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Old 08-07-2010, 07:01 PM
Iwasonlyhuman Iwasonlyhuman is offline
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Default Best Acoustic Blues Guitar...

I have been looking for that great blues machine, and thought I would come on here and ask some opinions. I have seen so many different body shapes, like the L, 00, 000, and even dreads, as well as different top woods and side woods. Bubinga and mahogany seem to be the major two choices for the sides and back, but even rosewoods have been recommended. 12-fret vs. 14-fret also seems to come into debate. Even what company seems to be a big factor, with Gibson being a huge name. And there are the guitars that claim to be true for blues, like the Gibson Blues King, Santa Cruz H, the Martin 15/17 series, etc. Its just so overwhelming.

I am just looking for opinions. I know that the guitar does not make the man, but I do hear distinct differences and really want a killer blues tone. So far, I have noticed that my ear prefers mahogany and likes the mahogany topped, but I won't dismiss a nice spruce topped one. I like the 12 fret style, but have not gotten to really play a 13 fret yet (Santa Cruz H). On my list to try right now is a Santa Cruz 1929, a few Gibsons and even a Collings, but I want to get more knowledge as well. What is the best acoustic blues guitar in your opinion?
2010 000-15M "Sapphire"
Custom 12-fret 00-15M "Emerald"
1949 000-18
1975 D-35 "June"
2002 HD-28VS "Siren"

1999 Fender American Strat "Honey"
2013 Fender '72 MIM Thin line Tele "Marilyn"

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Old 08-07-2010, 07:32 PM
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patticake patticake is offline
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depends on what kind of blues you want to play. the santa cruz 1929 is warm, loud and full - which isn't the way old blues sounds, but could be good for playing more modern blues and jamming. i'd consider the santa cruz 12 fret 00 - not quite as much warmth and power, a very nice intimate guitar that isn't too quiet and isn't boxy at all.

the gibson smaller guitars have that older blues sound, not surprising considering. i played the keb mo, robert johnson and a couple others, and the one thing i don't personally like about them is the v neck, but to be fair, that is traditional. it's just not for me.

there are a lot of martins and gibsons used for 50's, 60's and beyond blues, many of them powerful guitars. i like a j-45 for almost anything including more modern blues.
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Old 08-07-2010, 08:12 PM
blue blue is offline
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They make wood blues guitars?

I keed! I keed! Here's part of my stable.

Blues guitars were, in the formative days, whatever the musician could get his hands on. Dreads, smaller bodies, yes nationals...

One of the most underated style of blues guitar is the archtop. Roundhole if you want to be authentic... One of the few real bargains in the vintage world are the lesser brand archtops. Prices in the hundreds, not the thousands.

So it's really whatever you plays blues on. I'd stack up my Larrivee SD-50 12 fret slope dread against any and all comers. Even my Nationals. It'll lose on volume, but it sounds fantastic.

To me the biggest question is 25.5 vs. shorter scale much more than 12 vs. 14 fret. A good J-45 style guitar is a great choice, and as much as I love O and OO, if you've got the bucks for an SCGC I'd go with one of their J-45-a-likes before an H. I love the H, but a J-45 with quality build, fit, and finish you can trust? Priceless.

But for slide I prefer 25.5 or longer. My own little theory is that all the open E and A tuned songs came from guys with shortscale guitars who didn't like the feel and sound of D and G. My theory does not apply to Robert Johnson. He tuned to E and A and capoed up cuz his voice is higher than a white woman's singin' in Church... Apologies for stealing that line from Little Richard in describing his own Woooooooooooooo!!!
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Old 08-07-2010, 08:37 PM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Any guitar you play the blues on is a blues guitar. It don't need to be ladder braced but it does need to be loud and have a good thump on the low end for rolling the bass. Not overly bright and with a good full midrange. If there is a wood associated with the guitars played in trhe 1920s and 1930s if anything it would probably be birch.

