What Guitar Does Billy Strings Play?

What Guitar Does Billy Strings Use

Note: Professional musicians use many different guitars and frequently change them. Though this is by no means an exhaustive list of every guitar they’ve ever played, we’ll try our best to keep this list updated with their most notable guitars.

Best known for his virtuosic guitar solos, Billy Strings is one of bluegrass’s most famous names, not to mention one of the youngest. The Michigan native is one of the most well-respected musicians of his genre, partly due to his ability to effortlessly blend traditional bluegrass with more modern influences, appealing to a wide audience of all ages and backgrounds. With that said, many are left wondering, what kind of guitar does Billy Strings play?

Billy Strings generally plays Preston Thompson guitars. In fact, in 2016, he signed a deal with the luthier, which is why most of String’s performances are accompanied either by the Preston Thompson D-MA or his custom D-BA model that was tailored to his preferences.

However, these are far from the only guitars Strings uses to showcase his talent. For example, the musician has gone on record about the custom “33” guitar that his grandfather built in prison and the sentimental value that that instrument holds for him, not to mention he has also been seen performing with several other mainstream brands and models. So, if you’re looking to learn more about Billy Strings and the guitars he plays, read on. 

Billy Strings: Some Background Information

If you’re not familiar with Billy Strings’ work, you’re seriously missing out. The Michigan native was born in 1992, but despite his young age, he’s made a place for himself in history as one of the best instrumentalists of our generation.

Though he grew up in a very small town, he was quickly introduced to the guitar by his musician father at the age of four. This was also when a young Billy Strings (born William Apostol) was first introduced to bluegrass music, only to fall in love with it.

If you’ve ever seen Billy Strings on stage, it’s probably clear that performing comes as second nature to him, and that’s because he started playing guitar alongside his father and other local musicians as soon as he got a grasp of the instrument. So, though he’s still very young, he’s had at least two decades of experience on stage, which is apparent to everyone who’s seen one of his live shows.

As he performed around his small town, Billy quickly gained a reputation for his remarkable guitar skills, which prompted him to move out to Nashville, Tennessee as a teenager to pursue his musical career. There, he dabbled in solo and group performances until he created his very own Billy Strings Band.

Though the band didn’t last long, it helped catapult Strings into mainstream success. In 2015, the musician won a guitar championship in Kansas, after which he released his very first album titled “Turmoil & Tinfoil.”

Since then, he’s gained a loyal fanbase that has helped him evolve his career even further. He went on to release several more albums, with two of his most successful being “Renewal” and “home.” He even won the “Guitar Player of the Year” award from the Bluegrass Music Association two years in a row (2019, 2020). So, his immense talent has been recognized by the industry. 

Among his fanbase, Strings is probably best known for his unparalleled ability to blend traditional bluegrass with other genres such as jazz, psychedelia, and rock. However, I want to note that the musician’s talent isn’t confined to guitar, as he’s also an excellent mandolin and banjo player. 

He’s also a remarkable lyricist, covering a wide array of contemporary issues in his music that reinforces the fusion between the traditional and modern. However, don’t let the traditional aspect of his work give you the wrong idea — his repertoire is a celebration of youth.

Now that you have a better idea of how Billy Strings came to be, it’s time to look closely at some of the guitars he’s favored throughout his stellar career.

List of Guitars that Billy Strings Plays

Because Strings is still considered an up-and-coming figure in the music industry, his instruments aren’t as meticulously analyzed as his talent and overall playing style. However, there are still plenty of interviews, famous performances, and pictures to go off of when trying to compile a list of some of the guitars Billy Strings has used.

That’s why, below, you’ll find a pretty diverse collection of instruments, which speaks to String’s openness to experiment and try out different sounds in his music. While some guitars mentioned below have made several appearances in the artist’s performances, others have made their way into the list mostly due to special mentions (such as the custom “33” that String’s grandpa allegedly made in prison).

Either way, you’re in for quite a ride, so let’s explore this versatile list of guitars that Billy Strings plays.

Preston Thompson D-BA Custom

In 2016, Billy Strings joined Preston Thompson as an endorser. The Oregon-based company is relatively well-known among enthusiasts for its high-quality acoustic guitars. However, when it comes to the general public, this is a more obscure brand. 

That’s why the luthier decided to appeal to a younger crowd by collaborating with Billy Strings, who, at the time, was just being launched into mainstream success. The artist, on the other hand, already loved playing guitars, so it was a win-win.

As part of his endorsement deal, Billy Strings got to create his own signature guitar with Preston Thompson, which is how the Preston Thompson D-BA Billy Strings custom came to be. 

