Best Overall – Gretsch G5024E Rancher
G5024E gives strong, clear but still detailed tones. This Gretsch can nail it! No matter the position you want to play your favorite blues chords and licks from.
And when you fret a note, you actually feel the fretboard since the frets aren’t super tall. This helps you really connect to your instrument and the music, arguably one of the most essential tips to playing the blues.
People would be basically partying in the streets if they would just get this axe for the blues.
And the price? It must be big $$$…but it isn’t!
The blues and acoustic are a match made in heaven!
I have tested all sorts of acoustics since 2004, and to be honest, some of those were great for blues, some…well, not so much.
The good news is…
I have gathered my favorite blues acoustic guitars here, so that you can find your own angelic pairing.
These blues boxes are well-rounded acoustic powerhouses—up to much more than just the standard 12-bar task.
So in both bad times and good, you can count on these guitars to be the music-makers you need.
In this post, we’ll look closer at the following acoustic guitars:
- Body Material: Solid Spruce Top with Laminated Mahogany...
- Body Shape: Dreadnought
- Body Back: Arched Laminated Mahogany
- Body Sides: Laminated Mahogany
- Top/Back/Sides Material: Laminated Mahogany
- Neck Material: Mahogany / Neck Profile: Soft "V" Shape...
- Fingerboard Material: Rosewood / Number of Frets: 19 /...
- Bridge: Spider - Ebony-tipped Maple
- Tuners: Grover Sta-Tite Die-cast
Best For Beginners
- The perfect first guitar; Combining quality woods and...
- Solid spruce top with Nato (Eastern Mahogany) back &...
- Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
- The acoustic guitars need a professional setup out of...
- Dreadnought body
- Solid mahogany top
- Mahogany back & sides
- Mahogany neck
- Rosewood bridge and fretboard
Premium/For The Pros
- PROFESSIONAL SOUND & APPEARANCE: Martin's 000-15M...
- GEARED FOR GIGS: This Martin Acoustic Guitar is made...
- PREMIUM HANDMADE GUITARS: Handmade from the...
- PLAYABILITY ENHANCED: In addition to Martin's iconic...
- MARTIN 15 SERIES: Martin's superior guitar and string...
Every one of these guitars is here based on extensive research and 27+ years of experience on our team.
Let’s first look at these fine blues axes, and at the end of the post, you can find the FAQ section that helps you to make the best choice possible.
Who crafted this post:
Author: Tommy Tompkins
Playing guitar since 2004. Primarily an acoustic guitarist who plays and writes traditional American folk music, with a background in melodic metal and a solid foundation as a bassist.
Editing & Research: Teemu Suomala
Playing guitar since 2009. Mainly focused on electric guitars, although plays acoustics too. Started this blog in January 2020.
Use the table of content to jump to the section you want:
Best Blues Acoustic Guitars
Best Overall – Gretsch Guitars G5024E Rancher
Where do I get started on the Rancher? What an awesome guitar.
Playability is all the goodness you’d expect from an intermediate-level dreadnought plus a little more.
What I mean is, in addition to the slightly narrow natural rosewood fingerboard (oh so smooooth), the Rancher is also equipped with small, vintage-style frets.
This makes it so that when you fret a note, you actually feel the fretboard since the frets aren’t super tall. An organic playing feel like this helps you connect to your instrument and the music, arguably one of the most essential tips to playing the blues.
Built with the classic tonewood combo of spruce and mahogany, the Rancher is good for not only all blues styles but pretty much any type of music that calls for acoustic.
It delivers pretty much the quintessential acoustic voice—when you think acoustic guitar, you think something like the G5024E.
There’s a bountiful amount of bass, but not so much that it overwhelms the higher ends. So you can riff and chord in any position with the same strong, clear sound.
You really get a bit more volume in the Rancher than the average dreadnought, and that’s for two reasons.
- The back is arched, which increases the body cavity. More space in the body = bigger voice.
- This one’s kind of obvious, but the Rancher is acoustic-electric. You can plug in and the Fishman Isys III Preamp System sends your songs out loud and clear. Plus, it gives you the option to tweak your tone using onboard 3-band EQ.
Hear how this guitar sounds:
Although Gretsch is more known for their hollow and semi-hollow body guitars, their G5024E Rancher is a top-quality dreadnought.
