To answer your question, “is a Jazzmaster good for beginners,” I’ll say that, on the whole, it’s an excellent choice! In this article, I’ll reveal all the pros and cons of starting with a Jazzmaster.
Keep on reading to get all answers you have been looking for!
You can use the table of contents below to take you to the area that interests you. Click on the little box to open it and then click on the section of the article you want to read, or you can read from start to finish if you want the full Jazzmaster experience!
The Short Answer
A Fender Jazzmaster can be an excellent guitar for a beginner because it is comfortable to hold and easy to play. Jazzmaster guitars have an “in-between” sound that can lean toward either Stratocaster or Telecaster tones. Their “dual-circuit” and flat pickup design has made them an attractive option for Jazz, Pop, Surf, Blues, Rock, and Metal players. Jazzmasters are available in affordable Squier Affinity, Classic Vibe, and Contemporary models.
Keep On Reading (Below) To Learn More
What Is A Fender Jazzmaster?
The Jazzmaster is a guitar that Fender designed and marketed in 1958. It was their new flagship electric instrument, aimed at the Jazz community as a solid-body alternative to the semi-hollow and hollow-body guitars of the day.
It featured an offset body to make it more comfortable to play sitting down, a special “dual-circuit” design, and a new pickup with a flatter but wider coil for a richer and more mellow sound.
The separate bridge and tremolo assembly gave it a unique resonance with less sustain than the Stratocaster, and the oversize whammy bar made it easier to reach, especially when fingerpicking. A “Trem Lock” button allowed the player to lock the tremolo, which was especially useful after breaking a string.
Although it did find its way into Surf music, it was not embraced by Jazz players with the same enthusiasm as country pickers welcomed the Telecaster or Rock and Blues players loved the Stratocaster. Surf guitar players capitalized on the subtleness of the whammy bar’s sound to create their trademark vibe.
The Jazzmaster was discontinued in 1980 but was re-introduced in the mid-1980s in various models with innovative modifications.
Why A Jazzmaster Is Good For Beginners
A Jazzmaster is an excellent choice for beginners. It’s easy to hold and play with a uniquely subtle but expressive sound. The tremolo is a little understated in an effective kind of way, with less sustain, compared to a Stratocaster.
It is sort of the “missing link” between the chime of a Strat and the twang of a Tele. If you are looking to develop your skill as a “chord melody player,” the Jazzmaster can give you just the right tonal balance.
The cool larger, and flatter body shape will visually set you apart from the other guitar players on the stage. Players like Elvis Costello have used the Jazzmaster shape as part of their trademark.
The Price Is Right
The Jazzmaster is available in a Squier Affinity, Classic Vibe, and Contemporary model to give beginners the look and playability they desire at an affordable price.
Some Potential Concerns
The dual-circuit design can be a little confusing at first, especially for beginners, but it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it and find the settings that are ideal for your playing style.
The Jazzmaster’s separate bridge and tremolo assembly can be a little tricky to keep in tune, especially if you do big string bends, and the notched bridge saddle construction can be prone to string buzz or side-to-side movement. The bridge has been upgraded to a Tune-O-Matic-type design on some models to circumvent this problem.
Should a string break, the Trem Lock button is not always easy to engage quickly and can be a frustrating experience.
Jazzmaster Vs. Stratocaster Vs. Telecaster
Here is how a classic Fender Jazzmaster compares to a Strat and a Tele.
|Neck Scale Length||25.5 in (650 mm)||25.5 in (650 mm)||25.5 in (650 mm)|
|Pickups||Warmest sounding||Less warm||Least warm|
|“Trem Lock” Button||Yes||No||N/A|
|Separate Bridge And|
|Commonly Used For||Surf, Rock, Jazz||Rock, Metal, Blues||Country, Rock, Blues|
Pros And Cons Of A Fender Jazzmaster
Here are some things to consider when deciding whether a Jazzmaster is right for you.
|Offset Body||Balances guitar while sitting||Not as iconic as a Strat or Tele|
|Controls||Great for chords and melody||May be too complicated for beginners|
|Models||Wide range of models available||Sound and functionality can vary widely|
|Tremolo||Easier to do subtle bends||Less sustain and more difficult to keep in tune|
|Soloing||Well-balanced tone||Could be more difficult to cut through the band|
Keep On Reading (Below) To Learn More About Each Topic
How Do The Controls On A Jazzmaster Work?
