Jazz guitar - what creates the tone?

StubblehoundStubblehound Posts: 106Member
I like the soft tones of a nice jazz guitar. What creates the tone? Is it the amp or the knobs on the guitar (sorry for the technical term. I am still learning) How can I get a smooth jazz tone to evolve from my Telecaster style guitar? Do I need to change the parts on it? Thanks for any help.


  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,190Member

    There are various things that can help I guess. The classic hollowbody jazz archtop guitar does give a certain kind of tone (think Barney Kessel, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Kenny Burrell etc. etc.) which you can't really get any other way. However, there have been jazz greats using solid guitars effectively as well, perhaps a different take on the warm jazz tone, but nice in it's own right. Actually the tele is a model well suited to jazz to start with, I use mine to play jazz sometimes, and it's great - it has a typical tele neck pickup, and the classic ashtray bridge, no need to alter anything. Try the neck pickup, and backing off the tone to various degrees - you may find a sweet spot, where there is still some presence to the tone (you don't want things to be too muddy and dull) but also giving a warmer kind of feel.


    The amp does make a difference, I can't deny that - I have a Polytone, which is oriented to getting a great clean jazz tone to start with, and it works. I don't know what amp you have, but some of today's modelling amps can be quite versatile, and include amp models that work well for jazz. The clean Jazz Chorus channel on the Roland cubes for example, also I've heard good things from one of the Line 6 amps (forget the model, possibly it was a Flextone), and the Fender Mustangs have some nice Fender amp models, not surprisingly. There are probably others out there too. Whatever the amp you have, it's well worth experimenting with the EQ controls - try boosting the mids for example.


    Other things that can make a difference:


    The type of pick, if you use one. Try a thicker pick perhaps, and don't be afraid to modify picks to your own requirements with a bit of nifty sanding/re-shaping. I find many picks to be a bit too "pointy" as they come (I make my own these days). Or you can play fingerstyle, or "pick and fingers", which tends to give a softer tone.


    String gauge - heavier strings do seem to help for me, I use 11s on solidbody guitars, and it does firm up the tone in my experience. I would personally suggest 10's as a minimum gauge to use. There is probably someone out there getting a great jazz tone with 8s or 9s lol, but that's still my general feeling.


    Also on the strings, you can try a different type, like half-rounds, or the classic flatwounds (tape wound). These will round off the tone somewhat. Flatwounds tend to lose a bit of sustain, but they do add a certain character to things. Having said that, for myself, I generally prefer to stick with roundwounds on solid guitars, I find flatwounds a little dull. Half-rounds are kind of a "half way" house between rounds and flats for me, quite like them sometimes.


  • StubblehoundStubblehound Posts: 106Member

    Thanks Megi for that in depth reply.


    The amp I have is just something that was given to mewhen I bought my guitar and just as it says on the box, amplifies the sound. I twiddle the knobs but I can not make a real difference.


    I am thinking of getting a better amp so I am looking for info on what is a mean between price and quality

  • Ofuco AcusOfuco Acus Posts: 10Member

    i get a nice jazz tone from my Telecaster by switching to the neck pickup and if i want things REALLY dark, i roll the tone off. i would say keep your amp with a fair amount of high end treble to keep that twang and glass, but play about! in terms of amp brands,anything fender will get you a good jazz tone, also Orange clean channels will do you nicely, however i once saw a jazz player busking with a Peavy combo and he sounded superb!
    another thing i like doing is having a little bit of overdrive gain and rolling the tone off my neck pup, single notes are smooth but chords have a very strange texture although it can get a bit muddy sounding....

  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,085Member, Moderator
    Originally Posted by Ofuco Acus:

    i get a nice jazz tone from my Telecaster by switching to the neck pickup and if i want things REALLY dark, i roll the tone off.

    Me too.  Even my Strat gives a warm tone, set up like that.

  • LesterLester Posts: 1,680Member, Moderator
    edited August 2016
    Originally Posted by Megi:

    (you don't want things to be too muddy and dull)

    Turning the tone to zero may make the sound too too muddy and dull, as Megi explained above. I find keeping a little treble in the tone, probably between 2 and 3 gives a cleaner warm sound. Playing near the end of the neck rather than near the bridge also helps to give a jazzier sound. Experiment with both your guitar and amp tone controls and listen to CDs of jazz players and notice how warm and full-bodied yet also how clear and even trebly their sound is.

  • martinsmith99martinsmith99 Posts: 375Member

    Neck pickup and a clean or cleanish amp tone.  Increase bass and decrease treble to taste.  Thicker gauge strings may help.

  • djm67djm67 Posts: 63Member

    Your hands

  • geoguitargeoguitar Posts: 252Member

    flat wound strings +

    think about your signal path and what in it pickup / amp and do the relevant searches +



    good luck


  • StubblehoundStubblehound Posts: 106Member
    Thanks to all for the advice. I will have a look at the Rolands
  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 3,185Member

    The Roland Cube Street is brilliant. Only 5watts but loud and runs off batteries as well as mains. It has the COSM amp simulator built in with various effects: chorus, flanger, delay... 


    Using the JC Clean channel I was able to use it as a pretty decent acoustic amp. It has a mic input and can be used as a PA and has an input for playing backing tracks as well.


    It is extremely robust and I used to stand it on its side and sit on it whilst playing gigs in really small venues. It has a sturdy metal grille over the speakers and can be chucked in the boot of a car with little concern.


    No line-out though, which is a bit limiting if you want to use it through a PA but this is one versatile bit of kit.


    I upgraded to a Fishman but keep this for sentimental reasons and knowing that I will find a use for it again.

  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,085Member, Moderator

    Solo reminds me of another Gary, only he was Moore famous.  Nice sound, nicely played.

  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 3,185Member

    Our Gary plays it better than the other one, Jocko - at least NOW he does.

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