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Hey,

 

My theory teacher convinced me to play for the school's Jazz band ensamble, which I'm pretty exciting about doing. But, I mainly play acoustic and only have 1 electric, and that's a Squier Strat (not bashing it, I love the little thing to death) and the teacher suggested something that naturally has a more bluesy or jazzy sound to it. I've been toying with the idea of getting myself a new present lately, and was thinking about a new electric.

 

I've played semi-hollows before several times at stores, and have heard stories about their tone. I've play an Epiphone Dot, which I remember liking the feel of, and a cheaper Gretsch, which was also nice. Any suggestions from everyone? I'm looking at about $400-500 to spend, not including case or anything like that. I want something that's nicely built, has a good sound and feel, and that's handsome but not really flashy. Anyone have any experiance?

 

Also, any experiance with pedals in this situation? The teacher mentioned them...I'm not sure if I'll need an amp, I may just be playing into a PA. But would I need something like a volume pedal, or a little overdrive for a harsher sound? I need to talk to him more about this honestly...

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The Dots are pretty good for their price, I don't know too much about lower priced Gretsch's specifically. With any guitar under $500 the key is to go to a store and actually play on them, they are going to be variable in quality and finding one that you like is important, as well as finding one that has good workmanship. Some of them have cheaper electronics, but that can be switched out if you want. Another thing to consider is finding an older used hollow-body guitar--often the workmanship on these is pretty good and some have aged quite nicely, but just play around and see what you like, just because most jazz players are playing hollow-bodies doesn't mean you have to either...after all Nels mostly plays Jazzmasters. Jazz generally calls for a slightly muddy, warm, mellow sound--so wider pickups (ie. not single coils) tend to work better...other than that, it's more up to you than anything else.

 

As for pedals, I wouldn't use a lot. Your best friend in this situation would be just playing out of a nice tube-amp. Talk to your teacher, if there's more fusion material maybe a phaser or chorus/sustain might be recommended...but unless it's really avant-garde most jazz people stick to pretty much a guitar and an amp and maybe one or two pedals.

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Well, I'm no expert, but think of what the folks that invented jazz played on: hollow body guitar with tube amps. The kind of warmth that a nice tube amp brings is not something that's easily replicated with pedals or pickups.

 

In the end, what matters most is what feels good/sounds right to you. Take your Strat, mess around with the tone/pickup/volume settings, take the guitar to a guitar store, and play around on amps/guitar until you find something that feels right, and fits your budget.

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A few quick thoughts working off of DeapSea's suggestions. Money's an issue and since your not sure where to spend the dollars anyway he hints towards the use of a humbucker pickup. And that's not a horrible idea.

 

You own a Squire Strat. I don't usually advocate butchering a guitar but these are prime candidates for experimentation. Talk to guys in your local guitar shop about a nice warm sounding humbucker for around a hundred bucks and see how much they'd charge to route the body and wire it up for you; ( Nice thing about a strat is you can always simply change the pickguard and go back to a single coil configuration and no one will ever be the wiser).

 

Good cheap hollow bodies for around $500 bucks.

 

The Gretsch Syncromatics are ok. They're pretty popular right now. The factory Bigsby alone is worth $150 bucks. Folks are buying them and upgrading the pickups (I've seen a few of these w/Lindy Fralins).

It'll make some nice warm tones as is, and they introduced a two tone sunburst this year that looks great.

 

Hagstrom Viking: This is a semi hollow guitar as opposed to the Syncromatics which are fully hollow. Made in China from Swedish decent I played one of these in an ugly "glitter-gold top" finish two weeks ago and was pretty much blown away at what you get for around $600 bucks. Available in more conservative finishes these play well and sound great for what your going after; ( pretty certain I'm going to get one of these funky things myself because I dig "eccentric" guitars). Google it and look for a dealer near you. these things are seriously cool.

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You also might want to check out the Ibanez AS83. Its a semi-hollow like the dot but in my opinion a little bit better guitar overall. Its definitely a versatile instrument that you could use in a school jazz band context as well as anything else you would be doing. Traditional jazz guitar is all about having as clean a tone as possible. The problem with a lower wattage tube amp is while its great for rock because it breaks up and gives that nice tube overdrive sound, in the traditional hard bop Wes Montgomery school of jazz guitar, an amp with more clean headroom would be ideal. A lot of jazz guitarists actually use solid state amplifiers for that reason. A set of flatwound strings also would be helpful. I got through plenty of jazz gigs with a strat non the less just by rolling back the tone control on the guitar. You might not even need a new guitar. Its really all about personal preference with these things anyway. If i was you i would try out a bunch of guitars and see if you like any of them. Also to save money give the squire a try and see if it works. Another thing to try to fake a jazz sound on a strat is to roll the volume nob on the guitar back to 8 or so as opposed to full out. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

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I would do as the other poster says -- drop a humbucker in the neck position of your strat ~$100 to $150. That would leave you $300 to $400 to spend on an amp. Get a little Fender Pro Junior or Blues Junior -- all tube and sound great. Plug that strat it, put it on that new humbucker pickup and roll your tone off -- a lot. Bang. Great Jazz tone.

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Listen to drolow.

 

I've got an AS83 and love the thing to death. Granted, I swapped out the electronics for a Seymour Duncan Jazz and Pearly Gates set, which'll probably put you closer to $600, but it's absolutely worth it. The stock pickups aren't Bad per say, there's just room for improvement. It plays like a dream now, but take advantage of the complimentary setup the store'll probably offer, because out of the box the action was a bit higher than you're probably going to want.

 

Good luck!

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Keep jamming on the Squier until you find the right pawn shop prize. Buying new on a smaller budget never seems to be the best way to go unless you are willing to completely rebuild the thing over time... Even then, you have a Frankenstein for the price of a custom shop.

 

Look for something WELL played to get that cost down, and don't focus on the condition of the hardware... bridge parts and tuners are easy to come by on ebay, and even a fret job and a new nut are reasonable once you get to know a good luthier.

 

Unless you are planning to put it in a case over your desk, don't sweat the dings and nicks and belt buckle scratches... each one helps get that real player into a price range you can deal with.

 

Focus on a solid, straight neck that feels good to YOU, and decent original electronics.

 

Some people say not to worry about electronics, but I find that leaving a decent setup intact and upgrading the playability of a well-worn guitar with decent elements is better than taking a cheap guitar and upgrading one piece at a time... It is after all a cheap guitar and ALL of the components are generally lower grade.

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