Of course, throughout the history of the electric guitar, there has existed a constant desire for change and new developments within the industry, especially in the early days of guitar giants Gibson and Fender.
With Gibson ramping up the competitive heat on Fender towards the end of the 1950s, Fender had to dare to be different with electric guitar design.
Fender is the overall best at innovation with electric guitar design, going all the way back from Leo Fender to the current innovations of today by the Fender company. Even Gibson nowadays, suffering from financial issues, can’t keep up.
Picture courtesy https://spotlight.fender.com/newsroom/logos
Originally intended for jazz guitarists, the Fender Jazzmaster was an effort by Leo Fender himself to make a guitar that would be better than a Fender Telecaster or a Fender Stratocaster in terms of appeal. This did not eventuate, but the guitar has stuck around well into the 21st century.
What is brilliantly unique about this guitar is the design overall. One of the turnoffs (for many guitarists) is the size and weight of the body. Many guitarists found this guitar unwieldy due to its overall size, although the body is contoured.
Key features of this guitar include P-90 style single coil pickups, rosewood fretboard (the first Fender guitar to do so as a main type of fretboard wood), unique tremolo system with tremolo switch (to differentiate between floating and regular tremolo, designed to lock the tremolo system if a string breaks) and unique pickup settings.
The Fender Jazzmaster HH is a beast of a guitar, with humbuckers instead of P-90 style single coil pickups loaded into the guitar.
Picture courtesy https://reverb.com/uk/p/fender-standard-jazzmaster-hh-olympic-white
There are two sets of pickup setting options which are accessible via the tone circuit switch at the top of the guitar. The tone circuit switch has two options: Lead and Rhythm.
On the lead switch on the tone circuit, you have the regular tone, volume and pickup selection options on the guitar itself and access to all three pickup settings. However, when the tone circuit switch is activated onto rhythm, you will only hear the rhythm pickup and additionally will be able to use the rolling controls next to the tone circuit switch to modify the sound. Noticeably, there is a difference in tonal properties when this is activated as well on the rhythm pickup.
This useful diagram by Fender shows the variety of options for the array of tones available on the Fender Jazzmaster. There is a world of difference with each option available on the Jazzmaster itself.
Picture courtesy https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/396598310926012814/
Aside from all this, this is a very interesting and special guitar. Ironically it has fallen into the hands of many non-Jazz musicians over time rather than Jazz guitarists themselves. The first real audience for this guitar was prevalent in the Surf Rock genre of the 1960s. Over time, it has become an interesting leftfield style guitar that has appeal to musicians who just don’t desire a run-of-the-mill guitar. That is where the Jazzmaster has its main appeal. Some famous musicians who have used this guitar are Elvis Costello, Thom Yorke (Radiohead) and Sonic Youth. This confirms the broad appeal of this instrument.
There are Jazzmaster guitars in all three main options of pricing from Squier to Fender to Fender Custom Shop. Prices began at $979AUS for the Squier Jazzmaster, to around $2 000-$3 000AUS for the regular Fender models, going further up in price with the Fender Custom Shop models.
For the purposes of simplicity, we will observe the specifications of the Fender American Professional Jazzmaster to understand further the details of the guitar, courtesy of http://shop.fender.com/en-AU/electric-guitars/jazzmaster/american-professional-jazzmaster/0113092785.html:
Body Material: Alder
Body Finish: Gloss Polyurethane
Body Shape: Jazzmaster®
Neck Material: Maple
Neck Finish: Satin Urethane Finish on Back, Gloss Urethane Finish on Front/
Neck Shape: Modern “Deep C”
Scale Length: 25.5”
Fingerboard Material: Maple
Fingerboard Radius: 9.5” (241mm)
Number of Frets: 22
Fret Size: Narrow Tall
Nut Material: Bone
Nut Width: 1.685” (42.8 mm)
Position Inlays: Black Dots
Truss Rod: Bi-Flex™
Truss Rod Nut: 1/8” American Series
Bridge Pickup: V-Mod Single-Coil Jazzmaster®
Neck Pickup: V-Mod Single-Coil Jazzmaster®
Controls: Master Volume with Treble-Bleed, Master Tone
Switching: 3-Position Toggle: Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups, Position 3. Neck Pickup
Bridge: 9.5-inch Radius Jazzmaster/Jaguar Bridge with Vintage-Style Floating Tremolo with Tremolo Lock Button and Screw-In Tremolo Arm
Hardware Finish: Nickel/Chrome
Tuning Machines: Fender® Standard Cast/Sealed Staggered
Pickguard: 3-Ply Mint Green
Control Knobs: White “Witch Hat”
Switch Tip: Aged White
Neck Plate: 4-Bolt
Strings: Fender® USA 250L, NPS (.009-.042 Gauges)
Case/Gig Bag: Elite Molded Case
In short, if you are looking for a Fender guitar that is unusual, innovative and quirky, this may be a good bet for you. The fact that this guitar has crossover appeal throughout different genres proves the relevance of this guitar to this day.
Elvis Costello loved using the Fender Jazzmaster. Although not as popular as the Fender Telecaster or Fender Stratocaster, this unusual guitar still is selling well and is appealing to guitarists who are a bit out there in terms of musicality.
- Jazz Bomb. Surf Staple. Indie Icon: A Jazzmaster History. Fender.https://www.fender.com/articles/gear/jazz-bomb-surf-staple-indie-icon-a-jazzmaster-history/
- Demystifying the Jazzmaster. Fender, YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cok5u132PJs
- American Professional Jazzmaster. Fender. http://shop.fender.com/en-AU/electric-guitars/jazzmaster/american-professional-jazzmaster/0113092785//.html