Best Jazz Guitar [2019] Review and Buying Guide

Jazz guitars are unique in all their features–even the strings are specially tailored to the jazz style. This is necessary because jazz music is one of a kind. It takes a lot of dedication and know-how to learn and excel in this discipline. If you are committed to the process, you’ll need the right jazz guitar by your side to facilitate that process.

But what’s the right jazz guitar, you ask? A well-made guitar should be comfortable to play and sturdy enough to take some bruising from long hours of practice—more importantly, it should sound incredible.

There are three different kinds of jazz guitars: the archtop, semi-hollow, and solid. Whichever type you pick, it will likely put a dent in your wallet, so you want to be sure you choose the right one. To help you do that, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best jazz guitars you can find in the market today. I’ve also included a comprehensive buying guide which will cover the factors you need to take into account before taking the plunge.

Let’s jump right in…

Top Choice

If you’re short on time, my top choice would be the Fender Standard Telecaster. This model comes from a well-known, trusted name, has a fair price tag, and doesn’t have a single disappointing aspect. I’ve reviewed it first below for your convenience.

 

 

Best Jazz Guitar Reviews

Fender Standard Telecaster

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a Fender in this rundown. Their iconic design, superb electronics, and exceptional playability are what separates them from the rest—and this standard Telecaster is no exception.

 

Key Features

  • C-shaped neck and a deep cutaway
  • A pair of Single-coil Tele pickups
  • Alder body wood
  • Six saddle
  • String-through construction
  • Shielded body cavities

 

What I like

This guitar is crafted from solid alder and comes in a couple of different finish variants. You’re looking at Black, Arctic White, Butterscotch Blonde, and Candy Apple Red. You can’t go wrong with any of these choices. All of them drop-dead gorgeous timeless classics.

It features two trusted Standard Single-Coil Tele pickups which make this guitar versatile. It is versatile enough to handle not only jazz but just about any genre.

The tones are crunchy, understated, and mellow. The asking price is not as steep as the American-made variant, either.

 

What I don’t like

There’s nothing to dislike about this product, except for the tinkering involved with setting up the neck and bridge appropriately.

 

 

Pros

  • Clear and bright tones
  • Appealing aesthetics
  • Tried-and-tested electrics

 

Cons

  • Takes a while to set up

 

If you’re strapped for cash, this Standard Telecaster will make a fine choice. The build is iconic, the sound is great, and it’s pretty versatile.

 

Overall Rating: 4.8/5

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Epiphone Dot Studio

This Epiphone is a blend of flawless craftsmanship and sound that’s tough to beat—and for this reason alone, it is one of the best jazz guitars you can get in this price bracket.

 

Key Features

  • Laminate body
  • Mahogany neck
  • Four different finish options
  • Tune-O-Matic bridge
  • Grover tuning set
  • Alnico Classic humbucking pickups

 

What I like

As for the construction, you’re looking at maple top and shell, with a robust mahogany neck and a rosewood fretboard. It’s a beautiful instrument, and there are various finish options to choose from. There’s ebony, the classic sunburst, and the fresh burgundy. Each finish is tasteful and refined.

In the electronics segment, this guitar features dual Alnico Classic Humbucking pickups with a built-in switch which lets you select the pickup of your choice.

It offers excellent versatility and can produce tones ranging from jazz to metal and everything in between. They’re crisp, sparkly, and creamy.

 

What I don’t like

Although you get tone and volume controls with the pickups, they aren’t sensitive enough, and the pickups themselves won’t give you high gain.

 

Pros

  • A gorgeous instrument
  • Excellent sound and playability
  • Loud even when unplugged

 

Cons

  • Fair to middling pickups

 

The hardware and electronics are reliable, the design is eye-catching, and the neck is comfortable to play for players of all skill levels. In a nutshell, this guitar a reliable option if you’re on a tight budget.

 

Overall Rating: 4.7/5

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Gretsch G100CE Synchromatic

If you’re a fan of vintage-style instruments, you can count on the most prolific manufacturers of vintage-themed hollow-body guitars to deliver something you’ll love: the Gretsch G100CE Synchromatic.

 

Key Features

  • Laminated maple body
  • Natural matte finish
  • Single-coil pickup
  • ¼-inch cable jack
  • Compensated rosewood bridge

 

What I like

Let’s start with the appearance. You’re looking at a layered maple body and an arched top design with a natural matte finish which reminds you of guitars from the early ’40s. And to add to this already retro look, it features a vintage pickguard and curved f-holes. Long story short, this puppy is a beauty.

