The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1
    Great forum here. I'm a tenor sax bebop player but recently switched to guitar due to a bad case of tinnitus.

    Can anyone suggest best settings on this amp and guitar to get a classic bebop sound (basic VOX amp and IbaneZ as73-tbc 5b-03 guitar)?

    Thanks for any help - i'm a bit of newb with the guitar so far

    jazz tone/sound-image0-1-jpeg

    jazz tone/sound-image1-jpeg


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    For the guitar, may I suggest: Lower the pickups to where they sit more or less flush with the top of the mounting rings. If you have time and patience, replace the springs of the pickup with surgical tubing, which will eliminate annoying buzzing. Lowering the pickup allows for a wider sampling of the string - richer and mellower tone. Compensate for lower output with the Volume control on the amp.

    For the amp, I would begin by setting the T, M. and B controls to their middle position and tweak from there. If there is a master volume, keep it relatively high and the gain low enough to produce a clean tone.

    Where I differ from common practice is in my use of both neck and bridge pickups, using the volume and tone knobs to fine-tune my tone. On my ES-175, this is generally in the 4 - 6 for tones and 7 - 8 for volume. My Ibanezes take similar settings. Much depends on the musical context. Audiation is relative and over-all volume and instrumentation make a difference. My home practice settings are almost always quieter and mellower than what I use performing.

    Remember, as they say on That Pedal Show: "What is a good tone? One that can be heard." S'truth!
    Last edited by citizenk74; 07-02-2022 at 11:45 AM.

  4. #3

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    There really are no "best settings." You have to turn the knobs, use your ears and find it for yourself. Every guitar, amp, speaker, string, pick and set of hands is different. And nobody knows what the "classic bebop sound" means to your ears.

    Trial and error really is the only way, but you might want to start at relatively low volume with the tone controls set relatively low. And don't forget the pots on the guitar; they affect your tone too. Your ears will be a better guide than anyone here can be. I guarantee you all the greats found their sound using only their ears. That's how it works.

    Good luck and have fun.

  5. #4

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    Think about good jazz strings for be-bop stuff.

  6. #5

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    I agree with the above. I usually start with the amp controls flat, and then adjust to taste after I hear what it sounds like. The most common adjustment seems to be to lower the treble and perhaps increase the mids, but it's entirely up to one's taste, and the amp/guitar combo. Sometimes I need to increase the treble a little, same with the bass. Don't be afraid to twist the knobs, they can always be untwisted.

  7. #6

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    (First, I want to say that I love the balancing of the neck and bridge PUs. I typically use that if I need a little more attack on the notes).

    Here is my limited knowledge.

    Welcome to the land of electronics. The good news is, there are endless amounts of stuff to try in the search for tone. The bad news is there are endless amounts of stuff to try. You also can enjoy days where “practicing” becomes tweaking in knobs. It is a good way to feel like I have accomplished something, but really have done almost nothing useful. (I do say this partly in jest, but I believe it to be a fairly common occurrence. I am not going to mention how easy it is too lose weeks with synthesizer programming and midi issues).

    Hopeful now I can offer a little insight. I was a guitarist and a musician for a long while. Due to carpal tunnel issues, I then was forced to focus more on other aspects of music. I spent time with composition and engineering. Composition lead me into the dark arts of synth programming.

    One of the most important aspects of music became much clearer through my learning of engineering skills. Notes became frequencies and the understanding of how equalization functions in regards to frequency and tone. Time with synths taught me how to focus on the attack, decay, sustain, and release.

    Most tone stuff is about those elements, eq (what the overtones are doing and how to get them to sit in the mix), timbre (which is really what I just said), and the envelope of the note (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release).

    When I am searching for the right tone, I take into account of how that will function with in different contexts.

    At home it is easy, if you can hear the note functioning in the way you want, then all is good.

    For example, if I am working on my hearing into chords, then having enough extension into the higher frequencies and a good amount of mids, is very useful. If I roll off the highs and into the higher mids, then I will hear a nice warm sound but not the quality of the chord as clearly.

    A great example of this: is listening to a Rhoads versus a piano. Due to the timbre of the Rhoads the chords are smoother (for good or for bad).

    Playing with other musicians is a different bag.

