Country music is one of the oldest genres of music to use the guitar. Many new players prefer to learn rock and roll guitar, classic rock guitar, or other styles like blues guitar and indie guitar. However, country music features plenty of great guitarists. Whether you’re a country music fan or just want to improve your guitar playing skills, it’s a great genre to check out.
If you want to play the best country music, you’ll need to find the best guitar for the job. This roundup lists the best country music guitar, and offers multiple different choices to suit players of all styles and budgets. Read ahead to find out all the best guitars for country music — especially the guitars used in some of the greatest country guitar albums ever!
The Fender Telecaster was Leo Fender’s first solid body production electric guitar. Over its 60-plus year history, it’s been used in nearly every genre of music imaginable — but it’s a particular favorite of country music players, for a variety of reasons.
Leo Fender first brought the Telecaster to country and western guitar players in Southern California. The solid body, straightforward design, and electrified easy licks quickly caught their attention.
The Telecaster is built with a simple design. It’s a solid slab body and bolt-on neck, with two single-coil pickups controlled with master tone and volume knobs. It also includes a string-through bridge, which increases the sustain of the overall instrument.
The solid body is important in lots of country music guitar, because it minimizes feedback from playing at loud volumes. With hollow body guitars, sound often gets trapped and isolated in the center cavity. This can cause the body and strings to vibrate, leading to unpleasant feedback. The feedback can be a serious problem, particularly when you play loud and amplify things!
Whether you want to record or play gigs, a solid body guitar keeps things simple. You don’t need to worry about feedback and howling distortion from hollow bodies. The solid body also changes the tone of the guitar, as we’ll discuss in a little bit.
Country music guitarists love the Telecaster because of its two single-coil pickups. These pickups are bright and clear, as opposed to guitars with P90 pickups and humbuckers. These other types of pickups tend to sound dark and heavier, while the bright, snappy Telecaster pickups cut through a mix easily. They’re particularly edgy with the tone knob cranked up high.
The Fender Telecaster’s electrified tone is perfect for cutting through a mix. That’s one of the reasons it’s the best country music guitar around. Country music bands often include drums, a bass guitar, and even another rhythm guitar. With all of those frequencies clashing, it’s easy to get lost or buried in the mix without the proper pickup.
If you want to play solos, particularly improvised ones, you’ll need your guitar to stand out in the mix. The Telecaster single-coils, particularly the bridge pickup, provide just the right voice for snappy rhythm and lead guitar playing.
Telecasters were one of the primary guitars on the country and western scene in the 1950s. Those guitarists loved to take long, improvised solos using the bridge pickup. It was a great way to cut through a band quickly, and make sure that a large audience could hear you. Fender Telecasters remain a great choice for playing with big bands and in loud spaces.
Types of Telecasters
However, there are many different types of Telecasters on the market today. Most Telecasters are great guitars, but many different versions are built to play styles of music beyond country. If you’re looking for one type to play country music, it’s important to distinguish the great country music Telecasters from the others.
To get the best country music guitar, you should look for Fender Telecasters with two single-coil pickups. Tele models like the Telecaster Deluxe and Telecaster Thinline often feature humbuckers. While humbuckers make great pickups for a wide variety of styles, they’re not as good for country music guitar.
That’s because country guitarists prefer the extra treble clarity of single-coil pickups. You won’t be able to replicate these sounds with humbuckers, particularly with the bridge pickups. While bridge single-coil pickups tend to sound sharp and “metallic,” bridge humbuckers often sound throatier and more full-bodied. A Nashville Telecaster is a good alternative for these tones.
Options to Buy: American versus Mexican versus Squier
If you’ve got some money to spend, an American-made Telecaster will give you the best pickups, tonewoods, and hardware. American Telecasters, like the American Professional series, are built with premium components and pickups to give you a more balanced, versatile tone.
They’re also easier to play, thanks in large part to the attention to detail and careful setup. Compared to more affordable Telecasters, American Telecasters receive more attention on the body shape, neck shape, and fretwork.
Together, these components add up to make a guitar that’s great to work with right out of the box. There’s no need to do extensive repair work, or even to file down some frets to prevent them from poking into your hands as you play.
