Country music is a piece of traditional music played in USA villages, and it is influenced by guitar music and has been played for hundreds of years.
So, which is the best guitar for playing country music?
As already discussed in our previous discussions, the electric guitar for country music is, without a piece of doubt in our mind, the Fender Telecaster. The guitar designed by Leo in 1952 is the first choice of composers today for all electric country music. Though it has been refitted various times to produce different kinds of sounds and compose new classics, it is still number one in several styles like blues, country, bluegrass, folk, and even rock n roll.
In the early days when the electric guitar was not famous, country music began with acoustic, although it has transformed into electric for most guitar players. People assume it is kind of effortless and minimalistic, although the tones that your guitar produces should be clean and has a vibration, which is possible only when you choose the right equipment.
I’ve performed on a few live stages and in music galleries, and I tell you that country music is tricky. I learned a few concepts from my endeavors I want to share with you in this article.
As we know, the Fender Telecaster remains country music’s number one guitar. Various alternative guitar options in the market take up a spot for textures and different tones. Here we will discuss the actual country music setup for guitar players to be howling like a pro in less time.
Different Eras Of Country Music
Country music was evoked at the onset of the 20th century. However, the early recording of country music has been sketched back approximately a hundred years to 1923. Same as present varieties of country music back then also, a blend of distinct forms tediously motivated by the landscape and the contract of the countryside.
Europe and Africa fetched their equipment and music and, well-adjusted with locals, formed an appropriate variety of sound.
Like, somebody can sketch the appearance of a fiddle in country music to the Irish migrants and Celtic music. For example, considering the deep south of the country, few of the tunes and equipment from Mexico, like the Spanish six-string guitar and the bass, resulted in determining a distinct sound.
The Beginnings Of Country Music, Acoustic Only
From the 1920s, country music started until the mid-1960s, acoustic instruments were the main instruments used in country music. The greatest brands of electric guitars were not intended for country musicians, although they were more inclined towards jazz. Big Gibsons and Gretsch were some of the utmost passed down in the genre. Gradually, as bands grew and drums got popularized on the live stages, the appearance of the amplified electric guitar became eye-catching.
How did Bob Dylan influence later rock styles?
In 1965, Bob Dylan was working to become the American Folk Music Revival festival artist. He was folk’s most significant star and was touring to promote the release of the now-legendary “The times they are a-changing” album.
This album was a step forward for him and the genre as it recorded a full band on one of the sides.
He arrived at the stage carrying a sunburst Fender Stratocaster and an entire electric live band and was booed by half the audience. This date will be decisive in the history of country music because Dylan didn’t back out.
He kept playing in this show and all the upcoming performances with the same arrangement. Over time, the booers turn into fans; the rest is rock n roll, folk, blues, and pop music history.
After Bob Dylan revolutionized the electric guitar, he eternally changed the area of country music.
It is about big productions with special effects and a natural rock and pop arrangement on each stage. Musicians still use banjo, fiddle, piano, slide guitar, pedal steel players, harmonicas, and all the other country-favorable instruments, and came electric basses, drums, synths, and many other modern electric appliances.
Many musicians today like Jason Isbell, Keith Urban, Tyler Childers, and even John Mayer tour the world with an electric backing band for their pop-folk-blues tunes.
The trend of country-pop is presently popular, so you need your electric guitar to play your favorite folk tunes.
Right now, we are going to dive into choosing the right one.
The Best Electric Guitar For Country Music
As I said before, the best electric guitar for country music is the Fender Telecaster.
This guitar, designed in 1952 by Leo Fender, is presently the number one guitar for songwriters spread among many genres. For example, among the various country music artist icons, Brad Paisley is essentially an exclusive telecaster player.
You can take a look at his paisley telecasters in this video.
The Telecaster And Country Music
A country music setup would be considered complete with the Fender Telecaster guitar.
During the years it has been in production (69 till today), it has undergone various alterations to be better suited for different genres. It exists as a metal guitar with Jim Root’s and John 5’s models and as a folk music guitar with Brad Paisley going through The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, and any other primary songwriter in history.
