So you’ve got the itch to play some twangy country tunes but aren’t sure which guitar to pick for the job? Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Today we’ll take a look at 10 of the best electric guitars for country music what features and characteristics make them work so well.
Country music has been around since the 20’s, but the electric guitar sounds that might be associated today all began back in the 50’s when Leo Fender introduced the Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars that we all know and love.
What makes a certain electric guitar great for country music? Well, the answer to this question is quite different from the answer you might have received 50 years ago. The appeal of the Telecaster back in the ’50s was that the bridge pickup was very bright and twangy, which allowed it to stand out in a mix and be heard, especially in the western swing bands that typically had 8+ members on stage at any given time. These days, we have a much wider range of options, and it’s not uncommon at all to see humbucker-equipped guitars like PRS and Gibson / Epiphone being used on stage and in the studio.
With that out, let’s get into our list and help you find the guitar that will work best for your play style.
The Best Electric Guitars For Country
- Fender Player Telecaster – Best Overall
- Fender Player Stratocaster – Runner Up
- Squier Affinity Telecaster – Budget Pick
- Fender American Ultra Telecaster – Premium Pick
- Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Telecaster – Best Under $500
- PRS SE Silver Sky – Best Under $1,000
- PRS SE Custom 24 – Most Versatile
- Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster – Best Value
- Gretsch G2420 Streamliner – Best Hollow Body
- Epiphone ES-335 – Best Semi-Hollow Body
Fender Player Telecaster – Overall Best Electric Guitar for Country
The quintessential country guitar is the Fender Telecaster, and it gets our pick for best overall. The Fender Player series has replaced the old made in Mexico standard series, and has been very popular since its introduction. With this guitar, you can achieve all of the authentic telecaster twang without breaking the bank.
The “T” style single-coil pickups in a Telecaster are a great choice for country music. They have a sharp high end and twang, allowing them to stand out in a full mix and be heard. They’re also very responsive to touch and feel, so it’s easy to pull back a little bit on your picking and make your playing a little more subtle, and then be able to dig in harder to get some extra volume and make your notes heard.
As you might expect from Fender, we have an alder body with a maple neck, and it comes in either a maple fretboard or a pau ferro fretboard which is very similar to the traditional rosewood you see on many guitars.
The Fender Player Telecaster features a 2 pickup / 3-way selector switch configuration, allowing you 3 pickup combinations, and even more tweaking power with the master volume and tone.
The neck pickup is quiet and subtle, while the bridge can get as bright as you’d like. There’s something really special about the middle position on Telecaster though, that you can’t really get on other guitars. It provides a subtle low frequency cut and makes the highs a little more glassy like the neck pickup of a Strat, and since both pickups are running in series it also cancels any hum issues just like a humbucker does.
- Great value
- Authentic Telecaster tone
- Flexible tonally
- No case included
The Telecaster is a simple, no-frills workhorse guitar that can work for nearly any style of music, but it really excels for classic and modern country.
Read Also: 9 Best Telecaster Style Copy Guitars
Fender Player Stratocaster – Runner Up
Next up, let’s move on to the Fender Stratocaster, specifically the current Player Series Stratocaster. You may think of the Stratocaster as the classic solid-body blues and rock guitar that we’ve all heard and seen on countless records, but it is more than capable of handling all the honky tonk duties as well.
The reason this gets our pick for the runner-up is the amount of tonal flexibility it provides with the 3 single-coil pickups and 5-way selector. Each position on the pickup selector has a unique tone, allowing you to be subtle and sit back in the mix when playing rhythm, or go full-on bright and twangy to make yourself heard.
The Player Series Stratocaster starts with a comfortable contoured alder body, with a gloss polyester finish. Alder is the most popular tone wood used by Fender guitars and offers a rich, warm sound that pairs very well with the single-coil pickups typically found on their guitars. The neck on this guitar is made of maple and you can choose either a pau ferro or maple fretboard. My favorite feature on these Player Series guitars is the satin finish on the back of the neck which allows you to move smoothly up and down the fretboard.
