Gibson jazz guitar models

Gibson jazz guitar models DEFAULT

On this page we’ll take a look at the best jazz guitars. First we’ll discuss the pros and cons of various types of jazz guitar. We’ll then take a look at some of the very best jazz guitars of past and present.

The Best Jazz Guitars: Page Index

More Jazz Guitar Articles On Guitar Command

What Type of Guitar Is Best For Jazz?

Any type of guitar can be used to play jazz. Classical guitars, acoustic guitars, solid-bodied electric guitars and semi-acoustic / semi-hollow guitars; all can be – and have been – used by jazz guitarists.

With that being said, every type of guitar has its advantages and disadvantages for playing jazz. In this section we’ll go through the main types of jazz guitar and weigh up their pros and cons.

Semi-Acoustic Guitars For Jazz

semi acoustic jazz guitar

Semi-acoustic guitars are also known as hollow-body guitars (or just ‘semi’s’). They’re essentially electric guitars with hollow or partially-hollow bodies.

Although most semi-acoustic guitars aren’t designed to be played acoustically (i.e. without an amplifier), their hollow bodies provide improved resonance and a richer, fuller tone compared to their solid-body counterparts. This makes them ideal for jazz.

Semi-acoustic guitars are the standard, go-to guitars for jazz. This particularly applies to large, wide-bodied guitars known as ‘archtops’ on account of their curved tops. Archtops such as Gibson’s ES and Super are the archetypal (no pun intended) jazz guitars.

Most semi-acoustic guitars are fitted with humbucking pickups, which produce a more powerful, richer tone than their single coil counterparts.

Guitars used for playing jazz are often strung with heavy gauge, round-wound strings for that authentic sound and feel.

Archtop Jazz Guitars

Joe Pass playing a Gibson ES archtop guitar


  • The archetypical jazz guitars
  • Classic rich jazz guitar tone
  • Good looking!
  • Hold their value (and may increase in value)


  • Expensive (often extremely)
  • Large and unwieldy
  • Prone to feedback
  • Not ideal for other styles of music

Archtop guitars are without doubt the type of guitar most commonly associated with jazz. These big, hollow-bodied guitars have characteristic curved – or ‘arched’ fronts (and often backs). Archtop guitars are sometimes called ‘jazz boxes’.

The archtop is the most common type of guitar on the list of best jazz guitars further down the page.

Most archtops have f-holes instead of a central sound hole, reflecting the influence of the violin family of instruments on their original design.

Archtops usually have fully-hollow bodies, with no feedback-reducing center block such as that found in semi-hollow guitars such as the Gibson ES The lack of a center block gives them a more natural acoustic sound, but makes them prone to feedback when amplified at high volume.

Because the majority of jazz guitarists use only the warmer neck pickup, several archtops lack the more trebly bridge pickup.

The arched front of an archtop guitar is formed in one of two ways; the most time-intensive (and therefore most expensive) way is to carve the curve from a solid piece of wood. Alternatively, a laminated sheet can be heat-pressed into the required shape.

However they’re constructed, archtop guitars are usually more expensive then semi-acoustic and solid bodied guitars – often significantly so.

The flip side of this is that archtop guitars do tend to hold their value better than other types of guitar. If you buy a good quality second-hand archtop then there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to sell it for the same price – if not more – a few years down the line.

In general, archtop guitars are the best guitars for jazz, but can be slightly limited for other styles of music*. Their tone is thick and woody, they’re large and cumbersome to hold, relatively fragile, and their hollow design is prone to feedback.

As a result, if you want to play other styles of music as well as playing jazz, then you may be better off getting a standard semi-acoustic or a solid-body guitar.

* Of course, there are exceptions – guitarists such as Steve Howe use archtops for rock and other styles of music.

Non-Archtop Semi-acoustic Guitars For Jazz



  • Usually cheaper than archtops
  • More versatile than archtops
  • Less prone to feedback than archtops (see cons)


  • Jazz tone not quite as authentic as that produced by an archtop
  • More prone to feedback than a solid-body guitar (depending on construction)

Semi-acoustic guitars typically have a warmer, more expressive tone than their solid-bodied counterparts. Many fusion guitarists use semi-acoustic guitars rather than full-on jazz boxes due to this type of guitar’s additional flexibility and lack of feedback problems.

Solid-Bodied Guitars For Jazz

telecaster for jazz

Can you play jazz with a solid body guitar? Of course, but for some it may be a compromise too far.

With the neck pickup selected and the tone control dialed down, a solid body guitar can produce a passable jazz tone. It won’t be quite as ‘bell-like’, and perhaps a little ‘thinner’, that that of an archtop, but it will be perfectly adequate, and you could – as other solid-body jazz guitarists have done – make it ‘your sound’.

The strength of a solid-body guitar for jazz is its versatility; with a solid body you can play a jazz gig one night and a rock gig the next.

Although solid bodied guitars aren’t typically thought of as jazz guitars that hasn’t stopped them from being used by many great jazz guitarists.


  • No feedback issues in normal use
  • Usually less expensive than a semi-acoustic
  • More versatile than a semi-acoustic, especially an archtop
  • More tolerant to being dropped or knocked than a semi acoustic


  • Won’t produce a totally authentic jazz tone.
  • Aficionados may turn their noses up at solid body guitars
  • Turning up at a jazz session with an Ibanez Gem may raise a few eyebrows!

Acoustic Guitars For Jazz

Selmer Maccaferri acoustic guitars


  • No amplifier needed
  • Pleasing, expressive lead sound
  • Quiet unless amplified


  • Not designed for fast lead lines and comping
  • Not the typical jazz sound

In general, standard acoustic guitars aren’t the best guitars for jazz. Their necks aren’t designed for playing intricate jazz lines or for comping fast-moving progressions, their action is too high, and their ‘folky’ sound may sound a little out of place in some jazz applications.

Of course, anything’s possible, so if you want to play jazz using an acoustic guitar then don’t let that stop you. Many jazz guitarists do use acoustic guitars (including, of course, the very first jazz guitarists).

The exception to the rule is the Selmer / Maccaferri-style acoustic guitar, most famously used by Django Reinhardt. If you want the authentic gypsy-jazz guitar sound, then this is almost certainly the best choice of instrument.

The Best Jazz Guitars: A List

The following list contains some of the most famous and/or desirable jazz guitars. Included are many of the great jazz guitars of past and present together with some less well-known instruments that may become the classics of tomorrow.

Where possible we&#;ve included a link to the relevant page on the manufacturer&#;s website.

Which is your favorite? Are there any we’ve missed? Are you lucky enough to own or to have played any of these guitars? Let us know in the comments below!

Ibanez AF

Ibanez AF

The Ibanez AF is released under the Artstar brand, the Japanese company’s top of the range hollow-body guitars. This big jazz-box is clearly influenced by Gibson archtops such as the L5-CES. It’s fitted with Super 58 pickups in both bridge and neck positions and finished in a warm natural sunburst.

  • Find out more about the AF at Ibanez.

Heritage Eagle Classic

Heritage Eagle Classic Jazz Guitar

Heritage guitars was formed in by a group of Gibson employees who weren’t keen on relocating from Gibson’s historic factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Nashville.

The Eagle Classic features carved Sitka spruce top and maple back, a rounded cutaway and a nice art-deco-inspired tailpiece.

Also made by the company is the Gibson ESinspired H All Heritage guitars are made at their Michigan factory.

  • Find out more about this guitar at Heritage

Gibson ES

If any single guitar qualifies as being the ‘best jazz guitar’, then it would be the Gibson ES This classic jazz guitar was introduced in , originally as a cheaper alternative to guitars such as the L Gibson kept costs down by constructing the guitar from laminated, rather than solid, sheets.

The ES has a pointed single cutaway and either one or two 57 Classic pickups (earlier models were equipped with PAFs). It has been used on countless classic jazz guitar recordings by many of the best-known jazz guitarists, from Joe Pass to Pat Metheny.

Gibson ES Thinline

Gibson ES Thinline jazz guitar

Gibson has currently (mid) stopped production of many of its classic jazz guitars, including the iconic ES The ES is one of the few guitars still made by the company today with any kind of jazz pretentions. It is a thinline, single cutaway archtop guitar finished with beautiful flamed maple.

With a body even thinner than that of an ES, and a solid maple center block, you’ll probably be safe from feedback in a standard usual jazz setting.

Not quite a classic jazz guitar, but a beautiful-looking and versatile instrument nonetheless.

  • Find out more about the ES at Gibson.

Gibson ES

The ES is similar in appearance to the ES, but the two guitars differ considerably in their construction. The ES is semi-hollow, lacking the solid block of wood that is found in the body of the

As a result, the ES potentially has more of an archtop sound, at a cost of being more prone to feedback. It is also equipped with two single coil single-coil P pickups, rather than humbuckers.

Gibson ES / Gibson ES Dot

Gibson ES dot blonde

The Gibson ES is a well-known guitar that is used not only in jazz but also in a wide range of other music styles. It has a thinline, archtop body and a feedback-eliminating center block.

Slightly more versatile than a traditional jazz-box, the ES has found favor with a number of contemporary jazz guitarists.

  • Find out more about this guitar at Gibson

Gibson ES-5

Gibson E-5 Switchmaster
The Gibson ES-5 is an archtop guitar originally introduced by Gibson as an electric version of their own L-5 acoustic guitar (which itself was later released with an electric version).

The ES-5 was the first guitar to have three pickups. In the guitar’s first configuration, each pickup had its own volume control. The guitar’s sound was shaped by mixing the balance from each pickup, with a single master tone control giving further tonal choice.

A later model, known as a Switchmaster, introduced a volume and a tone control for each pickup, with a selector switch for choosing between pickup configurations.

D’Angelico Excel

D’Angelico Excel jazz guitar

New York guitar maker John D&#;Angelico worked out of a small workshop in the ‘Little Italy’ area of New York from the ’s to the ’s. The company became known for the high quality of its archtops, which were used by many notable guitarists of the time.

Two of D’Angelico’s best known models were the Excel and the New Yorker. Both went through numerous iterations, with cutaway and pickup versions being added after the release of the originals.

The art-deco details and fine workmanship make the original D’Angelico guitars highly sought-after.

Rights to the D’Angelico name were acquired by another company, who re-launched the brand in Today D’Angelico produce a small range of quality acoustic and archtop guitars. The D’Angelico Excel EXL-1, inspired by the original Excel, is one of the best-looking jazz guitars available today.

Ibanez GB10 George Benson

Ibanez GB10 George Benson

Ibanez’s GB10 George Benson signature model is the company’s longest-running signature model. The guitar has a smaller body than many jazz boxes. This, together with pickups that are mounted off of the body and a thick spruce top help to prevent feedback.

Ibanez JSM John Scofield

John Scofield is one of the world’s best-known jazz guitarists and has worked with numerous other luminaries, including Miles Davis and Charles Mingus.

