The Best Guitars for Country Music

Country is a versatile style of music that extends back to the ’40s. Yet, at the same time, it is as relevant today as ever. A style that boasts some of the best guitar talents around, and has inspired many young guitarists to learn how to play country music on the guitar themselves! But the guitar market has so many options available, from different wood combinations, different body sizes, it’s tough to know what to choose.

Today we’re here to share with you our top picks for the best guitars to play country music on. With clear and detailed explanations on what makes them ideal for the style. So you can be sure that what you’re purchasing is the right instrument for you. Join us!

Top-rated guitars for country music

Martin D-28

Pros

  • Well trusted manufacturer and model
  • Premium wood choice
  • Uses modern construction methods to ensure stability

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • No pickup system from the factory
  • Some have criticized the high action, may need a guitar tech to set up the instrument

The D-28 model by Martin is a legendary guitar, originally produced all the way back in 1931 and was used by many iconic musicians including the great Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and even Elvis Presley. Praised for their thick and rich tonal qualities during a time when the raw sound of your guitar was more important than ever.

Fast forward to 2017, the landscape and technology of the guitar have come a long way. So Martin set out to re-imagine the original D-28 using several more modern elements including new (and more robust) tuners, and a new neck profile to allow for slightly more comfort and playability. All while retaining the qualities that made the guitar so revered in the first place.

Material:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Stability:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Performance:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Value:4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)
Price:3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
For beginners:4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)

This new incarnation would use a Sitka spruce top with East Indian Rosewood back and sides, along with an Ebony fretboard. This wood combination, along with the traditional non-cutaway dreadnought body shape and dovetail neck joint creates a package that sounds rich and defined across the frequency spectrum. Its Sikta top providing that cut and sparkle while the Rosewood and Ebony create a thick body with high sustain and projection.

This is the crème de la crème of country guitars and you would be hard-pressed to find a safer purchase for the style. Obviously, this premium quality comes with an equally premium price tag. So Martin offers a number of more affordable variations of the D-28 such as the D-16GT which are also worth checking out if you are on a tighter budget.

Gretsch G5024E

Pros

  • Incredible value for money
  • A solid combination of woods for the best tone
  • Onboard electronic system

Cons

  • Still considered an affordable guitar so it might feel less ‘premium’ to the touch
  • Heavy use of mahogany might sound too dark for some
  • Inlays are only present at the top of the fretboard which will make playing difficult if you rely on them

So we know the fundamental idea of a large, dreadnought style acoustic with great wood choice and tonal projection is the gold standard for country players. But the need for a more affordable ‘bang for your buck’ version became apparent. So Gretsch stepped up with the Rancher Dreadnought series, intended to bring good value for money while still using a winning wood combination and solid construction. It needed to serve both the intermediate and professional player with an instrument that is accessible, yet can still hold its own in any professional setting.

Featuring arched, laminated mahogany back and sides with an ebony fretboard. Which would give the tone that darker and full-bodied quality. This was then balanced with the spruce top with a beautiful sunburst finish, rounding off the sound and adding that throaty midrange and top-end bite.

Material:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Stability:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Performance:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Value:4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)
Price:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
For beginners:4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)

Arguably the best feature about this guitar is that it has a pickup system mounted under the bridge from the acclaimed Fishman Electronics. This has a tonal sweep option to further dial in your sound, as well as a preamp volume control enabling you to play the guitar easily through a PA system without the need for microphones. This is a solid purchase for anyone on a budget and has been widely praised by reviewers for punching far above its weight.

Epiphone Hummingbird Pro

Pros

  • Honors a tried and true classic design
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Numerous specifications swapped out from the original 60’s version
  • Heavy use of mahogany is not for everyone

Much like the Martin D-28, this is also a re-imagining of a classic and much-loved guitar of the ’60s. With models from the earlier part of their production cycle still being in high demand today. They were Gibson’s entry into the square-shouldered, dreadnought-shaped body guitar and were used by many iconic country and folk players including Keith Richards and Sheryl Crow.

As the production cycle neared its end Gibson made moves to change both the materials used and construction methods of the guitar, thus making it less desired by players than the earlier production models.

Fast forward several decades and with demand for the original models still being there, they decided to re-issue the Hummingbird. Matching as closely as possible to the original models of the early ’60s while still updating the production methods and some minor specification changes in order to make it viable and relevant to the modern musician.