Here are some of the instrument’s specifications:

  • Body shape: Dreadnought
  • Top wood: Adirondack spruce
  • Custom inlays on the fingerboard and headstock
  • Custom “Billy Strings” logo on the headstock
  • Back and sides wood: Brazilian rosewood
  • Neck wood: Honduran mahogany
  • Custom electronics featuring a Fishman Powerbridge pickup and an LR Baggs Anthem system
  • Fingerboard wood: Ebony with a compound radius
  • Bridge: Ebony with a custom string-through design
  • Bracing: Adirondack spruce with scalloped braces and carbon fiber reinforcement
  • Finish: Nitrocellulose lacquer

You’d be surprised at how clear the sound produced by this guitar is. Don’t take my word for it, though. If you want to check it out for yourself, head to the video below, where Billy Strings talks about the guitar and plays a “Nashville Picking” on it. 

Preston Thompson D-MA

The custom model isn’t the only Preston Thompson guitar Billy is partial to. As mentioned, he has shown an interest in the luthier’s guitars throughout his career, and one of his all-time favorites is the Preston Thompson D-MA. This is another custom-built guitar designed to replicate the sound and overall feel of a Martin-28.

Here’s what you need to know about this model:

  • Body Shape: Dreadnought
  • Top Wood: Adirondack Spruce
  • Bridge Style: Belly
  • Fingerboard Material: Ebony
  • Bridge Material: Ebony
  • Tuners: Waverly
  • Bracing: Scalloped Adirondack Spruce
  • Binding: Grained Ivoroid
  • Rosette: Abalone
  • Back & Sides Wood: Indian Rosewood
  • Neck Wood: Honduran Mahogany
  • Neck Profile: Modified V
  • Finish: Nitrocellulose Lacquer

Remember that since each of these pieces is hand-crafted, there might be some slight spec variations from piece to piece. 

Unfortunately, Strings usually favors this guitar for some of his more intimate performances, so it’s hard to find a clip of him playing it online. If you’re interested in learning more about the exact D-MA he plays, check out this listing.

Remember that this one’s sold out, so if you want to look for this or any of the other models mentioned in this list, check out these eight online retailers.

Fender American Acoustasonic Telecaster

The Fender American Telecaster is easily one of the most legendary guitars in history, and every musician, Billy Strings included, dreams of the day they get to use it. Unlike us mere mortals, though, Strings has actually had the chance to use the Acoustasonic Telecaster in several of his performances. 

It’s also safe to assume that the artist has made good use of his Telecaster by featuring it in some of his studio performances, since the hollow body makes this guitar extremely versatile

Here are some of its specifications: 

  • Body shape: Telecaster
  • Top material: Solid A Sitka spruce
  • Body material: Mahogany
  • Nut material: GraphTech Tusq
  • Bridge: Modern Asymmetrical
  • Neck material: Mahogany
  • Hardware finish: Chrome
  • Tuning machines: Fender Standard Cast/Sealed Staggered
  • Pickguard: Transparent Acrylic
  • Neck profile: Modern “Deep C”
  • Controls: Master Volume, “Mod” Knob, 5-Way Switch
  • Finish options: Natural, Black, Sunburst
  • Fingerboard material: Ebony or Rosewood (depending on finish)
  • Electronics: Acoustasonic Enhancer, Three Pickup Systems: Fishman Under-Saddle Transducer, Fishman Acoustasonic Enhancer, and Fender Acoustasonic Noiseless Magnetic Pickup
  • Frets: 22, Narrow Tall

One of Billy String’s most notable performances with the Telecaster was his set at Newport Folk Festival 2019. You can listen to the whole setlist here. As you’ll see by listening to the recordings, this electric-acoustic hybrid works exceptionally well with String’s style, even though other artists might find it difficult to complement its sound.

Roy Noble Dreadnought

This is another obscure choice that Billy seemed to gravitate towards even before he made it big. The Roy Noble Dreadnought has a similar sound and style to String’s all-time favorite, the Preston Thompson D-BA, so it is no surprise that he used this model for many of his performances, especially during his early career.

  • Ebony fretboard
  • Faux tortoiseshell pickguard
  • Shaded neck
  • Herringbone rosette & top trim
  • Bearclaw spruce top
  • Ebony bridge with Ebony pins/abalone dots
  • Curly Maple truss rod cover with builder Logo
  • Robust tone with great bass
  • Strap pins in the neck and tail
  • Bolivian rosewood back & sides
  • Bindings, heel caps & end grafts, either Holly or Maple

Luckily, even though Strings doesn’t use this model as often anymore, you can still hear him perform with it in this 2009 video:

This beautiful medley of “Fiddler’s Dram” and “Whistling Rufus” goes to prove just how well the sound of the instrument complements String’s out-of-the-box style.

Custom-Made “33” Guitar

This is probably the guitar that makes the least public appearances. However, it is definitely among the most famous ones in String’s collection, and that’s because of its interesting history. 

