Let me guess:
But now, you want a guitar for a certain genre of music: Bluegrass.
While you could just go online and pick a random model, there are some important factors you should consider.
As you finish reading this article, you will be able to find just the right acoustic guitar that’s suitable for playing bluegrass and similar genres.
From size and shape, to tonewood choice and other features, we will go over the basics together!
So, let’s get right into it!
What Exactly Is Bluegrass?
In order to really understand the genre, and to be able to know what you’re looking for, let’s take a closer look at Bluegrass itself.
Bluegrass is a musical genre, or form, closely related to country music, that is heavily influenced by the music of Appalachia.
This musical genre combines numerous different types of music and has various roots, such as English, Irish and Scottish.
Most Bluegrass bands use instruments such as a fiddle, banjo, mandolin, an acoustic guitar and double bass.
In order to fully grasp this genre, you should definitely check out some of the many bluegrass artists you can find on YouTube.
The bottom line is this:
Bluegrass sounds relatively similar to country music. Sometimes, musicians in a bluegrass band take turns playing a certain melody, each having time to improvise around it and showing off their skill.
What Makes A Certain Model Of Guitar Good For Bluegrass?
So, you now have at least a rough idea of what Bluegrass is, and how it sounds.
But what does an acoustic guitar need for this genre?
While you could play pretty much any genre with a suitable instrument, there still are a couple of things that can make you stand out, and generally speaking, make the whole deal much easier.
Being able to bring that unique tone and feel to the songs you’re playing is sometimes crucial for genres like Bluegrass, which rely slightly more on the details than the actual technique.
- Body Shape And Size – Comfort Is Your Priority
As we’ve already discussed in detail, whenever you’re picking a new instrument for yourself, comfort and playability are your priority.
Depending on the size of your hands and your overall build, certain body shapes and sizes just feel better and more playable.
In terms of Bluegrass, you’re looking for a couple of crucial things:
Most Bluegrass guitarists prefer a Dreadnought design.
Unless you are on the smaller side, getting a Dreadnought is a great idea.
This body shape makes for great volume, as well as the sharp sound, rich in “twang”.
Don’t go out of your way if this size doesn’t feel comfortable however, as learning to play will be much harder, and you don’t want to get frustrated before you’ve even started playing!
- Flattop Or Archtop?
Besides the actual size and shape, there is one more thing to have in mind when buying a bluegrass guitar, in terms of the body.
Flattop means that the top surface, where the strings are, is flat.
Unlike archtop guitars, which have a, you guessed it, arched top, a flattop guitar is more comfortable for this genre, and provides a more friendly environment, especially for newbie guitarists.
- Go With Steel Strings For That Special “Twang”!
Probably the first thing you notice when you play a country or bluegrass song is the sharp tone of the guitar.
In order to achieve that retro and unique sound, you should only look for acoustic guitars with steel strings.
You’ve learned by now that steel and nylon string guitars only support that one type of strings, so choose carefully!
- Tonewood Choice – Spruce Is Your Safest Bet!
So, we’re looking for that treble- rich, bright sound. What type of tonewood do we choose for that?
Mahogany is very common amongst the models many bluegrass guitarists go for.
It offers a warm sound, while still providing very clear and bright highs. With less bass, it’s great for this type of music.
Rosewood, on the other hand, offers more in terms of the low end. Some guitarists prefer this sound over the one that Mahogany has.
However, Spruce is my personal favorite, and I think that the traits it brings to the tone are perfect for beginner guitarists. It offers loads of sustain and resonance, while still having that natural and balanced sound.
So, if you don’t feel like experimenting much, Spruce is definitely a great choice!
My Reviews Of The Best Guitars For Bluegrass!
- Rogue RA-090
So, you’re on a really tight budget, but want a good guitar for Bluegrass? Well, the RA-090 by Rogue may just do the job for you!
Available for less than $100, the RA-090 is an acoustic guitar aimed at absolute beginners. As you can’t really expect much from an instrument at this price range, we will go gentle in the review.
Featuring a dreadnought body design, you can definitely start playing bluegrass right away. The tonewood of choice for this model is whitewood. While it may not be the best choice for this particular genre, you can’t really choose much with a tight budget.
Sound-wise, the RA-090 tries to offer a balanced tone, but definitely could sound better. Give this model to a more advanced guitarist, and they will notice this right away.
The build quality, however, is pretty satisfying. Even though there are minor details that the good folks at Rogue could have handled in a more professional fashion, the guitar still feels comfortable and sturdy enough.
- Very affordable
- Good build quality
- Excellent for beginners that aren’t sure if guitars are their thing
- Not much more than a guitar for the absolute beginners
When compared to other budget models, the RA-090 by Rogue definitely takes the cake. So, if you’re looking to spend as little money as possible, this is your best shot.
