Find out how the Fender Jaguar, Jazzmaster and Mustang offset-body guitars became synonymous with alternative rock and shoegaze, and check our guide to help you choosing from all the different versions available today!
However, they may be "cool", but these offset guitars are not for everyone. Most guitarists interested in more conventional styles such as classic rock, metal, or blues tend to gravitate to classic designs like the Les Paul, Stratocaster and Telecaster or, in the case of metal players, guitars specifically designed for the style, by brands such as Ibanez or Schecter. And that was precisely the problem with Fender's innovative offset guitars when they were first released, in the Sixties: the musical styles that would eventually make them popular didn't exist yet!
In The Sixities: Surf's Up!
The Jazzmaster was the first guitar with "offset-waist" body made by Fender, but despite its name, it didn't become popular with Jazz players. It perhaps looked too futuristic, and wasn't as straight-forward as the guitars Jazz musicians were used to play, with its innovative bridge, "soapbar" pickups and new dual-circuit. However, the Jazzmaster was quickly adopted by some surf-rock bands like The Ventures, and even The Beach Boys.
For this reason, when Fender released the Jaguar, which was designed as an "improved" Jazzmaster, the promotional images were all beach-themed!
Of course, once the surf-music craze was over, at the end of the decade, the sales of both the Jazzmaster and Jaguar guitars declined. Few artists outside of the surf genre could be seen playing this type of guitar, the most notable one was a pre-fame Jimi Hendrix. But as prices went down, a new generation of guitarists would soon rediscover these instruments...
Television, Sonic Youth & My Bloody Valentine
New York band Televison were the first of a new breed of artists who chose to play Jazzmasters and Jaguars, in the mid-Seventies. As cash-strapped punk musicians, Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd bought those models simply because they were cheaper back then. For this same reason, Elvis Costello also bought a Jazzmaster back in the seventies, which became his main guitar for many years.
But the greatest advocates of Jazzmasters and Jaguars were another New York band, Sonic Youth, who used these models from 1980 up until their split in 2013, influencing many alt-rock bands who followed, such as Dinosaur Jr. and Nirvana. Thanks to Kurt Cobain, a much wider audience discovered the Fender Jaguar. Today budget-friendly Squier Jaguar options are available.
Across the pond, My Bloody Valentine were the most influential UK band who'd almost exclusively use Jaguars and Jazzmasters.
Thanks to those artists, it's no wonder that today the Jazzmaster and Jaguar are synonymous with noisy, alternative rock, shoegaze and grunge.
Jazzmaster vs. Jaguar: which one is better?
This is an argument that'll probably never have a final answer, as several internet discussion forums attest. "Which one is better? Which one is better for surf music?" Well, the fact is that both guitars are great and even though they don't sound the same, many players who like one model also like the other (as was the case with Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine).
So what's the difference between The Fender Jazzmaster and Fender Jaguar?
In summary the main differences between the Jazzmaster and the Jaguar come down to the scale length and pickups used.
- The Fender Jazzmaster usually has a 25.5″ scale neck while the Jaguar has a 24″ scale neck.
- The Jaguar has three pickup switches at the bottom of the guitar.
- The Jazzmaster will often opt for soapbar style pickups whereas the Jaguar will have exposed humbucking or single coil pickups.
The Jazzmaster has a fuller and warmer tone, but the Jaguar can sound more crisp and punchier (and also quite darker when you use its rhythm circuit.) The Jaguar also has a shorter scale neck, which some people prefer, and others don't. Broadly speaking, many players feel that the Jazzmaster takes distortion better than the Jaguar, while the Jaguar is great clean - unless you do like Kurt Cobain and choose a humbucker-equipped version, in which case the Jaguar will sound even meatier than the Jazzmaster! In other words - you'll never know which one is the best for you, until you try both!
And as for surf music... let's just say some great tracks were made using a Mosrite! So that's settled, then...
How does the Fender Jazzmaster / Fender Jaguar dual-circuit work?
The cool thing about these guitars is that their dual-circuit designs means it's almost like you get 2 guitars for the price of one, giving you more tonal versatility than most other guitar designs such as Les Pauls or Strats. Here's how the dual-circuit works.
