Jazz is considered by many to be the epitome of guitar musicianship, the skill and commitment required to be a true student of the genre is both commendable and impressive. But the saying goes that a guitarist is only as good as his guitar, and while the genre of Jazz does not necessarily require a specific type of guitar, it certainly helps the player to have all the right tools. So what we’ve compiled below is a list of the Top 10 best Jazz guitars for your money that are available in today’s market.
Jazz guitars are one of the most classy pieces of gear a player can bring to a gig
Ibanez Artcore AF75
Ibanez is one Guitar brand whose name always comes up in conversations of value, something about their building process yields incredible guitars for incredible prices. The flagship of the Ibanez semi hollow series would be the Artcore, and of the Artcores, the AF75 is by far one of the best jazz guitars Ibanez offers in terms of bang for your buck
The construction of the AF75 is fairly standard for a Jazz guitar, semi hollow design with one cutaway and a set of humbuckers. The guitar features a maple top and sides with a mahogany neck, giving a nice balance of warmth and clarity. A pair of ACH1 humbuckers give the guitar a mellow yet noticeable tone. For this guitar, and a few others on the list (looking at you EXL-1) a larger hollow body means two things. More resonance and more discomfort. The tradeoff is clear, the bigger the body the more it resonates acoustically and the more authentic semi hollow sound you get from the pickups. With that however comes a much larger body, which can be uncomfortable to some. This trade off is a classic one that should affect your choice in choosing the best jazz guitar for you.
When it comes to the best Jazz guitar a player can buy, some brands are synonymous with the genre, one such brand is D’Angelico, a brand that could best be described as having its origin shaped by the genre. Modern day D’Angelicos are no exception, with the brand offering some of the best Jazz guitars for the money, all while maintaining the classic design.
The EXL-1 features a much more classic design that calls back to an older time in the Jazz genre. This entry in the list of best jazz guitars has a much larger body, with only one cutaway making it a much more resonant instrument. A laminate maple and spruce body with a maple neck all play well with its mini humbucker set in the neck, giving it one of the best vintage and clear sounding tones on this list. The EXL-1 is available in the most striking colors of any guitar on this list, making it one of the best combinations aesthetically of some of the best Jazz guitars on the list.
Gretsch Guitars offer a unique tone with their slightly brighter pickup profiles
Gretsch is another name whose place on a list titled “Best Jazz Guitars” is a foregone conclusion. Gretsch as a guitar brand is almost synonymous with Jazz, an accolade that reaches back decades. Yet even in the current day, Gretsch still makes fantastic items at fantastic prices, such as the Streamliner, which is one of the best jazz guitars for the player’s money today.
The Gretsch streamliner series offers quality semi hollow tones at a good price, I have personally always loved the classic Gretsch pickups for Jazz and other forms of more mellow guitar music, as the clarity and punch of those iconic pickups is ideal for what I believe to be some of the best fingerpicking tone around. Between the maple body and the laurel fingerboard, the guitar is ready to give both a vintage and modern voiced tone for the players Jazzy endeavours. All this is made sweeter with the addition of a Bigsby Tremolo, a feature that no other guitar on this list possesses, making it the best jazz guitar for players who need the most expression available in their playing.
The Loar LH350
The next best jazz guitar on the list is one of the most, if not the most, vintage spec’d and sounding jazz guitar on the list. Loar always puts out models that pay great homage to the legendary guitars of yesteryear, and this one is no exception.
The LH350 features a solid spruce top, giving the guitar an enormous amount of resonance and volume, coupled with the maple body and mahogany neck the guitar has a very balanced tone. The neck is a thick “V” shape, which pays homage to the best Jazz guitars of old. The guitar also features a florentine cutaway and Kent Armstrong mini humbucker, two additions which make the guitar feel classy. The aesthetics of this guitar are one of its more attractive features. And while that may sound shallow at first it is important to note that often auditions start before music is even played, and having a guitar that looks fantastic out of the case, gives the player one less thing to worry about.
Semi hollow guitars are considered to be the standard for Jazz guitars
For the final entry into the list, I thought it best to include a more modern take on the Jazz instrument, or at the very least one of the best balances of old design and new features. Enter the Epiphone Sheraton-II Pro, a classic design with more than one convenient modern amenity.
The guitar features a laminate maple body, with the neck being a 5 Piece layering of hard walnut and maple laminate, giving the guitar a very solid feel when chording. The guitar has a double cutaway design giving easy access to the upper frets. The thinner body (compared to other guitars on the list) give the guitar a much lighter feel, which makes the guitar a real best friend of the shoulder. The best feature of the guitar however is most definitely the pickups, which are Epiphones own Probucker models. The ProBuckers are the ultimate mix of vintage and modern tone, giving both clarity and warmth. A tone often sought after but rarely achieved. The Probucker allows the pickups to be split individually, giving access to both humbucker and single coil tonal profiles. This feature may not seem vital at first, but when it comes to the best Jazz guitar it is best that a player has as many tones available in the instrument itself as possible.