Here is an image of the control and pickup layout of a classic Fender Jazzmaster. Note that the controls and pickups may vary for different Jazzmaster models.
The classic Fender Jazzmaster features a “dual-circuit design,” one for rhythm and the other for lead. Each circuit has its own volume and tone controls.
Over the years, various Jazzmaster models have been designed to simplify the circuitry to make adjustments quicker during live performance and more straightforward for beginning players.
The rhythm and lead circuits are selected with this switch. Only one circuit can be activated. Sliding the switch away from the neck activates the rhythm circuit, and sliding it toward the neck activates the lead circuit.
The rhythm circuit uses the neck pickup only. This circuit deactivates the bridge pickup, so it can’t be selected. The rhythm volume control adjusts the neck pickup’s volume, and the rhythm tone control adjusts the neck pickup’s tone.
When you compare the sound of the neck pickup in the rhythm circuit, it is darker (Jazzier) sounding than it is in the lead circuit. Rolling off the tone wheel in the rhythm circuit gives the guitar a warmer, rich, but articulate tone.
The lead circuit uses both the neck and bridge pickup. The 3-position pickup switch selects the pickup combinations (neck pickup on, bridge pickup on, or both pickups on).
The Master volume control adjusts the volume of both pickups. Likewise, the master tone control adjusts the tone of both pickups.
What Makes Jazzmaster Pickups Different?
Although the classic Jazzmaster pickups have a single-coil (non-humbucker) configuration, the coil housings are wider and flatter than other Fender single-coil pickups.
This design allows the coil of wire to be wound flatter (with less height) and wider, giving it a warmer tone than a Stratocaster or Telecaster.
Different Jazzmaster Models
The first (vintage classic) Jazzmaster was marketed in 1958 as Fender’s newest flagship model. Today there’s a variety of Fender Jazzmasters to suit every guitarist’s playing style and budget.
Here are some of the types of Squire and Fender Jazzmasters you’re most likely to encounter
- Squier Affinity Jazzmaster
- Squier Classic Vibe Jazzmaster
- Squier Contemporary Jazzmaster
- Fender American Original (classic reissue) Jazzmaster
- Fender American Performer Jazzmaster
- Fender Player Jazzmaster
- Fender Vintera 60s Jazzmaster
- Fender Noventa Jazzmaster (3 pickup configuration)
- Fender American Pro II Jazzmaster
- Fender American Ultra Jazzmaster
- Fender Signature Series Jazzmaster (Jim Root and Troy Van Leeuwen Jazzmasters)
- Fender Custom Shop Jazzmaster
Who Uses A Jazzmaster?
Here is a list of some artists that have played a Fender Jazzmaster. Recognize any of your favorite players?
- Adam Granduciel
- Alex Turner
- Bob Bogle
- Brian Molko
- Chris Stapleton
- Clara Luciani
- David Rhodes
- Don Wilson
- Elvis Costello
- Grant Nicholas
- Ian Fowles
- Ira Kaplan
- J Mascis
- Jesse Lacey
- Jessica Dobson
- Jim Root
- Kevin Shields
- Lee Ranaldo
- Madison Cunningham
- Marcus Mumford
- Nels Cline
- Ric Ocasek
- Robert Smith
- Robin Guthrie
- Sam Fender
- Stefan Olsdal
- Thurston Moore
- Tom Verlaine
- Troy Van Leeuwen
Fender Company Profile
Unless you just started playing the guitar today, you are undoubtedly familiar with the Fender brand. These guitars have literally helped define rock n’ roll and blues history. Their original factory was in Fullerton California.
Fender guitars are now made in many parts of the world, with the American-made and Custom Shop guitar lines still made with pride in the USA.
