If you’d asked me what the best jazz guitar was when I was a bit younger, I would have brought up the most mainstream and stereotypical description. Though I wouldn’t have bored you with my ambitious self-esteem and nonsensical arguments, you’d still feel that I didn’t have sufficient knowledge to be talking about the genre.
But I was dedicated to learn, and somewhere along the way I discovered everything I didn’t know before. Now if you ask me the same question, I will have a really hard time answering. After all, jazz isn’t a genre that has a strict outline. It has many styles and it’s played with various techniques, each of them requiring a specific guitar. That’s why we decided to put together an article that would provide you with a broad range of choices. After all, we want everyone to find what they were looking for. Without further ado, let’s get started!
What’s The Best Jazz Guitar
We’re beginning this list with a model that is an excellent tool for jazz. Though it’s perfect for the genre, it’s certainly not limited to it. This means that it can be used with anything you can possibly play, turning it into a versatile, usable instrument. I’m talking about D’Angelico Excel DC. It’s a semi-hollow electric with impeccable craftsmanship. You will probably have to do initial setup as it isn’t playable out of the box, but that’s usually the case with the majority of models out there. This bad boy has laminated maple top, back and sides, which look and feel pretty rugged. C-shape comfortable neck features Pau Ferro fingerboard with 22 medium jumbo frets. The body has two ‘f’ holes and double cutaways, making the whole experience even more pleasurable. When it comes to pickups, USA Seymour Duncan 59 humbuckers on the neck and bridge. They have depth and warmth that act as a nice layer in your sound. As you can see, D’Angelico Excel DC isn’t the guitar you come across that often, but once you do, you shouldn’t let it go!
- Fascinating design
- Versatile sound
- Affordable compared to other models
- Needs initial setup
- Laminated body (just in case it’s a con for you)
Continuing with the semi-hollow vibes, this time we’re looking at PRS S2 Custom 22. Once you take a glance at this piece of art, you lose the ability to speak or think clearly. Its beauty enchants you right away, to the point where you have a hard time finding your way back to reality. Exaggerations aside, this fella is truly a masterpiece. The shape, color selection, hardware – everything goes with one another perfectly. But as you dive into the details, you figure out that even more wonders are ahead of you. The mahogany back is paired with the maple top, mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard. PRS’s signature bird inlays decorate the fretboard and make it even more exceptional. Not to mention the level of comfort you’ll feel once you pick up this bad boy and start jamming out. Two 85/15 “S” pickups define its tone, which is rich and full-bodied no matter what range you float in. Some of you might wish for more semi-hollow character, but PRS S2 Custom 22 is an excellent axe as it is. Doesn’t it look like the best jazz guitar?
- Jaw-dropping appearance
- Excellent sound
- Vintage tone and feel
- Semi-hollow character isn’t as expressed as one might have wished
If you’re willing to purchase a hollowbody electric that performs like a high-end guitar, but costs way less, then Ibanez LGB30 will be a lifesaver for you. It was designed in collaboration with George Benson, who has spent all his life playing jazz and experimenting with other genres. Needless to say he has a lot of expertise when it comes to jazz guitars, so it’s only natural that his model is so wonderful. Not only is it comfortable to play, but it also has a stunning design. Be it Natural or Vintage Yellow Sunburst finish, this fella looks beautiful. However, it’s the performance that matters the most and that’s the region where LGB30 is virtually flawless. Flamed maple back and sides and spruce top are the main constituents of the body. Set-in neck features the combination of Nyatoh and maple, while the fretboard is made from bound ebony. Super 58 humbuckers on the neck and bridge positions produce all the qualities that a true jazz guitar should own. I really doubt that you can get anything better for the price.
- Comfortable to play
- Beautiful design
- Rather affordable for what it is
- You’ll need setup to eliminate fret buzz
Washburn has rarely disappointed us with their guitars and they aren’t going to this time either. Their J7VNK is a hollow body electric, enabling you to achieve classic jazz tones with ease. Once you hold it in your hands, you’ll immediately notice that it feels right. Everything about its craftsmanship is quite beautiful, and even if you notice some minor flaws, they aren’t sufficient enough to deserve your attention. The back and sides are made from quilted maple, while the top is built with solid spruce. This way, the crispness, clarity and warmth are all equally maintained. Maple neck and rosewood fingerboard complete the guitar in a beautiful manner. Abalone inlays will guide your fingers if you’re a beginner while adding even more character to the design. Grover tuners keep tuning really well, especially considering the fact that we have a Bigsby tremolo bridge here. Nevertheless, the guitar will remain in tune for a while. In other words, Washburn J7VNK is a perfect example of what the best jazz guitar should look and sound like.
