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.
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.