Fender Jaguar

Fender Jaguar

Infobox Guitar model|title=Fender Jaguar

period=1962—1975; 1999—present
woodbody=Alder (Basswood on earlier Japanese models, Alder again post mid 1995)
woodfingerboard=Rosewood (Maple on models produced in the mid 1970s)
bridge="Floating" Tremolo
pickups=2 Single-coil, specially designed
colors=(American Vintage Series, as of 2005) 3-Color Sunburst, Olympic White, Black, Ocean Turquoise, Fiesta Red, Surf Green, Ice Blue Metallic (other colors may be available)

The Fender Jaguar is an electric guitar which was introduced in 1962. Whether the designers of the Jaguar had intended the instrument to be used for Surf music or if it was a further attempt to break into the Jazz guitar market (as was the case with its predecessor the Jazzmaster) remains a topic of dispute among Jaguar aficionados. Nevertheless, the Jaguar quickly caught on in the emerging surf music scene, joining the Jazzmaster, Mosrite and Stratocaster as the guitars most associated with the style. They both became popular again in the 1990s when they were used by a number of alternative rock bands.The following quote is taken from a 1962 Fender advertisement. The ad features a photograph of a man in a suit playing a Jaguar while sitting on the fender of a Jaguar automobile.

For unmatched versatility of tone... for the ultimate in design and precision engineering... the new Fender Jaguar electric guitar has captured the attention of professional musicians everywhere. Ask your nearest Fender dealer about the Fender mute, special design pickups, short scale neck (24", 22 frets) Floating tremolo and other outstanding features found on this amazing instrument. See it and play it.. you'll want it.


The Jaguar was based on the Jazzmaster, with the same, "offset waist" body and "floating tremolo" system. Unlike the Jazzmaster, the Jaguar was fitted with a shorter 24-inch scale, 22-fret neck (the first Fender guitar to have 22 frets) and featured smaller single-coil pickups with notched side plates that improved RF shielding, making the Jaguar less prone to interference than the more popular Stratocaster and Telecaster.

Although the Jaguar and the Jazzmaster shared the same dual-circuit scheme, the Jaguar had a more complex second (lead) circuit consisting of three switches on the lower bout: the first two were on/off switches for the neck and bridge pickups, respectively, the third switch engaged a capacitor that served as a high-pass filter. This switch was often called the "strangle" switch among players, due to the fact that when it is switched on, the Jaguar attains a treble-accented tone quality that easily cuts through a full band sound [http://www.webrocker.de/jaguar/cms/the-history/] . The rhythm circuit, set into operation when the upper bout switch is flicked upwards, gives the guitar a bassier, neck pickup only sound, with individual volume and tone rollers to preset. Another of the Jaguar's features was a spring-loaded rubber string mute, which was flipped upwards from under the strings by a lever. The mute was designed for guitarists who had to palm mute for extended periods, which was difficult or impossible on the Jaguar's floating bridge without knocking the bridge out of position. This feature proved unpopular as it sent the guitar out of tune when it was used improperly. When properly adjusted, the mute will apply light pressure to heavy-gauge, flatwound strings without sending the guitar out of tune.

Like the Jazzmaster and Bass VI, the Jaguar has an unusual floating tremolo arm mechanism that was a complete departure from the "synchronized tremolo" system found on the Fender Stratocaster. Leo Fender believed that this new design was superior to previous designs since the bridge actually moved backwards and forwards along with the strings during tremolo use, thereby maintaining proper intonation even under duress, and preventing strings from binding. This floating bridge concept was also later used on the Fender Mustang. The floating tremolo mechanism also features a built-in tremolo lock, which helped the player preserve the guitar's tuning in the event of a string breakage and easing removal of the tremolo arm. While these ideas worked well in theory on a well set up guitar, many guitarists and luthiers were ignorant of the correct setup, making it one of the more problematic aspects of the Jaguar and Jazzmaster and perhaps part of the reason players stuck with the Stratocaster and Telecaster.

Intended as Fender's top of the line guitar upon its release in 1962, the Jaguar never enjoyed the popularity that the Stratocaster and Telecaster did. After several upgrades (custom finishes, a bound neck and pearloid block inlays), the entire Jaguar range was given a maple fingerboard with black binding and block inlays before being discontinued in 1975 after a thirteen year production run.


Many guitar players find fault with the design of the bridge, which features saddles that have many grooves cut into them (similar to screw threads). The idea behind this design was that you could space your strings to best suit your needs but the strings may jump out of the grooves when playing with force. The problem is worse on Japanese-made (reissue) Jaguars. The saddles on the Japanese Jaguars have more shallow grooves than their American-made counterparts (vintage or reissue).

Before attempting modifications, it is advisable to install the strings for which the instrument was designed. When the Jaguar was designed, in the early sixties, heavy-gauge flatwounds were most common, and the G string was wound instead of plain. The Jaguar performs best with such strings [http://www.jag-stang.com/News/2007/09/02/detailed-fender-jaguar-and-jazzmaster-review/] These, in general, increase string tension and help keep the setup tight. Flatwounds fit the saddle grooves better, and the increased mass of the strings also serves to decrease buzzing on the bridge saddles. In the 80s and 90s the heavy strings chosen by Jaguar (and Jazzmaster) players also contributed to the characteristic sound that became associated with the guitar. A lighter gauge pick will also help to absorb some of the force from hard playing.

