The Top 5 ES-335 Players in Country Music

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When it comes to country music, a particular guitar model has gained immense popularity amongst the artists. The guitar we’re discussing today is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic and versatile instruments in the music industry: the ES-335. You might be wondering, what makes this guitar so special and why do country musicians love it so much? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the history, popularity, and significance of the ES-335 in country music. We’ll also delve into the top five ES-335 players in this genre, who have made a distinct mark with their talent and skills. So grab your cowboy hat and let’s ride into the world of the ES-335 in country music.

What is the ES-335?

What Is The Es-335?
There’s a certain charm to the sound of country music that is instantly recognizable. With its signature twang and beautiful melodies, it has made its way into the hearts of many. And one instrument that has played a crucial role in creating the country music sound is the ES-335. The ES-335 is a semi-hollow guitar that has won the hearts of many country music legends over the years. In this section, we’ll explore the history of the ES-335, why it’s popular in country music, and some of the top players who have utilized it to make some of the most memorable sounds in the genre. Curious to know more about the history and evolution of the ES-335 in country music? Check out our detailed article.

The History of the ES-335

The ES-335 is a semi-hollow body electric guitar that was first introduced by Gibson in 1958. Its invention came from a demand for a guitar that could produce the same sound and sustain as a solid body guitar, while also having the warm, mellow tone of a hollow body guitar. The ES-335 was the first of its kind and became an instant classic.

The design of the ES-335 was groundbreaking. Its center block allowed for the guitar to be played at higher volumes without the feedback common in other hollow body guitars. The design also allowed for a thinner neck and body, making playing for long periods of time more comfortable.

The ES-335 was also built to provide a new sound for guitarists. While the Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster were popular at the time, they produced a brighter and sharper sound. With the ES-335, guitarists could achieve a warmer sound, more suited to blues or jazz.

In fact, the ES-335 is often associated with legendary blues musicians such as B.B. King, who played a variation known as the “Lucille”. The influence of blues can still be seen today, with modern country and country-rock often featuring blues-inspired solos and guitar work.

Since its debut, the ES-335 has been used by countless musicians across many genres. However, its influence on country music cannot be denied. From Chet Atkins in the 1950s to Vince Gill and Brent Mason in the 1990s and beyond, the ES-335 has been a staple in the genre.

If you want to learn more about why the ES-335 has been so popular in country music, read on to the next section about the sound of the ES-335. Or, if you’re curious about why you should choose the ES-335 specifically for country music, check out our article on why the ES-335 is the right choice for country music.

Why It’s Popular in Country Music

The ES-335 gained popularity in country music due to its unique features that perfectly suit the genre’s sound and style. Here are the reasons why the ES-335 is a favorite among country music artists:

Reasons Explanations
Flexibility and versatility The ES-335’s semi-hollow body design produces a sound that sits between a solid-body and a hollow-body guitar. This gives country music guitarists a wide range of tones to choose from, making it versatile enough to play different styles of music, including rock, blues, and jazz.
The sound of the ES-335 The ES-335’s unique sound is achieved by its combination of pickups, which produce a warm and rich sound that is perfect for producing twangy country licks. The guitar’s electronics make it easy to produce clear, articulate tones with excellent sustain, making it well-suited for country music’s melodic playing style.
The look of the ES-335 The ES-335’s classic, vintage-inspired design gives it an iconic look that makes it an attractive choice for country guitarists. Its elegant, semi-hollow body style, bound fingerboard, and classic F-holes are all part of its appeal. Additionally, the guitar comes in a variety of finishes that look great under the stage lights.

It’s no wonder that the ES-335 is a popular choice among country music guitarists, with many of the genre’s greatest players, including Chet Atkins and Albert Lee, favoring this guitar over others. The ES-335’s unique sound, feel, look, and versatility truly make it a guitar that is well-suited for the demands of country music.

The Top Five ES-335 Players in Country Music

The Top Five Es-335 Players In Country Music
When it comes to country music, the sound of the ES-335 is unmistakeable. This semi-acoustic guitar has been a staple in the genre for decades and has been played by some of the most legendary musicians in the industry. So, who are the top ES-335 players in country music? Let’s take a look at five of the best, each with their own unique style and sound that has helped shape the genre. But before we dive in, let’s take a closer look at the history and popularity of the ES-335 in country music. Want to know more about other guitars in country music? Check out our article on ES-335 vs Telecaster.

1. Chet Atkins

Chet Atkins is an American country guitarist who is considered a pioneer of the Nashville sound. He was born in 1924 and started playing guitar at the age of nine. With his unparalleled fingerpicking technique and unique playing style, Atkins has inspired generations of guitarists.

