Gibson L-5 CES

Frequently Asked Questions

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David Moss
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Joey Goldstein
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This is the official FAQ for the newsgroup. Click on a question to see the answer. Comments are welcome and, in fact, encouraged. Feel free to suggest new topics as well as additions to existing ones. The answers given are not our personal views, rather we've attempted to present the views of RMMGJ contributors. If you think we've misrepresented the majority view or ignored a significant minority opinion, please let us know.

The FAQ is still evolving and is frequently updated, so check back often and use your browser's reload button. It's again available in both the the USA and Europe.

About the newsgroup

Listening to jazz guitar

Learning to play jazz guitar

Equipment for jazz guitarists

Repertoire for jazz guitarists

Web resources and software for jazz guitar

Questions that don't fit into the other categories

What is RMMGJ, and what are Frequently Asked Questions? is an online forum for the discussion of the guitar in jazz. If you've already used internet newsgroups you'll know how to find us. If not, the easiest way to participate is via the website.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) are just what it says: questions that get asked over and over again in a newsgroup. This happens because visitors and newcomers are always joining the discussion, and they obviously can't know what questions were asked last month. The purpose of this document is to present the answers to the most common questions. Please check whether the answer to your question is here before posting to the newsgroup.

It's not our intention to dissuade anyone from taking part in the newsgroup, we just want to maintain the high quality of the discussions. We look forward to reading your Infrequently Asked Question at!

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When did this newsgroup start and what was its charter?

The group was first proposed by Bob Patterson and the results of the voting were announced on Dec 12, 1995. According to Bob, "I wanted it to be but there was no hierarchy."

Here are the rationale and charter from the original Request For Discussion and Call For Votes.


The guitar has become the dominant musical instrument of the 20th Century. Widespread interest in various aspects of this instrument are evident in the many guitar-related newsgroups on Usenet. There are newsgroups as narrowly focused as,,, etc.

In Jazz, the foremost American musical art form, the guitar enjoys a history longer than almost any other instrument. There have been many notable players in its history from the turn of the century to today. The guitar has been a catalyst of many important stylistic changes in jazz. Currently, study of jazz guitar at the University level is increasing exponentially, bringing with it a flood of new Usenet users interested in the topic.

As it stands now, dicussion of jazz guitar is split among,, and I believe there is enough traffic on these groups that, combined with the relative specialization of the topic, a separate newsgroup is warranted.


All aspects of the jazz guitar. is an unmoderated newsgroup for the discussion of the guitar in jazz. This would include both electric and acoustic-oriented instruments and players in all the various sub-genres: Early, Swing, Bebop, Hard Bop, Cool, Modal, Fusion, Brazilian/Latin, and Contemporary. Furthermore it encompasses aspects of both Solo and Ensemble playing.

Possible topics include: single string technique, fingerstyle jazz technique, chord vocabulary, solo arrangements and chord reharmonization, teaching methods, styles and analysis of players, recordings, transcriptions, instruments and equipment, aspects of lutherie (instrument building) directly related to jazz guitar, publications, compositions written by or for jazz guitarists and history of jazz and archtop guitar design.

Commercial posts and advertisments of any kind are not appropriate. Also discussion of other jazz instruments not related to guitar OR other styles of guitar playing are not an appropriate topic. For such topics use either,, or another appropriate newsgroup.

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Do the contributors to this newsgroup actually know what they're talking about?

Judge for yourself! You can hear some seriously talented jazz guitar playing from RMMGJ contributors at their own web pages:

Jimmy Bruno
Joey Goldstein
Cliff Kuplen
Clay Moore
Kevin Van Sant
Pat Smith

In addition, there are two collections of audio files that include RMMGJ participants. The first is Wesley Dick's Jukebox, where Wesley has posted a collection of sound clips from RMMGJ regulars. The second is Nick Delonas' Guitarists of the Internet page that is not limited to jazz players, but does include RMMGJ participants. To learn a little bit about some of the regular posters on rmmgj, visit the Meet the Contributors page.

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Who is the "best" (insert modifier here) guitarist?

This is like asking: "what is the "best" fruit?". The answer is "whoever I really like at the moment". The REAL answer is, of course, there is no "best", since each player (hopefully) has his or her own style and there is no objective standard for guitar playing. See the next answer to get an idea of people who deserve checking out, however.

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I'm just getting into jazz guitar. What recordings should I be listening to?

The following is a list (in no particular order) of "classic" recordings:
  • Wes Montgomery - recording career 1959-1968, style: hard bop
  • The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery
  • Smokin' at the Half Note
  • Full House

  • Charlie Christian - recording career 1939-1941, style: swing, early bebop
  • Genius of the Electric Guitar
  • Guitar Wizard

  • Jim Hall - recording career 1950-present, style: cool, post-bop
  • Alone Together (duo with Ron Carter on bass)
  • Take Ten, Bossa Antigua (Paul Desmond recordings)
  • The Bridge (a Sonny Rollins recording. There is also a video available of this group - Sonny Rollins "Jazz Casual", that is well worth seeking out. Mr. Hall can also be seen playing on the "Art Farmer / Jim Hall "Jazz Casual" release. The latter is also well worth seeking out for insights into his comping and soloing styles.)
  • Live (finally released on cd. Many feel that this is his best recording. Note that this is NOT "Live in Japan".)

  • Django Reinhardt - recording career 1928-1953, style: swing, gypsy jazz.
  • The Art of Django Reinhardt
  • Verve Jazz Masters

  • Joe Pass - recording career 1962-1994, style: bop, unaccompanied jazz guitar
  • Virtuoso (solo recording, there are 4 volumes)
  • Appasionato
  • For Django

  • Barney Kessell - recording career 1945-1992, style: swing, bop
  • The Poll Winners
  • The Poll Winners - Exploring the Scene

  • John McLaughlin - recording career 1970-present, style: progressive rock/jazz fusion, Indian influences
  • The Inner Mounting Flame
  • My Goal's Beyond

  • Kenny Burrell - recording career 1956-present, style: bop, heavy blues influence.
  • Midnight Blue
  • On View at the Five Spot Cafe
  • Blue Bash (with Jimmy Smith)
  • Back at the Chicken Shack (a Jimmy Smith recording)

  • Howard Roberts - recording career 1956-1992, style: bop.
  • The Real Howard Roberts
  • H.R. is a Dirty Guitar Player/Color Him Funky

  • Grant Green - recording career 1961-1978, style: hard bop, R&B influence
  • Idle Moments
  • Feelin' the Spirit
  • Grantstand

  • Lenny Breau - recording career 1968-1984, style: his own
  • Live at Bourbon Street
  • Five O'Clock Bells
  • The Velvet Touch of Lenny Breau

  • Tal Farlow - recording career 1953-1976, style: bebop
  • This is Tal Farlow
  • The Swinging Guitar of Tal Farlow

  • Jimmy Raney - recording career 1949-1985, style: bebop
  • In Paris, Volume 1

  • Johnny Smith - recording career 1952-1970, style: cool
  • Moonlight in Vermont
  • Johnny Smith
  • Johnny Smith and His New Quartet

  • Baden Powell - recording career 1963-2000, style: Brazillian
  • Tristeza on Guitar
  • Poema on Guitar
  • Apaixonado

    Note that some of the people on the "classic" list are still recording. Their inclusion on the above list in no way implies that what they are currently doing is somehow not as good as their work on the older albums. Here is a list of some younger players and their recommended recordings. Again, these are in no particular order.

  • Pat Metheny - recording career 1978-present, style: hard to say. Post-avant-garde post-fusion with folk influences?
  • Pat Metheny Group
  • Still Life Talking
  • Question and Answer

  • Larry Coryell - recording career 1966-present, style: fusion, post-bop.
  • The Essential Larry Coryell (fusion)
  • Private Concert (solo and duo works)
  • Monk, 'Trane, Miles & Me (post-bop)

  • Ralph Towner - recording career 1972-present, style: his own. Uses classical and 12 string guitars.
  • Solo Concert

  • Pat Martino - recording career 1964-present, style: post-bop.
  • Footprints (aka The Visit)
  • El Hombre
  • Live
  • Conciousness

  • John Scofield - recording career 1974-present, style: post-bop.
  • Grace Under Pressure
  • Flat Out
  • Bass Desires (Marc Johnson, leader)

  • John Abercrombie - recording career 1971-present, style: post-bop.
  • Timeless
  • Tactics
  • Witchcraft
  • Abercrombie, Johnson, Erskine

  • Bill Frisell - recording career 1979-present, style: post-bop.
  • Live
  • Where in the World
  • Paul Motion on Broadway, Vols. 1 and 2
  • Bass Desires (Marc Johnson, leader)

For biographies, reviews and discographies see You can hear samples and order CDs online at

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On which CD does (insert guitarist) play (insert tune)?

