For example (while not necessary true) I'have heard that Stratocasters are good for metal, or that semi-hollows are for blues. I quess that you can play anything with anything but are there some norms? I would like a complete (as far as possible) answer associating each well-known electric guitar type with some genres.

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    A list of this nature doesn't exactly fit the purpose of this forum. It would be more fitting if you were to specify the type of guitar, not the make or model. This will greatly limit the answers, so I'm not sure you'll get what you are looking for. – Basstickler Mar 2 '15 at 16:53
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    @Basstickler: actually I'd say such an “association list” question is fine, but only as Community Wiki. This kind of stuff is what the feature is there for. – leftaroundabout Mar 2 '15 at 20:25
  • @leftaroundabout - That makes sense. Would that actually include make and model as acceptable too? Just seems very broad but I'm not very familiar with the community wiki's here. I do imagine that it would be a very useful list for some. – Basstickler Mar 2 '15 at 20:58
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    @Basstickler: I started a CW answer list, for everybody to extend upon. – leftaroundabout Mar 2 '15 at 22:03
up vote 2 down vote accepted

This is an incomplete list. Please edit it to add extra models/styles!

Roughly ordered historically, by first appeareance of the type:

  • Lap steel guitars, apart from being a clichee of Hawaii sound, are mostly found in countless country songs. Their particular twang-slide sound, often in thirds and fourths, is very distinctive even in comparison with other slide guitars, so a lap- or pedal-steel can give almost any musical context a country feel[1] (unless the sound is strongly distorted).
  • Full-hollowbody jazz guitars are, you've guessed it, an excellent fit for jazz: in particular with flatwound strings and the typical fat (but originally single-coil!) pickups, they have a very warm, soft sound, with smooth attack (so a rhythmic accompaniment doesn't get too much in the way of syncompated drums) yet fast enough response to play highly technical melody lines[2].
    In other styles, these guitars tend to have difficulties: very loud amplification (in particular distorted) quickly ends up in uncontrolled feedback, and the sound isn't exactly cutting – though it can be made cutting by agressive playing, which then yields a characteristic rockabilly sound[3].
  • Semiacoustic models have less of a feedback problem. They're still leaning a bit towards jazz, but can also work well in loud blues when driven a bit dirtier. And the somewhat short, direct sound is also popular in rockabilly and even punkier styles. They're a bit like, “from any style, a bit jazzier, but not quite as much as a foll-hollow”. Indeed they're quite versatile, not really attached to any particular style.
  • The Telecaster (or Esquire/Broadcaster/Nocaster) has that particular twang that can, somewhat similar to a pedal steel, say unmistakably “we're playing country”[4], though it's also very commonly played (either mellowed-down or distorted) in rock styles that take elements from country/blues.
  • The Stratocaster is perhaps originally associated with rock'n'roll, but really it's everywhere at home.
  • The Les Paul, being a Gibson model, has more of a hollowbody heritage, hence it again fits more naturally in jazz than the Fender models. With its singing sound and fat humbuckers it also makes for a very obvious blues candidate – though the Stratocaster is overall probably more common in blues! Perhaps the more characteristic style for Les Paul is blues rock[5].

Example references:

[1] Dire Straits w/ Paul Franklin, Romeo and Juliet (from On The Night)

[2] Diana Krall w/ Anthony Wilson, Devil May Care

[3] Stray Cats, Stray Cat Strut

[4] Albert Lee, Country Boy

[5] Led Zeppelin, Since I've Been Loving You

Some established el. guitar designs have certain characteristics that makes them more suitable to certain genres generally speaking. Here are some examples:

  • Twin-humbucker Les Pauls are generally quite high-output and full sounding, making them rather rock and heavy rock orientated.
  • Fender Telecasters have a distinct nasal twang that has long been associated with country players and is therefore the ax of choice of many younger country players. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy that.
  • Modern-style thin-body guitars (like the ones Ibanez makes) are designed for playability, so are usually found in the hands of shredders.

All that said, we should not forget that there are many guitarists who also want an instrument that "looks right", and not just "sounds and feels right". So there are many non-musical factors that they will consider, such as e.g. "who else plays this model?", "will fans at my gig like my guitar?", "does it look awesome on me?" etc.

So, I guess the bottom line is yes, guitars are sometimes designed with a genre in mind, but no, people will find all sorts of creative uses for any instrument. Rules are there to be broken.

  • Great answer. Don't forget archtop guitars for Jazz. You could also mention exceptions, like Ed Bickert, who is the classic user of the unusual telecaster in jazz. – Costagero Mar 2 '15 at 16:24
  • Good answer. I think your second point applies generally: eg similar to the telecaster & countr, younger metal players are choosing Ibanez (etc) because that's what their heroes used. – user2808054 Mar 4 '15 at 13:53

You can cover almost all genres with almost all type of guitars with the right tuning and a little bit support of effects... But if you are alone with your guitar, the best fit for distinctive genres are as follows (in my opinion)

  • Full Hollow Body = Jazz
  • Semi Hallow Body = Low Gain Blues - Classic Rock - British Rock
  • Telecaster = Country - Country Rock
  • Les Paul =Hard Rock - High Gain Blues - Ballads
  • Stratocaster = Funk - Jazz-Modern Rock - Reggae - Soul - Pop
  • Super Strats ( Ibanez type ) = Metal

Just thought I'd point out a few exceptions. This might seem like an anti-answer but it complements the list of 'norms' already provided and underlines that you can play anything on anything, but there will be a 'slant' to it, which is sometimes desirable !

  • The Cult - Billy Duffy uses a Gretch White Falcon usually associated with jazz/rockabilly
  • Tenacious D - Rock & loud-proud solos on an acoustic guitar
  • Led Zep - Stairway to Heaven was played on a clean Les Paul (acoustic would be most obvious choice)
  • Steeleye Span - Folk on a Les Paul
  • The Jam - Rickenbacker guitar gave them a unique sound, but punk-pop usually associated with something with heavier humbucker sound.

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