Detailed Fender Jaguar and Jazzmaster review

Every once in a while a review gets submitted to jag-stang.com that just needs to be shared with a wider audience. This is one of those great detailed reviews by a user who goes by “the jazzman”.

If you’re interested in more user reviews check out jag-stang.com’s review section for some other good ones. Jazzman’s detailed Jaguar/Jazzmaster review follows.

After owning Jaguars and Jazzmasters for over 10 years and using them reguarly to play Jazz and after reading about all the problems with the guitars bridge, pickups/switches/short-scale neck etc, I thought I should clear up some widespread misinformation about the Jaguar/Jazzmaster.

1) The Jazzmaster and Jaguar were purposely designed to be used by Jazz and surf rock guitarists; they were never designed for rock/pop/grunge/shoegaze/alternative rock; Fender had already designed the Telecaster and Stratocaster that had captured the imagination of rock/pop guitarists. Hence, they made the Jazzmaster and Jaguar to target a different section of the guitar market.

2) With this in mind, the bridge and floating tremelo on the Jazzmaster and Jaguar were designed to be used with Flatwound strings only, as are used in Jazz/surf rock; 11 gauge minimum and the heavier the gauge the better. This fact alone eliminates bridge rattles and unwanted movement immediately. They were NEVER designed for standard nickle/steel wound strings etc as are commonly used today, which creates all the buzzing and movement on the bridge/neck.

3) Flatwound strings produce a very warm and thick tone, hence the reason why the Jaguar and Jazzmaster are equipped with 1MEG pots and produce a sharper sound, this is to purposely balance out the excessive ‘deadness’ of Flatwounds. Of course if you do not use flatwound strings, then the Jazzmaster and particuarly the Jaguar sound excessively sharpe in tone; wrong string choice is again the problem.

4) The low E,A,D strings on Flatwounds are extremely thick and bassey, hence the reason why the Jaguar is purposely built with a Bass-cut slide switch, which when in use thins out the tone for the purpose of playing lead. If you use Flatwound strings the bass-cut slide switch is a perfectly sensible and welcome switch that does not make the tone unuseable and too thin, only if you use very light or standard strings does the switch not make sense when in use.

5) The Jaguar’s so called ‘short-scale’ neck was designed with the aim of making playing heavy gauge flatwound strings easier, particuarly for bending at standard/concert pitch as is commonly used in Jazz. Also, the Jaguars shorter scale’s reduction in string tension, was not considered a problem because the heavy gauge of Flatwounds was still strong/heavy enough to make the bridge rattle/movement free.

6)The rythmn section on the Jazzmaster and Jaguar is so warm in tone because it was designed for Jazz/big band style music and played in this style sounds perfect for rythmn playing.

7) The mute assembly on a Fender Jaguar is purpose built for muting over long periods, as in Surf Rock and sometimes Jazz, it is not designed for short periods of muting that require quick changes, hence it is very easy to use for the purpose for which it was designed. Also, the mute is only meant to deaden the strings by tounching them lightly, and needs to be set correctly to avoid pushing the guitar out of tune as many people complain about; if your mute pushes the guitar out of tune it is set too high on it’s upward movement, or your string gauge is too light, or you are not using Flatwound strings as are a must on Jazzmasters/Jaguars.

8 ) Vintage Jazzmasters and Jaguars had saddles that had deep and wide grooves in them that were excellent for the heavier gauge of Flatwounds. It is only modern-day Japanese reissues (and to a lesser extent USA vintage models) on which the bridge saddle grooves are to shallow and narrow, which leads to the problem with strings/saddles popping out during bends. This problem is once again further compounded by the use of light roundwound strings, that are not suitable for Jazzmasters and Jaguars because they are not heavy enough and do not sit in the saddles properly because they are roundwound. Flatwound strings do reduce to a significant degree problems with saddles, because they sit in them much deeper and are much smoother when using the tremelo. If the reissue Jazzmasters and Jaguars saddles were made as the originals then there would be no problem in this area.

