Tech Talk

Jazzmaster Guide: Controls Explained and Popular Models

They're not complicated and offer plenty of options. Learn how to use common Jazzmaster controls and then check out our favorite Jazzmaster picks of 2020.

If you're a fan of the Fender Jazzmaster, you've no doubt noticed some standout differences in its classic and modern configurations. Specifically, specialized models in recent years have been designed with simplified control layouts—such as the Fender Blacktop Jazzmaster HS, Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore models, the Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Special and the Jim Root Jazzmaster® V4.

Looking for a beginner guitar? Our interactive gear guide, FindYour.Fender.com, matches you with the perfect model by learning about your sound & style. You’ll be well on your way to finding the right guitar for you.

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Classic Jazzmaster Controls

However, the classic Jazzmaster configuration is considerably more elaborate. When the guitar was introduced in 1958 as Fender’s new top-of-the-line instrument, one of its several notable firsts was a dual-circuit design with separate volume and tone controls.

The lead circuit offered standard controls for a Fender guitar: single master volume and tone control knobs on the lower bout, and a three-position pickup selector toggle switch on the same side of the guitar. The model also featured a warmer, darker-sounding rhythm circuit, with its own separate volume and tone control wheels on the upper horn.

Traditional models have kept this same multi-control design all along--some standout examples include the Fender Vintera ’60s Jazzmaster and the Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster.

If you're used to a simpler control system, the various features of the classic Jazzmaster might seem overwhelming to take in at first. But if you've been hankering to try a traditional model out, here's a quick guide to getting the exact sound you're after.


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The Lead Circuit

The Jazzmaster’s lead circuit is pretty straightforward. As noted, there’s one master volume knob and one master tone knob, both located on the lower bout. The pickup selector switch gives three options: Neck pickup, bridge pickup, or both pickups together.

You can activate the lead circuit by setting the upper horn slide switch in the "down" position (toward the neck).

The Rhythm Circuit

To activate the Jazzmaster's rhythm circuit–which is fully separate from the lead–simply move the upper-bout slider switch to the "up" position (away from the neck).

The two inside wheels on the upper horn next to the slider switch are the circuit's volume and passive tone controls. The wheel nearest the slider switch will set your volume.

An important note: When in the rhythm setting, only your neck pickup will be operational–your bridge pickup will be deactivated. More than one unaware player has mistaken a Jazzmaster in rhythm mode for one with a faulty bridge pickup! Also, while in rhythm mode, the pickup selector switch and lower-bout volume and tone controls become non-functional.

Neck And Neck

So, as we've seen, there are two ways to set a Jazzmaster so that only your neck pickup is heard. You can either set the pickup selector switch to neck-only in lead mode, or simply put the guitar into rhythm mode. Here’s the thing to keep in mind, though: You'll get a different sound from each method.

You'll find that the rhythm circuit's neck-only-by-design tone is noticeably darker than the lead circuit's neck-only tone. This is because the Jazzmaster doesn’t use identical potentiometers for its two onboard tone controls. The rhythm circuit tone control uses a potentiometer with a different electrical value than the one used for the lead circuit, resulting in the differing sonic result you hear.

Now that you have a basic grasp of the traditional Jazzmaster's controls, we're sure you'll enjoy figuring out how to incorporate its range into your personal repertoire.

Buying Guide

Player Series Jazzmaster®

The Player Jazzmaster® is for the player looking for legendary design, all the classic features and most-of-all versatility. With its 22-fret neck and a 9.25"-radius, this guitar feels comfortable and natural to play. Two humbucker pickups push this model into the future by offering new high-output tonal possibilities. Looking for a classic single-coil tone? A push/pull tone control selecting the outside coil of the humbucking bridge pickup unlocks the instantly-recognizeable single-coil sounds for which the Jazzmaster® is known.

