Best Jazz Guitars 2019 – Reviews and Top Picks

Let’s just say, choosing a guitar is no joke, especially when it comes to electric guitars, and even more so when it comes to jazz guitars. The problem here, is that jazz, as a genre, extensively varies in sounds, techniques, melodies, styles. Thus, jazz guitars must be fit to be used for many different genres and styles. What unifies the various aspects is the warm sounds of jazz music.

I can’t say that the stereotype of old-school archtops and semi-hollow guitars being “the best jazz guitars” is true. Again, jazz and its modern versions, are extremely diverse and multifaceted, thus it incorporates all kinds of electric guitars. To narrow down the choice, I’ve gathered my favourite electric jazz guitars. Do remember, guitar is a very personal purchase. You should always rely on how does the guitar feel in your arms. It might become the love of your life after all.

  • Fender Classic Player Jazzmaster Special
  • Rating:
  • Body type: Solid
  • Body shape: Jazzmaster
  • Body wood: Alder
  • Neck: C-shaped neck with 9.5” radius
  • Neck material: Maple, Bolt-on
  • Pick up: 2 Special Design Hot Jazzmaster single-coil pickups (neck & bridge)
  • Fretboard wood: Rosewood
  • Frets: 21, Medium Jambo
  • Bridge: Adjusto-matic bridge vintage style with “floating” tremolo tailpiece
  • Tuners: Vintage Style
  • Epiphone Limited Edition ES-335 PRO Electric Guitar
  • Rating:
  • Body type: Semi-hollow
  • Body shape: Double cutaway
  • Body wood: Maple
  • Neck: Slim Taper D
  • Neck material: Mahogany
  • Pick up: Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers
  • Fretboard wood: Rosewood
  • Frets: 22, Medium Jambo
  • Bridge: Fixed, Tune-o-Matic
  • Tuners: Vintage Wilkinson Classic tuners
  • Godin 035700 5th Avenue Jazz Sunburst HG
  • Rating:
  • Body type: Semi-hollow
  • Body shape: Archtop
  • Body wood: Wild cherry
  • Neck: Archtop
  • Neck material: Silver leaf Maple
  • Pick up: 1 floating Godin Mini-humbucker jazz pickup
  • Fretboard wood: Ebony
  • Frets: 22
  • Bridge: Adjustable Tusq bridge
  • Tuners: High-ration open geared nickel tuners
Name
Body type:
Body shape:
Body wood:
Neck:
Neck material:
Price
Name
Body type:
Body shape:
Body wood:
Neck:
Neck material:
Price
№1
Solid
Jazzmaster
Alder
C-shaped neck with 9.5” radius
Maple, Bolt-on
№2
Semi-hollow
Double cutaway
Maple
Slim Taper D
Mahogany
№3
Semi-hollow
Archtop
Wild cherry
Archtop
Silver leaf Maple
№4
Solid
Telecaster
Alder
Modern C to D
Maple
№5
Hollow
Archtop
Flamed Maple
Rounded “C” shape
Mahogany
№6
Hollow
AF Singlecut
Flamed Maple
AF Artcore
Mahogany
№7
Semi-hollow
Les Paul Double Cut
Maple
Standard
Maple
№8
Hollow
1960 Singlecut
Laminated Maple
U shaped
Maple

Let’s kick it off with a good-old Fender Jazzmaster. Yes, it is Mexican-made, and it is also great quality and produces an absolutely unique sound people love her for. It has smaller and more comfortable Jazzmaster shape made of light alder, special Design Hot Jazzmaster single-coil pickups, and Adjusto-matic bridge. As with every Jazzmaster, beware of the bridge – it does buzz like crazy and if you aren’t a fan, be ready to replace it. By the way, this one is for tough guys: Fender Custom Shop 1958 Jazzmaster Closet Classic

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Jazzmaster
Body wood:
Alder
Neck:
C-shaped neck with 9.5” radius
Neck material:
Maple, Bolt-on
Pick up:
2 Special Design Hot Jazzmaster single-coil pickups (neck & bridge)
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
21, Medium Jambo
Bridge:
Adjusto-matic bridge vintage style with “floating” tremolo tailpiece
Tuners:
Vintage Style
PROS

Special design hot pickups

Unique sound

Solid body

Great sustain

“C’ shaped neck

Cons

Buzzing bridge

The ES-335 PRO is a solid choice if you dreamt about having a Gibson your whole life. It might not be as superior and famous, but still gives you a similar diverse sound due to the mahogany semi-hollow body, classic Alnico Pro humbuckers and TOM bridge. All of these features are for five times cheaper than a Gibson.

Body type:
Semi-hollow
Body shape:
Double cutaway
Body wood:
Maple
Neck:
Slim Taper D
Neck material:
Mahogany
Pick up:
Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
22, Medium Jambo
Bridge:
Fixed, Tune-o-Matic
Tuners:
Vintage Wilkinson Classic tuners
PROS

Alnico Humbuckers

Full and versatile sound

Solid electronic setup

Great responsiveness

Cons

Thick neck

Moving onto a Canadian goodie, the Godin 035700 5th Avenue Jazz is a professional grade high-quality guitar. The guitar is slightly smaller, but it makes it easier and more comfortable to hold compared to the majority of jazz guitars. She has a great reputation amidst jazz musicians for her great quality and well-balanced, warm and full-bodied sound that is delivers by the jazz-specialized floating Godin mini-humbucker. It has slightly longer fretboard (22) and used adjustable Tusq bridge. It does, however, produce feedback at higher volumes.