Please refrain from posting questions such as this to the newsgroup. There are excellent online databases at,, or The All Music site has a searchable data base with listings of not only the recordings in which the artist was a leader, but also those on which the artist appears as a sideman. Some recordings are also rated. The All Music site should be your first choice to answer these types of questions.

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What are the most straight-ahead jazz recordings of George Benson and why doesn't he make more?

George Benson is a guitarist who started his career making straight-ahead jazz recordings. Later, he began to make more "pop"-oriented albums that featured his singing more than his (stellar) guitar playing. This has irritated many in this newsgroup. Some recommendations of his earlier, more jazz oriented work that have been given on this group include:
  • "New Boss of Jazz Guitar"
  • "George Benson Cookbook"
  • "It's Uptown"
  • "Blue Benson"
  • Jimmy Smith's "Off the Top"
  • "Body Talk"
  • "Bad Benson"
  • "Cooking in Benson's Kitchen" (possibly out of print)

The answer to the second part of the question is: "Maybe he is just playing what he likes."

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Who are some of the more "modern" sounding guitar players that I should check out?

This FAQ question arose from a discussion of "retread" guitarists. The term "retread", currently not used much on the newsgroup, refers to a recent guitarist who plays in an older style to the point of slavishly copying the sound of a person or period (i.e., he sounds "just like Wes"). The term is derogatory and usually has the connotation that, while the "retread" may sound like the original, he/she is lacking in some quality that made the original guitarist special. Who this term refers to is a matter of some debate. Recent guitarists that are clearly NOT "retreads" include Ben Monder, Joe Diorio, Joe Morris, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Bern Nix, James "Blood" Ulmer, Derek Bailey, ...

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I'm interested in playing jazz after playing guitar for a few years. What books would you recommend to get me started?

Mickey Baker's book "Complete Course in Jazz and Hot Guitar, Book 1" - This book is a good place to start for people new to jazz. While there is not a lot of theory explaining the material that is presented, this is a good reference to get the sounds of jazz chords in your ear. In addition, it's incredibly cheap.

William Leavitt's set books "A Modern Method for Guitar". There are three volumes. There is also a book called "Reading Studies for Guitar" that is to be used along with the "Modern Method" books. These books are excellent for getting a good foundation in jazz guitar. The first two books in the series have been highly recommended. The third book has been found to be not as essential.

Joe Pass' "The Joe Pass Guitar Style" is a small book with a wealth of information on both chording and soloing. This may not be the best book for the absolute beginner. However, once a solid foundation has been established, this book has been highly recommended. It uses standard notation exclusively.

Mark Levine's "Jazz Theory Book". This book is not specific to the guitar. However, the choice of topics is excellent and the discussions are clear and relatively complete. Transcribed solo fragments illustrate concepts throughout this book, so you can see just how the theory is put into practice.

Ted Greene's "Chord Chemistry". Greene has reportedly regretted the presentation as too complicated, but many guitarists swear by this book as a good reference for the possibilities of chordal playing.

Jerry Coker's and Dave Baker's works are also recommended.

For more modern styles, Joe Diorio's "Fusion" and "21st Century Intervallic Designs" and Mick Goodrick's "The Advancing Guitarist" are the newsgroup's suggestions.

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I'm interested in playing jazz. Should I find a teacher?

The consensus of this group seems to be that a good teacher can save you time and energy in your quest to play jazz. It can be argued that the transmission of jazz is essentially aural and therefore, hearing the music and having someone who is familiar with common practices can more easily point you in the correct direction than will a book. (A solid jazz library and a lot of listening time should also be considered an essential part of learning to play jazz.) A good teacher will often have you work on something that you were initially not interested (like playing in time, for example, when all you wanted to do was to learn to play like Joe Pass on Virtuoso). It is therfore important that you find a teacher that you trust to guide you.

It should be pointed out, however, that the student needs to take responsibility for his/her own education. While a good teacher will point out things you need to work on and take you to topics that you may not have thought of, it is up to the student to synthesize this and come up with his/her own approach and sound.

The next problem is how to locate a teacher in your area. Some suggestions that have been made include:

  • If there is a music school nearby, call to see if any faculty members give private lessons.
  • Go to performances of local musicians and ask them if they have any suggestions for teachers. They may take students themselves.
  • Check at your local music stores. They will either have instructors that teach out of the store or may have a bulletin board where teachers can post their numbers.

It IS appropriate to post a message to the list to ask if there are good teachers in your area.

A final word. Several people have pointed out that if you decide to study with someone, you are not tied to this person for life. If their teaching style does not meet your needs or match your learning style, feel free to seek out another teacher. You will not be hurting their feelings and, in fact, they may feel the same way. You should, however, give them a month or so to ascertain where you are with your playing and how best to work with you.

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Can learning some classical guitar technique improve my jazz guitar playing?
The answer, according to most posters is "yes", but the reasons they give vary. The following is a short list of reasons of why it might be beneficial to your jazz playing to take some classical guitar (CG) lessons (the assumption here is that you are studying with a good instructor):

  • You will learn how to "properly" hold the guitar. Although there are many fantastic guitarists with terrible technique, it is not a bad idea to see how classical guitarists hold the instrument. The idea that there is a "right way" to hold the guitar is based on the fact that CG players need to play the entire neck of the guitar with facility and through the years they have come up with a posture and placement that allows them to do this. Obviously, there is not just one way that is correct (even among CG players), but you may find, for example, that keeping your thumb behind the neck allows you to move around better than you had before.
  • You will learn to pay attention to "tone". In many CG pieces there are sections in which the player is asked to play near the bridge and others where the strings should be plucked above the soundhole (towards the tuners). This is important to increase the tonal pallette of the guitar and a jazz player (or any player) should be aware of these possibilities.
  • Your ability to read music will improve.
  • The ability to use your fingers or nails will allow you to comp in a more pianistic manner. No matter how fast you strum, when you use a pick you are playing the notes sequentially. When you comp with your fingers, you can pluck each note at exactly the same time and really play chords. Again, this increases the number of different sounds available to you as a guitar player.
  • The increased finger independence of both hands is helpful in chord-melody solo playing. Many people can play solo beautifully with a pick (Johnny Smith is a good example), but again the ability to make large leaps or keep a bassline going by using all of your right hand fingers increases what is possible for you to play.

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I would like to learn jazz at a music school. Is there a shortlist of schools that I should be considering?

The following is a list (in no particular order) of music schools with reasonable jazz programs:

Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA)
University of Miami (Miami, FL)
University of North Texas (Denton, TX)
New England Conservatory (Boston, MA)
Cal Arts (Valencia, CA)
The New School (New York, NY)

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What are some guitar-related teaching resources on the web?

While not guitar-specific, the first place to look if you are new to jazz is Marc Sabatella's excellent Jazz Improvisation Primer. Marc has published a printed version with notated examples, so he asks you not to dowload and print the online version.

More free instructional material is available online at:

See the Links section of Jazz Guitar Online for a more comprehensive listing: shop around until you find the approach that works for you.

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My sight reading needs work. What books are there that are useful?

William Leavitt's "Melodic Rhythms for Guitar", "Reading Studies for Guitar" (this book is suggested for use along with the "A Modern Method for Guitar" volumes also by Leavitt), and "Advanced Reading Studies for Guitar". All published by Berklee College of Music Press.

A book that has been recommended is "Sight to Sound" by the guitarist Leon White (published by Dale Zdenek).

The book "Advanced Rhythms" by Joe Allard, published by Charles Colin, has the benefit that the melodies are unpredictable with lots of leaps.

Also of value are classical oboe, trumpet, clarinet, or flute etudes. Violin music has also been recommended since its range is similar to that of guitar (as written).

For the more adventuresome, cello music has been recommended to help reading in the bass clef.

You can print out the solo generated by the Band-in-a-Box soloist function. While not great music, they are useful for sightreading and by changing the "soloist" you can change the complexity of the solo.

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I have trouble playing "outside". Does anyone have any suggestions for practicing this?

(First off thanks to Tom Lippincott and Marc Sabatella who provided many of the ideas and analyses discussed in this section.) There have been many good suggestions made here for playing "out" and these will be summarized below. However, it is first important to realize that "out" means different things to different people. What is considered "out" has also changed throughout the history of jazz - for example, to many swing players in the 1940's, Charlie Parker would sound "out", but these days probably less so to someone who has listened to Eric Dolphy. The main point is that what sounds "out" has a lot to to do with what you listen to on a regular basis. (As an aside: someone once said that learning to listen to jazz was all about learning to tolerate higher and higher levels of pain!)

