The Top 10 Jazz Guitars – Special Guitars For A Special Genre

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Jazz is a very special kind of music, and a special kind of music deserves a special kind of guitars. Just like metal guitars are a breed of their own and rock guitars are a special entity and best blues guitars have an entirely different sonic criteria, jazz six-strings are a peculiar bunch with unique audio demands.

A variety of choices is open for you to pick from, as today’s market is truly packed with many valid candidates for the flattering title of the best guitar for jazz music. We took the liberty of breaking things down for you and will do our best to keep this guide simple and effective. Let’s do this.

Types Of Jazz Guitar

We’ll start by jotting down the essential types of jazz six-string. There are three basic types:

  • Archtop
  • Semi-hollow
  • Solid Body

Archtop Guitars

For most people, when they thing jazz guitars, they think archtop guitars, probably some vintage Gibson model.

These six-strings operate as hollow-body instruments, and most commonly utilize the following notable features:

  • Arched back and top, not a flat one
  • An adjustable bridge that can be positioned in various locations
  • F-holes reminiscent to those on violins
  • A rear mounted tailpiece
  • Stoptail bridge or a Bigsby tremolo
  • Neck join position on the 14th fret

Good things about archtops

  • Bigger size of the body is a perfect match for some of the players and gives a strong resonance
  • The sound is just pure jazz
  • Recent market developments have created more budget-friendly archtops with an affordable price

Not so good things about archtops

  • Limited tonal variations
  • Feedback issues
  • Larger body is not for everyone

Best Archtop Guitars For Jazz

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Guitar For Jazz
Summary
Rating
Gibson Custom Shop L-5 CES
Mellow, dreamy and creamy tone that will put a tear in your eye
4.9 Stars
Total of 4.9/5
Epiphone Broadway
Laminate maple body combined with a select spruce top
4.7 Stars
Total of 4.7/5
Ibanez AF95FB
Distinctive sound of bubinga body
4.8 Stars
Total of 4.8/5
Gibson ES-335
Crisp, accurate, mild and mellow
4.8 Stars
Total of 4.8/5
Epiphone DOT ES Style
Top-level mixture of high sound quality and top-level craftsmanship
4.7 Stars
Total of 4.7/5
Ibanez Artcore AF55
Strong competitor for the best guitar for jazz race
4.7 Stars
Total of 4.7/5
D'Angelico EXL101
Humming retro tone rich with sustain and clarity
4.6 Stars
Total of 4.6/5
Yamaha Pacifica
The best jazz guitar for beginners
4.5 Stars
Total of 4.5/5
Paul Reed Smith Guitars CM4TS
A favorite guitar by a favorite brand.
4.8 Stars
Total of 4.8/5
Godin LGXT
Gorgeous looks and INCREDIBLE versatility
4.8 Stars
Total of 4.8/5

Gibson Custom Shop L-5 CES HSLCTVSGH1

Gibson-Custom-Shop-L-5-CES-HSLCTVSGH1-300x300

Body&Neck:5 Stars
Hardware:5 Stars
Electronics:5 Stars
Sound:5 Stars
Value:4.7 Stars
Average:4.9 Stars

We might as well kick things off with the single finest guitar on the list, right? If you truly want to capture that sound of jazz guitar legends, we say go with Gibson and their L-5 model.

Utilizing maple construction, this puppy will take you back to the golden age of jazz guitar. Even in the hands of beginners, it will let out a mellow, dreamy and creamy tone that will put a tear in your eye if jazz makes you emotional. It costs a pretty penny, oh yes, but it packs the sound of gods.


Epiphone Broadway

Epiphone-Broadway-300x300

Body&Neck:4.6 Stars
Hardware:4.7 Stars
Electronics:4.8 Stars
Sound:4.7 Stars
Value:4.9 Stars
Average:4.7 Stars

Toning things down a bit in terms of price, the Broadway guitar from Epiphone is loaded with a distinctive bright and punch-driven tone with plenty of resonance to round up the mix and fill up that sonic space.

The instrument utilizes a laminate maple body combined with a select spruce top, a set of Alnico Classic humbucker pickups, a rosewood fretboard, and a 25.5-inch scale length. For the listed price, it’s a top-notch choice.


Ibanez AF95FB

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Body&Neck:4.8 Stars
Hardware:4.7 Stars
Electronics:4.9 Stars
Sound:4.8 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars
Average:4.8 Stars

For the bit more adventurous bunch, the AF95FB model from Ibanez is driven by a distinctive sound of bubinga body, securing a distinctive bright sound that just screams classic jazz!