Here are some reasons why Chet Atkins is one of the top ES-335 players in country music:

  • His Technique: Chet Atkins was known for his fingerpicking technique, which he developed from Merle Travis’ style. He is often credited with creating the “Atkins Style” of fingerpicking, which involves using the thumb and fingers to pick the strings simultaneously. This technique allowed him to create intricate melodies and chord progressions, and it has influenced countless guitarists.
  • His Legacy: Chet Atkins played a crucial role in shaping the modern sound of country music. He was a prolific session musician and producer, working with artists like Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, and Willie Nelson. He was also the head of RCA Records’ Nashville division and helped launch the careers of many country artists.
  • His Influence: Many guitarists consider Chet Atkins their biggest influence. He inspired guitarists like Mark Knopfler, Jerry Reed, and Tommy Emmanuel. In fact, Atkins collaborated with Mark Knopfler on several albums, including “Neck and Neck,” which won a Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance in 1991.
  • His Innovation: Chet Atkins was always experimenting with new sounds and playing techniques. He was one of the first country guitarists to use a Gibson ES-335, which he incorporated into his signature sound. He also experimented with electric guitar effects, like reverb and chorus, which were uncommon in country music at the time.

Chet Atkins’ contributions to country music and the guitar world are immeasurable. His legacy lives on through his music and the guitarists he influenced. It’s no wonder he is one of the top ES-335 players in country music.

2. Vince Gill

Vince Gill is an American country music singer, songwriter, and guitar virtuoso who has been recognized as one of the top ES-335 players in the genre. He was born in Oklahoma in 1957 and began playing guitar at a young age. By the time he was a teenager, he was already performing in local bands.

Gill’s Musial Career

Gill’s music career took off in the 1980s when he signed a record deal with RCA Records. He went on to release hit after hit, including “When I Call Your Name,” “I Still Believe in You,” and “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” which became one of his signature songs.

Gill’s ES-335 Style

Gill’s style on the ES-335 is characterized by his virtuosity, his use of double stops and string bends, and his ability to seamlessly blend country, blues, and rock influences. He is also known for his use of alternate tunings, which allow him to create unique sounds and chord voicings.

In live performances, Gill often uses the ES-335 to add texture and depth to his sound. He frequently switches between clean and overdriven tones, depending on the emotional content of the song.

Gill’s Impact on Country Music

Gill’s influence on country music cannot be overstated. He has won a record number of Country Music Association Awards, including Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and Song of the Year. He has also been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry.

Gill’s use of the ES-335 has inspired countless musicians in country music and beyond to explore the versatility and flexibility of the instrument. His melodic phrasing, technical ability, and emotional depth are just a few of the reasons why he is widely regarded as one of the top ES-335 players in country music.


Vince Gill’s incredible talent on the ES-335, combined with his songwriting skills and powerful vocals, have made him a beloved figure in country music. His ability to blend musical genres and create unique sounds on the guitar have earned him a place in the pantheon of great ES-335 players.

3. Brent Mason

Brent Mason is one of the most in-demand session guitarists in Nashville, and for good reason. With his virtuosic playing style and ability to effortlessly blend multiple genres, Mason has earned his place as one of the top ES-335 players in country music.

Here are some reasons why Mason made our list:

  • Musical collaborations: Over the course of his career, Mason has collaborated with some of the biggest names in country music, including Alan Jackson, George Strait, and Travis Tritt. His ability to adapt to different styles and seamlessly integrate the ES-335 into any musical context is a testament to his skill as a guitarist.
  • Awards and recognition: Mason has won multiple awards for his playing, including a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance in 1997. He has also been recognized by the Academy of Country Music as Guitarist of the Year.
  • Technical prowess: Mason is known for his incredible technique on the guitar, particularly his lightning-fast fingerpicking and impressive string bending. He often incorporates complex jazz and blues-influenced runs into his playing, making full use of the ES-335’s versatile sound.

Brent Mason’s impressive track record as a session musician, his numerous awards and accolades, and his undeniable technical skill make him a standout ES-335 player in the world of country music.

4. Albert Lee

Albert Lee is a legendary guitarist who is considered to be one of the top ES-335 players in country music. He began playing guitar at a young age and quickly developed a unique style that blends together elements of rock, country, and blues.

One of the reasons why Albert Lee is considered to be a top ES-335 player is his impressive speed and technical ability. He is known for his lightning-fast runs, complex chord progressions, and intricate picking patterns. His incredible talent has earned him numerous awards and accolades throughout his career, including induction into the Musicians Hall of Fame.

In addition to his impressive technical skills, Albert Lee is also known for his precision and attention to detail. He takes great care in crafting each note and phrase, ensuring that every aspect of his playing is perfectly executed. His dedication to his craft has made him a highly respected figure in the music world.

