"All Jazzed Up"
I have been on the constant search for a good performing jazz guitar for a whole life time.
Certainly I have had many (many!) Real jazz boxes - big body Gibsons, Epiphones, Heritage, and others - I still have several of them - fantastic guitars, but all share some inconveniences.
Of course feedback is always a concern - in working with my friend, Jazz great Barney Kessel with his famous guitar, he had a very interesting interchange with an audience member.
He was playing a solo performance (I had just put in new pots, shielded the Charlie Christian pickup and rewired the famous old Gibson for him and brought it to him on the gig. Barney wanted me to stay and listen for any other things that could be improved.)
Some one spoke to Barney in a break between songs asking him to turn around so he could see him play.
Barney did so, and the big howl came from the guitar - he said "sir, I'd love to but my guitar doesn't want to look that way"
Well if Barney couldn't control it - how can we!!
The second event leading to this project was the fortunate purchase (on Ebay) of a dual CD collection of Les Paul's recordings - absolutely incredible - listening to all of it at once - well, I was totally blown away - jazz, pop, the underpinning of rock, everything. What a sound, Les played lots and lots of Jazz on the Les Paul guitar.
Obviously the solid body Les Paul Guitar was designed to play THIS MUSIC.
With Les's damaged arm, the large size of an L5 is totally out of the question (the Les Paul is lots smaller) the 335 was years away, this was the way to go.
(Yes, I have about a half dozen 335's and 335 type guitars - a classic, less-trouble jazz guitar, all this can apply to any 335 type guitar for a very, very cool project.)
So I decided to re-design an existing Les Paul-like guitar into a real jazz guitar that would be handy (small,) not too expensive (another disadvantage of the Super 400, ES175, Heritage etc.) And pretty much bullet proof as far as feedback, and any acoustic problems.
This would require a look at pickups, electronics, pots, and controls to relate to the new pickups - the tone circuit - (obviously a new type of wiring harness would be required,) setup including flatwound strings, proper action, neck setup, bridge and tailpiece - the physical/mechanical relationships in the guitar.
I would also like to incorporate something into the guitar that would make it automatically "tame" modern tube amps - possibly reduce the very hot input gain and "not so mellow" frequency response. I have a totally new cool design for this called the "Jazz Jack."
The Target Guitar. A DeArmond M-75 from the recently discontinued line made by Fender.
Obviously this guitar was the resurrection of the Guild BluesBird with a combination of solidbody and Hollowbody features - possibly aimed at a vintage 50's rocker market, maybe rockabilly, or something in that arena.
It is a very, very nice guitar with an excellent neck, smooth fretwork, beautiful fingerboard - and perfect features for what I wanted to accomplish.
(check out these DeArmonds, they are terrific guitars. Fabulous necks and construction, great hardware, and the single coil pickup models just KILL for that Gretsch, or Duane Eddy type tone -a big, clear, ringing twang - very cool.)
The M-75 came with the DeArmond humbucking Goldtone pickups - certainly not what I wanted. Too bright without any "shimmer" not a sound that fit anything I was looking for.
I replaced them with a pair of DeArmond's DeArmatron humbucking filtertron-type pickups from another guitar. Again, not quite it - did not have the Gretsch sound I had wanted to get from it.
(I wasn't going to go the TV Jones pickup route with this guitar - I'll use the TV Jones pickups in something with a Bigsby and full hollow body.)
So it was sitting around - great to play un-plugged, real comfortable, light weight and great tone - a nice acoustic arch top type ring as it has a high quality Jazz Guitar trapeze tailpiece, (not a Gibson type stop tailpiece) and hollow chambers in the body.
Also good tuning gears, tune-o-matic bridge, nice fretwork, open control cavity like a Les Paul, and to top it off, used standard sized pickup mounting hardware and pots.
The first part of any guitar project is - will it play? So before doing any electric work, I strung it up with a set of flatwound strings and did a very careful setup.
The guitar set up beautifully - the truss rod was easy to set for the increased tension, and the adjustable bridge had plenty of travel to get perfect intonation.
The fret work was so good that super-low action was easy, and no fret leveling or other drastic measures were needed.
The feel with the flat wounds and low action was TOTALLY NEW. Very slick, and elegant feeling. Easy to finger difficult chords and single note lines popped out of the guitar with very good clarity and no fret buzz.
Ok, this is on the right track - now I need to listen to it.
I installed one Benedetto (Duncan distributed) B-6 Jazz pickup in the neck position to see if we had a sound going on.
The Benedetto is a hefty pickup with a fairly high resistance/impedance for a very classic jazz guitar tone -
This was the right move as the guitar now had the right response - rich, warm, clear tone with that hint of fatness without much distortion. These are good pickups.
I checked out the 500k neck volume control as that was high for the Benedetto recommendations. I could have replaced the pot with a 500k, but I tried another trick.
I installed a 470k ˝ watt resistor from the pot input (not the wiper) to ground. This placed the resistor in parallel with the pot's resistance making an effective 250k load to the pickup - a new trick, and super beneficial in this guitar.
With the resistor in place, the overall taper of the volume pot was, by far, the best I have ever experienced - completely even from 0 to 10, all the way - cool!
Problem #1. The Benedetto pickup can not have its phase reversed - potted, and sealed without 4 conductor wire.
The DeArmond Dearmatron also can not have its phase reversed with the exact same situation and THEY WERE OUT OF PHASE.
Oh well, I just put in another Benedettto B-6 in the bridge to match the phasing. Quite a few other pickups could be used for a nice jazz mix, the P-90 style Rio Grande Bastard may be a good idea here.
The second B-6 provided a terrific dual pickup tone - the guitar was almost totally there now.
Doing some design work, and thinking, I designed the new Torres "Jazz Jack". This is a complete passive circuit wired on the guitar jack.
It does several things. #1. Provides a microphonic and RF filter at the output of the guitar.
#2. It cuts down some of the output of the pickups and is an attenuator circuit.
#3. It is a high-frequency filter knocking off some of the high end "tingle" or excess brilliance that usually disqualifies many guitars from jazz use.
Best of all, it sounded amazing!! The first notes out of the guitar were just perfect - it sounded like an L5 with rich smooth jazz tone, sweet and solid highs, beautiful midrange, and no distortion from the vintage Fender amp I was plugged into.
I did not even have to use the tone control to get a real, real good classic jazz tone. Great - More on the tone control circuit later.
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