From smoky bars to world-renowned clubs and theaters, jazz music can be heard in venues around the globe and has been around for over a century. If jazz is your bag, and you’re deep in the world of complex chord voicings, polyrhythms, wild improv and ending every song on a major 13, then you’ll want to check out our guide to the best guitars for jazz.
Jazz has many different sub-genres and as such the guitar styles within it vary. Sometimes it’s more of a backing, providing some texture for other instruments and vocals to sit on top of, and other times it’s the lead instrument. With this in mind, the best guitar for jazz will depend entirely on what you need from it.
That said, all the choices on this list will sound great through a clean amp – there are no super high output pickups here. All retain a good amount of clarity to allow all the notes you’re playing to be heard properly, and they will all allow you to play your style of jazz comfortably.
Keep scrolling or our top picks, and head to the end of this guide if you’d like more advice before you buy.
Best guitars for jazz: Our top picks
As mentioned, the best guitar for jazz will depend on what you need from it. However, we really like the Ibanez AG75G – it’s great for all types of jazz, it’s made well and features some great hardware, plus it’s very reasonably priced. Its two humbuckers take care of all manner of jazz tones and allow it to stray into other musical genres too.
The D’Angelico Premier EXL-1 is a superb choice for traditionalists. It’s made to a very high standard and will certainly be enough for players seeking a professional instrument. It’s fitted with a single Seymour Duncan floating mini humbucker that delivers warm yet balanced jazz tones.
Best guitars for jazz: Product guide
As well as being a major player in the world of metal guitars, Ibanez makes some of the best guitars for jazz too. This traditional style hollowbody rings out beautifully, with great sustain and resonance. The hardware - namely the Gibraltar bridge and art-deco style tailpiece - help increase the guitar’s resonance, sustain and tuning stability too. It’s made well, and it’s very well priced.
It’s fitted with a pair of Classic Elite humbuckers that dish out a really cool, vintage tone. Combined with the hollow body, you can get a whole range of jazz tones out of this guitar – that’s essentially what the guitar was made to do. A volume and tone knob for each pickup allows you to find your perfect tone with precision. Whether you’re sitting back playing rhythm in a traditional jazz quartet, running gypsy jazz scales or doing big band jazz, this thing has you covered.
It doesn’t get much more traditional than this. Based off John D’Angelico’s original design, this guitar is dripping in vintage, jazzy mojo. You wouldn’t use it for much else other than jazz, but that’s why you’re here after all. It’s fitted with a Seymour Duncan designed floating mini humbucker located near the neck for plenty of warmth. It’s also fairly mid-rich so you’re not just getting the lower end frequencies.
It’s built to a very high standard, so if you’re looking for a professional grade jazz guitar for less than a grand, then you’re in the right place. The neck profile is a slim C, making it comfortable for as wide a range of players as possible. If you’re having to perform speedy jazz licks, then this won’t hinder your performance at all. It’s classy, it sounds incredible and it looks the business too!
Eastman makes some great versions of tried and tested designs, and this take on one of jazz’s most ubiquitous guitars is no exception. That said, it does offer something slightly different to more mainstream models. The Eastman T386 has a lovely open and airiness to the sound that really helps chord extensions ring out and sound full and luscious. The pickups are very responsive and dynamic, with a fast attack.
The Traditional Even C neck profile makes for a super comfortable playing experience, and the ebony fingerboard feels great under the fingers. This is a superb jazz guitar, though it’s also a great choice for players who want to venture into fusion or blues too.
Inspired by some of the classic archtop guitars of the 1950s, the Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin delivers a lot for your money. Made in Canada using high quality materials, this is a really resonant guitar, and that’s before you’ve even plugged it in – it sounds great acoustically.
The two P-90s are punchy and articulate, allowing those chord voicings and melody lines to really shine. Using the tone knob, you can dial in some lovely, warm and mellow sounds, but if you need to cut through a mix, you’re able to do that. It’s surprisingly versatile too, with enough of a bite to the sound to allow you to stray past traditional jazz into more contemporary territory. It’s a beautiful looking guitar as well, with an understated burst finish, and really cool F-holes – definitely one to stand out from the crowd with!
Les Pauls have been used by countless jazz players over the years, including the main man himself. How much impact the construction of the guitar actually has on the tone of the instrument is widely debated, but something clearly works here because the Les Paul is undoubtedly one of the best guitars for jazz.
This Tribute model is the most affordable Gibson Les Paul in the current range and benefits from being made in the US, high quality materials and components as well as fantastic pickups. They’re not quite as high output as some other Les Pauls so they can retain clarity and stay clean when you need them to. Two pickups with a volume and tone control for each really lets you dial in the perfect tone whether that be mellow and warm, or cutting and bright, depending on the style and scenario you’re playing in.
Whilst Gretsch might not be the first brand that pops to mind when thinking about the best guitars for jazz, the construction and pickups fitted in this G5420T make it a really good contender. The semi-hollow body helps it resonate – ideal for letting chords ring out. The trestle block inside also helps lend a nice, fast attack making it great for speedy lead lines.
The pickups have plenty of body and definition allowing you to hear notes individually within chords. With the tone dialled fully up, they can be fairly bright, which works well to cut through a band mix, but they can easily be tamed allowing for a much warmer and mellower tone, especially in the neck position.
These are really cool looking guitars, though not all jazzers may appreciate the 50s aesthetic. They’re built well too, and offer that classic Gretsch vibe for less cash than the Japanese made models.