The Fender Broadcaster was first introduced in the autumn of 1950. It became known as a “Nocaster” after the Broadcaster label was removed from the headstock to avoid a trademark lawsuit from Gretsch over their “Broadkaster” drum set. The guitar was re-branded the Telecaster and the rest is history!
Fender has also led the way with amplifiers. Their “K&F” (Doc Kauffman and Leo Fender) series were the very first Fender amps, made by the K&F Manufacturing Corporation. These amps formed the basis of the Woodie, Tweed, Blonde, Brownface, Blackface, and Silverface series.
Fender makes an extensive line of pickups for all their guitars and bass guitars. Their Custom Shop pickups are hand-wired with hand-beveled magnetic pole pieces and period-correct wire and bobbins.
Beware Of Jazzmaster Knock-Offs
There are guitars on the market that look like Fender Jazzmaster guitars and have very similar brand names, also known as “knock-offs.” The low price may be attractive to beginning players.
Many of them don’t stay in tune, won’t play well, and have low-quality components that create an undesirable sound.
Knock-off guitars have a very poor resale value!
You are probably better off waiting until you have the money to buy an entry-level Jazzmaster, like one of the Fender Squier models.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the questions I get asked about Fender Jazzmaster guitars.
If your question does not appear here, please put it in the comments, and I will get right back to you with an answer.
What Is A Jazzmaster Best For?
Although the guitar was originally designed for playing Jazz, it has been used for playing everything from Surf Rock to Heavy Metal. Its dual-circuit pickup design makes it very adaptable for any musical genre.
Are Jaguars Better Than Jazzmasters?
No, not really. Fender Jaguar guitars have a sound that is typically brighter and more dynamic, while the Jazzmaster has a richer and warmer sound. It ultimately depends on the sound you are trying to achieve.
Are Jazzmasters Noisy?
The larger surface area of a Jazzmaster pickup could make it more susceptible to electromagnetic interference, which can add the noise of a 60-cycle-per-second hum. Since the Jazzmaster pickups are reverse-wound, the hum is attenuated or canceled out when they are used in combination.
Are Jazzmasters Heavy?
Jazzmaster guitars are not exceptionally heavy. They weigh an average of about 8 ½ pounds, making them a little heavier than a Strat or a Tele.
Is The Jazzmaster Comfortable?
Yes, the Jazzmaster’s offset body design makes it very comfortable to play, especially when sitting down. The body design also helps to balance the guitar when playing in the standing position.
Do Jazzmasters Have Humbuckers?
The original Jazzmaster had specially designed single-coil pickups. However, several models are available with humbucker pickups, like the Jim Root Jazzmaster, which features his Active EMG Jim Root Signature Daemonum humbuckers.
I hope this article has answered all your questions and concerns about “is a Jazzmaster good for beginners?” From my point of view, you can’t go wrong with a Jazzmaster as your first guitar.
My first electric guitar was a Sears Silvertone model with a Jazzmaster-shaped body and two DeArmond pickups. I played it regularly right up until I got my first Fender Strat, and that Silvertone is still part of my collection.
There are several affordable Jazzmaster options for beginners, including the Squier Affinity, Classic Vibe, and Contemporary models.
The offset body shape, dual-circuit design, and adaptable sound will help set you apart from other players in any musical genre. Let’s face it; it’s just a cool-looking guitar!
Be aware that there are some potential concerns with the functionality of models that have the original vintage bridge and tremolo plate design, such as tuning stability and string buzz. However, most models have been upgraded to address these problems.
Here’s a great video from Fender that highlights the key features of the Fender 60th Anniversary ’58 Jazzmaster. You can easily hear how great all the settings of this guitar sound. Check it out!
See 20 Guitar Tips For Beginners That You Must Know! for more info.
Tell Me What You Think
Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this article, have any questions about Jazzmaster guitars, or want to give your point of view. I will be happy to help you.
- As a beginning player, would a Jazzmaster guitar be an attractive option?
- What do you like most about Jazzmaster guitars? Least?
- After reading this article, are you thinking about getting a Jazzmaster guitar?
- What else is on your mind?