According to Strings himself, his grandfather made this guitar while he was in prison. 

Thus far, we know that the guitar was named “33,” but the reasoning behind this choice is a bit unclear. Moreover, considering the timeline in question, one can safely assume that the instrument was built between 1960 and 1962, as that’s the period during which String’s grandfather served time at the Michigan State Penitentiary.

Since Strings has always had a soft spot for his family, something which is very apparent in his discography (take his sophomore album “Home,” for example), it’s safe to assume that this guitar is the closest to his heart, even though it might not be the most complex or best-performing one.

Unfortunately, it seems like the artist has chosen to only bring out the instrument during intimate family performances, as there are no recorded public appearances of him actually playing it. However, if you want to see what this intriguing custom-made guitar looks like, you can check out this Instagram post on String’s official account.

Since this is a hand-made guitar, it’s hard to speak to its specifications.

Martin D-28 (1948)

The 1948 Martin D-28 is one of the most iconic dreadnought guitars, and as a fan of the style, Strings couldn’t miss out on the chance to get his hands on it. According to Strings himself (as you’ll see below), this was a piece he dreamt of having for a long time and never thought he would get the chance to actually play. 

Luckily, his dream came true, and the artist boasted his win to his Instagram followers in this post.

If you want to learn more about the instrument, here are some of its specs: 

  • Body shape: Dreadnought
  • Top wood: Sitka spruce
  • Back and sides wood: Indian rosewood
  • Neck wood: Mahogany
  • Nut width: 1 11/16 inches (42.86mm)
  • Bridge: Ebony
  • Bracing: Scalloped X-bracing
  • Binding: Tortoiseshell
  • Fingerboard wood: Ebony
  • Rosette: Herringbone pattern
  • Tuning machines: Open-gear, butterbean buttons
  • Pickguard: Tortoiseshell
  • Scale length: 25.4 inches (64.5cm)
  • Finish: Nitrocellulose lacquer

Fender American Acoustasonic Stratocaster

Billy Strings has been known to use the iconic Fender American Acoustasonic Stratocaster from time to time. Here are its specs: 

  • Body shape: Dreadnought
  • Scale length: 25.4 inches (64.5 cm)
  • Bridge material: Ebony
  • Tuners: Grover open gear
  • Finish: Natural gloss
  • Bracing: Scalloped X-bracing
  • Top material: Solid Sitka spruce
  • Back and sides material: Solid East Indian rosewood
  • Binding: White ivoroid
  • Rosette: Herringbone inlay
  • Neck material: Solid mahogany
  • Fingerboard material: Ebony

You can see just how well the guitar complements String’s style yourself by checking out the video below:


Now that you know more about the guitars Strings has favored throughout his career, it’s time to dive into some of the most commonly asked questions on the topic. 

What Style of Guitar Does Billy Strings Play? 

Billy Strings plays several guitar styles; however, he seems to favor his Preston Thompson dreadnoughts. Dreadnought guitars usually feature a larger, bolder body than their counterparts, which allows them to achieve a richer, more thunderous tone.

Keep in mind that, as seen by the diverse lineup above, Billy Strings isn’t too set on dreadnoughts, though he seems to favor them — whether that’s due to his 2016 agreement with Preston Thompson or simply a personal preference remains to be seen.

I believe that this guitar style allows Billy to better showcase his already impressive talent. Since these instruments are so loud, they enhance every note you make, leaving no room for mistakes. However, they also highlight some of those remarkable riffs Strings is known for, so they seem to be the right fit for him. 

Does Billy Strings Use an Amplifier?

Billy Strings does use amplifiers, especially when not performing in intimate venues. In his 2019 Premier Guitar Interview, he specifically mentioned favoring the Fender Deluxe Reverb for specific songs and effects.

If you’re interested in reading the entire interview (which I highly recommend you do), you can find it in the link embedded in the section about the custom “33” guitar.

Are Preston Thompsons Good Guitars?

Preston Thompsons are great guitars, especially if you’re into dreadnoughts. They’re qualitative, loud, long-lasting, and excellent at projecting rhythm. They’re hand-made in Oregon, and their build is always inspired by the processes followed in the Golden Era of guitar making (the 1920s-1940s).

Though it’s a more obscure brand, you can rest assured that each piece is carefully crafted and tailored to its user’s preferences, so the hefty price tag is usually worth it.


Billy Strings is one of our generation’s most talented guitar players and one of the most famous bluegrass musicians in the industry. And he’s made it a point to work with instruments that can enhance his already remarkable skills.

However, since his 2016 deal with Preston Thompson, the musician is usually seen playing one of their guitars, most notably the custom one made specifically to String’s liking. However, he’s also performed and talked about favoring a few other brands and models, all of which I’ve outlined above.

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