Shootout: Electric Guitars for Country – Crisp Tones and Classic Style

Country music has evolved significantly over the years and electric guitars have played a pivotal role in shaping its sound. From classic country to modern country rock, electric guitars continue to play a central role in the impact of this genre.

Electric guitars used in country music can vary greatly depending on the player’s preference. That said, solid bodies and single-coil pickups are quite popular as they produce the bright and twangy tones that give country music its characteristic sound.

Manufacturers understand the increasing demand for electric guitars that can be used convincingly for country music and there are endless choices on the market. With so many options out there, how do you make sense of it all? We’re here to help. Keep reading.

Read more about our review process.

Our Top 3

The Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Stratocaster is our Top Choice for this list. It comes with a poplar body and features a vintage look and feel. This guitar is outfitted with a SSS pickup configuration for authentic single-coil sound and twang.

The Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica is our Budget Choice. This one comes from one of the most popular guitar lines in this brand’s storied history and features a ceramic humbucker pickup for the bridge position and two Yamaha ceramic single-coil pickups at the middle and neck positions.

Finally, the Fender Brad Paisley Road Worn Telecaster is our Editor’s Choice. This is a superior option for playing country music, with fantastic tone and playability. This guitar is ideal for discerning players who seek ultimate quality and playability with an authentic country twang from a superlative instrument.

Individual Reviews

Top Choice
Squier Classic Vibe '70s Stratocaster

Squier Classic Vibe '70s Stratocaster

Vintage twang on a classic Strat construction.

The Squier is one of the top choices for Fender-type instruments at a lower cost. And with the Classic Vibe 70's Strat, you get fantastic Country twang, tone, and feel with great features for the price.

The Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Stratocaster has a poplar body that helps keep its weight and cost down, and features a classic SSS pickup configuration for authentic single-coil sounds on all positions.

We plugged into our Fender Twin Reverb and began by trying out the single-coil Alnico pickup (designed by Fender) on the bridge position. Here we got that forward twang on clean, great for traditional single-coil country tones. With a bit of overdrive, we got a bitey tone that can cut through a busy mix while still retaining an authentic country feel and vibe.

The middle pickup is also a single-coil Alnico and gave us a nice clean, just as you’d expect from this position. However, we liked it best with some saturation dialed in via our Ibanez Tube Screamer. It had a nice bite to it and good note separation.

Finally, the bridge pickup gave us more significant punch and girth than the other two. Ideal for situations where you need a rounder tone, particularly with a bit of overdrive. This can also work in modern country contexts that require a bit of a warmer tone.

This Squier Strat comes with a five-position blade, two tone controls, and one volume knob. You get simple and effective operation, with the tone and features that defined generations of musicians.

As far as playability, this guitar comes with a C-shaped neck on an Indian Laurel fingerboard. It comes with a traditional Fender feel, with a 9.5″ radius and 25.5″ scale length. In short, a comfortable and twangy Strat copy that can deliver several tones and sounds for country, while remaining affordable.

Verdict: The Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Stratocaster comes with a poplar body and classic SSS pickup configuration. This guitar offers the user authentic single-coil sounds and familiar Fender playability that many country players love.

Best Budget
Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica

Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica

One of the best-selling guitars from Yamaha.

Yamaha's Pacifica series of guitars are among their most popular in decades. With good features and a low price, the PACCO12 offers Strat-type sound and feel with a versatile pickup configuration.

The Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica features an Agathis body and we loved its Metallic Blue color with a gloss polyurethane finish. Yamaha equipped this guitar with a ceramic humbucker pickup for the bridge position and two Yamaha ceramic single-coil pickups at the middle and neck positions. This is a versatile HSS configuration that can deliver for country music and more.

For our tests, we used our Fender Twin Reverb and started with the bridge pickup. We dialed in a bit of overdrive on our Tube Screamer and got a nice punchy tone that can work nicely for country solos in many contexts.

On the other hand, the single-coil pickups at the middle and neck positions gave us that twangy tone Strats are known for. Our favorite was the middle pickup, with a nice balance of twang and presence.

In a true Strat-type guitar style, the neck position single-coil gave somewhat of a darker tone, good for country songwriters playing by themselves at an open mic, or similar context.

We also enjoyed how this guitar felt in our hands, with a C-shaped maple neck on a rosewood fingerboard. The fretboard’s response was great for a guitar at this price range, and with a radius of 13.75″ and a scale length of 25.5″, playing this Pacifica was a comfortable experience.

In short, an affordable guitar that delivers versatility and is a good choice for beginners.

