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Old January 12th, 2013, 03:30 AM   #1 (permalink)
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What guitar for jazz?

So i originally planned to use my firebird for jazz band, but it's quite heavy. I was wondering what you guys would recommend for wood, guitar style, and pickups for a good jazz guitar. My teacher is pretty picky tonewise.

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Old January 12th, 2013, 04:56 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Nothing beats an archtop acoustic with a P-90 mounted to the neck.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 05:43 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I guess you would need to define what you mean by Jazz - I was playing Miles Davis tunes through a RAT on a Les Paul in the early 1980's and called it "Jazz" - now I think of Ted Greene and/or Joe Pass when I think of Jazz... And I would likely thump a young punk with a RAT playing anything...

You may be talking about the sort of "Rhythm Section" type of thing for a larger group - choirs, brass... I would suggest a solid body electric because you may want something that behaves well. I've done a bunch of those kinds of things and the best guitar I used was a Les Paul Standard - but I would actually use a Tele today - solid bodies were a lot less of a hassle and if you have to travel it's something you can put in the seat next to you instead of in some luggage area under a bus.

Tele neck pickups are excellent for just about any mellow tone - if you back them off of the strings (held down to the last fret) about 3/16" on the high-end and 1/4" on the low end they can be pretty versatile/blend well and raise them about 1/16" to 3/32" for soloing.

The best "Rhythm Section" guitar I can think of is a solid body with P90s in the neck position so you can get a little beef in the tone while still being clear and articulate: I really like the 24.75" scale Gibsons for Jazz - SGs are great if you don't want the weight, but "teachers" seem to look at SG players like they just dumped their coffee over and it landed on their coat - so maybe a Les Paul :). I think a lot of people suggest 335 type of semi-hollow body guitars for Jazz, if not a hollow body... but with a 24.75" scale they get a little too "thick" sounding - tons of mid-range that is difficult to get rid of. I've always gotten a better tone with a thinner sounding pickup, the neck position on a solid body and set an amp up to be on the dark and barely breaking side: Most Jazz/student type things are all about having to blend with other stuff so the lighter you make your tone - without getting twangy - the better you will blend. The wood does not really matter too much, but I prefer maple one piece necks over those with Rosewood fretboards because the over all tone at stage volume is more flat instead of scooped - which gives you more control. I like Ash or Alder because they are pretty consistent and easy to work on and sound great with thinner pickups.

So, to have the most tonal options, and control weight, I would make a Tele with P90s and hollow it out a bit - quite a bit if you use a heavier wood like Ash. On some guitars I have wired up 250k pots for a volume, a tone and a 25k-50k "blend" pot so that in the middle pickup selector position, you can use the pot to control how much of the bridge pickup to blend in (helps to give you a mellow soloing tone that will stand out better if you are playing chords and then switch to playing a solo here of there). I would go for a one-piece Maple neck. Then, get some sort of "Fat Boost" peddle - I made what's called a "Fat Boostered" form the layouts over at the GGG web site - the boost pedal will take you closer to the tone of a hollow body if you ever needed to go there.

Based on my experience... If you have short hair, I would go for an SG with P90s, but any longer than military specs on your hair and I would suggest an understated single cutaway solid body. Humbuckers will work fine, but they are more suited for soloing and you will always be asked to turn your guitar down if you are supposed to be in the background playing chords.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 08:46 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Let's ask Ed.

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Old January 12th, 2013, 09:09 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bentley View Post
So i originally planned to use my firebird for jazz band, but it's quite heavy. I was wondering what you guys would recommend for wood, guitar style, and pickups for a good jazz guitar. My teacher is pretty picky tonewise.
Went through a search several years ago. None of the Epi/Ibanez/Godin ilk really did it for me, although the Gretsch 5120 was surprisingly versatile. Then, I stumbled across the D'Angelico. Love it. Comes stock with Kent Armstrongs and the workmanship is first rate. The tone is pure, classic, jazzbox. Plays like butter. Not easy to find, but it will be worth it if you do and you may find one under $1000.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 09:17 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Jazz like country uses a less genre specific tone like metal or rock guitar. It's really more up to the player what they use.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 09:45 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Lots of jazz played on Teles.

