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Electric guitar for blues

24 May 07 - 09:50 AM (#2059825)
Subject: Electric guitar for blues
From: Scorpio

This may be a bit outside the scope of a 'folk' site, but I know there is a lot of expertise out there and I need some advice. I am an experienced acoustic player (folk/blues) and want to make the transition to electric guitar for a blues band project. My question is: what electric guitar ( at a reasonable price for a tyro) has a neck wide enough and playable enough to ease the transition from acoustic? I can't get my arthritic digits to fit on some of these super-narrow necks.

24 May 07 - 12:24 PM (#2059945)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Darowyn

You need to check Ebay and the second hand shops.
In the 1980s, Matsumoku produced guitars under many names, Aria, Ibanez, and Westone amongst them, which had relatively wide, flat fretboards.
They were for shredders- so they are very easy to play.
They are also desperately unfashionable in this Retro-loving age when everybody has to have a Strat or a Gibson.
So they are very cheap too. Since they are very often fitted with really good pickups- they sound fantastic.
I would not sell my Westone, ever.
But honourable number one son is not going to get a lot of profit out of his inheritance of it!

24 May 07 - 12:38 PM (#2059963)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Nick

I have a strat copy which I find easy to play but is a fairly average width neck I would guess.

My son plays an Ibanez Jem 7VWH which has Jumbo frets (I didn't believe him when he pointed out you don't actually touch the fretboard when you play but it's true...) and a wide - but thin front to back if that makes sense - neck which is easy to play. Not cheap though as a starting guitar! However it might be that other Ibanez guitars have similar relatively wide necks.

24 May 07 - 12:47 PM (#2059970)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: jonm

One thing I have found is the need to change technique when playing electric guitar - it's almost a different instrument. More sustain, blurring of notes with even a hint of distortion on the amp etc. Since you'll be playing more single notes and only really '5' chords (or "powerchords" as some call them) fingerboard width is generally less on an issue.

If you want to play acoustic fingerstyle on an electric, in my opinion a Telecaster is the only way to go (barring some sort of Taylor T5 hybrid) - lightweight with a thin sound from single coils and little sustain.

If, on the other hand, you are playing electric guitar blues and adapting your technique, then the type of instrument will be in part dictated by the style and tone of your playing. Please take all of the following with a pinch of salt, since you can play high-octane distortion on single coils in much the same way as Michael Hedges played esoteric fingerstyle acoustic on a dreadnought!

For light amp distortion and a clear technique - single coil pickups. The lack of sustain will probably lead you into faster picking. Strats tend to be better for blues (tremolo arm, the faux reverb effect of the trem springs) and Telecasters for country (rawer, drier tone). Think Dominoes-era Clapton.

For distorted/overdriven amplified tone with loads of sustain, heavier guitars with humbucking pickups in the Gibson Les Paul style. String lengths tend to be a tad shorter to facilitate easier bending of notes. Think Jimmy Page, classic-era Led Zep.

For somewhere in the middle, a lot of people find semi-acoustic guitars like the Gibson ES335 very versatile - not quite as funky and bright as a Strat, so fancy chords are a little more blurred, not quite as mid-range heavy and sustainful as a Les Paul, so you can at least get beyond the '5' chord.

Within each of the above genres, there is plenty of variety of instrument made by more than just the best-known manufacturers (yes, I had a Westone once and it punched well above its weight).

Oh, and half your tone rests with amplifier choice and settings, so there's another kettle of fish.....

Hope that helps, although if you want one recommendation, it's to get out there and play as much as you can on as wide a variety of instruments to find what suits your (developing) technique best.

24 May 07 - 01:08 PM (#2059985)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Lonesome EJ

Good advice from jonm.

I had a Les Paul, but found the tone of the Telecaster much more suitable to the blues, rhythm, arpeggio stuff I play. I also found that, having played exclusively acoustic, I had a tendency to crush the strings when playing open chords. While on an acoustic pushing down hard generally gives you a clear and sharp tone, crushing the strings on an electric will often distort the pitch. I suppose I could have eventually adjusted to applying less pressure, but I quick-started the process by going to much heavier strings (9's up to 11's), with reasonable success.

24 May 07 - 06:05 PM (#2060245)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Stringsinger

I recommend the Gibson B.B. King Model which is ES 345 originally and now ES355. B.B. uses a special amp (can't recall but that info is easy to find out).

The pickups in this guitar give you a fat and mellow sound for the blues.


24 May 07 - 06:27 PM (#2060259)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Richard Bridge

The question is about fingerboards.

IMHO bumsuckers suit the electric blues better than single poles, but that is not the question.

The OP seeks details of who supplies a wide-ish flat-ish (I suspect that means radius of over 21 inches) fretboard on planks.

