Jazz Guitars

Just as there are many types of jazz, there are many types of guitars for jazz, too. To find the right one for you, you'll need to consider body style, pickups, and types of wood used. The whole process can be overwhelming, so to help you start, we've gathered together our top picks for jazz guitars.

Our Top Picks for the Best Jazz Guitars

Make

Model

Rating

Price

Full Review

Epiphone

USA Casino

Cell

Epiphone

Joe Pass Emperor II Pro

Cell

Ibanez

Artcore AF75G

Guild

Starfire I Jet

Cell

Gibson

Custom 1961 ES-335 Reissue VOS

Cell

Godin

5th Avenue Kingpin

Cell

Gretsch

G6136T White Falcon Players Edition

Cell

Harmony

Cornet

Cell

Rickenbacker

Thinline 360

Cell

Epiphone USA Casino -- Best Guitar Redesign

Important Features

  • C-profile neck with Indian rosewood fingerboard is playable for any jazz guitarist
  • Vintage Burst finish with white pickguard gives it an appealing vintage look
  • Dogear P90s give you a tone that sounds great played clean or with a little dirt
  • The fully hollow guitar body is ideal for traditional jazz players

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Maple and poplar build give it great projection and clarity
  • High-end P90s give it a distinctive vintage sound
  • A thinline body is more comfortable to play
  • NuBone nut supports greater sustain and harmonic content

Cons

  • Players who want to play with more effects might prefer humbuckers
  • It's on the more expensive side

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

This is one of the archtop guitars on the list that has historical significance. It's essentially a redesign of the thinline archtops used by the Beatles. While this one's body is all laminate, it's a unique design -- a three-ply maple/poplar/maple build. The thinline dual-cutaway body makes it more comfortable to play than many bigger jazz boxes, and the C-profile neck is just thick enough to add some tonal warmth.

But the real standout feature of this archtop guitar is the set of Dogear P90 pickups. These aren't as noisy as standard single-coils, but they offer a clearer top end than most humbuckers. If you're after vintage tone with a little grit, these are the pickups you're looking for.

Our Star Rating

We think this jazz guitar is the best-redesigned instrument on the list, and we give it four out of five stars.

Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II Pro -- Best Value

Important Features

  • SlimTaper C neck and Venetian cutaway make it highly playable
  • This fully hollow-body guitar is ideal for classic jazz
  • Epiphone ProBuckers with coil tap gives jazz guitarists plenty of tonal options
  • It's one of the best values of jazz-style guitars on the market

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • It's an excellent value
  • It was designed with the help of a jazz legend
  • It's extremely playable
  • It offers distinctly vintage looks and sound

Cons

  • The fully hollow body can cause some feedback issues
  • It's a little heavy, which can be an issue for smaller players

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

If you know anything about jazz, you've heard of Joe Pass, who collaborated with Gibson to design this great-looking guitar. And while it looks expensive, it's actually a surprisingly good deal, especially considering its pickups. The Emperor II Pro comes with Epiphone ProBucker pickups, which are modeled after Gibson's famous BurstBucker design. But most notably, they're equipped with a coil tap, which gives you countless tonal options. Coil tap is fairly rare on hollow-body guitars, which makes this one even more special.

This guitar has a spruce top, and the back and sides are flamed maple. This combination gives you exceptional responsiveness and impressive sonic clarity. A beautiful scrolled tailpiece and gold hardware give it a distinctly beautiful vibe.

Our Star Rating

We think this hollow guitar is the best value on the list. We give it 4.5 out of five stars.

Ibanez Artcore AF75G -- Best Budget Option

Important Features

  • Each pickup has its own volume and tone control for plenty of sonic blending
  • Walnut fingerboard has a beautiful grain and is very durable
  • A fully hollow body is ideal for jazz
  • The beautiful rose gold metallic flat finish makes it look more expensive than it is

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Set neck enhances sustain
  • It's more visually appealing than many electric guitars in the same price range
  • It offers an incredibly warm tone
  • It's very affordable and makes a great first jazz guitar

Cons

  • Linden isn't often used in classic jazz instruments
  • As with all hollow-body guitars, this one may be prone to feedback issues

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

You might already know about Ibanez from their superstrat shredder guitars or Tube Screamer pedals. You might be surprised to learn that they also make a few archtop guitars. The AF75G is part of the Ibanez Artcore series of beautiful yet affordable guitars. It's made of linden, which is another word for basswood. This isn't really a top-notch tonewood, but at this price, it's not really an issue.

This guitar comes fitted with Classic Elite humbuckers, which are designed especially for this type of guitar. All humbuckers reduce noise to some extent, but these ones are designed to reduce or eliminate feedback issues, too. And somewhat surprisingly, the AF75G comes with a set neck that enhances sustain and stability. Ibanez jazz boxes are played by some jazz greats like Pat Metheny, so don't overlook them on your jazz guitar search!

Our Star Rating

 We think this guitar is the best budget option on the list. We give it four out of five stars.

