Upgrading my JM to it's full potential, the neverending modding ! (october 2020 update)

Talk about modding or building your own guitar from scratch.
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Flurko
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Upgrading my JM to it's full potential, the neverending modding ! (october 2020 update)

Post by Flurko » Wed Jun 21, 2017 3:43 am

Hi there,

I own my trusty Jazzmaster for more than seven years now, as I bought it from this forum's very own koyl in early 2010.
For history's sake, his original thread about this guitar, and variations thereof.

It's been my number one guitar ever since, a partsmaster of several Fender and non-fender origins, with :
  • Mexican Strat neck (small headstock)
    Japanese trans-white JM body, which IIRC is alder, giving a slight pinkish hue to the translucent white, [bonus question : does anyone know on what guitar this color was originally on ? I've never seen a picture of one exactly like mine]
    AVRI trem,
    Airline reissue single-coil pickups in humbucker casing
The only mod I did was changing the standard JM saddles by 3 telecaster brass saddles, It's a bit more stable now but still not perfect. I don't have the budget for a staytrem or a mastery or whatever, and as I like the "prototype" look (with the small headstock maple neck) I'll keep them on.

A picture of the guitar in it's current state :

Image

What I plan to do :

The pickups have to go ; I've never liked the standard humbucker shape in a Jazzmaster, and I'm pretty tired of how they sound.
As I was looking for european pickup builders, I've narrowed my choice to Jess Loureiro's Jazzmaster pickups, which are affordable and have good reviews.

I'm currently hesitating between a standard JM set, or a JM neck with his "Tele-master" pickup in the bridge position, to get more bite (think Wilko Johnson/Gang Of Four/Lonelady/etc)
-as an aside, I've been obsessed for a long time by the Shellac guitar sound, and a bit of research told me that the TB500 pickups are built like a cross between a tele bridge pickup and a P90, so this tele-master pickup sounds relevant-

I'll also need to find a way to get the pickups to the correct height, as the body has been routed to make way for the humbucker-sized Airline pickups:

Image

I think I'll get a black pickguard, to ape the black on blonde prototype JM look.

I was planning to buy a black anodized aluminium pickguard, but ths is getting way to expensive and hard to source, and I don't want the upgrades to match the price I bought the guitar for.

I found a single-ply matte black PG on amazon for around 16€, which is I think the simplest solution while I save up for an aluminium one. There's also the bakelite pickguard from WD Music, but the price is tripled.

Regarding the electronics, I'm having a few hesitations ; I'd like to keep it simple, with 3-way switch, master volume, master "tone-styling", and maybe using the rythm switch for series/parallel.

I'm not a fan of tone knobs, I'm thinking of replacing it with either some kind of Varitone or a Fender TBX tone control, anyone has any opinion ?

Thanks for reading ! I'll keep this thread updated.

Picture of the eventual goals, in black or If i get a change of mind, white versions :

Image

Maybe when it's all over I'll try to source a Nocaster style (Nomaster ?) F decal, without a model name, and the OSG-approved essential Amber Switch Tip.
Last edited by Flurko on Sun Oct 25, 2020 8:57 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Upgrading my JM to it's full potential, a few questions

Post by MrFingers » Wed Jun 21, 2017 4:29 am

That body: maybe from a mid-nineties MIJ "limited edition" Jazzmaster with gold hardware? IIRC, those showed the grain very subtle.

As for pickups, I can recommend "Paul's Pickup Place" in Holland. He rebuilt my meagre MIJ-pickups into something stellar, and for not too much money. But he also does scratchbuilts, so... I've also investigated Jess, but he seems to go AWOL for quite some time every once in a while, with people really having to drag information out of him. So that's something to consider as well.

Pickup height: use big(ger) blocks of foam, and long enough mounting screws.

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Re: Upgrading my JM to it's full potential, a few questions

Post by Flurko » Thu Jun 22, 2017 5:06 am

Thanks for the info.
I've started google-translating Paul's website, its quite interesting, I guess I'll have to shoot him an email to know about his new pickup building.

Good to know about Jess, I'll try to find recent opinions about him/getting a feel about his delay times by mail, too.

I didn't think about the bigger pieces of foam & longer screws, longer mounting screws of the same width will be kinda hard to find, I guess it's time to start looking for them.