Often when "mainstream" players (people not playing atonal music) sound "out" when playing over standard chord sequences they are likely just implying substitute harmonies. This is a large subject and a bit of theory is required to understand the origin of the substitutions. While implying chord substitutions sounds kind of dissonant, many people do not consider it "out", because for them the term really means "making a musical statement that has no relationship to the underlying harmony". In general, experimentation is the key to finding the level of "out-ness" that sounds good to you.

To get an idea of some standard techniques that you can use, there are number of books that address this topic: Mark Levine's "Jazz Theory Book", David Liebman's "A Chromatic Approach to Jazz Harmony and Melody" and David Baker's "Advanced Improvisation" (this latter book has been expanded and broken up into a number of volumes).

As an overview, there seems to be two main approaches to playing "out". The first is to find a note set or scale that is relatively unrelated to the underlying harmony. The second approach is to follow a musical idea where it leads, without trying to fit it to the underlying harmony. One extremely important point that should be stated at the outset: whatever approach you take, you should not only practice sounding "out", but also the transition to coming back "in". Without this essential ingredient, your hip substitution may simply sound wrong. The listener may hear your "out" playing as you losing your place and then jumping back in when you've have regained the form. The whole point to "out" playing is that you want to create some tension that is then resolved and it is important that the resolution part not be overlooked.

The first method noted above is a bit simpler, but requires some theory knowledge or at least a collection of tricks. The key is to find something that sounds good, but is unexpected in that situation. Here are a few ideas that have been suggested:

  • Sideslipping: This involves playing up a halfstep from your current scale. This can mean that you start a phrase in C, for example, continue it in Db, and end it back in C. Or you can play a phrase in C, play it again in Db, and then play it again in C (assuming you have time!). Since the basic idea is that of tension and release, you could play Out - In - Out (which is the example above), Out - In - Out - In, or Out - In - Out (though this is a bit harder to pull off).

  • Superimposition of one harmony over another: For example, one could outline an E7 (or E7b9) chord when the tune's harmony is Am. This is an application of the fact that you can treat any chord as the I (or i) chord and superimpose it's V chord. Another possibility is a Db7 chord over C (which would be the tritone sub for the V of C, a G7). (The Db7 could also be viewed almost as a side slip as well.)

  • Playing ahead of the changes: This is a rather mild form of playing out, but it gives a nice tension/release feel. For example, if the changes are | Dm7 | G7 | Cmaj7 |, start outlining the G7 during the Dm7. The ear will hear the tension during the Dm7 and will recognize the "in-ness" when the G7 comes along. This became common practice in the bop era.

The second method was outlined here by Marc Sabatella. It involves "play(ing) a melody without regard to the changes". In other words, usually one conforms the melody one hears to the underlying changes. In this method, the melody is played irrespective of the changes. The key point here is that the melody or pattern must be sufficiently strong that the listener can follow the logic of what is being played.

Here is a quote from Marc that summarizes up his take on playing "out": "This to me is what playing "out" is about: playing lines that make sense *regardless* of the changes, not trying to find lines that are outside the particular changes at hand."

"It's like, if someone gave you a coloring book with a picture of a horse and you wanted to draw outside the lines, you could add a fifth leg or make the torso jagged, or something like that. That would be like trying to find a particular scale to get you outside the lines. On the other hand, you could ignore the lines completely and draw a butterfly. This is what I am suggesting."

One simple suggestion for seeing how the logic of the line can make what you are playing seem "out", but ok. Solo over blues changes and over the last 2 bars play a descending chromatic line that resolves to whatever you were using for the rest of the F blues. This will sound good not because what you are doing had anything to do with the turnaround changes, but because the line was strong and logical.

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Where can I find transcriptions and exercises in TAB?

While it is possible to get around on the guitar using only TAB, the majority of people on this newsgroup feel that the ability to read is important. The feeling is that TAB is limiting as very little music literature is published in TAB.

One important distinction to make in the reading debate is the difference between being able to "read" as opposed to "sight read". "Reading" means that, given a page from a fakebook you can generate something that sounds like the tune in question in a reasonable period of time. "Sight Reading" usually means that you are on a gig, and the leader hands you some music, starts the count off and expects you to play it correctly the first time. These are different skills and though sight reading requires constant work (see the question on sight reading material), learning to read is relatively straightforward, but requires patience.

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What does the chord symbol 7alt mean, and why isn't it in my chord book?

Unlike other chord symbols, 7alt stands for a family of chords - that's why you won't find a diagram for that symbol in chord books. Specifically, a 7alt chord is a 7th with a sharpened or flattened 5th and/or 9th. Use the variant that fits best melodically and harmonically.

One reason for not specifying exactly what chord to play is that soloists use the chord symbols to suggest what scale to use at that point, and the alt symbol is sufficient for that purpose - see the recommended books and online tutorials for more information. But transcriptions in fakebooks are far from perfect anyway, it could be that the transcriber couldn't define it any closer than that, or was just in a hurry. Writing 7alt instead of 7 may be significant, but it may not be - use your ears and make your own decision.

A few other potentially misleading chord symbols:

and 7 look as though they should mean a dimished triad and a diminished 7th respectively, in fact both denote a diminished 7th.
+ and add are synonymous for everybody except musicians. add9 means a major triad with the 9th added, whereas +9 means a 9th chord built on an augmented triad.
+11 is an exception to the above rule, denotes an 11th chord built on a major triad but with the 11th sharpened.

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What is a tritone substitution?

Tritone substitution involves substituting for one dominant 7th chord another dominant 7th chord whose root is a tritone away from the original. The process is easiest to see with a few examples:

In the key of C:
|G7 / C / | becomes |Db7 / C /|

As another example, in the key of Gb:
|Db7 / Gb / | becomes |G7 / Gb / |

Another reason why this is called tritone substitution is because both chords have common tones that create a tritone interval between their 3rd and 7th:
G7 contains a tritone between B (3rd) and F (7th).
Db7 contains a tritone between F (3rd) and Cb (7th).
(Note that Cb is enharmonically equivalent to B.)

The proper classical resolution of the tritone interval involves contrary motion, i.e. one note goes up the other goes down. In G7 to C ... the B on the G7 chord moves up to C on the C chord, the F on the G7 chord moves down to E on the C chord. In Db7 to C ... the Cb moves up to C (although a classical musician would call this note B, i.e. the #6 of a "Db augmented 6th" chord) and the F falls to E. (What classical musicians refer to as "augmented 6th chords" we jazzers call tritone substitutes.) So the two chords can easily fulfill the same dominant harmonic function.

In the key of C many melodies that fit G7 will also work with Db7.
In the key of Gb many melodies that fit Db7 will also work with G7.
In many ways the chords are interchangeable.

Using the general principle that a dom7 chord can often be preceeded by it's own related IIm7 chord some important extrapolations of this are:

IIm7  V7  I

Dm7   G7  C


     Sub             Sub                  Sub         

IIm7 V7   I    or   IIm7  V7  I     or    IIm7   V7  I

Dm7  Db7  C         Abm7  Db7 C           Abm7   G7  C

Consider this also:

G7(9 #11 13) is enharmonically equivalent to Db7alt/G
Db7(9 #11 13) is enharmonically equivalent to G7alt/Db

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How do I get the "Jazz Tone"?

The classic jazz guitar sound is often described with words like "rich", "warm", "dark" etc. It isn't just a matter of having the right guitar or amp, or buying the right strings, or turning your tone or volume knobs to such and such a number, but the interaction of all of these things, plus your playing technique, the venue you're playing in, and a whole host of other things. (Not the least of which is your own idea of what the jazz tone sounds like!)

Guitar - See "What kind of guitar do I need to play jazz?" in this FAQ.

Amp - See "I'm looking for an amp to give me the jazz tone. What should I buy?" in this FAQ.

Strings - Before you go tweaking knobs, look at your strings. Most new guitars - even ones that "look like" jazz guitars (in other words, wide, deep archtops) - usually come with relatively light gauge strings. Used guitars often belonged last to rockers or blues players who were more interested in sustain and string bending than getting a jazz tone, and these are often strung with very light gauge strings, too. A large percentage (I'm tempted to even say "most") jazz guitarists use medium to heavy gauge (12s or higher) flatwound strings. Brands often mentioned in this newsgroup are D'Addario Chromes, Thomastik-Infeld Jazz Swings, and La Bella Black Nylon Tapewounds. Other slightly brighter strings that still fall into the "jazz string" camp are D'Addario Half Rounds and Thomastik-Infeld Jazz Bebops (0.012 for lowest string) or Swing (0.011 for lowest). These brands (and other medium to heavy gauge strings) are often difficult to find in local stores, but are available on the internet from Big City String Company, Just Strings, Baltic Coast Music, and Mostly Strings. (Note that you may need to adjust your truss rod and bridge if you change string gauges!)

