What's The Appeal (or not) of The Jazzmaster?

JDandCoke

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1,933
Seems every kexp or audiotree I watch, every local gig and every band I really like is using a jazzmaster.
What's the deal? What is it about the jazzmaster that draws people to it? And for those of you that dont get the appeal... what puts you off?
 

JDandCoke

Member
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1,933
Same appeal as any other guitar. You like the sound, you like the look, your idol(s) play one, go with it.
What do people associate the jazzmaster tone with?
The strat has that scoopy neck pickup thing and the inbetween sounds. Tele has the twang. Les Paul's are known for their body and sustain. What's the jazzmasters 'thing'?
 

J Factor

Supporting Member
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1,036
I finally played a Jazzmaster a couple weeks ago after more than two decades of not considering it. It was comfortable and I found the tone rounder and warmer than a strat, but not as bulky as a P90 Junior or something like that. It had nice articulation, and I quite liked it. It's probably something my teenage or twentysomething hard-rocking self wouldn't have cared for, but I like it now.
 

Ridgeback

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1,926
Besides the tone thing mentioned above, the offset vibrato and bridge is fairly unique. Also, the long run of string behind the bridge offers unique feel and (over?)tones. I also like the rhythm circuit, but many don't.

edited to add after reading some of the later posts:
I wouldn't want a JM as my only guitar. That would probably be a strat, tele or hollow body of some sort. It's just another flavor with a lot of unique features I happen to enjoy. I have a Jag for the same reason. For reference, I play 100% clean. Jazz, surf, Bossa Nova, with a bit of clean blues tossed in when I'm in the mood. No amp OD and no pedals except reverb\trem.
 
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Well, Jazzmasters and Jaguars set around mostly unused for part of two decades and the whole of the 1970s. And thus, a very nicely made pro guitar could be found barely used, for very little money. Guys with limited incomes, or guys who got their guitars stolen or like to smash guitars, found ways of adapting to the limitations of the guitars and turned these into their sound. A sound mostly shared with other players of them but not entirely. Better amps and PA systems, and the proliferation of pedals meant a less biting toned guitar would be employed. And since a Jazzmaster is far more competent than a Jaguar for similar money a type of use has grown up around them. Starting in the very early 1980s and developing from there.

And now that the prices have equalized (except on vintage examples), real advantages are pretty minimal and it is more of an individualized statement. Look different playing the JM and don't suffer the functional deficit of the fairly similar looking Jaguar. I've been around a long time and my feeling now is, the introduction of the Jaguar, which barely worked in some ways, indirectly damaged how ordinary players looked at Jazzmasters from the time of the intro of the Jaguar on. In the way the Cadillac car brand reputation was badly hurt by the introduction of the Cimarron version. Casual guitar people knew the Jaguar was a problem and so they just wrote off anything resembling it and the Jaguar IMO created this default "Don't buy any Fender guitar that's not a Strat (or maybe a Tele) without borrowing that model and trying it out for a month". Surely most guys here will acknowledge, the person on the street doesn't know the difference.
 

JDandCoke

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1,933
Interesting the replies so far have described it as warmer and rounder than other fenders. I know words like that have different meanings to different people but I always found jazzmasters to have way more treble than basically any other guitar, super bright, bordering on shrill and harsh. Obviously a lot can be done with the tone control but warm and round would be the last way I'd describe them!
 

GreenKnight18

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2,182
Well, Jazzmasters and Jaguars set around mostly unused for part of two decades and the whole of the 1970s. And thus, a very nicely made pro guitar could be found barely used, for very little money. Guys with limited incomes, or guys who got their guitars stolen or like to smash guitars, found ways of adapting to the limitations of the guitars and turned these into their sound. A sound mostly shared with other players of them but not entirely. Better amps and PA systems, and the proliferation of pedals meant a less biting toned guitar would be employed. And since a Jazzmaster is far more competent than a Jaguar for similar money a type of use has grown up around them. Starting in the very early 1980s and developing from there.

And now that the prices have equalized (except on vintage examples), real advantages are pretty minimal and it is more of an individualized statement. Look different playing the JM and don't suffer the functional deficit of the fairly similar looking Jaguar. I've been around a long time and my feeling now is, the introduction of the Jaguar, which barely worked in some ways, indirectly damaged how ordinary players looked at Jazzmasters from the time of the intro of the Jaguar on. In the way the Cadillac car brand reputation was badly hurt by the introduction of the Cimarron version. Casual guitar people knew the Jaguar was a problem and so they just wrote off anything resembling it and the Jaguar IMO created this default "Don't buy any Fender guitar that's not a Strat (or maybe a Tele) without borrowing that model and trying it out for a month". Surely most guys here will acknowledge, the person on the street doesn't know the difference.
I know it's just one person's opinion, and I don't think that this is really earth-shattering in terms of the general perception of Jaguars and Jazzmasters-- but I wish this wasn't the general perception. I love Jaguars, and prefer them to Jazzmasters. I went Strat to Jazzmaster to Jaguar-- and it took me a few months to really truly adapt to the Jaguar, but I have never regretted the decision.

