One of the foremost things that a guitarist should possess is a good guitar. Yet, if you really want to excel and reach a higher level of guitar playing proficiency, you should make the radical decision of buying your own jazz guitar. This decision may force you to shell out a sizeable amount of money from your pocket, but it is definitely a good decision to make on your part.
You should, however, be very meticulous in choosing the jazz guitar you are going to purchase. Models of jazz guitars abound, and if you are not well-informed about guitar instruments, you may end up buying the wrong guitar model. Hence, if you feel that you lack the expertise in understanding which guitar to buy, you should do a bit of research online and get yourself informed before splurging yourself into a buying spree. To facilitate the process of choosing the right jazz guitar for you, here are some succinct points that you should consider at the onset:
Types of Jazz Guitars to Choose from
There are basically three popular types of jazz guitars—the archtop, semi-hollow, and solid body. The difference among these three types of jazz guitars is not only in matters of designs or forms, and if you are going to base your choice according to forms and designs, you may end up not choosing the one that is appropriate for you. An in-depth analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of each of these three types of jazz guitars may be necessary if you really want to zero in on the ideal jazz guitar for you.
1) Archtop Guitars
The archtop guitar is a full-depth guitar that has become the prototype of jazz guitars. This guitar is a steel-stringed acoustic guitar that has sound-box, violin-type f-holes, and archtop, with magnetic pickups and floating bridge. This type of jazz guitar is the first type of jazz guitar in use, and for this reason, jazz guitar is highly associated with the archtop guitar. Moreover, this guitar produces an iconic sound that is very distinct and hard to rival. The popularity of the archtops, however, is stifled by its high price. Gibsons, as one of its primary manufacturers of this type of guitars, offers expensive archtop guitars.
Despite its unrivalled sound, the archtop is sometimes encountered the feedback problem and other physical problems. Hence, it is highly advisable before buying a jazz guitar first to do a practice session using the prospective archtop guitar that you are going to buy. Figure out if there are feedback problems or any other physical defects before you shell out your hard-earned money on that guitar. Moreover, it would be good to practice holding and playing the guitar in various positions to see if you would feel comfortable using it in various stances. As a caveat, you should not buy a guitar on the spur of the moment. Rather you should visit the guitar shop several times to request for a practice session using the prospective guitar. This will help you avoid buying a wrong guitar. Moreover, you will also get the feel of the guitar after several practices with it and not just in one practice session.
You can count the advantages concomitant with archtop guitars. First, it creates incredible jazz sound. Second, it usually belongs to the top-of-the-line guitars. Third, its bigger size is ideal for producing jazz sound. On the other hand, there are also disadvantages associated with the archtop guitars. First, it provides limited tone variations. It also has a bulkier body which sometimes becomes a bit inconvenient to carry, and it is also beset with feedback issues.
2) Semi-Hollow, Semi Acoustic Guitars
The semi-hollow and semi-acoustic guitars are not totally the same. In fact, the semi-hollow is distinct from the semi-acoustic guitar because there is a center ridge inside its body that blocks the space inside, while the semi-acoustic guitar is completely hollow inside and slightly slimmer than that of the archtops. Both these types of guitars, however, are not too big and are therefore more convenient to carry around and use than the archtops. They also produce a variety of tones, and their usage is not only limited to particular musical genres. They also provide a very warm tone. Manufacturers of these guitars include Gibson and Ibanez.
If you are a guitar player who wants warmer tone, this type of guitar is the ideal one for you. Despite being less bulky than that of the archtops, these guitars are still big guitars. Hence, before giving away your hard-earned money in exchange for one of these guitars, you should, as in the case of buying archtops, visit several times the guitar shops and play your prospective guitars until you are entirely convinced of your choice. Moreover, you should also try playing the guitars of choice in various playing positions to get the feel of how it would be when you are playing live in front of an audience.