Material:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Stability:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Performance:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Value:4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)
Price:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
For beginners:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

The guitar is easily recognizable with the ‘twin parallelogram’ inlays and floral design on the pickguard. Wood wise it features a solid spruce top with mahogany back, sides, and neck. This was a small deviation from the original which used Brazilian rosewood. The tuners have also been updated to Grover Rotomatics, and there is also a Fishman Sonicore pickup system installed.

Needless to say, this strikes a great balance between being affordable, while honoring a tried and true classic of old. Yet has also been brought up to speed enough to where it has the solid construction and reliability that you would expect from a modern instrument.

Yamaha FG800M

Pros

  • Budget-friendly
  • Unique wood selection
  • Different color options available

Cons

  • Lower quality manufacturing
  • Fewer premium woodcuts

One of the more affordable entries on this list. But still packing a punch, it is offered as a ‘simple and traditional’ acoustic guitar that can hit all the beats without overcomplicating anything or adding too much to the price. The M means it has a matte finish. However, there is also a gloss version available (called the FG800) as well as some alternate colors. So if you are a beginner you will still be able to find something that matches your preferences.

The guitar also has some, at first glance, unusual wood choices. But they come together to make a nice, complimentary package that will still sound great when playing without any further amplification or processing. It features a ‘Nato Wood’ back and neck, which is sometimes used as an alternative for mahogany. It’s lighter in color but possesses many similar tonal characteristics, this is then complemented by a brighter spruce top creating a nice balance across the frequency range.

Material:4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)
Stability:4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)
Performance:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Value:4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)
Price:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
For beginners:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)

It doesn’t have any additional features such as branded tuners or a pickup system, but if you enjoy the tone and feel of the instrument this is perhaps something you can upgrade yourself later using aftermarket items. Overall this is a solid choice, and while marketed towards beginners there’s no reason why an intermediate or professional player couldn’t make great use of it.

Takamine EF360S-TT

Pros

  • High-end and unique wood choice
  • Specifically designed to replicate the tonal qualities of a vintage guitar
  • A great-sounding pickup and preamp system

Cons

  • High-end price tag

Takamine are well known for their exceptional quality and construction, and as such are trusted amongst country players both novice and professional alike. This is a top-of-the-line guitar that delivers everything you would want from a high-end guitar, they are handmade and Takamine uses only the finest cuts of wood for their instruments.

The EF3605-TT is definitely a nod towards the Martin D-28 with its square-shouldered, dreadnought-style body. It’s even referred to as ‘The voice of a true vintage’ on their marketing material. However, there are some things about the guitar that give it its own voice and personality, making it a worthy consideration as a D-28 alternative.

Firstly it features a ‘Solid Thermal Top’, which is essentially a fancy way of saying Spruce, but the big difference being that the top is baked in an oxygen-free vacuum beforehand. Much like what you do with a maple (or you would call it roasted maple). The result is a tonal quality change which is said to be more in line with that of vintage guitars which is exactly what country players are looking for. This is then complimented with solid Indian Rosewood back and sides, along with a mahogany neck.

Material:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Stability:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Performance:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Value:4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)
Price:4 out of 5 stars (4.0 / 5)
For beginners:4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)

So the wood choices are oozing premium quality, but then to add to that it also features a pickup of Takamine’s own design which they call the ‘Palathetic Pickup’ which has its own preamp. This will allow you to play any shows where you might need to run your guitar through the PA without the need for additional microphones. Obviously, all these amazing, premium features come with a price tag. But if you are serious about playing this is a guitar that will not let you down.

Epiphone EJ-200SCE

Pros

  • Unique aesthetic
  • Careful choice of woods
  • Fishman preamp system

Cons

  • The jumbo-sized body is not for everyone
  • Some people might find the mustache bridge a little garish

A nice spin on the more traditional or vintage country guitar. The first thing you will notice is probably the striking aesthetics. It has a floral design on the pickguard, a unique ‘mustache’ tailpiece as well as Pearloid inlays shaped like a crown, lovingly named so as Epiphone refers to this instrument as “the king of flat tops”.

Unlike some other guitars which are favored amongst country musicians, this one doesn’t have the square-shaped body and instead has a lower horn cutaway which is ideal if you wish to play any single-note melodies and need to reach those high frets. The guitar also has a jumbo-sized body so is slightly larger than the dreadnought’s size, meaning you do not lose any of that low end and projection through the material loss of the cutaway.

