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Best Jazz Guitars: Precision Performers for Pros

Best Jazz Guitars: Precision Performers for Pros

Classic jazz sounds from five smooth guitars

Jazz guitars are big bodied, often semi-acoustic, and designed to coax out some wonderfully rich, warm tones. Historically, jazz was played on acoustic guitars. However, in the days before amplification, the guitar often became lost in the mix of the big band sound. Until, that was, the introduction of arch top acoustics. Containing a magnetic pickup, arch tops ushered in a new era of guitar manufacturing. This meant that players could be heard in the way they wanted. The only problem with these archtop guitars was that the vast hollow area inside the guitar's body could, and often did, create high levels of unwanted microphonic feedback. This particular sound, while quite wonderful when tamed and used in the right context, was completely out of sync with jazz's more sedate requirements.

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A new era

To combat this, many jazz players began to favour semi-acoustic guitars. These often came with feedback reducing wooden blocks installed inside the body, which added extra weight to the instrument. But, with the welcome side effect of increasing the amount of sustain produced. Gibson and Ibanez cornered the mass-production market, offering a range of hollow bodied guitars which were well received by jazz players as well as players of genres like blues and rock n' roll. As time went on, many players even gravitated towards solid body guitars, on account of the unique and arguably more versatile palette of sounds on offer. In terms of sounds, jazz requires a balance of warmth and clarity. While many solid body guitars can do an approximation of a jazz sound using a clean tone played through the neck pickup, in reality a dedicated jazz guitar will offer this particular sound without becoming overly woolly when lines are played at any speed. Let's take a look at our pick of the 5 best jazz guitars.

1. Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II

The Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II is the signature guitar of one of jazz music's great guitarists. Joe Pass played on records with Ella Fitzgerald, and his influence has cemented his name among the greats of the genre. The guitar which bears his name is a fine example of a guitar geared precisely towards one genre. It won't win any awards for versatility, but it is a fantastic instrument for jazz fans of any skill level. Featuring the classic hollow body arch top design of old but with two high quality Burstbucker pickups for a range of silky tones.

2. Ibanez AFV75 Artcore Hollowbody

The Ibanez AFV75 extends the Japanese manufacturer's reach well into the future whilst remaining true to its roots. The elegantly styled single-cutaway hollowbody is equipped with forward-thinking appointments that extends the tonal versatility of the hollowbody further than ever before. Sublime hardware includes a delightfully nimble ebony fingerboard, whilst the AR1 bridge and VT60 tailpiece optimise intonation and sustain superbly.

3. Gibson ES-275 Thinline Hollowbody

At the higher end of the market, you will definitely want to consider the Gibson ES-275 Thinline Hollowbody. A stunning Jazz Box model that combines playability, power, sustain and tonal warmth to perfection. Equipped with MHS (Memphis Historic Spec) pickups and boasting solid construction throughout, the ES-275 is perfect for anything and everything you could imagine. Each model is supplied with a Gibson hardshell case to get you out and about in style.

4. Gretsch G2655T Streamliner Bigsby

At the more reasonable end of the price scale compared to other Gretsch guitars, sits the Gretsch G2655T Streamliner. While not an arch top like the guitars listed previously, this guitar does feature a hollow bodied design. As such, it perfect for clear, ringing chords and lead lines. Also, in its favour is the G2655T Streamliner's thinner body depth. This makes it more comfortable and slightly less cumbersome than the bigger, more traditional jazz guitars. You'll also get more versatility from a 'regular' semi-acoustic, meaning you can dabble in blues, rock and country with the Streamliner models.

5. Fender American Elite Telecaster Thinline

We'll round this list off with a slightly different proposition, particularly with jazz in mind. The Fender Classic Series '72 Telecaster Thinline is a semi-hollow guitar in the guise of a traditional solid body. It features the same body shape and size of a standard Telecaster but has its horizon's broadened thanks to the internal routing of the wood and attractive 'f' hole on the guitar's top. Two humbuckers - again, not traditional on a Tele - provide exceptional warmth and versatility. Combined with its high levels of construction and craftsmanship this a guitar which will last a lifetime.

Get In Touch

We hope this list helps to guide you towards five high quality jazz guitars for every budget and playing style. If you have any questions our in-store product specialists will be happy to help. Or you can call our mail order team on 01925 582420.

If you liked that, then you might like this

In response to the high number of requests that we've had recently, Tom Quayle has put together some videos that will hopefully satisfy your craving for some Jazz inspired lessons. First up, check out his guide on "Developing Your Jazz Chops".

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