What’s the Best Guitar for Rockabilly?

Rockabilly Guitar and Gear Buying Guide

What’s the Best Guitar for Rockabilly?

Even though rockabilly does not top the charts anymore, it is a style of music that has deeply impacted music and culture ever since the 1950s. From Elvis Presley to Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, rockabilly is an important part of music history, and at the center of its unique sound is the guitar.

If you want to perfect your sound, it’s imperative to get the best guitar for Rockabilly. Although you can quickly make the rockabilly sound using any guitar with the right setup, one guitar stands out amongst the rest.

Read on to learn which guitar is the best for rockabilly playing, as well as other gear you will need.

AudioVisual Pursuits is reader supported. We may earn a small fee from products we recommend at no charge to you. Learn More

What's the best guitar for Rockabilly

What’s the Best Guitar for Rockabilly?

Hands down, the best guitar for rockabilly is the Gretsch semi-acoustic. This guitar has been the pick by major figures in the rockabilly genre, including Eddie Cochran and Brian Setzer. Since the Gretsch is the top choice for many rockabilly legends, it remains one of the best guitars for the genre today.

What allows the Gretsch to stand out for rockabilly is its twangy sound. Especially when you pair the guitar with the appropriate setups, you can get the classically twangy pickings that you look for in rockabilly music.

What Are Other Good Guitars for Rockabilly?

The great thing about rockabilly is that you can get that wanky sound with just about any guitar you use. Even though the Gretsch is the number one rockabilly guitar, you can create the same sound with other guitars if you set them up correctly.

For example, Fender Telecaster guitars are frequently chosen for the rockabilly genre. Likewise, Epiphone semi-acoustic models are also fantastic choices. Just like the Gretsch, these guitars are set up with the right equipment to create the classic twangy sound.

What Guitar Gear Do I Need for Rockabilly?

To truly get the rockabilly sound, you need more than just a guitar. Rockabilly came out of the 1950s, and there’s a reason for this. During this time, new guitar gear was being invented, such as the gear necessary for the rockabilly genre.

Tape Echo

For an authentic rockabilly sound, the only thing you need is a tape echo. The point of this tool is to create slap-back delay. What this means is that you really don’t need fancy equipment in order to get the authentic rockabilly sound.

Vintage tape echoes are typically very expensive and rare. Even Brian Setzer himself did not use echo units from the 50s. He used echoes from the 70s. You don’t even have to get echoes from the 70s, you can use practically any delay pedal to get the rockabilly sound.

There are quite a few tape echoes you can select. The Boss Roland Space Echo RE- 20 Pedal is one of the best choices because it will sound closest to Setzer’s sound, but you might want to look for Strymon or Landlord FX delay pedals as well.


You need more than just a tape echo. You will also need amps, but only valve amps work with the rockabilly sound. Most rockabilly artists prefer Fender amps. No matter what amp you select, make sure the reverb is down all the way.

Guitar Strings

One last thing to check out when getting your guitar gear is proper guitar strings. When you’re first experimenting with rockabilly, you don’t have to pay as much attention to your guitar strings, but you will likely want to change them once you start taking rockabilly more seriously. Some of the most famous rockabilly guitarists used flat wound jazz guitar strings most frequently.

How Do You Get the Rockabilly Guitar Sound?

Even though perfecting the rockabilly sound is difficult, it actually isn’t that difficult to get started. The most important thing about getting the rockabilly guitar sound is having the right guitar and equipment. If you don’t have the right equipment, it’s impossible to get the rockabilly guitar sound.

1. Get the Right Gear

The first step to getting that sound is to get the right guitar and the gear mentioned above. Just by purchasing the right equipment, you are much more likely to get the sound, even if you aren’t super familiar with playing rockabilly riffs just yet.

2.Practice Riffs and Lively Picking

Once you get used to using your new guitar and the gear, you will want to start perfecting your technique. Rockabilly has an upbeat and bouncy sound. So, you want your picking to be light and lively. You can bring out the twang note by picking near the bridge, but make sure to maintain your momentum.

3. Have Body Match Sound

If you decide to start performing rockabilly, performance matters too. You want your body to be just as lively as your picking. It will take a lot of practice in order to get the sound just right, especially if you are getting your body movement in line with your playing.

Conclusion – What’s the Best Guitar for Rockabilly?

Gretsch Streamliner Center Block Jr. Imperial Stain w/Bigsby & Broad'Tron Pickups

In conclusion, the best guitar for rockabilly is the Gretsch semi-acoustic. This is the guitar that all of the most famous rockabilly guitarists select. If you don’t want a Gretsch, you can get away with Fenders and Telecasters, or any other guitar for that matter.

What matters most is that you get the right gear to pair with your guitar. Whether you get the Gretsch semi-acoustic or another guitar not on this article, you have to get a tape echo, as well as amps. To truly perfect the sound, you are going to want the correct guitar strings as well.

So, getting the right guitar is not even half the battle for getting the rockabilly sound. Although getting a Gretsch semi-acoustic will certainly make the job a lot easier, it is not necessary for a rockabilly style. Instead, it’s more so the gear and your playing technique that makes the rockabilly sound recognizable.

Now that you know what you need to get a rockabilly sound, get what gear you don’t have, and start playing. Keep a lively tone in your picking and try to get your body moving with your playing so that the entire experience is upbeat and lively.

Thank you for reading our article on What’s the Best Guitar for Rockabilly?

How To Use An iPhone As A Webcam