Material:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Stability:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Performance:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Value:4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)
Price:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
For beginners:4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)

Wood wise we have a solid spruce top with select maple back and sides. Which will add brightness and snappiness to the tone and response of the instrument which offsets the large low-end that would come from the larger body. Resulting in an overall balanced frequency output from the guitar. It also features a hard maple (also referred to as rock maple) neck which will provide both tuning stability as well as some resistance to humidity fluctuations.

It also features the ever-popular Fishman Sonicore electronics system with the ‘Presys’ preamp making this guitar able to cope with any playing scenario you can imagine. Overall a great choice and has a lot of premium qualities for a reasonable price. This would fit any serious hobbyist or professional.

Seagull S6

Pros

  • Unique wood choice and character
  • Added intonation accuracy with the Tusq nut
  • Beautiful ‘Tennessee Red’ finish

Cons

  • Some people might dislike the brightness of the maple
  • Considered a mid-range guitar and might not be the best choice for professionals

While Seagull doesn’t have the notoriety that companies like Martin or Takamine do. They are nevertheless reliable luthiers that make some great instruments. They are based in Canada and still retain a competitive price even when compared to Indonesian-made equivalents.

The S6 model is available with some different wood combinations. With this one having a Cedar and Cherry wood body along with a maple neck. Maple is less common on acoustics due to its brightness and instead, a darker sounding wood such as mahogany would more commonly be used. But in this case, when combined with a Cedar top it creates a balanced sound that perhaps leans a little towards the snappy side of things. But that just means it’s ideal for that country twang!

Material:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Stability:4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)
Performance:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Value:4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)
Price:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
For beginners:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

It also has a beautiful rosewood fingerboard and a slightly shorter scale length at 24.84″ making it perhaps a little easier for a player with smaller hands to grasp. The guitar has a lacquer finish which will protect it against the rigors of practice and performing.

It also comes with a gig bag and is fitted with a high-quality Tusq nut allowing for smooth string travel when tuning. This helps if you need to change tunings mid-set fairly often. This will also help with intonating the guitar a little. Marketed as a great guitar for entry-level players, but because of the construction and wood choice, it’s also something that any enthusiast or professional might benefit from considering its reasonable pricing.

Read more about the history of country music here.

FAQ about best acoustic guitars for country music:

What makes a guitar great for country music?

When we think about the qualities needed to play great country music there are two main things you need to be cognizant of. Firstly, how does it feel? The feel of a guitar can be very subjective, what feels good in your hands might not feel great for someone else. So don’t be afraid to trust yourself, if you enjoy how an instrument feels, use it!

Secondly is the tone. If it doesn’t sound good, you won’t want to play it and others will not enjoy listening. As the guitar is an important part of the makeup of country music, it needs to have a fairly balanced sound across the board. With good lows and highs so it’s both heard and felt in the music.

How much money should I budget in order to buy an acoustic guitar?

People often talk about the diminishing returns of guitar quality as the price climbs. While it’s true that a $3000 guitar will not be 10 times better than a $300 guitar.

Guitars at all prices are appropriate for different people, if your budget allows and you are a serious player by all means get that expensive, premium instrument.

But at the same time, if you are on a stricter budget, you can get amazing value, playability, and tone from an instrument for just a few hundred dollars.

Do I need an amplifier to play country music?

Many guitars these days come with a preamp and pickup system installed so you can easily plug into a PA or amplifier should you need to.

But this is only applicable if you are playing a show or performing in an area large enough to warrant additional amplification. If you are just practicing at home or playing a small local show at a bar, you probably don’t need an amplifier.

What size guitar body should I get?

The most common sized body for country music is the ‘Dreadnought’ style, this provides a good balance between thick, rich projection while still retaining good definition and attack.

There are both smaller and larger body sizes than this that will often offer a different wood combination to either compensate for or maybe even accent the tonal qualities of the different sized body. This is something that will come down to personal preference and the kind of sound you are looking for.

Can I teach myself country music?

Fortunately these days we have massive amounts of resources available on platforms such as youtube in order to teach ourselves both the guitar in general or even country music specifically. However, while it’s absolutely possible to teach yourself an instrument, there are certain challenges that may crop up as a result of this. Such as developing bad habits that are difficult to practice out of.

So while it is possible, that is not to say there is no value in getting a teacher and having formalized lessons. A teacher can help alleviate some of the missteps you might take going solo, as well as provide some much-needed validation and feedback on how you are progressing.

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