    You have to find the frequency spot that allows for you to cut through.

    My typical experience is that no one cares about guitar. (Well, maybe the engineer). I am the responsible to make it happen. If I am not cutting, then I hear, “turn it up”. That is probably the worst advice. If I turn up mush, I still have mush and even though it is much louder it still disappears. Also I start to really f’ things up. Now I am stepping all over other people, and everyone (in that frequency range), sounds bad.

    On top of all those issues are expectations of what a guitar should sound like in x context.

    I can make one promise: if you find the frequency area to sit, you will sound good. If you do not find the frequency area to sit in, you will sound bad and people will complain.

    Once you find the right spot to sit, you can massage that sound. Maybe more attack.

    For example, I hear the different PUs as different eq curves and also different timbre elements. I hear pedals the same way plus time based stuff. For example reverb will smear the sound. That is why pre delay makes me so happy. Setting the right amount of pre delay allows for the note attack and then you get the wash.

    I have written way more the I should have. I tend to fight the disease of prolix-ia.

  8. #7

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    Interesting discussion with a lot of great ideas.

    Here's what you can control:

    Your touch.
    Your choice of notes and chords.
    Your pick
    Pickup choice
    pickup height
    polepiece height
    general setup issues, e.g. string type/gauge/action height, breakover angle
    the knobs on the guitar
    the knobs on the amp
    the placement of the amp in the room: tilted, near a wall, facing you, facing away, etc.

    This list is intended to be a basic list, not a cork-sniffer list. You'll also find threads about changing out speakers, tubes (if any), changing the capacitors inside the guitar, rewiring the guitar, amp mods and of course endless discussions of which guitar, which amp, which effects how to use them and so forth.

    So, here's my recommendation.

    Spend an afternoon with your gear trying every possible combination. Be patient and persistent. You'll probably find that you have a goal in mind for tone. Just keep after it.

  9. #8

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    First -- welcome!

    Second -- I love your profile name! and

    Third -- you're playing jazz guitar to get away from tinnitus?!?!? Man, this is the Home of Tinnitus! Crank that amp up!!!

    And have fun!


  10. #9

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    Find a good teacher. No book, video, blog or website can replace the value of a good teacher who can give you instant feedback and give you immediate inspiration to work harder.

  11. #10

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    Hey Tflea - welcome!
    Lots of spot on advice up there especially a 1) teacher and 2) be careful of not falling down the tone rabbit hole. So many options and the next you know practice time becomes adjust, change time
    I would emphasize strings and pick. For a “real” bebop sound: Tal, Barney, Wes you want flat wounds, in as high a tension as you can handle. Thicker the string the more ‘thunky’ the tone is. Ibanez ships with 11 D’Addarios, even the change to 12s can be heard.
    You can go down a pick hole too. Theres a bunch of boutique picks out there. Personally i stay with the standard Fender in either heavy or extra heavy. essentially we jazzers do 180 opposite of our rock bros.
    Good choice of a starter axe, wish you all the best and we are all here willing to throw opinions at you

  12. #11

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    Here's the thing that often goes unmentioned in these threads: Work on your hands, and listen hard to what they're doing.

    Technique, touch, attack, sustain, vibrato and the sauce you add to each note may add up to the single biggest factor in overall tone. Tone is in the hands. Don't overlook the hands. They do more than any amp controls ever will.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by tenaciousflea
    Great forum here. I'm a tenor sax bebop player but recently switched to guitar due to a bad case of tinnitus.
    Welcome! Embracing the guitar is always a sign of good taste and judgment. But I can’t see any obvious connection between tinnitus and the instrument you play. What’s the relationship?

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by nevershouldhavesoldit
    Welcome! Embracing the guitar is always a sign of good taste and judgment. But I can’t see any obvious connection between tinnitus and the instrument you play. What’s the relationship?
    My assumption is that it is a volume and frequency thing. I also assume since the volume of a electric guitar can be controlled, that would give the player a way to navigate such a condition. At the same time, I have no real knowledge of tinnitus except that the low ringing in my ears could be related to it.

