Best Guitars for Bluegrass
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The 7 Best Guitars for Bluegrass in 2021

Whether you grew up listening to Doc Watson and Dan Grier or are inspired by modern stalwarts like Jordan Tice, Molly Tuttle, and Sean Watkins, you know that your instrument is a trusty companion that will walk into the sunset with you.

In theory, a well-made guitar will transcend genres. One could argue the notion of a 'best bluegrass guitar.' But bluegrass guitar playing is unique and has a distinctive style in its own right. It is characterized by intricate cross-picking patterns, fluid slide playing, and flamboyant licks across the guitar neck.

The genre demands an instrument with a specific tone, loud projection, and the ability to cut through the mix. After all, you have to compete with belligerent mandolins and lightning-fast fiddle players eager to drown out your sound. It mandates a top-notch guitar that can square up to the needs and challenges of the genre.

From hinterland Americana to big-city styles infused with folk sounds, I'm talking about guitars built for Flatpicking mayhem but equally equipped to romance warmth as you venture into fingerpicking styles. And, I know some of them that do a mighty fine job at it.

What are the Best Bluegrass Guitars in the current market?

The Epiphone Dove PRO and Blueridge BR-40CE are excellent choices for beginners, hobbyists, and those with a low budget. The Seagull Artist Mosaic is my pick for among the mid-market instruments. The Martin D-28 is the 'go-to' guitar for bluegrass for professionals or anyone who can justify the price.

 Now, with the short version out of the way, let’s look at the reviews of the best bluegrass guitars.

1.Blueridge BR-40CE Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Blueridge BR-40CE Contemporary Series Cutaway Acoustic-Electric 000 Guitar

The BR-40 belongs to the Blueridge Contemporary Series that features some stellar big-bodied acoustics. It’s a bluegrass workhorse with a powerful tone and big sound. The dreadnought guitar is famed for its easy playability, classic styling, and full-voiced sound. It’s a slope-shouldered dreadnought that fits folk, country, and bluegrass genres like a glove.

Product Highlights:

  • Solid Sitka Spruce Top
  • Mahogany Back and Sides
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Fishman Presys Plus Electronics

Review:

The BR-40CE features a Solid Sitka spruce top with mahogany back and sides, and a 25.5" scale length. The mahogany neck seats a Rosewood fingerboard with Mother of Pearl inlays. The non-cutaway design allows easy access up to the 14th frets, which is the standard.

Under the hood, the Blueridge guitar sports an authentic hand-carved prewar bracing pattern. Other notable features include bone nut/saddle, butterbean open-back tuners, ornamental purfling on the headstock, dark mahogany fingerboard, custom Kluson-style tuners, and multi-ply body binding give it a vintage appeal to match its classic sound. The design also features prewar bracing that adds to the great tone and volume.

The CE version has Fishman electronics with a preamp and tuner, which is at par with the competition in this price range. It does a great job of reproducing the balanced tone of the instrument. The lows are tight with a snap as opposed to rounded and boomy.

The top-end zing is peppy and pleasant, without any strident or sharp-sounding nuisance. It's a great guitar for strumming passages, and the picked notes are tasty and distinct. All in all, it is a cost-effective instrument that sounds more expensive than what you pay for it.

Verdict:

The Blueridge BR-40CE is our wallet-friendly choice. I’m not suggesting it a professional-grade alternative to the big dogs. But for the asking price, you get a feature set that has fantastic tone, volume, and balance. It’s a good option for songwriters and country/bluegrass musicians looking for a reliable gigging instrument.

2.Epiphone Dove PRO Acoustic-Electric Guitar - Best Budget Option

Epiphone DOVE PRO Solid Top Acoustic/Electric Guitar

Let's discuss the Epiphone Dove Pro as a cost-effective option before I recommend a Gibson, and everyone is up in arms about the steep price. The Gibson Dove (the flagship model) has been around since the 1960s. The Epiphone was released to make the legendary design accessible to a wide part of the population.

Product Highlights:

  • Solid Spruce Top
  • Maple back and sides
  • Rosewood Fingerboard
  • Fishman Sonicore Electronics System

Review:

The Dove Pro features a solid Spruce top with a layered maple back and sides. It sports a unique violin burst finish with Gibson Dove-like graphics. The D-profile maple neck seats a rosewood fingerboard (12-inch radius) that hosts 20 frets. The neck is highly playable but non-cutaway, which means you won't use the higher register with the same ease.

Other notable features include parallelogram inlays, Grover tuners, a compensated nut/saddle (imitation bone), and a tortoiseshell pickguard. For a guitar under $400, it delivers excellent build quality with inimitable looks. It's bulky but feels comfortable and well balanced as you play sitting or standing.

Tone-wise, the Dove Pro sounds full, fat, and balanced. It’s a dream dreadnought for those who love a warm but resonant sound with full potential to sound jangly while strumming cowboy chords. The overall tone is loud and natural, although the sustain pales in comparison to solid-wood guitars.