Jazzmaster Dual Circuit Explained - What do the switches on the Fender Jazzmaster do?
With the Jazzmaster, the dual circuit is fairly simple: Just a up-or-down switch. When it's down, it means you're using the Lead Circuit, with the traditional controls on the lower bout of the guitar: master volume, master tone, and 3-way switch to select the pickups, just like in a Telecaster.
When the flicker switch is "up", however, you select the darker Rhythm Circuit, with separate volume and tone controls, on the upper bout. The lower bout controls don't work in this mode. Also, when you select the Rhythm Circuit, the bridge pickup is inactive, and only the neck pickup works - but with a different sound than if you selected just the same pickup on Lead Circuit, because both circuits use different potentiometers and different electrical values.
Jaguar Dual Circuit Explained - What do the switches on the Fender Jaguar do?
The Jaguar works in a similar way: Top switch selects between Rhythm (neck pickup only) and Lead (neck/bridge/both) circuit. The top rollers are tone and volume controls for the rhythm circuit, just like the Jazzmaster. The main difference are the 3 bottom switches:
These switches are for Neck pickup (on/off), Bridge pickup (on/off) and Bass Cut (on/off). Finally, the bottom knobs are master tone and volume for the Lead circuit, only.
Best Jazzmaster Guitars Right Now
Squier FSR Classic Vibe 60s Jazzmaster Seafoam Green
The Squier FSR Classic Vibe 60s Jazzmaster Seafoam Green is a great option for those on a budget. This is a great way to get that classic Squier Jazzmaster sound without having to spend too much. It's also from the highly respected Squier Classic Vibe series which utilises vintage, period correct design features but offers modern reliability.
Fender Player Jazzmaster PF Buttercream
The Fender Player Jazzmaster PF Buttercream hails from the all new Made In Mexico series, offering the Fender sound to those who want a performance quality guitar without a massive price tag.
Fender Vintera 60s Jazzmaster Modified Surf Green
The Fender Vintera 60s Jazzmaster Modified pictured here in Surf Green is from the all new Vintera series. An incredible guitar that won't break the bank, but might break the sound barrier thanks to its awesome Hot 60’s Pickups.
Fender American Performer Jazzmaster 3-Colour Sunburst
The Fender American Performer Jazzmaster 3-Colour Sunburst features a streamlined design. You have simple pickup selector without any of the added switches and volume controls which makes life easier and a far more reliable 6-Saddle Vintage-Style Synchronized Tremolo. This is for the performers who want a plug and play guitar!
Fender FSR Limited Edition American Pro Pine Jazzmaster, Natural
The Fender FSR Limited Edition American Pro Pine Jazzmaster, Natural is a highly limited Jazzmaster guitar made from Pine. Each piece of hardwood has been selected by the the expert lumberjacks at Buckstaff Furniture Company, MI USA making each guitar unique.
Best Fender Jaguar Guitars Right Now
Squier Classic Vibe 70s Jaguar IL Surf Green
The Squier Classic Vibe series is an incredible series of guitars for players of all levels. Although priced for beginners, professionals alike will enjoy the high-quality construction Fender-Designed Alnico Pickups and vintage styling. We love this Squier Classic Vibe 70s Jaguar IL Surf Green.
Fender Player Jaguar PF 3-Color Sunburst
The Fender Player series is the new Made in Mexico range of Fender guitars. These guitars are beautifully crafted instruments with hard working hardware. We love the Player Series humbucking bridge pickup and one single-coil Jaguar neck pickup. This Fender Player Jaguar PF 3-Color Sunburst is a highlight from the range. You'll notice that the three toggle switches have been removed and replaced with a 3 way pickup selector - this make s it a little easier for players to get the sound they want quickly.
Fender Vintera 60s Jaguar PF Ocean Turquoise
The Fender Vintera 60s Jaguar PF Ocean Turquoise is incredible guitar featuring a lush Ocean turquoise finish with matching headstock. Newly voiced Jaguar Single Coil pickups offer awesome tone that you can manipulate easily whilst the Mid-60s "C"-profiled Maple neck, capped with a 7.25" Radius Pau Ferro fingerboard with 22 Vintage Style frets makes solos, chords and the big riffs a breeze.
