The 3 Best Acoustic Guitars for Bluegrass Music

bluegrass circle with guitars
Me playing my Martin D-18 at a bluegrass circle

There are many acoustic guitars on the market, but not all of them are best suited for playing bluegrass music. To really get the most out of your bluegrass guitar playing experience, it’s important to have the right instrument.

Bluegrass guitars are typically in the dreadnought style – this is because dreadnoughts provide a nice mix of great volume and tone. Smaller body guitars, and parlor style models, offer amazing acoustic tone, but are sometimes not loud enough to suit bluegrass music correctly. This becomes especially important if you’re playing leads and licks, as you want to be heard above the rest of the band.

With these considerations in mind, as well as things like price point, playability, etc – I present my 3 all time favorite bluegrass acoustic guitars. I own 2 out of these 3 instruments (I’ll let you know which ones I own below) so you can be sure I’m really walking the walk and not making blind recommendations. I really can vouch that these are amazing bluegrass instruments.

1. Yamaha FG830

The Yamaha FG830 is by far the most budget friendly guitar I’m going to recommend to you in this article. It was my very first acoustic guitar, and is an excellent choice either for beginners or for someone looking for a bang-for-your-buck acoustic guitar.

With its solid spruce top and rosewood back and sides, I like to think of the Yamaha FG830 (on Amazon) as an entry-level (and price-friendly) version of the Martin D28. The rosewood is a little bit “softer” and “warmer” in tone than other popular back-and-side woods like mahogany, giving this guitar a beautiful sound.

The Yamaha FG830 (on Amazon) – Hard Case included!

However – the FG830 still packs the volume and sustain you need, offering loud and strong sound in the low and mid-ranges. The FG830 is also available in a variety of colors, so you’re able to find the perfect guitar to suit your preferences. If you score it on Amazon, it even includes a hardshell case, tuner, picks, strings and more. It’s truly the best acoustic guitar at this price point and still one of my favorite guitars I own.

This is an old video and the audio quality isn’t the best – but in it I’m playing some bluegrass on my Yamaha FG830 (on Amazon)! Check it out:

2. Martin D-18

Martin guitars are arguably the most iconic guitars in bluegrass music. The two most popular for bluegrass specifically are the D-18 and the D-28. I want to personally recommend the model of Martin that I own, which is the Martin D-18 (on Amazon). It’s a beautiful guitar that plays better than any other acoustic I’ve ever even touched – there’s been no going back to anything else since I’ve owned it.

The Martin D-18: My Favorite Acoustic Guitar

While this is an article about bluegrass guitar specifically, the D-18 is an excellent choice for blues, folk, country, rock, or really any kind of acoustic music. Martin guitars are extremely versatile – having been used by everyone from John Prine to Tony Rice to Johnny Cash and everyone in between.

The mahogany back and sides of the Martin D-18 (on Amazon) ensure incredible volume and sustain, making it an awesome guitar for playing bluegrass leads and licks, and for all-around flatpicking.

Norman Blake and Tony Rice even have an entire song about how awesome the Martin D-18 (on Amazon) is (and it features some awesome guitar playing, of course):

I recommend getting the Martin D18 on Amazon to ensure the best price, and the fastest and cheapest shipping options. You can check it out here.

3. Martin D-28

The Martin D-18 and D-28 are extremely similar. In an ideal world, I’d recommend playing both to decide which of the two you prefer. Even if you listen to videos online, there’s only so much that microphones can pick up, and the differences in town are unlikely to be noticed unless you try them both in person.

The main difference between the Martin D-28 (on Amazon) and D-18 is in the wood material on the back and sides. The D-18 is mahogany, while the D-28 is rosewood. In general, mahogany is a bit “punchier” while rosewood is a little “warmer.” Again, it’s a subtle difference best experienced in person.

If you decide you do want a guitar with rosewood back and sides, you can do no better than the Martin D-28 (on Amazon). It’s an equally legendary bluegrass guitar, favored by many of the genres most famous players.

The Legendary Martin D-28 (on Amazon)

One of the most famous bluegrass musicians who’s found of the Martin D-28 (on Amazon) is none other than Tony Rice. You can hear him playing one here:

What’s the Best Guitar for Bluegrass Music?

You can’t go wrong with any of the three guitars I recommend above. All will serve you excellently in your bluegrass playing throughout the years. Which guitar you choose will ultimately come down to small preferences.

Want the added punch and volume that mahogany back and sides offer? Go with the Martin D-18 (on Amazon). Want the warmth of rosewood? Then you may prefer the Martin D-28 (on Amazon).

If you need a bang-for-you-buck bluegrass workhorse guitar, with a spruce top and beautiful rosewood sides, then the Yamaha FG830 (on Amazon) the guitar you’re looking for.

No matter what – you won’t be disappointed! Happy picking.

Curious how bluegrass music first originated? Check out my article on that here! And here’s a guide to The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings for Country and Bluegrass.

Looking to Learn Bluegrass Guitar?

I have to say that the fastest way to get great at bluegrass guitar is to get a mentor and get tutored by the pros. Luckily, with video lessons and courses this has never been easier.

With Bryan Suttons’ ArtistWorks bluegrass guitar course you get access to one of the very best bluegrass guitarists ever, as he walks you through his playing step by step.

This is my #1 recommendation if you really want to cut your learning curve and excel on the instrument.

You can read more about Bryan’s excellent course here.

Check out my other articles for more help with bluegrass guitar:

Ready to Get Better at Guitar, Faster?

Whenever you’re ready to take your guitar playing to the next level, check out a few of my favorite resources below:

The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings – A unique polymer coating makes these guitar strings last for months or even years at a time, making for an exceptional value. They provide the perfect mix of boom, range, twang, and brightness that acoustic music is known for. — CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

The Best Acoustic Guitar – Beloved by everyone from Paul Simon to Gordon Lightfoot, the Martin D-18 is one of Martin’s most legendary guitars ever… It’s an excellent, premier quality acoustic guitar for bluegrass, country, folk, rock and more. This is also what I play myself — CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Chords, Tabs & Video Lessons for 100 Epic Songs – This free guide that I created for fellow guitarists gives you chords, tabs, and video lessons for the 100 best songs to learn on guitar… I spent many hours putting this guide together to help you get better at guitar, faster. — CLICK HERE TO GET IT FREE

Fingerpicking vs Flatpicking Guitar – Learn which picking style is right for YOU by exploring examples, history, and popular players of each style. Discover essential techniques and pros and cons of each approach. — CLICK HERE TO GET IT FREE

Corbin Buff

Corbin has played guitar for over a decade, and started writing about it on Acoustic World in an effort to help others. He lives and writes in western Montana.

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