Jazz Guitar Sound

Day 145 Week 21 Q2 Friday, May 24, 2024

I have come to somewhat incredible conclusion today about jazz guitars. I have played and still own, a large number of different guitars ranging from solid to laminate, small to large, round wound versus flat wound strings, hollow body, semihollow body, and solid body, thin strings and thick strings, unprocessed and processed, with EQ or not, with delay or not, and with reverb or not.

The conclusion I have come to is that is quite possible to get a good jazz tone in all of these ways. There is however a huge difference in price. This means that I do not believe a $20,000 guitar sounds any better than a $2000 guitar and that you can play at a professional level with even a $200 guitar. And for those who would like to have a $200,000 guitar, that is completely insane. I do not believe anybody in the world could tell the difference.

What about the difference between an inexpensive amplifier and an expensive amplifier? I also believe that a $200 amplifier can sound as good as a $2000 amplifier and the net of these two conclusions is that for $400 you can sound like a professional jazz guitarist. And I am not sure what percentage of audiences could tell the difference. But I bet it is less than 10% and perhaps even less than one percent.

In fact, most of the musicians in the world cannot afford expensive instruments and they sound just great, the difference in the cost has more to do with collectors and bragging rights then in terms of tone.

The role of laminate guitar construction, string types, string tension, playing technique (fingerstyle vs. pick), and the use of effects like delay and reverb in achieving a suitable jazz guitar tone.

This is because these instruments are electroacoustic, not just acoustic. And in fact, an electro acoustic guitar also called an electric guitar to my ear sounds far better than any acoustic guitar.  

I have done an extensive analysis and here is a summary of the key points:

Laminate (plywood) guitars can produce a warm, mellow tone well-suited for jazz when constructed with quality materials and techniques.

Factors like body size, top wood area, and scale length impact volume, resonance, and bass response.

Flatwound strings are commonly preferred for their smooth, mellow character, while roundwounds provide more bite and articulation.

Flatwounds have slightly lower tension than roundwounds, affecting feel and tone.

Fingerstyle playing is favored for its warm, resonant articulation, but picks can add punch when needed.

Judicious use of delay and reverb can enhance the ambient, jazzy qualities of a laminate guitar’s tone.

While solid woods are considered the ideal, well-built laminates can absolutely deliver professional-level jazz tones when the various elements are optimized.

This summary overview of how the construction, components, and playing approaches can be adjusted on laminate guitars to capture a rich, resonant jazz tone traditionally associated with more expensive solid wood guitars.