The pickups in American Professional Telecasters also offer increased clarity and range. If you’re looking for pickups that can provide plenty of bright, trebly country sounds without getting shrill, these are a great choice.
Mexican and Vintera
However, there are plenty of other great Telecaster models available as well. Mexican Standard Telecasters are the perfect way to get Fender quality and style at a slightly lower price. Because they’re built in Mexico, these guitars are able to provide much of the same attention to detail and quality parts, without such a high price tag.
Mexican Fender instruments are known for their quality and durability — in fact, many professional musicians tour with Mexican Fenders because they’re able to take a beating and keep on playing perfectly!
This makes them a great fit for country musicians who need a workhorse guitar for gigs and jam sessions. No matter what you’ve got in store, a Fender Mexican Telecaster can handle it.
Mexican Telecasters offer most of the same tonewoods as American Telecasters. You can get a solid alder body, with a maple neck and maple fretboard. Some models come with pau ferro fretboards instead, for a warmer tone similar to rosewood. No matter which one you pick, you’re sure to get classic country guitar tones out of them with ease.
The Vintera Telecaster lineup is a premium lineup of Mexican Telecasters. Unlike the modern designs, these are built to sound and feel like the famous Telecasters of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.
If you want a slightly higher-end feel than a standard Mexican Tele, but don’t want to pay for a high-end American Professional Tele or American Special, the Vintera series is a perfect middle ground. Plus, the guitars look, feel, and sound amazing! As the Anderton’s demo video above demonstrates, Vintera guitars are some of the best instruments coming out of Fender today.
Finally, if you want a cheaper option to get used to playing with a Telecaster, a Squier Tele is the best pick for you. Squier instruments are Fender’s budget line, but they’re known for their combination of affordability and durability. Some professionals even tour with Squier instruments because they sound good and are simple to play.
Squier makes a few different types of Telecaster. The Affinity/ Standard Series is their basic, entry-level model. It’s perfect for beginners, or those on a tight budget. However, if you have a bit more cash to spend, their Classic Vibe guitars offer a better fit and finish, along with higher-quality components.
The Classic Vibe guitars are a bit like the Vintera guitars from Fender, only made at Squier price points. For instruments well under $500, they’re built with fantastic quality and sound. The Classic Vibe 60s Telecaster is a particularly popular model.
Gretsch guitars like this one are some of the most popular country music guitars around.
The Telecaster has been the best country music guitar in terms of popularity for a long time. However, that doesn’t mean that country guitarists only like to use one model of guitar! Plenty of other company styles offer advantages to country players, and Gretsch guitars are one of them.
These hollow body instruments have been favorites of many famous country guitarists, particularly Chet Atkins and Carl Perkins. Gretsch guitars were the sound of the rockabilly movement in the 1950s and 1960s, and their influence on that genre has crossed into country music in the years since the early 1960s.
Chet Atkins, in particular, was influential in growing the Gretsch brand. His endorsement deal with Gretsch exposed a generation of young guitarists to the “great Gretsch sound.” It also showed that a hollow body guitar could compete on tonal grounds with a solid body guitar like the Telecaster.
Even today, country guitarists love to use hollow body guitars like the Gretsch 6120. It provides a unique, woody sound that’s almost impossible to replicate with a solid-body instrument. And the clear, glassy tone of the Filter’Tron pickups found in Gretsch hollow bodies is perfect for cutting through a mix and playing blazing country guitar solos.
If you’re looking for a Gretsch 6120 guitar — or one like it — today, it’s difficult to find one that fits well within a reasonable budget for most players. New and vintage Gretsch 6120 models cost upwards of $1,500, and it can be tough to find one on the used market that’s any more affordable. This means that most players need to look towards Gretsch’s budget lines for alternatives.
Thankfully, Gretsch makes a host of extremely well-priced alternatives to the 6120, that still deliver amazing sounds and versatility for country music guitar players. And while they might not all be called the “6120,” a lot of these guitars are virtually identical in specs and size to the 6120 — they just go by a different name.
