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How to Find the Best Jazz Guitar For You

As a guitarist, the biggest and most expensive decision you make is the purchase of a jazz guitar.

With so many makes and models, it’s harder than ever to find the best jazz guitar for you.

Choosing the right body, color, wood, and hardware leads to hours of research and agonizing over whether you prefer fire engine or cherry red.

To make this decision easier, I’ve put together an overview of the four most common jazz guitars to explore before making your next purchase.

 

 

One note before you dive into this article. It can be tempting, price wise, to order a guitar from the internet.

But, when choosing the best jazz guitar for you, there’s no substitute for playing a guitar in person.

Going to a store to play a few guitars then purchasing one there, or online, prevents any surprises when buying a guitar online.

Lastly, what’s been your experience with purchasing jazz guitars? Share your experiences in the comments section of this article.

 

Note: To keep things reasonable, I’ve narrowed the field down. For the players, I’ve chosen one or two guitars that they played on classic recordings, or their signature models. If you want to add to the lists, post your thoughts in the comments section. 

 

 

 

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The Traditionalist – Archtop Guitars

 

When people think of jazz guitar, most of the time they picture an archtop guitar, and more often than not, a Gibson archtop.

The iconic look and sound of archtop guitars is hard to beat.

While archtops are the most popular models, they’re expensive, especially Gibsons, and can cause physical and feedback problems.

Spend time playing any archtop that you considering buying. See how it behaves at high volumes to check for feedback.

Play the guitar sitting and standing to see how it feels on your shoulder, back, neck, and arms. For some players, archtops are the most comfortable, for others, they cause physical problems.

Playing a guitar in a shop over a few visits helps you buy the best jazz guitar for you.

This is especially true with an archtop, as you get an idea for the sound and feel of the guitar before purchasing.

When it comes to the classic jazz tone, it’s hard to beat an archtop guitar.

From Charlie Christian to Lage Lund, countless jazz guitarists have turned to archtops for their signature tone.

If you have the money, feel comfortable with the body, and don’t have feedback issues, archtops are what jazzers turn to when buying their first guitar.

 

 

Gibson L5 CES

Gibson L5 CES

 

 

Archtop Guitar Pros

 

Here’s a partial list of the archtop guitar pros.

 

  • Bigger body size is ideal for some players, more to work with.
  • Create the authentic jazz guitar sound, especially for bop and post-bop players.
  • Market has opened up to provide higher quality archtop guitars at lower prices.

 

 

Archtop Guitar Cons

 

Here’s a partial list of the archtop guitar cons.

 

  • Larger body isn’t a good fit.
  • Less tone variations than solid-body guitars.
  • Feedback issues that may be tough to overcome.

 

 

 

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10 Archtop Guitar Models

 

Here’s a list of some of the most popular brands and models of archtop guitars.

 

  1. Gibson L5-CES
  2. Gibson ES-175
  3. Ibanez AF95
  4. Ibanez LGB300
  5. Benedetto Manhattan
  6. D’Aquisto New Yorker
  7. D’Angelico EX-DH
  8. Epiphone Emperor Regent
  9. Gibson Super 400 CES
  10. McCurdy Kenmare

 

 

 

10 Jazz Guitarists Who Play Archtops

 

Before you purchase any archtop guitar, check out the recordings of these 10 guitarists to hear these axes in action.

 

  1. Wes Montgomery – Gibson L5-CES
  2. Pat Metheny – Gibson ES-175, Ibanez PM1000
  3. Johnny Smith – Gibson Johnny Smith Model
  4. Jim Hall – Sadowsky Jim Hall Model, Gibson ES-175
  5. Tal Farlow – Gibson TF Model
  6. Herb Ellis – Gibson ES-165, ES-175
  7. George Benson – Ibanez GB Signature Models
  8. Pat Martino – Benedetto Signature Model
  9. Russell Malone – Sadowsky LS017
  10. Sheryl Bailey – McCurdy Signature Model

 

 

 

 

 

Rock n Roll Rebel – Solid Body Guitars

 

Associated with rock and country, solid-body guitars have become the go-to model for jazzers such as Ted Greene, Ed Bickert, and more recently, John Scofield.

With feedback-free playing, tone variations, and a smaller body, solid-bodies are becoming more popular with jazz guitarists.

Lighter and with a smaller body, solid-bodies are a good choice for those that find that archtop and semi-hollow guitars cause physical issues.

For players that move between genres, solid-body guitars allow you to alter your tone quickly, letting you move between genres without changing axes.

While they’re smaller, lighter, and more versatile, they may not provide the authentic jazz tone you’re looking for.

If you can find a Telecaster with humbuckers, then you can get close to the archtop sound.

