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Best BlueGrass Guitar

Best Bluegrass Guitar Detailed Review

Are you a big fan of bluegrass music wanting to get into playing guitar?While any acoustic guitar may do when learning bluegrass music, there are certain guitars that sound better in this style.

If you really want to capture that iconic and energetic bluegrass sound, you may want to look for one of the best bluegrass guitars in our detailed review. But it can seem almost impossible to sort through the hundreds of options out there. Don’t worry!

My experience as a music teacher and guitar lesson teacher for over 10 years (along with my connections to the bluegrass world) has given me the knowledge to help you navigate the muddy waters of the bluegrass guitar world.

Here are the picks for the best blue grass guitars:

  • Martin D-28 -Authentic bluegrass sound for professionals
  • Yamaha FG840 – Strong, clear sound for intermediate players
  • Blueridge BR-140 – Rich sound for a great value
  • Taylor 214ce – Acoustic-electric guitar for advanced playing
  • Fender FA-115 – Classic design at an affordable price
  • Jasmine S35 – Great sound or beginners
  • Yamaha FG-800 – Clear sound for intermediate players

Read ahead for a detailed review of these 7 guitars and interesting and important information on bluegrass guitars and bluegrass music in general.

Review Of The Best Bluegrass Guitars

In this section, I’ll break down each of these instruments. Look for a quick breakdown of the specs and an easy-to-understand the pros and cons for each instrument below.

1. Martin D-28

Martin guitars are a staple in the industry and a big favorite for acoustic focused musicians such as those who play folk music, adult contemporary, country, and, of course, bluegrass. Though the price may be somewhat than you want to pay, but for the clarity of sound and responsiveness, you won’t regret it.

 A more detailed look at the specifications as follows, but here is a quick overview:

  • Sitka spruce top
  • East Indian Rosewood back and sides
  • 4” scale
  • Neck taper
  • Ebony fretboard and bridge
  • Bone nut and saddle
  • Open-gear tuners
  • Antique white accents
  • Faux Tortoise pickguard

Sitka spruce for the body is one of the best woods for bluegrass guitar. With the faster style of playing, you want clarity, so each note sounds clean and pure without any muddying with the other sounds. The sitka spruce is well-known for this sound quality.

Rosewood for the back and sides is a more unusual choice for acoustic guitars, but it works well with bluegrass guitars. The rosewood works well in combination with the sitka spruce to mellow and enriches the sound. The combo results in a full but clear sound. On top of this, the rosewood used is the East Indian variety which has a reputation for being a higher quality than the standard rosewood.

A 25.4” scale is a good length for a bluegrass guitar. As you’ll read below, bluegrass guitars need to play with energy as they play alternate sections where they play rhythm guitar and solos. These solos go fast and use a lot of techniques all over the neck. A longer scale length will give them more range to play, but it also makes these techniques easier to play.

The neck taper is a nice touch. It doesn’t make a huge difference in playing, although it will make playing somewhat easier. Ebony neckboards are standard on most intermediate to advanced guitars. They help keep the board more responsive, looks quite nice, and durable. An ebony bridge is nice as well. The ebony transfers the vibrations effectively into the body of the guitar.

Bone nuts and saddles are excellent choices for better quality guitars. They’re tough, look great, and many say they add to the sound quality of the guitar. In my experience, the sound difference is minor, but the durability is more than enough to make me want one on every guitar I own.

Open gear tuners are not inherently better than closed gear tuners. Both will hold the pitch better over time and playing. But open gears give the guitar a more sincere looking style. Along with the antique white accents and tortoise pickguard, the style of the Martin fits right in with the bluegrass style of music.

What we liked:

  • Clear and responsive sound
  • Materials ideal for high-quality sound
  • Sounds great with chords and lead playing

What we disliked:

  • Somewhat higher price
  • May be more sensitive to humidity than some other guitars

2. Yamaha FG840

Yamaha is one of the most trusted brands for beginner and intermediate guitars. They’re advanced and professional models are good as well, but they are kings in the world of value. The Yamaha FG840 is no exception. It’s one of the best bluegrass guitars under $1000 with features making it a great choice for an aspiring bluegrass musician.

Check ahead for a breakdown of the features, but here is a quick rundown of the specs:

  • Solid sitka spruce top
  • Flamed maple back and sides
  • Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
  • Diecast tuners
  • Adjustable truss rod
  • Scale length 24.8”
  • Urea saddle and nut

As with many acoustic guitars and especially in bluegrass music, solid sitka spruce is perfect for creating the clear sound needed for fast playing. The wood is also quite durable and gives a classic look to your acoustic guitars. The flamed maple back and sides is a clear step up from many beginners and even intermediate models. Maple is an uncommon wood choice but still fits guitars nicely. With maple back and sides, you’ll still have a deep sound with an emphasis on power. However, it will still result in a thinner sound than many higher quality woods.

