The history of the Jazzmaster
Originally conceived to take the place of the Stratocaster and Telecaster models, Fender created the initial Jazzmasters with the intention of producing the ultimate guitar for jazz guitarists… however, this wasn’t exactly what happened.
If you have a knowledge of jazz guitarists, you’ll quickly realise that most of them prefer a semi-hollow, which is one thing the Jazzmaster is not. Simply out of familiarity, jazz guitarists refused to make the switch. A jazz guitar unwanted by jazz musicians sounds like a recipe for disaster. So how come it’s still around?
Well, luckily for Leo Fender, the Jazzmaster found a few more genres to make its own. Riding the tide of surf rock in the ‘60s, a cheap alternative for new wave in the ‘70s, and finally finding its current home in indie and alternative rock.
The Jazzmaster has gone from strength to strength, with various models and a multitude of differences in attachments. Let’s walk through all the variants…
Fender Player Jazzmaster
The Player Series is the perfect starting point for anyone looking to venture into the realm of the Jazzmaster. It delivers professional performance and an abundance of premium features that are all chosen to ensure you can play to the best of your abilities. A flexible instrument designed to be completely versatile, this guitar is crafted for the rebel looking to set a new standard.
Breaking the conventions of the classic Jazzmaster, the Player Series features a set of Alnico humbuckers at the bridge and neck, as opposed to the regular single coils typically featured on the Jazzmaster.
Still, it features everything you would expect of an authentic Fender, delivering a sleek “C” maple neck, a delicate pau ferro fretboard, and a 9.5” radius fretboard. This iteration of the iconic model provides the utmost brilliance you would expect from a flagship Fender at a pocket-friendly cost.
Fender Vintera 60s Jazzmaster
Moving on from the Player Series takes us to the classically-inspired Vintera Jazzmaster. The Vintera model brings the heyday of the Jazzmaster, and the swing of the ‘60s, back to life. Brilliantly blending the vintage essence of the past with the requirements of the modern musician.
Appealing to the purist, a silky smooth mid ’60s “C” maple neck offers that iconic performance and instantly recognisable aesthetic. Playability is always key, and the comfort this neck provides is incredibly luxurious. Tuning stability and vibrato capabilities are then achieved with the exceptional floating tremolo.
One thing of importance to note about the Vintera model is the fantastic re-voiced pair of single coils. Dialling up the output for increased definition, they expertly recreate that vintage sound you expect from a true classic model.
A modern guitarist will not feel out of place either. Since the pickups deliver incredible dynamic sensitivity and accurate articulation, you have the assurance that every sound is being fully captured for every occasion.
Perfectly bringing the past back to fruition, the Vintera offers up echoes of the past, with a refreshing rejuvenation upon every reverberation. A delightful guitar, it provides you with everything you require as a Jazzmaster player.
Fender Noventa Jazzmaster
If you are looking for a more refreshing take on a classic, the Noventa is possibly the choice for you (unless you are looking for something completely against the grain, but we will look at that later).
The Noventa Jazzmaster packs the perfect blend of classic reliability and modern playability. The result? A guitar that covers new ground, while still providing an abundance of familiarity to feel recognisable to the Fender aficionado.
The main difference in this model jumps out to you from the offset, the appearance of three Noventa single-coil pickups. These pickups have been specifically designed by Fender for this release of instruments. The selection of three single-coils offers up a search for the iconic Stratocaster sound, but in a guitar that still possesses the Jazzmaster’s feel.
When all three are utilised in partnership with the switching system, these pickups offer a higher level of versatility and allow you to create unique textures in your sound.
Containing a plethora of sonic depth, they have a fantastic dynamic response, guaranteeing the utmost clarity and definition in every pluck. The playability of the Noventa is accelerated using a fantastic modern “C” neck, which despite the modern profile, still offers that vintage Fender feel with a classic 9.5” radius fretboard to keep that vintage-inspired feel alive.
A modern marvel with an excellent feel, this guitar is truly exceptional.
Fender American Pro II Jazzmaster
The American Pro II lives up to its name, ensuring professional performance with fantastic features that truly result in the epitome of Jazzmaster construction. Tonally blissful, the instrument comes with a set of V-mod pickups giving the guitar true tonal versatility thanks to the diverse coverage of the V-mods.
The flagship model for the Fender Jazzmaster, the American Pro II offers a fully comprehensive experience. Utilising a deep “C” maple neck and a luscious rosewood fingerboard, this model plays like a dream, ensuring the utmost comfort whilst also offering plenty of freedom to flow across with accuracy and precision.
The V-Mod pickups are intentionally overwound to provide this model with an extra punch for peak tonal capabilities. This comes at no sacrifice to the warmth and chime of the classic Jazzmaster sound. Utilising a tap function on the bridge pickup, you achieve a lower-output, throatier sound that still possesses a lot of power. This can also be enhanced with the simplistic switching system that the guitar utilises.