But, it’s hard to duplicate that warm, traditional jazz tone exactly on a solid-body guitar.

Try a few solid-body guitars before making a decision, as a Gibson Les Paul won’t offer a traditional jazz tone, but a G&L will be close.

Though not for everyone, solid-body guitars are making inroads into jazz guitar, and are worth looking at when choosing the best jazz guitar for you.

 

 

Fender Telecaster

Fender Telecaster

 

 

Solid Body Guitar Pros

 

Here’s a partial list of the pros when considering a solid-body jazz guitar.

 

  • Lighter and smaller shape is easier on your body.
  • Creates a variety of tones.
  • No feedback issues.

 

 

Solid Body Guitar Cons

 

Here’s a partial list of the cons when considering a solid body jazz guitar.

 

  • Too small of a body shape for some players.
  • Can sound too “rock” and not enough like “jazz” for some.
  • Doesn’t have the jazz look.

 

 

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10 Solid Body Jazz Guitar Models

 

To help you explore solid body guitars further, here’s a list of some of the most popular models of jazz solid body guitars.

 

  1. Fender Telecaster
  2. Fender Stratocaster
  3. Gibson SG
  4. Yamaha Pacifica
  5. Godin LGXT
  6. Carvin HH1 and HH2
  7. Fender Jaguar
  8. Fender Jazzmaster
  9. Gibson Les Paul
  10. PRS McCarty

 

 

10 Jazz Guitarists Who Play Solid Body Guitars

 

Before you purchase any solid body guitar, check out the recordings of these guitarists who play solid-body guitars.

 

  1. Ted Greene – Fender Telecaster
  2. Mike Stern – Yamaha Pacifica and Telecasters
  3. John Scofield – Fender Telecaster
  4. John Abercrombie – Gibson SG
  5. John McLaughlin – Godin LGXT
  6. Allan Holdsworth – Carvin HH1
  7. Bill Frisell – Fender Telecaster
  8. Wayne Krantz – Fender Stratocaster
  9. Ed Bickert – Fender Telecaster
  10. Julian Lage – Fender Telecaster

 

 

 

 

Best of Both Worlds – Semi-Hollow, Semi Acoustic Guitars

 

If you’re looking for a guitar that isn’t too big, not too small, has a variety of tones, and fits musical genres, then semi-hollow body and semi-acoustic guitars are for you.

The main difference between these guitars, is that semi-hollow guitars (ES-335) have a block down the middle of the body, while semi-acoustic guitars are fully hollow (ES-330), but thinner than archtops.

Played by Emily Remler, John Scofield, Grant Green, and others, semi-hollow and semi-acoustic guitars give you a warm tone, but with a smaller size than an archtop.

While Gibson has the most famous semi-hollow and semi-acoustic guitars, the Ibanez Artist has come to rival the 335.

As is the case with archtops, vintage models offer a lot of benefits as compared to new makes.

But, if you can find a decent price, a new Gibson 330 or 335 usually plays and sounds as good as a vintage model.

Semi-hollow and semi-acoustic guitars are preferred by players who want a warmer tone and bigger body compared to a solid-body guitar, but without going for a full-size archtop.

Semi-hollow and semi-acoustic guitars are a large guitar, so try them first before purchasing.

If you have shoulder or back issues with an archtop, you might have them with these smaller guitars.

Better to be safe than sorry by testing a few semi-hollow and semi-acoustic guitars before purchasing.

Play them sitting and standing to see how they feel, how they fit your body, and how they affect your body when played for a decent amount of time.

 

 

Gibson ES-335

Gibson ES-335

 

 

Semi-Hollow, Semi Acoustic Guitar Pros

 

Here’s a partial list of the pros when considering a semi hollow or semi acoustic jazz guitar.

 

  • Goldilocks guitar – smaller than an archtop but bigger than a solid body.
  • Less feedback than an archtop and “jazzier” tone compared solid body guitars.
  • Reasonable price range for most guitars, especially for the quality.

 

 

Semi-Hollow, Semi Acoustic Guitar Cons

 

Here’s a partial list of the cons when considering a semi hollow or semi acoustic jazz guitar.

 

  • The size is too big for some players.
  • Less toel options compared to solid body models.
  • Body shape is awkward for some players when sitting down.

 

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10 Semi-Hollow and Semi Acoustic Jazz Guitar Models

 

Here’s a list of some of the most popular brands and models of jazz semi hollow and semi acoustic guitars.

