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my transition to the jazzmaster

Above is Roy Clark playing a Fender Jazzmaster. And no, I had absolutely no idea he ever played one until just recently. As far as when the program above aired, that I'm not sure of. The Jazzmaster made its first appearance in 1958, so the program may have been aired then. Or it may have been in the early 1960s right before the transition to color television. Either way, yes, that is the Roy Clark playing a Jazzmaster.

Is Roy known for playing Jazzmasters? Heck no. He's known for playing big hollow-body electrics and acoustics. In all honesty it's just plain weird seeing Roy with a Jazzmaster or any Fender guitar at all, but there it is. Maybe Fender approached him in the late 50s or early 60s and got him to play it just to show what the guitar would do on television. Fender along with other companies did do that (and still do) where they put their instruments in the hands of known players in order to make the brand more known.

So anyway, I've been playing my Squier Jazzmaster for a little bit, and here's my take on it so far:

I love it. Truly, I do. The Squier Jazz is one amazing axe. I love the look of it, the feel of it, the sound of it... everything about it is just so right.

Do the lengths of strings beyond the saddles ring out sometimes? Yes. Do the saddles buzz sometimes? Also a yes. Does it sustain as much as a Strat or Tele would? Nope, nor is it supposed to because it wasn't designed that way. Even with these idiosyncrasies, I still greatly prefer it over a Strat or Tele.

My playing style on the Jazz is significantly different than when on the Strat. I purposely use a medium-thin Fender pick, pick lighter and it really works out well.

The sound of the Jazz is obviously night-and-day difference compared to a Strat. Those two big-ass Duncan Designed pickups with the alnico V magnets in them are very responsive and bright - but not too bright, which in this case is a good thing.

And let's not forget there are no staggered pole pieces on Jazzmaster pickups, but they're not all the same height either. The pole heights are "curved" very, very slightly. So slight you wouldn't notice unless you specifically looked for it (which I did). The "curve" of the poles follows the curve of the fingerboard radius. On the 1 and 6 they're slightly sunk into the holes, and towards the middle they raise up slightly, but just ever-so-slightly.

Jazzmaster pickups absolutely do not sound like Strat or Tele pickups at all. The Jazz doesn't sound like it has P90s in it either because they're brighter than P90s would be. A Jazzmaster, simply put, sounds like a Jazzmaster.

I can whiz around the Jazzmaster neck like nobody's business because of its offset position. And because the Jazz pickups have more output compared to Strats and Teles, I don't have to pick nearly as hard to get the notes I want.

Another thing that makes a Jazz easier for me compared to a Strat or Tele is that I can feel the notes better. I mean that literally. The Jazz design resonates almost every note played when you can feel the vibration right in the chest. The pick guard is vibrating, as is the bridge, as are the lengths of string behind the bridge, as is the vibrato plate. You can even feel treble-E notes when played.

Now before you say, "That's the tonewood talking!", no it's not because the body on the Squier VM Jazz is basswood, just like my Squier Bullet Strat. It's the guitar design that's talking here.

I have played Strats and Teles with bodies that resonate like crazy, but the Jazz is different in a better way. I prefer Strats/Teles to have a mild amount of body vibration when being played, because anything more than that bugs me on those body styles. The Jazz vibrates more than the Strat/Tele does, but in the way it does it, it feels 100% correct. Why? I couldn't really say. Could be the offset-style body shape, could be that everything is loaded on top compared to string-thru of a Strat/Tele, or any number of other things. Whatever it is, it just feels good.

Is the Jazzmaster the guitar I always wanted? So far, it's looking that way.

Note before continuing: No, I am not trying to make you dump your Strat, Tele or Les Paul for a Jazzmaster; this is just my personal experience with the guitar. If you like what you have and genuinely enjoy playing the guitar you currently own, stick with it.

Why did I go get a Jazzmaster in the first place?

The first time I tried a Jazzmaster was in Guitar Center in Clearwater, Florida. But it was not a traditional setup. Instead it was one of those Jazzmaster Special types with the concentric knobs (middle of knob for volume, "ring" for tone) and no vibrato system. I did not like it. While it was built well, and the best way I can describe the guitar is that it looked, felt, played and sounded generic. Nothing special, even though Special is in its name.

Then in September I tried a Vintage Modified Jazzmaster at Sam Ash in Tampa. It was a Candy Apple Red with the white pick guard just like the one I bought (and for all I know it might be that same guitar). I fell in love with the vibrato system instantly. The guitar just felt so comfortable.

Why didn't I buy it then? Too much.

Then in November I bought a Thinline Telecaster. Great guitar, but it had a grounding problem. Took it back, had it repaired, same problem. Took it back, traded it for an even swap for a Jazzmaster. And that was the right price that time around since I paid $279 for the Tele originally, so technically I got the Jazz for the same price (it ordinarily runs for $299).

ANYWAY... it was a combination of things that made me pick up the red Jazzmaster. First was the look of it. Frickin' gorgeous guitar. Second was that vibrato system I wanted to try out. Third was the big honkin' single-coil pickups.

That combo, as it turns out, is exactly what I wanted.

It needs nothing

When I play the Jazz, I don't think, "Gee... this guitar would be so much better if it had [this, that, the other thing] in it." I don't think that at all. I just pick up and play and not think about those things, because there's nothing on it that needs improvement as far as I can tell.

That, for me, is super-rare with any electric. Whenever I pick up an electric no matter what it is, be it a cheap Squier or a ritzy and expensive Custom Shop Fender, I always feel that something could be better about the guitar. But not so with the Jazz.

It has issues, but I actually like them

The Jazz has wonky issues with it. But here's the thing - they don't bother me. Those wonky issues actually give the guitar good character that I like.

I'll put this in comparison to a Strat just to explain better what I'm talking about.

All traditional-setup Strats have what's jokingly called "Stratocaster reverb" where the tremolo claw springs in the back ring out when you play certain stuff. You'll play a few riffs, stop and hear a dulled "brrriiinnng" noise. That's annoying. So, like most Strat players do, you take off the rear cover, stuff the springs full of paper towels and that kills the ringing noise. Problem solved.

Jazzmasters ring also, but it's all on top since it's a top-loader. And the ring comes from the extra lengths of strings after the bridge to the vibrato plate. This ring is something you can actually use because it makes certain notes sound different in a cool way.

When I first started playing the Jazz, I admit I hated the string ring. But as I kept playing it, I discovered that ring actually contributes some really cool overtones to certain chords and notes. Heck, there's even stuff you can play where that ring adds in a very faint natural chorus of sorts.

The idiosyncratic nature of the Jazz is something that really fits me. I think it's great.

For either this month or when the new year starts I'll be writing some new cool music with it, so watch for that.


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