- Great value for money
- Comes with a hard case
- Beautiful craftsmanship
- Might have some minor flaws with the finish
I’m sure you already know this but I still have to say a few words about Barney Kessel. He wasn’t just a professional guitarist – he was a musician who has influenced the genre quite a bit. Back in the 1950s, Kay Guitar Company approached him and asked him to work with them to create the ultimate jazz guitars. They gave birth to iconic instruments, but those models were discontinued shortly after. Today Kay Vintage Reissue has made it possible to play with Kessel’s guitars once again, as they have recreated the original line. Jazz Special is one of the distinguished members of the series. It has parabolic flamed maple back and sides and 3-ply spruce top. The latter has two f-holes on the surface, enabling you to enjoy those acoustic qualities. The Canadian maple neck has a set dovetail construction, meaning that it’s connected with the body securely. The fingerboard is crafted from rosewood and features 22 medium frets. I have to mention the silver-backed acrylic pickguard that has Barney Kessel’s signature on it, as well as a gold K chevron emblem. Jazz Special looks and feels fantastic, just as the virtuoso intended.
- Impeccable craftsmanship
- The reissue of Barney Kessel’s signature guitar
- Excellent tone
- Knobs might be too far away for those who haven’t played a hollow-body before
If you’re looking for a guitar that is reliable and attractive at the same time, then Guild Starfire III might be worth checking out. When I say attractive, I don’t mean simply a beautiful piece. I mean an axe that has a design which will force you to keep the thing where everybody can see it. Take a look at this model and you’ll see what I’m talking about immediately. I won’t waste your time describing its appearance since its charm is impossible to articulate with words. The reliability comes into play once you realize that it’s virtually impeccable in terms of performance, electronics and hardware. Starfire III has a mahogany top, back, sides and neck. Extra-thin body has a single Florentine cutaway, meaning that playing this guitar will be a real pleasure. Guild LB “Little Bucker” pickups add a unique touch to the sound, as they aren’t your typical humbuckers. They are way airier and warmer, turning your music into unforgettable experience. Guild Starfire III is easily the best electric guitar for jazz!
- Extra thin body
- Beautiful design
- Sounds wonderful both plugged-in and unplugged
- The bridge needs some adjustments (but nothing major)
In this day and age, nobody’s looking for one trick ponies anymore. I’m not implying that such guitars are bad, I’m just trying to say that versatility has become everybody’s cup of tea. Keeping in mind the importance of diversity to modern players, we’re taking a look at Gretsch G5422TG Limited Edition Electromatic (could have used a better name, though). It’s part of a series that could easily be called the best that the brand has created. And this model proves that with its craftsmanship, overall quality and sound. The latter is where our beloved versatility comes into play. The clarity, ‘twangyness’, texture, dimension, power and unworldly feel – these are a few of the things that you’ll hear once you take it in your hands and start playing those jazzy riffs. Even though the body is made from laminated maple, you won’t feel that it’s cheap. You won’t even notice that unless you scrutinize the spec list. At the end of the day, sound is what matters the most, am I right? And we can all agree that this puppy slays in that region.
- Top-notch components
- Excellent craftsmanship
- Versatile sound
- Might not be easy to play for those who don’t have a lot of experience
- Laminated body
One of the best feelings you can experience as a guitarist is coming across an affordable piece that comes really close to high-end models you always desired. They do so with quality, not with technical similarities. This means that you can experience a performance of a great guitar without leaving your wallet empty and sad. That’s the case with Schecter Corsair Custom. It can produce a wide variety of tones with ease. All you have to do is concentrate on your craftsmanship and let it do its job. If you have enough skills, this guitar will follow effortlessly. It achieves such results with the help of Schecter USA Pasadena neck and bridge pickups. The former can yield articulate sounds, while the latter is quite bright and hot. It’s perfect for gain and crunch, and it’s up to you how you use it. Add locking tuners, Bigsby roller bridge, and coil split feature on top and you’ll see what a powerful beast we’re dealing with.