If you're not happy with a Tele for this I'd suggest a 335. Try the cheaper Epi Dot model first.

Good suggestions already posted if you want to spend more.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 09:47 AM   #8 (permalink)
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LOL @Mojotron, loved your post, laughed at the last bit.

Dinner jacket may help too.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 09:49 AM   #9 (permalink)
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What do you mean by "quite heavy?" If you mean weight, who cares? A lot of Jazz guitar is played sitting down. If you mean tone... you can do a lot with eq and guitar/amp sttings. You put a lot of work into your Firebird - why not try to use it if possible?
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Old January 12th, 2013, 09:59 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Mojotron's post more or less covered it all. You can find all types used - Archtops (solid carved, 175 or 335 styles), Les Pauls, Teles, Strats. Most stuff I play on guitar is jazz chord melody stuff, and I am happy playing on most things - I have a Rickenbacker and a couple of Teles, plus a strat floating around - they all get used quite happily. For me the trick to get the sound is to use flatwound strings (with a wound third) and knock the treble off if required.
Personally I think Mojotron's suggestion of a thinline-type (hollowed out - up to you if you have the f-hole) tele and P90s is a really good one, though my thinline just has standard Tele pickups.

EDIT: The above assumes, of course, that you are intending to make it yourself and that finishing it before you leave school is also a goal...

And, giving it some more thought, rather than P90s, if you wish to increase the flexibility I would suggest a pair of humbuckers with four way wiring going to toggle switches so you can have the coils in series or in parallel.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 10:06 AM   #11 (permalink)
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After reading the posts above and listening to the greats: Wes, Joe, Charlie, Pat Martino and Metheny, Bill Frissel, John Mc, Robben, Ted, Les, Ed, Danny etc...

I can safely say, as been said thousands of times here at TDPRI, regardless of the guitar... it's "all in the fingers and hands." They all get great tone on any box!!!

Traditionally, I would choose a big box with good low wind humbuckers or p90's, and use the neck pup.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 10:23 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Almost any good electric guitar will do.
Archtops get the nod from most players.
Gibsons are the traditional arch-type.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 11:34 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mojotron View Post
...... Based on my experience... If you have short hair, I would go for an SG with P90s, but any longer than military specs on your hair and I would suggest an understated single cutaway solid body. Humbuckers will work fine, but they are more suited for soloing and you will always be asked to turn your guitar down if you are supposed to be in the background playing chords.
Mojotron you comment is priceless, especially the "..you will always be asked to turn down your volume...". ... has any guitar player ever been asked to turn up the volume . Once a shool teacher (leader of a jazz band and a sax player himself) asked me what guitar he should get for his students for the jazz band. After hours of explaining the features and sound characteristcs of solid bodies, semi acoustics, single coils humbucker etc.. nothing seemed to meet the needs. I gave up. It seemed he was looking for a guitar that looked and sounded and like a saxophone... Bentley check first with your teacher, if there is eventually some bias
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Old January 12th, 2013, 01:22 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I feel there is ofcourse a big difference between hollow and solid bodies. My observation:
Solid body guitars have a specific type of sustain which make them less useable for classic type jazz sounds. I always carry an archtop and and a telecaster to gigs when I know some type of jazz is called for. If swing of classic bebop is called for the archtop is much better. When I'm uncertain my go-to is, of course my Telecaster.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 01:42 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Play what ya got.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 01:52 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Play what ya got.
Amen.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 04:58 PM   #17 (permalink)
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LOL @Mojotron, loved your post, laughed at the last bit.

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Ha... Ya it was 3 decades ago, but man I was there... and I don't think the average music teacher, nor the job they have to do, has changed all that much. I also don't think anyone can tell that I was deeply scarred by the experience, but what do I know...

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...For me the trick to get the sound is to use flatwound strings (with a wound third) and knock the treble off if required...
+1 - good idea - especially on 25.5 scale necks - I'm guessing - because, as I have seen a lot of guitars built, the pickups end up a little bit closer to the bridge compared to where the maximum string inflection is along the length of the string on a 24.75" scale neck; and a tiny movement of the pickup position impacts the tone a lot. I imagine flatwounds would tame that nicely - does wonders on basses I know that.