  15. #14

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    (Deleted, I should read better before trying to be funny)

    I find that upping the mids and lowering bass and treble gives the best jazz tone, especially when playing Fender-type amps with a scooped tone, and especially when playing with a band. It will make the guitar fit better in the frequency spectrum and you’ll hear yourself better. Mids give a guitar a better ‘responsiveness’ (for lack of a better description).

    When playing solo a mid scooped tone with full bass is nicer, but it drowns in a band setting.

  16. #15

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    Tips for jazz tone?

    honestly any clean amp should do it for practicing at home. Problems only really set in when playing gigs and issues of headroom, EQ and amp response at volume become an issue.

    I EQ the amp by ear but I’d be wary of cutting the treble too much and I usually tweak from a flat EQ rather than going too crazy.

    That guitar should be fine.

    Work on your picking, explore the sounds you get by picking in different places.

    Heavier strings really reallly help. Don’t have to be flats, but I struggle with anything lighter than a 12 on the E. .11s and .10s tend to be too twangy but some can make them work.

    The best gauge for jazz is probably heavy top light bottom so your hands aren’t working too hard (seems popular with the Big Names and I like it), so get an 11 set and go up a gauge on the top two, and maybe consider a wound third. Thomastick infeld make sets that are like this already.

    If your guitar is set up for light strings, don’t be afraid to give that truss rod a tweak and keep the neck straight. There’s no reason why heavier strings have to be hard to play on a well set up guitar.

    Round or flat is a matter of taste. i find the former better for chords and sustaining lines, the latter better for punch and old school bop vibe

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by nevershouldhavesoldit
    Welcome! Embracing the guitar is always a sign of good taste and judgment.
    As a child of the 80s I do not feel I can endorse this statement :-)

  18. #17

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    Buy a red Dunlop Jazz III plectrum: instant jazz tone.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller
    As a child of the 80s I do not feel I can endorse this statement :-)
    Of course, it’s just one sign along the road of life and is often obscured by the huge billboards on the seamier side……….

  20. #19

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    Hi, T,
    There's no magic formula. Developing one's sound is a lifetime experience. And, RP's post #7, gives you an idea of just what you find on the surface. I've never known a serious musician who wasn't constantly thinking about his/her sound. It is, of course, our voice.

  21. #20

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    I am also mainly a saxophonist but about ten years ago I became obsessed with the guitar (which is in so many ways the opposite of the saxophone). I think that you'll find that no matter how far you take the guitar, it will change your saxophone playing in many ways and it will indeed change the way that you think about music. This is an exciting time for you.

    I'm very sorry about the tinnitus issue that you're experiencing. I imagine that it's worse with the saxophone because the instrument is so loud in our heads when we play. I'd be curious to hear about your experience with it.

    The guitar is completely external to our bodies so we have physical distance between us and the sounds we are making. This is a virtue when we want to simply control the volume we are practicing at but it's a very different thing the playing with other people at gig volumes. I remember it took me a long time to figure out how to deal with how and why everything sounds so different when playing with a band. I will add that it's also really weird to be playing at band volume levels and have the sound coming from a box that is several feet or more away from me. Saxophonists are used to having our sound projected straight out of the front of our bodies. The process of making music with a separate amp is really unusual to us.

    So all that being said, I'd recommend that you don't think about the "tone" thing too much. Have the amp just loud enough so that you can cleanly hear what you are doing and turn the high end down to where it's comfortable. Grab a bunch of different picks and find one or two that feels good to you. Same goes for strings...heavy is not necessarily better. Comfort is most important thing here! Your gear (for lack of a better word) preferences will quickly evolve even if you don't put much effort into thinking about it. Just play the guitar and enjoy the journey. The rest will sort itself out down the road with experience.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74

    Remember, as they say on That Pedal Show: "What is a good tone? One that can be heard." S'truth!
    Some years ago, when I was mostly playing rock/pop, a guitarist friend told me that I was never loud but every note could be heard.

  23. #22

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    Vox amps are not my first choice for classic jazz tone, not to say it can't be done, just might take more work.

    There are lots of variables mentioned already, starting with the strings. For me at least 12s+ are where it happens, you could go with lighter but they need a bit of compensation with other factors.

    Pick is a cheap but very important. Jazz 3 or other 1mm+ thick ones tend to help.

    Explore picking angle and the position, lots of variance here.

    Use your ear. Enjoy the process