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Tips for Choosing a Jazz Guitar: 5 Best Jazz Guitar Models to Consider

 

Get Jazz guitar lessons online with Dave Stryker here.

If you're in the market for a jazz guitar, how do you know which one is the best one for you? While it ultimately comes down to personal preference, some of the more popular models are made by Gibson, Ibanez, Fender, and Epiphone. Here are 5 classic jazz guitar models to consider:

 

Gibson ES-175

gibson es-175 jazz guitar

Gibson guitars are used by many famous jazz guitarists like Pat Metheny, Johnny Smith, Wes Montgomery and Barney Kessel, so it is not a surprise that a Gibson tops the list of favorites.  Debuting in 1949, the Gibson ES-175 has long been one of the most popular and famous jazz guitars. This guitar feels solid and produces remarkable sounds even with a single chord.  Here's some distinctions for the ES-175:

  • Has a warm, round sound that is bell-like, clean and articulate, but airy.
  • Can take distortion, compression or overdrive well.
  • Plays terrifically for fusion, rock, and blues as well as jazz.  
  • Arguably the best jazz guitar of all time, Gibson ES-175 is the standard to match.

Gibson ES-335 Dot

gibson es-ss5 dot jazz guitar

Another Gibson favorite, the ES-335 Dot is a thinline guitar with a semi-hollow body, creating the sustain of a solidbody along with the rounded woody quality you need for jazz. Part of the appeal of this guitar is its iconic profile with f-holes and double-cutaway body that makes it instantly recognizable. The ES-335 Dot features:

  • A thin body prevents feedback which makes the instrument ideal for high-volume environments and also makes it easy to use in a standing position.
  • Lively playing in acoustic mode and also with stompboxes.
  • A smooth, full-bodied tone which is rich in mid and bottom range with a nice rounded top range.
  • This guitar excels in both smooth and gritty playability. 

Ibanez Artcore AF-75

ibanez artcore af-75

Durable, affordable and playable, the Ibanez Artcore series is a top model for excellent-sounding introductory jazz guitar. Many guitarists swear by this guitar and similar Ibanez models. Endorsed by top-level jazz guitarists like John Scofield, John Abercrombie, Kurt Rosenwinkel and George Benson, the Ibanez AF-75 is durable and provides:

  • A solid playing experience for jazz players of all levels, tastes, and backgrounds.
  • An all-maple hollow body that gives a tight resonance and no feedback.
  • A perfect for a muted jazz tone. 
  • The light, open and airy sound has a particularly good projecting mode when played acoustically.

Fender Telecaster

fender telecaster jazz guitar

Fenders are more well-known for rock and country but the Telecaster has also become a top jazz guitar over the decades. Recently, the Telecaster has been the guitar of choice among many of the most important jazz guitarists of today such as Bill Frisell, Mike Stern, Adam Rogers and Julian Lage. Why? Because the Telecaster has:

  • A warm, modern tone.
  • A clean style that lets jazz guitarists create a more personal voice.
  • The ability to be used for country, rock and blues as well as jazz.
  • As Bill Frisell has said in JazzTimes, "It's so simple but so versatile."

Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II

epiphone joe pass emperor ii

This guitar was designed by Joe Pass, the "president of bebop," and was released just before his passing in 1994. As a guitar built especially for playing jazz, this instrument offers:

  • Uncompromising authentic jazz tone.
  • Deep warmth, and enough treble and bite for making your leads sing.
  • Stunning sound for either acoustic or electronic jazz.
  • If you want to play classic jazz sound, this instrument is a top choice.

Any of these guitars can be an excellent choice for playing jazz. However, the most important part is how it feels and sounds when you play - so be sure to try before you buy!

Playing smooth, rich, jazz on guitar requires a balance between clarity and warmth. Jazz guitars are often big bodied and semi-acoustic to coax out the best tone. Before amplification, the guitar was often lost in the mix when it came to jazz. It wasn't until the introduction of magnetic pickups and arch top acoustics that jazz guitars could be heard more clearly. However, because those guitars have a hollow area that provided feedback, many jazz guitar players prefer semi-acoustic guitars with wooden blocks that reduced feedback and increased the sustain.

When testing out a new guitar, be sure to spend some time playing both sitting and standing. Notice how it feels on your shoulder, neck, back, and arms. You should check the sound at both low and high volumes to see if you have any feedback. Listen to the tonal quality and whether you get the authentic warm and vibrant jazz guitar sound that makes you love playing.

Finally, listen to the sound.  As Pat Metheny once said: "Listening is the key to everything good in music."  So if the sound is beautiful, then that's probably the right guitar for you!

Click below to learn more about jazz guitar lessons with Chuck Loeb at ArtistWorks!

Learn more about jazz guitar lessons at ArtistWorks

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