His signature model guitar, produced by Ibanez, is based on their own Ibanez AS It features a thinline, two cutaway design and comes equipped with two Super 58 pickups. A maple center block helps to reduce the likelihood of feedback.

  • Find out more about this guitar at Ibanez

Gibson L-4 CES

Gibson L-4 CES
The Gibson L-4 was originally a purely acoustic guitar with a central soundhole. Later versions of the guitar had f-holes, and in the ’s an electric version of the guitar with a single pointed cutaway was released. This was the L-4 CES, the ‘CES’ standing for ‘Cutaway, Electric, Spanish’). The main difference between the L-4 and the outwardly-similar ES is that the former has a solid spruce top.

The L-4 CES was re-introduced in the 80’s, but is no longer manufactured. As with all Gibson archtops, it is highly collectible and prices reflect that, especially for vintage instruments.

Gibson L-5 CES

Gibson L-5 CES
Like the L-4, the L-5 was originally a purely acoustic guitar, with electric versions bearing the CES moniker released subsequently. The L-5 is the first guitar to have f-holes, and is built with a similar design as that of a cello.

Since its introduction, the L-5 has been at or near the top of Gibson’s archtop range. It is one of the best-known jazz guitars, and has been used by some of the greatest jazz guitarists, including Wes Montgomery.

Gibson Les Paul

gibson les paul

The Gibson Les Paul is one of the first mass-produced electric guitars. It was designed with the aid of jazz guitarist Les Paul, after whom it was named. The distinctive single cutaway, dual humbucker design has been much imitated since the guitar’s introduction in

Although best known as a hard rock / heavy metal guitar, the Les Paul is capable of producing some sweet jazz tones.

Peerless Maestro Martin Taylor

peerless guitars maestro

Korean guitar manufacturer Peerless originally made archtop guitars for Ibanez and Epiphone. Today, the company produces high-quality jazz guitars under its own name.

The Maestro is one of two Martin Taylor signature models produced by the company (the other being the cheaper Virtuoso). It features a solid maple top and solid spruce body, and a single mini humbucker for those mellow jazz tones.

  • Find out more about this guitar at Peerless.

Benedetto Manhattan

Benedetto Manhattan jazz guitar

Benedetto, whose guitars are all constructed in the company’s factory in Georgia, USA, produce some of the very best jazz guitars available today.

The Manhattan is the signature model of the Benedetto archtop line, with tonewood selection and quality control being undertaken by Bob Benedetto himself.

The Manhattan features a carved spruce top, a carved maple back and flamed maple sides. It has a 25” scale, ebony fingerboard and 17” lower bout.

Be warned: this beautiful hand-crafted jazz guitar has a correspondingly high price tag.

  • Find out more about this guitar at Benedetto.

Selmer / Maccaferri Modèle Jazz

Selmer Maccaferri acoustic guitars

The only purely acoustic guitar in this list of the best jazz guitars is the Selmer / Maccaferri ‘Modèle Jazz’; an instrument made famous by gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

Selmer / Maccaferri guitars were produced from to around French instrument manufacturer Selmer enlisted the help of Italian luthier Mario Maccaferri in the design of the guitars.

The original instruments had wide, D-shaped sound holes and were equipped with a resonator to increase the strings’ volume.

Latter models, including the Modèle Jazz, had smaller sound holes and lacked a resonator. These were often used by a band’s lead guitarist, while the older models, which had a less piercing sound, were used by the rhythm guitarist.

Godin Montreal Premiere

Godin Montreal Premiere

Godin’s Montreal Premier mixes traditional archtop styling with the versatility of a Gibson It has a typical single cutaway shape but with a thinline body with center block. The center block in the case of this guitar is Godin’s ‘breathe through’ design which minimizes contact with the back of the guitar.

Relatively inexpensive when compared to some of the jazz guitars on this list, the Godin may be a good choice if you want to try something a little different.

  • Find out more about this guitar at Godin.

Yamaha SA

The Yamaha SA is the Japanese company’s take on the Gibson ES Its top, back and sides are made from laminates, and it has a mahogany neck and in ( mm) scale. Users of the SA include John Scofield and Bireli Lagrene.

Gibson Super

The Gibson Super is one of the best-known and most influential jazz guitars. This large archtop began life as a variation on the company’s L-5 guitar. It was released in as an all acoustic guitar without a cutaway. Over time the body style underwent slight changes and a cutaway was eventually added.

During the ’s Gibson launched the Super CES, an electric version of the original Super Early models were fitted with P pickups. These were later replaced with Alnico Vs, then, in , with humbuckers.

The ‘’ in the guitar’s name reflects the instrument’s original $ price. Today, vintage Super ’s regularly change hands for tens of thousands of dollars!

Fender Telecaster

telecaster for jazz

The Fender Telecaster is without doubt the solid-bodied guitar most often used in jazz. The guitar’s simple design features a bolt-on neck, strings that are threaded through the body and over a non-tremolo bridge, and two single-coli pickups.

The Telecaster is known for its crystal-clear sound, and with some of its ‘twanginess’ dialed back can be used to create jazz tones with a bit of presence. Jazz guitarists who use Telecasters include Ted Greene, Ed Bickert and Mike Stern.

Guild X Manhattan

Guild X Manhattan

The Guild X Manhattan is a traditional jazz-box produced during the ’s and 60’s. It was fitted with two P pickups. The guitar has since been re-released by the now Fender-owned Guild brand.

  • You can find out more about this guitar at Guild.

The Best Jazz Guitars: Conclusion

We hope that you’ve enjoyed our look at some of the greatest jazz guitars. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what type of guitar you have; you can play jazz on any style of instrument. Although archtop guitars are seen as being the definitive jazz guitars, one only has to look at the large numbers of jazz and fusion guitarists now using solid-bodied guitars to see that this view no longer applies.

More Jazz Guitar Articles On Guitar Command

Want some inspiration? Looking to get started playing jazz? Want to learn some new tricks? Check out the following articles…

Categories Guitar MagazineSours:

Gibson Guitars | A History in Jazz

A Brief History of Gibson Guitars

In Gibson introduced the ES (ES stands for ’Electric Spanish’) which was played by the groundbreaking Charlie Christian in Benny Goodman’s sextet. Christian also played an ES the updated version of the ES

Production of guitars slowed during World War Two due to shortage of materials and the company didn’t really pick up again until the arrival of Ted McCarty in , who launched the new ES a year later and the Les Paul endorsed solid body guitar in

After seeing the effect an artist like Les Paul could have on sales, McCarty signed up jazz artists to create signature models, starting with Billy Byrd and Hank Garland (the Byrdland), followed by other legendary jazz guitarists such as Johnny Smith, Barney Kessel and Tal Farlow.

Many of these signature guitars were variants of the Gibson L-5 which, even now, holds its place as one of the greatest jazz guitars on the market.

In Gibson bought the ailing Epiphone guitar company, which had been their major rival during the 30’s and 40’s, and the Al Caiola and Howard Roberts Epiphone signature models were introduced.

By the dawn of the 60’s Gibson dominated the jazz guitar world and the Gibson f-hole archtop (in all its different editions) still acknowledged as the quintessential jazz guitar today.

Between and , guitar production was moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and the company went through a number of lean years, ownership changes, bankruptcy and restructuring.

Many of their key models have survived through the years, although suffering with variable quality control and materials used.

But the newly renamed Gibson Brands Inc is finally getting back to constructing the high quality instruments that established their iconic position.

The Gibson L-5

Introduced in , the Gibson L-5 guitar was the first guitar to feature f-holes and featured carving, bracing and tap-tuning as used in the making of a cello for enhanced tone, volume and projection.

There have been a great many different acoustic and electric variations over its year history, but the L-5 still holds the honour of the ultimate high-end jazz guitar.

These variations include:

  • the larger bodied L-5 Super () which was later known as the Gibson Super
  • the electric L-5 CES ()
  • the Byrdland ()
  • the L-5 ‘Wes Montgomery model’ ()
  • the three pickup ES-5 Switchmaster ().

A contender for the ultimate L-5 CES tone is Kenny Burrell on the album ‘Midnight Blue’.

The ES Guitar

Introduced in , the Gibson ES was the first commercially successful Spanish-style electric guitar; any previously built electric guitars had been Hawaiian or lap steel instruments.

It was named the because it was priced at $ for a bundle that included the guitar, amplifier and lead.

In the hands of Charlie Christian the ES paved the way for all modern electric guitar playing as we know it.

The ES

Introduced in and available as a single or dual pickup configuration, the ES is the ‘jazz standard’ guitar that was a cheaper alternative to the company’s more expensive archtop models. It had a cheaper-to-manufacture laminated top, but it was still an excellent sounding instrument.

Joe Pass played a ES there’s no higher recommendation needed.

Les Paul

Introduced in as a competitor to Fender’s new solid body Telecaster guitar, the Gibson Les Paul (aka ‘Lester’) has become one of the most cherished guitars in history, especially the Standard Sunburst models of ’’

Never a successful instrument among jazz guitar players until the fusion era of the 70’s, by which time blues and rock guitarists like Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Michael Bloomfield had discovered their sustain and tone at higher volume levels.

Think Al DiMeola and Jeff Beck as prime fusion Les Paul players.

The Gibson ES

The first semi hollow body (or semi acoustic) electric guitar that was first introduced in is a marvellous sounding instrument with the attack of a Les Paul and the warmth of an archtop, without any feedback issues at higher volumes.

There have been countless versions and different models including the ES and , and even the smaller bodied ES

Made famous by blues legend B.B. King, Larry Carlton (Mr ), Robben Ford and countless others, it’s one of the most versatile guitars ever made.

Thanks for reading! 

Whether you&#;re looking to buy a Gibson guitar &#; new or vintage &#; or just learn more about this iconic brand, we hope you&#;ve found some useful info here! 

Looking for more jazz guitar? Check out our round ups of the best strings, amplifiers and guitar brands for jazz. 

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Best jazz guitars 9 recommended electric guitars for playing jazz

How do you define what the makes the best jazz guitars? That’s a question for the ages. Perhaps any good electric guitar could do the job, as long as it wasn’t fitted with nuclear-powered humbuckers. Why not, right? Jazz is a style, a sensibility. But it’s also a sound, and even in the improvisational fiefdom of jazz guitar, there are rules – or at least conventions – that have guided the hand of manufacturers and players over the years. 

When we think about the jazz guitar, we think of a hollowbody or semi-hollow design. We think of an organic, acoustic earthiness that comes alive when played through a guitar amp. There is an almost piano-esque attack, with a little trebly sharpness to articulate often complex phrases. Maybe that’s the key to a great jazz guitar – finding that balance between the acoustic qualities of a semi-hollow or hollowbody build, and the clarity of an electric guitar; between warmth and precision. 