Guild Starfire I Jet -- Best Tonal Versatility

Important Features

  • Like most semi-hollow guitars, it's very versatile
  • Jazz guitarists will appreciate the six-way pickup switching
  • P90 pickups deliver quality vintage jazz tone
  • Archtop body with f-holes gives it the look of a classic jazz guitar

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Maple body is designed to provide a clear yet balanced tone
  • Handmade P90s are modeled after the original P90 single-coil pickups
  • It has a surprisingly low price tag
  • Tremolo system and six-way switching give you lots of room for creative expression

Cons

  • The U-shaped neck might be an adjustment for some players
  • The narrow-tall frets may be challenging for jazz players with larger hands

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

This is the first semi-hollow guitar on our list, and you may not have known before that Guild even made this type of guitar. But this one offers vast sonic options at a shockingly affordable price. The maple body and mahogany neck give it the perfect balance of warmth and clarity, and the center block reduces potential feedback and enhances sustain.

We think the standout feature of this quality archtop is its set of three P90 single-coil pickups. This guitar comes with six-way pickup switching to help you create just about any jazz tone you want. And while this is a great jazz guitar, its central block of wood means that it's also great for rock, blues, funk, fusion, rockabilly, and just about any genre, you can imagine. It also comes with a Bigsby-style tremolo for expressive string bending. The body itself is fairly slim and comes with a Florentine cutaway, making it easier to manage than some big-bodied jazz boxes.

Our Star Rating

We think this surprisingly affordable guitar offers the best tonal versatility on the list. We give it five out of five stars.

Gibson Custom 1961 ES-335 Reissue VOS -- Best High-End Option

Important Features

  • It has the distinctive look of a vintage jazz guitar
  • The slim neck is comfortable and fast-playing
  • The semi-hollow body design makes it great for jazz and other genres
  • It is designed to provide a near-identical tone to the 1961 Gibson ES-335

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • It's a visually stunning jazz guitar
  • It's very tonally versatile
  • It sounds almost exactly like a 1961 Gibson ES-335
  • Maple and poplar body gives it a balanced tone with a little bite

Cons

  • It may be out of the price range of many players
  • If you want a more modern tone, this likely isn't the archtop for you

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

Of all archtop guitars built for jazz, the Gibson ES-335 may well be the most famous. But this semi-hollow body guitar is also fairly expensive. (If you're on a budget, the Epiphone ES-335 is the more affordable version.) But unlike the Epiphone ES-335, this version of the ES-335 is a meticulously crafted replica of an actual 1961 Gibson ES-335, right down to the shape of the f-holes. It's a great option for jazz musicians who would love a vintage Gibson but don't have tens of thousands to spend.

The ES-335 is made with laminated maple and poplar for a clear, balanced tonal response. It comes with two Custombucker pickups. These are a historically accurate replica of the PAF pickups found in the original 1961 Gibson ES-335. The slim-taper, C-shaped mahogany neck adds some warmth to the tone and makes this a highly playable semi-hollow body guitar. If you want a tone that's as close as possible to an original 1961 Gibson ES-335, this is just the guitar for you.

Our Star Rating

We think that this Gibson ES-335 is the best high-end jazz guitar on the list. We give it five out of five stars.

Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin -- Best Vintage Look

Important Features

  • Custom polished finish gives it a beautiful vintage look
  • The wild cherry body delivers a balanced tone with just enough bite
  • It bears an uncanny resemblance to older archtop designs
  • Rosewood fingerboard is both beautiful and comfortable to play

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • It has a solid top, which is somewhat rare in an archtop guitar
  • The beautiful finish adds to its vintage appeal
  • It's offered in an accessible price range
  • Its fully hollow body is great for traditional jazz

Cons

  • It only has one pickup, so tonal versatility is limited
  • Some players might prefer a more traditional tonewood

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

Fully hollow electric guitars are sometimes called semi-acoustic, although some look more like acoustic guitars than others. The Godin 5th Avenue archtop guitar is a prime example of a jazz guitar that looks a lot like vintage instruments, but it's in a very affordable price range. This guitar has a solid wild cherry top and laminated wild cherry back and sides -- an uncommon choice for a jazz instrument. Cherry sounds a bit like maple with a somewhat fuller tone, so it's well-suited to the genre.

While this looks more like an acoustic guitar than an electric guitar, it's still capable of a powerful amplified tone thanks to the single Godin-designed P90 at the neck. The fact that there's only one pickup might pose a problem for some players, but this pickup still delivers a high-quality tone. Essentially, if you want an archtop guitar that both stands out and hearkens back to old jazz guitar designs, this just might be the one for you.

Our Star Rating

We think this archtop guitar has the best vintage look and feel. We give it four out of five stars.

Gretsch G6136T White Falcon Players Edition -- Best Aesthetics

Important Features

  • The all-maple body delivers a clear, powerful tone
  • Slick ebony fingerboard with neoclassical thumbnail inlays looks and plays great
  • The slim body helps fight feedback issues
  • It's lightweight enough to not cause fatigue during long sets

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Distinctive gold and white appearance is striking
  • String-through bridge makes changing strings easy
  • Grover Imperial Locking tuners help you stay in tune
  • Tusq nut supports tuning stability and adds harmonic content

Cons

  • It may be out of the price range of some players
  • The Filter'Tron pickups have a tone that's slightly more suited to rock as opposed to jazz

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

Simply put, the White Falcon is a stunning guitar. This white archtop with all-gold hardware was born to be a stage standout. While its all-hollow design makes it a great choice for jazz, the Filter'Tron pickups make it well-suited to rock and rockabilly. This version has a much slimmer body than the original White Falcon, so there's much less danger of feedback issues. And thanks to the Bigsby tremolo, you can string bend and dive-bomb to your heart's content without going out of tune.

