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The Ultimate Guide to the Best Guitars for Clean Tones: Unlocking Harmony

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Introduction: Best Guitars for Clean Tones

Hello there, fellow tone chasers! Ever drifted through the crystal-clear soundscapes of your favorite tracks, pondering, “How can I make my guitar deliver those pristine clean tones?” Well, you’ve landed in the perfect spot. Embarking on the quest for the best guitars for clean tones is akin to hunting for the Holy Grail. But, have no fear! I’m here to navigate you through the dense forests of frequencies and the towering mountains of models to uncover the best guitars for clean tones, your ideal companions for that flawless clean sound.

lightest electric guitars squire

What are Clean Tones?

Clean tones are the Shangri-La of guitar sounds, unmarred by distortion or overdrive, offering a pure, unadulterated sonic experience. Imagine the first light of dawn gently caressing your eardrums—that’s what a great clean tone feels like. It’s the foundation of countless genres, from jazz’s smooth landscapes to the bright beaches of surf rock. Clean tones let the guitar’s true voice shine through, revealing the quality of its craftsmanship and the soul of its player.

Factors Influencing Clean Tones

Diving into the clean tone quest, several factors emerge as crucial. Let’s demystify them:


Consider pickups as the crucial component in determining the best guitars for clean tones. Single-coil pickups mirror the clarity and precision of a crisp, clear winter’s day—delivering bright and articulate sounds. Conversely, humbuckers are akin to a cozy cabin, providing warmth and silence by cancelling out the external buzz.

Wood Type and Guitar Construction

The guitar’s body is its diary, with each wood type contributing its own story to the tone. Mahogany tells tales of warmth, while maple recounts bright adventures.

Scale Length and its Impact

Scale length is the guitar’s spine, determining tension and tone. Longer scales boast a brighter, tighter sound, perfect for sparkling clean tones.

Amplification and Effects

The right amp and effects are the secret sauce to your clean tone burger, seasoning your sound to perfection.

The Importance of Guitar Setup

A well-set-up guitar operates like a finely tuned engine—effortlessly efficient. The playability and tone are significantly affected by action and string gauge, while tweaking the pickup height can either brighten or soften your sound. It’s crucial not to ignore the nut and bridge; these minor yet vital elements are pivotal in achieving the intonation and sustain that characterize the best guitars for clean tones.

Our Top Picks for the Best Electric Guitars for Clean Tones

1st Place – Fender Stratocaster – American Professional

The Fender Stratocaster, often affectionately referred to as the Strat, stands as the quintessential representation of guitars renowned for their clean tones. With its unmistakable sparkling highs and an array of versatile switch positions, the Strat offers guitarists an unparalleled range of sounds that can be finely tuned to suit various musical genres and playing styles. This versatility makes it as iconic in the music world as the stars that dot the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Beyond its sonic capabilities, the Stratocaster’s design is a masterpiece of aesthetic and functional engineering. Its sleek contours and double-cutaway body not only contribute to its timeless appeal but also enhance player comfort and access to higher frets, making it a favorite among performers of all levels. The Strat’s trio of single-coil pickups is a key feature, providing the bright, crisp tones that have become synonymous with clean guitar sound. This setup, combined with a five-way selector switch, allows for a wide range of tonal possibilities, from the sharp, piercing leads favored in rock and blues to the smooth, mellow rhythms found in jazz and pop.

The Stratocaster’s influence stretches across decades and genres, being a staple in the arsenals of legendary guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and David Gilmour. Their iconic performances have cemented the Strat’s reputation not only as a tool for musical expression but as a cultural icon in its own right.

This is why the Strat take our top place in the best electric guitars for clean tones.

2nd Place – Gibson ES-335

best guitars for clean tones

The Gibson ES-335 stands as a paragon of semi-hollow guitar design, its creation marking a revolutionary moment in the history of electric guitars. With its introduction in 1958, the ES-335 blended the best of solid-body and hollow-body guitar characteristics, forging a new path in guitar sound and construction.

This semi-hollow beauty, renowned for its rich, warm tones, makes your clean tones as inviting as a fireplace in winter, offering a cozy yet vibrant sound that guitarists of many genres have come to cherish.