Even if you have the money to afford a proper 6120, it’s still a good idea to check these guitars out. Gretsch makes some of the best budget and mid-range guitars on the market today, and if you try one of these out, chances are you’ll be surprised. Who knows — you might end up saving hundreds and ending up with a guitar you love just as much as a classic 6120! Let’s check some of them out.
Streamliner Series: G2420
The Streamliner Series is Gretsch’s most affordable lineup of guitars. These comprise guitars that are a bit unique compared to the rest of the Gretsch product line, as well as budget-friendly versions of the company’s most famous models. They’re outfitted with Broad’Tron pickups, which capture a lot of the sounds of classic Filter’Tron humbucker pickups found on vintage Gretsch guitars.
These Broad’Tron pickups work great for country music guitar, because they mimic the glassy, clear treble response from these vintage guitars. However, they’re also a bit more versatile than their predecessors. If you like to play country music but want to experiment with genres like rock, blues, or even metal, Broad’Tron pickups will have a bit more bite and throat to help you get those sounds.
Out of the Streamliner Series, the guitar that’s closest to a Gretsch 6120 is the Gretsch 2420. This is a fully hollow body guitar, just like the 6120, and it includes one cutaway as well. It’s outfitted with a pair of Broad’Tron humbuckers, to nail that country guitar music sound. You can also buy it either with or without a Bigsby tailpiece, depending on your preferences.
A Bigsby is a great tool to help you emulate the sounds of classic country music guitarists. This vibrato arm is known for being very smooth and light, without too much “wobbly” variation between notes. Overall, it’s one of the most musical vibrato units that you’ll find anywhere — and it’s perfect for light vibrato and accents at the end of country music guitar phrases.
If you don’t know how to use a vibrato bar properly, you should also check out our full article on how to use a vibrato bar. This guide walks you through the specifics of different types of vibrato bars, and explains how to use each one for the best results. No matter what type of guitar you have, you should be able to learn some new information from it!
Other Streamliner Options: G2622 and G2655
If you don’t want the exact size and hollow body style of a 6120, yet still want to achieve the Gretsch sound for playing country music guitar, there are a few other options that you can check out. For the moment,we’ll focus on the models found within the Streamliner series, which retails for budget prices and is easy to pick up for guitarists of all skill levels.
Out of that series, two other models stand out as good designs similar to the G6120 and G2420T. These guitars are the G2622 and G2655. The two different models are very similar to each other — the main difference is the body shape.
The G2622 features a wider, slightly larger body, while the G2655 is smaller and leaner. The G2655’s body style is similar to a “coupe” guitar from Gibson or Epiphone; it retains the same pickups, neck, and string length, but the body is tucked in a bit to make it more comfortable for playing easy guitar riffs and those who want a slightly less bulky instrument on stage.
But while the G2622 and G2655 are close to each other, they have a few major differences separating them from the 6120 and G2420. The main distinction is the body style. Rather than having fully hollow bodies, these guitars employ solid wooden blocks down the center, with only the wings of each guitar fully hollow. They also include two cutaways, rather than just one.
This is a classic guitar design, used by famous models like the Gibson ES-335 and Epiphone Riviera. However, it’s a bit different from the Gretsch 6120, which gives it a unique tonal character compared to the original guitar.
If you want the hollow-body, woody sound of the 6120 for country guitar, these Streamliner models will deliver that to a large extent. There will be some differences, for sure: the center-block models have more sustain, less feedback, and a punchier, zingier tonal response range.
But on the whole, these guitars are pretty close to a 6120 for country music, and they’re very versatile for other genres as well. If you’re looking for a budget guitar that excels at country music but can also play in other genres, one of these two models would be a very good option.
If you have a bit more money to spend and want to get a higher quality Gretsch guitar, the Electromatic series is the company’s next step up. These instruments are certainly high-quality enough to gig with, and they’re affordable enough to be accessible to most musicians. If you look for them used, you can also find some great deals — they’re common, and generally pretty durable.
Most of these models are similar in shape and style to the Streamliner Series guitars, so it’s not as important to recap the broad strokes of each model once again. Instead, we’ll focus on the upgrades from the Streamliner guitars, and emphasize where these instruments might serve as a better long-term guitar than their more budget counterparts, for country music guitar and beyond.