Pickups - Most of the time, most jazz guitarists use their neck pickup only (In fact, the "purist's" jazz guitar - a wide, deep, hollow body - wouldn't even have a bridge pickup, and the neck pickup would probably be mounted on the pickguard so there's no hole routed in the top). The "hot" pickups that rockers like are not particularly well suited to producing the jazz tone. The "standard" jazz pickup (if there is such a thing) is the Gibson PAF. Another popular replacement pickup is Seymour Duncan's Seth Lover pickup. But before you go spending major money on pickup replacements, try tweaking your controls. See below.

Amp controls - The jazz tone is a very mid-rangey sound. Keep in mind that a general rule of using tone controls is that it's usually better to use them to cut rather than to boost. At the amp, try turning down the treble knob. If your sound is too "muddy" or "boomy," try turning down the bass control as well.

Guitar controls - Likewise, turning down the guitar's tone control can often help achieve the jazz tone. Some guitars' tone controls seem to be too sensitive or to cut too deeply for jazz applications. This can often be remedied by changing the tone control pots and/or capacitors. I won't go into this here, but if you're comfortable with a soldering iron, it's not particularly difficult or expensive. And if you don't like the change, it's easy and inexpensive to change them back!

Picks - Yep, even picks are part of the jazz tone! Pick discussions come up often in this newsgroup. "Typical" jazz players "usually" (broad, sweeping generalizations, once again) prefer picks that are thick, heavy, and rounded rather than thin, light, or pointed. Some players (Pat Metheny, for example) even use the side of a pick rather than the point to get that smooth attack that's part of the jazz tone. Picks are cheap - experiment!

Effects - The jazz tone usually has a bit of reverb and chorus, and little else. Many jazz guitarists just use the effects built in to their amps, since reverb is almost always part of most guitar amps. Many of the guitar amps being marketed specifically for jazz also include chorus - for instance the Roland JC ("Jazz Chorus") line. Distortion, fuzz, wah-wah, etc. are definitely not part of the jazz tone!

Exceptions - In summary, a typical jazz guitar setup might be something like this: A wide, full-depth archtop guitar with a neck pickup (preferably a floating one, mounted on the pickguard), strung with 13 gauge or heavier, flatwound strings, playing through a full-range, solid-state amp with just a touch of reverb and chorus, with the treble turned down a bit (and maybe the bass), played with a heavy pick. Obviously, there are a lot of jazz players who depart from this description in one or more - or maybe even ALL! - of the above areas. (Did someone say nylon strings? Fingernails? Stratocasters?)

However, your idea of a "classic jazz guitar sound" may be completely different from anyone else's. (There's a big difference between Django Reinhardt and John Scofield!) By completely ignoring any of the advice above, or by going in opposite directions in different areas, you might be able to get exactly the sound you're looking for. And another player playing exactly the same setup might get a totally different sound, just because of differences in technique.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that most of your sound comes from YOU. Joe Pass still sounded like Joe Pass no matter what guitar he was playing.

For another point of view on this subject, follow this link to the wholenote website. This is a practical guide to the gear and the minset needed to achieve your "sound".

Editor's Note: There has been some discussion about whether or not the chorus effect should be mentioned in the same breath as the "classic jazz tone" (CJT). This effect was popularized by Pat Metheny, John Scofield and others in the 1980's, but some argue that it now sounds dated. Certainly, it was not used by artists such as Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, or Joe Pass on their classic albums. The guidelines posted above are an attempt more to characterize the elements that go into producing the CJT and give some examples, rather than a strict perscription.

To give some idea of the range of tones all considered to be within the CJT, think of Grant Green and Jim Hall. Green favored a tone with lots of treble, while Hall has a darker, flatter sound. Also note that while both changed guitars during their careers, their basic sound remained roughly the same.

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What kind of guitar do I need to play jazz?

You can play jazz on any kind of guitar. For example, most Brazillian guitar music is played on nylon-stringed guitars, but Gene Bertoncini uses them for straight-ahead jazz as well. Ed Bickert plays a Telecaster. Lenny Breau played a custom 7-string nylon string (with an extra high A string instead of the more common extra low A string). Larry Coryell uses a Steve Grimes flattop on "Private Concert". Pat Metheny switches between electric, acoustic and classical guitars on his recent duo with Jim Hall and other albums. So, if you're moving into jazz guitar after playing other styles, don't feel obliged to replace your current guitar if you're happy with it.

Having said that, most jazz guitarists prefer archtops, for both historical and aesthetic reasons. Before amplification, guitarists in jazz combos valued the volume provided by large-bodied acoustic archtops with their cello-like construction: the first electric guitars gained acceptance in this market by offering the traditional look and feel. These archtops have the same carved, solid wood top and hollow body construction as their acoustic predecessors, with a floating pickup to allow the top to resonate freely, so they're still good as acoustic guitars. As example of this sound, Bucky Pizzarelli use minimal volume to "comp" behind soloists. This allows him to get a more "pitched-percussion" acoustic sound rather than a piano-like sound. Later designs put more emphasis on plugged-in tone, with routed pickups and less resonant, laminated (plywood) tops that reduce feedback at the expense of unplugged tone and volume. But the acoustic qualities still play a big role in the amplified sound, so this kind of guitar should sound good acoustically, even if it's not loud enough to actually perform unplugged. Jim Hall also uses the acoustic capabilites of his guitar by using minimal volume when comping, even though his guitar has a routed pickup (granted, the guitar is a D'Aquisto).

Plugged in, hollow-body archtops sound different to solid-body electrics: woodier, mellower, airier... hard to describe, but for many it's simply the "jazz tone", the right sound for playing jazz. And there are other reasons why you may decide to get an archtop if you're moving to jazz. Maybe the appearance - they're certainly very beautiful instruments. Maybe you feel you'll have more street credibility at jam sessions with an archtop. Or maybe you just can't resist the word "Gibson" on the headstock. These sort of emotional reasons are OK - if you're so much in love with your guitar that you can't walk past it without picking it up and playing a few bars, that's certainly a good thing.

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I'm looking for a budget archtop. What are my choices?

Here are some entry-level archtops that have been recommended by RMMGJ contributors. Click on a manufacturer's name to go to their web site for detailed specs. Expect to pay between $500 and $800 new for these guitars (U.S. street price - prices in Europe are comparable, maybe slightly higher). General comments on archtops in this price category: they all have laminate tops, so they're intended to be played plugged in. Acoustic volume is reported to be fine for practice. Many contributors complain about the light-gauge strings these guitars come with, fit heavier strings for better tone. Quality is variable - try to compare several of each model, check for sound and finish quality.

Further up-market: Heritage H-550, H-575 and Eagle are highly regarded. The latter two have solid wood tops, and are considered as excellent value. The Gibson ES-175, first introduced in 1949, is the single most popular choice amongst jazz guitarists and the current version still a very fine instrument. The current street price of an ES-175 can range from a low of $2100 (Vintage Sunburst and much shopping around) to ~$3000 (expect to pay ~$500 more for a blonde). For comparison, custom-built archtops with hand-carved solid wood tops are available from the less famous luthiers for as little as $2000 new. If you want a Gibson, the ES-165 Herb Ellis is a lower priced alternative, same as the ES-175 but with a single pickup. Also frequently recommended in the $1000-$1500 range: Guild X-150 Savoy and X-170 Manhattan, Ibanez GB-10 George Benson, Yamaha AEX1500 and AES1500.

There is a comprehensive Product Review Database with user comments on these and other guitars at Harmony Central.

Buying used is a good option - most musicians take good care of their instruments, and a "played in" used guitar offers some security against slowly manifesting structural defects. Rule-of-thumb used price is 50% - 75% of the new price, except where collector's value plays a role - then the sky's the limit. In addition to the instruments already listed, there are some out-of-production models to look out for. For example, the Washburn J10 Orleans has been highly recommended on the newsgroup and can be found used for about $750. Ibanez archtops from the 70's were much more exact replicas of Gibsons than today's copyright law allows. Epiphone Zeniths from the 40's and 50's have solid carved tops, and offer good tone and playability at a price of $400-$750.

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I'm interested in buying a telecaster. Which one is best for jazz?

