The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    Hi Folks!

    Since it has an arched top and humbuckers, is a Les Paul type guitar any good for a traditional jazz tone (fat/warm enough)?

    I know there have been some players (Les Paul for instance) who used a Les Paul for jazz, but do they have a good traditional jazz tone?

    I'm thinking of buying one and I'll play a few before actually buying one, but I want your opinions first.


    Using a Gibson Les Paul for Jazz-gibson-les-paul-jazz-jpg

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  3. #2

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    Les Pauls are great for jazz. I know several players who prefer them on gigs.
    I have owned a LP since 1976. Its a dear old friend that I can't sell and it is totally compatible with jazz. The tone encourages a legato feel in my ear and it brings out a different interpretation in th tunes I play when compared to an archtop.

  4. #3

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    Les Paul, a pretty well known jazz guy, uses one!
    You can use any guitar to play jazz.

    I bought an inexpensive jazz box because it kind of forces me to play ad think differently.
    It would not be my first choice to cover any Ramones tunes though. In fact that may be interesting. A Ramones chord melody tune!!

    Hey Ho Lets Go!

  5. #4

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    Try one at the store if you can, especially so you can feel the neck. I find the neck to be really clunky compared to my custom strat that I use for jazzy stuff. I hate to say it, but I just can't play that darn les paul, and I have larger hands too. I could probably get used to it, who knows, but if you are used to a thinner neck, you might find it troublesome. I also found the les paul to be too rock and roll in terms of tone, even in the neck. Do you have one that you can try?

  6. #5
    I forgot that Jim Hall used one.
    Are there any albums on wich he plays a les paul?

    I'll try some Les Pauls out.
    Now I'm playing on an inexpensive jazz box but I don't like the lack of sustain
    and the handling. For me the perfect jazz tone is a clean tone with long sustain a few highs (not to much but also not to less highs) and fat bass.
    I'm hoping that a les paul can deliver such a tone.

  7. #6

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    I have a Les Paul, an SG, a 335 and a Samick L5CES copy, so I have access to quite a range of sounds.

    For jazz, the SG is the least suitable: very aggressive, trebly sound. And, for my way of playing, the Samick is almost equally unsuitable: too mellow, feeds back at very low volumes, no bite or punch.

    The Les Paul was my one and only for 12 years, but the real winner of this horse race is the 335. It has a round, rich tone that can be tightened up when you need to with a sharper pick attack, and it's physically more comfortable than the others (with the exception of the SG).

    I have been playing it through a tweed Blues Jr but I have acquired a Band-Master VM that will eventually be mated to a 1-15" cabinet (currently I use it with a Hartke 115TP, but that's not really a guitar cab).

    The LP is pretty versatile, but it lacks that depth of tone the 335 has, and it's a boat anchor, which makes it wearing to play for long periods.

  8. #7

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    As far as using solid bodies for jazz, I think Les Pauls are good. There's lots of different models with different pickups that could effect the tone. I have a Les Paul Studio Vintage Mahognay that has burstbucker pickups and I can get a nice, dark jazz tone with the neck pickup and the tone knob turned down some. However, given the option, I prefer hollow bodies. An Ibanez Artcore would be a good bang for the buck.

  9. #8

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    Just out of curiosity, how is Les Paul's Les Paul configured? Wonder what the tweaks are on his very own Les Paul?

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by NSJ
    Just out of curiosity, how is Les Paul's Les Paul configured? Wonder what the tweaks are on his very own Les Paul?
    I'm pretty sure Les Paul uses a custom LP wit low impedence p/ups similar to the Les Paul Recording model that Gibson had out in the 70"s-80's. Besides seperate treble and bass there was a click-knob for soemthing called Decade (?) or such plus a 3 position tone selector that was apart from the p/up selector switch. There was also a high low swith and a phase switch. I'm not sure if Les' current version has all of the same bell's and whisltes but I think it has most of them.

    Coincidentally I owned a Les Paul Recording model, which I used exclusively while in the jazz program at William Patterson College. Worked great. I wound up selling it to , of all people , Lou Pallo who is Les' rhythm guitar palyer.