The solid top is obviously a strong selling point, but in almost every way this guitar stands out. It’s got a unique triangular soundhole, big ol’ classic strap buttons, and even unusual “thumbnail” fret inlays.
If you want an acoustic that will have people’s attention even before they hear it, the Rancher’s a real eye-catcher.
- Arched-back design boosts volume
- Great acoustic tone with a decent electronic system
- Stunning looks paired with superior construction and sound
- Not many; I prefer cutaways on acoustic electrics though
This is actually the second time the Gretsch Rancher has made it to the top of our lists. Not only is it the best blues acoustic guitar, but it’s also 2020’s top-rated acoustic for under $400.
Even though it’s available at beginner prices, the Rancher sounds and plays so good I’d take it both on stage and in the studio.
Whatever your style, this is an undeniably great acoustic.
Runner-up – Gretsch G9200 Boxcar
When you want to really get in touch with the old blues roots, you want a traditional resonator guitar like the Gretsch G9200 Boxcar.
With its long-body design and vintage Soft-V neck profile, the playing feel of this blues guitar transports you back in time.
Unlike other resonators with square necks, you can play this one Spanish-style (horizontal) or with a slide.
If you go the lap steel route, be sure to check out our top choices for acoustic guitar slides.
The resonator cone in the Boxcar gives it a sound much different than your typical acoustic.
First off, it’s pretty loud thanks to that natural amplification.
Second, the aluminum centerpiece in the top adds a charming metallic quality to your tone, almost like your guitar’s playing from an old speaker.
It’s not harsh though, because the all-mahogany tonewood choice takes mellows things out and takes the edge off.
It’s really responsive to fingerpicking, whereas playing with a pick will give a nice jangle perfect for grittier Southern blues.
Hear how this guitar sounds:
As you can see, I recommend Gretsch guitars pretty frequently because even their most affordable models are well put-together.
They’re one of the go-to brands for vintage reissues and are famed for their dedication to reproducing high-quality remakes of classic guitars.
Their 9200 Boxcar resonator guitar is made to the same standard as their other models and even features special bonuses like dependable Grover tuners and a real bone nut.
- Loud, beautiful resonator sound
- High-quality all-mahogany build
- Perfect for both slide and standard playing styles
- Metallic resonator tone is not ideal for all genres
Gretsch’s Boxcar is like a piece of music history made modern and affordable. This is a great dobro with pro-level sound quality and true-to-form resonator playability.
You might not get much use from the 9200 outside the blues and folk genres, but if that’s your domain, you can hardly do better in your choice of axe.
Best for Beginners – YAMAHA FD01S
Like the Rancher, Yamaha’s FD01S is a full-size dreadnought with a slightly narrow nut.
Its standard C-shape neck and 1 11/16 nut width give it accessible playability any player can love.
One really surprising thing about this guitar (well, there are a few, but this one affects playability) is the rosewood fingerboard. You just don’t see that many guitars at such a low price, and it’s a real bonus in the FD01S.
Occasionally, this model ships with sharp fret edges, so that’s something to keep in mind. But, it’s not a costly repair and it’s even something you can do yourself if you’re up to the challenge.
This is definitely one of the best cheap blues acoustic guitars around. Why?
Guitars under $200 rarely have anything but laminate woods, but the FD01S features a solid spruce top. Paired with mahogany sides and back, you get a great dreadnought tone, sparkling in the highs and chunky in the mids and lows.
Its loud voice and strong presence give you a great guitar to learn the blues basics on.
And, you’re not bound by a resonator or mahogany muddiness, putting every genre at your fingertips.
For extra resonance, the FD01S has a thin, natural finish to allow the top to vibrate more.
This gives your sound more of those sweet, pleasant harmonics that make acoustic interesting.
Hear how this guitar sounds:
I’ve never really come across a low-quality Yamaha guitar.
At this point, they’ve basically got the art of mass-producing good guitars down to a science, so even their most affordable models, like this FD01S, are better than your average acoustic.
Sure, the tuners are kinda wack. They really don’t hold pitch for very long and it can be annoying retuning every other song. But this is just an upgrade away from being no issue.
The only other issue is that for some reason this guitar often arrives damaged—nothing major, just some chips or scratches in the finish usually.
I think it’s because it’s an older model and has probably spent a lot of time in a warehouse.