At the heart of the ES-335’s allure are its dual humbucker pickups, which produce a fuller, rounder sound than single-coils, devoid of the hum that often accompanies amplified guitar playing.

These pickups, in conjunction with the guitar’s semi-hollow body, create a sound that is rich in harmonic overtones, providing a depth and complexity to clean tones that is hard to achieve with other instruments. This unique combination allows for a wide dynamic range, from soft, nuanced playing to powerful, resonant chords and leads.

The guitar’s design, with a solid maple block running through its center, reduces feedback issues commonly associated with fully hollow guitars, making it an excellent choice for playing at higher volumes or with overdrive.

Yet, it retains enough of the acoustic properties to ensure that clean tones are imbued with a warm, resonant quality reminiscent of traditional jazz guitars.

For this reason, we have ranked the Gibson ES-335 2nd place on the best guitars for clean tones list.

3rd Place – PRS Custom 24

best guitars for clean tones - PRS

The PRS (Paul Reed Smith) Custom 24 is a marvel in the world of electric guitars, embodying versatility, craftsmanship, and innovation in every aspect of its design. Introduced in 1985, the Custom 24 quickly rose to prominence, becoming a flagship model for the PRS brand and a favorite among musicians across genres. It’s known as a chameleon in the guitar world for its ability to navigate any tonal landscape with grace and versatility, a feature that stems from its meticulous construction and thoughtfully chosen components.

At the heart of the Custom 24’s versatility is its unique pickup configuration, featuring PRS’s patented HFS (Hot, Fat, Screams) treble and Vintage Bass pickups, coupled with a 5-way blade switch. This setup offers players a wide spectrum of tones, from crystal-clear cleans to powerful, overdriven growls, making it suitable for jazz, blues, rock, metal, and everything in between. The guitar’s tone can be further refined with its master volume and tone controls, ensuring that players can dial in their desired sound with precision.

The Custom 24’s 24-fret design is another hallmark of its versatility, providing access to two full octaves and facilitating a broader range of musical expression. This feature, combined with PRS’s signature scale length and the comfortable pattern thin neck profile, makes for an exceptionally playable instrument, one that encourages exploration and innovation in playing.

I have a PRS Custom 24 and it is my regular gigging guitar. The versatility of this guitar is why it ranks in the top 3 of the best electric guitars for clean tones.

The Best Acoustic Guitars for Clean Tones

When it comes to reviewing the best guitars for clean tones, we need to look at acoustic guitars. The quest for the cleanest tone is akin to finding the softest, most comfortable pair of socks—pure bliss for your ears.

1st Place – Martin D-28

best acoustic guitars for clean tones

It’s no surprise that when looking at the best guitars for clean tones Martin hits the top spot. The Martin D-28, often celebrated as the Meryl Streep of acoustic guitars, epitomizes the pinnacle of craftsmanship and sound quality among the best guitars for clean tones.

This iconic instrument embodies versatility, earning universal acclaim from musicians across genres for its seemingly flawless execution and unparalleled sound.

Much like Streep’s acclaimed adaptability and skill across a wide range of roles, the D-28 offers musicians a broad sonic palette, making it a favored choice for artists who demand the best in acoustic performance.

Crafted with meticulous attention to detail, the D-28 features a classic combination of tonewoods: a solid Sitka spruce top and solid East Indian rosewood back and sides.

This choice of materials contributes to the guitar’s rich, full-bodied bass and articulate, crisp highs, characteristics that have made the D-28 a benchmark for acoustic guitar tone.

The guitar’s forward-shifted bracing pattern enhances its resonance, allowing for a louder, more powerful sound that does not compromise on clarity or purity.

2nd Place – Taylor 814ce

Taylor 814ce clean tones

The Taylor 814ce acoustic-electric guitar exemplifies the pinnacle of modern guitar craftsmanship, offering players an unparalleled playing experience that can be likened to a knife gliding smoothly through butter. Renowned for delivering bright, articulate tones with effortless ease, this instrument stands out not only for its exceptional playability but also for its sonic clarity and richness.

Central to the 814ce’s distinctive sound is Taylor’s advanced Expression System 2 (ES2) pickup design. This innovative electronics system is engineered to faithfully amplify the guitar’s natural sound, capturing its dynamic range and tonal nuances with remarkable fidelity.