The semi-hollow and semi-acoustic guitars produce less feedback as compared to the archtops. Being smaller than the archtops, they are also more convenient to handle and easy to carry around. They are also less pricey than the archtops, and therefore, more affordable. Yet, despite their being less bulky than the archtops, they appear too big and less convenient to play for some guitar players, especially, in a sitting position. They also may seem to be awkward to carry around for some guitar players and offer fewer tone options. Some Jazz icons have found these guitars more desirable to play than other types of jazz guitars. Moreover, these guitars are stapled instruments among rock and rollers and blues guitar players. Its greatest advantage, however, is its affordability.
3) Solid Body Guitars
Some well-known guitarists patronize the solid-body guitar; in fact, this type of guitar has been the favorite of Ted Greene, Ed Bickert, and John Scofield. The solid-body guitar is also associated with country and rock music. It also doesn’t produce feedback as in the case of the archtop guitar, and it has smaller body despite having a solid body. Moreover, it is more popular with jazz guitarists.
As a guitarist, if you want to avoid the issues concomitant with the archtop and semi-hollow guitars, you should opt for the solid body guitars. If you are a type of guitar player that play various genres of music, the solid-body would be your best choice for it allows you to shift from one genres to another without necessarily changing axes. Yet, you may be a bit frustrated if you are really looking for the authentic jazz tone and if you are so meticulous with the tone that you produce, for although lighter and smaller, the solid-body guitar can never really completely provide you with the authentic jazz tone, that the archtop can deliver. You should use a Telecaster with humbuckers if you want to really mimic the jazz tone produced by the archtop guitar, although I bet, you can never really duplicate the traditional jazz tone using a solid-body guitar. Hence, before shelling out your money for a solid-body guitar, you should try playing your prospective solid-body guitar before splurging into a buying spree.
Pros and Cons of buying a Solid-body Jazz Guitar
The solid-body jazz guitar is not for everyone. Yet, it can be an alternative guitar for the archtop and semi-hollow guitars. For this reason, this type of guitar is also worth considering. However, buying this type of guitar, you should first take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of using this type of guitar.
• First, it is smaller and lighter, and for this reason, it is more convenient to carry around and play.
• Second, you can create a variety of tones using it.
• Third, it doesn’t have a feedback issue.
On the other hand, its disadvantages include the following:
• It has a small body that is not convenient for other guitar players.
• If you play it, you may sound more like a rocker than a jazz player.
• It doesn’t sport a jazzy look.
The good thing about the solid-body guitar is that despite the disadvantages concomitant with its use, it still can cover enough sonic ground and can be used to play varied musical genres. Moreover, it is lighter and smaller, and therefore, more convenient to carry around.
Things You Must Know About Jazz Guitar
Before buying or zeroing on a particular jazz guitar, it would be good to compare the different types of jazz guitars. Jazz guitars are designed to produce excellent tones that are rich and warm. Although at the incipient stage of jazz, jazz music was mostly played using acoustic guitars. Yet, as venues and audiences become huge and many, jazz players need to amplify their sounds to make them audible to a broader audience. Hence, acoustic guitars have been replaced with big-sounding guitars. Moreover, the improvement of amplification systems gave way to the introduction of archtop acoustics with magnetic pickups. These innovations allowed jazz player to let their sound be heard even if they were performing in a large venue with many audiences.
The arch top guitars, however, is also beset with sound issues. Because of the vast hollow space inside the archtop guitars, it produces unwanted microphone feedback. Although this feedback can be harnessed to create good sounds, more often, this feedback is entirely not in synchrony with the sedate and relaxed sound requirements of jazz music. Hence, to solve this issue, many jazz players set aside the archtop guitars in favor of the semi-acoustic guitars which have wooden blocks inside their bodies that reduce feedback. These wooden blocks inside add extra weight to the guitars, but these blocks reduce the feedback and increase the sustain produced by the guitars.
The leading manufacturers of the semi-acoustic guitars are Ibanez and Gibson. After the introduction of these types of guitars, many jazz guitarists began to patronize these types of guitars, owing to the unique and clear sounds they produce and due to their ability to lessen feedback. Lastly, there were times in the past when these types of guitars became the top favorites of jazz players.