Other Guitars

Talk To Me About Jazz Guitars


So I started lessons again at the end of December and the teacher is a professional local musician (Austin and session work in Nashville) who has a degree in Jazz Theory from UT (burnt orange not bright orange).

We started talking about what I liked and musical styles and mentioned western swing and the jazz influence and how I wouldn't mind learning jazz to improve as a player.

Next thing I know I am working on Autumn Leave and now Blue Bossa. This has got me thinking about a "Jazz Guitar." Currently I use my Chinese Tele knockoff more than my 5120. The SX from Rondo really has a sweet sound given what it is and that I paid $119.00 plus $60.00 for better tuners and a proper set-up.

Maybe it needs a set-up, but the Gretsch 5120 (2007 model) is scratchy when I plug in the cord; the bridge pickup is intermittent and the volume is either off or on... no range from soft to loud.

Now I admit, she probably needs a visit to the shop to have pots cleaned and a set-up, etc. I also plan to drop in some TV Jones Classics as I won't giver her up so might as well buy her some bolt-ons to improve tone and appearance. But that probably won't get me to my Jazz sound that I want.

Having said all that, I want opinions on Jazz Guitars. Thinking an Epiphone or an Ibanez. Watching reviews on YouTube, the Artcore's seem to be a pretty quality product for the money and in my range ($500 - $1000).

Specifically I want to know your thoughts on Epi vs. Ibanez hollow-bodies for Jazz. Especially the ES-175 and AG 95.




I still think there are no "Jazz Guitars." Ed Bickert is one of the greats...on a Tele.


Ok... Good point Charlie. I can admit among friends that I am also gassing for another hollowbody traditionally used by jazz guitarists.


As you say, sounds like step one is to have your 5120 given the full once-over...frets and board reconditioned, all electronics cleaned, etc., then a real Tech set-up with the strings you like.

Find somebody well recommended...maybe somebody new. Always good to let somebody else check your guitars out now and then.

Then when you get the guitar back, see if you are happier, if not, trade up, don't put more money into it, and use the nice, new set-up as a trade advantage.


Ya' know......Chet produced one album specific to jazz, Progressive Pickin' and he used his regular rig for it: his '59 Gent with probably his Standel amp. I believe that with a pair of TV's in your 5120 [and perhaps a better bridge], you're halfway there to the jazz sound you want.

You didn't mention what amp you're playing through, or want to play through for the 'jazz' sound you're after. The amp and its settings will control the majority of your sound, be it bright metallic or mellow (dark?) jazz. My recommendation is an amp with a 15" speaker and lot of jazz players favor this. There are a few produced today but to pair with a Gretsch guitar for a tremendous warm, mellow tone, you can't go wrong with a Gretsch Executive. They were designed to mate with Gretsch guitars.

Without opening up the long & convoluted argument the subject of the 'jazz' sound devolved into a few months back on another thread, are you seeking the - quote from Paul Yandell in Norm's book - "blanket over the amp" sound or something with a bit more presence to it? Either way I'm of the opinion that a top end Gretsch with the appropriate amp will give you whatever spectrum of sound you're seeking.


An old ampeg, especially one with a 15, is wonderful as nice warm amp often used by jazz musicians (some had great tremolo and reverb as well). Aside from the fact that you can play jazz on whatever guitar you want, if you are going for a typical jazz guitar, I really like the Epiphone Broadway for a nice guitar at a good price. They can often be found used for a steal, sometimes very nicely upgraded.


If it's a studio situation you can pretty much use a spruce topped hollow archtop with pickup. if you're gigging with any kind of volume I'd go for a tele with a neck humbucker or a gretsch that's trestle braced. Just my opinion.


I agree, there is no jazz sound, except the one you hear or aspire to. One thing about most of the great jazz players that stands out was and is their individual sounds. As for guitars, again, it is necessary to have a sound that you are going for; bright and clear like Lenny Breau, woody and organic like Him Hall, more processed like John Abercrombie...........

Without getting into the reasons why, I personally, I don't like Ibanez or Godan guitars. Your 5120 can be made to sound like a very good traditional/modern jazz guitar. The stock pickups are well suited for that and TV Jones pickups will take you farther from that sound. I'm making the assumption that your going for what I'll call traditional/modern, with a balance of warmth, clarity and body. Get it set up the way you like it; maybe tweak the wiring a bit, and then go from there. I've been carving a few ebony and Brazilian rosewood bridges and the transformation on my old 6125 and my friend's old Gibson ES175 was remarkable. We both share a love of Jim Hall so that is part of what we are both looking for and a really good wooden bridge with a full contact base that is compensated for tuning and radiused properly is a beautiful thing. Of course if you want a more "modern" or processed sound that leans more toward an Abercrombie or John Schofield type of thing, a wooden bridge is probably not the way to go.