 

  1. Epiphone Dot
  2. Hohner HS35
  3. Gibson ES-335
  4. Heritage H-535
  5. D’Angelico NY-DC
  6. Benedetto Benny
  7. Ibanez Artist – Semi-Hollow Model
  8. Guild Starfire V
  9. PRS S2 Mira
  10. Godin Montreal Premiere HG

 

 

10 Jazz Guitarists Who Play Semi-Hollow and Semi-Acoustic Guitars

 

Before you purchase any guitar, check out recordings from these 10 jazz guitarists who play semi hollow and semi acoustic guitars.

 

  1. Emily Remler – Gibson ES-330 (Semi-Acoustic)
  2. Larry Carlton – Gibson ES-335
  3. John Scofield – Ibanez Artist and JSM100VT
  4. Grant Green – Gibson ES-330 (Semi-Acoustic)
  5. Ben Monder – Ibanez Artist
  6. Kurt Rosenwinkel – Gibson ES-335
  7. Wolfgang Muthspiel – Heritage Millennium Eagle
  8. Andreas Oberg – Benedetto Bravo
  9. Brian Setzer – Gretsch Black Phoenix
  10. Mike Moreno – Gibson ES-335

 

 

 

The Personal Touch – Custom Jazz Guitars

 

The final jazz guitar is the custom built guitar, one that’s made to your specs, preferences, body type, and playing style.

If money’s no object, custom guitars are the best choice, as you choose the wood, hardware, size, shape, inlays, and every other aspect of the guitar’s appearance.

Being able to choose these items is a huge plus, but the price is usually beyond what most players are comfortable paying for a guitar.

But, don’t let this deter you from exploring  custom jazz guitars.

You can find luthiers that have long waiting lists and you use that time to make a deposit and save the rest while the guitar is built.

As well, some makers will have guitars come back to them, which they sell at a reduced price to other customers.

While a guitar like this won’t have all the design specs you want, it can be close, affordable, and have the same level of craftsmanship.

If you’ve dreamed of owning a custom built jazz guitar, start looking around.

You might find a maker who’s willing to do a deal, sell a used custom guitar, or has a waiting list that’s long enough to save up for as the guitar’s being built.

 

 

Koentopp Archtop Guitar

Koentopp Archtop Guitar

 

 

Custom Jazz Guitar Pros

 

Here’s a partial list of the pros when considering a custom jazz guitar.

 

  • Pick the wood and hardware you prefer.
  • Work with the Luthier to design your dream guitar.
  • Have the guitar build exactly for your body and hand shape-size.

 

 

Custom Jazz Guitar Cons

 

Here’s a partial list of the cons when considering a custom jazz guitar.

 

  • Usually much more expensive than factory guitars.
  • Popular Luthiers often have very long waiting lists.
  • Don’t have a chance to test drive the guitar before your purchase.

 

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10 Custom Jazz Guitar Makers

 

To help you explore custom jazz guitars further, here’s a list of some of the most popular custom jazz guitar makers.

 

  1. Buscarino Guitars
  2. Koentopp Guitars
  3. Brian Moore Guitars
  4. Moffa Guitars
  5. Benedetto Custom Shop
  6. Bill Collings Guitars
  7. Foster Guitars
  8. American Archtop
  9. Klein Guitars
  10. Parker Archtops

 

 

7 Jazz Guitarists Who Play Custom Guitars

 

Before you purchase any custom guitar, check out recordings from these jazz guitarists who play custom guitars.

 

  1. Kurt Rosenwinkel – Moffa Guitars
  2. Lenny Breau – Kirk Sand Guitars
  3. Craig Wagner – American Archtops
  4. Tim Miller – Canton Custom Guitars
  5. John Abercrombie – Brian Moore Guitars
  6. Pat Metheny – Linda Manzer Guitars
  7. Gilad Hekselman – Victor Baker Guitars

 

 

Finding the Best Jazz Guitar For You

 

Now that you’ve explored the four main types of jazz guitars, head down to your favorite guitar shop and test drive a few.

Remember, ordering online is convenient, but you can’t be sure about the quality or sound of a guitar ordered online.

So, play a model in the shop before you order it. Or better yet, buy one from the store that fits your tastes and feels right to you.



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53 Comments

  1. John Hughes, October 1, 2015:

    I play a hybrid (Yamaha AEX – piezo and electric pick up blend). Good sound, no feedback, very lightweight and go through an acoustic or electric amp and even a PA if needed. I’m think Godin and Taylor do similar things.

  2. Danny, October 1, 2015:

    I’ve owned a couple of solid body guitars, but I always end up selling them. My first archtop was/is an Epiphone Joe Pass (Emperor). Great guitar for your money.

    I also have a Godin 5th Ave Composer that is on order (should be here soon). The 5th ave line has a lot of good stuff for little money.