Here is a table showcasing some of Albert Lee’s most notable career achievements:

Year Award/Accomplishment
1974 Joined Eric Clapton’s band as a touring guitarist
1982 Inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame
2002 Received a Grammy Nomination for Best Country Instrumental Performance
2007 Received the Trailblazer Award from the Americana Music Association
2018 Ranked #47 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time

Albert Lee’s impressive skills and attention to detail make him a highly respected ES-335 player in country music. His technical prowess and dedication to his craft have earned him numerous accolades and a legion of fans around the world.

5. Steve Wariner

When it comes to country music and the ES-335, Steve Wariner is a name that cannot be ignored. This Kentucky-born musician is a jack of all trades, mastering not only the guitar but also vocals and songwriting. He has won multiple Grammy Awards and written hits for artists like Garth Brooks and Keith Urban.

Guitar Setup Playing Style Notable Songs
ES-335 Fingerpicking “Holes in the Floor of Heaven,” “Nothin’ but the Taillights,” “The Weekend”

Wariner’s go-to guitar is the ES-335, and his fingerpicking style showcases the guitar’s versatility. He often uses the guitar to create a warm, full-bodied sound that perfectly complements his voice. Some of his most popular songs, such as “Holes in the Floor of Heaven” and “Nothin’ but the Taillights,” feature the ES-335 prominently.

What sets Wariner apart from other country guitarists is his willingness to experiment with different genres. He has dabbled in everything from jazz to pop and has incorporated those elements into his country music. This versatility is mirrored in his use of the ES-335, which can handle a wide range of tones and styles.

Steve Wariner is a master at using the ES-335 to create a unique sound that sets him apart from his peers. Whether he’s playing soft ballads or upbeat rockers, his fingerpicking style and the warm tone of the ES-335 always shine through.

What Makes the ES-335 So Great in Country Music?

As we’ve seen from the list of top ES-335 players in country music, this versatile guitar has made a big impact on the genre. But what is it exactly that makes the ES-335 so great in this style of music? Let’s delve deeper into the unique qualities of the ES-335 that have contributed to its popularity amongst country musicians. From its flexibility and versatility to its signature sound and aesthetic appeal, there’s plenty to explore. So grab your guitar and let’s take a closer look!

Flexibility and Versatility

When it comes to country music, the ES-335 is the perfect guitar for those who want to be versatile and flexible in their playing style. One of the main reasons for its popularity in the genre is its adaptability to different playing techniques and musical genres. Let’s take a closer look at why the ES-335 is so flexible and versatile:

Feature Explanation
Hollow and Semi-Hollow Body The body of the ES-335 is semi-hollow, which gives it a unique sound that is suitable for various genres. The depth and warmth of the guitar’s sound make it perfect for both rhythm and lead playing.
Double Cutaway Design With the guitar’s double cutaway design, players have access to the higher frets, which makes it perfect for soloing and playing lead guitar. This feature also allows for better access to the neck, which makes it easier to play chords and rhythm guitar.
Wide Range of Tones Thanks to its humbucking pickups, the ES-335 can produce a wide range of tones. Players can create clean, crisp sounds as well as distorted, gritty tones, making it a great guitar for any style of music. The guitar’s tone knobs and pickup selector switch also allow for further customization of tones.
Ability to Play Both Acoustic and Electric Styles The ES-335’s hollow and semi-hollow body produces a sound that is somewhere between acoustic and electric. This makes it perfect for players who want to blend acoustic and electric styles, creating a unique sound that is both warm and bright.

The ES-335’s flexibility and versatility make it the perfect guitar for country music. It can be used for both lead and rhythm playing, and its wide range of tones makes it suitable for any style of music. With its unique blend of acoustic and electric sounds, the ES-335 gives players the ability to create a sound that is truly their own.

The Sound of the ES-335

One of the main reasons the ES-335 has become such a go-to guitar in country music is its unique and well-rounded sound. The semi-hollow body of the ES-335 produces a warm and full tone that is perfect for accompanying a variety of different instruments.

The Sound of the ES-335

| | Pros | Cons |
| — | — | — |
| Warmth | The semi-hollow body of the ES-335 produces a warm and full tone that sounds great in both clean and distorted settings. This warmth is perfect for playing chords and arpeggios. | The warmth of the ES-335 can sometimes make it difficult to cut through a mix, especially in a live setting. |
| Attack | The ES-335 has a bright attack that is perfect for playing lead lines and solos. | The bright attack can sometimes be too harsh for certain styles of music or for certain players who prefer a more mellow tone. |
| Sustain | The sustain of the ES-335 is legendary. The semi-hollow body allows notes to ring out for longer periods of time, giving a player more time to explore the tonal possibilities of the guitar. | The sustain can sometimes be too much for certain styles of music or for certain players who prefer a more staccato approach. |

The sound of the ES-335 is diverse and well-rounded, making it an excellent choice for any country music player looking for a versatile electric guitar.

