time you play something on this guitar. It has all the rights traits needed in a bluegrass guitar and is one of the sweetest sounding instruments out there irrespective of the genre.
3. PRS Paul Reed Smith SE A60E
Even though PRS aren’t as big in the world of acoustic guitars as they are in the electric guitar world, that should not dissuade you from taking a look at this guitar. It may not look like a standard bluegrass guitar but the “Angelus” cutaway perfectly delivers the classic bluegrass sound. It also uses a bevy of exotic woods which add to the sweetness of the sounds you can get out of this guitar. It is also one of the most exquisite-looking acoustic guitars that subtly uses abalone to really make this guitar stand out without being flashy. If you are someone who performs a lot of gigs then you will want this guitar as it looks just as amazing as it sounds.
The holy grail of Bluegrass Guitars
At this point, it is also worth noting that the 1935 Martin D-28 is often considered the holy grail of bluegrass guitars. This was the guitar that the likes of Clarence White and Tony Rice used and while it would be next to impossible for most people to acquire this guitar, every guitar listed here will get you pretty close with some of them sounding just as good.
By now you must have gotten a fair idea of what bluegrass guitars are all about. They do not have a lot of complicated parts to worry about and the two things to look out for most are build-quality and playability. Also, never settle for something that is too cheap as that will just act as a source of discouragement for your endeavors as a bluegrass musician.
Having said that, it is also vital to point out that skill plays a big role in how you sound and a master guitarist can make even a broken guitar sound good. In short, look for the best bang for your buck. A guitar is after all just a tool and how it sounds will depend a lot on you.
Does tonewood matter?
It does not matter as much as some people think it does. Getting a decent guitar from a reputable manufacturer will meet all your tonal needs.
Do bluegrass guitars need to be stored in a specific manner?
Just like any acoustic instrument, they should be stored in a cool place that is neither too humid nor too dry. Direct sunlight should also be avoided.
Can I play other genres of music on a bluegrass guitar?
You most certainly can. Any genre of music that has acoustic instruments in it can accommodate a bluegrass guitar.
What is the type of tone best suited for bluegrass music?
Avoid anything that is too bright. There should be a certain amount of bass but it should not be too overpowering. The notes should be clear and it should possess that characteristic sweetness.
Can I use an electric guitar and modelers to play bluegrass music?
You can but you will need an actual bluegrass guitar to get that truly authentic sound and feel.
To Sum It Up
Bluegrass is an incredibly rewarding and pleasing genre of music. Some of the greatest musicians ever have been bluegrass musicians and choosing the right guitar can help you leave your own mark in the enticing world of bluegrass music.