Small Jazz Guitars
My brother, a guitarist, recently commented on a picture of me playing a Stratocaster that was on Facebook. He said he always thought I was more of an ES-175 guy. I was and am. I do love the Strats but I have long wished for an ES-175. The ES-175 is the standard for a smaller jazz guitar with a lower bout of 16 inches, a laminated body and humbucker pickups mounted directly on the body. The Gibson L4-ces is essentially the same size and shape as the ES-175 but has fancier hardware, inlays and has a carved solid spruce top.
I’ve wanted an ES-175 since I was in high school. But now I wonder if a 16 inch guitar isn’t still too big. There seems to be an increasing number of small bodied jazz guitars available.
What I Want and Why I want it.
- Hollow body means lighter weight plus I can better hear the guitar when I practice unamplified.
- Laminated top is less sensitive to feedback than a solid top. Acoustic tones are less important if most of my sound is coming from amplifier. (It is more likely to produce feedback than a semi-hollow or solid body though – so many compromises.)
- Small body. Larger sized guitars are louder acoustically but I’ve already given up the acoustic component as being minimally important to an electrified sound. Smaller bodied guitars are just more comfortable for me to hold.
- Two pickups. I mostly play with just the neck pickup but I appreciate the extra versatility in tones that a two pickup guitar can have. If I only played jazz, a single neck pickup would be fine.
- Surface mounted pickups. Floating pickups make sense when you might play your solid carved top guitar unamplified or at very low volumes. But I’ve already chosen a laminated top over a solid carved top. The extra mass of the pickups on the laminated top aren’t going to have much effect on the amplified tone.
- Finally, I want a fully hollow archtop jazz guitar because my heroes played them. Yet I don’t need to play exactly the model guitars they played because I have more choices than they did – and I’m stubborn and opinionated.
Eight Guitars Smaller than an ES-175
Here’s some of the archtop guitars I’ve discovered that are 15 inches or less in width.
- One of my favorite jazz guitarists who is still playing is Jimmy Bruno. Sadowsky who makes a Jim Hall model also makes a Jimmy Bruno model.
- Sadowsky makes a couple of other small body guitars of interest. There is a semi-hollow that you’ll have to look up on your own if you’re interested. The other model I’ll mention here is the SS-15. It’s very similar to the Jimmy Bruno model.
- D’Aquisto is now distributed by Aria USA. The New Yorker Junior is one of two smaller bodied archtops they make. It has a solid sitka top.
- The other archtop made by D’Aquisto is the Jazz Line Junior.
- D’Angelico, another famous name now resurrected, makes the Excel-SS. D’Angelico guitars, like a number of companies are now doing, has the guitars made overseas to their specifications. The prices are good compared to a Gibson though are more than a Korean Epiphone.
- Ibanez doesn’t publish width and depth dimensions on their website which makes it difficult to determine which models are smaller than 16 inches in width. I know that a number of their popular, lower cost models are smaller than this but I’m only listing here the George Benson GB10 – one of their most expensive models.
- Eastman Guitars has acquired a reputation for great value in archtop guitars. The first model I’m giving you may not currently be in production. It is the 803_15ce. The standard model listed on their website is 803_16ce, a 16 inch width guitar. But the 803_15ce can be found used on Ebay and at a number of web retailers.
- A non-standard design for a jazz guitar from Eastman is the El Rey. There are actually four models of El Rey, but all have the same shape and dimensions – all are small bodied jazz guitars.
