There are dozens of guitar models to choose from: Les Paul, Telecaster, Stratocaster, SG, Warlock, Flying V…
The list goes on.
Each music genre has its own “standard” models that are more prone to appear than others. After all, it seems strange to play metal with a Telecaster, just as it feels weird to play rockabilly with a Warlock.
Now, there’s one special guitar model that appeared at the end of the 50s and is still around: the Fender Jazzmaster.
This is a fascinating guitar model, rather versatile, and which gained popularity among early surf rock bands. But why is still relevant today?
Fender’s Jazzmaster is still popular because of its versatility and use in indie rock and shoegaze. The fact that many “modern” bands (such as Arctic Monkeys and Paramore) use Jazzmasters, only enlarges the instrument’s popularity.
Stick with us to the end of this article to see whether the Jazzmaster is an instrument made for you or not.
Will it suit your style? There’s only one way to find it out.
A brief history of the Jazzmaster
Jazzmaster is a guitar model designed by Fender in the late ‘50s.
It was created to be a more expensive version of the Fender Stratocaster, and originally, aimed exclusively at Jazz players.
This model was thought to work for Jazz musicians since this genre largely (and generally) ignored both Fender’s Stratocaster and Telecaster.
In addition, Jazz was considered a more “serious” genre, compared with the barely emerging Rock N’ Roll music.
Fender used to focus mostly on Western swing and dance not only because it was popular at that time, but also because Rock N’ Roll seemed unpromising.
“Rock n’ Roll? Nahhh forget about it. Let’s make a guitar for Jazz”
Interestingly enough, Jazz players ignored once again this model. Instead, it gathered the attention of Surf Rock musicians from the ’60s.
Eventually, it was adopted by new wave musicians in the 70s, and finally, by indie rock enthusiasts in this modern era.
What makes the Jazzmaster a great instrument?
Fender Jazzmaster is a versatile guitar.
Although it was designed to suit jazz music, it later turned out to be a great model for blues, surf rock, country, fusion, new wave, classic rock, and indie.
Versatile instrument indeed!
However, it is not merely a matter of versatility. Jazzmaster sounds fantastic as well.
The Jazzmaster model has a unique sound, which resembles a Fender Stratocaster, but fuller and with harmonic overtones.
Not to mention, Jazzmasters are great for recording studio tracks. For example, their single coil pickups work wonderfully with pedal effects or fuzz.
The pickups of a Jazzmaster aren’t as aggressive as regular P90s, and warmer than regular Fender pickups, which suits well for a clean crunch.
What are the bad things about the Jazzmaster?
Not everything is perfect with the Jazzmasters. As with any other guitar model, they present certain disadvantages.
First of all, Jazzmaster creates a buzzing sound that bothers many players. This buzz is the result of a lack of tension of the strings, which is also a result of the bridge sitting in two fulcrum points.
Nonetheless, the buzzing problem is not considered a problem for everyone. Many guitarists actually enjoy the buzzing sound of a Jazzmaster, so opinions could vary here.
The second problem is related to its tremolo. There is not enough down tension to keep strings in their place.
As a result, whenever you strum a string in a Jazzmaster, you will hear the string ringing behind the bridge.
To sum up, both buzzing and bridge are the two main words that you will hear (or read) when talking about Jazzmaster’s disadvantages.
Why has the Jazzmaster become such a popular guitar?
Jazzmasters are still popular instruments even in the 21st Century.
Naturally, this is not only because they are versatile guitars and sound and feel great.
The main reason is because of Indie Rock.
During the 80s, the decade where indie rock slowly but steadily started to emerge, Jazzmaster guitars were the number one choice.
The truth is, there were some second-hand Fender Jazzmasters models that were excessively cheaper compared with other models such as Les Paul or Stratocaster.
Thus, young learners who barely had money found Jazzmasters an opportunity to become musicians.
“Is it cheap? Can I play with it? Then I’ll take it!“
Time passed by, and those young guitarists became the new rock n’ roll idols of their generations.
Unsurprisingly, these idols became models for upcoming musicians, which of course, copied their Jazzmaster preferences above other models.
But follow-the-leader-habit was not the only factor that contributed to Jazzmaster’s popularity: It was also its raw, buzzing sound.
We have already stated the importance of Jazzmaster pickups for the use of pedals. Combining both distortion pedals with Jazzmaster pickups’ buzzing creates wonderful results, which fit indie and shoegaze bands like a glove.
These two genres are relatively popular in this modern era, thus, making the Jazzmaster a popular instrument as well.
Famous artists that use Jazzmasters
The Jazzmaster model has been used since the early 60s.
As a result, we have a long list of musicians who have chosen this guitar model as their go-to instrument.
Here we’ll mention the most iconic ones:
- Elvis Costello
- Thurstone Moore (Sonic Youth)
- Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth)
- Kevin Shield (My Bloody Valentine)
- Johnny Buckland (Coldplay)
- Robert Smith (The Cure)
- Thom York (Radiohead)
- Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys)
- J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.)
- Taylor Jorke (Paramore)
- Jim Root (Slipknot)
If you didn’t believe us when we said that the Jazzmaster is a versatile guitar, it was because you haven’t taken a look at this list!
Slipknot, The Cure, Radiohead, Paramore. The Jazzmaster does indeed cover plenty of genres!
Will you use one in your band?
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.