Unlike traditional under-saddle pickups, the ES2 features a behind-the-saddle design, which places three uniquely positioned and individually calibrated pickup sensors. This positioning allows for more of the guitar’s natural acoustic nuances to be heard, ensuring that the amplified sound is as close to the acoustic tone as possible.

It’s this dedication to pure, unadulterated sound that makes the 814ce a preferred choice for purists and discerning players alike.

All of this is the reason why we have ranked this guitar 1st in the best guitars for clean tones – acoustic specific.

3rd Place – Yamaha FG800

Yamaha FG800 Mk II Acoustic Guitar

For those on a budget yet aspiring to achieve crystal-clear acoustic tones, the Yamaha FG800 emerges as a true acoustic knight in shining armor. This guitar is a testament to Yamaha’s commitment to crafting affordable instruments without compromising on quality.

It stands out in the crowded market of budget-friendly guitars by delivering outstanding clarity and resonance, challenging the notion that high quality always comes with a high price tag.

The Yamaha FG800 is part of Yamaha’s celebrated FG series, which has been revered by musicians and critics alike since its inception in the 1960s. Known for its innovative design and superior sound quality, the FG series has consistently set the standard for affordable acoustic guitars.

The FG800, in particular, benefits from Yamaha’s decades of experience and research in acoustic science, offering a playing experience and sound that belie its modest price.

At the heart of the FG800’s exceptional sound is its solid Sitka spruce top, a feature often reserved for more expensive instruments. Sitka spruce is prized for its bright, clear tone and dynamic range, contributing significantly to the guitar’s ability to produce crisp, articulate notes with ease.

The FG800’s back and sides are made from Nato wood, sometimes referred to as “Eastern Mahogany,” which adds warmth and richness to the guitar’s overall sound.

Ibanez LGB30 George Benson Signature

The Ibanez LGB30 George Benson Signature guitar represents a harmonious fusion of Ibanez’s guitar-building expertise and the legendary jazz guitarist George Benson’s rich musicality.

This collaboration has birthed an instrument that truly sings with a warm, nuanced tone, akin to having George Benson himself impart the secrets of achieving pristine clean tones directly into your ear.

Crafted with an attention to detail befitting its association with Benson, the LGB30 features a spruce top and maple back and sides, contributing to its articulate response and depth of sound.

The warmth of this semi-hollow body guitar’s tone is perfect for jazz enthusiasts and anyone seeking that smooth, velvety sound that has long been Benson’s hallmark.

Adding to its tonal excellence, the LGB30 comes equipped with specially designed pickups that capture the guitar’s natural acoustic resonance and translate it into a rich, electrified voice.

These pickups are tailored to complement the guitar’s body, offering a balanced output that supports everything from soft, mellow comping to lively, melodic solos.

The Ibanez LGB30 is a fantastic guitar. For this reason it makes the 3rd spot in our best guitars for clean tones list.

Bonus – Unconventional Choices for Unique Clean Tones

Occasionally, venturing off the beaten path uncovers the most captivating discoveries. These best guitars for clean tones provide distinctive clean sounds that distinguish them in any ensemble.

Rickenbacker 360

With its jangly, bright sound, the Rickenbacker 360 is like the charismatic friend who lights up every room. Its distinctive tone cuts through the mix, perfect for clean, chiming chords.

Rickenbacker 360 best guitars for clean tones

Gretsch White Falcon

This guitar doesn’t just turn heads with its looks; its sound is equally stunning. The White Falcon delivers a twangy, clear tone that’s as majestic as its appearance.


How Amplifiers Affect Clean Tones

Selecting the ideal amplifier is akin to discovering the ultimate pair of glasses—it amplifies all the right features. Tube amplifiers deliver warmth and dynamic response, making them perfect for the rich clean tones associated with the best guitars for clean tones, whereas solid-state amplifiers offer reliability and sharpness.

Bear in mind, the amplifier engages in a dialog with your guitar, so making a prudent choice is crucial to guarantee that your clean tones find their ideal match.

Effects Pedals for Enhancing Clean Tones

To sprinkle a little magic on your clean tones, consider these pedal friends:


When looking at the best guitars for clean tones, pedals should also be a talking point. These pedals are like a good friend who always has your back, ensuring your tone is balanced and smooth.