Verdict: The Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica comes with a versatile HSS pickup configuration that gives the user the best of humbuckers and single-coils applied in a Strat. With a good tone and nice playability, this guitar is a good instrument for the price.

Editor's Choice
Fender Brad Paisley Road Worn Telecaster

Fender Brad Paisley Road Worn Telecaster

A superior instrument made for a country superstar.

Brad Paisley is one of the country's best-known superstars and a fantastic guitar player. This is his signature Telecaster, and it plays and sounds just like you'd expect: fantastic.

The Fender Brad Paisley Road Worn Telecaster is built with a unique combination of spruce and Paulownia for the body. This Tele comes with a set of custom-designed single-coil pickups on both the neck and bridge position, and we were truly excited to try it out.

The first thing we liked is how gorgeous this guitar was. With a relic nitrocellulose finish, this Telecaster easily stands out from the crowd. One of the most unique choices for the design of this instrument is the Paulownia and spruce used for the body, which makes it lightweight with great sustain.

Plugged into our Fender Twin Reverb, we got the rich midrange typical of Paulownia wood and a killer twangy tone thanks to the Custom Brad Paisley Vintage-style single-coil. With a bit of overdrive, this pickup gave us a beautiful penetrating tone with amazing sustain.

We also loved the Custom “Twisted” Tele single-coil bridge pickup. It gave us a rounder tone that still delivered that twang, but in a warmer fashion. We really liked the sound we got with the tone knob on lower settings, as it was darker. Even though this guitar is made for a country superstar, it’s a versatile instrument and the neck pickup can even be employed to play a bit of jazz.

The playability of this guitar is second to none. We loved how comfortable the maple neck was, with a very responsive maple fretboard. Everything felt comfortable, from fast chicken-picking lines all the way to bluesy solos. We loved the modern 9.5″ fretboard radius, 1.650″ nut width, and 25.5-inch scale length.

In short, a great guitar for dedicated professionals who value quality over everything else.

Verdict: The Fender Brad Paisley Road Worn Telecaster features a unique and resonant combination of spruce and Paulownia for the body. With a set of custom-designed single-coil pickups on both the neck and bridge positions, this guitar provides outstanding tone and playability.

Also Consider
Fender Vintera '60s Jazzmaster

Fender Vintera '60s Jazzmaster

A great choice for those looking for a bit of uniqueness.

If you want to play country but wish for something that is not so orthodox, this Fender Vitera is a great choice. With a vintage tone, feel and vibe, this guitar provides the Jazzmasters unique body shape and tonal characteristics.

The Fender Vintera ’60s Jazzmaster comes with a resonant alder body and an Olympic White color with a Gloss Polyester finish that gives it an even more retro feel. We loved how unique this guitar looks. Although Jazzmasters were popular over half a century ago, you don’t see them around much today, which makes them a breath of fresh air.

We plugged into our Fender Blues Jr amp and started to audition the pair of Vintage-Style ’60s single-coil pickups on the Vitera. The neck pickup gave us a nicely balanced clean, as well as warm overdriven tones when our Tube Screamer was engaged at a low setting.

On the other hand, the bridge pickup gave us an edgy and bright tone and we loved how it sustained when distortion was applied. On clean, you get the Jazzmaster’s unique twang, which will certainly work in a country context, but is more nuanced than a Tele or Strat twang.

With both pickups engaged, we got detailed mids and nice highs, which resulted in an overall rich, defined tone. We found that here is where country songwriters may get the best result when accompanying themselves, as the sound was fatter and more balanced.

The playability of this Jazzmaster also has a distinct classic flavor to it. With a vintage-style mid-’60s C maple neck profile and responsive pau ferro fretboard with vintage-style frets, this guitar felt good in our hands.

In short, a nice Jazzmasters that offers an alternative for playing country. Naturally, this vintage feel and tone may not be appropriate for players who prefer modern instruments, so keep that in mind.

Verdict: The Fender Vintera ’60s Jazzmaster features an alder body and pair of vintage-style ’60s single-coil pickups. Along with a vintage-style mid-’60s C maple neck profile, this guitar provides a retro look, tone, and feel for folks looking for a different option for playing country.

Also Consider
Epiphone Les Paul Special

Epiphone Les Paul Special

A great Les Paul model made overseas.

Epiphone has been under the Gibson brand for a while now and is the only company that can legally produce and sell Gibson designs. This guitar delivers the Les Paul tone and feel while keeping the price low, which is exactly what Epiphones are renowned for.

The Epiphone Les Paul Special features a mahogany body wood and a striking TV Yellow color on a gloss finish. We plugged into our Fender Twin Reverb and found that this Epiphone delivers the rich and warm tone from the ’50s classic Les Pauls, aided by its resonant mahogany body.