Another great feature that you might find useful is the Fender synchronized floating tremolo. Being able to add a little subtle vibrato to a chord or lead line can sound incredible when done correctly.
- Tons of tonal options
- Great feel and sound
- Floating tremolo may be difficult to keep in tune with extended use
Read Also: 12 Best Stratocaster Style Copy Guitars
Squier Affinity Telecaster – Best Cheap Electric Guitar for Country
If you’re not quite sure about Telecasters just yet, and want to grab something a little more affordable than the Player Series Telecaster, a great option would be the Squier Affinity Telecaster. The Affinity series is an excellent gateway into the world of Fender guitars, offering authentic Fender tones and thin lightweight bodies at a fraction of the cost of their more premium models.
Coming in at under $300, the Affinity Telecaster has all the usual features of a good Tele; a poplar solid body, a C shaped maple neck, 2 ceramic Telecaster pickups, 3-way pickup selector, master volume and tone. Just like the Player Series, you once again have the choice of a maple fretboard or an Indian laurel fretboard which is quite similar to pau ferro or rosewood.
While the ceramic single-coils may not be as high-quality as other Fender pickups, they can still sound great when dialed in correctly between the guitar, effects, and your amplifier.
The notion that cheap guitars can’t sound good is simply no longer true. There are even many famous guitarists these days that use Squier guitars on stage like Nashville studio legend Jack Pearson, and Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford.
- Incredible value
- Sounds and plays just like a Tele should
- Pickups could use an upgrade
- Lower end tuners may struggle to stay intune
The Squier Affinity Telecaster is the most affordable pick in this list, but still packs a punch and has excellent value and can work just as well for beginners as it does working musicians.
Fender American Ultra Telecaster – Best Premium Electric Guitar for Country
Now that we’ve taken a look at a great budget option, let’s do a 180 and check out one of the most premium Telecasters on the market today. The Fender American Ultra Telecaster is at the top of the line when it comes to performance playability and sound.
When the American Ultra series was introduced back in 2015 they put a large focus on improving playability for modern players and some other features like adding noiseless pickups to make single-coils more practical for live settings and higher volumes.
On the topic of playability, the American Ultra Telecaster features an extra carved bottom horn allowing you to easily access the higher frets, along with a recessed heel to prevent the neck joint from getting in the way. It also has a compound radius fretboard which makes playing at any position of the neck a little more comfortable to fret.
For pickups, Fender included a set of their new Ultra Noiseless Telecaster pickups which were designed to eliminate 60 cycle hum without sacrificing the traditional Tele tones. It has a unique switching system called the S-1 system. It adds a button embedded in the volume knob to add additional pickup combinations you can’t achieve with the usual 3-way pickup selector.
The American Ultra Telecaster is offered in a wide variety of gorgeous colors, which all feature a bound body, reminiscent of the Telecaster Custom guitars of the 60’s. You can always choose between a maple or rosewood fretboard depending on your visual and tonal preference.
- Unmatched quality and feel compared to other Fender options
- Gorgeous binding around the body
- Best playability offered by Fender
- Locking tuners for the ultimate tuning stability and quick string changes
- One of the more expensive Telecasters on the market today
- Additional switching
Read Also: 10 Best Electric Guitars Under $2,000
Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Telecaster – Best Electric Guitar for Country Under $500
It’s incredible how great guitars can be for under $500 these days, and the Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster is a prime example. It’s hard to understate how great the Squier Classic Vibe series has been in recent years. These guitars are on-par if not better than many guitars that are listed at twice the price, and if you’re not hung up on the Squier name on the headstock (you shouldn’t be), then there’s no good reason why you shouldn’t go out and try one out.
The Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster starts with a pine body. Pine is an incredible tonewood, and if you’re hip to Fender history you’ll know that it was used on most of their guitars in the 50’s and 60’s because of how lightweight and resonant it is. The main reason they moved away from pine is that pine can be a bit soft so touring musicians were complaining about the wear and tear from being on the road. These days, the paint and lacquer used on guitars, like the gloss polyurethane on this model, is much tougher so this isn’t a big concern anymore. In addition to the pine body, Squier is using maple necks with a beautiful darkened tint on their 50’s Classic Vibe guitars which looks great and adds a little extra vintage vibe.