Reverb and Delay

Adding reverb or delay is like adding the perfect amount of seasoning to a dish—it enhances everything, giving your tone depth and space.

Care and Maintenance for Optimal Clean Tones

Having the best guitars for clean tones is great, but you need to know how to miantain a guitar. A well-maintained guitar is a happy guitar. Regular cleaning, proper string changing, and attention to humidity and temperature can keep your guitar sounding its best. It’s like taking care of a prized plant—you give it love, and it grows.

Tips for Recording Clean Tones

Recording clean tones is an art in itself. Proper mic placement, room acoustics, and even the choice of DI boxes can make a world of difference. It’s about capturing the essence of your tone, ensuring every nuance shines through in the recording.

Electric Guitar Tonal Clarity

Finding tonal clarity with the best guitars for clean tones is akin to mastering the art of balance in a high-wire act. It demands exactitude, meticulous attention, and a willingness to experiment.

The path to discovering clarity begins with a deep dive into the unique voice of your instrument. From selecting the right strings to fine-tuning your playing technique, each component is crucial.

Yet, it’s essential to remember that the essence of tonal clarity frequently resides in simplicity – a clean signal path and precise setup can make the tones of the best guitars for clean tones resonate with unparalleled purity.

Acoustic Resonance Characteristics

The soul of an acoustic guitar lies in its resonance. This natural amplification of sound within the guitar’s body can turn a simple chord into a symphony of overtones. The wood type, body shape, and construction all contribute to this acoustic alchemy. Crafting a guitar with the right resonance characteristics is akin to bottling lightning – it’s rare, but once captured, it electrifies every note.

Semi-Hollow Body Guitar Benefits

Semi-hollow body guitars emerge as the Swiss Army knives in the quest for the best guitars for clean tones, offering a unique mix of electric sharpness and acoustic warmth. These incredibly versatile instruments excel across genres such as jazz, blues, rock, and pop. The semi-hollow body architecture enriches clean tones with added depth and dimension, creating a sonic playground for guitarists keen on exploring varied textures and dynamics.

Clean Amp Settings for Guitar

Your amplifier is not just a box that makes your guitar louder; it’s an integral part of your tone. Finding the right clean amp settings is like setting the stage for a masterpiece.

Start with a flat EQ and gradually sculpt your sound by adjusting the bass, mid, and treble knobs. The goal is to amplify your guitar’s natural voice without adding unwanted coloration. A touch of reverb can add space to your tone, making it breathe and resonate with every strum.

Guitar Wood Types and Sound Quality

The wood of your guitar acts as the canvas for your musical expressions. Different woods impart different tonal qualities – mahogany offers warmth, maple lends brightness, and rosewood brings depth.

Understanding the influence of wood types on sound quality allows you to choose a guitar that matches your sonic vision. It’s a symbiotic relationship where the guitar’s voice and your own become one.

Pickup Configuration for Clear Tones

Pickups serve as the interpreters for the voice of the best guitars for clean tones, transforming string vibrations into electrical signals. The setup of these pickups greatly influences the tonal clarity of your guitar.

Single-coils are celebrated for their crisp, detailed sound, whereas humbuckers offer a richer, more robust tone. Exploring various pickup configurations on the best guitars for clean tones can expose new dimensions of clarity, uncovering subtleties in your playing that were once concealed.

Effects Pedals for Clean Guitar Sound

Effects pedals can be the spice in your tonal recipe, adding flavor and color to your clean sound. However, the key to using effects with clean tones is restraint.

A well-chosen reverb or delay pedal can enhance your sound’s dimensionality, while a compressor can ensure consistency and punch. The art lies in using these tools to complement your clean tones, not overpower them.

Maintaining Guitar for Best Performance

Just as any premium instrument demands, a guitar requires diligent care and maintenance to deliver its optimal performance, especially when seeking the best guitars for clean tones.

Consistent upkeep, including changing strings and conditioning the fretboard, guarantees that your guitar will not only play effortlessly but also produce the finest sound.

A guitar that is well-cared for becomes a dependable ally in your musical endeavors, capable of articulating your emotions with both clarity and precision.

Guitar Amplifier Compatibility

Not all amplifiers are created equal, and finding the one that truly complements your guitar is a quest in itself. The right amp should amplify your playing without altering your instrument’s inherent voice.