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Features

-- Alder body with gloss finish
-- Two Player Series humbucking pickups
-- Push/pull pot to coil-split pickups
-- “Modern C"-shaped neck profile
-- 9.5"-radius fingerboard

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J Mascis Signature Jazzmaster®

There is a reason why nearly every top list of Jazzmaster® players on the internt features J Mascis. He has been playing this classic Fender body shape for decades, making him a pioneer and ambassador of the instrument. Simply put, J Mascis, guitarist/vocalist of Dinosaur Jr is a Jazzmaster® legend,

For his signature model, J specified the Vintage White finish, gold annodized pickguard and aged white tone controls which give this instrument a modern yet classy look. The single-coil pickups were chosen for their full-bodied and authentic hard rock sound. Keeping you in tune as you play is the Adjusto-Matic bridge along with a vintage-style "floating" tremolo tailpiece, granting an added touch of original-era authenticity.

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Feaatures

-- Maple neck with "C"-shaped profile and 21-fret rosewood fingerboard
-- Two single-coil Jazzmaster pickups
-- Classic dual-circuit design ("lead"/"rhythm") with volume and tone controls for each
-- Three-way toggle pickup switch, two-way slide "lead"/"rhythm" switch
-- Adjusto-Matic™ bridge with vintage-style "floating" tremolo tailpiece
-- Gold anodized aluminum pickguard, vintage-style tuners

In this clip of Fender Play Live, guitarist Nick Reinhart (Tera Melos, Disheveled Cuss) sits down with the legendary Dinosaur Jr. guitarist/vocalist to talk about how he's developed his unique style over the years with the help of his trustee collection of Fender Jazzmasters.

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VINTERA® '60s JAZZMASTER®

This guitar is for the player looking for the golden era sound and style that defined the decade. The “Mid '60s C”-shaped neck has a classic look and feel with its matching painted headstock and 7.25"-radius. Where this guitar really shines is it its tone. Two '60s jazzmaster single-coil pickups and the solid alder body give enable this instrument to channel the warm, rich tones that guitars of this era are known for.

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Features -- Alder body
-- Two ‘60s Jazzmaster single-coil pickups
-- “Mid '60s C”-shaped maple neck with painted headstock; 7.25”-radius fingerboard with 21 vintage-style frets
-- Jazzmaster floating tremolo and bridge
-- Includes deluxe gig bag

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Jim Root Jazzmaster® V4

Jim Root (or to Slipknot fans #4) of Slipknot and Stone Sour is a rock guitar veteran with over 25 years of touring and recording experience. In the 4th iteration of this popular signature model, we've added bold new feature like block inlays, fingerboard binding and EMG® Jim Root Signature Daemonum open-coil active humbucking pickups. The JR Daemonum pickups capture the range of Jim's tones from warn cleans to high-gain overdrives. With it's single volume, this Jazzmaster® is for the guitarist that wants the simplist playing experience possible. Why fiddle with the knobs when you could be shredding? Maintain control over bends, dive bombs and vibrato better with jumbo frets and a fast 12"-radius. The Jim Root Signature Jazzmaster® looks, feels and sounds like no other instrument in the Fender catalog. Watch Jim Root demo and discuss his signature model below.

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Features

-- Mahogany body with contoured neck heel
-- Maple neck with “C”-shaped profile
-- 12” radius ebony fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets and block position inlays
-- EMG® Jim Root Signature Daemonum open-coil active humbucking pickups
-- Single control knob (volume) and three-way pickup switch
-- Hard-tail string-through-body bridge

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Jazzmaster® Mini

As versatile as the Jazzmaster® is, it may not be for every player. Some players can find the standard 25.5' scale stratocaster to be a bit uncomfortable. The Mini Jazzmaster® is for those seeking the full range of Jazzmaster® tones, in a reduced size instrument. Perfect for players with smaller-sized hands or young guitaristsDo not be fooled by this guitar's small size. The mini version of our most iconic model has every bit of mojo of the full sized version. Enjoy a loud and warm tone that sustains thanks to dual high-output humbucker pickups and a hardtail bridge.

Features

-- 100% Designed by Fender
-- Thin and lightweight body
-- Dual humbucking pickups
-- Sealed die-cast tuning machines
-- Hardtail bridge

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