In this guide we feature the best guitars for jazz, covering all budgets and styles, from the traditional to the contemporary. If you want to get straight to our top choices, keep on scrolling. If you would like a little more guidance, hit the buying advice button above.

Best jazz guitars: Our top picks

You could throw a dart at the D’Angelico hollowbody catalogue and come up trumps with a top-quality archtop for jazz. But the D’Angelico Excel EXL-1, a largely faithful contemporary take on John D’Angelico’s original flagship jazz box, gets our vote. There’s an acoustic openness to it, an evocative tone grounded in a bygone era. It’s great value, too.

Epiphone is enjoying the hot streak of hot streaks, but amidst the fanfare for the return of the Casino and Riviera models, don’t let the Epiphone Broadway slip between the cracks. A sweet-looking jazz electric, finished with multi-ply binding and plenty of TLC, it wears its traditional aesthetic well, while offering a contemporary performance via its SlimTaper neck.

Best guitars for jazz: Product guide

1. D’Angelico Excel EXL-1

One of the original jazz boxes and still going strong


Price: $1,,£1,/€1,

Body: Laminated spruce top, laminated maple back/sides

Neck: Three-piece maple/walnut/maple

Scale: "/mm

Fingerboard: Pau ferro

Frets: 22

Pickups: Seymour Duncan Johnny Smith mini-humbucker

Controls: 1x volume, 1x tone, three-way pickup selector

Hardware: Grover Super Rotomatic stair-step tuners, gold stair-step tailpiece

Left-handed?: Yes (Natural finish only)

Finish: Black, Iced Tea Burst, Natural, Vintage Sunburst

Reasons to buy

+Magnificent traditional jazz tones+Lovely mix of detail and warmth+The D’Angelico build and finish are typically flawless+It’s a fair price for an exceptional guitar

Reasons to avoid

-Not the best for modern fusion

A D'Angelico guitar carries with it the weight of history. John D’Angelico was there at the start, building archtops that soundtracked the jazz age. The Excel EXL-1 is made in South Korea and is generously proportioned, with a neck that’s of a more refined era. Ostensibly it’s a C-profile, but there’s an asymmetric feel to it – just like the originals, made when hand-carving would naturally lend itself to such player-friendly ergonomics. If you’ve played the EX-SS, a superb semi in its own right, you’ll know what we’re talking about. 

Played acoustically, the Excel EXL-1 gives you a taste of things to come with a forthright character that might lack volume but not attack. When you put the guitar through an amp, that directness mellows out a little, the tone more magisterial. It’s like the dimmer switch on the light has been turned down a tad, and when you take off some of the treble, a bell-like voice gives chords and note-heavy passages a remarkable level of musical detail. 

The aforementioned EX-SS is a little more modernistic and arguably more versatile. But for the business of playing jazz and jazz alone, for reproducing traditional styles and putting a modern twist on them, it doesn’t get any better than the Excel EXL Not at this price.

Read the full D’Angelico Excel EXL-1 review

2. Epiphone Broadway

This forgotten Epi classic is a big ’n' curvy tone machine


Price: $/£/€

Body: Laminated spruce top, laminated maple back/sides

Neck: Maple, set

Scale: ”/mm

Fingerboard: Pau ferro

Frets: 22

Pickups: 2x Alnico Classic humbuckers

Controls: 2x volume, 2x tone, three-way pickup selector

Hardware: Adjustable floating pau ferro bridge with Frequensator split-trapeze tailpiece, gold Grover Rotomatic tuners

Left-handed?: No

Finish: Vintage Natural

Reasons to buy

+Warm, resonant tones+Tip-top Epiphone finish+It’s a stunning guitar+Great value

Reasons to avoid

-Stock can be patchy. Grab one while you can

The Broadway name dates back to , when Epi Stathopoulo was making non-cutaway acoustic archtops to soundtrack good times with swing beats, but it was not until that it was released in its single-cutaway electric form. Early versions were equipped with New York single coils, but, as with the Coronet, Epiphone ran out of stock at the beginning of the s and used mini-humbuckers instead, and these would remain on the Broadway until it went out of production in

The reissued Broadway – which has been out since the late ’90s – is a slightly different proposition. Some might even say it’s an improvement. It has full-sized humbuckers, the V-profile neck of the early models has been updated with a SlimTaper C-profile, and the body is a wee bit thinner (but still a roomy 17”/mm wide). 

Despite these modern updates, it presents a sensational taste of old-school guitar-making at a very attractive price. It’s more luxurious, with seven-ply binding around the body, and multi-ply binding around the neck and headstock – the latter decorated with a pearloid ‘vine of life’ inlay. This, combined with the gold hardware, the Frequensator tailpiece and a tone that spreads hot butter on any chord you care to play on it makes the reissued Broadway one of the best jazz guitars you can buy today, with the SlimTaper neck a more palatable proposition for speedy, note-heavy runs.

3. Guild Starfire II ST Dynasonic

Vintage mojo on tap with DeArmond Dynasonic single coils


Price: $1,/£/€1,

Body: Laminated mahogany with bridge block

Neck: Mahogany, vintage soft U-profile, set

Scale: ”/mm

Fingerboard: Ebony, pearloid dots, ”/mm radius

Frets: 20, narrow jumbo

Pickups: 2x DeArmond Dynasonic single coils

Controls: 2x volume, 2x tone, three-way pickup selector

Hardware: Gold Adjusto-Matic bridge with stud tailpiece, Grover Sta-Tite open-backed tuners

Left-handed?: No

Finish: Royal Brown

Reasons to buy

+Very classy retro aesthetic+There’s nothing like DeArmonds for that early-’40s tone

Reasons to avoid

-No case/gig bag included-No left-handed models-Limited finish options

The DeArmond Dynasonic pickups that give this guitar its name date back to the foundational era of rock ’n’ roll – and the Starfire II ST is equally at home in that genre as it is playing jazz. With roundwounds, some drive, spring reverb, slap-back and tremolo to give the tone depth and movement, it’s a formidable choice for rockabilly high-jinks. It makes a fine blues guitar, too.

Jazz fans need only park themselves at that neck pickup, adjust the tone for seasoning, and they’ve got themselves a stylish and playable semi-hollow with a thinline design. We would like to see a few more finish options – and a case will cost you extra – but the Starfire II ST is one of our favourite retro-inspired electrics of recent years, and further evidence that Guild is on a hot streak right now when it comes to quality and value. 

Read the full Guild Starfire II ST Dynasonic review

4. Gibson ES

The world’s most popular semi-hollow electric remains the standard


Price: $3,/£2,/€3,

Body: Three-ply maple/poplar/maple

Neck: Mahogany, rounded C-profile, set

Scale: ”/mm

Fingerboard: Rosewood, acrylic dots, ”/mm radius

Frets: 22, medium jumbo

Pickups: 2x calibrated T-type humbuckers

Controls: 2x volume, 2x tone, three-way pickup selector

Hardware: ABR-1 Tune-o-matic bridge with aluminium stopbar tailpiece, vintage deluxe tuners with keystone buttons

Left-handed?: Yes

Finish: Satin Cherry, Satin Vintage Burst, Satin Vintage Natural

Reasons to buy

+Wide range of tones for jazz, rock and blues+Great neck+One of the greatest guitar designs of all time

Reasons to avoid

-It’s not cheap-Some players might prefer ’57 Classic humbuckers or Burstbuckers

Does anyone need more reasons to buy an ES? It’s one of the foundational designs of electric guitar – the archetypical ‘electric Spanish’, with the pioneering centre-block design a means of bridging the gap between generations and making it ship-shape for the high-volume styles that came out of the s. And now, it remains as relevant as ever.

You can usually judge a guitar design by the imitations that followed in its wake, and there has scarcely been a more copied design than the ES This era’s version has a three-ply maple/poplar/maple build housing a pair of calibrated T-type humbuckers that are voiced with warmth in mind. Controlling this is a hand-wired circuit that features high-quality k pots and orange drop capacitors, effectively guaranteeing that the time-honoured Gibson setup of two volume, two tone and a three-way selector operates as a comprehensive onboard EQ. With that, you can make this a rock ’n’ roll guitar, a hard-rock powerhouse (as Ritchie Blackmore did in the early Deep Purple days), a blues machine or, befitting the subject of this buyer’s guide, a jazz guitar with few peers. The rounded C-profile is for grown-ups, and offers a super-comfortable seat for chords and lead playing alike. 

It’s not cheap but then it’s not supposed to be. There’s something aspirational about the ES Whether you pick up a classic Satin Cherry, the blonde ambition of the Satin Vintage Natural or the Satin Vintage Burst model, electric guitars don’t get any cooler.

5. PRS SE Hollowbody Standard

The jazz guitar for all occasions?


Price: $/£/€1,

Body: Three-ply laminated mahogany top, mahogany back and sides

Neck: Mahogany, wide fat profile, set

Scale: 25”/mm

Fingerboard: Ebony with ‘birds’ inlay, 10”/mm radius

Frets: 22, medium, 18% nickel-silver

Pickups: 2x 58/15 ‘S’ humbuckers

Controls: Volume, tone, three-way pickup selector

Hardware: PRS adjustable stoptail bridge, PRS designed tuners, nickel

Left-handed?: Yes

Finish: Fire Red Burst, McCarty Tobacco Sunburst

Reasons to buy

+Excellent value+Top-quality build+Awesome playability+A guitar that’s roadworthy and versatile

Reasons to avoid

-Only two finish options

Paul Reed Smith isn’t necessarily the first name that springs to mind when you think jazz guitar. After all, the PRS pursuit of excellence fights on all fronts – rock, blues, jazz, even metal. Being founded in the mid-’80s also counts the manufacturer out as having been there at the beginning. And yet, the SE version of the Hollowbody Standard is a great option for the serious guitarist who wants something more from their jazz guitar. 

In a sense, you could think of it as an all-original design that performs a similar role to the ES It’ll work gangbusters for rock and blues, and that hollow construction allied to the superlative 58/15 ‘S’ humbuckers makes it a natural for jazz excursions, offering clarity, warmth and resonance right where you need it. The fit and finish are faultless. There are options in the range, with the flame-maple-capped Hollowbody II available for a few dollars more. It also makes an excellent first hollowbody for those migrating from solid builds.

6. Ibanez LGB30

George Benson’s signature model is a gem in the Ibanez catalogue


Price: $1,/£/€1,

Body: Spruce top/flame maple back and sides

Neck: Three-piece mahogany/maple

Scale: ”/mm

Fingerboard: Bound ebony

Frets: 21

Pickups: 2x Super ’58 humbuckers

Controls: 2x tone, 2x volume, three-way pickup selector

Hardware: Gold

Left-handed?: No

Finish: Natural, Vintage Yellow Sunburst

Reasons to buy

+Rich, warm tone+Meticulous Ibanez finish+Surprisingly versatile+Pro-quality but good value

Reasons to avoid

-Not much

The wonderful George Benson was Ibanez’s very first high-profile endorsee, and the two parties have enjoyed a happy and fruitful union for over 40 years now. The LGB30 – aka the ‘Little George Benson’ – is one of the more affordable of the chart star’s signature models, representing an excellent opportunity for a first serious jazz guitar.