For pickups, Squier is using a set of Fender designed AlNiCo single-coil pickups which are designed to sound just like the pickups used in the 50’s and 60’s but with less noise and hum. The typical 3-way pickup selector provides you with three options; neck, neck and middle, and bridge. A master volume and master tone allow you to tweak these 3 positions to your liking, so you should have no problem finding the right sound for the moment.
- Incredible value for the money
- Great sounding pickups
- Top notch playability
- No case included
- Vintage style frets may feel strange for those used to modern / jumbo frets
Read Also: 10 Best Electric Guitars Under $500
PRS SE Silver Sky – Best Electric Guitar for Country Under $1,000
The PRS Silver Sky was an instant success as soon as it hit the market. While John Mayer isn’t necessarily a country guitarist, his tone and play style are hard not to love no matter what style of music you play. The PRS SE Silver Sky was released earlier this year, offering a top notch “S” style guitar at an affordable price point.
We’ve already discussed the Fender Player Series Stratocaster style guitars in this list, but the PRS SE has a few things that make it unique from other “S” style guitars.
The heart of the sound here comes from a set of custom designed 635JM “S” specially designed by PRS and John Mayer himself. What’s amazing is that these are the exact same pickups you’ll find in the Core model of the Silver Sky, even though this is the imported model. They are based on the pickups that John Mayer favors which are from Fender Stratocasters produced between 1963-1965. An interesting thing about these is that they are actually three identical pickups, but sound different based on their relative location between the neck and the bridge. Using three identical pickups ensures that they all are all perfectly balanced in volume with one another, so no matter which position the pickup selector is in, you won’t have any unwanted frequency spikes like you might have on other “S” style guitars.
We also have a new neck profile called the 635JM again based on Fender guitars from 1963-1965. John has large hands and tends to use the thumb over the top of the fretboard to hold the low note in a chord, so this profile is thin enough to allow that, and should feel comfortable to pretty much any player. It also has an uncommon fretboard radius that sits somewhere between vintage and modern at 8.25” which feels great whether you’re used to more vintage style guitars or modern style guitars.
For hardware PRS went with vintage style non-locking tuners, and a reliable 2-point tremolo system.
- Great sounding pickups
- Comfortable neck profile for all players
- Excellent guitar for the price
- No hard case included
- (disclaimer) May not make you play as well as John Mayer!
PRS SE Custom 24 – Most Versatile Electric Guitar for Country
If you’re a frequent reader on the GuitarAdvise site it’s no secret that we’re big fans of PRS guitars. Their attention to detail and outstanding quality are just a couple of the things that keep us coming back. The PRS SE Custom 24 is a super flexible instrument that can work for essentially any style of music, so let’s dig into what we think makes it great for country guitar players.
The sound and playability offered on the SE Custom 24 are second to none. The contoured mahogany body is one of most comfortable guitars available today, and tonally it provides excellent resonance and sustain. The wide-thin neck profile feels great in your hands, and the maple provides great sonic balance when paired with the mahogany body. 24 frets provide you with 2 full octaves just in case you need to hit that furthest note and provide that full dynamic range.
PRS’s 85/15 coil-splitting humbuckers are the real star of the show. It’s not common to find a pickup of this super high-quality in a guitar under $1000 but PRS refuses to cut quality even on their imported guitars. They work equally well in humbucking or single-coil mode, and give you as much flexibility as you could ever ask for in a guitar. The low end in humbucking mode isn’t overbearing, and the highs are smooth so you won’t have anyone holding their ears when you hit those lead melodies high on the fretboard. When you pull the tone-pot to get those single coil sounds, you’ll have all the chime and sparkle that you need. It’s great to have all of these sounds in one guitar.
We’ve also got a PRS tremolo which works very similar to that which you’d find on a Fender, so you can add some subtle tremolo to the tune. This paired with the pickup switching options make this our most versatile pick on this list. It truly is a guitar that works for nearly any style or situation.