Saying some of this as blanket truth for a person who knows Strats and Teles inside and out makes sense, but I have found Jazzmasters to be more limiting than Jaguars for me personally. I suppose if your main thing is blues rock that the stereotypical TGP person supposedly plays then yeah, Jazzmasters are better with their standard Fender scale. Despite the stereotype/strawman that I have created, I think a lot of people here on TGP and elsewhere are drawn to these variations. In this day and age, unless you are in a classic rock tribute or cover band that any of us really need to be limited by what guitars we play to make music we like.

If there is a little voice in your head that is really curious to find out what a Jazzmaster, Jaguar, or some other guitar is all about: GO FOR IT. Don't let the 1970s, offset guitar faux hipster trendiness or anything else you can think of (aside from reasonable financial responsibility) hold you back.
 

Oldster2

Member
Messages
16
Well, Jazzmasters and Jaguars set around mostly unused for part of two decades and the whole of the 1970s. And thus, a very nicely made pro guitar could be found barely used, for very little money. Guys with limited incomes, or guys who got their guitars stolen or like to smash guitars, found ways of adapting to the limitations of the guitars and turned these into their sound. A sound mostly shared with other players of them but not entirely. Better amps and PA systems, and the proliferation of pedals meant a less biting toned guitar would be employed. And since a Jazzmaster is far more competent than a Jaguar for similar money a type of use has grown up around them. Starting in the very early 1980s and developing from there.

And now that the prices have equalized (except on vintage examples), real advantages are pretty minimal and it is more of an individualized statement. Look different playing the JM and don't suffer the functional deficit of the fairly similar looking Jaguar. I've been around a long time and my feeling now is, the introduction of the Jaguar, which barely worked in some ways, indirectly damaged how ordinary players looked at Jazzmasters from the time of the intro of the Jaguar on. In the way the Cadillac car brand reputation was badly hurt by the introduction of the Cimarron version. Casual guitar people knew the Jaguar was a problem and so they just wrote off anything resembling it and the Jaguar IMO created this default "Don't buy any Fender guitar that's not a Strat (or maybe a Tele) without borrowing that model and trying it out for a month". Surely most guys here will acknowledge, the person on the street doesn't know the difference.
Just saw Courtney Barnett play last week. She used three different Jags and they sure as hell sounded competent to me. Whoa! What a sound.
 

TravisE

Supporting Member
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4,464
I know it's just one person's opinion, and I don't think that this is really earth-shattering in terms of the general perception of Jaguars and Jazzmasters-- but I wish this wasn't the general perception. I love Jaguars, and prefer them to Jazzmasters. I went Strat to Jazzmaster to Jaguar-- and it took me a few months to really truly adapt to the Jaguar, but I have never regretted the decision.

Saying some of this as blanket truth for a person who knows Strats and Teles inside and out makes sense, but I have found Jazzmasters to be more limiting than Jaguars for me personally. I suppose if your main thing is blues rock that the stereotypical TGP person supposedly plays then yeah, Jazzmasters are better with their standard Fender scale. Despite the stereotype/strawman that I have created, I think a lot of people here on TGP and elsewhere are drawn to these variations. In this day and age, unless you are in a classic rock tribute or cover band that any of us really need to be limited by what guitars we play to make music we like.

If there is a little voice in your head that is really curious to find out what a Jazzmaster, Jaguar, or some other guitar is all about: GO FOR IT. Don't let the 1970s, offset guitar faux hipster trendiness or anything else you can think of (aside from reasonable financial responsibility) hold you back.
I feel like you followed up generalizations with generalizations. That said, I also prefer the Jaguar to the Jazzmaster. A lot of the perceptions of Jaguars come from folks who sat down with one at a store and didn’t immediately love the tone. They’re different, for sure. Spend some time with them and they’re really fantastic sounding/playing instruments. The scale length and pickups go very well together and make for a very unique guitar.
 

Dr. Tinnitus

Member
Messages
2,708
Things that can turn people off about Jazzmasters (since nobody has said them)

More noise than usual.

