The world of electric guitars is filled with great instruments, each with its own unique capabilities and design features. The Fender Jazzmaster is one such guitar — and it has a long history and many admirers.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Jazzmaster, exploring its origins, construction, and tone. We’ll also discuss some of the famous players who have made this their choice guitar.
Fender needs no introduction as a guitar brand, but this particular model — the Fender Jazzmaster — was introduced in 1958 as the company’s top-of-the-line offset electric guitar. And while it was designed to appeal to jazz and blues players, its unique sound quickly found favour with surf rockers and musicians of other genres.
The Jazzmaster’s offset body was polarising at the time of its release, but it has since become one of the guitar’s defining characteristics. This offset design was intended to make the guitar more comfortable to play while seated, and it also gave the instrument a sleek, modern look.
The guitar also features two single-coil pickups, each with its own volume control, as well as a unique floating tremolo system.
The construction of the Jazzmaster was similar to that of other Fender guitars of the era, with a bolt-on neck and a solid ash or alder body.
Compared with Fender’s Stratocaster, the 24-inch scale length is shorter, making the Jazzmaster easier to play for some guitarists. The single-coil pickups are also wound with thinner wire than those used on the Stratocaster, resulting in a brighter sound. The Jazzmaster’s pickups were designed by Seth Lover, who created the famous PAF pickups used on Gibson’s Les Paul.
The tremolo system on the Jazzmaster was another defining characteristic, featuring a floating bridge to allow the user to raise or lower the pitch of the strings. The tremolo arm could also be locked in place, making it possible to use the guitar without fear of it going out of tune.
The tone of the Jazzmaster has often been described as ‘jangly’ and ‘sparkling’. The thin-wound pickups give the instrument a bright sound that can be further enhanced by using a distortion pedal. The floating tremolo system also allows for unique sound effects, such as wavering vibrato and pitch bends.
Some players have found the Jazzmaster’s tone too thin and brittle, but others have praised its uniqueness. This has led to it being used in indie rock and surf rock, as well as jazz and blues.
Many famous guitarists have used the Jazzmaster over the years. Blues legend B.B. King was an early adopter of the instrument, using it on his iconic 1965 album Live at the Regal.
The Jazzmaster also became popular with surf rockers in the 1960s, thanks to its bright, jangly sound. Dick Dale and The Ventures both used the Jazzmaster to great effect, and the guitar can be heard on many classic surf songs.
In recent years, the Jazzmaster has seen a resurgence in popularity due to its use by indie rockers such as Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus, and Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis.
The Jazzmaster is also used by jazz guitarists such as Bill Frisell and Kurt Rosenwinkel. Its distinctive sound has made it a favorite among experimental musicians such as Nels Cline and Matt Sweeney, too.
The Fender Jazzmaster is a special and versatile electric guitar with a history to match. Thanks to its bright sound and dedicated tremolo system, it has been used by many players in different genres. So if you’re looking for an electric guitar with a distinctive voice, the Fender Jazzmaster is worth checking out.