The LGB30 can also do a neat line in blues and rock ’n’ roll tones, but with a good set of flatwounds it comes alive as the quintessential jazz guitar. It might have George Benson’s initials in its name, but it’s a signature model that invites you to impress your personality upon it. 

It’ll cover all eras of jazz. Through a small Fender tube combo, the neck pickup is robust and rounded, warm and musical. But at the bridge and with the treble pulled forward, you can summon some bright chime to find your place in the mix. It looks and sounds more expensive than it is.

Read the full Ibanez LGB30 review

7. Guild T Slim

The best old-school jazz box for comping


Price: $1,/£/€1,

Body: Laminated maple top, back and sides

Neck: Mahogany, vintage soft U-profile, set

Scale: "/mm

Fingerboard: Ebony, ”/mm radius

Frets: 20, narrow jumbo

Pickups: Franz P single coil (neck)

Controls: Volume, tone

Hardware: Ebony bridge with Guild harp tailpiece, Grover Sta-Tite open-gear tuners

Left-handed?: No

Finish: Vintage Sunburst

Reasons to buy

+Rich in Guild heritage+Nails vintage tones+Thin body and neck make it ideal for chords

Reasons to avoid

-Many players will want a cutaway design-Be careful with feedback at high volumes

The only non-cutaway model in Guild’s mid-priced Newark St Collection, the T Slim is a thin-body archtop straight out of the old school. It looks like it was cashing its pension long before the colour TV arrived in people’s homes. But, in fact, this is inspired by a child of the ’60s, the T – albeit with the depth shrunk to ”/44mm.

Purists will love the stylings. And the sounds? Well, a single low-output dog-ear P in the neck offers just enough pep to articulate each note in your chord, its wide-bobbin design and alnico V-magnet ensuring there’s a bit of glassiness in what is inherently a warm ’n' woody, organic tone. 

The lack of a cutaway makes this a bit of a challenge for the more extravagant lead players, but that vintage soft U-profile is super-comfortable. Allied to the slimline body, it’s a delight for comping.

8. Ibanez Artcore AF75

The best entry-level modern archtop guitar


Price: $/£/€

Body: Linden top/back/sides

Neck: Nyatoh, set

Scale: ”/mm

Fingerboard: Walnut with acrylic block inlay

Frets: 20

Pickups: 2x Classic Elite humbuckers

Controls: 2x volume, 2x tone, three-way pickup selector

Hardware: Antique gold

Left-handed?: No

Finish: Brown Sunburst, Red Sunburst

Reasons to buy

+Superb value+Very comfortable and speedy neck+Makes a good candidate for modding

Reasons to avoid

-Pickups are not the most exciting

In terms of modernity, the AF75 is about as far away as you can get from Ibanez’s more famous shred-ready designs. But this traditional jazz box is constructed with similar ideals. The 21mm neck depth at the first fret tapers out nicely to ”/24mm at the ninth – perfect for wrapping your hand around a chord, and very comfortable.  

The Classic Elite humbuckers make the AF75 a versatile proposition, and if you can work it so that the feedback isn’t too much of an issue at high volumes, this will do a turn playing rock sets. But at this price, the AF75 presents a top-quality first hollowbody that makes an excellent candidate for modding – perhaps swapping out the neck ‘bucker for a P and using something a little more vintage at the bridge? Well, it’s something to think about, because fundamentally this guitar is very impressive.

And if the traditionalism of the AF75 is a little too stuffy to throw complex chord shapes in the digital age, the slightly more expensive AF75G offers the format with gold hardware and more contemporary Black Flat and Rose Gold Metallic Flat colours.

9. Collings JL

A stunning boutique singlecut for a special player


Price: $8,/£6,/€7,

Body: Honduran mahogany

Neck: Honduran mahogany

Scale: ”/mm

Fingerboard: Ebony with graduated pearl dots, 12”/mm radius

Frets: 20, medium, 18% nickel-silver

Pickups: 2x Ron Ellis Ellisonic single coils

Controls: 2x volume, 1x tone, three-way pickup selector

Hardware: Pinned ebony base w/ Tune-o-matic saddle top (nylon saddles), relic nickel Waverly with vintage oval buttons ( ratio)

Left-handed?: Yes

Finish: Antiqued Black, Antiqued Blonde, Antiqued Sunburst

Reasons to buy

+A modern boutique take on the jazz box+Ron Ellis Ellisonic pickups are a gateway to early electric tone+Collings build and playability

New for , Julian Lage’s second signature collaboration with US boutique guitar-builder Collings shows just how inspiration and innovation can drive the design of the jazz guitar further. This fully hollow singlecut comprises a laminated maple top, solid mahogany on the back and sides, and a trestle block underneath.

Eschewing the F-hole designs, the JL nonetheless has some vintage-inspired elements – most notably the pickups, which are inspired by Dynasonics and the early sound of the electric guitar, and custom-wound by Ron Ellis.

Lightweight, with a Bigsby B3, the JL is the guitar you get when you’ve been playing for years and are looking for that special something. It’ll do blues and rock ’n’ roll, too, but it’s hard to think of a more desirable high-end jazz guitar in this day and age. The attention to detail would take your breath away, and it’s lovely to see a fresh design. Just don’t expect it to make you play like Lage.

Best guitars for jazz: Buying advice

Jazz guitars: some history

The electric guitar found its calling in jazz towards the end of the s. A player by the name of Eddie Durham – a member of the Kansas City Six – had discovered its transformative potential, before the concept really took off when Charlie Christian joined the Benny Goodman Sextet and Orchestra, scoring a hit with Down Beat. 

In Christian’s hands, the Gibson ES electrified jazz guitar and foregrounded the guitar player as a band leader. It was Gibson’s first successful ‘electric Spanish’ guitar, inaugurating electric jazz guitar tone with a hexagonal blade pickup – aka the Charlie Christian pickup – close to the neck. From its non-cutaway body, it exhibited a naturally warm tone. 

Would jazz history have been much different if the pickup had been placed by the bridge? Quite possibly. Gibson had the sound down. To show how little the design had changed from the acoustic archtop models, the ES was marketed as having a grand auditorium body, with a carved spruce top and northern maple back and sides. Yet with ‘an entire tone generator built inside the body’, the ES brimmed with possibilities.

Innovation continued apace. There was a lot yet to be done. Guitar builders such as John D’Angelico could sense which way the wind was blowing. His early archtops were inspired by the Gibson L-5, but he soon established his own style – and a reputation too. D’Angelico had plenty of offers to go to one of the big builders, but stayed independent. A stubborn New Yorker, he had everything he needed at his shop. His designs proved hard to shift, too, with his Excel EXL-1 flagship archtop remaining in production to this day. 

During the s, a consensus began to build. The hollow construction plus an electromagnetic pickup established a tone, though feedback remained an issue for the ES models. Gibson took various strategies, trying a thicker body for the Super CES before discovering that a solid centre block would make the ES resistant to unwanted squeal when playing at high volumes.

That the 21st-century jazz guitar remains wedded to the designs drafted in the s, ’40s and ’50s speaks volumes about the success of those early instruments. And that success affected how players approached them in the years to come. Many used heavy strings, just as you would on an acoustic. Flatwounds were favoured for a mellower tone.

What makes a good jazz guitar?

History still guides us when looking for a jazz guitar today. Traditional styles still dominate the market. If you are an avowed jazz player, those would be better for you – a specialist player requires a specialist instrument. 

But if jazz is just one of many styles in your locker, we would recommend casting your net a little further, auditioning guitars such as the Gibson ES and PRS SE Hollowbody Standard, or checking out the Guild Starfire II ST Dynasonic and Gretsch hollowbodies.

Likewise for contemporary jazz. It’s unlikely that a fusion player whose style abuts progressive instrumental rock would choose a D’Angelico Excel EXL-1, but, again, there are options. The PRS SE Hollowbody Standard is a jazz guitar by stealth – or, if they were prepared to break with the semi-hollow/hollowbody paradigm and go with a solidbody, a Les Paul or an SG could be pressed into the services of jazz.

Think about the pickups you want. The warmth of the humbucker makes it a natural companion for jazz, though it’s a medium that favours low-output pickups, lest it distorts the tone. Clarity is all important, too. There’s no use in warmth, width and depth to your tone if it turns your chords to mud and your leads to wool.

The P, which can be found on the Guild T Slim, has a tone that sits somewhere off the axis between single coil and humbucker, but its articulate, rounded heat makes it a popular choice for jazz builds. And as we’ve seen from modern boutique builds such as the Collings JL, the early single-coil designs of DeArmond and co have proven the test of time. Likewise, the tonewoods and builds, where a quick scan through our list of the best jazz guitars will find a preponderance for spruce tops and maple, bright tonewood choices mellowed out a little by the hollow and semi-hollow builds.

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since , playing them since , and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.


Guitarists in all genres love their gear, especially their guitars of choice, and jazzers are no different. In order to find out exactly what jazz guitarists are playing these days, we set out to conduct a survey of JGO readers and asked them about their best jazz guitar.

After getting back over responses from jazz guitarists all over the world, we’ve put together the results in this list that you can refer to the next time you are wondering what other jazz cats are playing, or are looking for a new jazz guitar model to add to your collection.

Though it is not surprising that Gibson guitars are the most popular brand chosen by readers, what might come as a surprise was the variety of other brands that made the list and the fact that as many people played “other” brands as they did Gibson. This result shows a healthy variety of options for jazz guitar players looking to explore quality guitars in a variety of price ranges.

Take a look through the survey results and see where your current (or dream guitar) landed in our ranking of the best jazz guitars as chosen by you, the JGO community.

The best jazz guitars


Played by some of the most legendary jazz guitarists of all time (Wes Montgomery, Pat Metheny, Johnny Smith, Barney Kessel), Gibson archtops have long been associated with the classic jazz guitar tone that many guitarists strive for in their playing.

Therefore it is not surprising that Gibson guitars landed at the top of our survey, as they continue to be the guitar of choice for jazz guitarists of all backgrounds and experience levels.

Here are the most popular models of our survey.

Gibson ES

Price Range: $1, – $18,

The Gibson ES has long been one of the most popular and famous jazz guitars on the market. Debuted in , this guitar was designed to be a laminated alternative to the L-5 and an amplified version of the L

Its playability, its consistent clean tone, and its durable nature make it the go-to choice for many legendary players, including Pat Metheny and Joe Pass who played this guitar at different points in their careers.

Gibson ESDN

Gibson ES

Price Range: $1, – $26,

First built in , the Gibson ES is a thinline, semi-hollow body guitar that has worked its way into jazz through the work of great players such as B.B. King, Larry Carlton, and others.