But the wood looks great. Honestly, unless you’re at a high playing level, you won’t likely notice a huge sound difference. Rosewood for the fingerboard is a fine and common choice. It’s easy to play on and keeps the sound clean and pure. However, it loses some responsiveness when compared to an expensive wood like ebony.

As a bridge, rosewood does a nice job of passing the vibrations into the body of the guitar. The sound will stay true and pure. The diecast tuners hold pitch well and function consistently over time. They won’t break easily which is important in a guitar. The adjustable truss rod is a nice feature offered by some guitars. What this rod does is adjust the tension in the neck bring the strings closer or farther from the neck.

This makes the action higher or lower. Lower action is easier to play, but you risk some buzzing from the strings if it’s too low. This rod will help you adjust the strings to a level that matches your playing ability. A scale length of 24.8” is good. It offers a good balance of sound, easy playing, and still being able to play lead or solo guitar to a moderate extent.

This length won’t match up to premium guitars and may limit your lead playing at some point. But, again, unless you’re at the professional or advanced level, you won’t notice a difference. The urea saddle and nut is nothing to write home about. It does its job just fine, especially when compared to cheaper plastic options.

What we liked:

  • Clear sound
  • Affordable pricing
  • Durable build
  • Attractive style

What we disliked:

  • Sound is a little shrill when compared to top-line models
  • You may outgrow this guitar if you reach high levels of playing

3. Blueridge BR-140

For those looking for a medium-priced bluegrass guitar, the Blueridge BR-140 may be just right for you. Though this guitar maker isn’t as well known, it does a strong reputation in certain circles for its bluegrass specialties.

If you want a step-up from most intermediate instruments but you still want a bluegrass guitar for under $1000, you should check this one out.

A detailed breakdown of the features follows, but here they are in brief:

  • Solid sitka spruce top
  • Scalloped braces
  • Mahogany back and sides
  • Santos rosewood fingerboard and bridge
  • Bone nut and saddle
  • Nickel-plated open-back tuners
  • 6” scale length
  • Tortoise pickguard

Solid wood guitar tops are ideal for their consistent sound and durability. With bluegrass music, the sitka spruce is an excellent choice. Sitka spruce provides a clear and powerful tone. This is needed to project when playing fast, loud music with other acoustic instruments. One unique feature of the Blue Ridge that takes it a step up from other intermediate guitars is the scalloped bracing. This bracing technique scoops away some wood bracing the body of the guitar together without sacrificing the structure.

With less wood inside the body, fewer vibrations are absorbed and the sound remains strong and pure. This technique takes more time and skill which is why you usually see it on higher-end guitars. Mahogany wood for the back and sides works well with all guitars but especially those who want to play bluegrass.

The sitka top needs a deeper-sounding wood to mellow out the sound and provide some depth. Mahogany does this well. With the balance of sitka and mahogany, you’ll end up with a well-balanced sound which can be used in several styles of music. Mahogany is a step above most intermediate guitars and is often seen in advanced and even professional guitars.

Rosewood for the fingerboard is standard for its responsiveness and durability. The specialty Santos rosewood is another step above the norm. This same wood is carried down into the bridge. Rosewood conducts the vibrations into the body keeping the sound strong and pure. You can expect the Santos rosewood to be a step up from plain rosewood which is still good on its own.

A bone nut and saddle won’t make much of a difference in the sound of the guitar, but these look great and are much better at absorbing the tension of the string without getting damaged. The nickle-plated and open-back tuners are an interesting upgrade over the standard die-cast ones. The nickel-plating will offer some extra protection from your sweat. Although tuners aren’t known for getting worn down; it won’t hurt to have this protection.

The tuners themselves work well and hold onto pitch even when playing a lot and bending pitches as people tend to do in bluegrass music. The open back doesn’t make the tuner work any better than a closed gear, but it does look more natural in its style. Along the same lines is the tortoise pickguard. This standard guard near the soundhole looks nice and completes the country style.

A 25.6” scale length is almost as much as many professional models. The longer scale length makes it easier for high-level solo playing you often need for bluegrass music. While not as long as some professional models, this length puts it solidly in the realm of intermediate and advanced guitar players. Honestly, even professional bluegrass guitarist will get a lot out of this instrument. Only the best soloist will notice a big difference.

What we liked:

  • Great value
  • Very clear sound
  • Full when playing rhythm guitar
  • Perfect for advanced players and down

What we disliked:

  • Some may not like the unique pickguard style

4

4. Taylor 214ce

Taylor guitars for bluegrass are always a safe choice, and this more costly professional-level guitar is perfect for serious bluegrass players.