Our Star Rating

We think this guitar has the best aesthetics on the list, and we give it 3.5 out of five stars.

Harmony Cornet -- Best Unusual Design

Important Features

  • Carved solid mahogany top delivers a perfectly warm tone
  • Vintage-sounding gold-foil humbuckers are great for jazz
  • Slim, C-shaped neck with ebony fretboard plays effortlessly
  • Double cut body with differently-styled f-holes is a pleasantly offbeat design

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • It has the coil-splitting capability
  • Bone nut supports increased sustain and tuning stability
  • Tune-O-Matic tailpiece and bridge support perfect intonation
  • It's made with high-quality tonewoods

Cons

  • It's more expensive than vintage Harmony guitars, so it may be out of the price range for some
  • If you prefer more traditional designs, this may not be the guitar for you

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

You might remember vintage Harmony guitars. Through the eye-catching and unique Cornet semi-hollow guitar, these guitars are making a comeback. The Cornet has an all-mahogany design capable of delivering remarkably warm tones, thanks to its carved solid mahogany top and laminated mahogany back and sides.

It's also equipped with Harmony's custom-wound gold-foil humbuckers. These pickups have a vintage tone that's hard to describe. But if you prefer guitars that stand out in terms of tone, you might just like this one.

Our Star Rating

We think this guitar has the best unusual design on the list. We give it four out of five stars

Rickenbacker Thinline 360 -- Best for Recording

Important Features

  • The thick rosewood fretboard is comfortable to play
  • A semi-hollow body makes it a good (if unusual) choice for jazz
  • Distinctive body shape and Fireglo finish make it a real standout
  • The unique stereo output gives you more options for recording and performing

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • The all-maple body gives it plenty of projection and bite
  • Five control knobs give you plenty of tonal possibilities
  • Shark-fin fingerboard inlays give it a unique look
  • Set neck increases stability and sustain

Cons

  • It may not be the best choice for traditional forms of jazz
  • Some players may prefer a more traditional jazz guitar look

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

This Rickenbacker guitar is a great choice for jazz guitarists who play with a little rock-influenced flavor. It's made in the distinctive Rickenbacker shape and has the brand's classic version of an f-hole. But this redesigned version has a feature that really sets it apart -- a Rick-O-Sound stereo output. With this feature, each pickup has its own signal, so you can send each to a different amp or effortlessly record in stereo. It's a remarkable feature that you don't often see.

This guitar comes with two high-gain, single-coil pickups. And with five control knobs, you can easily sculpt your sound. Notably, one is a "blend" knob that lets you combine the two pickups.

Our Star Rating

We think this guitar is the best for recording on the list, and we give it 3.5 out of five stars

What Should You Know Before Buying a Jazz Guitar?

Choosing a Body Type

The fully hollow body guitar is most commonly associated with jazz. Hollow body guitars have an incredibly warm tone that works well with most types of jazz. They sound best when played clean, but they also sound good when played into a lightly overdriven tube amp.

However, hollow-body guitars do have a downside. Namely, they're very prone to feedback when playing live. This can present a serious issue when playing with effects, especially high-gain effects like overdrive and distortion.

Some guitars for jazz, especially newer models, are semi-hollow guitars. These ones look like hollow guitars, but they have a solid block of wood at the center. That center block gives them some of the characteristics of solid body electrics, including increased sustain.

Because they're much less prone to feedback problems, semi-hollow body guitars are ideal for those who play rock-influenced jazz or who want to play with effects.

Choosing Your Pickups

Most jazz guitar models come with either humbuckers or P90 pickups. You probably already know that humbuckers are great for keeping noise to a minimum. They also have a smoother sound. Having P90 pickups is great if you like some extra vintage vibe and don't mind a little grit in your sound.

Selecting Tonewoods

Pickups are important when you're looking for the best jazz guitar, but so are tonewoods. Maple is a common choice when it comes to jazz guitar models -- it's strong, and it imparts some crispness and clarity to your sound. Mahogany's mellow warmth is also great for jazz. Plenty of archtop guitars also have spruce tops that offer optimal responsiveness.

In Conclusion

We think any electric guitar on our list is a worthy investment. But our top choice is the Guild Starfire I Jet. With three P90 pickups, this semi-hollow body guitar is capable of a dazzling array of tones. Plus, it has a tremolo system for even more expressive playing, and it's affordable to boot.

If you have a lot to spend, we also like the Gibson Custom 1961 ES-335 Reissue VOS, a semi-hollow body that has the most authentic vintage tone you can get.

What do you think? Did we leave out any high-quality jazz guitar options? Please let us know in the comments, and don't forget to share if you found it useful!

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