Designed to provide a middle ground between the Les Paul and Gibson’s archtop models, which back in the day had issues with feeding back at high volumes, the ES bridges the gap between an archtop and the ability to reign in feedback and create a warm tone at high volumes.

Gibson ES

Gibson L-5

Price Range: $4, – $18,

Having been in continues production since , the L-5 is the pinnacle of the Gibson archtop collection, in no small part to the fact that Wes Montgomery made it his guitar of choice during his short, but highly successful career. Other players that have chosen the L-5 as their guitar of choice are Tuck Andress, Lee Ritenour, Pat Martino, and Eddie Lang.

Though these guitars come with a hefty price tag, the L-5 is still the Gibson guitar that many players save their pennies for as they search for the perfect (Wes Montgomery inspired) tone.

Gibson L-5

Other Gibson Models (in order of popularity)

  • L-4 $2, – $3,
  • ES $1, – $2,
  • ES $1, – $3,
  • ES $ – $2,
  • ES Herb Ellis $1, – $2,
  • ES $1, – $7,
  • ES $ – $1,
  • Howard Roberts $1, – 3,
  • Super $4, – $10,


Setting out to offer more affordable options for jazz, Ibanez guitars have gained a firm hold in the market as they have been endorsed (or played) by top-level guitarists such as John Scofield, Ben Monder, George Benson, and Pat Metheny.

For players that are looking for a durable, great-sounding guitar, but don’t want to break the bank in the process, Ibanez offers a range of guitars for jazzers of all backgrounds, tastes, and levels of ability.

Ibanez Artcore AF75, AF95, AF

Price Range: $ – $

Released in , the Artcore is Ibanez’s line of semi and hollow-body guitars geared towards players that are looking for an affordable jazz guitar.

Though they are not held in the same high regard as the Artist Series, which are coveted by players for their playability and affordable price tag, the Artcore series makes for a durable, good-sounding introductory jazz guitar at a much more affordable price tag than their Gibson counterparts.

Ibanez AF75

Ibanez GB10 George Benson

Price Range: $1, – $3,

Having recently celebrated 30 years of collaboration, Ibanez and George Benson offer several signature models for the jazz guitarist to choose from.

With a wide price range, the Ibanez GB series of signature guitars offers a number of options for players looking to gain that fat, warm Benson tone in their own playing.

The GB10 model does come with a fairly significant price tag, the high-quality and signature Benson tone that this guitar provides have kept it at the forefront of the jazz guitar signature model marketplace.

Ibanez GB10

Other Ibanez Models (in order of popularity)

  • Artstar AS $1, – $2,
  • Artcore AK95 $ – $
  • Artcore AS73 $ – $
  • PM Pat Metheny $1, – $2,


Long having been associated with rock and blues guitarists, mostly for the prominence of the Stratocaster model with these genres, Fender has slowly made inroads into the jazz guitar realm over the years as notable players such as Ted Greene, Ed Bickert, and Mike Stern have all chosen Fender Telecasters for their jazz recordings and performances.

Fender Telecaster

Price Range: $ – $40,

The Fender Telecaster is the most popular Fender guitar when it comes to jazz guitarists.

Providing a warm tone, with the durability and ease of play that Fender guitars have become known for, the Telecaster is a workhorse guitar, one that players will bring on the road and not have to worry about it working day in and day out under any condition.

Since the Tele is either a solid-body design or solid-body with F holes, it can be played at high volumes without the risk of feedback.

Fender Telecaster

Other Fender Models

  • Jazzmaster $ – $12,


Though many Gibson Archtop Guitars are beyond the price range of many players, Epiphone guitars are designed to provide the look and feel of a Gibson at a fraction of the price.

With a wide variety of both Gibson copies (such as the popular ES and ES), as well as their own line of archtop guitars (featuring the Emperor and Sheraton models), Epiphone provides both copy and unique guitars that fans of Gibson archtops can enjoy and use as their go-to jazz guitar.

Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II

Price Range: $ – $

Released just before his passing in , the Joe Pass Emperor is Joe’s signature Epiphone model which he chose to release after having previously worked with Ibanez on his signature guitar releases.

Though he endorsed the guitar and Epiphone has said that he had a hand in designing the Emperor II, Joe was mostly seen and heard playing his Gibson ES

While he may not have played the guitar that often, players looking to get a bit of that classic Joe Pass sound in their playing (without shelling out for a ) will often choose this guitar as their main axe.

Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II

Epiphone ES Dot

Price Range: $ – $

A more affordable version of the Gibson ES, the Epiphone (or “The Dot” as it is also referred to) is designed to provide players with the warm tone and long sustain associated with the Gibson version, but at a fraction of the sticker price.

Produced in the same colors as the Gibson model, including the iconic Red Cherry finish, this Epiphone model has become popular over the years, and it is usually held as the most consistent and playable of all the Epiphone jazz guitars.

Epiphone ES Dot

Epiphone Sheraton II

Price Range: $ – $

Though this semi-hollow Epiphone is often sold for under $, it has managed to find endorsements by some big names in the rock and blues worlds, such as John Lee Hooker, Noel Gallagher, and Brian Aubert.

While this guitar has been used mostly in the rock realm, jazz guitarists that are looking for a semi-hollow guitar at an affordable price will often reach for a Sheraton II as their guitar of choice.

With a fixed tailpiece and twin humbucker setup, the Sheraton II provides a warm set of tones, as well as longer sustain compared to a full archtop.

Epiphone Sheraton II

Other Epiphone Models (in order of popularity)

  • ES Premium $ – $
  • Broadway $ – $3,
  • ES $ – $
  • Casino $ – $7,


After moving from China to the United States in to study music, Qian Ni subsequently founded Eastman Strings. The company first began as a violin import company and has now expanded to produce the Eastman Guitar line, which has been quickly growing in popularity in recent years.

Though they don’t have the celebrity endorsements or the long history of Fender or Gibson, Eastman Guitars has quietly been growing their Artist’s list, as well as making waves among jazz guitarist who try out their various models, and who are now championing the brand to friends through word of mouth.

As their reputation continues to grow, Eastman Guitars is quickly becoming a name to watch, and a guitar to try out.

Eastman ARCE

Price Range: $ – $1,

One of the most popular Eastman Guitar models, the ARCE is a single cutaway, laminated, and single-humbucker archtop guitar that is designed to compete with the best archtops produced by Ibanez and Epiphone.

Though they may be hard to get a hold of for a test drive, depending on where you live and how hip your local guitar store is, the ARCE is a guitar that is worth looking for and trying out, even if you have to travel a bit to do so.

Eastman ARCE

Other Eastman Models

  • ARCE, ARCE, ARCE $ – $1,


Founded in by Robert Godin, and currently located in Montreal (Canada), Godin guitars have a long history of making high quality, affordable acoustic and electric guitars of various shapes and sizes.

Though most renowned for their acoustic models, the Godin 5th Avenue and other Godin models have become the guitar of choice for jazz guitarists such as Gustavo Assis-Brazil, Al DiMeola, Fareed Haque, and John McLaughlin.

Godin 5th Avenue

Price Range: $ – $1,

Covering a wide range of shapes and sizes, including cutaway and non-cutaway models, as well as acoustic and electric models, the 5th Avenue series from Godin has been making ground in recent years with jazz guitarists.

Designed to provide classic archtop sounds and playability at an affordable price, these guitars embody the look and feel of classic archtops, but with a modern approach to construction and at a fraction of the cost of a new or used Gibson.

Godin 5th Avenue


Originally founded in by Fredrich Gretsch, Gretsch Guitars has undergone a lot of changes over the years, but what remains the same is the company’s quality-built and iconic guitar models that appeal to players from across genres and musical tastes.

Currently, Gretsch has a production and distribution partnership with Fender, although Fred Gretsch III maintains ownership of the company.

While Gretsch is often associated with country players such as Chet Atkins and Swing players such as Brian Setzer, jazz guitarists have also used Gretsch models over the years, including Rune Gustafsson, Sal Salvador, and George Van Eps.

Gretsch G Electromatic

Price Range: $ – $

With a single cutaway, two dual-coil pickups, and the classic Bigsby tailpiece, the Gretsch G is a guitar that crosses boundaries and genres.

While this guitar might be more suited for jump swing, country, and rockabilly, its design lends it to be a nice sounding jazz guitar that will cut through a larger band setting, while still maintaining a warm, hollow-body sound.

Gretsch Electromatic


Founded in by former workers at the Gibson Guitar factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Heritage guitars has aimed to keep the same high standards one expects from a Gibson jazz guitar, without raising prices to the point where most players couldn’t afford this level of quality.

A number of top-level guitarists have endorsed and/or played Heritage guitars over the years, including Johnny Smith, Alex Skolnick, Mimi Fox, and Kenny Burrell.

Heritage H

Price Range: $1, – $2,

With a look similar to the classic Gibson ES that used to be built in the manufacturing plant that Heritage inherited from its previous owners, the H is a high-quality archtop at a medium price range.

With a boutique quality to it, this guitar imbues all of the traits that collectors and players look for in a classic Gibson archtop, though one that is built in the modern era.

Heritage H

Other Heritage Models

  • H $1, – $1,
  • Golden Eagle $3, – $6,

Other Brands

Below is a quick listing of some of the other guitars that were mentioned in the survey, but that didn’t make it to the top makes and models listed above.

  • Yamaha SA $1, – $2,
  • Guild Starfire $1, – $3,
  • Peerless Monarch $ – $2,
  • Höfner Jazzica $1, – $5,
  • Washburn J3 $ – $
  • Hagström Viking $ – $2,
  • Aria Pro II PE Herb Ellis $ – $1,
  • D’angelico Excel $14, – $20,
  • Sadowsky Jimmy Bruno $3, – $4,
  • Schecter Corsair $ – $
  • Gitane D (Gypsy Jazz Guitar) $ – $1,

Download this popular jazz guitars infographic as an infographic here…

What do you think of this list and what is the best jazz guitar in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below…

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Models gibson jazz guitar

The Best Jazz Guitars From Beginner to Professional

The Archtop

The iconic ‘jazz’ guitar – the large bodied archtop is a beautiful hollow-bodied instrument, with a distinctive warm, chiming, ‘bell-like’ tone.

Used by many of the most iconic guitarist in jazz history, such as Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Kenny Burrell, it remains just as popular to this day.

Originally conceived as a purely acoustic instrument by Gibson in the late 19th century, most modern day archtops are semi-acoustic and feature an arched top (either solid, or laminate) and a hollow body.

The ‘f-holes’ that can be seen on the instruments top, are a design principle taken from the violin family, and assist in projecting the sound of the guitar. This is a feature that is primarily found on archtop and semi-hollow body guitars, and helps to produce the dark and warm sound often associated with jazz guitar.

These instruments look great and have a distinctive tone which is perfect for playing standards and straight-ahead jazz. Despite that, many modern musicians play them in a more contemporary setting too.