Hollow Body: G5420 and G5422
These two guitars offer fully hollow bodies, just like the 6120 model that’s perfect for country guitar. The G5420 is another single-cut model, like an upgraded version of the G2420 that we focused on in the Streamliner series. The G5422, on the other hand, offers two cutaways in a fully hollow body for a stylish, unique look and sound.
Compared with the G2420, the G5420 offers a similar feel with a couple of key upgrades, which make a significant difference to the overall package when put together.
The first distinction is the pickups. Rather than Broad’Tron pickups which emulate a broad spectrum of tones from Gretsch and Gibson guitars, the G5420 features a pair of black top Filter’Tron pickups. These humbuckers provide more Gretsch-specific tones that will be immediately reminiscent of the 6120 for any fan of country music. They’re clear and bright with lots of punch.
The body of this guitar is also made with higher-quality cuts of wod, and laminated together with more attention and care. Some of those upgrades include interior body binding (around the F-holes), and a specially aged multi-ply binding material used to connect the pieces of the top and body. It’s also got thumbnail fretboard inlays and an oversized logo, which are two retro touches.
In terms of wiring, the G5420 also includes a great treble bleed circuit to pair with its advanced Grestch-style control layout. A treble bleed circuit keeps the high-end frequencies in your signal present even as you roll off of the volume knob — literally, allowing the treble to “bleed through.” This keeps the integrity of your signal intact, and prevents it from getting muddy or blurry easily.
The G5422 is effectively the same model as the G5420, with almost all of the exact same specifications and upgrades from the Streamliner series. The major difference is the presence of a second cutaway, which makes it look more like a Country Gentleman guitar than a 6120.
Like Country Gents, the body depth on the G5422 is also shallower than the bodies on G5420 guitars. Rather than 2.75” deep on a G5420, the G5422 models are only 2.25” from top to back. This makes them easier for guitarists to hold on stage, and altogether more comfortable to use over long jam sessions and performances.
One other thing to note is that you can also pick up both of these Electromatic models in a wide variety of special editions. These editions change the colors, but sometimes they even tweak the body shape or pickups of the guitar. You can also find a 12-string edition, and left handed versions to suit every player under the sun.
Pairing a Gretsch guitar with a Fender amp balances out their different tones, and sounds great for country music guitar.
Electromatic Center Block Models
If you still want a guitar that excels at country music with the Gretsch sound, but can also sound good in other genres, these Electromatic center block models will be the perfect fit for you. As with the Streamliner series, the addition of a center block keeps the sound of these guitars more focused, with extra snap, sustain, and growl and less feedback when amplified.
The main center-block models in the Electromatic product line are the G5655T (available with a Bigsby tailpiece as a standard feature) and the G5622T. These models continue the shape and styles of the Streamliner counterparts, but upgrade to black top Filter’Tron pickups for a more traditional Gretsch sound.
The addition of the G5655T to the center block line is another welcome experiment. This guitar has just one cutaway, like the hollow 6120 and G5420. However, it’s only 1.75” thick rather than 2.75” for the other models. This keeps the size and weight of the guitar manageable, even with the extra block running down the center of the body.
One of the other aspects which sets these guitars apart is also their color options. The Electromatic guitars, and the center block models in particular, offer a ton of new and unique finishes that are guaranteed to make any retro guitar fan’s mouth water. The Aspen Green finish on the G5622T and the Jade Gray Metallic on the G5655T are particular highlights.
If you’re a dedicated fan of the 6120, you might want to pick up the G5622T in the classic orange stain. This is a translucent type of wood stain, that’s combined with gold hardware and a gold pickguard floating beneath the pickups. This is the color scheme of most original 6120 guitars, and it looks absolutely fabulous on these Electromatic models as well!
A new Fender Stratocaster model.
For a change of pace from the “great Gretsch sound,” we want to highlight another Fender guitar that’s played a significant role in country music throughout its history.
From players like Mary Kaye all the way through blues-based artists like Stevie Ray vaughan and up until now, Fender has been pushing the boundary of innovation and providing artists with some of the most famous tools ever.