Some telecaster models that have been recommended in the past include (all are Fender models unless indicated):
  • 1952 Reissue
  • American FAT
  • ASAT Deluxe (G&L)
  • 1972 Custom (has a Seth-Lover-designed humbucker in the neck position)
  • Pro Tone FAT (Squire, no longer manufactured, but are available used)
  • American Series (NOT the American Standard Series, which is now discontinued)(the American series is supposedly already routed for a humbucker)
  • Plus (made from 1989-1995).
It should be noted that the FAT telecasters were NOT preferred by some because the alder bodies and pickups that were "overwound" gave them a sound that was "too dark" or too "electronic" sounding.

Now, on to the choice of wood: Basically, there are two choices, alder and ash. The differences between the two was summed up in this way: "Generally speaking, ash gives a tighter, brighter sound; alder gives a softer, warmer sound. But woods vary. And once you throw pickups, strings and amps into the equation, you'll find that you can probably get a fine sound out of either one. You really need to go out and play both -- and play more than one example of each, if possible. Sometimes the difference between two particular guitars can be hard to discern, other times it can be dramatic." However, one person thought that sitcking with a maple neck, an ash body and a neck humbucker gave an extremely versatile instrument.

It is usually recommended that heavier strings be used, either 11's or 12's.

After purchasing a telecaster, the question of replacing the stock pickups is invariably raised. Some recomendations were:
  • Seymour Duncan Nashville Studio (not a humbucker, a little dark, but very quiet)
  • Harmonic Design (no models given)
  • Seymour Duncan '59 SH-1 in the neck position
  • Seymour Duncan Vintage Stacked
  • Joe Barden (no model given)
  • Seymour Duncan Jazz (though its not very warm, it has a clear sound that some like)
  • Have the stock pickup rewound by Kent Armstrong or Lindy Fralin
  • Blue Lace Sensor in the neck and Red Dually Lace Sensor in the bridge

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I'm looking for an amp to give me the "Jazz Tone". What should I buy?

Most jazz guitar players are looking for a clean-sounding amp that includes the possibility of using reverb and/or a bit of chorus. [Distortion usually not a necessity, though we refer you to the "jazz tone" section of the FAQ for some thoughts on that.] The type of gig will dictate the number of watts needed, a gig in a small, quiet restaurant may only need a 80-100 watt amp, but one in a large, crowded bar may need something on the order of 200 watts. However, sentiments such as "it's pretty loud for an 80 watt amp" are common so it is best to try many different amps before deciding that you really need the highest powered amp you can find.

It should be noted here, however, that some people prefer a modular set up including a high wattage solid-state amp with plenty of power (over 200 watts) on the theory that they then have plenty of clean headroom (roughly, how much you can increase your volume before the amp distorts). For example, Pat Metheny uses a Digitech preamp into two power amps, an Ashly Mosfet 200 watt amp to power his 4x10 cab, and a Crest 6001, 400 watt amp to power his 18-inch cabinets. The high wattage of a power amp gives a nice clean sound with lots of headroom, and it reduces feedback problems.

An interesting fact about wattage and volume is that in order to double the volume of an amp in relative terms of watts, you need to multiply the wattage by ten (because human sound perception is logarithmic). For example, to double the volume of a 100 watt amp, you would theoretically have to go with 1000 watts. You will not actually double your volume by going from a 50 watt amp to a 100 watt amp.

It is also a good idea not to limit your search for the perfect amp only to guitar amps. You may find that you like the sound of your guitar played through a keyboard amp, for example. Often these are more balanced and wider-ranged amps. Both Evans and Webb amps were initially made for instruments other than guitars (pedal steel guitar and accordians, respectively), but they have since been "revoiced" to better achieve a jazz tone.

Another suggestion is to look into a separate head (the amp part) and cabinet (the speaker part). Some heads that have been recommended in this group are the Polytone MegaBrain, the Evans GH-200, and a head made by Walter Wood. A cabinet maker that has gotten praise both in the group and the jazz-guitar press is Rich Raezer. Recommended cabinets for jazz include his Raezer's Edge Stealth 12, Stealth 10, or Twin 8 (the number refers to the size of the speaker in inches). Click here for a link to his site. He also has "extended range" cabinets with a tweeter that can be dialed in and out.

It is important to "test-drive" amps using YOUR guitar, NOT one that you've borrowed from the store. Even if they happen to have the same model guitar as you do - bring your own. Also see if you can borrow the amp for a couple of days (be prepared to put down a small deposit or even buy the amp outright and then return it). Try it at home where you practice, in a small space, and in a large space. Check to see if it projects well, if it distorts at some volume, or if the sound changes in some way when the amp is at extreme volumes (both high and low). If the store won't let you borrow it, request a closed room to try out the amp (so the person mangling "Smoke on the Water" in the next aisle won't interfere with your evaluation). Make sure to inquire into the stores return policy.

The following is a short list of amps that have been used by jazz guitarists (this will eventually be broken up into recommendations in different price ranges):
  • Polytone Minibrute IV
    Probably the most frequently recommended "jazz" amp, and reasonably priced (around $450 new). Many swear by them since they do not seem to add much color to the guitar tone (though some have complained that they are somewhat "nasally"). In addition they are reasonably light.

  • Fender Twin Reverb
    These have gone through some wiring changes in their production history, the early blackface models are most prized by jazz guitarists, and can fetch $1500+. Later silverface models cost $500 to $650: if you see one cheaper, it's probably the most recent and least desirable version. The current "reissue" sells for around $800.

  • Roland JC120
    Click here for their website. These have been lauded as having a good, clean sound, but others have complained about their high hiss. Around $750 new. Also comes in an 2 x 10" speaker, 80 Watt model (named, oddly enough, the JC-90).

  • SWR California Blonde
    Click here for their website. $1099 (retail).

  • Walter Wood
    All custom made, prices from $900 to $2000 depending on options. His address is: Walter Woods, 78395 Sterling Lane, Palm Desert, CA 92211 (ph)760.772.7952

  • Evans
    These are handmade amps and are very clean sounding. They are available in a few stores, but they are mostly mail order. Since their introduction, the models have changed frequently so it is best to call the company to see what the current offerings are or click here for their website.

  • Acoustic Image
    This is a relatively new head on the scene. The company's focus was originally on producing amplification equipment for the acoustic bass, but has branched out into other instruments. Their head is called the "Clarus" and it is 120 watts into 8 ohms (the usual resistance of a cabinet). The selling point for the Clarus is that the amplification is very flat meaning that it should better keep the acoustic quality of the instrument without shaping the tone. More information can be found at this link.

Check out the Product Review Database at Harmony Central for more information and user comments.

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What are the differences between tube amps and solid-state amps? Which should I buy?

This is a question that gets asked in various forms quite regularly. The short answer is that each seems to have their advantages and disadvantages, in terms of portability, reliability and sound. As with any piece of musical equipment, the ideal thing is to try several amps of each type and decide for yourself which camp you belong to, but comments on both sides of the issue have been summarized here to help guide you in your own testing.

First, a little history: early jazz guitarists necessarily used tubes (or "valves" as our members in the UK like to say) to amplify the signals from their guitars' pickups. They had no choice since transistors had not been invented.

One of the first guitarists to use amplification, Charlie Christian, used an EH-150 (EH, for "Electric Hawaiian") Gibson amplifier for much of the 1930's. The EH-150 featured 6 tubes, produced 15 watts and drove a 10-inch speaker. As a side note: the $150 price included an ES-150 guitar! Christian also used an EH-185 Gibson amp that used 7 tubes to produce 18 watts into a 12 inch speaker that could be separated from the amplifier section.

Tube amplifier design hit its zenith in the 1960s with the more powerful amplifiers developed by Fender, Marshall, Ampeg and others. Fender's Twin Reverb and the Deluxe Reverb models found particular favor with jazz guitarists because of those amps' ability to produce a clean "classic jazz tone", at high volume, without significant audible distortion.

When transistors first came into popular use in the late 1950's, most viewed them as a means to "miniaturize" existing electronic products. Probably the ubiquitous recollection of witnesses to the popular advent of solid-state technology was a battery-powered AM radio that could be held in one hand. Few recall the sound quality, probably because AM radio still doesn't sound all that good, due to shortcomings of its signal broadcast format.

Soon, guitar amplifier manufacturers developed solid-state designs to take advantage of the ability to produce high power, in a compact and light package. Unfortunately, those early solid-state designs did more to harm than good to the reputation of transistors as musical amplification devices. Without exception, the first designs produced a hard-edged tone, at almost any sound level. When input or output levels were pushed to any degree the tone became downright nasty. This contrasted with tube design's natural tendency to distort by producing pleasant sounding even-order harmonics.