- Excellent playability
- Wide range of tones made possible by the 85/15 S pickups and coil splitting
- Made overseas
- No hard case included
Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster – Best Country Guitar for the Money
These days, price doesn’t have to be a deciding factor factor when deciding which guitar to buy, so with that out of the way let’s dig into the Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster and explain why we feel this is an excellent pick for those on a budget. We’re big fans of the Classic Vibe series because of how great they sound and feel at such an affordable price point.
Much like the Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster we discussed, this 50’s Stratocaster has a pine body that’s lightweight and resonant, and has a maple neck with the darkened tint that looks excellent.
Also like the 50’s Telecaster model, this guitar features a set of the Fender-designed AlNiCo single-coil pickups. Usually, the weakest component on budget-friendly guitars is cheap electronics, so it’s great to see Squier remedy this and spend the extra money to make
Just like any good Stratocaster, there is also a synchronized tremolo which works great for adding a little extra vibrato to leads or chords.
This Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster is simply an amazing pick at an even more amazing price point.
- Unrivaled value at this price range
- Neck feels excellent, easy to play
- Fender designed AlNiCo pickups capture the classic Stratocaster tone
- Could benefit from upgraded tuners / bridge
- May need a professional setup out of the box to play it’s best
Gretsch G2420 Streamliner – Best Hollow Body Guitar for Country
Gretsch guitars began their legacy as the primary hollow body guitars used in country and western bands more than 70 years ago. One of the most legendary Gretsch models is their Country Gentleman, which was the signature guitar of country guitar legend Chet Atkins. Today we’re going to take a look at the Gretsch G2420 Streamliner and dig into what makes it such a great option for the modern country guitarist.
The G2420 starts with a true hollow body construction with 2 “F” holes which provide warmth and resonance through a laminated maple body and a gloss finish. The neck has a thin U profile which is a bit large but doesn’t feel too difficult to navigate. Gretsch chose nato wood for the neck construction, which is very similar to mahogany, and has a laurel fingerboard.
A bit out of left field, this Gretsch G2420 has a set of high-gain Broad’Tron BT-2S humbuckers. Might sound a bit crazy to add a high-gain pickup in a hollowbody, but that’s exactly what makes this guitar so cool. They were designed to be fully capable of achieving vintage tones, as well as modern tones which makes this guitar suitable for everything from jazz to blues to rock to country.
Visually this Gretsch has all the classic appointments that we know and love from the Gretsch lineup: big round body with curves, a single cutaway design to make hitting high notes a breeze, 2-ply black and white binding around the body neck and headstock, along with a secured tune-o-matic bridge and Gretsch branded tailpiece.
If you’re looking for a great fully hollow body guitar at an awesome price, there’s not many choices better than the Gretsch G2420 Streamliner.
- Fully hollow body provides unmatched warmth and resonance
- Pickups designed to provide classic and modern tones
- Elegant looks and appointments from top to bottom
- No case included
- May run into feedback issues
Read Also: 12 Best Semi-Hollow and Hollow Body Guitars
Epiphone ES-335 – Best Semi-Hollow Body Guitar for Country
Semi-hollow guitars like the 335 work great for country, as they have a soft attack, additional resonance, and a unique midrange that is hard to achieve with solid body guitars. Many country guitarists like Nashville studio icons Guthrie Trapp and Tom Bukovac are just a couple of the familiar faces you’ll see playing 335’s. The ES-335, ES standing for “english / spanish” is a legendary Gibson design that has been used famously by everyone from blues to rock to jazz to country and everything in between.
Let’s dig into the Epiphone ES-335 from the “inspired by Gibson” lineup and see what makes this our best semi-hollow body choice.
This Epiphone ES-335 is from their “inspired by Gibson” line which has many upgrades from previous years Epiphones. Some notable upgrades on the 335 include Alnico PRO pickups, graphtech NuBone nut, and real mother of pearl fretboard inlays.
The body on the Epiphone ES-335 is a single-ply layered maple semi-hollow construction which is snappy and full sounding. This body type paired with the Alnico PRO pickups provides the “bell-like” tone we all hear about.