Why is the telecaster the perfect guitar to play folk and country music? Well, the answer to that question lies in what most people call “twang,” which is the add-up of all these characteristics.
- Pickups & Construction – As opposite to the guitars in the 50s, the Fender Telecaster was not hollow or built with dark-sounding mahogany. It neither has fat, low-end rich humbuckers(two coil pickup). The build of the guitar was not a glued set-neck. The fretboard was not timber or rosewood. The telecaster is built with an ash, pine, or alder body, a maple neck, a maple fingerboard, and single-coil pickups.
- String-Through – The strings in a traditional telecaster passes across the body, making it profound in design. Various guitars in the 1950s or 60s featured wrap-around or stop tail bridges. The telecaster replaced that and turned into a signature sound.
- Bolt-On Necks – The Fender brand has no set-neck or neck-through construction in manufacturing it; three or four bolts put together the telecaster, Stratocaster and all that arose after that. This method of putting together the guitar gave a particular sound to the guitar, and it was also possible to detach the neck, send it for readjustment or replace it.
All the features mentioned above combined to produce a distinct sound.
It was glittering, with sharp corners, more deep-toned, and treble-efficient. Imagine the big bands in the era with brasses, fiddles, and basses; the guitar was somewhat lost.
The telecaster is glittering to an acceptable level to cut through any mix. I’ve trained in the music galleries personally several times; you could place a telecaster on the face of whatever and the sound will always be brighter. Also, the bridge is entirely constructed of alloy, which gives it the deep-tone and twang to produce fast country finger-picking riffs that sound just fantastic.
The B And G Benders
In the market exists a mod to a telecaster, possibly making it more country-sounding, and it is called G or a B bender.
This mod can be connected in any Tele-style guitar setup tweaking a particular string when played without the need to fret it anywhere. By this, I mean that pulling it up with your belt on the guitar will create a response on a string. It produces a distinct sound when performed in a creative touch way over a chord.
All these years have passed have been a million demonstrations of such a device. In this video by country legend Brad Paisley, you can see it in action on one of his telecasters.
I have written an article that discusses many things about why my tuned guitar sounds out of tune. You can take a look at it here.
The Stratocaster for Country Music
Second on the list is another guitar by Fender, the all-powerful Stratocaster.
The guitar is a 3-pickup that appeared in the world two years after the release of the telecaster in 1954.
Its first model was similar to a telecaster but offered a broader palette of sounds to work with. With the time of its introduction, the telecaster turned into the “songwriter” guitar, while the Stratocaster has repeatedly been the “lead” guitar.
This is entirely portrayed in The Rolling Stones, with Keith Richards playing telecasters and Ronnie Wood playing Stratocasters. The telecaster is the songwriter’s bass player, and the Stratocaster is the lead player. Back in 1965, Bob Dylan made the revolution with a Stratocaster in his hands. A famous current country-rock icon is Keith Urban, and you can check his collection of strats, teles, and others on stage in this video. Also, John Mayer, a country, rock, and pop guitar maestro, relies heavily on strats and acoustics, as you can see in this video.
Not all things in country music are related to Fenders, and the Gibson Company left a mark in the field of country music.
Gibsons had been in existence before Fenders with various guitar builders. Hence we need to go a little back in time.
Gibson made iconic guitars, and the big L5s, L6s, and the entire ES line were famous and used popularly as their acoustics. A guitar one can see in country music today is this gigantic ES-175, a sunburst yawl that was created to be a jazz vessel but resulted in more flexibility than that.
The guitars produced by Gibsons can occupy different frequency ranges as opposed to Fenders, and hence it is possible to use both of them in the same band.
They produce a low tone that results in more sonic space to be filled as compared to what Fender guitars do. It is desirable to see them in duos or bands that need guitars to fill up more space, like Shakey Graves, a current country and blues musician who built up his career playing solo. You can see him speaking about his guitar in this video.
The Best Country Music Set Up
You want to sound like the idols of your country music, and for playing in the band, you do not just need an instrument but a proper country music setup.
Now we are going to take a look at components that makes a perfect country music setup.
Country music amplifiers are better than Fender, just like they dominate the guitars.
Amplifiers being the best from Fender is about having THAT iconic clean sound.