Fortunately for solid-state proponents, several developers kept working on designs that met the demands of their niche constituents; steel guitar players, bass players and accordion players. Jimmy Webb and Jim Evans produced 200+ watt solid-state amplifiers aimed at steel guitar players and Walter Woods produced small, seven-pound amps that produced 100 to 1,200 watts, to meet the demands of bass players. An accordion player that needed a small, light combo that could produce the full range of his instrument founded Polytone. Roland made solid-state amps for electric keyboards. Lately, a company named Acoustic Image has developed a 5 pound, 300 watt "Class D" solid-state amp, aimed at upright bass players, but the amp quickly being adopted by jazz guitarists.

As for which is "best" for producing the "classic jazz tone" there remain two very vocal camps. Each seems to think it knows what's best and there's not a lot of movement between the camps. Periodically, flame wars break out (this being a rather mature and civil group, the term "flame" is perhaps not apropos) when the topic comes up. Some of the more common comments follow:

Tube Camp:
  • My one and only gigging amp is a Fender Deluxe Reverb. I love the way tubes ever so slightly compress your sound, when cranked up a little bit.
  • oh yeah, I loved my Princeton Reverb (65) with my Andersen...real Wes sounding.
  • I've used my Fender Pro Junior exclusively on probably 500 gigs in the 2 years I've owned it. I crave the dynamic response of tubes and this tiny amp has it plus a smooth, focused sound that really cuts through a band even with the darkest of tones and a little of that intangible tube 'burn'. What else do you want?!!
  • There's a certain "magic" with tube amps that many really enjoy. Although the Classic Jazz Tone is not heavily distorted, in fact a tube amp that's right on the cusp of distortion has additional tonal complexities and mid-range harmonic overtones that can be very attractive.

Some tube advocates will say that they like the slight compression that tubes add, while others will say almost the opposite, that they like the dynamics that tubes impart. Internally, both camps seem to argue about this attribute.

Whatever the case, there's no denying that there is some magic, when the mojo is working, that's hard to achieve by any other means.

Many, but not all, in the tube camp complain that solid-state guitar amps are too "hi-fi", or too dry, or lack character, etc.

Solid-state Camp
  • I've had an Evans AE200 8/6 for about four months which replaced my fender black faced deluxe. (Killed it dead, really)
  • I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was able to get a pretty good approximation of my standard jazz sound on the Vibro-King with the (Evans) AE200.
  • The MBII colors the sound much less, has more punch, and seems to respond faster (than his '65 Deluxe Reissue). It's so fast you don't even need to play all the notes sometimes :-)
  • Solid-state amps give you a more "accurate" less colored sound
  • This doesn't come easy for me.... knows I'm a die-hard 60s Fender twin aficionado, the clarity of the Evans, Polytone + Raezer Edge (ed. note: the latter is a make of cabinet), and Walter Woods, in my opinion is on par or superior to the best vintage tube amps of the late 50's/60's.
  • I'm just looking for an amp that faithfully reproduces my acoustic archtop's tone at a volume the audience will be able to hear. Coloration of any kind is not desirable.
  • So, to top it all off, for low weight, high power, and even, clean tone I prefer a Polytone.
  • Johnny (Smith) had an amp (solid-state) designed and built... It is an absolutely flat amp like the Clarus which has received so much attention here lately. Johnny also carried a Walter Woods as a backup amp.
Solid-state advocates like to be in control of their tone at all volumes. Jimmy Bruno and Clay Moore, two recording artists that post to rmmgj, have stated that they don't want tubes adding overtones and changing the dynamics of their playing. Like other advocates, they don't like to have to play in the "sweet spot" of their amps, instead, they want the amp to sound the same, whether it's at 2 or 11. Many of the converts from tubes to solid-state cite the reduced weight of their rigs being a big factor in their decision to switch from tubes.

Final Decision/Summary:

As with everything, there is no "best" only that which appeals to your ears. For those who do not like their sound "colored" by the amp and want a lightweight amp, solid-state amps are probably the best bet. For those who like some warmth and shape to their sounds and don't mind a heavy amp, tube amps would be a good place to start. As always: Take your guitar along and listen to as many amps as you can and, in the end, let your ears choose for you.

(Thanks for David Stephens who took the time to collect the opinions of those in rmmgj and write the succinct history of the tube vs. solid-state debate.)

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How does guitarist X get that sound? What is his/her rig?

With the caveat that you will most likely still sound like yourself even though you play the actual guitar that Wes played at the Half Note, here is a listing of rigs for some well known jazz guitarists. Please email us with corrections or updates.

  • Wes Montgomery: Gibson L5 (full sized archtop w/carved top, top mounted pickups) with tone knob rolled off (to varying degrees) through Fender type tube combo amp. Most likely heavy flat wound heavy strings. Also important to his tone is the fact that he played with his thumb (the "meat", not the nail), rather than with a pick.
  • Jim Hall: Gibson ES175 with tone knob rolled back through small Gibson tube amp. (This is his older rig from the 50's through 70's or so) Currently he plays a D'Aquisto with light gauge strings (0.010?) and uses many different types of picks to get different sounds. Has been known to use an effects pedal. Is absolutely not into equipment.
  • Joe Pass ES175 through Polytone or similar small combo amp. Liked extremely heavy strings. The essence of simplicity.
  • "the modern traditionalists": exemplified by people like Jimmy Bruno and Howard Alden. Handmade archtop (carved top, floating pickup) through "boutique" solid state amp such as Evans, Walter Woods, Kolbe, etc. String gauges are typically use heavy and their tone is somewhat brighter tone Hall or Metheney.
  • "modern traditionalist players that play(ed) solid body guitars": Examples, Lenny Breau, Ted Greene, Ed Bickert. Bickert and Greene both play Telecasters. Usually humbucking pickups are used in the neck position and the tone knob is typically rolled off a little. These guitarists play with a very clean tone by either using solid state amps or playing quietly. They also tend to be more "pianistic" in their approach to the instrument and take advantage of the solid body's extra sustain and typically easier playability. Some play mostly or even strictly fingerstyle.
  • John Scofield: Ibanez ES335 copy, RAT distortion pedal (with the amount of distortion set fairly low), Boss Chorus, light guage strings. "Amp du jour" (actually, two amps in stereo from the chorus). He has stated at clinics that part of the reason for using the pedals is to get some consistency in sound since he ends up having to play through a lot of differnt amps on tour. Note also that his rig has changed somewhat recently (he lost the chorus and is using heavier strings) but the above is the "classic" Scofield rig.
  • Bill Frisell: (once again, "classic" Frisell, his recent rig has changed); Klein solid body guitar (or Gibson SG) with bridge humbucking pickup, tone usually NOT rolled off. TC electronic compressor, RAT distortion, volume pedal, Boss digital delay (for ambience), Electro Harmonix 16 Second Delay (for loops), Alesis microverb, "amp du jour" (often in stereo from the stereo out of the microverb). He has stated in interviews that he is going for Jim Hall's style with Jimi Hendrix' sound.
  • Pat Metheny: Because Pat's sound has incorporated less use of chorus and reverb in recent years, it is not entirely clear if he is still using the same setup today as in years past. Also he often seems to use a different rig on sideman gigs than on his own albums. However, as of 1998, he was still using the following setup on the road to achieve his trademark chorused sound. First the signal is routed from the guitar into a digital delay to achieve some slap echo. It then goes into a Digitech GSP 2101 preamp. After the preamp, the signal is split into three separate channels. One channel remains clean and runs into an Ashly Mosfet 200 power amp where it is then routed out to a 4x10 cabinet containing JBL speakers. The other two channels are individually chorused through the use of two separate Lexicon Prime Time digital delay units. These are very old, large out-of-production units. One Prime Time is set for a delay of about 14 milliseconds, while the other is set for 26 milliseconds The delays are modulated and use a sine wave form to achieve the chorus effect. The outputs of the two delay units are then sent into a stereo Crest 6001 power amp. The chorused channels remain discrete and are then run out to separate 18 inch cabinets, most likely loaded with EV speakers. The thickness of the chorused sound results from the three sources mixing in the air. It should be noted that with the Digitech GSP series multi-effects preamps, it is possible to run a stereo rig with one channel clean, one channel chorused, and reverb on both, all with just the one unit. However, you will need to program in your own algorithm in order to do this.

    Pat has used a variety of acoustic guitars over the years. Earlier on he seemed to favor Guilds. Later on, he became partial to Manzers, (visit her website) - steel and nylon strings. He has even used a fretless nylon also made by Linda Manzer. He also uses an Ovation nylon, and a Sadowsky solidbody nylon-stringed guitar.

