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Ask Bob: How to Get a Jazz Sound on a T5

Question: Two years ago my wife accompanied me to a Road Show at which Wayne Johnson played a T5. She saw my eyes light up and correctly figured it was the guitar, so that Christmas she gave me a spruce T5 from Tobias Music in Downers Grove, Illinois. I love everything about the T5 (we own three Taylors), but one thing that continues to frustrate me: I can’t get a “jazz sound” (think Wes Montgomery) when I play. I’ve experimented with different guitar and amp settings without achieving the tone I want. My amps include a Peavy Bandit 112 and a portable Roland Micro Cube. Do you have any suggestions about the optimal guitar/amp settings to achieve the tone I want?
John Cebula

Answer: Ed. Note: We asked Wayne to respond:
John, thanks for coming to the Road Show and thanks to your wife for the gift of a T5. You’re a lucky man! I’d love to help you achieve your “jazz sound.” The T5 setting I used for the Manhattan Transfer jazz tunes on the road was as follows:
1) Second pickup position (from front to back), which is the under-fretboard humbucker only. This produces the warmest sound because of its location. You don’t want to use the body sensor or visible humbucker pickup close to the bridge.
2) Bass knob: From the detent position, boosted to the right, 3/4 full (this pumps up your low and low mid EQ).
3) Treble knob: From the detent position, cut back to the left, 1/4 full (this trims back most of the high-end EQ). At this point the white position lines on the two tone knobs will be facing each other. I would leave the volume in the detent position or slightly boosted from there.

These settings for a jazz tone on the T5 work for me with most of the amps I’ve used, especially if you play with your thumb as Wes Montgomery did (the thumb being much warmer sounding than a pick). As far as amps go, some are better than others when it comes to the EQ voicing. As with the T5 settings, you want to boost the low end (bass) and cut back on high end (treble). The middle is a bit trickier as there are low mids and high mids, and most amps don’t let you know where the mid voicing is. Experiment. You want to boost the low mids a bit. If you hear more high mids when you turn up the middle knob, then you probably want to leave it flat or in the center.

Another approach is to buy an equalizer. There are many to choose from, at various price points. Here you’d be able to totally control all EQ settings. Some amps have built-in equalizers in addition to tone controls. In the studio I often use Taylor’s K4 Equalizer to shape tone. This always sounds great and is helpful when you’re not using an amp and going direct. That said, I’ve played my T5 through hundreds of amps at this point and have always managed to get a nice jazz tone without the aid of an outside EQ source. I hope this helps.

Thank you for reading.