Important archtop considerations

There are some things that you might want to consider before opting for one of these instruments.

One significant disadvantage of the archtop guitar is the potential for them to feedback. Whilst there are things you can do to limit this, it certainly proves to be more of an issue than with semi-hollow or solid body guitars.

With their classic tone, they are arguably versatile as solid body guitars, so it&#;s worth listening to some of the famous players first, to make sure you like the sound.

Budget archtop guitars for beginners

The Ibanez Artcore range offers high-quality affordable hollow-bodied guitars, including the AF95 and AM

Although they may be cheaper than other models, these guitars are of a professional standard, with great tone and playability.

In short, this is a super versatile archtop guitar, suitable for more modern styles as well as the more straight-ahead!

Getting a great archtop guitar needn’t break the bank, and there are plenty of options for those looking for that classic jazz tone whilst being on a budget.

Godin’s 5th Avenue series of guitars are a good place to start.

These instruments channel the looks and feel of classic archtops at an affordable price. In particular, look out for the

This non-cutaway archtop is equipped with a single P pickup, has a lovely warm tone and offers great value for money.

D&#;Angelico make beautiful guitars and this one is a more minimalist take on the classic archtop design.

There are also choices when it comes to colours, as well as the option to buy a &#;lefty&#; version.

The Gretsch New Yorker is perfect for old-school straight-ahead jazz!

It&#;s modelled after the original Gibson ES, the very first electric archtop guitar.

The lack of cutaways and bridge pickup renders it less versatile than other guitars, but if you’re looking for something vintage, this could be the one for you.

Premium Archtop Guitars

The Gibson L5 is viewed by many as the gold standard of archtop guitars, and has been in continuous production since

Built with the highest quality woods that Gibson offer, and featuring a solid carved top, the L5 is perhaps most closely associated with the great Wes Montgomery.

It’s an instrument that simply oozes class, its iconic art deco tailpiece and golden tuning keys being features of an instrument that looks just as stunning as it sounds.

This comes at a premium however, and the price of an L5, coupled with the fact that it’s not a particularly versatile instrument is understandably not for everyone.

This is a slightly more affordable archtop guitar &#; whilst still in the &#;premium&#; category &#; which is played by many jazz greats, including Joe Pass, Pat Metheny and Jonathan Kriesberg.

Recommended Archtop Listening

You can hear the classic warm sound of a big bodied archtop guitar on hundreds of records.

Two that capture the tone particularly well, are The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery (playing a Gibson L5), and Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue (playing a Gibson L5 equipped with a ‘Charlie Christian’ pickup).

Semi-Hollow Guitars

Semi-hollow body guitars are viewed by many as a great compromise between an archtop and a solid body guitar.

The solid block of wood that runs through the body of the instrument, greatly helps to reduce the feedback issues that archtop guitars are prone to, and results in a tone that is a little brighter than a traditional archtop, whilst retaining some of its warmth.

Semi-hollow body guitars are known as being extremely versatile instruments that can be used when playing all manner of styles, and many find their thinner bodies (when compared to an archtop) more comfortable to manage.

If you&#;re happy to lose some of the warmth that a hollow body archtop guitar provides, then perhaps a semi-hollow body guitar is for you&#;

Budget Semi-Hollow Body Guitars

An affordable version of Gibson’s ever popular ES model, the Epiphone ‘Dot’ is a great entry level semi-hollow body guitar.

Epiphone is a subsidiary of Gibson guitars, producing more affordable alternatives to their top-level instruments.

Despite the lower price tag, they are still well-made, high-quality instruments. It’s classic looks, warm tone and versatility match its Gibson counterpart, giving you fantastic bang for your buck.

The Artcore Vintage ASV73 is another offering from Ibanez’s excellent Artcore series.

Legendary player John Scofield is an Ibanez endorsing artist, so you’re in good hands!

Premium Semi-Hollow Body Guitars

Gibson’s flagship semi-hollow body guitar the Gibson ES which was first introduced to the world in

Co-opted by jazz musicians in the ’s such as Larry Carlton and John Scofield, the gives you a warm tone at high volumes without feedback.

Jazz guitarists view: &#;My semi-hollow guitar (a Gibson ES) is so versatile, I use it for both straight-ahead standards and gigs with my jazz-rock group, Animal Society’’ Joe Williamson (UK)

Recommended Semi-Hollow Guitar Listening

Larry Carlton (who acquired the nickname ‘Mr ’), is an American guitar great known for his varied and extensive sideman work across a myriad of different genres.

Whilst his solo on Steely Dan’s ‘Kid Charlemagne’ is perhaps what he is best known for, Carlton also recorded under his own name, and Night Sweats demonstrates the beautiful tone he gets from his Gibson ES in a jazzier context.

Solid-Body Guitars

As the name would suggest, a solid body guitar is built from a single block of wood and are the more standard type of electric guitar.

It&#;s less commonly seen in jazz, as players prefer the warmer tones of an archtop or a semi-hollow, but more specialised jazz players do opt for this type of guitar when they want a brighter sound. Closer to a rock, blues or country sound, these players will usually run it through overdrive and other effects.

Unlike hollow body, or semi-hollow body guitars, a solid body guitar will always need electronic amplification, as there are no holes in the guitar to increase resonance.

This lack of holes eradicates most feedback issues, and many guitarists also find their smaller dimensions to be more comfortable than those of a larger hollow or semi-hollow instrument.

Solid body guitars are also fantastically versatile, a factor which also has its downsides, some finding it difficult to achieve the traditional warm and dark tone of a hollow archtop guitar on a solid body.

Best Budget Solid Body Guitar &#; The Yamaha Pacifica

The Yamaha Pacifica series is an extremely affordable and versatile solid body guitar, as well-suited to rock as it is to jazz!

Yamaha make Pacifica guitars at different price points, including a pricey Mike Stern signature model, used by the jazz-rock great himself, but the series offers good playability and fantastic value for money.

As previously mentioned, though, if you’re looking for that classic warm jazz tone, we’d recommended looking for a semi-hollow or hollow body guitar.

Best Solid Body Guitar &#; The Fender Telecaster

The Fender Telecaster is a highly versatile and iconic guitar, perhaps best known for its use in country and blues music.

These instruments are known for their signature ‘twang’ and sparkle which is very different to the more conventional round, warm jazz guitar tones!

Its warm tone however has found it fans in the jazz world, and has proven itself to be a favourite amongst musicians looking for a lightweight and durable instrument capable of tackling all manner of tasks.

Bill Frisell and Julian Lage are known for using Telecasters, which when amplified and compressed, have a bright twang and rich sustain well-suited to their country-inspired take on jazz.

Highly customisable, and available in models to suit every budget, the Fender Telecaster is a good bet for those looking to play jazz on a solid body guitar.

Recommended listening &#; Solid Body Guitars

Check out Ted Greene’s stunning debut record ‘solo guitar’ to hear the sound of a hard body guitar (Th Fender Telecaster) in a jazz setting.

Hopefully this guide gave you some better insight into your options when it comes to buying a great jazz guitar. If you&#;re looking to complete your set up with a killer guitar amp and great jazz strings, we&#;ve covered that too.

And, as always, let us know in the comments what your set up of choice is: Archtop, Semi-Hollow or Solid-Body?

Looking for more? Find everything else on our jazz guitar homepage

Gibson ES-175 Guitar - Reverb Demo Video

So, you want to buy a jazz guitar, but you’re not sure how to make the right choice. What is the best guitar for jazz and how do you pick a brand and type of guitar that is right for you? This article will help you decide what jazz guitar to buy. We will explore some of the more popular jazz guitars on the market, in a variety of brands and price ranges.

In general, jazz music can be played on any guitar. Most jazz musicians today use an archtop guitar to create their signature sound, but even among that broad category, there are a lot of choices.

There are many factors that should be taken into account when buying a jazz guitar. What body type do you want? What tone range/quality do you need? How much money do you want to spend?



Types of Guitars

The first question you should ask yourself when looking for a jazz guitar is “What style of guitar do I need?”

Basically, there are three main options:

Hollow Body GuitarsArchtop guitars (hollow body guitars) – The archtop guitar is the quintessential jazz guitar as it has been used by numerous jazz legends throughout the history of the instrument. It is commonly associated with famous players like Wes Montgomery (Gibson L-5), Joe Pass (Gibson ES), and Johnny Smith (Gibson Johnny Smith Model) for example.
Semi Hollow Body GuitarsSemi-hollow body guitars – This guitar is the “in between” model of jazz guitar. It is not as small as a solid body, but not as big as an archtop. These guitars have fewer feedback issues compared to archtops, give a warm “jazz” tone, and are more versatile than the more specialized archtop guitars. Some of the famous players that have used these guitars are Emily Remler (Gibson ES), Larry Carlton (Gibson ES), and John Scofield (Ibanez Artists).
Solid Body GuitarsSolid body guitars – This is the type of guitar that you usually find in rock, country, and blues music, although solid body guitars do get used by jazz guitarists as well. John Abercrombie has used an Ibanez Artist and Gibson SG, John McLaughlin has used many different Gibson solid body guitars over the years and Mike Stern has always used a Tele-type guitar. Solid body guitars produce consistent tone, have a high volume output, and are almost always immune to feedback as compared to the other two types of jazz guitars.

Archtop Guitars (Hollow Body Guitars)

So what is an archtop guitar? As the name might suggest, an archtop is usually a semi-acoustic guitar with a distinctive arched top and a hollow body.

Along with the arched top, another key feature of an archtop guitar are the “f-holes” on either side of the guitar’s strings. These holes are commonly seen on violins and other instruments in the violin family, but archtops and semi-hollow body guitars are some of the only guitars to feature this design. The holes are intended to help a guitar project sound more efficiently.

Even though jazz music really only began to take off in the s, the archtop guitar has been around for much longer.

The first patent for what we now consider a classic archtop design was filed by Orville Gibson in The Gibson Guitar Corporation started producing the first archtop with f-holes, the Gibson L-5, in The L-5 was originally an acoustic instrument and primarily used in big bands. A semi-acoustic version of the L-5 became available in

The pros of archtop guitars:

  • Although archtop guitars have a bigger body compared to solid body guitars, they are remarkably comfortable to play.
  • Archtops have a very distinctive tone, the tone of jazz. If you play jazz, there’s nothing that beats an archtop guitar. Most of your jazz guitar heroes play one!
  • Archtops look great.

The cons of archtop guitars:

  • The greatest disadvantage of archtop guitars is their susceptibility to feedback, but there are things you can do to prevent this.
  • Hollow body guitars are not as versatile tone-wise as semi-hollow body or solid body guitars. The sound they produce is dark and warm, a sound that is not suitable for every style of music.

Below you will find a selection of quality archtop guitars you can’t go wrong with.