Plugged in, the Dove Pro does an equally impressive job thanks to the Fishman Sonicore electronics system. The battery life promises 100+ hours of play, and the bass/treble/volume knobs give you enough juice to sculpt the tone as per the context.

Verdict:

The Epiphone Dove Pro shines in solo songwriter-style music and cutting the mix while playing with a livewire band. The modern electronics, the iconic looks, and the full, big-bodied sound make it an excellent option for those who aren't ready or willing to pay big bucks for a Gibson.

3.Yamaha LL16 ARE Dreadnought Guitar

Overview:

Your first instinct as a bluegrass player may reject a Chinese-built Yamaha as your main instrument. But the exceptional quality and mid-level pricing of the LL6 ARE urges you to make an exception. I found it to be a performance-ready acoustic guitar with the legacy ins and outs for the genre.

Product Highlights:

  • Traditional Jumbo Body Shape
  • Solid Engelmann Spruce Top (A.R.E.)
  • Rosewood Back and Sides
  • SRT Zero Impact Pickup

Review:

The Yamaha acoustic guitar features a resonant solid Engelmann Spruce top combined with a cost-effective laminated body to remain in the reach of aspiring students and up-and-coming musicians. The natural finish with a gloss coat luxuriously highlights the natural beauty.

The slim, low-profile neck is highly playable and designed in tune with the needs of a modern bluegrass guitarist. The tuning is steady, the neck alignment is perfect, and the intonation is on the money. Overall, the guitar delivers excellent build quality with tasteful styling.

The LL16 Are delivers a bold sound with powerful projection. The close-grained solid top offers a tonne of volume. The tone of the instrument is rich in low-mids and open-sounding. The SRT Zero Impact pickups sound fantastic when the guitar is amplified. It lacks a control panel to tweak the tone, but you can remedy that with a preamp. Plus, the plugged-in tone is so balanced and poised that you may not even need it.

Verdict:

The Yamaha LLD16D achieves an excellent balance of playability, tone, and affordability. The pricing is within the means of semi-pro and professional musicians. If nothing else, it’s a mighty fine guitar for cutting your teeth as you venture into the heart of American roots music.

4.Taylor 214CE Deluxe Grand Auditorium Acoustic-Electric Guitar

Taylor 214ce Deluxe Grand Auditorium Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural

Taylor 214CE is more inclined to serve songwriters or bluegrass players who are into fingerpicking. That's not to say it can't sound big. It does a swell job at flatpicking and cowboy chords, but the body shape isn't designed to compete with big body acoustics. It's not affordable if you are a casual enthusiast or hobbyist. However, it is one of the most 'affordable' Taylor acoustic guitars that could work for bluegrass players.

Production Highlights:

  • Grand Auditorium Body Shape with Cutaway
  • Solid Sitka Spruce Top
  • Layered Rosewood Back and Sides
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Taylor Expression System - 2

Review:

Taylor 214CE features a solid Spruce top with Rosewood back and sides. The guitar has a 25.5" scale-length and X-bracing with a Venetian Cutaway design to access all of its 20 frets. It also features a cutaway and Taylor's proprietary ES2 electronics system.

The Grand Auditorium body shape is poles apart from slope-shouldered dreads. It won't give you the same oomph in the low-end unless you opt for heavier bass strings. Alternately, you could adjust your playing style (right-hand attack) to accentuate the bass notes.

ES-2 electronics includes an under-saddle pickup and corresponding preamp. It is featured in several Taylor guitar models, famed for its plug 'n play sound and individually calibrated pickup sensors. The ES-2 responds beautifully to strumming passages and fingerstyle playing. It's capable enough for all your stage and studio needs.

Verdict:

The Taylor impresses with its rich, classic look and well-balanced tone. The highs chime like nobody's business. The guitar is a perfect middle-ground for fingerpicking and strumming. It has an instantly likeably sound and can be the ideal 'all-purpose' workhorse for pro and semi-pro musicians.

5.Seagull Artist Mosaic EQ - Best Multi-Purpose

Seagull Artist Mosaic Anthem EQ All Solid Wood Acoustic-Electric Guitar with TRIC Case

The Artist Mosaic EQ is a part of Seagull’s Artist line of acoustic guitars. It's solid-wood, all-natural, full-bodied dreadnought that has a vibrant and resonant tone. This Candian beauty flies under the radar despite its modest price and superior build quality. But it has all the hallmarks and features to be considered as one of the best guitars for bluegrass.

Product Highlights:

  • Solid Sitka Spruce Top with
  • Solid Mahogany Back and Sides
  • Rosewood Fingerboard
  • LR Baggs Anthem System

Review:

The Artist Mosaic (AM) is an all-solid wood acoustic with a Spruce top and Mahogany back and sides. It sports a mahogany neck with 1.72" nut width and 22 frets with a seagull inlay at the 12th fret. The neck profile is slim and shaped for ease of playing and comfort.