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Mojotron you comment is priceless, especially the "..you will always be asked to turn down your volume...". ... has any guitar player ever been asked to turn up the volume . Once a shool teacher (leader of a jazz band and a sax player himself) asked me what guitar he should get for his students for the jazz band. After hours of explaining the features and sound characteristcs of solid bodies, semi acoustics, single coils humbucker etc.. nothing seemed to meet the needs. I gave up. It seemed he was looking for a guitar that looked and sounded and like a saxophone... Bentley check first with your teacher, if there is eventually some bias
Yep... it's a challenge that was worth going through - but man... I think the music experience in school is supposed to be dominantly inclusive - but in a larger group it does tend to be stifling for the creative ones at times. And, people involved with music performance can tend to not have experienced what it's like to play in a working band - so they can tend to make some assumptions about how to approach things that get frustrating for kids that want to jam/have fun... and IMO they usually end up being pretty small thinking and controlling. OTOH - those involved in leading music performance stuff in an educational setting that have 'real world' band experience are generally pretty frustrated with their administration and really frustrated with kids that are lazy and what they would love to do is inspire these kids with the opportunities that they don't realize they have at such a young age. God bless all of them for trying!!

This guy could totally get away with playing an SG.... but this is the way that I think of Jazz guitar in a practical sense for those that are bound to run into all kinds of styles and will want to find all kinds of tones. IMO for any serious guitar student it's best to pick just one guitar, really any guitar will do in a lot of situations, and make that thing produce every tone you are trying to get. What happens when you do that is you develop the technique to really produce that tone with your playing rather than relying on a guitar to give you a tone that is this or that... Also, what happens is the person that is working with just one guitar will learn to setup that guitar to play really well and any guitar that plays well is going to sound as good as it can. I agree with those above that mentioned that the tone comes from your playing and just go with what you have - that perhaps is the best way to go.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 05:04 PM   #18 (permalink)
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I guess your teacher thinks you need a specific type of guitar for jazz? It is unfortunate if that is so, because in my opinion he is wrong.
I bought an ES335 a long time ago thinking the same thing, and now I don't care if it is a Tele, Strat, Les Paul ES, hollowbody archtop.... They sound different but they all can be made to sound great for jazz.
I'd use whichever guitar you have that you like the best. Use the tone controls, volume controls, amp controls, and you should be able to get a great tone for jazz with most any good sounding guitar.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 05:20 PM   #19 (permalink)
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I guess your teacher thinks you need a specific type of guitar for jazz? It is unfortunate if that is so, because in my opinion he is wrong.
I bought an ES335 a long time ago thinking the same thing, and now I don't care if it is a Tele, Strat, Les Paul ES, hollowbody archtop.... They sound different but they all can be made to sound great for jazz.
I'd use whichever guitar you have that you like the best. Use the tone controls, volume controls, amp controls, and you should be able to get a great tone for jazz with most any good sounding guitar.
+1. If your teacher is really that picky just ask him/her!

But if you're doing Freddie Green type comping, it does sound best on an archtop.
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Old January 12th, 2013, 09:00 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Well thanks all for your replies. I have two strats, and both sound pretty good for jazz, but the one has a humbucker in the neck and is a little too broad, and the other one has a floating trem. I know I could mod them and make them work, but I like building, so I thought I would build a dedicated jazz guitar. I think I might go for a telecaster and possibly 24.75 scale. Probably like mojo suggested a maple neck. The firebird is way heavy, 9ish pounds, and sitting for an hour and a half with that on my legs wouldn't be comfy, I did it with my teacher's les paul. I don't think my teacher is really that knowledgeable on the specifics of what guitar to use, so I thought you guys would know. So I guess the plan is, make a tele in summer, then in school I'll be making a strat and les paul, so I could also possible make a hollow body LP. I do encounter a lot of different sounds, and I really just want a nicer guitar for the stage. thanks again!
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