    His recent jazz rig seems to be his ES175 or Ibanez Pat Metheny model (with tone rolled off) into an amp with no effects (even reverb). He seems to prefer a dark, "Jim Hall"-type of sound.
  • Mike Stern: Telecaster copy with neck humbucker through Yamaha SPX90 for chorus effect, Boss delay for ambience, Boss distortion. Runs in stereo from the SPX90 to: Pearce head, GK cabinet and JBL 10's speakers and an old Yamaha solid state 2x12 combo amp. He never uses reverb, only the delay.

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How can I reduce feedback?

There are a number of ways to reduce feedback. The factors that contribute to feedback fall into a few categories: 1) type of guitar, 2) spatial relationship of the guitar to the amp, and 3) volume. Here is a short list of things you can do to reduce feedback:
  • Play a solid-body guitar. Feedback occurs when the sound you (or others) are making causes your guitar to vibrate and these are picked up by your amplification system and amplified in the amplifier. Which causes even more vibrations etc. etc. Hollow body, carved top guitars with floating pickups are the most sensitive to this since they are built and configured to allow the top to vibrate as freely as possible (thus maximizing the acoustic tone), next in line are plywood hollow body guitars with built-in pickups, and finally solid body guitars. Solid body guitars are more feedback resistant since it's harder for the sound to vibrate the block of wood enough to produce feedback.

  • Sit with your back to your amp and have the amp over your left shoulder. This position uses your body as a shield between your pickups and the amp.

  • Don't play so loud.

  • Stay as far away from the amp as possible.

  • use the side of your picking hand palm to mute the strings as you play.

  • Stuff your guitar with: balloons, cotton (a possible source that was suggested was an upholstery shop), socks, etc. etc.

  • Cut a piece of high density foam slightly longer and wider than your F holes and deeper than your guitar. Compress and feed in through F holes. Position under F hole. Adding flat black rubber hides the foam.

  • Tape over the f holes with clear packing tape or get someone to make you some custom plugs.

  • Use an amp with a closed back speaker cabinet.

  • Get an amp with a parametric notch filter/equalizer so you can reduce the frequencies that are causing the feedback.

  • Put the amp on a stand so it's off the floor.

  • Reduce the amount of bass you have dialed in on your amp.

  • One important, though not the only, cause of feedback is a phenomenon known as pickup microphonics. I'm not a technically trained person, so check this off with someone who knows more. But it seems that anything in the pickup itself that can vibrate can cause it to function like a microphone, and feedback is greatly reduced when the innards of the pickup are immobilized. "Potting" is the most common, and the easiest remedy. This involves filling the pickup cover with epoxy and sinking the coils into the material, which then hardens. Of course, once you pot a pickup, you can't alter it's wiring in any way. Whatever leads you have coming out, that's what you're stuck with. If you look at a Benedetto pickup closely, you'll see that it's really a big block of a kind of epoxy-like composite. When I had a guitar with a Benedetto pickup installed, you could tap with your fingernail on the pickup and nothing at all would come through the amp. Most guitars that feed back a lot will register that fingernail tap very definitely. "Fusing" is more involved, and is sometimes called coil saturation. Though similar to potting, (and sometimes confused with it) coil saturation involves impregnating the coils themselves with a substance that will bond--often it is some kind of wax. A quick source on this is "Guitar Electronics for Musicians," by Donald Brosnac, pages 68-69. (thanks to Lawson Stone for this post)

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What (pick a #) tunes should I know if I want to participate in a jam session?

This is an unalphabetized list of tunes commonly called at jam sessions. Some are standards and some are "jazz standards". A separate list of standards is given below. The choice of tunes in a jam session are often limited to "Real Book tunes", i.e., tunes that are in the illegal fakebook known as the Real Book. While generally accurate and a big improvement over existing fakebooks at the time, the Real Book has some idiosyncracies and errors that have now become the de facto structure or changes of the tune. Some of these are noted below.
  • Autumn Leaves
  • Green Dolphin Street (usually played in C, the wrong key (should be Eb), but it's in that key in the Real Book, so....)
  • Have You Met Miss Jones
  • So What
  • All Blues
  • Milestones
  • There Is No Greater Love
  • There Will Never Be Another You
  • Four
  • Satin Doll
  • Well You Needn't (played with the incorrect bridge, which is what appears in the Real Book)
  • A Foggy Day
  • I Love You
  • I'll Remember April
  • In Your Own Sweet Way
  • Summertime
  • All The Things You Are
  • Alone Together
  • Straight No Chaser (usually played in incorrect key of F instead of Bb)
  • Tenor Madness
  • Confirmation
  • It's You Or No One
  • Out of Nowhere
  • Recordame
  • Solar
  • Stella By Starlight
  • Mr. PC
  • Take The A Train
  • The Girl From Ipanema
  • What Is This Thing Called Love?
  • Yardbird Suite
  • Yesterdays
  • You Stepped Out Of A Dream
  • Little Sunflower
  • In Your Own Sweet Way
  • Rhythm changes or any number of bop heads based on it
  • Blue Bossa
  • Lady Bird

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What are some essential standards that I should know?

This list is in alphabetical order and the usual key is listed in parentheses afterwards. This list is necessarily incomplete for brevity's sake and inclusion of a particular tune on the list is also arguable. However, these tunes are a good place to start and comprise a reasonable repertoire of standards. Note that these are STANDARDS, i.e., usually show or pop tunes that have made it into the jazz canon. "Jazz standards" such as "Four" or "Blue Bossa" are not included and may have their own list someday. See also the list of typical jam session tunes.

  • Autumn Leaves (Gm)
  • All the Things You Are (Ab)
  • Body and Soul
  • Caravan
  • Cherokee (Bb)
  • Girl From Ipanema
  • How High the Moon (G)
  • Honeysuckle Rose (F)
  • I'll Remember April
  • In a Sentimental Mood
  • Just Friends (F)
  • Like Someone in Love
  • Misty
  • My Funny Valentine
  • On Green Dolphin Street
  • Satin Doll (C)
  • Stella by Starlight
  • Summertime
  • Take the "A" Train (C)
  • There is No Greater Love (Bb)
  • There Will Never Be Another You (Eb)
  • You Stepped Out of a Dream

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Where can I find transcriptions of (insert name here) on the Web?

While it is sometimes possible to find transcriptions for free on the Web, the general feeling is that you get what you pay for. It has been highly recommended that you transcribe solos/fragments that you like yourself as this will not only develop your ears, but you will also have a much better feel for the phrasing. This latter point should not be underestimated. This is why working through printed transcriptions without listening to the recording from which it came is of minimal help (unless you are working on sight reading - see the question above for other sight-reading material).

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What is the Real Book? Where can I get one?

The Real Book is a fakebook (a collection of tunes with just the melody and chord changes written out) that was produced in the 60's (?) by some students at Berklee College of Music in Boston. It's main advance was to collect commonly played tunes (at the time) with the correct changes. The songs were usually transcribed off of a particular recording and therefore the changes and key may be somewhat idiosyncratic. In addition, some of the changes are wrong and sections to particular tunes are missing. Newer versions have correction sheets in the front. At the moment there are three volumes (that I know of) and all are worth owning, though the third volume has the reputation of being somewhat less accurate than the first two. They are, however, illegal, since no royalties are being paid. They are relatively easy to come by, but you usually have to know someone to get one. Most people will not hand one out to someone they do not know since, again, the book is illegal. Lately, there has been a music store on the Web advertising them so it should be possible to do a web search or look in

A set of more accurate and in general, better, books are published by Chuck Sher called the New Real Book series. There are also three volumes of the NRB's. The Sher Music Home Page has a handy search feature to find which volume has the tune you're looking for.

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What are the changes to "Satin Doll" or other common jazz tunes?

While I won't write them out here, the purpose of this question is actually to get to state that changes to common tunes are in fake books that are easily available. These books are relatively cheap (usually around $40 for hundreds of tunes). Please check these sources first before posting a question like this to the newsgroup. Sher Music's New Real Books, volumes 1-3 and Standards Real Book cover most commonly played tunes (Sher Music Home Page as does the Hal Leonard series of fakebooks. If it is an obscure tune and you can't seem to get the changes on your own, feel free to post. Most likely someone will have a reasonable approximation of them.

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Why don't the changes in the Real Book/fakebook sound like the record?