While most guitars from this class feature dual pickups, Gretsch decided to go with a single-coil pickup to keep things simple. You also get control knobs for volume and tone, as well as a cable jack when you wish to plug in.

The tones are rich, well-rounded, and have plenty of volume.

 

What I don’t like

The decision to ditch the dual pickups in favor of a single-coil pickup somewhat limits the versatility.

 

Pros

  • Vintage-themed look
  • Great sound
  • Decent craftsmanship
  • Affordability

 

Cons

  • Single-coil pickup

 

This model has that unique Gretsch sound many of us have come to love. It’s a beautiful, well-made, and very reasonably priced model. If you favor retro designs reminiscent of the Golden era, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal.

 

Overall Rating: 4.7/5

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Godin 5th Avenue CW (Kingpin II)

Godin’s guitars are probably some of the best to ever come out of Canada. Not only are they affordable, but it’s also not difficult to tell that the manufacturers didn’t cut corners. It’s challenging to strike this balance, but Godin’s 5th Avenue CW managed to do so.

 

Key Features

  • Canadian Wild Cherry
  • Silverleaf maple neck
  • Dual P90 single-coil pickups
  • Compensated bridge
  • Rosewood fingerboard

 

What I like

It’s constructed entirely out of Canadian Wild Cherry, and the neck is crafted from Silverleaf maple, which affords it a particular Canadian flavor. You can pick from three different finish options: Burgundy, Natural, and Cognac Burst.

You’ll notice a deep cutaway which complements the retro archtop look. It also features a pair of reliable P90 single coils, along with controls for volume and tone coupled with a three-way selector switch for selecting the pickups.

As for the sound, the trebles are present and balanced, and the basses are pronounced. The tones are clean, warm, and vibrant; exactly what you’d expect from a good mid-range jazz guitar.

 

What I don’t like

You’ll notice single-coil hum which can be corrected with a hum-killer. Additionally, the tuners that it ships with are relatively mediocre and would probably need replacing.

 

Pros

  • Well-made
  • Great intonation
  • Wood finished in three colors
  • Impressive sound

 

Cons

  • Lackluster tuners

 

In a nutshell, the Godin Kingpin CW is as good a mid-range instrument as they come. It offers excellent value, looks attractive, and above all provides versatility.

 

Overall Rating: 4.6/5

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Ibanez Artcore AF Series

The Artcore AF series is the finest jazz guitars Ibanez has to offer. It sports a traditional look and offers excellent versatility.

 

Key Features

  • Mahogany construction
  • Satin smoky finish
  • Infinity R humbuckers
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Floating bridge

 

What I like

The body is crafted from sturdy mahogany, as is the neck, so it’s an all-mahogany build beyond its rosewood fretboard. It features an attractive smoky finish. It ships with dual Infinity R humbuckers, passive and not covered. They don’t come with individual control knobs for volume or tone, but you do get master volume and tone controls.

The mahogany build provides ample resonance which creates warm and clear tones, so much so, that they’re almost irresistible. It’s versatile enough to handle genres from blues to alt-rock and everything in between.

 

What I don’t like

The tuners it comes with are somewhat standard, so it won’t be winning any popularity contests in that department. You might face a few minor tuning issues. Furthermore, if you are a serious jazz player, you probably aren’t looking for the extra gain anyways.

 

Pros

  • Sleek looks
  • Great sonic attack
  • Affordable

 

Cons

  • Fret buzz
  • Slight tuner problems

 

This Ibanez is probably one of the best jazz guitars you can get for under $500. Save for the few minor issues I mentioned above, this guitar impresses.

 

Overall Rating: 4.6/5

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Hagstrom Tremar Viking Deluxe

This Swedish brand is nothing short of iconic. It has been favored by the likes of Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix. The Viking Deluxe is perhaps their most popular model.

 

Key Features

  • Glossy black finish
  • White binding
  • Hagstrom HJ-50 pickups
  • Laminated maple

 

What I like

The Tremar Viking is a reissue of the Viking from the ’60s, and it’s been infused with a more contemporary look. First things first, this guitar is absolute eye candy. It features a high-gloss black finish accented with pure white binding.

The body is crafted from layered flamed maple, while the neck is Canadian maple. In short, the construction is robust and is evident in its exquisite quality. The design features a double-cutaway for maximum accessibility, and it ships with a pair of Hagstrom HJ-50 pickups. Each with their volume and tone control knobs.

It doesn’t disappoint in the sound department either. It produces those creamy and warm tones, which jazz musicians welcome.

 

What I don’t like

The only downside worth mentioning would be setup out of the box. It might take a while and some tweaking to get this guitar to optimum playability.

