Written by Guitar Chalk Editorial
Parent article: Best Intermediate Acoustic Guitar
Best Acoustic Guitars for Jazz
A roundup of acoustic guitars that work well in a jazz context, with some added electronics and a more "pickable" design.
WHY LISTEN TO GUITAR CHALK? We make recommendations based on guitars that we've actually played, or by consulting people who own the gear in question. For jazz acoustics, we've talked with a wide range of people about the guitars they use, prefer, and recommend for that particular genre of music.
Taylor T5z Classic
The Taylor T5Z is a feature-rich Mahogany acoustic with two pickups and an electric-style control scheme.
With the profile and electronics of an electric guitar, you have an acoustic that's extremely lead-friendly, ideal for jazz players that do a lot of melodic improv while also needing an acoustic for smooth chord progressions.
Warn tones provide a distinctly dark and jazz-friendly sound, though with the controls and slimmed body style it can get really bright. We'd recommend adding an external preamp like the LR Baggs Venue DI or something that will allow you to take advantage of the wide-ranging tone capabilities of the T5Z.
Pros of the T5z
Cons of the T5z
The chambered solid body produces a warm acoustic tone that sounds great on jazz chords and rhythm work.
You can mix in the humbucker tone for a blended sound between the acoustic and electric tones, which can actually give you a little bit of distortion or "acoustic breakup", especially if you have some external control for the A6 (preamp, acoustic amp, etc.).
This gives the A6 a lot of appeal to those who are currently playing jazz gigs with an electric guitar but want to transition to an acoustic.
The A6 gives you the feel and tone of an electric in the form of a chambered acoustic body.
It's a good balance of the two worlds.
Pros of the A6
Cons of the A6
Synchromatic Acoustic Guitar
Made specifically for jazz players and tones, the Gretsch G100CE is affordable by archtop standards, though it does limit you to only laminate construction. However, the tone it produces is distinctly warm and sounds more "jazz" than anything else on this list.
These hollowbody acoustic/electric hybrids are some of the most common jazz guitars, though would still technically be considered acoustic, given the body design and natural resonance.
Like the A6, you can get some electric-sounding breakup from the humbucker.
You've also have plenty of natural resonance without plugging in.
The only thing we don't like is that guitars like this can - in certain situations - be difficult to hold and somewhat uncomfortable, especially for smaller players.
Pros of the G100CE
Cons of the G100CE
Parlor Acoustic Guitar
Ideal for live scenarios where more comfort is needed, the BR-341 is smaller than most acoustic jazz models.
We like it for its strong tone profile and how easy it is to hold. It's especially convenient for smaller players, or those with should or elbow pain, particularly if you prefer to play sitting down.
As a fairly normal-sized 5'11 man, I like these smaller parlor guitars for the comfort factor, specifically.
The only drawback is that you'd have to add your own pickup, if needed, as this model doesn't ship with any onboard electronics.
Pros of the BR-341
Cons of the BR-341
Is jazz an electric guitar thing?
A lot of people default to an electric guitar like a Fender Stratocaster for their jazz playing or gigging. While this isn't a bad option, most jazz players use an acoustic-electric hybrid, often with some form of pickup or electronic system.
In this regard, jazz is definitely not limited to electric guitars, but is instead a congealing of the two styles, often better served by the warmth and thickness of an acoustic instrument.
In this section, I'll go over a few things to considering when shopping for a jazz-friendly acoustic.
How to Choose
What should you be thinking about as you shop for a jazz acoustic guitar? Here's what we would recommend taking note of:
What is it that you want to spend money on when you get this guitar? Do you care most about the tonewood quality, the electronics, or perhaps something else? Make a note of what matters most to you and what you want to prioritize.
More Acoustic VS More Electric
Of the four acoustic guitars we've recommended in this list, two of them lean more acoustic while the other two lean more electric. Think about whether you want your acoustic guitar to feel more like an acoustic or an electric.
Better off with a solid body electric?
Another thing to consider is whether you'd be better off with a solid body electric guitar instead of an acoustic. A lot of jazz players use solid body electrics, so it shouldn't be totally discounted unless you also want some of the benefit of a more traditionally acoustic instrument.
Chords or Melody
You should also think about whether you'll be using this chord to play primarily chords or picking melody (lead guitar). The distinction between rhythm and lead playing styles is going to be a significant factor in determining what type of guitar you're most comfortable with. Jazz can have a lot of both playing styles, so it can be helpful to target an acoustic/electric hybrid that's good at handling both.
Best Practices for Jazz Gigs with an Acoustic
If you're in a jazz group that plays live, here are a few suggestions for making things work with your new acoustic.
Plug Into an Amp
Even if your acoustic has an onboard preamp, having some kind of an external preamp, or even an acoustic amplifier, is a good idea. It'll give you a lot more control over your tone and likely a balanced output to connect to your PA system.
Use a Soundhole Cover (if applicable)
If your acoustic has a traditional soundhole like the Blueridge model, we'd recommend getting a soundhole cover for playing live, especially if you're plugging into some kind of amplifier. It'll help prevent feedback and give you a more mellow tone.
Features that Matter in a Jazz Acoustic
To finish up, we'll look at some of the features that matter most in this type of acoustic guitar and the jazz genre. While these features are important for buying any type of acoustic, they're uniquely prevalent for jazz players.
The tone tone and volume control and pickup systems are an important feature to keep an eye on, as it's likely going to be a big part of your tone since jazz acoustics are often played plugged in as opposed to mic'd.
How does the guitar sound? Jazz should have a warmth and mellow tone that you can't get out of any acoustic guitar. That's why we like the hollowbody design with an electronics system that lets you tweak the sound to be a little darker and moodier.
We're looking for a hollowbody acoustic that has a cutaway, allowing you to get to higher notes, and perhaps even a slimmer profile for better playability when sitting down.
Ideal, your acoustic guitar's neck would be thinner for allowing you to play faster, especially in regards to lead and bluesy improv.
Process for Including Each Jazz-Friendly Acoustic Guitar
The above factors help determine how these acoustic guitars were included in a our list.
We also go after more general quality indicators, if possible, like solid wood (as opposed to laminate), scalloped bracing, and name brand components like Gotoh tuners.
Note that since we try as much as possible to base our reviews off of first-hand experience, we might gravitate towards guitars that we've played, as opposed to those we have no direct experience with. Thus, there are other acoustic guitars for jazz players available that might be worth a look, but that we simply can't vouch for.
Please take this into consideration as you read our recommendations.
Total Acoustics Considered
Customer Reviews Considered
Your Questions and Comments
Do you have questions about the acoustic guitars recommended here?
Maybe you have some suggestions or knowledge about other best acoustic guitars for jazz picks - or that might fit well in the jazz guitar style - that we haven't mentioned. Acoustic guitars with a blues lean could be a good fit also.
If so, feel free to drop suggestions in the comments section below.
Additionally, if you have questions about the acoustic guitars listed, you can leave those as a comment, also.
Thanks, and good luck guitar shopping.