The best guitars for soul

By Miguel Ángel Ariza

It is rare that a musical style is so perfectly defined by a name as has happened with soul music; as it emanates from the soul of its creators and is composed to arrive at ours.

If it is true to say that it is the voice that reigns in soul, above all else, we would not be lying if we said that the electric guitar also played a key role in making this genre a mass genre.

We have already said something similar in the article that we dedicated to the most significant Telecaster in history but we have to return to the subject as now to talk about a soul guitar is almost the same as talking about Steve Cropper, the man responsible for the most important chords, riffs and solos of the genre together with artists like Otis Redding, Wilson Picket, Sam and Dave and Booker T and MG's themselves. Cropper began his career with a Fender Esquire and later moved on to the same model with two pick ups, a Telecaster at the start of the 60s, which defined a large part of the Stax sound and therefore the one that the soul sound would take as its own - and that almost 60 years later we would continue listening to.  

But it is not only Steve Cropper who represents soul music. The evolution of the genre to a more primitive, more aggressive and more sexual sound, why not say it, which gets closer to the funk style that would define the decade of the 70s was led by top artists like Ike Turner and Curtis Mayfield, both helped in the majority of their recordings and performances by their 60s Fender Stratocaster. This guitar has mostly been the preferred instrument of Curtis Mayfield, although he has also been seen with a Fender Telecaster Thinline, and we can also see the ‘bad’ of Ike with his inseparable Strato on almost every performance of the band. But who is going to focus on the stage when they have the Ikettes moving like hurricanes and that wild one Tina in the spotlight? Well us: the guitarists. For that reason we can state that the Strato also forms an important part of soul’s history.  

Lastly but not least important is one of our preferred guitars, the Gibson ES-335, a guitar that we have previously praised when we spoke of Chuck Berry and his Rock and Roll but that, due to its semi hollow finish, makes his guitar sound nearer to the jazz, which makes it the perfect instrument on which to play soul. There is clear evidence throughout history that it is a model that we can repeatedly listen to: for example in the 70s’ best known performances of Stevie Wonder; in the hands of Leo Nocentelli with his Meters or, without going further, in the concerts of one Amy Winehouse, who returned soul to the world number one spot at the start of the 21st century.

Teles, Stratos and 335, or what is really the same, a single coil sound or sound of a semi hollow. With that you already have enough to start, now you only need to add your soul…


Find you own way to the sound of Soul