24 May 07 - 06:46 PM (#2060271)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: PoppaGator

I have no personal expertise (i.e., I have no electric guitar), but I'm interested in this discussion because I sometimes wonder the very same thing, as an acoustic blues player who sometimes daydreams about "going electric."

Taj Mahal is a player who performs mostly country-style fingerpicked blues on electric guitar, as part of a classic electric-blues "power-trio" (with bass and drum). I caught his act recently, from good seats up front. All of the guitars he brings on stage (maybe three of them) are big fat solid-body f-hole/archtop electrics. Not those thin little one-inch-thick kind of hollow-bodies like BB King's, or like a Les Paul ~ big deep bodies much like on an acoustic ax.

Now, whether such models also include fingerboards similar to those on acoustic instruments ~ I don't know. But I suspect they might, and would take a look at them when shopping.

24 May 07 - 06:58 PM (#2060277)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Mooh

The SRV Stratocaster has a wider than usual fretboard. All you really have to do is do the rounds of music shops and experiment. Some otherwise similar models will vary considerably in one feature or another and where neck/fingerboard widths are concerned some of the older styled "jazz boxes" might have what you're looking for, and some (note, some) of the PRS and PRS knockoffs might suit. My personal preference is a Telecaster, but your milage may vary.

I haven't looked, but if it's a real big issue, one of the parts makers (eg, Warmouth, Allparts, Stew-Mac) might have what you need to retrofit an otherwise stock axe. I have a Warmouth neck ready to go on my Telecaster as we speak.

Peace, Mooh.

24 May 07 - 07:28 PM (#2060286)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Bernard

Scorpio - Max set this up as a blues site in the first place, so you've as much right to ask such questions as anyone else, if not more!!

Here in the UK, if you can find one, some of the old Hofner semi-acoustics (Senator, President) may fit the bill. They are the big bodied 'f'-hole style single cutaway type.

I know what you mean about electric guitar necks, but I have fingers like a pound of pork sausages, and don't have any trouble. It's down to technique, really. I play mandolin, too.

24 May 07 - 08:34 PM (#2060320)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Nick

Guitars don't vary much weirdly. I have 7 round the house and (sadly) went and measured them...

Tanglewood Acoustic - 1.75" at nut 2" at 12th fret
Spanish guitar - 2" at nut 2.5" at 12th fret
Yamaha FG180 - 1.75" at nut 2" at 12th fret
Strat copy - 1.625" at nut 2" at 12th fret
Ibanez Jem - 1.75" at nut 2.062" at 12th fret
Old Levin Guitar - 1.8" at nut 2.375" at 12th fret

and my bass which really surprised me - 1.625" at nut 2.25" at 12th fret

Each and every one feels completely different in your hand though which is more to do with the thickness of the neck rather than it's width

My old Yamaha which is 35+ years old feels like a huge chunk of timber to play, the Tanglewood feels more like the Strat because of the less fat neck. My son's Ibanez feels wide and thin at the same time.

Go try some in the shops and find something that feels right to your hands.

24 May 07 - 08:45 PM (#2060327)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker

right now i cant find it to measure the nut..

but i'm sure my re-issue Danelectro 12 string has a wider than normal
even for an electric 12 string..

not too difficult to find one of these at a reasonable price on ebay..

and just remove the 6 octave/double course strings..

the Danelectro Lipstick pickups are traditioally ideal for blues
and bottleneck playing.

24 May 07 - 08:59 PM (#2060335)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Nick

Oh and I agree 100% with Bernard about technique (not that mine is that good)

A friend at work is learning guitar and thinks that the length of his fingers is a problem. When I played his guitar he said "it's ok for you because you haven't got short fingers like me"...

Only mine are smaller when we measured them (apart from the one that says you're ok at maths ;) )...

24 May 07 - 10:02 PM (#2060360)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Cap't Bob

My favorite is an old Gibson f hole, wide body electric ES125. Some of them still around on ebay.

I have a Takamine classical cut away electric which has all kinds of finger room and a mighty fine pickup for more of an acoustic sound.

Cap't Bob

25 May 07 - 12:18 AM (#2060415)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Richard Bridge

Maybe take 6 strings off something like a Hagstrom Viking 12 - the later ones with the humbuckers on?

25 May 07 - 03:54 AM (#2060458)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Richard Bridge

Fretboard Radius"

The example I gave above of a 21 inch radius is probably going to be too flat for most modern players, even those used to acoustics, it seems.

25 May 07 - 04:01 AM (#2060462)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Paco Rabanne

My first question would be 'Are you a finger picker or a plectrum man?' also, 'What style of blues do you want to play?'
For a good general purpose dogsbody electric I always favoured a Telecaster. Strats seemed to sustain too much for fingerpicking.You can always ADD sustain with effects.
Copies of said Telecaster are pretty cheap nowadays and aren't the unplayable planks they were 30years ago. My own favourite was ESP Tele with stacked humbuckers and coil taps that at the time, cost me more than a Fender would. Enjoy!