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Re: Upgrading my JM to it's full potential, a few questions

Post by _nash » Thu Jun 22, 2017 7:38 am

I've used longer screws before. They've worked and they've broken. Once they get that long they snap easily.
On a bass I glued in pieces of wood like railroad ties under the screws. Worked very well. Given enough time I would have rather made a piece of wood to fit the route entirely.

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Re: Upgrading my JM to it's full potential, a few questions

Post by Flurko » Fri Jul 07, 2017 4:55 am

I've let this project brew in my head for a few days (long train/bus travels will do this), here are more developments/interrogations :

- I've had a little back-and-forth email conversation with Jess, he's been quite helpful about my questions, I'm still on the verge on working with him, especially from what I've been reading regarding his delays/lack and communication after payment.
Still, he makes a cheap Tele bridge/JM pickup hybrid, I'll go with this in the bridge position, not sure about the neck yet.
Anyone can recommand a loud, clear and hi-fi neck pickup ? I had been thinking about using an accoustick soundhole pickup, but this might be too much of a hassle. I might end up with a matching JM neck pu from Jess if I have no better ideas.

Considering the wiring, I'll have a master volume, TBX tone knob for highs and bass cuts, which I might end up modding if the cap values need to be fine-tuned.

I've been researching passive "overdrive" circuits such as the Black Ice, or DIY variations like the one described by the ever-fascinating Joe Gore here.
As this kind of circuit always comes with quite the volume drop, I'll pair it with a parallel/series switch, as the pickup in series have more output.
Not quite certain about this yet, but I'm thinking about the rythm circuit switch activating both the series wiring & the passive overdrive, is this a realistic proposition ? The passive overdrive seems to work better when fully engaged, so I don't think I'll bother with pots.

And, first physical progress :
I just got this pickguard from Lucas Guitaron Amazon, and, so far, it seems to be exactly as described.

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Re: Upgrading my JM to it's full potential, a few questions

Post by mbene085 » Fri Jul 07, 2017 5:38 am

Loud, clear, and hi-fi?

Pretty much the definition of the Joe Barden Two/Tone JM pickup. I have a pair, and they're great but unconventional-sounding. The "humbucker mode" is like a super clear, articulate, but fat, humbucker. The "single coil mode" (which is a misnomer because it's still noiseless) sounds somewhat like the Danny Gatton signature Tele pickup. The only downside is that they aren't cheap.

Image

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Re: Upgrading my JM to it's full potential, a few questions

Post by SciFlyer » Mon Jul 10, 2017 12:44 pm

The body is not from one of the limited MIJ Jazzmasters w/ gold hardware from '94. I have one. Although you can see the wood grain a bit, they are much more yellow.

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Re: Upgrading my JM : Update and new pic !

Post by Flurko » Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:14 am

It's been a while, and here are some updates :

I bought a pair of pickups and some hardware in the For Sale section, a Bullock neck pickup and a Hot Jazzmaster by Seymour Duncan for the bridge.
They sound quite good so far.

I also installed black pickup covers, they match perfectly with my matte black pickguard, they match perfectly !

I tried to install a treble bleed mod, but all it did was keep the volume pot from working, I might have messed up something. I took out hte resistor/cap couple and the volume pot works as expected now (and I'll have to change it, it's as annoyingly scratchy and glitchy as it was in the previous iteration)

I will try a "passive treble and bass mod" with the rhythm circuit roller pots, one of which will cut the bass and the other the treble, as described here.

The rhythm switch is now a series/parallel switch, it works flawlessly.

I still have to find a use for the tone pot, I tried installing some diodes to ape the black ice passive distortion, so far it does nothing... I must have messed up somehow. I'm still thinking about installing piezo pickups/a piezo strip under the saddles to try other sounds... maybe only under the bass strings to have a second output that could be sent to an octaver ?

So, here's a pic :
Image

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Re: Upgrading my JM : Update and new pic !

Post by Maggieo » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:17 am

Flurko wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:14 am
So, here's a pic :
Image
I love the Tele-style bridge! That is one great-looking JM.
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I am not an attorney and this post is for entertainment purposes only. Please consult a licensed attorney in your state for legal advice.

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Re: Upgrading my JM to it's full potential, a few questions

Post by Steadyriot. » Tue Jan 16, 2018 6:33 am

Man I love this JM since the first time it was posted. Still think that bridge is genius.
I get the want to mod ut I've heard more negative than positive about black-ice circuits etc.
Treble and bass sounds cool tho'! Bit Reverend-esque.
Adding a piezo can be easy with piezo saddles, or you could do it the hard way with a piezo disc. You can cut the discs so in theory you could add one beneath the E and A saddle. Sounds like a cool plan! You'd need a preamp to buffer the signal tho.
Maybe you can get some inspiration from this website: http://diyegp.blogspot.nl/2014/09/danel ... ickup.html
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Re: Upgrading my JM to it's full potential, a few questions

Post by Flurko » Sun Feb 18, 2018 8:03 am

So, after a few headaches and soldering iron burns, it's been de-assembled and re-assembled.