I do agree with a previous post about round soundhole archtops. There is just something about these guitars. If you an find a good one, it will combine the punch and midrange of an archtop with the fatness of a flattop. My favorites have a slight muted warmth to them.

Here is a nice pair what might be considered "iconic" blues guitars - an early 1930s National Duolian and mid 1930s round soundhole archtop Kay Kraft with birch back and sides and the Zorzi adjustable neck. Then again, I also play a 1960 Gibson J-200 and a 1956 Gibson SJ which are both great blues guitars because, yup, I play the blues with them. If I played folk music I would probably be telling you they are great folk guitars.

"I play so rough - I stomp 'em"
Bukka White on playing his National
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Old 08-08-2010, 05:42 AM
Dek431 Dek431 is offline
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An old Yamaha FG emphasis on old. Or a Martin DX1. Affordable basic with good sound. Or a resonator which I know nothing about. Blues ain't about how much you can spend it's feel and soul.
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Old 08-08-2010, 05:52 AM
godinfan godinfan is offline
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You're gonna get lots of different opinions, but based on the guitars you listed, the ones you own & my opinion, it would be that SCGC 1929 all the way. I'd love to have one of those. In fact, if I had that kind of money that had to be dropped on a guitar right now, it would most likely be that one.
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Old 08-08-2010, 05:52 AM
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Kitchen Guitars Kitchen Guitars is offline
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I like the answer I have read in the past. Its gotta come from a pawn shop. Old FG's is a good answer. I have played a few Gibson Blues Kings. Frankly I like the short scale Epiphone ELOOVS better. The epi costs about what the tax would be on the Gibson. The butt is about a 1/2" wider than the Gibson. Maybe that gives it the edge. Getting into the thousands I would look at the neat stuff our own John How produces. Woof!!
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Old 08-08-2010, 05:59 AM
Aaron Smith Aaron Smith is offline
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Budget is probably the most important factor here. It would also help to know your playing style: fingerstyle, flat pick, bottleneck? Delta blues, piedmont blues, Chicago blues, etc?
As mentioned, the old masters played whatever they could get their hands on. Most of them played junk guitars; some played nicer instruments. Robert Johnson played a Gibson L-1; Lonnie Johnson usually played a Martin OM; Gary Davis played a Gibson J-200, etc. I also feel that a short scale slope-shouldered dread is a good "do everything" instrument; I use my J-45 mainly for fingerstyle blues.

1943 Gibson J-45
2004 Osthoff AS-C
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Old 08-08-2010, 07:10 AM
NewMartinFan NewMartinFan is offline
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I like the Martin 000-28EC.

If you like the sound of mahogany, the Martin OM-1 would be a great one to try. It's also very budget friendly.

Last edited by NewMartinFan; 08-08-2010 at 07:54 AM.
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Old 08-08-2010, 07:14 AM
15 Man 15 Man is offline
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QUOTE > zombywoof said: "Any guitar you play the blues on is a blues guitar."

I agree 100%. Also like Blue said, the old blues guys played anything they could get their hands on. If you’re not interested in the “iconic” types that zombywoof shows in the picture above, some more modern choices would be a good Gibson J-45 as listed above. Another great one would be a Guild D-25 (preferably the all Mahogany model). If you want a smaller body, (and can afford one) an old Gibson L shape or that 1927 Santa Cruz are great choices. If you’re on a budget an Epi EL (as mentioned above) is also very nice. Gibson Blues Kings and their Keb Mo model are also very nice. The Martin 00-15 and 000-15 are great. You said you liked the all Mahogany sound; so these two are right up your alley. If you talk to anyone that has one (including me) they’ll tell you that both of these are made to play the Blues. Personally, although they are great guitars, I think the Collings’ are too bright sounding for playing blues.

The best thing to do is get what sounds best to you regardless of size and style. I’ve seen Buddy Guy play blues on a Maple Gibson Jumbo and it sounded great. Buddy also did an album about 10 years ago called “Blues Singer” and all the tunes were done on an old “F” holed arch top; and that sounded great too. Blues also sounds great on an all Mahogany Martin J-15. So I guess the bottom line is the choice is yours.