At any rate, all you’d have to do is ship it back for a replacement; and at this cost, it’s well worth the effort.
- Great quality at a very low price
- Spruce + mahogany tonewood combo for playing in all genres
- Optional beginner’s bundle with bonus accessories and learning materials
- Sub-par tuning machines don’t stay in tune
- Often ships with damage
Don’t let that low price tag full you—this Yamaha is no toy. This is a solid model with great potential for blues and beyond.
And for not much more added cost, you can include an accessory bundle packed full with everything a beginner could need to get playing, including free video lessons!
If you know anyone interested in learning blues guitar, the FD01S makes a great gift as a very affordable solid top acoustic guitar.
Best Budget – Ibanez AW54OPN
If you know anything about Ibanez, you know they pride themselves on fast, smooth playability.
To this end, they’ve equipped their AW54 with the Ibanez-exclusive AW neck profile. This is both more narrow and more shallow than traditional acoustic necks, with 1 to 3 millimeters difference at some points.
With this smaller, faster-playing neck, working on your blues leads will be fun, easy, and pain-free.
Although they’ve used ovangkol for the fingerboard, this is readily becoming an accepted replacement for rosewood.
Personally, I can’t really tell a difference between the two woods when used as fretboards.
The AW54OPN started its first years of production as an all-mahogany model, but in recent years Ibanez switched to using okoume.
Both of these woods are very similar in composition and density, but I think the overall tone of okoume is darker than mahogany.
Since okoume is the whole body of this guitar, the tone can be almost too warm, especially if you play hard. But with the right kind of picking hand, you can tease out a really sultry sound from the AW54.
Another factor making it a good guitar for lead blues guitar is its open finish. This adds lots of sustain to an otherwise soft-voiced guitar.
Just make sure to keep fresh strings on this or you’ll wind up with almost no note definition when your strings get dull.
Hear how this guitar sounds:
We always try to find the best of the best for you, but I’m still surprised that you can find an acoustic guitar with such a low price and good quality.
Sure, Ibanez started using cheaper woods, but that really doesn’t affect the quality of the construction.
You still get a solid top, pretty decent tuners, and the comfortable neck at a total budget cost.
One thing to note though:
You should always use a case humidifier to properly store your acoustic guitar, but it’s extra important with this model. The open-pore finish of the AW54 makes it especially vulnerable to climate damage.
Find out all you need to know about storing your acoustic in this article.
- A solid top acoustic made from more sustainable woods
- Rich, warm, earthy tones from all-okoume construction
- Comfortable ArtWood/AW neck profile for quick blues licks
- Lacks the clarity of spruce tops
- Will sound very muddy with old strings
I’m the kind of player that likes to keep things on the down-low. I love a soft, subtle tone—one that doesn’t sing too loud and allows for a lot of intimacy in technique.
For that reason, I really love the Ibanez AW54OPN.
Its muddier tone might not be for everyone. But if you’re into that earthy folk vibe in your fingerstyle blues, the AW54 gives you that silkiness with a playing feel that’s just as smooth.
For the Pros – Martin 15 Series 000-15M
You know when you pick up a Martin, you’re picking up quality. This company’s craftsmanship extends to every part of their acoustics, the neck and fingerboard being no exception.
The 000-15M is set up with a mahogany neck fashioned in Martin’s “modified low oval” profile. This is similar to the popular fast-playing modern-C in many ways. But the low oval has a bit more girth at the bottom for comfortable chording.
Of course, you’re gonna get a rosewood neck on a Martin for that naturally-oily feel that players love.
And the 000 body size of this Martin makes it a great choice for smaller players, even though it’s still much larger than a parlor guitar.
This 000, or Orchestra Model, size, is less deep and wide than a dreadnought, making this a responsive guitar that you don’t have to play hard.
This is no okoume knock-off. Martin made the 000-15M with pure, genuine mahogany. You’re guaranteed a creamy, lush acoustic voice that seems to flow seamlessly from note to note.
And the real kicker?
It’s all solid wood! I praise it as a virtue when a guitar has only a solid top, but this guitar really has no laminate wood at all.
That’s pretty awesome, and you can really hear the difference when you listen close. The fullness of the harmonics and overtones is a lot more present in this guitar than most others.
