Jazz guitar has an unmistakable soulful, earthy sound. Think the tone of Wes Montgomery, George Benson or Pat Metheny. Using a pick up that's made for jazz guitar goes a long way to getting that tone. So here's our 5 favourite jazz guitar pickups to get you started.
At a Glance: Our Choice Of 5 Best Jazz Guitar Pickups On The Market
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Our choice of the 5 Best Jazz Guitar Pickups
1. Gibson 57 Classic Humbucker (Editor's Choice)
With a nickel covering and classic Gibson styling, this humbucker of a pickup is sure to give you a full, rich sound. The humbucker gives the pickup a nice ‘crunch’, if that is what you desire.
- Gives a much cleaner and fuller tone to an otherwise flat sound
- Looks fantastic, the nickel cover allows this pickup to make any guitar look a lot more stylish
- The Gibson make is famous for its quality build, good materials have made this a reliable pickup
- Relatively expensive: this pickup might not be best for those wanting a quick and cheap fix
- Isn’t a very bright sound, those wanting the bite of snappy jazz will be found wanting more
- Only other negative I found was it got a few fingerprints on it from time to time
Video highlighting the various sounds the Gibson 57 makes:
2. Seymour Duncan SH2N Humbucker (Budget Choice)
For those wanting a fast and clean jazz sound, the accuracy of the SH2N is the pickup for you. It gives a much brighter sound than others in its price range and works best with mahogany bodied guitars.
- This pickup is one of the cheaper models out there worth your time
- Very quick response and gives a warmer sound than you’d think
- Easy to install on any guitar, gives clear instructions which anyone could follow
- Can become a little unstable at higher volumes
- Very lightweight, you need nimble fingers to install and can become a little finicky
- Not as fancy or stylish as other pickups out there, those wanting some flash might be a bit disappointed in its simple black covering
This video shows an awesome demo of some of the sounds covered by this pickup:
3. Benedetto S-6 S-Series Pickup
The Benedetto is a floating jazz humbucker pickup with a single conductor coaxial wiring. It looks relatively simple with its black cover but don’t let the simple look fool you.
- Produces a simply wonderful, warm tone which sounds slightly acoustic
- Great build quality, this product was meant to last
- Easy to install
- A little more expensive than other pickups on the market
- Very simple looking, if you want something fancy, this isn't for you
- Gives more of an acoustic sound, can be a pro or a con
Let's take a look:
4. Seymour Duncan SH1N '59 Model Humbucker
Another Seymour Duncan makes it to the list. The SH1 model has a vintage style to it and is more geared towards those wishing for a distortion effect in their playing. With a single-conductor wire, this pickup still gives a clear sound but with vintage tones.
- Great price for such a good looking and clean sounding pickup
- Clear, warm sound which works great for slow jazz and distortion
- Reliable, Seymour Duncan makes a sturdy pickup
- Looks and sounds vintage which isn’t what everyone likes
- Extremely lightweight, can be frustrating to install
- Not a good all-rounder for jazz music, only suits some styles
Here's a video about it:
5. Kent Armstrong Smooth Sam - Neck Mount Pickup
This smooth looking pickup will make anyone happy as it will add a certain style to any jazz guitar. It is a neck mounted pickup which is fairly different to many mentioned here which are attached to the bottom of the fretboard.
- It’s nickel plating makes it look stylish, a must have for many players
- Excellent price means you can get a good quality pickup without breaking the bank
- Gives a wonderful jazz sound
- Neck mounted, personally I’m not a big fan of these
- Nickel plating gets extremely dirty which I found annoying
- Not the most reliable or stable of pickups, can get a humming noise which drove me up the wall
This video gives you an idea of what Kent Armstrong pickups sound like:
Any budding jazz guitarist would love to know outright which pickup will take their playing to the next level. Unfortunately, to one player a pickup might be Nirvana while another player would think it was hell. It’s all about you, I’ll try not to burst into song.
All five of these pickups are wonderful jazz pickups for different reasons. If I had to pick just one that would suit the biggest margin of players, I would vote for the Gibson 57 classic.
It gives a great, clean sound which is needed by most jazz players. The Gibson make is famous for its build quality, you can always see it’s name somewhere on the best-sellers list. It’s relatively high price ensures you get a quality product, therefore if overall you want a better jazz sound, the Gibson is your best bet.
Hope you enjoyed this post, which jazz pickup would you pick up?
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.