The Epiphone ES-335 uses the familiar Gibson pickup control layout featuring a volume for each pickup, a tone for each pickup, and a 3-way selector switch that allows for lots of tweaking and pickup blending to get the right tone for the moment.
- Excellent tone and playability
- Lots of guitar at a low price point
- Simple design make it hard to find a bad sound
- No hard case available
- Large body size may feel uncomfortable for some players
Read Also: 10 Best Hollow Body Guitars Under $500
How to Choose the Best Electric Guitar For Country – Buyer’s Guide
Materials and Build Quality
The materials and build quality will vary slightly depending on which brand or body style you prefer.
All of the guitars we looked at in this list, except for the American Ultra Telecaster, are imported guitars, so they will not have as many handcrafted or high-end parts as the USA models from each brand might have. On this same point, the materials and build quality for affordable guitars have greatly improved over the past several years.
There are so many brands putting out really great guitars for under $1000 or even $500, that the market competition has forced builders to put better and better guitars out. There’s never been a better time to be a guitar player when you look at all of the options we have available to us.
We covered 8 solid body guitars today and 2 hollow body types.
Among the solid body guitars, most of them like the Stratocaster, PRS SE and Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster. All of these guitars will have a bit more sustain than the hollow and semi-hollow options.
Hollow and semi-hollow body guitars have a unique sound that is a bit warmer in the midrange and has a massive resonance which can sound really excellent.
The choice between the two body styles will ultimately determine what kind of sound you’re after. Another thing to keep in mind is that the semi-hollow and hollow body guitars will be larger, so if you have a smaller frame or prefer smaller guitars, comfort is something you’ll want to consider.
Probably the biggest factor you should consider when buying a new guitar, is how easy or enjoyable it is for you to play. Chances are, if you don’t like the way a guitar plays, you’re not going to pick it up and play it as much as you’d like.
Some factors that affect playability the most are neck profile, fretboard radius, and scale length. A longer scale length, like Fenders 25.5” length, are the longest scales you’ll find on a standard 6 string guitar, meaning that the frets are pretty far apart from each other when compared to something like an Epiphone or the Gretsch which are a bit shorter at 24.75”. If you have smaller hands or just prefer that shorter length, make sure to keep this in mind.
Guitar pickups are the heart of your guitar’s sound, and not all are created equal. While there are other options out there, all of the guitars we discussed today have either single-coil pickups or humbuckers.
Depending on the tone you’re looking for, either pickup type can be the perfect approach. Here’s a few characteristics that set them apart.
- Lower output, quieter comparatively
- Brighter and cleaner tone
- Susceptible to what is referred as 60 cycle electronic hum
- Thicker and louder tone
- No hum or buzz when wired correctly
- Will be much fatter and warm than a single-coil
Keep in mind, some guitars like the PRS SE Custom 24 have coil splitting options which allow you to achieve both single-coil and humbucker tones from one guitar.
When discussing the sound of a guitar, it’s important to remember that it’s a combination of all the contributing parts and features, and is more than just the pickups themselves, even though they play a very large part.
The wood guitars are made of is a big factor, as well as the hardware like the bridge and tuners, whether it’s set-neck or bolt on.
Many of these things are easy to modify later on if you like the way a guitar feels. Swapping pickups and hardware is extremely common these days, and there are tons of manufacturers making great replacement parts to upgrade or change your guitar to fit your needs.
All the guitars we looked at today were a fairly wide range from under $500 to as much as over $2000, and we did our best to include only great guitars that offer a great value at their price.
The least expensive guitar we discussed is the Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster, which is well under $500.
We’ve proven with this list that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get a high quality instrument anymore. If you’re looking for an extremely high end instrument you can spend as much as makes sense to you and your budget, but it’s not always necessary.
Read Also: How Much Does an Electric Guitar Cost?
So now you’ve got a solid list of guitars to meet all your twangy country guitar needs. We covered guitars in a wide price range, from budget friendly to high end, and a bulk of the in-between.
We hope this list helps you narrow down your options so you can get to playing!