With a bit of distortion dialed in, we got forward yet balanced power chords and penetrating leads thanks to the P-90 PRO Soap Bar single-coil at the bridge. In clean, we got that unique P-90 single-coil tone that cuts through, while giving you a bit of warmth as well.

We also liked how the neck pickup sounded in clean settings, as it gave us a bit of a rounder tone with fewer highs. In both clean and overdriven situations, the neck pickup can also be used in several country contexts and beyond.

If you enjoy guitars with a vintage touch, you’re going to love this Les Paul. It comes with a Vintage ’50s neck shape that we really enjoyed, as it filled out our hands while remaining comfortable.

The neck is mahogany with an Indian laurel fingerboard and comes with the typical 24.75″ scale length for that authentic Gibson feel.

In short, a nice Les Paul that delivers both tone and playability, while retaining a low price. However, this guitar doesn’t have the sustain that your typical Gibson Les Paul does, as some concessions were made to keep the price so low.

Verdict: The Epiphone Les Paul Special comes with a resonant mahogany body and unique P-90 pickup at both the bridge and neck position. With a vintage 50s feel, this is a good choice for folks who want a Les Paul without spending a fortune.

Also Consider
Sterling By Music Man Cutlass CT30SSS

Sterling By Music Man Cutlass CT30SSS

Comfortable playing experience on a modern single coil solid body.

The Cutlass series of guitars by Music Man are popular for good reason. This Strat-type guitar comes with the features, tone, and playability that have made the Cutlass series of guitars a go-to choice for many musicians.

The Sterling by Music Man Cutlass CT30SSS comes with a poplar body on a nice Charcoal Frost color with a gloss finish. This instrument has a traditional SSS pickup configuration for providing single-coil tones. Sterling made these pickups and outfitted this guitar with your typical 5-way blade switch design.

As soon as we grabbed this guitar, we loved the feel of the hard asymmetrical maple neck. With a 12-inch fingerboard radius and a 1.65-inch thickness at the nut, we really liked the feel and playability of this Cutlass and got wonderful articulation and response from the laurel fingerboard. This instrument also comes with that familiar 25.5-inch scale length, perfect for folks who like Fender instruments.

Plugged into our Marshall combo amp, we tried all three single-coil positions in clean at first. We really liked position Four for clean rhythm work and position Two for a milder country tone, in both clean and overdriven contexts. The bridge pickup position gave us that more traditional country twang that can work in several situations.

This Cutlass guitar also features die-cast tuners and fulcrum tremolo, nice traits at this price. We felt that it doesn’t excel in sustain, but is overall a good guitar with a nice tone and playability.

Verdict: The Sterling by Music Man Cutlass CT30SSS comes with a poplar body and versatile SSS pickup configuration. With a maple neck and laurel fingerboard, this guitar feels and sounds good, and is a great choice for beginner and intermediate players.

Also Consider
G&L Tribute ASAT Classic Bluesboy

G&L Tribute ASAT Classic Bluesboy

Classic country Tele tone.

Founded by the one and only Leo Fender and partners in the late 1970s, G&L is one of the most renowned brands for Fender-type guitars. The Tribute Asat is a modern take on the Telecaster by Leo Fender, and delivers an SH pickup configuration for tonal versatility.

The G&L ASAT Classic Bluesboy is a factory-modded version of Leo Fender’s updated vision of a Telecaster. With a pretty Candy Apple Red color, this guitar offers versatility with an Alnico humbucker pickup in the neck and a G&L Magnetic Field Design single-coil for the bridge.

We started our tests by playing some country licks on the Classic MFD single-coil bridge pickup. Plugged into our Fender Twin Reverb, this pickup gave us classic Tele bridge-position country twang and bite. The sound was penetrating, with an authentic classic single-coil character.

When overdriven via our Tube Screamer, the bridge pickup gave us a forward tone that was perfect for bluesy licks and power chords, which can fit nicely in traditional to modern country contexts.

On clean, the Cort Humbucker on the neck gave us a nice warmth that worked well with clean rhythms and open chords. With some overdrive, it provided a nice tone that can be used in a variety of contexts, as it was rounder but still had enough bite to cut through.

Regarding playability, this guitar features a comfortable maple with a rosewood fingerboard that was responsive to our playing. With a medium C shape, 9.5 radius, and your typical 25.5-inch scale length, we got a familiar Tele feel. Naturally, because it is made out of poplar, the sustain suffers a bit, but that’s to be expected at this price range.

In short, a nice instrument that delivers at an affordable price and that, for many guitarists, is the cornerstone of country music.