P90s are iconic when it comes to Jazz guitar tone, the clarity mixed with the punch makes for an ideal Jazz pop
Sometimes guitar names just speak for themselves, in the list of best jazz guitars I would be remiss in not including the Jazzmaster. Introduced in the 60s to take a crack at some of the best jazz guitar makers of the day, the Jazzmaster found a second life with surf rock musicians of the day. This doesn’t mean however that the guitar is not superb for its intended use, and the Jazzmaster sure does live up to its name as one of the best jazz guitars
The Jazzmaster is the first guitar on this list that is not semi hollow, this means the guitar does lose out on acoustic resonance. The guitar however makes it up in its very unique tone. The pickups in the Jazzmaster may look wider and taller than your average Fender single coil, and that’s because they are. The single coils produce a bright, clear and distinctive sound, with a very present mid range in most cases. The pickups are made even more unique by the additional controls mounted on the upper horn of the guitar, giving the player the ability to set incredibly precise tones. For players seeking the single coil shimmer, but one that is better suited for jazz, look no further than one of the best jazz guitars, the Jazzmaster.
Additional features like tremolo arms and multiple pickups makes for a more versatile guitar
Epiphone ES-339 P90 Pro
Up to this point, you will likely have noticed a common theme amongst most of the guitars on the list, and that is semi hollow body construction. It is a widely held belief that semi hollow guitars make for some of the best jazz guitar tones, and there is some truth to that. The only issue is that semi hollow guitars and sometimes be uncomfortable, especially for those with smaller frames or arms. Enter the ES-339; the original Gibson model was made to replicate the tones of the immensely popular ES-335, but with the added comfort of a much smaller body.
The ES-339 features a maple body, mahogany neck and a rosewood finger board, all fairly standard materials for a semi hollow guitar. What sets this one apart from most is its size, which is a much reduced scaling of the ES-335 and other similar sized models. This coupled with the soap bar P90 pickups makes the guitar one that has plenty of tone in a smaller body, making the guitar much more comfortable for those with a smaller frame, or those who are just plain sick of wrapping their arms around a huge box of wood every time they play. Improved comfort without yielding on tone makes this guitar one of the best jazz guitars on the market today.
Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster
Telecasters are practically bulletproof workhorses, those sick of glass cannon guitars need look no further
The next entry into the list will definitely raise some eyebrows but it nevertheless deserves its place amongst the best jazz guitars. The Telecaster is one of the most recognizable guitars of all time, and for good reason. It is not just history that keeps the telecaster around, it is its versatility. Though it is a solid body guitar, and though it has only single coil pickups, it still performs fantastic as one of today’s best jazz guitars, making it, although an underdog, one of the best jazz guitars that players can have.
The Telecaster is not just for country as some might think, while the bridge pickup does live up to its twangy mythos, the neck and middle position offer some of the sweetest mellow tones some guitars can offer, and with the bridge as the ideal position for solos or for cutting through, the telecaster should not be slept on when it comes to good jazz tones. The Classic Vibe Telecaster by Squier is an example of one of the best jazz guitars for an insanely good price. The guitar features a solid pine body, making it much more resonant than your traditional Squier, all the while being much lighter than most of the other guitars on the list. The guitar also has a very thick 50’s inspired neck profile, making it a comfortable place for guitarists used to the thick spacing of a semi hollow guitar.
Grote Electric Semi Hollow
There is typically an issue when it comes to acquiring your first Jazz guitar and that is price, Jazz guitars, whether for the materials or the craftsmanship, typically run a higher ticket price than many other guitars. This does not mean however that the best jazz guitars should be inaccessible, the Grote Jazz electric.
Grote is a lesser known brand, but that should definitely change given the quality and affordability of most of their models. The Grote guitar features fairly standard construction for a jazz guitar, semi hollow design, no cutaway, set neck and with a P90, this will sound like a jazz guitar without a doubt. Its affordable price makes it an excellent first entry into the world of jazz guitar. While it does lack some amenities of higher priced guitars (multiple finishes, higher quality woods) this guitar is not meant to compete with them. It is meant to be a first guitar, and for the price it will do that excellently.
Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro
The Les Paul model is a guitar that is too often lumped in as being one dimensional because of its great success being used as a tool for hard rock and even metal music. Counting the Les Paul out for that reason is unfair to its heritage, in fact the musician who the guitar is named after in the first place was an acclaimed jazz musician himself. The Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro is one of the best jazz guitars for the player’s money because of its versatile tone and its high build quality.
The Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro (quite a mouthful I know) is built like a jazz guitar should be. Mahogany body into a set neck with a rosewood board makes for good dark warmth coming through the pickups. The humbuckers of the custom pro offer warmth and smooth clarity without sounding too bright, and the thickness of the body and the pure weight of the instrument make for a very resonant sound. All this makes for a fantastic guitar already, but coupled with a AAA flame maple top, this guitar looks even better than it sounds.
You happy with our list? Think we missed something? We did our best to sum up what we believe to be the best jazz guitars around for the average player. Got something better to add? Let us know in the comments below!
No matter what you gear you have, tone always starts in the fingers