A stock bridge that can have issues (grub screws coming out, strings jumping the saddle slot)

Limited trem range that sometimes has grounding issues.

Common use of neck shims to get proper action.

Unusual pickup height adjustment, using foam pads and pickup covers screwed into the body.

The Jazzmaster is typically considered to be more finicky than a Strat, but they certainly can be solid players that sound unique and bring something different to the table...
 

eigentone

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,245
It's my favorite of the Big 4 Fender designs. Jazzmasters and Les Pauls have been my main single coil and humbucker guitars (respectively) since I was a teen.

Part of the reason for that is that Teles and Strats have very common, identifiable sounds. Jaguars are a bit cramped for me. I play all 4, yes, but the Jazzmaster is the best for me. I like the look, the way it sits, and the pickups and vibrato are my favorite among the Big 4 Fenders. I like and use the Rhythm Circuit as well. It's super versatile and the pickups are very balanced. Not super bright and clear like a Strat or Twangin' like a Tele, but a good balance between the clarity of a Strat and the fatness of a P90.

I bought my first Jazzmaster in 1997. They were actually really hard to find then. The ones from the 60s and 70s would occasionally pop up in vintage shops and the Japanese ones from the 80s and 90s were also very rare. I could go months without seeing one in a shop. These days, they are in just about every guitar shop. I think a big reason for the Jazzmaster and Jaguar's rise in popularity is that they are great designs but the bridge was problematic. I love the Jazzmaster but the original bridges are a real pain for a lot of people. They rock. The strings slip around. There are about 40 moving parts. It resonates constantly and pieces fall out mid gig and cut me up. Intonation was always a moving target. They just worked better with heavy strings (eg 12s.) And the longer string length made it harder for many people to play. So it was just quirky enough that a lot of people couldn't easily play more conventional music with it. And then some great aftermarket bridges appeared and many of these issues vanished and they were far less quirky and more people got along with them. Jaguars as well. Today I use Mastery and 11s.

So what it really boils down to in one word for me: Pickups. It's the sound. It can cut or be fat and it works well with clean and driven tones. They are super versatile IMO. They also look cool and are very comfortable to hold standing or seated.

 

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GreenKnight18

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I feel like you followed up generalizations with generalizations.
What?!? My post was immensely thoughtful, detailed and beyond all reproach. :sarcasm

But yeah. If you spend enough time with a Jaguar it's pretty easy to learn how to coax all kinds of interesting sounds out of it. I can get some country twang and some massive distortion sounds (as they take most pedals quite well) that are pretty far from the surf plonk they are famous for. Jazzmasters had a lot more humming issues for me. I don't have giant hands, and some people that do seem to take issue with the scale.
 

eigentone

Silver Supporting Member
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7,245
Interesting the replies so far have described it as warmer and rounder than other fenders. I know words like that have different meanings to different people but I always found jazzmasters to have way more treble than basically any other guitar, super bright, bordering on shrill and harsh. Obviously a lot can be done with the tone control but warm and round would be the last way I'd describe them!
The pickups are really fat. The Jazzmaster has 1M pots. The guitar was designed for Jazz cats, who roll back. Rockers pick them up and (a lot of them) just turn the volume and tone knobs all the way up and things get really bright and resonant (eg around 4 kHz.) The same will happen with a Strat or Tele if you install 1M pots. The lows on a Jazzmaster are very well-defined. But yeah, I just recommend people roll the guitar's Volume back to about 8, the Tone to about 6, select the neck pickup, then dial the amp for a balanced tone. Then you can go up and down in volume and tonality.

I'll add that some Jazzmaster pickups are made with Alnico II but most are made with Alnico 5. A5 has a mid-scooped sound. A2 is (generally) warmer with more mids. So if you buy a Jazzmaster and think it's too bright, SD makes an Antiquity set with A2. Check those out. And if you play with a lot of gain, then the P90 in a Jazzmaster may be a better fit.

But yes, the Jazzmaster tends to have a ton of low end clarity compared to a Strat. But the Jazzmaster is never going to quite get that squeaky clean, shimmering 50s Strat sound.

I'll add that Jazzmasters are very neck-pickup-centric guitars. Again, Jazz roots. At least, they are for me. The Neck is the position I use most. Middle after that.
 
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1,727
The look is important first then playability then sound. I may be backwards for some but that's how I choose. Probably because I can fix the sound but the look and feel I really can't (unless I do surgery).

I'll never own a Jazzmaster, SG, V to name a few because I don't like the shape. Could be the best playing guitar ever made, still don't care. I do get it though just not for me, more for the rest of you.
 




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