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Cheap guitar of the week #31 - Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar

Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar

This is, believe it or not, the first time I've featured this specific guitar here.

If you follow me on the internet, you know I play a Squier Jazzmaster. But the guitar featured here is the Squier Jaguar. To the untrained eye, the Jazz and the Jag look the same. Trust me, they're not the same.

The first major difference from Jazz to Jag is that the Jazz is a 25.5-inch scale with a 3-way toggle on the bottom horn, and the Jag is a 24.0-inch short scale with individual pickup switches on the bottom horn. The second major difference is that the Jazz has large single-coil pickups while the Jag has skinny ones.

For most people (at least for adult players,) playing a Jag is usually their first experience with a short scale guitar.

Are special strings required for the Jag short scale neck?

No. You can use whatever guitar strings you normally use.

Is the string tension different on a Jag neck?

Yes. It will be looser in tension. Typically, what most players do is use strings that are one gauge thicker than what they ordinarily play on a 25.5-inch scale Strat. If for example you're used to a 10-46 set on a Stratocaster but that feels too loose on the Jag, going up one gauge thickness to an 11-48 set is normal.

What does a Jag sound like?

Very bright and twangy, thanks to its skinny single-coil pickups, 1meg linear volume pot and 1meg audio tone pot.

How does the switching work?

Top (rhythm circuit): Thumbwheel volume, thumbwheel tone, rhythm/lead circuit selector switch. When switch is up, top controls are used, front pickup only.

Bottom (lead circuit): Volume knob, tone knob, "Cut" slider switch (traditionally known as a "strangle" switch), off/on rear pickup switch, off/on front pickup switch.

Is the Jag good as a first guitar?

NO. The Jag was never designed to be a student guitar, and in fact was considered, along with the Jazzmaster, to be Fenders flagship guitars back in the early 1960s. Both guitars were designed to have many tonal options for adult players.

Guitars that serve well as first instruments for adults or student guitars for kids (and by "kids" I mean a child who is at least 13 years old) are the Squier Affinity Telecaster, Epiphone Les Paul Special II and the Schecter Omen-6 I just talked about recently. The no-brainer purchase is the Omen-6, especially if buying for a kid.

I would never recommend a Jazzmaster or Jaguar to a first-time player regardless of age because the guitar is simply too complicated.

And no, a "simple" Jag or Jazz does not exist in the Squier lineup, or at least not currently. The last one that existed was the Squier Jagmaster, which was a combination of both the Jaguar and Jazzmaster in a simplified two-humbucker layout with Strat-style vibrato system.

Jags are for the adventurous

The Jaguar (and by association the Jazzmaster) is a weird, quirky guitar. It's not Telecaster-easy and never has been.

I may at some point pick up a Jag just because I like the Jazz so much. Have I ever played a Squier Jag personally? Yes. I get along just fine with one, but my main nitpick is that I don't like the lead circuit slider switches (I greatly prefer the Jazzmaster 3-way toggle.)

I do however like the short scale neck just because it's different, and I also dig the Jag's sound.

Speaking of which, at the end of the day, it all comes down to how a guitar sounds that makes you like it or not.

The Jag sounds amazing. It just does. Even in a cheap Squier flavor, the guitar has loads of tonal character.

The Jag, like the Jazzmaster, was also designed first to be a sit-down guitar. This isn't to say you can't play it standing, because you certainly can (and easily,) but the offset shape along with the fact there is no middle pickup to bash into while playing make the Jag a very comfortable player.

Last, but certainly not least, the Jag is a fun guitar. It's the kind of axe that reminds you why you started playing guitar in the first place. Having fun is what playing guitar is all about. The Jag looks cool, sounds great, plays great. It's weird, sometimes buzzy, sometimes screechy. It has character.

You have to be a bit on the bold side to play a Jag, and it does take a little while to get used to it. But it is a great guitar to go on tonal adventures with. If you're bored with Strats, Teles and Les Pauls, try a Jag.

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