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/
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.
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.