Gibson ES

Price Range: $2, – $12,Production Years:

Gibson ESD

The Gibson ES is probably the best-known jazz guitar, alongside its more expensive counterpart the L-5 CES, as it has been played by many jazz greats throughout the years.

Though most professional players seek used s from the s and 60s, the newer reissue models are well built and carries many of the traits that made its predecessors legendary. Epiphone (Gibson’s sister company) also has a more affordable version of the ES

The number came from the price tag of the first Gibson ES models (): $

Notable players:Pat Metheny, Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Herb Ellis, Wes Montgomery (early years), Steve Howe (Yes), Tuck Andress, …


  • Has a classic warm tone that has come to define the jazz guitar sound
  • Medium weight for an archtop
  • Collectable and durable
  • Reasonably affordable when compared to other archtops of this quality


  • Might be a bit pricey for some people who are not used to paying $+ for a guitar
  • Older models of the ES have sunken tops, so look out for this when buying a vintage ES
  • Not produced anymore, but widely available on the vintage market (Reverb, eBay)

Gibson ES

Price Range: $ – $2,Production Years:

Gibson ES

Originally introduced in , the Gibson ES was the last pre-war model to come out the Gibson Guitar Company.

The Gibson ES is a hollow body guitar that provides a sweetly resonant jazz guitar tone and excellent playability. At the same time, the simple design and easy-to-handle approach of this instrument make it a great fit for beginners or students who are just starting to dip their toes into the world of jazz guitar.

Notable players:Bill Frisell, Martijn van Iterson, Tracy Chapman, Marc Ribot, Thom Yorke, Stevie Ray Vaughan, BB King, …


  • Easy to handle, easy to play
  • Great, warm sound
  • Great pickup (P)
  • Classic Gibson shape and design
  • Vintage feel and appearance
  • Collectable
  • Not too expensive


  • Because the ES has no cutaway, some of the higher frets are difficult to reach
  • Just like ESs, ESs are susceptible to sunken tops
  • Not produced anymore, but widely available on the vintage market (Reverb, eBay)

Gibson L-5

Price Range: $4, – $77,Production Years: – today

Gibson L5

The Gibson L-5 has been a staple of the jazz guitar world for decades, due in great part to its use by jazz guitar legend Wes Montgomery. The L-5 was the first guitar with f-holes and is made with the highest quality one would expect from a high-end Gibson guitar. It sounds as good as it looks.

The only downside to a guitar like this is that it is a bit pricey to be taken out to a club or bar for a gig. Most people would be a little wary about bringing a $ guitar to a room full of people drinking and having a good time. But for those who want a great guitar to play with at home, or to record with, this is a great buy.

Notable players: Wes Montgomery, Eddie Lang, Lee Ritenour, Freddie Green, Pat Martino, Jake Langley, Tuck Andress, …


  • It is one of the highest quality archtops that Gibson makes
  • Great tone, easy to play and has a great jazz look to it
  • Collectable, maintains its resale value over time


  • Pricey
  • Heavy
  • Not very versatile, pretty standard classic jazz tone
  • The tone can be too bright for some people
  • Feedback issues

Gibson Super

Price Range: $4, – $78,Production Years: – today

Gibson Super

The Gibson Super is one of the most sought after pre-electronic archtop guitars on the market. They are hard to come by as most people who buy them hang on to them for many, many years. This is due to the quality of the guitar, but also to its ability to increase in price over the years.

The guitar debuted in and is the largest guitar ever produced by Gibson. Besides the early acoustic version, Gibson also released a version with P90 pickups and later with a Charlie Christian Pickup.

Notable Players: Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley), Mark Knopfler


  • Great acoustic and electric sound
  • Plays like butter
  • High resale value


Ibanez Pat Metheny PM

Price Range: $2, – $5,Production Years: – today

Ibanez PM Pät Metheny

If you’re looking for a versatile guitar, with a warm sound and a lot of clarity, then the Ibanez PM is a great option. With a round, smooth tone to it, the Ibanez PM is a great choice for any jazz guitarist.

Made in Japan, the Ibanez PM was designed according to Pat Metheny’s specifications, so artists who are inspired by his music can’t go wrong with this guitar.


  • Warm and smooth tone
  • Beautiful design
  • A slim neck with great playability
  • Provides clear tenor without being muddy on the bass notes
  • Japanese made


  • Can be a little bit pricey
  • Not as much resale value as a Gibson ES for example

Ibanez George Benson GB10

Price Range: $1, – $4,Production Years: – today

Ibanez GB10

The George Benson Signature guitar, the best-selling Ibanez archtop of all time,  is another custom made archtop that was designed for a famous player and currently on the market.

One thing you should know before buying this guitar is that it is designed for Benson’s recent specifications, not from his “jazz” years, more from his pop/rock days. Because of this, the tone is going to match Breezin’ more closely than Beyond the Blue Horizon, though some players may desire this sound over the older one anyway.

Notable Player:George Benson


  • Finely built guitar that is durable and collectable
  • Great tone that comes from the use of higher quality wood
  • Great look and easy to play
  • Feedback resistant
  • Great and stable neck
  • Reliable


  • Pricey
  • Not as collectable as the Gibson signature guitars
  • Some players do not like to play signature guitars

Ibanez George Benson LGB30

Price Range: $ – $5,Production Years: – today

Ibanez LGB30 George Benson

The Ibanez George Benson LGB30 is another guitar that is inspired by the legendary jazz guitarist of the same name, and his influence can be felt in the looks, sound, and style of this hollow body guitar.

The bound ebony fretboard and other stylistic bits of flair combine to make an instrument that looks like a high-end guitar while still being affordable enough to appeal to beginning musicians.


  • High-end look without the matching price
  • Smooth tones and mellow sound


  • Can be pricey
  • Fairly heavy (lbs/3,8kg)
  • Not a lot of acoustic volume
  • Some owners report a breaking tailpiece when used with heavier strings on models produced between and

Epiphone Broadway

Price Range: $ – $3,Production Years: – today

Epiphone Broadway

Originally introduced in as an affordable option for musicians who wanted a high-end sound, the Epiphone Broadway has remained true to its original vision throughout the years. The Broadway is slightly larger than similar models, as a direct result of its original designer, Epi Stathopoulo, who believed that a larger body was necessary for a fuller tone.

Thanks to that belief, the Epiphone Broadway provides a classic example of a large hollow-body guitar design, and its curvy appearance helps draw out a wider range of tones. It was the favorite of many influential jazz artists when it first debuted in , and it continues to be so today, more than eighty years later.

Notable player: Steve Howe (Yes)


  • Great beginner guitar
  • Warm sound
  • Great playability
  • Affordable
  • Looks great


  • Some owners report issues with the tailpiece, it’s hard to install the A and D-strings because they are not long enough.
  • Some owners report quality issues with the newer models.
  • Not a great acoustic sound
  • Narrow neck

Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin

Price Range: $ – $1,Production Years: – today

Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin

The Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin is a drop-dead gorgeous instrument that sounds every bit as good as it looks. The single P pickup provides a warm and full jazz tone that is often described as old or smokey.


  • Great playability
  • Open and balanced sound
  • Great access to a wide range of tones
  • P pickup
  • Comfortable size
  • Classic look
  • Made in Canada
  • Best bangs for the buck


  • The neck might be too narrow for some people
  • No cutaway, but the body starts at the 14th fret
  • Not very loud acoustically
  • Some users report problems with the intonation of new guitars, but this is usually fixed with new strings and a good set-up

Heritage H

Price Range: $1, – $4,Production Years: – today

heritage H

Touted as “a workhorse for any serious player”, the Heritage H is a high-end guitar that makes up for its higher price range with its status as one of the most outstanding instruments on the field today.

While the Heritage guitar company has only been around for about thirty years, the company is fighting to establish itself as one of the premier sources for high-end instruments, and the Heritage H is a great example of such a guitar.

Notable players: Mimi Fox, Alex Skolnick


  • Smooth sound
  • Great playability
  • Excellent craftsmanship


  • Pricey
  • Not the same resale value as a Gibson

D’angelico EXL-1

Price Range: $ – $1,Production Years: – today

D'angelico EXL-1

The D’Angelico EXL-1 is a great guitar that comes in three versions: Premier, Excel, and Deluxe. Avoid the Premier and go for an Excel or Deluxe.

Notable players: Russell Malone, Bucky Pizzarelli, Jef “Skunk” Baxter (Steely Dan)


  • Round and bell-like tones
  • Vintage look with a Golden Age style and flair
  • Great neck
  • Affordable


  • The EXL-1 has a floating pickup, which produces a more trebly and acoustic sound compared to a set-in pickup

Semi-Hollow Body Guitars

A semi-hollow guitar has a solid block of wood running through the body and the two bouts (the sides of the guitar closest to the neck) hollowed out.

The center block reduces some of the feedback that hollow body guitars can experience, and the resulting sound tends to be tighter and more focused than a traditional electric guitar.

Since the only real difference between hollow body and semi-hollow guitars is the block in the middle of the guitar, the two classes have a very similar tone, with the hollow body guitar sounding slightly “warmer”, but more prone to feedback.

Semi-hollow body guitars have a more “modern” jazz sound and feel compared to full hollow body archtops.

Famous jazz guitarists that use semi-hollow body guitars:

  • John Scofield – Ibanez AS, Gibson ES
  • Larry Carlton – Gibson ES
  • Grant Green – played a Gibson ES until the mids
  • Kurt Rosenwinkel – Gibson ES and D’Angelico NYSS-3
  • Emily Remler – Gibson ES


  • The primary advantage of a semi-hollow guitar is that it tames the feedback that hollow body guitars are prone to. In addition, it retains some of the warm, round tones that traditional jazz guitars are famous for without sacrificing the sharper, more focused sounds of a solid-body guitar.
  • A semi-hollow body guitar is more versatile compared to a classic jazz guitar.
  • Semi-hollows sound “jazzier” compared to solid body guitars.
  • They are better suited for distorted sounds, that’s why they are used by jazz guitarists such as John Scofield and rock guitarists such as Dave Grohl.


  • The main disadvantage of these guitars is that they do lose some warmth of a hollow body guitar. However, the sounds are still very similar, and jazz musicians like Larry Carlton and John Scofield have traditionally favored this guitar as their signature instrument.

Gibson ES

Price Range: $1, – $30,Production Years: – today

Gibson ES

The Gibson ES is the guitar of legends and is a versatile model that works very well for jazz as well as other styles of music.

Originally released in as the first commercial semi-hollow archtop guitar, the Gibson ES was the favorite of music icons like Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, and B.B. King.

With a solid maple block in the middle of the body, the hollow wings on either side let sound echo and reverberate around the chamber to create a warm, dark tone.

The ES features the characteristic Gibson “f-holes” that allow for greater volume, even without an amplifier, and the cutaways at the base of the neck allow for ease of access when trying to reach the lower frets.