 

Pros

  • Attractive looks
  • Sound which jazz guitarists crave
  • Excellent build quality

 

Cons

  • Setup issues

 

If you’re looking for a gorgeous guitar that offers the versatility and tones that jazz music demands, this guitar should be on your shortlist.

 

Overall Rating: 4.7/5

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Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012

If the value offered is a deal-breaker for you, this Yamaha is the answer to your problem. This budget-friendly guitar is geared towards beginners. And for only $200, I’d say it’s underpriced for what it delivers.

 

Key Features

  • Agathis body
  • Sonokeling fretboard
  • Chrome die-cast tuners

 

What I like

All models in the Pacifica series feature are similar design – a double cutaway with a curvy body. And since this is a budget option, you won’t expect the manufacturers to include select materials. It uses Agathis tonewood for the body which is finished in quite a few different glossy colors, namely, Black, Blue, and the retro Sunburst.

To slash the cost, they opted for Sonokeling for fingerboard construction. The looks are great, and the build quality is respectable.

 

What I don’t like

To keep the cost low, Yamaha had to make a few trade-offs. The hardware quality is compromised, that’s not to say they don’t work the way they’re supposed to, only that they aren’t on par with more expensive options.

 

 

Pros

  • Elegant aesthetics
  • Extremely affordable
  • Beginner-friendly

 

Cons

  • Mediocre tuners

 

This Yamaha is an excellent pick for beginner jazz guitarists. It’s easily set up and doesn’t need you to grasp complicated configurations. It looks the part, it sounds good, and above all, it is a bargain.

 

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

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Jazz Guitar Buying Guide

Before you shortlist jazz guitars or even decide on one, there are a couple of questions that you need to ask yourself. You need to settle on the shape, style, and tonal range, in a way that is in line with your budget. Each guitar style has some inherent needs associated with it. You’ll have to jot down your requirements and find out which type meets them best.

As a rule of thumb, archtops provide an organic jazzy tone, solid-body types lean towards the electronic side, while semi-hollow body guitars fall somewhere in the middle.

I’ve made sure to include some budget-friendly options, which can come in handy if you’re new to the world of jazz guitars. And if you’re a veteran player, I’ve added pro-grade picks in the round-up as well. If you’d like to read about other great guitar models, check out our latest post.

 

Guitar styles

There are three different guitar styles you can choose from. Let’s explore each one.

Archtop

Archtop, or hollow-body guitars, are classic retro instruments and have been around for a while. They have a long history with legendary jazz musicians and feature a pair of f-holes that are meant to help with sound projection.

Despite their bulkier bodies, Archtops are noticeably more comfortable to play than the other two styles. Additionally, they produce that authentic jazz tone, which makes jazz guitars unique.

A downside to this kind is the feedback, which can be minimized but can’t be eliminated. And as you might have guessed already, these puppies aren’t cheap. They’re also awkward to handle and offer next to no tone variation.

 

 

Semi-hollow body

The size of this jazz guitar falls somewhere between the bulky Archtops and solid body guitars. Where Archtops are limited to their genre, semi-hollow bodies are much more versatile. They’re known for producing that warm and smooth tone unique to jazz music.

They provide you with the organic jazz tone you crave, at least more than solid body ones. It’s also worth noting that this style more budget friendly.

Even though they’re smaller than Archtops, their size can still be a tad too big for some players.

 

Solid body

While solid-body guitars aren’t specialized, they are often played by jazz guitarists. They have a beefier volume and are free from the feedback you notice in the other two types. They’re more commonly associated with rock and country genres because they offer tone variation.

The only potential drawback to solid body guitars is the lack of the authentic jazz tone, which I mentioned above. So, if that’s something you can’t do without, a traditional Archtop would be the right fit for you.

While it may not matter to everybody, the aesthetics of this option also might not appeal to you if you’re looking for a guitar that looks more jazz-like.

 

Final Thoughts

While I recognize that the best jazz guitar is going to depend on the person playing it, if I had to choose a winner for this round-up, it would be the Fender Standard Telecaster. It checks all the right boxes. It’s playable, has an iconic look, and sounds just right. More importantly, it is priced very reasonably, so you won’t have to break your budget to own this beautiful work of art.

The build quality is virtually flawless, and the performance is impressive. What’s there to not like? Whether you’re a beginner looking for your first jazz guitar or a seasoned player looking to add a guitar to your collection, this instrument would make an excellent pick.

If it doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can refer to my buying guide and use it as a starting point to shortlist a few guitars that will. If you want to see more guitar brands, view our updated post here.

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