    Lastly, don’t discount a well made acoustic guitar. I’ve played lots of jazz and swing on them and they can muscle the work easily if you are needing a more traditional sound. I avoid dreadnaughts for this work and instead opt for smaller body OO or OOO with 14 fret necks (no cutaway). My current acoustic is the Loar LH-200 and I will likely never sell it (just too good).

  3. Lynn R Parker Sr, October 1, 2015:

    Matt…. A great article. I spent a great deal of time looking before I decided to buy a Epiphone 339. I have been very pleased with my purchase. It has a great tone, feels good and weighs a mear 7 pounds and best of all, it was in my price class. Enjoy all of your lessons.

  4. Ed Saxman, October 1, 2015:

    My first choice was A Line6 Variax 700. My actual guitar is a Variax JTV 89.

    In this way I have different sounds in a single guitar, something great when you have to choose your first one.

    Now I have a much better idea of what kind of guitar sound I prefer, without buying a entire guitar stable.

    Love your site, Matt. A real pleasure to read.

  5. Stan Godlovitch, October 1, 2015:

    Thanks, Matt, for your very helpful survey of kinds of jazz guitar. Thinking as I do from the classical guitar tradition, I’m wondering what considerations are given when choosing an acoustic jazz guitar to such factors as kinds of table woods and their thicknesses, styles of table bracing, and kinds of woods used for back and sides. I’d guess these are of the same tonal importance for acoustic jazz guitars as they are for classical guitars. So, e.g., at a broad level it makes some difference on a classical guitar whether you choose one with a table made of Engelmann Spruce or Western Red Cedar. Manufacturers often provide a coice. Is there any discussion of these sorts of factors typically raised by jazz players when choosing a guitar?
    Thanks.
    Stan

  6. jef v, October 1, 2015:

    Hey Matt – thanks for the on-going fantastic info! I have a PRS SE1, a Tele thinline , and a Joe Pass Emporer. Each one has pretty good tone on low and mid strings, but the top 2 sound very thin = esp at the high frets. I am using flat wound 11’s. Any thoughts? Thanks!

  7. Matt Warnock, October 1, 2015:

    Hey Jef

    You might want to check your amp settings. That can always be an issue with thin tone. As well, look at the pickup height. Sometimes the pickups are lower under the higher strings. Try raising the pickup so it’s closer to the high strings, but further away from the lower strings. That might even out the tone a bit and volume as well.

  8. Matt Warnock, October 1, 2015:

    Hey Stan

    I think a lot of people think about those items, wood, bracing, etc. For me, I’ve always gone by feel and tone, for classical and Jazz guitars. Then I would look at the build to make sure it was solid and what I wanted.

    Maybe others can comment as well on how they decide. Probably different for everyone.

  9. Brian Anderson, October 1, 2015:

    As you emphasise Matt, try before you buy. I have an Epiphone Es-175 a Squire Telecaster and an electro- acoustic which all get played regularly. I have a Gibson Les Paul loaned by my twin brother which is ok too. As long as I can get a tune from it, I’ll play it.

  10. Erik Van Vlierberghe, October 1, 2015:

    Hi,
    My jazz guitar is a The Loar LH-350. It’s not an expensive guitar (500 euro). I changed the original floater for a Bartolini. The sound is very good, a classic archtop sound. I also put thick strings for the high notes. The guitar sounds great through my Henriksen jazzamp.

  11. Rich, October 1, 2015:

    I play a well-worn Gibson L-7 with a humbucker carved into the top. Can’t beat the classic jazz tone. My everyday electric is a stock American telecaster with flatwound strings. The neck pick-up gives a nice balanced jazz tone through a Fender Vibroverb amp.

  12. Chas Zehner, October 1, 2015:

    Matt,

    I first started looking at archtops in a funky little shop in Pigalle, Paris, back in 2000. Still there as far as i know, but with fewer vintage boxes. Came home to the US and purchased an Epi Emperor (newer model, $500.00 used) Liked it, but then fell victim to collecting. My favorite jazzers right now are a Harmony, late 50’s H-65 and early 60’s Harmony H-? (identical to the 65 but without the pup) As to you list for hollow and semi hollow bodies; all great choices, but for first timers, I thought a little pricey. Just my humble opinion. Keep up the great work!

  13. Benny Redman, October 1, 2015:

    Hi Matt, great article!

    Many years ago I saw Kenny Burrell at Ronnies and chatted to him after about his guitar – a Gibson Super 400. Wow, what a sound, and what an amazing player!

    I’m a very recent beginner, and I was getting frustrated trying to learn on an old beat up classical guitar with broken tuners, so I’ve just taken the plunge and bought an Epiphone Dot. By comparison it is really nice to play and sounds great, and I got a great deal from my local music shop in Edinburgh, so I’m happy starting out on my fretboard journey.