Also included in the mix is a mahogany and maple neck, gold hardware, a pack of 20 medium frets, pearl block inlays, and some classy F holes. This is one of the finest looking guitars on the list with a very few cons for the listed price range. IF clarity and sonic articulation are your thing, definitely put this fella among your top considerations.


Semi-hollow Guitars

This option is a combination that in a way picks the best of both worlds, combining archtops with solid-body magic, and securing a sound that’s a cool mixture of two sonic realms.

To sum up what makes semi-hollows different from other guitars, here’s another nifty little rundown for ya:

  • Warm tone with high resonance
  • Light weight
  • Chunky size
  • F-holes similar to violins
  • Two humbucker pickups

Jazz legends who play archtop guitars: Pat Metheny, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Pat Martino, Jim Hall.

Semi-hollow Guitars

Semi-hollows are an option of many jazz icons out there, and are known for finding their spot in the blues and rock ‘n’ roll domain as well. Their warm tone is highly prized, but it’s a more affordable pricing that also makes them stand out and gain a higher traffic share than archtops.

We’ll sum up the good and the not so good things about this type of guitars in another rundown. Here goes!

Good things about semi-hollow guitars

  • Smaller size than archtops, still bigger than solid-body stuff
  • More affordable and reasonably priced
  • Less feedback than archtops

Not so good things about semi-hollow guitars

  • Size still might be too big for some players, and the shape is usually awkward to play while sitting down
  • Less tonal options than solid body guitars

Jazz legends who play semi-hollow guitars: John Scofield, Mike Moreno, Emily Remler, Larry Carlton; not a jazz legend, but BB King’s Lucille is also a semi-hollow.


Best Semi-hollow Jazz Guitars

Gibson ES-335

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Body&Neck:4.8 Stars
Hardware:4.7 Stars
Electronics:4.9 Stars
Sound:4.8 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars
Average:4.8 Stars

We’ll get this thing on the move with one of the genuine icons of the semi-hollow realm – the ES-335 model from Gibson.

We are looking at the legendary body combo of laminated maple mixed up with an arched top, along with two standard F holes, as well as a solid maple core that secures extra clarity and a stronger sustain.

The pickups are of course humbuckers routed via a single tone and master volume control. Hardware is top of the line stuff, with super effective Grover tuners and a TonePros AVR2 bridge.

When you think of jazz sound, you probably think of this thing. It’s crisp, accurate, mild and mellow, but also capable of delivering the roar. Note that a Gibson protective guitar case is also included in the price.


Epiphone DOT ES Style

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Body&Neck:4.6 Stars
Hardware:4.6 Stars
Electronics:4.5 Stars
Sound:4.7 Stars
Value:4.9 Stars
Average:4.7 Stars

In the slightly more affordable region, the Epiphone DOT packs the budget-friendly version of the Gibson sound. For the listed price, this is a top-level mixture of high sound quality and top-level craftsmanship.

The guitar utilizes a laminate maple body with a maple top combined with a sturdy mahogany neck with a standard rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets and white dot markers.

In the electronic department, this puppy packs a pair of Alnico Classic Humbucker pickups mixed up with full-size 1-inch 500K ohm pots.

The sound of this instrument is quite creamy and versatile. It is deeply rooted in jazz, of course, but a certain dose of grind and roar is always present in the mix, allowing you to crank this bad boy to hard rock and even metal according to some players.


Ibanez Artcore AF55

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Body&Neck:4.7 Stars
Hardware:4.4 Stars
Electronics:4.7 Stars
Sound:4.7 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars
Average:4.7 Stars

Yes, Ibanez is a company associated with the hard n’ heavy realm, BUT they actually have a surprisingly strong competitor for the best guitar for jazz race – the Artcore AF55.

The sound is amazing and perfectly matches the smoky sonic vibe of the six-string. We are looking at plenty of audio boom here, secured by the mahogany hollow body. The rest of the mix also includes a strong mahogany neck with an attached rosewood fingerboard, a pack of 22 frets and classic white dot markers.

Audio versatility is pretty high here, and the guitar is capable of tackling everything from light jazz tones to alternative rock groove.

In the electronic region, an ACH-ST humbucker in the neck position and an ACH-ST humbucker in the bridge position reel in plenty of beefiness and resonance, a quiet signal with prominent middle frequencies.


