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Flattop Acoustics in Jazz? Absolutely!

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Over the next few months, JGT contributor Marc Silver will be profiling several highly influential axe masters that have added flattop acoustics to their sonic arsenal.

When discussing guitars in jazz, we typically think archtops, semi-hollow bodies, or solid bodies. And for good reason… these are the instruments that are most widely used on records and in live performances. But that’s not the whole story. Steel-string and nylon-string flattop acoustics open up an entirely different world of sounds and personal expression that are more than worthy of our exploration, both as listeners and players.

So who are some of these “obscure” guitarists brave enough to move outside the box and incorporate a flattop acoustic into their arsenal of improvisational tools?

Have you ever heard of John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Kenny Burrell, Al Di Meola, Larry Coryell, John Scofield, Steve Khan, Bill Frisell, John Abercrombie, Ralph Towner, or Earl Klugh? I’m guessing you have. Whether using steel-string or nylon-string (or both), their flattop acoustics have played a serious role in their recordings and live performances.

Over the next few months, I will be individually profiling several of these highly influential axe masters. The plan is to serve up details about their acoustic contributions to the jazz guitar lexicon and also provide “listening suggestions” that are considered by many to be seminal recordings by these important artists. Where available, information about their instruments will also be included.

Admittedly, this is not meant to be a comprehensive anthology of the acoustic guitar in jazz. Rather, this will be more of a quick glimpse into what has been happening with flattop acoustic guitars in jazz from some of its most well-known purveyors over the past 40 years. Hopefully, the series will pique your interest and inspire you to consider potential new acoustic directions in your own playing.

Stay tuned…

Marc Silver is a guitarist, composer, and author, best known for writing the classic instruction book Contemporary Guitar Improvisation (Utilizing the Entire Fingerboard), which has been teaching guitar players around the world how to improvise since 1978. Visit online at MarcSilverGuitarImprov.com


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