The pop-in tremolo has seen an upgrade, too. Fender have utilised the all-new Panorama Tremolo system, which – while providing that traditional aesthetic – also issues the guitar with a wider range of vibrato, opening new sonic possibilities with endless dives and rapid vibrato.
This model encapsulates everything a Jazzmaster should be: pristine playability, terrific tone, and a fantastic feel. Thanks to a broad range of improvements and alterations, it provides you with the best playing experience possible while using a stunning, stylish guitar.
American Ultra Jazzmaster
There is another model that holds itself as the top dog in the realm of Fender Jazzmasters, the American Ultra. If you demand optimal precision, delicious tone, and a performance like no other – then you may want to consider whether the Ultra is your preferred option over the American Pro II.
A different feel is offered here thanks to the Modern “D” maple neck profile, which gives you a little bit more fretboard in your hand. This makes the grasp feel a little weightier, but in a way allows your hand to rest more naturally. It’s also combined with a 10”-14” compound-radius fretboard, which slightly curves to maximise your playing comfort.
One incredible inclusion is the Ultra Noiseless Vintage pickups, which offer that classic Fender sound while removing any annoying hum or feedback. This way, you experience crystal-clear tone that accurately articulates every inflection of your performance. This is also partnered with a range of advanced electronics, allowing you to put the pickups out of phase and control the intensity of each.
Of course, the classic Jazzmaster bridge is featured ensuring that you have the freedom to shine with tonnes of vibrato and keeping your strings perfectly in tune. Accompanied by a set of high-performance locking tuning machines, your stability will be out of this world, plus it makes string changes fast and easy.
If you are looking for an alternative for the American Pro II then this is a valid option. But, when it comes down to looking at instruments in a similar price bracket, a lot is down to personal preference. Both are solid options at the top of the Jazzmaster tree, and both suit the needs of any performer – definitely a tough call.
Jim Root Jazzmaster II
I think it’s time to look at the signature models. Completely out of left field, the Jim Root Jazzmaster defies the conventions you have come to expect from a Jazzmaster model.
Built for destruction as opposed to delicacy, the Jim Root Jazzmaster offers lightning-quick playability, freeing you to shred up and down the fretboard with impeccable ease.
Designed for Jim Root, the guitarist of metal behemoths Slipknot, this model is built for brutality in comparison to the other Fender models. Every facet of the instrument is moulded to maximise its potential for devastation. A pair of Daemonum open-coil EMG active humbucking pickups breathe chaotic energy into every chord, pushing your tone out with full power at every moment.
Using a 12” radius ebony fingerboard with jumbo frets, it truly has been built to ensure you are the star of the show. Freeing your hand to flow freely up and down the fretboard with no resistance, those solos and thrashing chords come like second nature. This is coupled with the Jumbo fret sizing to give your hand more room to land and accurately position all your fretting.
The systems in place are also simplistic and straightforward thanks to the removal of the vibrato, rhythm circuit, and tone controls. All that’s needed on this model is a volume control, three-way switch, and a hardtail bridge.
The removal of the tremolo system is the biggest exception to the Jazzmaster formula. But it does in fact reinforce the tuning stability, for increased accuracy during every performance. So, if you want a Jazzmaster that truly breaks the mould, then this is the model for you.
Troy Van Leeuwen Jazzmaster
The Troy Van Leeuwen signature model offers more Fender familiarity than that of the Jim Root variant. Coming with a beautiful 7.25” bound maple fretboard and 21 vintage-style frets, it provides the performer with that essential Fender feel. The block inlays then support this with a vintage Fender aesthetic everyone is familiar with.
The aesthetic on this signature is bold, but clearly vintage-inspired. The ‘Copper Age’ and ‘Oxblood’ finishes give it a bright, shining style and even includes a matching painted headstock; a design deeply rooted in the 1960s.
One thing that you often get with signature models is unique modifications to the conventional formula, and that is something that is clearly present here. One of the most notable changes is the utilisation of a chrome-plated Mustang saddle with the Jazzmaster floating tremolo bridge, as opposed to the conventional saddles on standard models.
This is a modification that is often made by offset musicians as it adds a new level of tonal stability to the instrument, and it’s already in place here.
The Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster pickups shine with classic influence, emitting a complete spectrum of classic offset tones. Dynamically sensitive and articulate in every sound, these pickups shine with sonic bliss perfect for the surf rock classics or really producing any sound you demand.
Completely unique in its design and with a professional feel, the Troy Van Leeuwen model is brilliant for fans of Queens of the Stone Age – or just anyone looking for a vintage-edged instrument that holds excellent playability.
While it may not be jazzy, there is definitely a lot of versatility and variation when it comes to the Jazzmaster model. By highlighting the main variants, we hope you have a better understanding of the differences between each one, and their strengths and quirks. If you wish to find out more, you can check out our full range of Jazzmasters below.
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