Verdict: The G&L ASAT Classic Bluesboy comes with a Candy Apple Red color and the familiar comfortable playability of Tele-type guitars designed by Leo Fender himself. With versatility provided via an Alnico humbucker pickup in the neck and a G&L Magnetic Field Design single-coil for the bridge, this guitar delivers an authentic country tone and feel.

How to Choose The Right Guitar You

Needless to say, the right electric guitar can make a significant difference in your performance and sound. The same is true when it comes to country music. And although buying a guitar for any style is a largely personal choice, there are some common factors among folks who play country.

That said, it’s important to try out several types of guitars in order to develop your criteria on what you like, what you need and what you want. Below are a few things to consider when you’re in the market for an electric guitar to play country music.

Body Style

The body style of your selected instrument can greatly affect its sound and playability. Besides resonance, tone, durability, and weight, the body type affects how your instrument looks, which is an important consideration for many folks.

 For country music, the most common choices involve traditional, classic-style body shapes such as a Telecaster or a Stratocaster. However, that isn’t a hard and fast rule. Take legendary picker Chet Atkins for example, who played semi-hollowed by Gibson and Gretsch guitars and imprinted an undeniable country flavor on them.

That said, Stratocasters and Telecasters are known for their bright and twangy tones, which are perfect for country music. Said tones come mostly from single-coil pickups, although you can also use humbuckers if you prefer. This brings us to the next crucial point.


Single-coil pickups are often preferred for country music as they produce bright and articulate tones with plenty of twang, clarity, and definition. Telecaster-style guitars typically have two single-coil pickups, one in the bridge position and one in the neck position, which allows for versatile tone options. Stratocaster-style guitars often have three single-coil pickups, providing even more tonal possibilities.

However, there are good choices that use one humbucker on the pickup configuration. In theory, this gives you greater versatility so you can have the best of both worlds.

Naturally, if you decide that humbucker pickups get the country tone you want, that’s your choice. Again, trying multiple guitars and different pickup options is vital so you can diffentiate between the many options and decide what’s right for you.

Neck Profile 

Because Country music often requires fast and intricate picking techniques, a neck with a slim and comfortable profile is often preferred. Guitars featuring necks with a “C” or “U” shape are a very popular choice.

However, necks, fretboard response, scale length, etc, are highly personal choices. In other words, only you get to decide what feels good on your hands and it’s usually smart to pick whatever’s the best fit for your anatomy and preference.


This is another hotly contested debate among guitarists. For country music, guitars made from woods such as ash, alder, or maple are commonly used. These woods are known for their bright and articulate tones with good sustain, which can complement the twangy and clean sound often associated with country music.

Mahogany and rosewood are also occasionally used for warmer and richer tones, but they may not be as common for traditional country styles. Another option is poplar, which is lightweight and inexpensive, but tends to sacrifice sustain.

Necks and fretboards also offer options that produce different results. For country, a maple neck with a maple fretboard tends to be one of the most popular choices, as it is highly responsive and produces that authentic, snappy, and twangy tone.

On the other hand, rosewood and ebony are also popular for fretboards. Each of these woods changes in tone and aesthetics, with rosewood being the most common alternative to maple among country players.

Final Thoughts

Country music is all about nailing the tone, and the best way to get there is by starting with the right guitar. There’s a reason you don’t often see country players with Jacksons and Ibanez. While those are excellent guitars in their own right, they don’t offer the same bite and twang as a Telecaster!

To recap our favorites, the Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Stratocaster was our Top Choice for this list. It features a lightweight poplar body and delivers a unique vintage look and playability. With a SSS pickup configuration, this Squier offers authentic single-coil tone and twang.

The Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica is our Budget Choice. This guitar offers great features for the money and comes from Yamaha’s most popular electric guitar line. It features a ceramic humbucker pickup for the bridge position and two Yamaha ceramic single-coil pickups at the middle and neck positions.

Finally, the Fender Brad Paisley Road Worn Telecaster is our Editor’s Choice. With fantastic tone and playability, this is an ideal instrument for folks who value quality. With superior tone and playability, you get authentic country twang from an excellent instrument.

  • Rodrigo Sanchez

    Rodrigo is an award-winning songwriter (Best Popular Song Of 2018 for Ibermúsicas), and has worked with the prestigious EMI Music Publishing Latin America. He has production credits on artists such as Descemer Bueno, and has also composed alongside Grammy and ASCAP award-winners such as Sebastián De Peyrecave and José Luis Morín. For over ten years, he's been an editor/writer for Recording Magazine, and spent a year as head of translation for Brazilian magazine Musica & Mercado.