- Martin LXK2 Little Martin
If you search for the best acoustic guitars for bluegrass, chances are that most people are saying that you should get a Martin guitar. Their unique approach to each model, and the sheer level of craftsmanship results in amazing guitars, and the LXK2 Little Martin is no exception.
The most prominent feature of this model is its size. Coming at ¾ of the size of a regular acoustic guitar, this may just be the perfect guitar for traveling. Its compact form makes for a great choice if you have smaller hands as well.
In terms of tonewood, it should perform very nicely for Bluegrass. It’s a combination of Koa and Sitka Spruce, so you can expect a balanced sound, with loads of volume as well.
It’s the tonal quality and details in the finish that make the LXK2 Little Martin so playable and comfortable!
- Small form factor is very convenient
- Combination of tonewood makes a great sound
- Reasonably priced
- More advanced players may not find it that great
Focused towards beginners, the LXK2 by Martin is a great sounding and amazingly built bluegrass guitar at an affordable price point.
- Ibanez AW54CEOPN
Ibanez is known for their high-quality instruments, ranging from the more budget-friendly beginner focused ones to the expensive, yet high-quality professional models. Their AW54CEOPN offers great specs and features for just around $300.
The first thing you notice when you look at this guitar is the beautiful Dreadnought design. A neat cutaway was added in order to make reaching those last few frets even easier.
As for the tonewood, this model ticks our bluegrass boxes with the all Mahogany build. You would expect crisp and strong highs and slightly less bass, and you wouldn’t be wrong! This tonewood choice alongside the convenient body shape and cutaway make for an amazing bluegrass acoustic guitar!
The fact that this is an acoustic-electric model allows you to easily play alongside other band members without worrying if your instrument will be able to cut through the mix.
- Optimal tonewood choice for bluegrass
- Beautiful design
- Very lightweight and playable
- Comes with onboard tuner and preamp
- Some guitarists feel like it lacks tonal richness and resonance
Going for an Ibanez guitar has always been a good idea, and their AW54CEOPN is no exception. At this price range, there is hardly a better acoustic-electric guitar that’s as suitable for bluegrass like this model.
- Yamaha FG820
At number 4, we have a great model coming from a well-known brand, Yamaha. Their FG820 is pretty similar to the FG840, but with a different tonewood choice, a one that suits bluegrass needs very well.
The level of craftsmanship and attention to detail is noticeable even at the first glance. Yamaha guitars are generally known for their comfort and playability, and the FG820 is no exception.
The standard Dreadnought body design gives this guitar enough volume to cut through other instruments, which comes in handy if you plan on playing alongside a band.
Going for an all Mahogany body option is a great idea given the sound that is needed for bluegrass. If you’re looking for more treble and less bass, definitely consider this model.
- Warm sound with loads of treble
- Very nicely built, comfortable and lightweight
- A great deal in terms of quality and price
- The tuners could be better
For just around $250 you can get the FG820 by Yamaha, a great guitar that’s meant for both beginners and more advanced players as well. Unlike some other, cheaper models, you will gladly play this guitar even after you’ve gotten a new, more expensive, and better one.
- Blueridge BR-140
And finally, at number 5, we have a real treat!
The BR-140 by Blueridge offers amazing tonal characteristics and playability, at a reasonable price.
If you are a beginner, and not absolutely sure that acoustic guitars, or bluegrass itself, is your thing, you’re better off with a less expensive model.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a high-quality acoustic guitar, definitely consider getting this model.
With a Dreadnought body design and Sitka Spruce as the tonewood of choice, it hardly gets any better than this, at least in this price range. The sound is well balanced, with lots of sustain, resonance, and generally described as warm and natural.
For around $750, you can get this beautiful guitar, as well as a deluxe hardshell case, making it a really great deal.
- Beautiful design
- Outstanding tone
- Great tuners
- Comes with a deluxe hardshell case
- The strap buttons may come off
Even though Blueridge may not be as popular as Fender, Yamaha, or other similar brands, it offers great quality at a reasonable price. The BR-140 is a great option for anyone looking for more than just entry-level bluegrass acoustic guitars.
Time To Award A Winner!
So, we’ve seen some of the best acoustic guitars for bluegrass you can find on the market.
Each with its own pros and cons.
But, at the end of the day, which one is your best bet?
It not only looks good, but sounds great as well, and is extremely comfortable and easy to play. The fact that it’s an acoustic-electric model adds versatility points and makes it very practical. And for the price, it’s a great investment!
Bottom line, after all my researching and discussions with other blues masters, I would recommend this option from Ibanez.
I hope that you had fun reading this article and that it helped you in choosing just the right guitar for your needs.
As always, thank you for reading, and I will see you in the next one!