  14. Court Newkirk, October 1, 2015:

    The late Chet Atkins once called Tommy Crook the best guitarist he ever worked with. Tommy plays a Gibson 335 with a very think low E string. Once in the studio Tommy and I traded guitars for some rehearsal time. I play a Gibson ES 137. When Tommy played my 137 he could make it sound just like his 335. So after playing since 1964, I’m more inclined to say, play what feels right in your hands, tuning, amp settings and skills will get you to the sound you want. BTW a 137 is about half the price of the 335. I hope that made sense. LOL

  15. Linton Smit4, October 1, 2015:

    I find it interesting that you group the es-330 as semi-acoustic. As a 1966 ‘330 owner0 I would not pu8 it in with it’s ’35x siblings. Although they look almost identical (330 vs 350), they have an important difference in their construction. Specifically, the 350 family have a neck that runs from the tailstock and completely separates the f-hole chambers. The 330 is an arched top with a single whole body chamber. As such the 330 can be played acoustically. Although the sound isn’t great, you can rehearse without an amp and hear subtle intonations.

    Cheers
    Lefty
    Gibson ES-330 ’66
    Ibnz Les Paul Custom ’77

  16. Wesley Parish, October 1, 2015:

    Thanks. I;ve always loved the sound of the archtop: once I heard the guitarist in the local big band play a Tele clone with an archtop sound and asked him how he did it. He told me it’s a matter of getting the setting for the rhythm pickup right.

  17. Pierre Lambert, October 1, 2015:

    I think Kurt R. is playing a D’Angelico Vestax (Japan made) on the video.
    I personally own a D’Angelico EX-SS Korean made, good quality, nice and jazzy semi-hollow guitar at affordable price.
    I also have a Telecaster style G&L ASAT semi-hollow with a humbucker as neck pick-up and nice jazzy sound
    What I’m missing most is jazz playing skill, and time …
    This is why I follow this superb site …
    Thank you very much for this Matt !

    Cheers,
    Pierre

  18. Joao Paz, October 1, 2015:

    I spent 6 years searching for “my” jazz guitar. In that pursuit I ended up with close to 40 axes in my roster (funny thing, the first ones I had I could easilly play them for life! But what I know is a lot more than when I started)
    So here are the things I discovered:
    1) You need a guitar that “speaks” to you. This has little to do with price range. Quality helps, no doubt about that; but one of my favorite guitars I bought for 80 Eur in a complete mess and I knew instantly that one was going to be special. It’s a cheap 70s LP clone, laminated wood, and the finish is some kind of plastic, not paint. But I grabbed it, tried to play something on it (the previous owner had tuned all strings to the same E note!) and felt in love with it.
    2) A good setup and a clean electronics output is paramount. You can play a guitar at a store and like it. But an accurate setup and your set of strings choice will transform it. The good news is that probably any guitar will only go better with that kind of care.
    3) You need a guitar that feels comfortable, like an old pair of shoes. This has to do with several things: size, weight, weight distribution, texture of neck, neck profile, scale lenght… even the ‘temperature’ of the finish matters, how you feel it, matters. For instance, for me it’s important to play an Fmaj7 on fret#1 and feel comfortable. Some headstock shapes and angles make it hard.
    4) Look doesn’t matter that much. If all ends meet the guitar will look beautiful to you :)
    5) At least for me, there’s no such thing as a perfect guitar. I have many guitars that are the best at something. My guitar of choice is the one that is better at a bigger number of things.
    So for facts: My main guitar is an Ibanez AS153: I found I need a semi-hollow, I need to feel the body resonance. Solid-bodies would cut it too, but they’re necessarily small. I need the bigger size, so a semi-hollow provides the proper balance – just like Matt mentioned it above, the best of both worlds! The tri-switch on the Ibanez range is also essential for me. In general Ibanez is my favorite brand of guitars, due to the unbeateable quality/price ratio.
    Next I need to say a word about the The Loar guitars – someone above mentioned them too! They do need some work out of the box, but these guitars don’t speak to me… they scream! I feel happy and complete when I play them. I have the LH-309 (one P90) and the LH-700 to which I added a Benedetto floating pickup. If my house was on fire these would probably be the guitars I’d grab first. The fact that they’re not expensive is a huge plus when buying online. But they do need to be seen by a competent luthier.
    I have a few other guitars that really speak to me: An Ibanez AR325, an American Special Telecaster, A Classic Vibe Squier Strat, a cheap LP clone, a 2014 LPJ Gibson, an Epiphone Dot Studio, a 90s Washburn J6.
    But in the end the Ibanez AS153 (and the semi-hollow 335-type guitars) is the one that covers most of the ground I need.
    So I’d say, try as many guitars as you can and immediately after right down what you liked and disliked about them so you have something for reference in the future.
    But the guitar needs to SPEAK to you. I can’t say it in a better way, sorry!

