The guitar's versatile ability to provide rhythm one moment and lead the next makes it extremely well-suited for the various styles of blues music. Although any guitar can be used to play any type of music, some guitar brands have been used more than others by popular blues musicians.
The Fender Stratocaster has been used by countless blues musicians over the years. The single-coil pickups that come on most Stratocaster guitars produce a bluesy bite when they are slightly overdriven. Stratocasters can also make a twangy sound well suited for country-blues and a smooth sound associated with jazz-blues. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck all used Fender Stratocasters to craft their iconic guitar sounds.
Gibson Les Paul
The Gibson Les Paul is another guitar that is commonly used by blues musicians. The humbucking pickups on a Les Paul guitar create a thicker tone than the single-coil pickups on a Stratocaster. When overdriven, the neck pickup of a Gibson Les Paul produces a creamy tone perfect for both blues rhythm and lead playing. Blues guitarists such as Duane Allman, Dickie Betts, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton (who also plays Fender Stratocasters) and Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd all play Gibson Les Pauls.
The Gibson ES-355 is a semi-hollow body electric guitar that has been played by some of the most recognizable blues musicians of all time. B.B. King, Chick Berry and Alvin Lee of the band Ten Years After all have used Gibson ES-355 guitars to play the blues. This guitar is an extremely versatile instrument that allows guitarists to get a full, evenly-balanced tone. The only potential downfall with semi-hollow body guitars like the ES-355 is their tendency to feedback if too much distortion is used.
Other Blues Guitars
Many different types of guitars have been used to play the blues throughout the years. Muddy Waters often played Fender Telecasters, Johnny Winter and Howlin' Wolf played Gibson Firebirds, Lonnie Johnson used Kay electric guitars and John Lee Hooker played Epiphone Riviera/Sheraton guitars. As far as acoustic instruments go, Gibson L-1 guitars were used by several blues pioneers such as Robert Johnson. Stella guitars were also widely used by iconic blues musicians such as Ledbelly and Blind Willie McTell.
- MyRareGuitars.com; Famous Guitarists & Their Guitars; 2006
- Fender: Artists
- Gibson; You Asked For It -- 10 More Iconic Les Paul Players; Jonah Bayer; 2009
- Gibson; Gibson ES-335: 26 Essential Facts; Michael Leonard; 2011
- "Guitar for Dummies"; Mark Phillips and Jon Chappell; 1998
- EarlyBlues.com; Blues Singers & Their Instruments; Dai Thomas; 2007
- Rick Diamond/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images