Just remember the search is part of the fun!
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Old 08-08-2010, 07:19 AM
Misty44 Misty44 is offline
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The "blues" is a state of mind, body, and soul, not a make/model of guitar.

The bluesmen of old played out their feelings on all kinds of guitars, and usually the only common factor was "cheap," a condition of their disposable income.

In the '20s (of the last century), cheap meant small bodied and mahogany, characteristics that also produced cutting treble and mid notes that were sharp and clear and didn't linger or pile up on each other or bump into the vocals. Back then, these included the Martin 2-17 and the Gibson L-0. In the '40's, Martin introduced its 15 series of "austerity" guitars.

I guess there are three reasons to seek out a "blues" guitar: 1.) to reproduce or mimic an original sound of the blues, or 2.) to "look" the part while performing (along with the requisite fedora of course), or 3.) both. And there's nothing wrong with any of those reasons.

But the bottomline is that the blues can sound good played on any guitar, including big rosewood dreads. It's all about the execution.
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Old 08-08-2010, 08:27 AM
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RP RP is offline
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The current (September '10) issue of Acoustic Guitar reviews several guitars in the "Blues Guitar Special." The author mentions in his review of Durango B-44 with laminated sycamore back/sides: If you're looking for a truly authentic blues sound, it's worth remembering that many 1920s and '30s bluesmen honed their chops and even recorded with instruments that would make many of today's players wish for a guitar as good as the Durango B-44. This is an interesting return to reality in the article which reviews the Santa Cruz Otis Taylor H which at the stated street price would probably have represented several years salary in the 20s. My contribution to the article is my Guild GAD 30R shown below. Got it used on Ebay for a song, so to speak. The prior owner had done a terrific job getting the action down and the neck width feels wider than the 1 11/16" listed in the specs.

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!I say let your affairs be as one, two, three and to a hundred or a thousand… We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without. Henry David Thoreau

Taylor 524 First Edition #63
Taylor 524 First Edition #64

Last edited by RP; 08-08-2010 at 10:08 AM.
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Old 08-08-2010, 08:34 AM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Originally Posted by Misty44 View Post
The bluesmen of old played out their feelings on all kinds of guitars, and usually the only common factor was "cheap," a condition of their disposable income.
Not so sure about the impoverished, itinerant musician thing.

According to Son House, they could make at least $40 a session - a guy like Charley Patton could get $40 a side. This would buy you a pretty good guitar in the 1920s or 1930s. H.C. Spier who ran a music store and recording studio in Jackson MS in the 1920s and 1930s recalled Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe blowing into town after a recording session in a new convertible car and carrying the first National Tricone anybody in MS had ever seen. Spruce top, birch body Stellas were popular because while they were cheap, they were very well built and would hold up to life on the road, loud, and they sounded good. There is a reason those big box Stella 12 strings like Blind Willie McTell and Barbecue Bob played are fetching $20K these days.
"I play so rough - I stomp 'em"
Bukka White on playing his National
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Old 08-08-2010, 08:36 AM
MissouriPicker MissouriPicker is offline
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Amen to what Misty said: the blues is not a particular brand or style of guitar. The blues is "you." All the hype about some guitars are best for the blues and some shouldn't be used for playing the blues is pretty lame....And Tom Waites can be "the blues" on anything he plays.
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Old 08-08-2010, 10:03 AM
mmasters mmasters is offline
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I've spent some time and money on the dream blues guitar quest.

In my opinion the best body styles are O/OO/OOO and OM

The O's having better mids and the OM having a better balance.

Adirondack is probably the ideal top but Sitka works well too.

Brazilian or Mahogany are ideal for the back and sides (all mahogany sounds great too).

If I could only pick one it would be my Brazilian/Adi OO:

Here's Al Petteway playing it:
The Acoustic Psychic

Last edited by mmasters; 08-08-2010 at 10:14 AM.
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