For cleaner guitar tones, you need to purchase the Fender amps among the various manufacturers worldwide. Below are some of the prominent amps from Fender you should consider:-
- Fender Deluxe Reverb Amp – This is, perhaps, one of the best amplifiers ever built. It is simple and only produces 22 watts of power through a 1×12 combo configuration. It has built-in valve reverb and tremolo. You can throw anything at this amplifier, which will give you back a Fender sound. Plugging a telecaster directly into it will get you into country-music heaven in a heartbeat. Check out this amp here on Amazon
- Fender Twin Reverb – For the players who want the same fantastic sound with just more volume, the twin reverb is the bigger 85-watt, 2×12 version of the Deluxe and one of the most well-known guitar amps in history. Check out this great amp here.
- Fender Vibro King – This amp produces its sound, and it’s the ultimate classic. It has an extraordinary 3×10 configuration and valve-driven reverb with three controls. This amp was the king of its time and is still one of Fender’s best-sounding amps.
- Fender Bassman – The quintessential Fender tone is divided into two families (except the Vibro King). On one side, you have the Twin Reverb, the Deluxe Reverb, the Princeton Reverb, and such. On the other side, you have the Bassman. This is a no-frills, five-knob amp with no reverb and a 4×10 configuration. As you might notice from its name, it was initially thought of as a bass amp, but guitar players worldwide used it for decades to create a fantastic guitar sound.
We have created a collection of guitars and amps for you to consider. If your budget is insufficient to buy one of these valve amps, you can always find the cheaper, solid-state version made by Fender.
The pedal is about the coordination of legs with hands and should be simple to operate.
When you choose a piece of country music, the ability to produce sound with a simple setup and right-hand work is always considered first. In general, country music is played with no pedals, but let’s see some that can help you.
- Compressor – If you want to produce a clean sound through the guitar and maintain the audience’s momentum, you need a compressor. My all-time favorite is the Dyna Comp, but I’ve also tried some excellent ones lately by Keeley.
- Reverb – This pedal is a must if you cannot use an amp with reverb. Many can do the job out there. My absolute favorite is the Strymon Flint, which also comes with a tremolo to tenderize any amp.
- Delay/echo – If you don’t know what it is now, don’t despair. You will very soon because slapback echo is one of country music’s most widely used resource. My favorite to do is the all-analog MXR Carbon Copy delay. Check these out here on Amazon.
Remember that pedals do not need to be a great-sounding guitar player, but keeping them in the arsenal is recommended as they help produce a more precise sound on stage.
It would help if you experiment with different tunes and set up guitars with amps/pedals to keep your audience mesmerized. Just a guitar, a cable, and an amp will do to get you started.
If you’re a beginner, start with a guitar you can afford and find the most comfortable to play.
Consider the guitar’s sound tone and other accessories attached if you’re an experienced player, as it’s essential.
Budget-conscious means distributing money the best way while building your country’s music setup. When starting, most would have a limited budget, and I recommend spending it as much as possible on the guitar. Spend the spare money on a good amp and cable, and then if you have some leftover, buy a pedal.
Remember that a good instrument in such a straightforward style will make 90% of your tone.
Building up your tone in country music or any other genre takes time.
After practicing for months, you still have to learn a lot, even with the best guitar and country music setup.
All the guitar players build up their tone little by little. I still remember the red and white Ibanez Stratocaster copy and 15-watt Crate amp my dad bought me on a Saturday morning. It meant the world to me until one day, my playing and ears went beyond it and sold it to buy better stuff.
Be patient; the road of gear acquisition never ends.
Combine the best guitar available in the market within your budget and combine it with an amp and pedal, making music a total treat.
Hearing and feeling a telecaster pushing the valves of a naturally overdriven Fender amp is a one-of-a-kind feeling. To be a successful telecaster player, you need to be patient and humble while practicing.
My journey in guitar playing taught me patience and the tips I shared with you above. Follow the tips I shared above to produce that perfect country music sound with your guitar. And it would help if you practiced for hours, sitting down and playing your guitar, looking for the perfect song and the correct lyrics.
Whichever setup you choose, be sure to enjoy your playing!