In praise of... the Fender Mustang
The Mustang was another offset-waist guitar that Fender produced, and which got quite a few fans. Players include David Byrne, Andrew Bellew, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine... and Kurt Cobain. It was his favourite guitar, alongside the Jaguar, and when Fender approached him to design a new signature model, he decided to blend both models in a single instrument, the Fender Jag-Stang:
Unfortunately the Jag-Stang is not available anymore, but the Fender Mustang guitar is still very much available.
So first of all we should probably answer one of the major questions we get asked all the time!
Whats the difference between the Fender Mustang and Fender Jaguar/ Jazzmaster
In summary, the main differences between the original Fender Mustang and the Fender Jaguar/ Jazzmaster come down to the scale length, pickups, pickup switching and bridge used.
- The Fender Mustang features a 24 inch scale, the same as the Jaguar.
- The Mustang has two angled single coil pickups with adjacent on-off-on switches.
- The original Mustang (1964-90s) did not have a pickup selector - you had to use the on-off switches.
- The mustang introduced the Fender Dynamic Vibrato tailpiece - different to the Jag/Jazzmaster guitars.
The Fender Mustang differs quite a lot to the Fender Jazzmaster and the Fender Jaguar. The major difference comes in the form of the angled single-coil pickups. These pickups have adjacent on-off-on switches allows you to turn the pickups on or off allowing you to use them in isolation or in parallel. The second "on" position reverses the phase of the selected pickup which lets you play the pickups out of phase resulting in a more "choked" sound.
The Vintera Mustang utilises this pickup switching functionality, whereas the American Performer and Offset series utilises a 3 way toggle switch.
The original Fender Mustang bridge saddles had only a single string slot. Whereas Fender guitar bridges in general have multiple slots so you can slightly adjust the string placement.
How Do The Switches On The Fender Mustang Work?
In summary, the two on-off-on sliding switches found above the Mustang angled pickups turn the neck or bridge pickup on or off. This means you can isolate the pickups, blend them or turn them both off.
When the switches are facing the same direction, whether towards the bridge or neck, both pickups are on in parallel and in phase. When the switches are facing opposite ways the pickups are then out of phase.
However, should you put both the switches in the centre position, they will be turned off.
In summary you can have these combinations on a classic Fender Mustang:
- Both pickups On & In phase (full sound)
- Both Pickups On & Out Of Phase (strangled sound)
- Both Pickups Off (both switches in centre position)
- Bridge Pickup On & Neck Pickup Off
- Bridge Pickup Off & Neck Pickup On
Here's a selection of our favourites Fender Mustang Guitars.
Fender Mustang Electric Guitar - Offset Series
The new Fender Mustang from the popular, budget friendly Offset Series allows players of all levels to get hold of a classic guitar for less. This hard-working instrument forgoes the on-off-on switches for a simpler toggle switch but keeps the angled single-coil pickups to provide that bell-like sound the Mustang is famous for. The “C”-shaped maple neck is comfortable for all playing styles and the 24” scale adds a slinkier playing feel as you have more string to play with – bends are easier and chords are comfortable. Pictured: Olive Green also available in Olympic White. For more budget friendly options you can check out the Squier Mustang range.
Fender MIJ Traditional 70s Mustang MH RW California Blue
Next up we have the Fender MIJ Traditional 70s Mustang MH RW California Blue. This limited edition, special run guitar has been constructed in Japan, emulating the classic 70s style Mustang guitars. You have 70s style “U” shaped neck, matching California Blue headstock and Rosewood fretboard – a beautiful guitar that will only get better with age. You also have the classic floating bridge with dynamic vibrato tailpiece for period correct sound and response. The on-off-on switches are there too, so you can enjoy a variety of sounds.
Fender American Performer Mustang
Lat but not least we have the Fender American Performer Mustang pictured here in 3-Color Sunburst. This guitar features a Modern "C"-shaped profile neck for added comfort, two single coil Yosemite Mustang pickups that offer a variety of tones and some ingenious circuitry. You have a 3-way switch, so it’s not too complicated to operate, but you also have the Greasebucket Tone Circuitry which allows you to shape your high frequencies without boosting your lows.