What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

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What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by sirspens » Sat May 25, 2019 10:55 am

Over the years I've seen a lot of talk about what defines a Jazzmaster. I had a hypothesis today, based on the experts that are in the best position to define what a Jazzmaster is: Fender Musical Instruments Company.

This is a Jazzmaster:
Image
Original flavor. No disputes.

This is a Jazzmaster: (American Original)
Image
Different fretboard radius. Is that all?

This is a Jazzmaster: (Troy Van Leeuwen)
Image
Slightly altered rhythm circuit controls.

This is a Jazzmaster: (American Professional)
Image
No rhythm circuit, pickup selector moved.

This is a Jazzmaster: (Player)
Image
No rhythm circuit. Different pickups / humbuckers.

This is a Jazzmaster: (American Performer)
Image
No rhythm circuit. Stratocaster style bridge.

This is a Jazzmaster: (Jim Root)
Image
Strat style hardtail bridge. Active humbuckers. Controls limited to volume and blade pickup selector.

This is a Jazzmaster: (Blacktop)
Image
No rhythm circuit. Humbuckers (there is a version with a humbucker in the bridge, Jazzmaster pickup in the neck)

THIS is an Offset Telecaster:
Image

THIS is a Parallel Universe Jazz Telecaster:
Image
(Sorry, can't find a full body image)

If the Offset Telecaster is a Telecaster, the body shape does not define a Jazzmaster.

If different pickups can be used, the pickups don't define the Jazzmaster. (Even though they are called Jazzmaster pickups?)

If different controls can be used, the controls don't define the Jazzmaster.

If a different bridge / tremolo system can be used, that doesn't define the Jazzmaster.

So what does that leave us?

I submit, for your consideration, that a Jazzmaster is defined, according to Fender, by the headstock shape. It is the only constant across everything Fender defines as a Jazzmaster. The headstock. That would be rather anticlimactic, right?

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Re: What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by 601210 » Sat May 25, 2019 11:01 am

sirspens wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 10:55 am
I submit, for your consideration, that a Jazzmaster is defined, according to Fender, by the headstock shape. It is the only constant across everything Fender defines as a Jazzmaster. The headstock. That would be rather anticlimactic, right?
The Jim Root one you posted has a different headstock. I assume 70s Jazzmasters have the same or similar.

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Re: What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by alexpigment » Sat May 25, 2019 11:07 am

I mean if you look at all things labeled Jazzmaster by Fender, there are 3 constants:

1) The offset body shape (at least on a 2D plane)
2) The 25.5" scale
3) One of two headstocks - pre-CBS-era and CBS era.

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Re: What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by Scarabeus » Sat May 25, 2019 12:15 pm

I think it’s fair to say that the first one is an actual traditional Jazzmaster and everything/anything else using the name “Jazzmaster” is some sort of variant.
The first one is definitely a Jazzmaster, without a doubt.… The rest are “some sort of Jazzmaster”.

If someone told you to go buy an average, prototypical Jazzmaster, you would understand that the first one is what they mean.

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Re: What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by sirspens » Sat May 25, 2019 1:08 pm

601210 wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 11:01 am
sirspens wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 10:55 am
I submit, for your consideration, that a Jazzmaster is defined, according to Fender, by the headstock shape. It is the only constant across everything Fender defines as a Jazzmaster. The headstock. That would be rather anticlimactic, right?
The Jim Root one you posted has a different headstock. I assume 70s Jazzmasters have the same or similar.
The CBS era headstock. It's a hard topic to get around. It might ruin my hypothesis.

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Re: What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by sirspens » Sat May 25, 2019 1:09 pm

Scarabeus wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 12:15 pm
If someone told you to go buy an average, prototypical Jazzmaster, you would understand that the first one is what they mean.
That's what I would assume. But I'm a pretty hardliner. haha

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Re: What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by sirspens » Sat May 25, 2019 1:13 pm

alexpigment wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 11:07 am
I mean if you look at all things labeled Jazzmaster by Fender, there are 3 constants:

1) The offset body shape (at least on a 2D plane)
2) The 25.5" scale
3) One of two headstocks - pre-CBS-era and CBS era.
The body can't define a Jazzmaster, or else an Offset Telecaster wouldn't be a Telecaster, it would be a hybrid or something.

I agree with the other things.

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Re: What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by alexpigment » Sat May 25, 2019 1:22 pm

sirspens wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 1:13 pm
alexpigment wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 11:07 am
I mean if you look at all things labeled Jazzmaster by Fender, there are 3 constants:

1) The offset body shape (at least on a 2D plane)
2) The 25.5" scale
3) One of two headstocks - pre-CBS-era and CBS era.
The body can't define a Jazzmaster, or else an Offset Telecaster wouldn't be a Telecaster, it would be a hybrid or something.

I agree with the other things.
Yes, but by that logic you should disagree with the other 2 as well. Most Fenders are 25.5" scale. The CBS era headstock is not unique to a Jazzmaster. I never suggested any of the 3 features are exclusive to Jazzmasters, but all Jazzmasters have those 3 features.

Remember: a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not always a square.