  19. Edward Ingram, October 2, 2015:

    I now have an Ibanez AF75 to play your excellent lessons.
    Much better tone than the thinner AS series. Bought it used in Beltsville MD trading in my older guitar.

  20. Donny, October 2, 2015:

    When I thought about getting serious about learning jazz I figured an archtop was in order. Then I discovered Ted Greene and Ed Bickert. Much to my wife’s joy, I informed her I did not need a new used guitar I could use the sylte of guitars I have been playing since 1979, my trusty ’74 and ’91 American Standard Teles. Thanks for your articles they are appreciated.

  21. David Voorhees, October 2, 2015:

    My working guitar has been my 1951 GIBSON ES-175 It has great tone and is so great to play. The neck is thicker than my ES330 but is for me very comfortable. I love it.

  22. Ruben torres, October 2, 2015:

    I’m learning jazz on a femder modern player jaguar ! Almost have that early joe pass tone now to play like him!

  23. john, October 2, 2015:

    I purchased most my guitars from my brotherlinlaw.. Moes guitars.. I think the cloest jazz sound i get is my GE smith tele with joe bardon pickup them archtops are nice for jazz as mentioned in this great article,, i’m no pro but played most all mentioned and heard and still privileged to try them as my in-law flips them all.. ty for sharing Matt

  24. Martin, October 2, 2015:

    Consider the Ibanez GB10 a small bodied archtop with carved top and exceptional workmanship designed and built by the Ibanez custom shop for George Benson.

    This is an awesome guitar. The smaller archtop body makes it easy to play while still delivering classic jazz woody tones. Very good used models can be found for around $2000 on Ebay. This is not a cheap guitar but they are a joy to play, while the build quality is usually superior to Gibsons.

  25. Iván, October 2, 2015:

    Hi! I´m Iván, from Spain.
    I have an ´89 Epiphone Emperor (Pre Joe Pass model), I put a set of Lollar Imperials and I think it´s the best configuration, it sounds clean and warm, very nice tone.
    Recently I buy a Bacchus Jazzmaster, handmade in Japan, and the neck circuit have a cool sound, near to “jazzy tone”.
    I use D´addario .012 flats in both guitars, direct to ´82 Roland Cube 60.
    I buy the Jazzmaster because my set includes jazz, blues, folk and rock tunes and it´s more versatile, change the sound without change the guitar.
    Greetings for the best web for guitar players!

  26. bill (england), October 2, 2015:

    i have an IBANEZ as200. got it cheap when they were discontinued. super guitar, and now re-issued.love the extra access up the neck, an exellent versatile guitar, but i also wanted a big box jazzer.
    spent a few months trying a few. opted for ibanez LGB30.
    compared it in the store with various others at the time and made my choice. now i find myself looking again.(is it a guitarist thing) i would probably have to spend 2 or 3 times as much to be a happy jazzer.

  27. Patrick, October 2, 2015:

    Gibson ES 137 classic, nicely built, gorgeous looks and sounds, neck a tad thick, but inspiring. relatively affordable compared with other Gibsons.
    1981 SA800 Yamaha semi-hollow with hand wound Hepcat HB pups (French boutique pups), good battered woods, vintage feel, very nice, easy to play and gorgeous sounding guitar.
    Fender Factory Special Run American Standard Strat, V neck, 50’s fat custom shop pups.
    Klein Electric, BF94 model with S-S-HB config, unique instrument, imo parent to Telecasters, chambered body.
    All these through a 1980 Roland 40W silver solid state amp or a Palmer Fab5 valve amp.
    happy guitar player i am.

  28. Denis, October 2, 2015:

    I think the amp choice also makes a difference when it comes to feedback with a big archtop. I just changed amps from a small Johnson tube amp, to a small Roland Cube, and the feedback now is practically uncontrollable! With that said, I’m looking to go with an Epiphone ES-339 since most gigs I do include more than just traditional jazz and I figure a semi will give me more options.

  29. Chris Olivo, October 2, 2015:

    Not sure if posting links is allowed. This is where I go to window shop for archtops. Would love to buy that Gibson L-12! A guy can dream, can’t he?

    http://www.archtop.com/ac_inst.html

  30. Paul, October 3, 2015:

    Jazz guitars these are just too much!

    The only one worth having is the Gibson ES335 1959 reissue with that fat neck and 24 inch scale plus the 44mm nut.

    There is no choice for left handed players and what there is, is poor.

    Why the Gibson if they make a left hand one?