Whether you’re drawn to the warmth of tubes or the precision of solid-state, the compatibility between your guitar and amplifier is fundamental to achieving your desired tone.

Recording Techniques for the Best Guitars for Clean Tones

Capturing your guitar’s tone in a recording is the ultimate test of your sonic setup. From microphone placement to the choice of room, every decision impacts the final sound.

Experiment with different techniques to find what best represents your tone. Remember, the goal is to capture the essence of your playing, preserving the dynamics and nuances that make your sound uniquely yours.

Conclusion: The Best Guitars for Clean Tones

Embarking on the quest for the best guitar for clean tones is a journey of discovery, filled with sonic landscapes waiting to be explored. Whether you lean towards the classic charm of a Fender Stratocaster or the jazzy elegance of a Gibson L-5 CES, remember that the best guitar is the one that speaks to you. So, tune up, plug in, and let your clean tones soar!

FAQ: Best Guitars for Clean Tones

What is a clean tone on a guitar?

A clean tone refers to the pure, unaltered sound of a guitar, free from distortion or overdrive, showcasing the guitar’s natural sound.

Which factors influence a guitar’s clean tone?

Factors determining the best guitars for clean tones encompass the type of pickups (single-coil vs. humbucker), the wood type, the construction of the guitar, the scale length, and the selection of amplification and effects.

Why is a guitar setup important for clean tones?

A proper setup ensures optimal string action, pickup height, and intonation, all of which contribute to clearer, more resonant tones.

Can electric guitars produce good clean tones?

Yes, many electric guitars, especially those with single-coil pickups or semi-hollow bodies, are known for their excellent clean tones.

Are some acoustic guitars better for clean tones than others?

Yes, guitars like the Martin D-28 and Taylor 814ce are renowned for their clear, articulate clean tones due to their construction and material quality.

What makes jazz guitars good for clean tones?

Jazz guitars, often with hollow bodies and warm-sounding pickups, are designed to produce rich, full clean tones ideal for jazz music.

How do pickups affect a guitar’s clean tone?

Single-coil pickups tend to offer brighter, crisper clean tones, while humbuckers provide a warmer, fuller sound.

Do wood types impact the clean tone of a guitar?

Yes, different woods offer varying sound characteristics; for example, mahogany tends to warm up the sound, whereas maple can enhance brightness and clarity.

How does scale length influence clean tone?

In the best guitars for clean tones, longer scale lengths elevate string tension, resulting in brighter, more precise tones, whereas shorter scales are known to yield warmer sounds.

What role do amplifiers play in achieving clean tones?

Amplifiers shape the final sound, with tube amps providing warmth and richness, and solid-state amps offering clarity and consistency.

Can effects pedals improve clean guitar tones?

Yes, pedals like reverb, delay, and compressors can enhance clean tones, adding depth, sustain, and balance.

What maintenance tips can improve clean tones?

Regular cleaning, proper string changes, and attention to humidity levels help maintain optimal sound quality.

Are there specific recording techniques for capturing clean tones?

Techniques include careful mic placement, choosing the right room, and using DI boxes for clarity.

How do string gauges affect clean tones?

Lighter strings are known to yield brighter tones, essential for the best guitars for clean tones, whereas heavier gauges are celebrated for enhancing volume and sustain.

What is the best way to set up my guitar for clean tones?

Adjust action and pickup height for comfort and clarity, and choose strings that complement your desired sound.

Can budget guitars produce good clean tones?

Absolutely, with the right setup and care, budget guitars can deliver impressive clean tones.

What are some unconventional guitar choices for unique clean tones?

The best guitars for clean tones, such as the Rickenbacker 360 and Gretsch White Falcon, provide unique clean sounds that set them apart from more traditional models.

How do I choose the right amplifier for my clean tones?

Consider amps known for their clean channels and experiment with settings to find a combination that suits your guitar and style.

What’s the difference between tube and solid-state amps for clean tones?

Tube amps are prized for their warm, natural sound, while solid-state amps provide a more consistent, clear tone.

How can I ensure my guitar stays in good condition for the best clean tones?

Regular maintenance, including cleaning, string changes, and humidity control, will keep your guitar sounding its best.