In the case of the Real Book, transcriptions were made of tunes from specific recordings (usually listed at the bottom of the page). These recordings may not have used the most common bridge or used reharmonized changes. This may account for the differences between the Real Book and your specific recording. On the other hand, the changes may just be wrong. Transcribing changes off of recordings is not easy and these heads were done without the benefit of the composers original lead sheets. The most famous example of incorrect changes in the Real Book is John Coltrane's "Blue Train" from his album "Blue Trane":

The correct changes are:

| Eb7#9   |        |         |       |

| Ab13#11 |        | Eb7#9   |       |

| Bb7#9   |        | Eb7#9   |       |

whereas the Real Book says that the changes are:

|    Cm   |Fm7 Bb7 |   Cm    |Bb7 Eb7|

|    Fm   |Fm7 Bb7 |   Cm    |Am7 D7 |

|    Gm   |Fm7 Bb7 |2. Cm7b5 |  Cm   |

which is not really that close.

It is also possible that the inaccuracies are because the person who put the lead sheet together looked only at the right hand of the original score in determining the harmonies. This is a common problem for the guitar symbols that often given in some fakebooks. The Sher New Real Books are highly recommended for two reasons: 1) Often the composers lead sheets were used to determine the head and 2) the harmony parts are sometimes included.

It is appropriate to ask a question of this type in this newsgroup. You may learn some new reharmonization tricks or find out that there are multiple sets of changes used for that tune and, therefore, the changes need to be discussed beforehand.

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What is Band-in-a-Box? Where can I get it? Is there a demo version?

Band-in-a-Box is a computer program published by PG Music that allows you to enter in the changes to a tune and it will play an accompaniment using your computer's sound card or a variety of MIDI instruments. The style of music can be changed. While there are limitations (treatment of polychords, now rumored to be fixed in version 8), annoyances (why can't you easily do 5/4 and 3/4 time?), and bugs, the program is still recommended. It is relatively inexpensive - less than $90. The web site address is, and there's a good demo version for download at that address - saving your work and a few advanced features are disabled, otherwise a fully working version.

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Are there any other web pages about jazz guitar?

More than we have space to list! You can find comprehensive link collections at these sites:

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What other newsgroups are relevant? is the newsgroup for general discussion of jazz. It's probably a better place than RMMGJ to post questions on jazz recordings - the emphasis is on jazz listening rather than playing, and the participants are probably more knowledgeable on discography questions. is similar in scope to RMMGJ but without being restricted to jazz guitar. It's a good newsgroup to follow - there's a lot of good discussions directly relevant to jazz musicians on any instrument. is the general guitar newsgroup, and may be a good place to go with equipment questions that aren't jazz specific.

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What is the name of this chord?

Discussions of what to call a given set of pitches comes up fairly often on this newsgroup and are welcome. However, in order not to start TTNDs (threads that never die) we ask that before you post a question of this sort that you first read the material below.

What is the name of 602307? There are at least 7 names you can give this chord, each with a different root from the chromatic scale. The root (or even the important guide tones) may not be in the fingering, but all the notes have a designation from each root.

"The" name of the chord depends on CONTEXT. What key is the piece it is being used in? What comes before? What comes after? What is the melody note? How is the bass line moving? What is the form of the tune?

So, for all your suggestions, and the others you get here, THEY ARE ALL CORRECT. At some time or other.

Questions of the following form are more definitively answered:
  • What's the correct name for a chord contaning G, B, D# and Ab and nothing else, assuming G is the root?
  • What's the best name for the chord x3211x in the progression F6-D7-Gm7-(x3211x)-Fmaj7?
  • In the opening measure of Satin Doll (key of C) the sheet shows Dm7-G9, what would you call the chord xx3455 used in place of the G9?

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What are "drop" voicings?

A drop voicing is made from dropping one of the tones of a "closed" voicing down an octave (i.e., it's now the bass note of the chord). A closed voicing is one in which the intervals between the necessary notes are as close as possible. 1-3-5-7 is a good example of a closed voicing.

If you drop the second tone from the top an octave, you get a "drop 2" voicing. It's the same chord, but in a different "inversion" (the root of the chord is not on the bottom) As an example, G C E B is the drop 2 of the closed root position in the key of C.

Drop 3 is the same idea but instead drop the third tone from the top of the closed voicing down an octave. Here are some tabs:

Cmaj7 chord in root postition: 8x998x.

Cmaj7 drop 3: 7x555x.

Cmaj7 drop 2: 12x101212x (twelvextentwelvetwelvex)

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How, when and where did Emily Remler die?

Emily Remler died May 4, 1990 while on tour in Australia. She died the night before she was to play at the Kiama Jazz Festival and it seems as though it was drug related, if not an overdose.

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Is "Dick Garcia" really Hank Garland?

While the Hank Garland website seems to imply he is, there seems to have been a "real" Dick Garcia who was also active in the 1950's. The website claims that Hank Garland used the Dick Garcia moniker due to contractual obligations. It was also suggested in posts to rmmgj by people close to Garland that Garland had used the union card of Garcia for some recordings.

Several posters have specific information about Garcia and know people who worked with the "non-Garland" Garcia. What seems to be known is that Dick Garcia was a talented guitarist from New York City (Astoria) that played with George Shearing in 1952-53 (he took Chuck Wayne's place). He went in the Army in 1953 and was stationed in Alaska. After the Army, he toured with the Glenn Miller Orchestra until 1957. He then played jazz clubs in New York and was on some commercial recordings into the early 1960s and then seemed to drop out of the music business around 1965.

His album "Message from Garcia" has just been rereleased. He played a few sides with George Shearing and also did an album with Tony Scott. One side of the latter features Mundell Lowe and the other side features Garcia. He also did a record with Joe Puma that was reissued as "Fourmost Guitars", a compilation of Jimmy Raney, Chuck Wayne and the Puma and Garcia cuts.

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How can I take my guitar with me when I'm flying?

There are a number of issues involved in flying with your guitar. Obviously, the first issue is that of which guitar to take. Because the guitar may have to be checked, the concensus is NOT to bring your $15,000 Benedetto, but rather a guitar to which you could tolerate some damage. As discussed below, there are a few ways to minimize the risk of damage, but a lot depends upon the whim of the airlines employees.

In the ideal case, you put the guitar in a gig bag (so that it will fit in the overhead compartment), walk on the plane before anyone else, and stow it safely in the overhead compartment (where you can keep an eye on it). In practice, however, things are usually not that simple and you may be challenged either at the check-in desk or at the gate. The first recommendation is to get the guitar to the gate. This may involve hiding the guitar from the person at the check-in desk. NEVER ask if you can carry the guitar on!! This only alerts the staff that something irregular is happening and they don't want to be responsible for anything out of the ordinary. Remember that one of the responsibilities of the desk person is to screen luggage for size. If you are challenged at the desk or have made it to the gate and are then challenged, your strategy should be the following:

  • Act like you do this all of the time and NEVER had any problems before. Adopt an incredulous (but polite) and bemused attitude. This sometimes works.
  • Claim that playing the guitar is your sole source of income, that you are flying to a gig, and that damage to your guitar would be catastrophic to your career. While we do not like to advocate outright lying, this has worked in the past for some posters.
  • If you get stopped by a person who seems particularly resistant to your carrying on the guitar, try the "filibuster" approach: talk about how long you have had the guitar, about the gigs you are booked for at your destination, etc. etc. The key thing is to keep talking until they get tired of dealing with you and tell you to go ahead. Be polite and reasonable, but make sure that they get the idea that you are in this for the long haul and will basically stand there and talk until you get what you want.
  • Do not volunteer to buy the guitar a ticket. One poster tried all of the above and then resorted to this only to be told that he still could not put the guitar on the seat next to him since it could not be properly secured. It was then placed in one of the closets and he was out the cost of the extra ticket.

If none of the above work, suggest gate checking the guitar. This means that you get to carry it to the gate and then it is hand carried to the cargo hold (usually last). It is then returned to you (by hand) when you deplane. This is not ideal, since your guitar may be in a gig bag and still could be damaged.

You should try to board as early as possible so that you can find and empty overhead compartment. (Suggesting that you need to board early can be risky, however. Again, this signals something irregular and you may be requested to gate-check your guitar.) Once on the plane with your guitar, try to stow it in an overhead compartment near you or in the little closets that are usually in the front and back of the passenger compartment. The stewardesses and stewards are usually accommadating at this point, figuring that since you made it on the plane with the guitar, it must be all right.

Good luck.

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Are there any plans to release "Live" by Jim Hall on cd?

This album is finally available on cd. Jim Hall has stated that he is asked this question "about once a week", so he will finally be able to have some peace. The concensus is that this album is well worth seeking out and some feel that it is his best recorded work. Reportedly there exist tapes of an entire week of gigs that this group did, but there there are no plans to release them and, unfortunately, the current release does not include any bonus tracks.

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