Although I understand that many modern players do not use Flatwound strings because they are looking for a brighter more resonant tone, unfortunately the Jazzmaster and Jaguar were built with such a limited guitar style in mind, that if you want to fully appreciate them and eliminate all the so called ‘problems’ with their bridges, then Flatwounds are a must.

I say these things through personal experience of using Jaguars and Jazzmaster to play Jazz on a daily basis and by simply using Flatwounds I never have any problems with bridge rattles, movement, sharpe sounding pickups, feedback, neck buzzing etc.

The people who complain about these things all the time on Jaguars and Jazzmasters simply do not understand their design and purpose; they are excellent/incredible Jazz guitars. If you use them for the purpose they were designed they are brilliant and ALWAYS use FLATWOUND strings; nobody would put crossply tires on a Ferrari and then complain that it does not handle very well would they?

The same goes for the Fender Jazzmaster and Jaguar; play Jazz and use Flatwounds and they make perfect sense. Do hope this clears up a perenial source of confusion and frustration for many Jaguar/jazzmaster owners.

– Jazzman

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7 thoughts on “Detailed Fender Jaguar and Jazzmaster review”

  1. Hi,

    Yes these guitars are brilliant. I have played vintage Jaguar’s but own only the Japanese issue of the instrument.
    It is incredible how many different kinds of sounds you can crank out of these things. I recently visited a guitar repair centre in London, and speaking to the woman who repairs the instruments, she said she considered Jaguars to be excellent rock ‘n’ roll guitars. Although I would mostly agree with that description, I have found the guitar to be far more versatile than some of Fender’s more famed instruments. It is also a shame that Cobain wannabes now treasure them like trophies but can’t ever bother to use them seriously by trying to play them without mods. To me, a modded Jaguar sounds dreadful and although I love Nirvana, I just wish the Jaguar was associated with someone who did not desecrate his instrument because Cobain’s guitar was no longer a Jaguar.
    Anyway, if this post qualifies as a rant, I do apologise.

    Cheerio!

  2. I finally took my Jaguar in to the guitar shop to get a tune up and have the intonation addressed because I thought that was the problem. I got it back and it still buzzes a bit and the bridge cover is ratttling a tad. I know I know, I’m an amateur etc,,,but it’s just frustrating, I like my Jag but she’s so tempremental….. 🙂

  3. Forgot to mention the comments on flatwounds too, that’s excellent advice and I think to the uninitiated, it would not register…anyway, thanks for the tips, that’s probably 99% of my problem.

  4. The bridge rattles because there’s not enough tension on the strings and because of the angle. That’s why there’s a thing called a buzz-stop that you mount onto the vibrato and you can put in a Fender Mustang bridge which was designed for roundwounded strings…

  5. I couldn’t run my guitar like that. I love my Jag but only after I tweaked it to sound like it did in my mind, which in this case involved fitting a Mastery bridge, buzzstop, Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound for Jag pickups, 500K pots in the lead circuit and probably a few other minor tweaks I’ve forgotten. Now it’s really versatile and is my favourite guitar in the world. If I’d been forced to keep it stock it would have been useless to me.

    I appreciate that the person who wrote the article has found if he sticks to the original design specs the guitar works for him. That’s fine, but a lot of what he says are personal preferences. If we all stuck to the original intentions of the designers we’d never get anywhere… imagine if the great Les Paul had said “hey, I really shouldn’t cut up this old Epiphone body and attach the wings to this block of wood with a neck on it”. Then there’d be no semi-acoustic.

  6. Yep, I like Rotosound RS200 (flat-wound monel) on my Japanese Jaguar. I have the Mastery Bridge upgrade, and ditched the original pickups, opting for Vintage Vibe P90 style. This is one mellow guitar, lovely to play for warm, jazzy tones. Sometimes I do miss the harmonic content of round-wound strings. But I have another guitar for that, with a Strat type bridge. Anybody tried flat wound strings with a modern-radius neck? I can’t imagine flat-wound performing as well, or feeling as ‘right’, on a relatively flat fingerboard.

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