Notable players:Larry Carlton (aka “Mr ”), John Scofield, John McLaughlin, Lee Ritenour, Eric Clapton, …


  • The ES was originally designed to retain the warm, husky tones of a hollow-body guitar without sacrificing the power of an electric instrument, and the iconic tone still sets this guitar apart today
  • Great neck and playability
  • Easy access to full range of frets
  • Collectable


  • The lowest-priced ES is still going to be more expensive than other similar jazz guitar models, and the sharp price hike moving up from the lowest range can be off-putting for beginning guitarists

Epiphone Casino

Price Range: $ – $12,Production Years: – today

Epiphone Casino

The Epiphone Casino, Epiphone’s version of the Gibson ES, has long gone down in music history as the preferred guitar of The Beatles, but it’s equally well-suited to more jazzy, bluesy playing styles. Since it rocketed onto the world stage in , this guitar pairs the looks of an electric guitar with a completely hollow body for a classic, vintage feel.

With a light, well-articulated tone, the Casino is a thinline archtop with a distinctive shape and a rich history that dates back to the birth of a whole new sound on the global stage.

Notable players: John Lennon, Keith Richards


  • Classic look and iconic sound
  • Hollow-body sound with thinline construction to reduce large amounts of feedback
  • Comfortable to play


  • The Casino is a versatile guitar, but harder to get a great jazz sound out of it

Ibanez John Scofield JSM

Price Range: $1, – $3,Production Years: – today

Ibanez JSM John Scofield

The Ibanez JSM takes its inspiration from the iconic jazz guitarist John Scofield. In terms of looks, sound, and feel, the Ibanez JSM is a replication of the legendary musician’s favorite guitar, the Gibson ES

With a classic, warm, and versatile tone, the Ibanez JSM can switch easily between different genres and tones.


  • Thick soundblock and rigid top combine to greatly reduce the risk of feedback
  • Shifts easily between genres and sounds
  • Cool look and classic styling


  • pretty pricey, even compared to other semi-hollow body guitars

Yamaha SA

Price Range: $1, – $2,Production Years: – today

Yamaha SA

A Gibson ES style guitar from the Japanese Yamaha Corporation, the Yamaha SA is a sycamore and maple guitar that has enough weight and power to provide a strong, energetic sound while still retaining the soft, warm tones of a hollow body guitar.

The solid maple soundblock helps fight feedback, while the hardwood sycamore construction lends to the weight of the overall instrument.

Notable players: Biréli Lagrène, Frank Gambale, John Scofield


  • Beautiful guitar
  • Lively sound and great resonance
  • Mellow attack
  • Comfortable neck (wider than comparable models)


  • When plugged in, some musicians have reported a persistent buzzing or droning sound that can be pretty distracting while playing
  • A little heavy
  • “Glassy” tone, that is not to everyone’s liking

Guild Starfire IV

Price Range: $ – $3,Production Years: – today

Guild Starfire IV

The Guild Starfire IV is another Gibson ES copy with a laminated maple body. The thinline design makes it a great choice for blues, jazz, and rock guitarists.


  • Killer tone and playability
  • Great neck
  • Great pickups


  • Not as much resale value as a Gibson

Solid Body Guitars

A solid body guitar is made entirely of a single wooden block. The strings of the instrument are stretched above the guitar’s body, and there are no extra holes to allow for sound to echo or amplify.

As the name suggests, the difference between solid body and hollow body guitars comes from the fact that, while a hollow body instrument allows sound waves to bounce around inside the body of the guitar in order to increase their volume, the solid body guitar relies on electronic amplification.


  • One of the main advantages of using a solid body guitar is the size. Solid body guitars are smaller than their hollow or semi-hollow counterparts, which can make a difference to musicians who are worried about performing with an instrument that is too bulky or unmanageable on stage.
  • A solid body guitar has fewer to no feedback issues.
  • Solid body guitars are more versatile in terms of sound. You can use them in other genres such as rock or metal, which is less the case with semi-hollow and certainly hollow body guitars.


  • Solid body guitars may not have the best sound for jazz musicians. While there are some notable exceptions to this rule (Telecaster-type guitars), a lot of musicians tend to favor the traditional warm, round tones of hollow body guitars, and a solid body guitar just can’t replicate that sound.

Fender Telecaster

Price Range: $ – $40,Production Years: – today

Fender Telecaster

Though known better in the country/rock world as the guitar of choice for many players, the Fender Telecaster has snuck its way into the jazz guitar idiom over the decades.

Known for its warm tone, playability and build solid enough to take a beating, this guitar is a favorite among studio and traveling musicians of all styles.

Notable Players: Bill Frisell, Mike Stern, Julian Lage, Ed Bickert, Ted Greene, …


  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Good sustain and minimal feedback
  • Affordable
  • Versatile, can be used for different styles and sizes of ensemble


  • Doesn’t give the “traditional” jazz tone, still warm, but more “modern” sounding
  • Doesn’t have the jazz guitar “look” to it
  • The neck is thinner than most archtops and may be uncomfortable to some players

Yamaha Pacifica

Price Range: $ – $Production Years: – today

Yamaha Pacifica

Another example of a solid-body guitar used by a jazz musician (Mike Stern), the Yamaha Pacifica is an extremely playable guitar that is affordable enough to be great for even starting musicians.

With three pickups (two on the neck and middle and one additional humbucker), the Pacifica can create the round, resonant tones more typically found in a semi-hollow guitar.

Notable player:Mike Stern


  • Affordable
  • No feedback or hum problems
  • Versatile in terms of sound


  • Although usable in a jazz setting, it doesn’t quite sound like a hollow body guitar.

Fender Jazzmaster

Price Range: $ – $12,Production Years: – today

Fender Jazzmaster

First released in at the NAMM Show, the Fender Jazzmaster was originally designed to be used specifically by jazz musicians. Since then, however, it has come to be a favorite piece of musicians in other genres such as pop and rock.

Joe Pass played a Fender Jazzmaster (and a Fender Jaguar) when was trying to get rid of a drug addiction in the Synanon Center, probably because that was the only guitar available at the center.

Since its original release, the Jazzmaster has undergone some mild renovations, but across the board, the sound, style, and tone of this guitar is very much the same as it was more than sixty years ago.

Although the Fender Jazzmaster is a great guitar that can be used in a variety of genres, I don’t recommend it to play jazz.

Jazz Guitars Under $1,

If you’re looking for a great jazz guitar, but don’t want to break the bank finding it, there is a wealth of options available.

Especially if you’re just starting out, or are still figuring out which direction you want your music to take, a guitar that costs more than a thousand dollars can seem somewhat unnecessary.

Below is a selection of jazz guitars under $

Epiphone ES Premium

Price Range: $ – $1,Production Years: – today

The Epiphone ES Premium is a copy of the Gibson ESD and is a great guitar with an affordable price.


  • Faithful copy of the Gibson ES
  • Round tones and authentic sound
  • Looks great


  • Not everyone likes the pickups, but these can be replaced by better options
  • Hard to find

Eastman ARCE

Price Range: $ – $1,Production Years: – today

Eastman ARCE

A laminated workhorse of a guitar, the Eastman ARCE is perfect for the most hardcore jazz purists and more experimental musicians alike. The instrument adapts itself easily to multiple styles of play, and the handsome, acoustic design belies the wide range of styles that the guitar is fit to play.

The affordable price makes it a great starting point for musicians who are still fleshing out their style of play.


  • Classic, old-school look with a lightweight feel
  • Easy to play
  • Easy access to the full range of frets


  • Some of the finer craftsmanship details vary between individual guitars
  • The slender neck may be difficult for some musicians to navigate comfortably

Ibanez Artstar AS

Price Range: $ – $1,

Ibanez Artstar AS

The Japanese guitar company Ibanez carries many names in different markets, but no matter the official brand, the instruments they make are some of the best on the market today.

The full tones offered by the Ibanez Artstar AS puts it on the same level as other, far more expensive semi-hollow guitars, and the flexible sound makes it a great fit for musicians who are just beginning to figure out the sound they want.

Ibanez AS93

Price Range: $ – $

Ibanez AS93

Perfect for jazz or blues, the Ibanez AS93 is an unmistakably cool instrument. The sound of this guitar is often described as “growling”, especially in the lower range, while the higher range of tones produces a bright, focused sound.


  • Stylish look with “flamed” maple and retro feel
  • A solid and durable instrument with flashy gold hardware
  • A lightweight instrument with a warm, steady sound
  • Very affordable

Jazz Guitars Under $

“You get what you pay for” is a saying that holds up in the guitar world.

That being said, nowadays it’s possible to get a good quality jazz guitar for under $ These models are ideal as an introductory jazz guitar for players who want to get a jazz guitar sound without breaking the bank.

Below you will find a list of quality guitars under $

Ibanez Artcore AF75

Price Range: $ – $

Ibanez Artcore AF75

Ibanez Artcore AS73

Price Range: $ – $

Ibanez Artcore AS73

Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II

Price Range: $ – $

Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II

Epiphone ES Dot Studio

Price Range: $ – $

Epiphone ES Dot Studio

Epiphone Sheraton II

Price Range: $ – $

Epiphone Sheraton II

Washburn J

Price Range: $ – $

Washburn J

Gretsch G Streamliner

Price Range: $ – $

Gretsch Streamliner

Gypsy Jazz Guitars

Gypsy jazz is a style with a very specific sound that requires a Selmer-style acoustic guitar. Gypsy jazz guitars sound loud, a bit nasal, and are hard to play because of the high action of the guitar.

If you are drawn to the music of Django Reinhardt and want to dig deeper into that style, a Selmer-type guitar such as the one below is what you need. Outside of the gypsy genre though, this guitar has limited use.

Gitane DG John Jorgenson Signature Selmer Style Guitar

Price Range: $ – $1,

Gitane John Jorgenson

The Gitane John Jorgenson Signature model is the company’s attempt to bring back the same quality Selmer style guitar that Django used at a moderate price. The guitar looks and sounds fairly authentic and any gypsy style player would enjoy this guitar.

Nylon-String Guitars

Nylon-string guitars are not used often by jazz musicians, with a few exceptions such as Al Di Meola, Pat Metheny, and Joe Pass (the Unforgettable album).

Nylon-string guitars are the guitar of choice in bossa nova music, so if you play a lot of bossa, a nylon-string guitar might be what you need.

Godin Multiac Grand Concert Encore Nylon

Price Range: $1, – $1,

Godin Multiac Grand Concert

Not every nylon guitar has to look like a museum piece. The Godin Multiac Grand Concert Encore Nylon is a semi-acoustic, semi-electric guitar that features nylon strings along with all the loud charge and energy of an electric guitar.


  • Easy to play for a nylon-string guitar
  • Comfortable neck
  • Nylon string sound with all of the benefits of electric amplification
  • Sounds great acoustically as well as amplified


  • Relatively expensive
  • Prone to feedback

What guitar do you use to play jazz? Let us know in the comments below!

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