|Make & Model||Body||Top||Neck||Width||Depth||Scale||Nut||FB||PUs||Est $|
|D’AquistoNY Electric Jr||LMp||SS||1pMp||15||2.5||24.75||NA||E||1FH||$4900(L)|
|Sadowsky Jimmy Bruno||LMp||LMp||Mg||14.75||2.75||24.75||1 11/16||E||1SH||$4075(D)|
|Sadowsky SS-15||LMp||LMp||Mg||14.75||2.75||24.75||1 3/4||E||1SH||$3975(D)|
|D’Aquisto Jazz Line Jr||LMp||LMp||1pMp||15||2.5||24.75||NA||E||2SH||$4800(L)|
|D’Angelico Excel-SS||LMp||LMp||2pMp||14.75||1.75||25||1 11/16||E||2SH||$1795(D)|
|Ibanez GB10||Mp||S||3pMp||14.75||3.25||24.75||1 11/16||E||2FH||$3100(O)|
|Eastman El Rey||Mp||SS||Mg||14||2||25||1.75||E||2SH||$1995(O)|
|All dimensions in inches. NA – dimension Not Available. Abbreviations used in table:
Woods. LMp: Laminated Maple; SS: Solid Spruce; S: Spruce; Mg: Mahogany; E: Ebony;Neck. 1p, 2p & 3p: 1, 2 or 3 piece neck.
PUs. 1 or 2 pickups; FH: Floating Humbucker; SH: Surface mounted humbucker.
Est $. (L): List; (D): Direct from Mfg; (O): Online merchant
I wqs trawling through looking for small bodied archtops and found your site. I am lucky to have found a 16″ hand carved North Sea jazzer by Daniel Slaman, used, and I love it, although I’d prefer a wider neck (45 or 46mm at nut instead of 43mm.) Slaman is Dutch (his website is in english,)and builds a Jazz Junior and Compact with a 14 1/2″ body. I have played the prototype Junior and as well as being very comfortable, it still has a sweet acoustic jazz tone. I have had a humbucker wound for me to my specs, and this de-emphasizes the bass end somewhat, and allows more electric volume before feedback.
I hadn’t heard of Daniel Slaman guitars before. I looked him up and they look pretty nice. Thanks for the comment. Daniel Slaman Guitars website
Thanks for the info. I’m looking at economy level jazz guitars; physical limitations require a smaller body guitar. I found that Ibanez does, at this time, publish dimensions for each model on it’s website. The small bodies, in addition to the GB10, are the AG series hollow: 18 7/8 x 14 1/2 x 3 5/8 and the AM series semi-hollow: 17 5/8 x 14 1/2 x 2 5/8.
Peerless Guitars make 2 Martin Taylor signature guitars, both with a 15″ bout.
It’s become a great time for fans of small guitars. Many makers have added smaller sized models. I have really liked some of the Peerless Guitars I’ve seen online. They have a good looking ES-175 clone. I’m not familiar with the Martin Taylor models from Peerless but will give them a look. Thank you.
For those having a hard time finding Peerless guitars, they are sold in the US by GuitarsNJazz.com. I’m not certain whether anyone else in the US distributes Peerless, but the company has made models for other companies for years. I noticed GuitarsNJazz have filter to select guitars by lower bout width on their website.
Why not consider Epiphones ‘Joe Pass Emporer ll at 151/2″ good guitar , great bargain..
I agree that the Epiphone Emperor II Joe Pass model is another great bargain for a small jazz guitar. I’ve pointed that out elsewhere, e.g., 4 Mid Priced Alternatives to the ES-175 and this post on small guitars from Epiphone and Gibson.
This is an old article. I believe I omitted the Joe Pass epi in this post because the lower bout is too close in size to 16 inches. I was attempting to find guitars with a 15 inch lower bout or less. Also, I can’t cover all the guitars in every article.
In any case, Epiphone archtop, jazz guitars are great values. That includes the Epi 175, the Joe Pass and the 17″ Broadway (not a small guitar).
Thanks for your comment.
I have a Sigma from the eighties which I believe is a copy of an Ibanez Gorge Benson. It is small and very handy.It has a 15 fret neck.
I would like to find a similar one with three P90s.( or one without pickups but handcarved , perhaps a K&K pickup)
Dean Guitars makes a 3 P90 pickup model, the Palomino. I’m not sure if this is an option for you. It’s probably sized more like a 175 than the GB.