And just because it’s small doesn’t mean you have to take it easy. 000 guitars can still be played loud—you just won’t have quite the bass response that a dreadnought provides.
Hear how this guitar sounds:
Martin does many things to ensure the quality of their acoustics. They’ve got quite a name to uphold, right?
So what makes the 000-15M special?
Quartersawn wood ensures your guitar’s longevity and tonal brilliance.
A super-thin finish lets your guitar vibrate to its fullest extent.
The tuning machines hold pitch for days, the intonation is perfect, and everything is built to last.
And even though they’re using exotic woods, Martin uses sustainable-sourcing practices in every step.
There’s a lot more that goes into making the perfect Martin acoustic, and you can get a much better idea of it here.
- Completely solid wood; amazing tonal quality and richness
- Small body size ideal for smaller players and fingerstyle
- Professional Martin quality at a reasonable price
This probably won’t be the first guitar you ever buy, but it could definitely be the last.
With the Martin 000-15M, you get a professional-grade all-mahogany acoustic with a deep, smokey tone perfect for belting out any style of the blues.
With the highest attention to detail put into every aspect of its construction, you can get this model with no doubt that you’re gonna be playing one of the best acoustic guitars in the world.
The Final Verdict
I do usually prefer the sound of a kind of murky acoustic over an extra-bright one, but I also admit that really limits what styles you can play. So, the Ibanez AW54OPN is the one I’d recommend last. If you’re particularly after that super warm, dense sound, it’s a good guitar overall. But you’ll have more chances to jam using other models.
For me, it was a real toss-up between the two Gretsches.
Ultimately, I’m ranking the G5024E as number one. It can do quite a bit more than it’s resonator cousin, and the addition of electronics really opens you up to musical opportunities.
Can You Play Blues on Acoustic Guitar?
Absolutely! Not only can you play blues on acoustic—you should play blues on acoustic.
The Black musicians that pioneered this style came from harder times than I could ever imagine, and their instruments were often whatever they could get their hands on. The blues was invented on acoustic instruments, sometimes guitars, sometimes banjos, sometimes cigar boxes strung up with wire.
Honestly, there’s no limit to what you can play the blues on.
Take, for instance, this guy playing the blues on a shovel:
Now, why should you play blues on acoustic?
If you’re a beginner, learning the blues is one of the fastest and easiest ways to introduce yourself to basic music theory, songwriting, and many technical playing skills.
Plus, mastering riffs and progressions with the higher string tension of an acoustic will make your switch to electric (if you decide to go that route) all the smoother!
So what kind of skills and theory do you learn from blues?
Blues is one of the best genres for jamming because it has a really regular song structure, so you’re highly encouraged to learn pentatonic scales.
These are simple box pattern scales (only 5 notes!) that you can move to any point root note on the neck, which means you can play in any key.
Learning pentatonics from the start basically lets you play along with any song in the world once you get an ear for it. If you wanna know more, this article covers them in depth.
Even on your first day, you can learn to play a blues song using the 3 blues chords.
“What are the 3 blues chords?”, you ask.
This might surprise you if you’re thinking about chords as letters, but in blues (and many other styles) it’s easier to think about them as numbers. Yes, numbers.
In this case, those numbers are 1, 4, and 5—but for music, we use the Roman numerals I, IV, and V.
Every note in a scale gets a number, with the tonic, or root note, getting the number one. That means if you want to play a blues song in the key of G, your first chord will be G, or I.
From there, you just count up the musical alphabet:
I-G II-A III-B IV-C V-D VI-E VII-F#
For most basic blues, all you need to worry about are the I, IV, and V, so our 3 blues chords in the key of G are G, C, and D.
In standard 12-bar blues, your progression is gonna look like:
There are many different types of blues progressions, but that’s the easiest and best place to start learning. Once you master that progression and its pentatonic in one key, you open yourself up to playing tons of songs.
Once you’re ready to learn, check out our list of 27 Easy Blues Songs for Beginners and you’ll be on your way to blues mastery in no time.
What Makes a Great Acoustic Guitar for Blues?
Like I said a little earlier, blues guitars are traditionally whatever you can find to play.
That’s really great news when you’re shopping for an acoustic blues guitar though because it means your options are wide open.