I even shot a little video :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTUSm6FZdhg

Quoting myself for the video footnotes :
Just testing out the newly installed pickups in my trusty Jazzmaster.
Bullock Neck pu, Seymour Duncan Hot SJM2B bridge.

Passive treble & bass wiring on the roller knobs, badly implementend because it doesn't seem to do anything...

The upper switch is for parallel/series wiring, and kills the sound if the 3-way switch is in the neck position.

The tone knob doesn't do anything for the moment.

Flat-wound strings, to keep me from doing to much noodly-bendy licks - I'm already improvising too much stupid stuff here !

Jazzmaster straight into a Roland interface, then a basic tweed-style amp sim software.

Sorry for the beard popping in and out of frame, it's winter here !

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Re: Upgrading my JM to it's full potential- It's done for now ! [Now with video!]

Post by Ohioisonfire » Sun Feb 25, 2018 3:04 pm

Love the partscaster/prototype vibe of this JM. Hope to build one like this for myself in the future.

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Re: Upgrading my JM to it's full potential- It's done for now ! [Now with video!]

Post by Flurko » Sun Mar 29, 2020 6:48 am

I can't believe I've had this guitar for ten years ! Time flies. And I even made an NGD thread on OSG when I got it : viewtopic.php?f=6&t=33683 .

After many temptative rewirings, I *might* have settled on something :

-standard 2 pickups wiring, with classic 1meg vol & tone pots, and once again the series/parallel switch in the rythm control position.
I added a 3rd knob to add a piezo pickup, taped/putty-ed on the pickguard underside, under the bridge. I've read many times that the volume would be quite low without a preamp but I haven't found it to be the case, to my ears it competes well with the magnetic pickups.
I followed a jazz bass wiring schematic for the volume and tone knob, with a volume for the JM pickups and the smaller knob for the piezo volume.

I previously tried a low friction EVH pot, but volume swells don't work very well with this guitar/what I play, and I could never wire correctly, always had sound passing through when it was set at zero. I also bought a TBX double pot, which i subsequently broke when trying to press-fit a barrel knob I had laying around... I could see my 18€ going in flames when I broke this silly pot.

I had bought black tapewound strings for my archtop, but I didn't realize they were best suited for electric archtops.. The sound was nice but not zingy enough to really cut through with my acoustic jazz band. I had replaced it with acoustic strings, and luckily they were cut long enough to fit on my jazzmaster (I had to glue up the nylon windings on the low e strings to keep it from unravelling on the tuner end).

The sound is really dark, as expected, but the 1meg pot and the piezo do wonders to add back highs in the sound. And to be fair most people I play with always complain about the icepicky high-end I have going on.
They also look very cool on the maple neck, and the purple windings go very well with the purple jazz bass knob I installed.

And finally, some pictures :

Image

Image

Image

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Re: Upgrading my JM to it's full potential, the neverending modding ! (march '20 update)

Post by garyptaszek » Mon Mar 30, 2020 12:33 am

I dig that. The purple knobs look great too. The piezo is an interesting addition, is it something useable on its own, or more just to accompany the magnetic pickups?

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Re: Upgrading my JM to it's full potential, the neverending modding ! (march '20 update)

Post by Flurko » Mon Mar 30, 2020 12:41 am

garyptaszek wrote:
Mon Mar 30, 2020 12:33 am
I dig that. The purple knobs look great too. The piezo is an interesting addition, is it something useable on its own, or more just to accompany the magnetic pickups?
Honestly it was more an experiment than anything else, so far I like to have it to switch from a standard "hi-fi" and really bassy jazzmaster sound to a tinny "distorted portable radio" sound. It also picks up string vibrations on the whole length, so you really hear the strings behind the bridge or between the headstock and tuner if you touch them. It has kind of a nasty high-end fizz, but the tone knob comes in handy to tame that.

TBF I can't play with anything than my tiny practice amp or the amp sims in my DAW now, so I'm not really sure it could be anything else than a feedback-fest at practice/stage volume.

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