25 May 07 - 04:05 AM (#2060466)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Richard Bridge

More on guitar specs including fretboard radii

25 May 07 - 05:54 AM (#2060515)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Grab

My bog-standard Squier Fat Strat isn't significantly narrower on the fretboard than my Lowden. Nice instrument to play, although be warned that low-end electrics are usually poorly set up (if anyone has set them up at all), so be prepared to do the necessary with the bridge adjusters to set the string height properly. Incidentally, a Fat Strat (single, single, humbucker) is a good compromise instrument - you've got the thinner sound of the single-coils if you want something twangy, and you've got the humbucker for blasting it out.

Re LEJ's strings, heavier strings will give you better tone too, and they're less prone to breakage. I like Power Slinkies, which are 11s.


25 May 07 - 07:53 AM (#2060559)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker

heres a user review of another recent electric 12 string
that could be a good candidate for the blues

Dean Sarasota electric 12-string

25 May 07 - 08:19 AM (#2060569)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker


not all electric 12s are suitable for this pupose
because their fingerboards are hardly any wider than a standard 6 string..

i've also got a mid 90's Hohner Pro telecaster copy 12 string
factory fitted with coil tappable humbuckers..
cant find it right now as its also in storage..

but again.. i'm sure i remember it has a fairly wide fingerboard..

can also buy replacement 12 string necks
to fit any standard Fender body neck pocket..

but dont know how wide they are yet..???

25 May 07 - 08:52 AM (#2060590)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Scorpio

Wow! More advice than you can shake a stick at! Thanks, guys. To clarify, I play fingerstyle, but am learning plectrum technique. I imagine that fingerstyle blues would still be played on my Martin. The electric would be for blues/rock, mostly plectrum. I wanted a wide neck for ease of play rather than for picking. I have considered a tele/tele copy as the guitar that seems to be able to do everything, perhaps Squier's fat tele, so I get a humbucker and single coil to mess with. I wondered, too, if a Variax could be a 'total solution', then it could sound like everything?

25 May 07 - 09:10 AM (#2060601)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: GUEST,Richard

Much sound advice here, BUT I find the closer string spacing on a narrow neck (most electrics, Dreadnoughts etc.)helps with the right hand for flat-picking.Your left hand will adjust surprisingly quickly.

25 May 07 - 09:46 AM (#2060623)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: jonm

I'm with Richard above for plectrum guitar.

Variaxes sound great in the shop, where you can be impressed by how close the tones are to the original guitars modelled, however, the limitations of the modelling shows up more live. There is a little latency with some models. Also, you have to play it like the modelled guitar to get the effect i.e. play the Variax like you would a Strat on a Strat setting and like a Les Paul on the Les Paul setting. Not as easy as it sounds.

25 May 07 - 10:08 AM (#2060653)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: DonMeixner

I'd play what Buddy Guy plays.


25 May 07 - 10:54 AM (#2060692)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocke

something else to consider..

Squier fender copies can be narrower at the nut than standard fender necks..
as the primary squier market is younger players [and even pre-teens]
with smaller not yet fully grown hands..

A lot of adults find squier necks a bit too slender..
so something serious to consider for more mature players with arthritic fingers..

my 2001 squier standard Tele is only 4cm at the nut
less than approx 3mm or 4mm compared to average standards for 6 string electrics.

btw.. trusting my memory..

the Danelectro 12 string fingerboard is a consistent parallrll width from 12th fret to nut..

I'm sure it doesn't taper from wider 12th fret down to slimmer 1st fret as most guitars do.

so would be interesting to find out any other modern mass production
reasonable price guitars with similar parallell fingerboards..

or even sensible price replacement necks..

25 May 07 - 11:32 AM (#2060729)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: Scorpio

See your point, Don - now where do I buy something that makes me PLAY like Buddy Guy?

25 May 07 - 05:39 PM (#2060994)
Subject: RE: Electric guitar for blues
From: GUEST,van lingle

I've got a made in Mexico Tele and I installed Lindy Fralin Hi Output pickups in it and a 4 position switch with hum cancelling in the 2 and 4 position. These pickups were modeled after Gibson P-90's
and give me a fatter sound in the bridge and the neck but still retain Fender-like characteristics. I sold off my American Strat and Tele and Heritage thin line because I quit playing 'em as this one covers all the bases as far as electric blues go but I admit my old Tele was better for more acoustic type fingerstyle. This neck is just perfect for me and I've got pretty big hands.
Lindy Fralin makes several varieties of Tele pickups and will let you exchange them for up to a month (I believe) after purchase and installation. In all I've got about $425 in it (225 for the new Tele and $200 for the hardware).
I do go on but this instrument is to my ears better sounding than some Fender custom shop instruments I've played and a few Gibson Thinlines as well. Good luck, vl