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Re: What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by Ridgeback » Sat May 25, 2019 1:41 pm

For me, an offset body, scale length, rhythm circuit, vintage spacing on bridge and vibrato. Pickups (within a certain range), radius, headstock, and frets to taste.
Last edited by Ridgeback on Sun May 26, 2019 3:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by Mechanical Birds » Sat May 25, 2019 2:24 pm

In terms of Fender defining it, their interests/point of view are pretty strictly for marketing purposes. For the guitar player, many other considerations apply. To me, it comes down to:

- Body shape
- Offset Vibrato (placement isn’t that big a deal to me as long as it’s explicitly the right system)
- Jazzmaster Pickups - so no p90s or Wide Range or Novak Humbuckers

If it has those three things, variances can happen anywhere else on the guitar and you still have what will pass for a ‘real’ Jazzmaster. Something that matters, but that I’d call objectively less important, would be the pots and existence of a rhythm circuit. That’s something that goes a long way in getting the guitar to sound as it was originally intended, but isn’t necessarily crucial if you’ve got at least a single volume/tone. I’d always wanted to mod one where the bridge goes directly to the Output side pots, replace the threeway with an amp-type on/off switch (like what is on a TVL Jazzmaster) and the neck goes directly to the rhythm circuit so you could have independent volumes/tones for each pickup and could blend accordingly or turn either on/off the same way you can with a Jaguar. I understand that we have that pretty much anyway, considering the RC is connected only to the neck, but it’s an obvious point of confusion to the uninitiated and seems like if it had essentially the controls of a 4-knob Les Paul that peopled get the hang of it a lot easier.

I got made fun of in a thread recently where I said that some new model ‘wasn’t really a Jazzmaster’ and I probably deserved it as that’s just more of the typical regressive guitar fan bullshit that’s done such a great job hindering most any real progress the instrument could have made for decades now. I just see stuff like that, though, and pretty much universally wish that they would ever like, do something genuinely NEW with any of their guitars, ya know? With a Strat it’s only ever like, this tremolo has 2 screws instead of 6 and like, there’s a humbucker in the bridge. Woo fuckin hoo. With Jazzmaster variants it’s like, instead of a threeway we just used a Strat switch and the pickups are p90s - INTRODUCING THE NEXT PHASE OF ELECTRIC GUITAR ENGINEERING.

It’s been said a million times in threads probably since this place first appeared, but it’s not like it’s gotten any less annoying. They’ve put out guitars that I’ve loved aesthetically and in an utilitarian sense for sure, but never really wow me. There’s the exception of that newer custom shop builder who came here and answered questions for us and was really nice and informative - the guy who built that Coronado for NAMM who also straight up just invented a new tremolo system - that was fucking awesome and something I wish happened more. I can’t imagine being a player from like 1955-1980, and seeing all the new shit as it happened. With Fender alone, every time they released a new model they had brand new everything - not just vaguely different body shapes or the same shape as before but with a vaguely different switching system - they had never before seen pickups, bridge and tremolo systems, etc. etc. etc. other than that guy’s Custom Shop trem thing, I don’t think Fender has done anything like that since, when? Maybe late 70s? We’ve seen the odd new model here or there with proprietary features, but they’re never ever like, COMPLETELY NEW, ya know? Like a Toronado has a new body shape and I think some had a unique bridge? All hardtail and all with typical humbuckers or whatever.

Like everyone else I’m jaded and cynical and I apologize for that because those are shitty attitudes and help nobody and nothing to get any better.

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Re: What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by Mechanical Birds » Sat May 25, 2019 2:26 pm

Also oh my god yeah scale length would go in my first tier too. That was something I never would have thought about and used to be surprised when people would cite it as a reason to like a JM over a Jag or whatever, but from the very first time I ever played a Jaguar and a Jazzmaster immediately back to back I instantly understood and was like “holy shit one of these definitely feels way better”

It’s seriously crazy to play a Jag for five or ten minutes and set it down only to pick up and play a Jazzmaster. Something I never really figured I’d notice given the chance.

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Re: What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by Scarabeus » Sat May 25, 2019 3:57 pm

For the record, I generally refer to my J Mascis JM as my “JMJM” or my “Mascis” when I’m speaking to people who know guitars .... and I refer to it as my “Jazzmaster” when talking to people who don’t really know guitars, in order to keep it simple and to educate them as to the “type” of guitar it is.

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Re: What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by Scarabeus » Sat May 25, 2019 4:00 pm

Mechanical Birds wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 2:26 pm
Also oh my god yeah scale length would go in my first tier too. That was something I never would have thought about and used to be surprised when people would cite it as a reason to like a JM over a Jag or whatever, but from the very first time I ever played a Jaguar and a Jazzmaster immediately back to back I instantly understood and was like “holy shit one of these definitely feels way better”

It’s seriously crazy to play a Jag for five or ten minutes and set it down only to pick up and play a Jazzmaster. Something I never really figured I’d notice given the chance.
Its all so subjective... I actually prefer the feel of my Jag... though that could have to do with it lessened tension of the strings… feels slinkier and easier to play.

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Re: What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by sunburster » Sat May 25, 2019 4:08 pm

In the 90s Fender Japan released a short-scale (24") Jazzmaster called the Jazzmaster Champ (JM-CHAMP), which had a speaker built into the pickguard and a humbucker in the bridge (you can also plug them into an amp, of course). Cool little guitars.

Image

Anyway, point being, the 25.5" scale length is not a constant either. What makes this guitar a JM is the combination of the body shape and the headstock. This holds true for all examples in the OP. The headstock by itself is not enough because there are no examples of a guitar called a "Jazzmaster" without a JM body shape.

Also, the Fender Parallel Universe Jazz Tele has a Jazzmaster headstock but is not called a "Jazzmaster".

Image
Last edited by sunburster on Sat May 25, 2019 4:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What defines a Jazzmaster: A Hypothesis

Post by daysleeperjeff » Sat May 25, 2019 4:20 pm

This is not subjective. It’s a Jazzmaster if Fender calls it one. They own the copyright and patent. They determine what qualifies it. All of those are Jazzmasters accept the last two hybrids.

You don’t have to like it, you can have your fan rage...but it’s true.

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