The Taylor 214ce Deluxe Grand Auditorium has a true bluegrass sound in an acoustic-electric form.

If you want to read a detailed breakdown, keep reading. But here is a quick rundown of the important features:

  • Sitka spruce top
  • Layered rosewood back and sides
  • Expression Electronics System
  • Venetian style cutaway
  • Ebony fingerboard and bridge
  • Nubone nut and saddle
  • 5” scale length

As you would expect, the sitka spruce top is the wood of choice for many advanced and professional guitars. The clarity of sound is great for the fast bluegrass rhythm and lead guitar playing. On top of this, the spruce is quite durable, so you don’t have to worry about being too hard on it. Rosewood isn’t normally the wood of choice for the back and sides of a guitar. But this isn’t because of any poor quality to the wood.

Rosewood provides a durable and responsive sound while balancing the punch of the sitka with mellower wood. The end result is a beautifully clear tone where each pitch has clarity, complexity, and depth. This is an acoustic-electric model guitar by Taylor. It has the ability to play on its own and to be plugged into an amplifier.

The expression system is easy to use, and stays quite true to the natural sound of the guitar. This system doesn’t take up too much space which is good. The more space taken up inside the guitar, the less depth and power the sound will have. The Venetian style cutaway isn’t normal for bluegrass guitars. This is because Taylor’s first idea with this guitar was as a fingerstyle playing.

Fingerstyle (a favorite of folk musicians) is closely related to the bluegrass style. Both will need a clear sound to show off the complexity of the playing. Also, both styles use extensive soloing. The cutaway provides access farther up the neck while playing which makes it easier to play lead or solo. This makes up for the 25.5” scale length. This length is just fine, but it doesn’t meet the longer length of some other professional line guitars. The cutaway makes the most of this length and makes up for that.

Ebony as a fingerboard and bridge is another step up from the standard rosewood. This wood is provides even more responsiveness and transfers vibrations better. This results in a more pure sound than the already excellent rosewood.

Talyor’s NuBone material for the nut and saddle is their artificial bone material. In my experience and those I’ve asked who play on Taylor regularly, you won’t notice much difference in tone, and it will be slightly more durable.

What we liked:

  • Great balanced sound
  • Cutaway makes soloing easier
  • Electronics on-board for flexibility in playing
  • High-quality materials for durability and great sound

What we disliked:

  • Higher priced
  • Doesn’t look like the “standard” bluegrass guitar

5. Fender FA-115

Not everyone wants or needs to jump for the more expensive models. If you’re looking for one of the best bluegrass guitars for under $1000 or a beginner guitar for playing, the Fender FA-115 is just for you. From one of the most iconic guitar makers, this model is an entry level, but it’s sound and easy playing is a great way for most people to get into playing any style, including bluegrass music.

The breakdown of the features is ahead, but look here for the quick rundown:

  • Spruce top
  • Laminated Mahogany back and sides
  • Dreadnought shape
  • Nato neck
  • 3” scale length
  • Laminated hardwood fingerboard and bridge
  • Plastic nut and saddle
  • Covered chrome tuners
  • Accessories bundle

Spruce is a great wood for the top of guitars. It offers clear sound and power. For a beginner guitar, the standard spruce (as opposed to the specialty sitka spruce) is just fine, but more experienced players will notice a difference in sound quickly.

The laminated mahogany indicates the wood isn’t the best and needs the extra reinforcement that comes from the lamination process. Still, mahogany is a good wood that offers some depth to the sound and helps to give the guitar a richer tone. Still, this one of the cost-saving areas Fender uses to make the guitar extremely affordable.

The dreadnought shape and design is the standard hourglass shape you would like to see in a bluegrass guitar. The full-body shape allows more room for the vibrations from the strings to resonate and be amplified. Nato for the neck isn’t going to add much to the sound of the guitar, but it is durable and will hold up to the tension of the strings over years of use.

A 25.3” scale length is surprising in a beginner guitar. Sure, it’s not as long as more advanced models, but it still is plenty long enough for the beginner and intermediate players to get their practice playing lead guitar. The fingerboard and bridge are a laminated hardwood composite. This is, in my opinion, the weakest part of this guitar’s design.

The hardwood is tough enough to harness the sound and help make playing easier, but it adds little to sound and may even detract from it.

Still, this is a big cost-saving area, so you’ll be paying considerably less. The plastic nut and saddle look like the nicer materials, but they’ll do the job and only just. The covered chrome tuners look nice and work well. They hold their pitch fairly well, although you will need to return every few days after hard playing.

One of the best things about this guitar is its accessory package. With the guitar you also get a soft-case bag, clip-on tuner, guitar strap, guitar picks, and an extra set of strings.