Body type:
Semi-hollow
Body shape:
Archtop
Body wood:
Wild cherry
Neck:
Archtop
Neck material:
Silver leaf Maple
Pick up:
1 floating Godin Mini-humbucker jazz pickup
Fretboard wood:
Ebony
Frets:
22
Bridge:
Adjustable Tusq bridge
Tuners:
High-ration open geared nickel tuners
PROS

Jazz-focused guitar

Godin Mini-humbucker jazz pickup

Clarity and brightness of tones

Warm and balanced sound

Great sustain

Cons

Potential feedback at higher volumes

If you are a vintage Telecaster fanatic, let me tell you what you’ve been missing your whole life! The modern, savvy, upgraded version is the Fender American Elite Telecaster. This guitar might look as vintage classic because of the traditional solid alder Telecaster body, but her every particle has been improved to produce a terrific sound. All-new 4th Generation noiseless single-coil Telecaster pickups deliver a noise free performance, S-1 switch and a deluxe cast/sealed locking tuners offer seamless finger on-the-fly control. It’s a guitar build for comfort and speed in multiple genres.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Telecaster
Body wood:
Alder
Neck:
Modern C to D
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
4th generation Noiseless single-coil Telecaster pickups
Fretboard wood:
Maple
Frets:
22, Medium Jumbo
Bridge:
Hardtail Bridge
Tuners:
Deluxe cast/sealed locking
PROS

Playability

Noiseless single-coil pickups

S-1 switching system

Impeccable sustain

Cons

Not for vintage purists

A one in a kind “acoustic/electric” guitar designed to be played and amplified as an acoustic instrument. It is a decent flat top axe, if you are looking for a warm, acoustic sound for any gig. It sounds delightfully unplugged, but due to exquisite electronics (eSonic HD preamp, Shadow Nanoflex saddle and floating adjustable bridge) it will deliver true acoustic sounds on when plugged.

Body type:
Hollow
Body shape:
Archtop
Body wood:
Flamed Maple
Neck:
Rounded “C” shape
Neck material:
Mahogany
Pick up:
Shadow SH-1000
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
20, Medium
Bridge:
Floating Adjustable and vintage trapeze tailpiece
Tuners:
Epiphone Historic tuners
PROS

Under-saddle pick up

Acoustic sound

Bright tones

Cons

eSonic HD preamp burns quickly

It is a rock-solid hollow body axe. It has a rather basic set up: maple body with mahogany neck and shorter laurel fretboard; 2 Classic Elite Ceramic humbuckers, ART-1 bridge with VT06 tailpiece and Ibanez tuners. For those looking for a good-quality guitar with solid electronics, good tones and a full, rich jazz sound for practicing, jamming and occasional gigs – this is a great affordable option. It’s perfect for pure beginners and those looking to find their sound and genre.

Body type:
Hollow
Body shape:
AF Singlecut
Body wood:
Flamed Maple
Neck:
AF Artcore
Neck material:
Mahogany
Pick up:
2 Classic Elite Ceramic Humbucker
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
20, Medium
Bridge:
ART-1 bridge with VT06 tailpiece
Tuners:
Ibanez tuners
PROS

Expressive, rich tones

Versatile sound for multiple genres

Easy to control

Cons

Occasional buzz

Huge feedback on high tones

This is a really good deal for a guitarist that’s on a budget. The semi-hollow Epiphone Dot Deluxe is China-made and comes at a rather cheap price for a guitar, but it’s a winner. It’s a classic LP double cut shape with standard Epiphone Dot Deluxe neck, TOM bridge, Grover tuners and the traditional Classic ’57 humbuckers with Alnico magnets. The versatile sound and comfortable build allow playing anything from jazz to rock. With a couple tweaks here and there, you can get yourself a reliable axe that will serve you for years.

Body type:
Semi-hollow
Body shape:
Les Paul Double Cut
Body wood:
Maple
Neck:
Standard
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
Two Classic’57 Humbuckers with Alnico Magnets
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
22, Medium
Bridge:
Tune-O-Matic
Tuners:
Grover
PROS

Affordable

Easy playability

Killer tones

Versatile sound

Cons

Guitar needs to be upgraded (pickups, strings, volume nobs)

This is an axe for the vintage lovers; the Gretsch G6118T has been inspired by the original 1958 Anniversary model and was released to honour Gretsch’s 75th anniversary. It’s not an instrument for a complete beginner, it is a complex, powerful, high-quality, professional guitar for serious musicians. The complexity comes from rare hi-tech electronics including TV Jones Hilp’ Tron single-coil pickups and a space control pinned bridge with Bigsby B6CVT, and a hollow body. It’s an impressive guitar, but it does not come cheap.