The Look of the ES-335

When it comes to the look of the ES-335, it’s hard not to be impressed. This stunning guitar is instantly recognizable thanks to its iconic shape and sleek design.

The first thing that stands out is the semi-hollow body, which is a unique feature that sets the ES-335 apart from many other solid-body electric guitars. The curved top of the guitar is made from a beautiful figured maple, while the back and sides are typically made from a lighter wood, such as mahogany or maple. The result is a guitar that looks as great as it sounds.

Another distinctive feature of the ES-335 is its f-holes, which are a design element borrowed from the world of violins and cellos. These two small sound holes on either side of the guitar’s body help to give it a more acoustic-like tone and add another layer to its visual appeal.

The hardware on the ES-335 is equally impressive. Most models feature a pair of humbucker pickups that deliver a rich, warm, and full-bodied sound that’s perfect for country music. The pickups are typically mounted on a floating pickguard that complements the guitar’s smooth curves and enhances its overall look.

Finally, the ES-335 is available in a variety of finishes, ranging from classic sunburst and cherry red to more modern colors like blue and green. This means that you can choose a guitar that not only sounds great but also matches your personal style and preferences.

All of these elements come together to create a guitar that’s truly stunning to look at and a joy to play. The ES-335 is a classic instrument that has stood the test of time and continues to inspire musicians today, not just in country but in many other genres as well.


In conclusion, the ES-335 has become an integral part of country music, thanks to its versatility, sound quality, and an impressive list of legendary players who have taken full advantage of its capabilities on stage and in the studio. As we have seen, Chet Atkins, Vince Gill, Brent Mason, Albert Lee, and Steve Wariner are the top five ES-335 players in the genre.

The ES-335 has stood the test of time and shows no signs of slowing down in country music. Its signature warm, round sound has become synonymous with the genre, and it continues to inspire new generations of players. By combining the best of solid and hollow-body design, the ES-335 has become the go-to guitar for many iconic country guitarists.

The ES-335’s popularity in country music is a testament to its exceptional qualities. Its unique sound has allowed it to carve out a distinctive niche in the genre, while its versatility has made it an ideal choice for countless players across the musical spectrum. Whether you’re playing intricate fingerpicking patterns or blazing leads, the ES-335 delivers the goods.

If you’re a fan of country music and the ES-335, it’s essential to explore the works of Chet Atkins, Vince Gill, Brent Mason, Albert Lee, and Steve Wariner. These guitarists have all made significant contributions to the genre, and their styles showcase the versatility and potential of the ES-335.

As we’ve seen, the ES-335 is a unique and exceptional guitar that has become an essential part of country music. Its sound quality, flexibility, and iconic looks make it a cherished and sought-after instrument. If you’re a country guitarist, consider adding an ES-335 to your collection, and join the ranks of the many players who have made history with this legendary guitar.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the price range for an ES-335 guitar?

The price range for an ES-335 guitar can vary greatly depending on the make and model. Generally, they can range anywhere from $1,500 to over $10,000.

What type of pickups are typically used in an ES-335?

ES-335 guitars typically use humbucker pickups. Many players also swap out the stock pickups for higher-end options to achieve a specific tone.

Are there any notable differences between vintage and modern ES-335 guitars?

Yes, vintage ES-335 guitars tend to have a thicker neck profile and smaller frets compared to modern versions. Vintage models are also highly sought after and can command higher prices.

What other genres besides country music commonly use ES-335 guitars?

ES-335 guitars are popular in various genres, including rock, blues, and jazz. Famous rock guitarists like Eric Clapton and Dave Grohl have been known to use the ES-335 in their music.

What is the weight of an average ES-335 guitar?

An average ES-335 guitar typically weighs between 7 to 8 pounds, but this can vary depending on the make and model.

How does the semi-hollow body of an ES-335 affect its sound?

The semi-hollow body design of an ES-335 allows for a brighter and more open sound compared to fully solid body guitars. This also results in a greater degree of sustain in the notes.

What is the origin of the term “ES-335”?

The “ES” in “ES-335” stands for “Electric Spanish,” which was a term coined by Gibson in the 1930s to describe their Spanish-style electric guitars. The “335” refers to the original price of $335 when the guitar was first introduced in 1958.

What is the difference between a Gibson and Epiphone ES-335?

The main difference between these two models is the price and quality. Gibson ES-335 guitars are made in the USA and are generally considered higher quality instruments, while Epiphone ES-335 guitars are made in Asia and are more affordable.

Can left-handed players play an ES-335 guitar?

Yes, left-handed versions of the ES-335 are available for purchase. However, left-handed models can sometimes be harder to find and may cost more.

What types of amps pair well with an ES-335 guitar?

ES-335 guitars pair well with tube amplifiers, as these amps can bring out the warm and rich tones of the guitar. Popular amp brands among ES-335 players include Fender, Marshall, and Vox.


About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

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