    FYI, Tom Doyle does (or did) the sound for Les for his Monday Night NYC gigs. He would probably know much more about the tweaks Les uses.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by NSJ
    Just out of curiosity, how is Les Paul's Les Paul configured? Wonder what the tweaks are on his very own Les Paul?
    When it comes to Les Paul's tweaks, I kind of think that he uses nothing in stock condition at all. In my opinion, Les Paul is like a hot rod builder. He takes a stock 1932 Ford with a 60 hp engine, rips it apart, chops the top, puts in a 426 Hemi with 500 horsepower for an engine, puts in a big Ford 9" pumpkin, puts on torque thrust wheels, beefs up the frame and paints it Candy Apple Red. By the time Les Paul is done with his guitar, it resembles a stock Les Paul about as much as that hot rod resembles the 32 stocker. As far as his tone (which I love very much) is concerned, if you can compare tone to light bulbs, a stock Les Paul tone is like a flourescent bulb while Les' tone is like multicolored neon lights. It's an entity unto itself.

    Also IMHO, a Les Paul definitely does sound different than an archtop because of its greater sustain. Even that can be controlled. I used to play a Gibson 94 Historic Collection 1954 reissue with an Alnico 5 pick up and a P90. I put 13 gauge flatwounds on it and played it through a Fender Twin Reverb reissue. It sounded fantastic and played extremely well but I had trouble on the bandstand with a boat anchor hanging on my neck. Still, that baseball bat of a neck was one of the most comfortable necks I ever played.
    Last edited by hot ford coupe; 06-06-2009 at 11:03 PM.

  12. #11

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    Les Paul likes a brilliant tone, unlike the typical jazz mellowness. Les Paul guitars became popular because the rockers found out they could get chain saw sounds out them through large amps -- again, not a typical jazz tone.

    In fact, the only LP I've ever played that I've liked is the one I own, which, with its mini-humbuckers, has a distinctly different sound from the full-sized pickups on other models.

    That's not to say that you can't get a satisfactory sound out of the right Les Paul and the right amp, but I think you're starting out from a spot further from the finish line than if you were playing a more suitable guitar.

  13. #12

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    I play a Les Paul all the time on gigs. No feedback when the volume gets up there and great sustain that helps with horn-like lines. I find that the tone is much "jazzier" if you roll back the volume on the neck pickup to about 5 or 6 and maybe take the tone down to about 7 (SD alnico IIs on mine). I even get a bit of the Freddie Green sound coming through when playing rhythm. You need a nice amp that you can turn up but that stays clean and warm.

    I love the sound of a good archtop but find that fighting feedback is a distraction from playing the music so I only use archtops at home....

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Jazzworm
    I forgot that Jim Hall used one.
    Are there any albums on wich he plays a les paul?
    According to this, Jim Hall seems to recall he maybe did one Chico Hamilton record with his Les Paul. Elsewhere I've read he only had it for 6 months or so. I suspect he used it on the first Chico Hamilton Quintet LP, but am not positive. BTW, he played a Les Paul Custom with single coils (AlNiCo 5s) which have a slightly different sound from the humbucker-laden Les Pauls most of us know so well.

  15. #14
    Ray C. Guest
    As I get older, I don't like the weight of it and ergonomically, I don't like how it plays sitting down, which I find myself doing more and more. It's still a guitar I like for blues-which is really my main bag-but I agree with lpdeluxe: you're starting from a spot that might not be ideal for a "classic" jazz tone.

  16. #15

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    I agree with Ray on that - my LP is a brute - great for bar fights but by the end of the night my back hurts. A few weeks doing weights in the gym helps matters but finding the time is difficult. The LP may be a young man's guitar ....although I don't like to stereo-type... ;-)

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by ner1971
    According to this, Jim Hall seems to recall he maybe did one Chico Hamilton record with his Les Paul. Elsewhere I've read he only had it for 6 months or so. I suspect he used it on the first Chico Hamilton Quintet LP, but am not positive. BTW, he played a Les Paul Custom with single coils (AlNiCo 5s) which have a slightly different sound from the humbucker-laden Les Pauls most of us know so well.
    I recall a Guitar Player interview with Jim Hall saying that he got the Les Paul because he'd been playing a stint in a particular bar and the layout of the venue caused acoustics that made his L5 "sound tubby". So he traded it against the LP and clearly regretted it very soon after.

    Think I would have done so too.

  18. #17

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    I used to own an LP custom from the late sixties and I used it for jazz too. It was a bit tinny sounding on the top E, but that could probably have been fixed. It was also a bit heavy (9.5 lbs) so it had to go. It had a great chunky neck & a fine jumbo refret and was a joy to play and I miss it.

