Picking the Right Jazz Guitar

As an amateur Jazz guitar player, I am often asked about the best guitar to buy for playing Jazz.  That is a question I have wrestled with often, and the answer has come to cost me a lot of money and sweat, but I do feel prepared today to answer that inquiry for you in full.

I have discovered, in closing a full circle, that my first guitar — a Deluxe Nashville Power Telecaster — is now my favorite Jazz guitar, and it is one of the least expensive guitars I own.  My Nashville Tele has a sweetness of tone and a richness of soul from the Piezo pickups that gives me a sound that just fits my ear as to what a perfect Jazz guitar voicing should sound like.  Yes, that notion has changed over time, but lately, I keep coming back to that Nashville Tele for more of that sound.

I came to my Nashville Tele as my main Jazz box after trying a Custom Clapton Stratocaster, a couple of Custom Les Paul Gibsons, an L5, a Sadowsky Jimmy Bruno and an Ibanez or two.

All those guitars are great!  Some of them were not intended for Jazz, but you can use any guitar you like to play Jazz — the style is forgiving.  I think playing the Blues takes a more special sort of guitar because of a niche sound, but Jazz seems much more content and malleable in execution of fingers on strings.

The lesson I have learned over my Jazz Guitar journey is to not worry so much about price, or prestige — sometimes the best thing in the world is sitting right next to you, in a case, waiting to be re-strung and re-discovered.  Look around and pick your most-ignored guitar and give it a few licks of whatever style you like to play.

If you’re a Guitarphile like me — note to self: Register Guitarphile.com; okay, just did; oh, and Bluesphile.com and Jazzphile.com, too; okay, done and done! — try not to get your nose stuck in the specs and wood type and fret height and the history of what might have been.

Just find a guitar that sounds good to your ear and feels right against your body and has the proper mojo in your hands — and then play it all day long.  That guitar, I promise you, will be your Jazz rig, your Hard Rock axe, and even your best Blues box, because once you know how to get “that sound” out of a guitar — you can extrapolate that manna to mix and match a variety of styles and genres.

8 comments

  • It’s great that you’ve found the guitar that you’re happiest with playing jazz! It has been a long and, going by your writing, very exciting road!

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  • I actually have two guitars. One needs to be restrung and the other needs to be tuned. This article definitely makes me want to pick them up and start learning again.

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  • David, I am a 58 yr old that has tried numerous times to learn to play the guitar and just can’t seem to get the hang of it. I played classical for a couple of years many moons ago but life happened and I just never got back to it. I even bought my son a used fender strat with an ultra chorus amp and he never pursued it with any vigor. I love music and have a love for that warm sound and since I sold my 1973 Epiphone Caballero I miss that warm acoustic sound. I am back now with the music bug and since I am just not that fond of the Strat both in sound and weight I have been looking at getting a jazz guitar. The Ibanez artcores sound great but I am also a fan of the Epi Joe Pass and Sheraton 2 or Broadway. Any thoughts?

    Andrew

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    • Thanks for sharing your great comment! You questions and wonderings are interesting and important.

      I’m glad you aren’t giving up on the melody inside you. Your heart beats in rhythm and the body follows.

      The Ibanez guitars give you a great value for the dollar. I do like the Epi Joe Pass just because he was involved with the design. Have you checked eBay to see if you could find a ’73 Caballero? That’s where you need to start. First reclaim your past love.

      http://boles.co/1iUeFU6

      Once you have that guitar back in your stock, then you can start thinking about a new sound.

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