- Great value for money
- Smooth and fast neck
- Noiseless performance
- Depending on the one you get, you might (or might not) notice some flaws with craftsmanship
The history of the guitar we’re about to discuss goes back to the 1930s. I won’t bore you with details, I’ll just tell you that during that time, Epiphone (then known as House of Stathopoulo) was creating high-quality archtops. The very first Century was created. Years later, as Epiphone merged with Gibson, this guitar was recreated. And now the old sentiment is reborn once again in the body of the modern Century (ETCNVSNH1). It pays tribute to its predecessors with its design. You’ll notice that it looks quite different from all the previous models we’ve discussed, as it has round shoulders and deeper curves. Don’t let that scare you, as this fella is extremely comfortable to play. The body is lightweight so it won’t strain your neck or knees. The pickups have amazing quality – they’re capable of creating vintage tones with a lot of depth and dimension. They are raw and authentic, and so is Century itself. While unplugged, you’ll hear woody and warm sounds that will saturate your jazz with character. Let’s go ahead and call this one the best electric guitar for jazz in its price range!
- Reissue of the famous Century
- Vintage and woody tone
We’re completing this list with the most distinctive model of all. It might not look that different at first glance, but once you start scrutinizing it carefully, certain unique features start to the surface. Dean Colt CBK has the appearance of a typical semi-hollow guitar. But its black body has some surprising properties within its shell. Along with the humbuckers we see everywhere, it does also have a piezo pickup on the bridge. It’s supposed to amplify the acoustic qualities and combine acoustic and electric sounds. The idea behind it is quite interesting, and I’m convinced it would turn out perfect if they had used better pickups. It’s not unexpected at this price point, but you’ll achieve better performance once you swap those with something else. Colt CBK does also have two output jacks. They can be utilized individually or together (with two amps). With the help of the latter, you can create an even thicker tone and experiment with some interesting results. If the pickups were better, this guitar would be an absolute bliss. But it’s still a wonderful piece as it is.
- Lightweight body
- Two output jacks
- The piezo isn’t as loud as one might have wished
Types of Electric Jazz Guitars
After reading about so many guitars and their features, I’m sure you already have the idea of what the best jazz guitar looks like. But we can’t avoid the fact that there are many different types of them and it can be hard to grasp which one to go for eventually. I have a hunch that I have the answers, but don’t expect them to be straight-forward. I’ll explain the existing types of electric jazz guitars to you, and you can draw your own conclusions from that. After all, I don’t know your style or preferences and without that it’s impossible to come up with the correct answers.
I’ll start with the type which you won’t find on our list. Even though we have mentioned the best electric guitar for jazz (10 times actually cause those models are ethereal), we haven’t really included any solid-bodies. But in case you don’t find your soulmate with other types, let me explain what such a guitar can do with jazz.
I’m sure you know that a solid body electric guitar relies on electronics in order to emit its sound. Tone is consistent and you won’t hear any feedback. But it can easily lean towards the heavier side unless you’re really careful with your choice. Even though many jazz players use solid body electric guitars, they aren’t still considered as “classic” attributes for this genre.
Also known as an archtop, this type of jazz guitar is probably the most “traditional”. It has been associated with countless guitarists till this day. It has a soundboard and electric pickups, turning it into a semi-acoustic instrument. Such guitars offer a perfect combination of acoustic and electric sounds and are just perfect for jazz. That is why we’ve included a number of such axes – after all, a hollow-body can be your best electric guitar for jazz.
This type is somewhere in the middle. The main difference between semi-hollow and hollow body electric guitars is that the former has a solid center block. In other words, it has less “free space” in its body, resulting in less feedback and acoustic qualities. But since there is still a certain amount of hollow space, the warmth of acoustics is more than present. They can be quite versatile and expressive and you can virtually play any genre with them. However, the truth must be spoken: jazz is their niche.
Once again, I can’t tell you which one is better, because there are no clear-cut answers. If you want to achieve that classic jazz feel, then you should certainly pick the hollow-body. If you don’t want to deal with all that feedback, go for a semi-hollow. And lastly, if you want to experiment with modern sounds and have the ability to control the heaviness of solid-bodies, you can go for that type. The choice is always yours and remember, you’re the one who defines the best electric guitar for jazz.
Every journey is different, as is every guitar in the universe. We can find certain similarities, but there will always be something unique about each model. You might not agree with me, but that’s okay – we all have the right to think or believe whatever we want. The best jazz guitar is the one that has all the features that you’re looking for. It can be a smooth and comfortable neck, a biting and twangy sound, or the combination of everything else. We tried to include them all. We avoided the high-end models because we still wanted to keep these options affordable. Some are more budget-friendly then others, but the majority of them are still accessible to the crowds. Determine what you want and pick out the perfect match accordingly. And as I like to say, you are the mover and shaker here, aren’t you? Good luck, my friend, may jazz be reborn with you!