Body type:
Hollow
Body shape:
1960 Singlecut
Body wood:
Laminated Maple
Neck:
U shaped
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
TV Jones Hilo’Tron single-coil
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
21, Medium Jumbo
Bridge:
Space control pinned bridge with Bigsby B6CVT
Tuners:
Grover Sta-Tite Die-cast
PROS

Vintage chic

Traditional Control Complement

Pinned Space Control bridge

Great sound/tone/techniques variations

Exceptional sonic flexibility

Cons

Pricy

Buyer’s Guide – What Makes a Good Jazz Guitar?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a guitar, and for jazz guitarists, the choice is even harder, as the genre itself is incredibly multifaceted and flexible. You need to pay attention to the body type, woods, pickups, bridge etc. (more on that read in part 2). The most important thing to bear in mind is that jazz guitars rely less on the electronic setup, and more on the build. Jazz axes don’t need extremely advanced hi-tech hardware and electronics as metal ones. There is no shredding or sonic attacks here so you don’t need a vibey tremolo or crazy, toasty pickups. What you need to pay attention to is the guitar’s construction and tonewoods. Jazz, is all about clean, warm and smooth retro sound and guitars must deliver it. Thus, when choosing a jazz axe, you should pay extra attention to the following characteristics: semi-hollow and hollow/archtop bodies (they create smooth and warm authentic jazz sound); light tonewood (alder, maple); rounder, slightly larges shapes; vintage output pickups that excel in clean sound.

How to choose a guitar?

As a matter of fact, when choosing an axe, you should pay attention to every single part of the guitar as it has a significant effect on the sound. Here are the most significant features you should research before investing in an instrument:

  • Woods: Body // neck // fretboard woods produce unique sonic signature.
  • Body types: there are three basic variations of guitars: solid, semi-hollow and hollow. Each has different sound production.
  • Pickups: Single-coil // Humbucker // double-coil
  • Bridge: tremolo // stoptail
  • Neck: its build // set vs bolt-on // shape // scale

One of the most important aspects is the body type. Solid-bodied guitars are smaller in size and offer a greater consistency of tones, high volume output and minimal feedback. Semi-hollow are mid-sized, have warmer “jazzy” tones and considered to be a classic jazz guitar type. Hollow ones are the closest to acoustic guitars and have rounder and more versatile and smooth ‘retro’ sound.

More on guitar anatomy read https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/electric-guitar-buying-guide/

Budget

An electric guitar is, by any means, a serious investment. Price can fly up to $3000, like Gretsch G6118T, and that’s no limit. Unless you don’t want to break the bank, pay attention to the price and don’t fret, it’s possible to get a fine axe for about $400. If you are a newbie or want to have more than one guitar in your collection, Ibanez AF 75FM and Epiphone De Luxe should cut it.

However, guitars are capricious (just as players) so there’s a high chance that you’ll have to replace guitar parts and spend some extra cash on it.

Best and popular brands

It’s safe to say that every guitar enthusiast has a brand that s/he believes to be the one and only best guitar ever. While that might not be entirely true, there are a few well established, popular, and, kickass brands that everyone respects and loves. Fender, Californian classic, brought to the world potentially two of the best guitars ever made: Telecaster and Stratocaster. Their long-time rival is Gibson introduced the first solid-body electric guitar. They have later absorbed the Epiphone brand and became a guitar monster. Gretsch is kicking ass in the hollow body electric guitar line. Yet, a brand doesn’t equal “awesome axe.” You might as well label Fender Jazzmaster as the worst guitar in existence if it’s not the right fit for you. But a cheaper, less popular Godin could be your partner for many years.

Conclusion

Choosing a perfect guitar is a very time-consuming process, but it is also a long-term investment. So, if you are a beginner, do prepare to spend many hours reading, researching the basics and getting to know the tiniest differences between the instruments. While I can’t tell you which guitar will suit you best, I can surely tell you which guitars you should consider! If you are an experienced player and looking for a powerful, exceptional sounding guitar go for Gretsch G6118T Vintage Select Edition ’60 Anniversary. It is hands down the best of hollow body jazz guitars. Fender Jazzmaster is my top pick for the solid bodied guitars cause it has a unique raw sound. The Epiphone Limited Edition ES-335 PRO Electric Guitar is the winner among semi-hollow jazz guitars, as it was made primarily for jazz and produces surreal sound.

Of course, how the guitar is made means the world to most, and it’s a must to research what body you want, which pickups you prefer, which shape and neck. However, there is nothing more important than your own feelings. Read the reviews, research the brands, but after – go to the guitar store and try every instrument with your own hands.

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By Max Hudson
    about author

    My name is Max Hudson, born and raised in Chicago. I'm 30 years old and like many other people, I discovered guitar in my teens and have never looked back since. It has quickly evolved into a passion and has given me a creative outlet, something to redirect my time and unlimited energy toward. I want this website to be a handbook for players of all skill levels. It can become a starting point for your new hobby, where you can find the right instrument, get tips for playing effortlessly or anything else music related.

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