Since its inception in 1958, the Jazzmaster has moved away from being a primarily jazz guitar, instead being adopted by surf rockers and indie players alike. However, it’s sort of come full-circle now, with jazz guitarists realising that the unique circuit design does indeed lend itself to the genre very nicely.
The pickups lend an almost P-90 like quality to the tone making them fairly versatile. However, switch over to the rhythm circuit and you can immediately cut out that unwanted top end. It’s fairly dark sounding, which is perfect for certain styles of jazz, but the single coils still retain a good amount of clarity.
The Squier Classic Vibe series is really popular and offers players amazing value, however if your budget allows for it, then we really like the Fender Vintera 60s Jazzmaster.
Based on a popular jazz guitar from the 1930s, the Epiphone Broadway is perfect for traditional and more contemporary jazz. It’s loaded with a pair of Alnico Classic pickups that deliver vintage style tone – they don’t break up early so it’s easier to keep your sound nice and clean. The bridge pickup is more cutting and brighter, as you’d expect, but that neck pickup, combined with the big semi-hollow body helps deliver lovely, fat, rounded tones that are perfect for jazz chords and melody lines.
It’s certainly a striking guitar too, and it’s very much in keeping with the traditional jazz aesthetic. The gold Frequensator Split Trapeze tailpiece looks fantastic, and it actually helps with resonance and intonation. The Slim Taper C neck profile, while not necessarily traditional, will be comfortable for most players.
Best guitars for jazz: Buying advice
What makes a great jazz guitar?
Jazz is a broad church when it comes to playing style and it’s very much a different flavor of the guitar when compared to rock and metal. Jazz guitarists frequently straddle the boundary between different genres, incorporating numerous techniques in a single passage from jazz standards like 7th chords or the bebop scale, right through to more aggressive techniques like tremolo and sweep picking. In order to be as versatile as jazz itself, jazz guitars need to be able to quickly adapt to different styles, providing a solid platform for a selection of styles at the drop of a hat.
At its core, a great jazz guitar will offer a fantastic clean tone. Jazz players seldom use effects like their rock and metal brethren, instead their foundation is built on a solid clean sound. This is why you’ll often find hollow and semi-hollow body guitars in the hands of the jazz greats, as they offer a natural, resonant tone that’s woody and warm. That’s not to say there’s no place for solid body guitars, jazz fusion players, for example, will use more modern S and T-types. The famously versatile Telecaster is great for jazz too thanks to its dark and warm neck pickup sound.
In terms of pickups, the majority of jazz players opt for low-output humbuckers. These provide a nice warm tone and plenty of sustain which is essential when you’re playing with a very clean sound. Jazz players tend to use the controls on their guitars for different tones, switching between the bridge and neck positions for different sections as well as using the volume and tone knobs to craft different sounds. P-90 pickups can also be great for a jazz sound too, as they bridge the gap between single-coil and humbucker. Most of all you’ll want clarity from your pickups when it comes to jazz guitar, as complex chord voicings and playing dynamics will be the name of the game.
For the neck profile, this really comes down to personal taste. Some players will want a nice flat profile for lightning-fast licks and complex chords. Others would rather have the heft of a vintage profile that gives you a solid anchor from which to perform. In this instance, it’s up to you to decide what you want from the playing feel of a jazz guitar and there’s no one ‘correct’ profile, just as there’s no singular jazz standard from which all players take inspiration.
Can I play jazz on any type of guitar?
Essentially, yes. Jazz is very much about what you’re playing (or not playing) - not the gear it’s played on. Can you play jazz on a spiky 7-string guitar? If you know your stuff, then yes you can. However, we’ve picked what we think are the best jazz guitars because they help deliver some of classic sounds you’d associate with jazz music. Let’s also not forget that lots of musicians and audience members alike listen with their eyes, so a spiky 7-string guitar might not stand you in the best stead in a jazz club!
Do you need one or two pickups?
You can trust Guitar World
When on the hunt for the best jazz guitar for you, it’s worth thinking about your style of playing. Are you likely to stray outside of the realm of traditional jazz into fusion, jazz blues, neo soul and so on? Something with more than one pickup can help with this - the neck pickup can take are of the darker, mellower tones, but having access to a bridge pickup lets you instantly switch to a brighter, snappier sound. You’ll also find some great sounds by combining the two pickups together. If you know you’re going to be sticking to classic, straight up jazz, then there are some really good, simple options with just one pickup.
Likewise, think about the other musicians you’re playing with, if any. If you’re playing in a band, then this brighter sound from a bridge pickup can help you cut through the mix - ideal for your solos. However, a simple volume boost (from a pedal, or someone pushing up your signal on the PA) can help with this, regardless of pickup type.
Volume & tone controls
Volume and tone controls on a guitar are incredibly useful for playing most styles of music, but even more so with jazz. You can access a lot of different sounds just by playing around with these - you can tame those high end frequencies very easily just by turning the tone control down. If you’ve got a guitar with two pickups, then having a volume and tone control for each one allows you to fine tune your sound in both positions, and flick between them quickly, or merge the two.
Many of the best guitars for jazz have a hollow body, or semi-hollow body, where there is a solid block of wood that runs through the middle. This helps the instrument resonate more, which is good for letting chords ring out. Hollow bodies usually have a nice lower-mid richness too which is where a lot of that rounded jazz warmth comes from. You can however get some great jazz guitar tones from a solid body - after all, the pickups are the most important factor in determining what you hear coming out of your amp, after you of course.
Find out more about how we make our recommendations and how we test each of the products in our buyer's guides.