This week’s featured piece of gear is the Fender Jazzmaster! First introduced at the 1958 NAMM Show, it was initially marketed to jazz guitarists, with the Jazzmaster’s contoured “offset-waist” body designed for comfort while playing the guitar in a seated position, as many jazz and blues artists prefer to do. While the Jazzmaster never caught on among its intended audience, Jazzmasters were most successful in the burgeoning Southern California-based surf music and instrumental rock scene of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Designed as a more expensive sibling of the Fender Stratocaster, the bridge and tremolo construction of the Jazzmaster is very different from that of the Stratocaster, giving the Jazzmaster a different resonance and generally less sustain. Its appearance is similar to its follow-up, the Fender Jaguar, though it is tonally and physically different in many technical ways, including pickup design, scale length, and controls.
One of the Jazzmaster’s notable features is the pickup circuit featuring the unusual “roller” thumbwheel controls and slide switch at the upper neck end of the pickguard. The slide switch selects between two different pickup circuits, the “lead” and “rhythm” circuits. When the switch is in the lead position, the guitar’s tone is controlled by the conventional tone and volume knobs and the pickup selector switch. When it is in the rhythm position, it selects the neck pickup only, and the volume and tone are controlled by the two thumbwheels.
Notable users of the Jazzmaster include surf-rock bands The Ventures, The Surfaris, and The Fireballs, as well as Elvis Costello, Troy Van Leeuwen of Queens of the Stone Age and A Perfect Circle, Robert Smith of The Cure, and Chelsea Wolfe.
Check below for a video demo and history on the Jazzmaster!
What are your thoughts on the Jazzmaster’s style and sound? Have you personally compared a Jazzmaster to a Jaguar? We’re currently offering video conference lessons if you’d like to learn about gear from a professional!
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