In general, you’ll just want to look for the same traits that make any acoustic guitar good:
- A solid top
- Good tonewood combinations
- Comfortable playability
- High-quality construction
- Suited for your personal musical tastes
Unless you’re shopping for a budget acoustic, you definitely want to get a solid top. They sound better than laminates, are more durable, and even improve in tone the older they get. It’s just the standard for acoustic quality.
The other way to go for top choice for blues guitars is to get a resonator! These are really cool vintage-style acoustics that were designed to be loud back before we had amplification. Resonator guitars have a very unique sound thanks to their metal cone and are great for getting that classic blues tone.
They also make a great choice for slide guitar. If you want more slide guitar options, we’ve covered lots of them in this review!
The tonewoods go hand in hand with your own preferences, and we’ll touch on those in a little more detail later on.
Playability is determined by several different things like neck shape, fingerboard radius, and body style.
I usually recommend traditional C-shaped necks for most acoustic techniques; they’re a great go to for beginners. If you want the real vintage blues experience, older neck profiles like V- or U-shaped will give you that traditional kind of playing feel.
What’s the best acoustic guitar body for blues?
That’s really up to you. If you’re a smaller person, you might find a Concert or Parlor guitar is more comfortable, but I’ve seen plenty of short people play big dreadnoughts and lots of big guys play tiny guitars.
I would say aim for tone rather than playability when choosing your body style. I’ll tell you more about this in the next section, but basically, any body style can be great for blues.
Since the term “blues acoustic guitar” covers so many different types of acoustic, I think the best thing to make sure of is that the overall quality of the guitar is good.
This is all relative to the price, so you really want to pay attention to the price:value ratio so that you get your money’s worth.
Once you get into the $200+ range, there aren’t too many quality sacrifices you should have to make, so you have your pick from many acoustics with good hardware, solid tops, great tones, and nice playability.
How to Choose the Right Blues Acoustic Guitar for You?
Here’s where we’ll go over a quick review of how body and tonewoods can affect your sound, and why knowing these differences can help you pick the right acoustic blues guitar for you.
Tonewoods and body shape have really more influence over your guitar’s tone than anything else.
If you like a darker, muddier sound the same as I do, all-mahogany guitars are a great choice.
They’re very warm and mellow, and all the highs, mids, and lows kind of blend together.
If you want a more versatile tone that you can use in many different genres, the traditional spruce top + mahogany body combo is prime.
With spruce, you get bright but smooth highs, loud but clear lows, and a strong, balanced mid-range. It’s great for both fingerpicking and flat-picking and can work in all acoustic genres and playing styles.
Cedar is less common as a blues guitar tonewood, but it’s a good choice if you like the clarity of spruce but the warmth of mahogany.
Cedar gives you a tone that’s somewhere in between the two—it’s earthy, but also articulate. The overall tone is like bright-mellow.
The body of your guitar changes how loud it is, how much bass it has, how much sustain it has, and other things. We’ll just look at an overview of the most common sizes to help you get an idea of what you’ll want in a blues acoustic guitar.
Dreadnought and Jumbo
These are the largest common guitar body shapes, which makes them the loudest.
You can play these as hard and heavy, great for when you really want to rock out and let loose.
Dreadnoughts and jumbos both give you a well-balanced tone with a lot of strong bass. They have very few limitations, but they do require a kind of strong attack to get the most out of their tone.
Grand Concert and Concert
For softer-handed players, especially if you want to play fingerstyle blues, a smaller guitar can be better, although it’s not necessary.
We’ve got a full review of great fingerstyle guitars you can check out here.
Grand Concert and Concert body guitars are the next smallest and next most common size of acoustic you’ll find.
They don’t have as much low end as dreadnoughts and aren’t as loud, but they make up for this with better articulation and richer high ends.
These are the smallest guitars you can usually find (though there are even smaller ukulele-guitar hybrids!).
Parlors were also the most common guitar available back when blues was first starting, so you’ll hear a lot of original recordings made on this style.
These little acoustics are much brighter than their larger cousins and can be really jangly and somewhat boxy too. They’re not for everyone, but if you really want that super old-fashioned blues tone, they could be just what you’re after.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—the best blues acoustic guitar is the first one you can grab.
But, lucky us, we live in a world where an amazing variety of guitars is just a couple clicks away.
You’ll have no trouble singing out the sorrows of your heart with the accompaniment of any of these top-rated acoustic guitars for blues.