    My hands are too small for any thing above 24 inch in fact 23 inch would be better.

    But at £2000 that would pay the rent for 20 days in London

  31. Steve Kerouac, October 3, 2015:

    My budget led me to a Peerless Imperial archtop – hollow body, all solid woods (no laminates), floating pickup – and the tone and feel made me drink! I modified the electronics, my amp circuitry, and selection of speaker to bring out the wood in the sound: multi-dimensional, nuanced, expressive, soulful. Embedded pickups, semi-hollow construction, laminated woods – just do not work for what I want to play and others to hear.

  32. Enzo, October 3, 2015:

    Great post. Thank you to all for your inputs. I started with an Ibanez, full hollow body, arch top. Killer sound and quality for the price, and it was my first, “real guitar”. I am not a big guy and over time, developed the not uncommon, repetitive stress injury” in my right shoulder. Too many hours of practice.
    After, therapy, orthopedics, etc. It was a professional jazz guitar player friend of mine who diagnosed the issue. Quite simply, the guitar was to big. After much searching, from a custom to modified telecasters, I stumbled upon a Gibson Pat Martino Custom. Bought it sight unseen and have never looked back. I run 11’s flat wounds and although physics will dictate that it will not sound like an L5, I am no longer a cripple and as a bonus it does offer quite a variety of tones.
    Find what fits, then let your fingers help to develop the tone in your head. It may not be exact, but, you will be playing pain free.
    Thank you all!

  33. Mike, October 4, 2015:

    I think you made an incorrect statement in your otherwise excellent article.
    The original plywood 175’s are the lightest guitars I have ever held – the weight only gets worse when you have carved top (from a single sheet of wood,) models.
    Some solid body guitars are incredibly heavy, so if anyone out there has any spinal problems, they need to shop with extreme care – which means you can’t use e-bay as none of the sellers know how much their guitars weight.

  34. Frank, October 4, 2015:

    Great info great advice, cleared up a lot of questions. Thank you again.

  35. Ernst, October 8, 2015:

    Ernst, Oct. 8th 2015
    I play a archtop custom made for me. My personal wishes and the knowledge from Neubauer Guitars in Vienna made a great guitar.
    Wonderful guitar without bindings. very puristic style, as I wanted. The Sound is great (it got better and better every day). : http://www.neubauerguitars.com in the Facebook-link you can see it. It was worth to wait for about 5 month to get my own.

  36. ed jackson, November 18, 2015:

    playing over 40 yrs , have ES175 epiphone Premium, very happy with, GB10 ,very happy and Ibanez AFJ91, very happy
    had an epi Joe Pass piece of junk not worthy of Joes name

  37. philip noblet, March 9, 2016:

    I wonder why the gretsch Super Chet is not amongst the list of semi acoustic guitars listed philip

  38. Antonio, April 3, 2016:

    I have seen an lbanez SJ300… beautiful guitar…but before buying it l would like to know your opinion about it , its qualities and / or defects and if you have any suggestions for another brand or model for about the same range of price.
    Thank you.
    Great website.

  39. Jeremy Acton, April 5, 2016:

    I am privileged to own a 1967 (or thereabouts) Teisco Vegas66 electric hollowbody, about 50mm deep body, three tone burst finish, a top range Teisco once sold only in Japan.
    I also have a small Teisco-made, but rare Hawk-branded slimline hollowbody, also possibly from the 60’s.
    I also have a 2008 Chinese-made Ibanez AR73T semi-hollowbody in transparent cherry and cream binding, with bigsby trem, and two humbuckers, my best set up guitar.
    All of these are suited to jazz (and blues, and rock, and each gives a different vibe to my playing. I am still trying to find the jazzy me. :-D

    Thanks for a great tuition website, Matt.
    Greeting from Cape Town, South Africa.
    Jeremy

  40. Max, April 5, 2016:

    Even solid body guitars, with the right strings can get a usable jazz sound. You can also use the neck pick up, roll off the treble a bit……..hollow body guitars come in two key flavors – carved top and laminate. The carved, all wood tops, in my hands feedback at higher band volumes. The laminate (even my inexpensive Joe Pass Epi) guitars have a lot of air, give a good jazz sound and do not feedback. We all keep searching for that inspiring tone– but it’s less the instrument and more the player, in most cases.

  41. Mark, April 5, 2016:

    Just purchased the newer Ibanez SS300, the little brother to the SJ300. With a slightly smaller lower bout, it fits my body size but still sounds incredibly smooth and warm, especially plugged in. And yes, Antonio, the looks are outstanding.Thank you Matt for your wonderful web site. I’m now hooked on jazz.