  19. #18

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    I've been curious now that we've all lost a GIANT in our guitar world with Les gone cosmic ( Blessing You Still ! ) when the tribute Les Paul models might start in. I notice today a number of internet retailers are jumping in with their current stock. This leads me to wonder in your opinion which of the vast array available makes for the better jazzers??

  20. #19

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    Reminds me of a story I heard a while back:
    Guy goes into a music store and is looking at Les Pauls.
    Salesman - "What kind of music do you play?"
    Guy - "Mostly Jazz."
    Salesman - "Man, nobody plays Jazz on a Les Paul."
    Guy - "Les Paul does!"

  21. #20

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    Back in the 70's Gibson made 2 LP's based on the model les played. They low impedence pups and some specila tone controls.

    The one I bought was the Les Paul Recording model. It had a phase in/out switch, seperate treble and bass controls with a master volume. Hi/Lo switch that I assumed was for impedence, a click knob called 'decade' or somthing like that plus a 3 way pup selector and a 3 position tone lever.

    It was supposed to used in conjunction with a Gibson amp called the Les Paul Monster amp. I only ever saw one of those. It was owned by Tom Doyle. (Who btw, did the sound for all of Les' NY gigs).

    I used that guitar, to play jazz, while studying at WPC. After college I got an used ES175. It was a good tone machine. I even used it in a rock band.

    I wound up selling it to Lou Pallo about 15 years ago. Lou was Les' rhythm guitar player. I'll have to look at some You Tube to see if he's using it.

  22. #21

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    You needed an impedance adapter to plug the guitar into an amp.

    There were actually three models made: the Recording, the Personal, and the Professional.

    The L5-S had the low impedance pickups when it was introduced in 1972. By 1974, Gibson replaced them with humbuckers.

    This site has a ton of information on the Les Paul Recording model:

    Gibson Les Paul Recording guitar page

    I think pretty much any Les Paul can produce good jazz tones. I have an Epiphone Gold Top with P-90s. It has been modded with Fralin P-90s, CTS pots and Orange Drop caps. When I roll off the tone pot on the neck pickup, it's quite a nice tone...if I say so myself.

    EDIT: I forgot there was a 4th model of Les Paul guitar made in the 70s: the Signature. It looked like a ES-335 and a Les Paul forced to share the same space!

    Last edited by Funkwire; 08-19-2009 at 11:48 AM.

  23. #22

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    I would ask Clint Strong. Whatever LP he is playing, he makes it sound great.

  24. #23

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    In '94, I bought a 40th Anniversary Les Paul custom from the Gibson Historic Collection. It was all black with the Alnico V pickup in the neck and a P90 in the bridge position. The neck pickup was the same kind they put into the Super 400 and the L5 CES. I put 13 gauge strings on it and ran it through a Fender Twin reissue. If this didn't make a cool jazz tone I don't know what would. The neck was nice and heavy and it had the jumbo frets. It played incredibly. I wound up selling the guitar in a package so I could get my 39 D'Angelico. Now I wish I never sold it. I love the D'A, but I really miss that LP. For jazz, it was just fantastic and I loved the sound.

    And the funny thing is that Les Paul once went to John D'Angelico to get a guitar and John told him it would take 2 years to make. Les got mad but John wouldn't budge on the time. Les then stormed out of the shop. I wonder what Les would have done with that D'A if he ever got it.

  25. #24

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    Derek, I did a little snooping around the internet and it looks like Clint is smokin' out on a Les Paul Sunburst Custom.....amazing player ! I think these were originally called the black beauties with P-90's and then later that monster model with THREE PAF'S. Correct me if I'm wrong but these puppies look like they START at something in the neighborhood of $ 3500 and go on up to the 5's......if you're dead set on a Gibson.

  26. #25

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    Les Paul Signature! Yup, I had one of those! Bought it used for $375 in 1975. Sold it 20 years later when I 'discovered' Telecasters for, once again, far less than it would be worth today!

    The control layout looks like the standard Les Paul setup, but it isn’t! It consists of a 3-way toggle switch for pickup selection, a master volume control, a master tone control, a phase switch, and an unusual 3-position level control (intended to enable ‘tuning’ the guitar to any amplifier - bass rolloff @ 50, 250 & 500 Hz). And it had 2 output jacks. Top one was high impedance via an internal passive transformer for use with normal guitar amps, while the one on the side was low impedance for simultaneous direct feed into a console. Really nice oddball guitar, but it wouldn't play in tune - I think it had nut issues.