Regardless, that 5120 can be made to sound great as a jazz box, and since you mentioned that you like western swing, I'm pretty sure it will get you there with a good setup and attention to the wiring. Just my 2 cents worth; good luck.


The others beat me to it - jazz guitar is a style you play, not an instrument. But with you admitting that you just want another guitar - which is entirely fair enough! - I would suggest at least trying some Edwards 335 style guitars. Those I have played have played very well indeed and produced some very "jazz" like tones. Gretsches, regardless of pickups, often tend to sound very bright. It's all that maple. If you want a darker, mellower tone, try something with a mahogany neck rather than maple. Yes I know an L5 has a maple neck but it also has a solid spruce top, which will warm things up.

Guitars like the Gibson 330 have fantastically warm tones and P90s are brilliant for jazz. My 225 would make a great guitar for a Wes Montgomery evening.

So if you are looking at less expensive laminated body guitars, look for a mahogany neck is my suggestion.


Although I am a P90 man, I don't mind Gibson style humbuckers in semi-hollows.

These Ibanez guitars are a reasonable price.


Heck, I think you'd be doing fine just using the neck pickup on your Gretsch. That's jazz, man. Oh, and some relatively heavy flatwound strings.


Mr Polecat -- that Ibanez sounds very good indeed (nice playing too!).

Right now, if I were looking for an archtop that sounds good for jazz but which can also rock out, I'd go for a Newark Street Guild -- either a Manhattan or, if you're going to play loud, a Starfire.


I,m using my 59 Chet reissue partly for Jazz.Just roll the tone off the TV Jones front pickup. Check Rune Gustaffson here


PS Rune could play a bit too! He later played Les Pauls and did an album of Gilbert O Sullivan tunes!

Heres another.....Cal Collins on an orange 62 Chet,he did an album called Cross Country I,m looking for mixing jazz n country


If you instal TV Jones Classics, you can get an excellent jazz tone from the neck pickup with the tone rolled back, you don't need another guitar to play jazz, you already have one. In fact you can get a fairly usable jazz tone from just about any decent quality guitar with just about any kind of pickup on it. You need to know how to set your amp too, of course. Go easy on the bass and treble, and give it lots of mid range - exact amounts of each will depend on what amp you are using. Add a touch of reverb and you're getting into the right sort of area. In addition, use strings with at least an 11 for the top E; many jazz guitarists use flat wound strings too, but many don't, so try both and see what sound you like best.

Since you have a dose of GAS though, that changes things a bit of course Of the two guitars you mentioned, I'd pick the Epiphone, but the Artcore range is good too. You might like to consider an Epiphone Casino also, and although they have thinner body size, the P90's can give a really good jazz sound.


Ibanez makes a great inexpensive jazz guitar. At the $500 range you can't go wrong with epi 175/joe pass or Ibanez.

If you want my opinion a great rig for under $1000 would be a epi 175 and a used fender blues jr. Just a great sounding simple setup.

A secret for getting more cleans out of a fifteen water is to turn it all the way up and roll down your guitar volume. Loud and clean. Good luck.


The Gretschbuckers in your 5120 should be ideal for jazz. If you love that guitar I would keep it stock and just fix whatever is going on with the wiring.


George Benson uses Ibanez guitars---but I've seen him play slabs as well. It's all in the fingers of the individual. Your Gretsch ought to be perfect for jazz---just use the neck pickup. The issues that you have with it sound like electronic problems---bad solder joint, audio taper pickups, etc. A single neck pickup guitar is what what I've always thought of as a jazz guitar. It's the player, not the guitar.


"Jazz guitars" are whatever a jazz guitarist happens to be using. Years ago a local TV show had a live guitarist playing nice chord/melody background stuff and used a Les Paul Custom.

It's the tone you think you want and for that you need to do some looking.


This one's on my short list:


The 5120 can indeed get a lovely warm jazz tone, if you dial in the proper settings on a good-sounding amp.

If you're interested in Epiphones in your price range, in my opinion an older Joe Pass Emperor II is a much better guitar than the Epi ES-175 reissues.

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