  42. Dana Woodaman, April 5, 2016:

    As much as I like my archtops, I would never trade my Manouche (Django) jazz guitar for any other guitar. I don’t see how you missed the to me very obvious other guitar to play serious jazz on.

  43. Stephen Bowyer, April 6, 2016:

    Epiphone Dot-good tone, and an extemely playable neck.Hard to imagine needing anything more.

  44. Albert, April 6, 2016:

    Check out this video on YouTube of a young George Benson on a 1964 tour in France when he was still playing in Jack McDuff’s band, he is playing a Les Paul!(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivYFzlapYTA)

  45. Jimmy E, April 6, 2016:

    Great Article and lessons Matt, I have a new model of Epihpone ES 175 premium it is a great example of the gibson and much less price. It even has Gibson57 classic pickups. I also found the little brother of the LGB300 (George Benson signature) Ibanez LGB30 also a much lower price. I keep flat wound strings on the Ibanez and standard strings on the Es175. both are great professional quality guitars. I enjoy so much playing jazz guitar and after reading this article looks like I have 2 of the top four guitars in your list of traditional instruments. All I need to do is keep up with my lessons and play. Thank You for your inspiration.

  46. Douglas , Florida, April 8, 2016:

    Hey Mat, I play 1965 Epiphone made by Gibson in Kalamazoo MI. 235 , Also Gibson 335 , custom Martin, Dick Boak CF-1 , 3 others besides my Tele, Strat, and Les Paul . I must admit the 335 and the older gibson 235 are great

  47. Teevor, April 12, 2016:

    Thanks for the interesting look at jazz guitars.
    I’m playing a 70s reissued American standard Strat.
    The pickups are 3 Singles called fat 50s and its a rosewood fretboard inlayed with maple neck. Its a very comfortable thing to work with and the jazz tones are just great; as one review said the clarity of the pickups is ridiculous.
    I’m playing with a touch of TCE Flashback delay setup with Mike Stern’s tone setup.
    I’ve not yet thought about changing. .seems right for me.
    It goes through a Blackstar HTC 5..great versatile amp.

  48. Catherine, April 22, 2016:

    Thank you very much for this article. I think it will be very helpful for me as I start the process of searching for and deciding upon my first jazz guitar.

  49. Cesarione52, April 27, 2016:

    Where is my beloved Guild Artist Award gone?

  50. Donald Soji Adedokun, May 23, 2016:

    S-O-J, Thank Matt.
    I really appreciate this article. I play the Epiphone Elitist, it has smoothness on the fretboard . Now I know how to make other choices for varieties.

  51. Gerald Vos, September 6, 2016:

    Thanks for this article! Good info, and great help for those that are itching to get that illustious ‘right guitar’ ;-)

    I’m predominantly a solidbody player, but I also have a full body jazzer (Dean Palomino, similar to ES-175 but with 3 VERY useful P90 pickups!) and an old Aria Pro-II TA-60, which is very similar to a Gibson ES-330 (note: not the 335, as that one has a centreblock to reduce feedback – the 330 doesn’t; it’s a true hollowbody). Both are, of course, a lot bigger than any solidbody, but they do add a LOT of jazz tone to your playing…
    My 2 cents: learn to use your volume/tone controls, as that’s essential in getting the right sound to your ears – if you don’t like your own tone then will be so much harder on your audience too ;-)

    A good tube amp is always useful – especially if it can run (almost) clean. I do like an adge to my sound though; that’s not typically ‘jazzy’ but then again neither am I! :-)

    Have fun!

    Thanks again Matt – I really enjoy and appreciate your enthusiasm to share your wealth of knowledge…

  52. jon, October 31, 2016:

    I have been playing for 40 + years. A year ago I had a guitar made by Mark Campellone. Custom made 16″. I was planning on Flat wounds but when I got it it had electric round wounds. The sound was unbelievable. After going back and forth between various flats and wounds, I discovered D’Adarrio nickle bronze strings. The added nickel to the bronze wound strings give a great, but different electric sound. Acoustically they are great. I played many very expensive guitars (Benedetto, Buscarino, Solomon, Gibson Johnny smith, Ribekke, etc. The Campellone is their equal for a fraction of the price (not cheap at 5200) crystal clear and bell like across and all the way up the neck. I play fingerstyle through an Acoustic Image Chorus) It sounds great through a tube amp as well. While I like my Eastman it blows my Eastman away. I also notice the tone is much better when I play better, ie, tone is in the fingers as much as the guitar.

  53. Steve, March 31, 2017:

    I recently bought a Godin 5th Avenue CW HB (with humbuckers) because it has such a great action, beautiful jazz sounds, and was just under $1k CDN. It was made in Princeville, P.Q.
    It was just much better guitar than other archtops in that price range.

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