The Jazz Guitar Amp And Guitar

By Leticia Jensen

Jazz guitars were conceived in the early 1930s due to the need to use amplification in order to increase the volume of conventional acoustic guitars in a live setting so it can be heard more clearly. Very few instruments have had a greater influence on the evolution of music since the start of the 20th century. The earliest forms of jazz guitars were acoustic but by the 1940s, musicians were playing with either a hollow body acoustic or electric guitars along with a jazz guitar amp.

Probably the most recognisable guitars used in this type of music is the archtop or hollowbody electric, It is instantly recognisable due to its large hollow body, f shaped sound holes like a violin, floating bridge and magnetic pickups. This type of guitar have been mass produced since the 1950s by leading guitar manufacturers.

There are several styles used in this kind of music, such as blowing and comping. Blowing involves improvising over a jazzy chord progression with ornaments and jazzy phrases. Comping involves the use of extended chords underneath a tune's melody or another musicians soloing. Comping often uses walking bass lines. When a guitarist improvises they will make good use of scales, modes and arpeggios within the song's chord progression.

In reality, this type of music can be played successfully on any type of guitar whether acoustic, hollow body or solid body. However, the guitar of choice is often the hollow body archtop. The most popular archtop guitars are made by Epiphone, Gretch, D'Angelico and Stromberg. These guitars enjoyed a resurgence of interest in the 1990s among the jazz guitarists of the day, as well with popular musicians. The archtop is usually made from a solid piece of wood that has been carved into an arch, Spruce is usually the wood of choice for the top and maple for the back.

These guitars have an instantly recognisable "warm" tone that is arguably best achieved with the archtop with its hollow body and magnetic pickups. However, the guitar's amp also plays an important role in creating a beautiful jazzy tone. Most jazz guitarists swear by tube amps to get that classic jazzy tone.

Tube amplifiers are usually favoured to produce a warm tone, and they also have a more musical overdrive sound compared to solid state amplifiers. However, tube amps are harder to maintain and valves need to be replaced. They are also heavier and more expensive than solid state amps.

The Roland JC-120 Chorus is one of the more popular amps. It was first released in 1975 and was one the first that came with effects built in. Many of the great guitarists used the Roland, including George Benson, Pat Martino, Larry Coryell and many other legends in this type of music.

Fender also make very popular amps. These include the Hot Rod Deluxe, Fender King, Fender Jazzmaster Ultralight Speaker Cabinet with Amp Head, Fender Blues Junior, All of these amps are capable of producing that classic and instantly recognisable jazzy tone that is so sought after. Modelling hardware and software is also available that can produce the classic tone and can be used with any type of amp.

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