D’Angelico EXL101

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Body&Neck:4.7 Stars
Hardware:4.4 Stars
Electronics:4.7 Stars
Sound:4.7 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars
Average:4.7 Stars

Now this thing is pure class! Coming as a strong contender for the sexiest jazz guitar out there, the EXL101 from D’Angelico packs a humming retro tone rich with sustain and clarity.

The guitar packs a laminated spruce top combined with a laminated flamed maple sides and back. It uses just a single floating humbucker pickup for that bonafide jazz sound, as well as the company’s signature tailpiece.

If you can afford this fella, it is definitely one of the best semi-hollow jazz guitars, and is worth every penny in our book.


Solid Body Jazz Guitars

Finally, solid body guitars are the third valid option we have. These things are basically what they call “standard” electric guitars, featuring a solid body driven by a mixture of tonewood and electronics.

They are smaller, lighter, and highly versatile. So although while they don’t have that organic jazz sound, they can cover a lot of sonic ground and incorporate many musical styles.

Let’s dive right into the good stuff – bad stuff part, shall we?

Good stuff

  • Light weight
  • High sonic versatility
  • Zero feedback issues in most cases

Not so good stuff

  • Sound can be a bit too much on the rock side
  • If you’re into looks, this is the least jazz-looking option

Jazz legends who use solid body guitars: John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, Allan Holdsworth, Mike Stern.


Best Solid Body Guitars For Jazz

Yamaha Pacifica – Best Cheap Jazz Guitar

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Body&Neck:4.4 Stars
Hardware:4.6 Stars
Electronics:4.2 Stars
Sound:4.6 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars
Average:4.5 Stars

In the super affordable section, we believe that Yamaha Pacifica is the best jazz guitar for beginners. It is a simple little newbie six-string that can be adapted to a variety of styles – which is a great feature for fresh players – but always has that extra pinch of jazz present in the mix.

The instrument features an agathis body combined with a bolt-on maple neck, a sonokeling fretboard and a set of 22 frets with white dot markers.

The hardware section is nicely spiced up with a vintage tremolo bridge, while the sound is driven by a pickup configuration of two humbuckers and one single-coil pickup. Tonal adjustments can be performed through Volume and Tone control knobs, as well as via 5-way toggle switch.

For the listed price, this is a top-notch choice. Needless to say, this is a beginner guitar and you shouldn’t expect capabilities of a $2,000 axe. For those goods, proceed to the next models.


Paul Reed Smith Guitars CM4TS

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Body&Neck:4.9 Stars
Hardware:4.7 Stars
Electronics:4.8 Stars
Sound:4.8 Stars
Value:4.7 Stars
Average:4.8 Stars

Picking things up a notch, the CM4TS model from PRS is the best option we can think of for players looking for an amazing jazz sound under $1,000.

The instrument utilizes a beveled maple top combined with a flame maple veneer, along with a mahogany back and a slim, highly playable maple neck with classic rosewood fingerboard with 24 frets and bird fret markers.

In the electronic section, we are dealing with a combination of the SE 245 Vintage Humbucker and SE HFS Treble Humbucker. The guitar has a set of PRS tuners and a tremolo bridge, along with controls for Volume and a push/pull tone control.

The sound is very strong for the listed price and we have to single out the amazingly, heavenly clear cleans. The crunch is there if you want it, but cleans are where it’s at with this guy.


Godin LGXT

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Body&Neck:4.9 Stars
Hardware:4.7 Stars
Electronics:4.8 Stars
Sound:4.8 Stars
Value:4.7 Stars
Average:4.8 Stars

Now if you want a seriously strong solid body jazz guitar, something that could put you in the league with John McLaughlin in terms of tone (and not playing capabilities and musicality, mind you), the Godin LGXT is a valid pick.

From the very moment you lay your eyes upon this instrument, you know that you are dealing with a pro-level device. The gorgeous looks, nothing but high-end components, the fee, the vibe, and INCREDIBLE versatility this thing has are bound to leave you speechless.

No matter which style you’re looking to tackle, the Godin can handle it, and we thoroughly recommend every guitar player out there to give this fella a spin. The best solid-body guitar for jazz, hands down!


Conclusion

And that wraps it up, folks. We hope you enjoyed the ride and managed to find your best guitar for jazz. Now it’s just a matter of jotting down your personal needs and preferences (and buying a good amplifier if this is your first guitar), and once that is out of the way, feel free to treat yourself with a new guitar as early as today. If you liked our stuff, you can subscribe to our newsletter. Until next time, rock steady!