The nut width will please committed acoustic players but can accommodate those who primarily play electric guitars. The guitar is extraordinarily comfortable, especially if you are of smaller stature. It retains the essence of the big acoustic tone without quacking mids, razor-sharp highs, or low-end that is lost too easily.

The tone is a little mellow but instantly likable. Plus, there is plenty of volume and projection to be hard when you work the strumming.  With the right strings, it can be just as tight and bright while still retaining a sweetness about it.

The electronics system features the highly acclaimed LR Baggs Anthem, which is a top choice for acoustic guitar amplification. The AM EQ is equally well-behaved in the studio. The tone sits exceptionally well in a mix within a few minutes of mic positioning.

Verdict:

To my ears, the Seagull Artist Mosaic EQ has everything you want and nothing you don’t. It's not an obvious choice because it is overshadowed by big-brand acoustics with American pedigree. However, this Canadian acoustic guitar can square up to those models without flinching. In the end, it feels like a highly rewarding guitar for bluegrass that punches above its price tag.

6.Martin D-28 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar - Editor's Top Pick

Martin Guitar Standard Series Acoustic Guitars, Hand-Built Martin Guitars with Authentic Wood D-28

The Martin D-28 is the ‘no-brainer’ when it comes to picking a bluegrass guitar. It has been around for nearly a century and has retained its standard since its inception. Bluegrass or otherwise, it is the top choice for country, folk, rock, among other genres – at least among those who can afford it. 

Product Highlights:

  • Solid Sitka Spruce Top
  • East Indian Rosewood Back and Sides
  • Ebony Fingerboard
  • Molded Hard Shell Included

Review:

The D-28 features a Sitka spruce top with East Indian Rosewood back and sides. The select low-profile neck seats an Ebony fingerboard with 14 accessible frets and mother of pearl inlays. The looks and build are on par with the workmanship expected from a brand like Martin & Co.

The D-28 is all about a smooth tone with a balanced punch and tight, sculpted lows. The projection and volume are unsurprisingly loud. After all, it was created to piece the loudness of mandolins and fiddles. From bashing out chords to gentle fingerpicking, there is nothing that this acoustic guitar can't handle. The tone is recognizably warm and unapologetically loud when it needs to be.

The overall tone sits on the shoulders of phenomenal natural compression and an equally impressive dynamic range. From fingerstyle player to strumming, the instrument is highly responsive and ready to scream and whisper at your beck and call.

Verdict:

The Martin D-28 acoustic guitar is the age-old dreadnought that everyone reveres as an all-American classic. A few minutes of playing it is all the convincing you need. It bears a hefty price tag, but all is fair when you consider the build, components, workmanship, and tone.

7.Gibson J-45 Standard Round-Shoulder Acoustic Guitar

Gibson Acoustic J-45 Standard Acoustic Guitar - Cherry

Not that it needs my endorsement, but the Gibson J-45 is what every bluegrass guitarist hopes to score for the guitar collection – sooner or later. It’s a superb-sounding acoustic guitar with a prohibitive cost. Yet, the price is vindicated by the world-class workmanship and responsive/versatile tone.

Product Highlights:

  • Solid Sitka Spruce Top
  • Solid Mahogany Back and Sides
  • Rosewood Fingerboard
  • LR Baggs VTC

The J-45 is a historic guitar that needs no introduction. It's made from top-quality Spruce and Mahogany to create its magic. The electronics feature an LR Baggs under-saddle pickup and knobs to control volume and tone. It also ships with 12-53 strings, a Gibson accessory Kit, and a hardshell case. Of course, it's largely out of reach for most up-and-coming musicians.

Pluck it, pick it, or strum it – the J-45 retains its iconic umph and top-notch note definition. The string spacing and action are on point, making it hard to fault it at any level. It can make semi-decent techniques sound like artful, pro-grade strumming.

The tone is taut with rounded lows and glassy, glistening highs. It responds to the slightest variations in pressure in lively and gorgeous ways. If you are looking for a recording guitar or stage instrument, the dynamic range and response of the J-45 are hard to beat.

Among the top of the line professionals, the J-45 is a workhorse. Anyone who can own it already does because it's a piece of music history. It plays like a dream and sounds balanced, expressive, resonant, and full. It's one of those acoustic guitars that truly deserves to be described as 'a legacy.'

In Conclusion:

I once heard someone say that bluegrass is country music on steroids. Checks out because the genre is about mad flatpicking skills, crazy speed, and a cutting tone through the licks and strumming passages. That's not something that a sub-standard guitar can achieve.

To play bluegrass with flair and versatility, you need the best guitar for bluegrass to champion your musicianship. For better or worse, that means you will have to pay a good price in return for top-notch quality, sound, and playability.

Hopefully, this post has the reviews and links that will help you buy the perfect guitar for your current needs and skill level. I have reviewed many acoustic guitars and amps that could interest you. Feel free to read some other articles before you leave. As always, happy hunting!

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