The Stratocaster is not as popular as the Telecaster in country guitar music, for a few different reasons. The first reason is the simple fact that the Telecaster beat the Stratocaster to market (Leo Fender did not produce the Stratocaster until after the Telecaster had already been released). With a loyal audience of Telecaster players, many chose not to upgrade to a Strat.
The Stratocater’s unique combination of tones, however, made it an essential guitar as the history of country music continued. With three single-coil pickups, it’s easier to get a lot of different sounds out of the Stratocaster. The bridge pickup on a Strat also has its own unique character, compared to the Telecaster bridge pickup. It’s a bit fatter and heavier, without being too throaty like a humbucker.
The “in between” positions on a Stratocaster are also very useful for country players. They provide an appealing “quacky” sound that has a bit more honky-tonk feel than some Telecaster pickups.
If you want to play country music guitar but also want to play rock or other types of music, a Stratocaster might be slightly more versatile than a Tele, but still give you a similar sound in the end.
Fender and Squier Strats
For a great Stratocaster at a reasonable price, you should check out some of the Vintera Stratocasters. These models are relatively new. They were just released in the past few years, and they take a lot of the specifications of vintage Stratocaster models and update them with modern hardware, consistency, and performance.
The ‘50s Vintera Stratocaster is particularly interesting, because it pairs a ‘50s style “soft V” neck with a maple fretboard, vintage pickups, and retro pastel colors. They look amazing, and they produce vintage-style sounds that work great for country and early rock and roll music.
If you want a less expensive option, you can also check out the Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster series. Squier is Fender’s budget lineup, and these guitars provide a lot of the performance of their Fender counterparts at a much more reasonable price.
The Classic Vibe Squiers retain a lot of vintage appointments, just like the Fender Vintera series. They can create great vintage country tones, with an emphasis on the single-coil tones of classic country music that many guitar players love.
They’re also built to cut through a mix for solos and improvisation, with their single-coil pickups voiced for bright, accurate response.
Finally, sometimes for country solos you just need the heavier response and deeper growl of a Gibson-style P.A.F. humbucker. These pickups are much quieter than single-coils, and they provide a much thicker bass response with plenty of growl and snarl.
However, some humbucking guitars are built for metal and don’t translate well to country, which requires less gain and more touch.
If you want a guitar with humbuckers that’s versatile, articulate, and great for country music, it’s hard to beat the appeal of a Gibson ES-335. This guitar is a semi-hollow body, which means that it combines a solid center block with hollow wings and F-holes. This gives you the woody response of a hollow body guitar, without as much of the feedback. The center block adds sustain and punch.
The Gibson ES-335 is one of the first semi-hollow guitars of this type. It’s an outstanding model, and it’s been used by guitarists playing everything from rock and blues to country, hard rock, and jazz.
If you want to play country music guitar, you’ll appreciate the punchy, quick attack of an ES-335 and the hollow wings, which add resonance and acoustic sustain.
However, Gibson guitars are very expensive. If you want a more accessible option, you should check out the Epiphone version of the 335, which utilizes the same construction and pickup configuration, but is built overseas to deliver a much more affordable price.
The Epiphone 335 also includes a set of Epiphone-designed pickups and a semi-hollow body, which preserve acoustic tone and articulation without sacrificing attack, crunch, and drive. It’s great for country music guitar, but also for a wide variety of different styles.
Some Epiphone guitars even allow you to split the pickups in order to get single-coil tones out of your humbuckers. If you’re interested in Epiphone instruments, it’s definitely a feature to check out in order to see if the model you want allows for coil-tapping.
Finding the perfect country guitar is a springboard into playing country music, with pedals and amps as well.
Overall, if you’re in the market for a country music guitar, you’ve got a lot of great options. A Fender Telecaster is the best option, but you should also check out Gretsch guitars and Fender Stratocasters for a wider range of sounds.
If you’re on a budget or just want a different tone, Gretsch Streamliner guitars and Epiphone 335s might also be good picks. As long as you check out as many models as possible, you’ll end up with a great pick and be shredding country guitar in no time. Happy playing!