What we liked:

  • Very affordable
  • Comes with accessories
  • Decent sound for price

What we disliked:

  • Not as full sound
  • Loses pitch more often
  • Materials are cheaper

6.

6. Jasmine S35

For those who want a little more of a quality guitar a very low price, the Jasmine S35 may be the perfect bluegrass guitar for you. This model is on the top end of the beginner guitars, although it doesn’t come with a bundle of accessories.

Look for the feature breakdown following this quick rundown:

  • Spruce top
  • Jasmine X bracing
  • Agathis back and sides
  • Nato neck
  • Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
  • Sim neck design
  • 5” scale length
  • Synthetic bone nut and saddle
  • Covered chrome tuners

The spruce top is a great choice for any guitars. It provides a clear and strong sound. However, the “standard” spruce isn’t up to the pure sound of the sitka variety, but you will save money. The Jasmine X-bracing style is a nice addition. It provides a great structure to the guitar body which some beginner models lack while not impacting the sound too much. Agathis is an uncommon choice for back and sides. It’s a step above many beginner guitars with laminate or composite woods, but it isn’t as nice as pure mahogany, maple, or rosewood.

The nato neck is standard for many beginner and intermediate guitars. It’s durable and works just fine, but it doesn’t do much to add to the sound quality. What really makes this model stand out from other affordable models is the rosewood fingerboard and bridge. Normally, you wouldn’t see this on this level of guitar.

The rosewood is responsive to quick playing as you see with bluegrass music and does balance the spruce sound somewhat. For bridge material, rosewood is a fine choice as it effectively transfers vibrations into the body of the guitar. This keeps the sound pure and strong. Normally, bluegrass guitars may have a slightly wider neck than normal, so this is where the Jasmine S35 differs. It’s slim neck design may make it a little harder to play lead guitar.

But beginners and intermediate players will find this slim neck much easier to hold and learn on as they improve. You can always trade up if you get really good and into bluegrass music. The 25.5” scale length will help with lead playing somewhat. This is a surprising length for a beginner guitar, but it will grow with you even into intermediate levels of play. The plastic nut and saddle is synthetically designed to emulate real bone. This material works fine, but it will show damage over time.

The chrome-covered tuners work just fine with holding pitch and look nice.

What we liked:

  • Good sound
  • Great value
  • Perfect for beginners and intermediate player
  • Easy for newer players

What we disliked:

  • No accessories
  • Slim neck makes soloing harder at advanced levels

7. Yamaha FG-800

Yamaha guitars for bluegrass music are a safe choice. This intermediate model is a good choice for those guitar players with some experience but don’t want to drop the serious cash on a top-end model.

Look below for a detailed breakdown of the following features:

  • Solid spruce top
  • Nato/okume back and sides
  • Scalloped bracing
  • 6” scale length
  • Nato neck
  • Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
  • Urea nut and saddle
  • Die-cast chrome tuners
  • Tortoise pickguard

Starting with the solid spruce top, you’ll begin to see why this guitar is good for bluegrass. Spruce sounds clear and strong, both qualities to look for in bluegrass. The standard spruce isn’t as nice as the sitka variety, but that wood costs more. Nato/Okume wood for the back and sides is an uncommon choice for material. This material is usually used in the neck if it’s used at all.

The wood does continue in the vein of adding to the power and clarity of the sound. The wood will offer the depth to the sound but not as much as other premium wood. Yamaha uses scalloped bracing which provide security to the structure of the guitar’s body while removing some of the wood material of the bracing.

This allows for more vibration in the air inside the guitar which results in a deeper sound.  The 25.6” scale length is a nice size for soloing on.

The Nato neck of Yamaha FG800 is durable and standard on intermediate guitars such as this one. As is the rosewood bridge and fingerboard. The urea nut and saddle are durable and look great. The die-cast chrome tuners are standard work just fine. The tortoise pickguard adds a classic look to the guitar as well.

What we liked:

  • Affordable price
  • Good materials for bluegrass sound
  • Durable guitar construction
  • Strong, clean sound

What we disliked:

  • Sound isn’t as deep as you might prefer

The Verdict

I hope you find this list of the 7 best bluegrass guitars helpful. Each one may be perfect for you depending on your situation and preference. If I had to pick the best guitar, it would have to be Martin D-28. This guitar has a great sound and will play well whether you’re playing rhythm guitar or a solo.

This higher cost may not be for you, especially if you’re a beginner. For true beginners, Jasmine is a fine choice. Intermediate players may enjoy the Yamaha FG-800. Regardless of your pick, you won’t get any better by looking at reviews. Just choose one, buy it, and get practicing.

 

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