If a modification must be done, the cheap and easy solution to this problem is to deepen the string grooves with a file. Rattling saddles can also be an issue with stock Jaguar bridges. However the saddles can be locked in place by setting the bridge baseplate relatively close to the body while adjusting the individual saddles upward, and using the posts to adjust action. Many Jaguar players as a solution replace the Jag bridge with a Fender Mustang-style bridge which is more solid in construction, however with some setups the strings can rattle against or contact the back of the Mustang bridge, meaning that buzz will not be reduced. Another means of stopping the saddles from rattling is to dip the entire bridge assembly in melted wax. The wax, when hardened, holds the saddles in place. A similar technique is used on guitar pickups.

The rocking action of the bridge is often misunderstood; the unit is mounted on pointed screws resting in metal cups, which are inserted into holes in the body. When the tremolo is used, the bridge pivots on the pointed tips of the screws, causing the saddles to move with the strings instead of the strings sliding over them. When the bridge is adjusted too high up or during heavy palm muting, it occasionally can be knocked in one direction or another causing intonation and tuning problems. Some players fixed the bridge posts in place with tape or rubber tubing, which sacrificed some tuning stability under trem use. Other players replace the bridge entirely with a Gibson-style Tune-O-Matic bridge, although the spacing and radius of this bridge is mismatched to the Fender neck. Replacing the bridge sacrifices some of the characteristic sound of the guitar, as the original bridge functions as a resonating body but the TOM bridge is much denser and acoustically inert by comparison. The original bridge works well when properly set up and played in a careful manner.

Another Jaguar modification is the addition of a "Buzz Stop", a bar that mounts above the tremolo system and increases the angle of the strings behind the bridge which supposedly decreases string buzz. Some players claim that such implements are not necessary, and will force the bridge forward on some examples, as well as cause string binding. Some players however enjoy the increase in string tension on a guitar equipped with this device.

Numerous pickup replacements have become available in the last decade, including those made by Seymour Duncan (three variations are available; vintage, hot and quarter-pound) and Jason Lollar who makes a vintage style reproduction. These single-coil pickups give Jaguar players more tonal options without having to route their instrument to accept full-size humbuckers, or to buy a new Jaguar with humbuckers installed as standard. Much of the Jag's surfy twang comes from 1 meg pots in the rhythm and lead circuits, which brighten the guitar's tonality. A 50k pot in the rhythm circuit however yields a darker tone.


In the 1990s the popularity of the Jaguar & Jazzmaster exploded when they saw heavy use by various alternative rock and grunge bands such as Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Nirvana and Spacemen 3.

One of the reasons the Jaguar became so immensely popular among indie rock artists is because they are one of the few solid body tailed bridge guitars produced by a major manufacturer. The Jaguar and the Jazzmaster both have an accidentally created, primitive tailed bridge mechanism in their floating bridge with limited timbre when used in an extended technique. When the strings are strummed behind the bridge, a unique chiming sound is created that is has come to be associated with Sonic Youth. Even when strumming in front of the bridge, the long string length behind the bridge coupled with the low break angle over the bridge functions as a "sink" for vibrational energy, producing sympathetic resonance which can function as a counterpoint when power chords are played on different string pairs.

It has also been suggested that Jaguars and Jazzmasters were popular with late 80's indie artists precisely because of their unpopularity with more traditional guitar players at the time. This meant that Jaguars and Jazzmasters were far cheaper than vintage Stratocasters or Telecasters and therefore struggling musicians could afford to own a high quality vintage Fender guitar where they could not before. In the 80s, "pre-CBS" models from the early 1960s often sold for under $100 at a time when their more popular contemporaries went for ten times that amount.

* Kurt Cobain used a modified 1965 sunburst finish Jaguar with a Gibson Tune-O-Matic type, black chrome Schaller bridge, modified circuitry, and humbuckers. It was his main guitar during the Nevermind era and featured a red-swirl mother-of-bowling-ball pickguard, one volume knob, two tone knobs, and a bound neck. There was tape covering the on/off and phase switches, which were disconnected and replaced with a Gibson-style toggle switch. Full-sized humbuckers reside in both the bridge and neck positions, the neck being a DiMarzio PAF and the bridge a DiMarzio Super Distortion, until the In Utero tour when it was replaced with a black Duncan JB.
*Brian Molko of Placebo was inspired by Sonic Youth to get some Jaguars. He has three vintage Jaguars from the 60's and one Japanese reissue, that he bought when starting the band and couldn't afford an original. The vintage ones, as he says, are worthy of names - they are "Bitch", "Louise" and "Tattoo".
*John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers utilized a fiesta red 1962 Jaguar at the Woodstock 1999 festival for the part of the band's time on center stage. John also played an ocean turquoise Jag in the immensely popular video for their song "Under the Bridge".
*Shoegaze bands such as My Bloody Valentine, lovesliescrushing and Chapterhouse often use the Jaguar, both for its unusual tones and tremolo system. As both the Jaguar and the Jazzmaster have longer tremolo arms, players are able to strum chords whilst simultaneously manipulating the tremolo arm by pushing it towards the body, causing the chord to dip in and out of tune, often rhythmically. In the shoegaze style, this technique is often combined with heavy amounts of delay and reverberation effects to create what is known as a 'shimmer'.
*Maurice Deebank of Felt used a Jaguar to craft the intricate, classically-influenced passages on that band's early releases.

The Jaguar and Jazzmaster's resurgence almost exactly mirrors the "discovery" of the Gibson Les Paul in the '60s by rock guitarists looking for a 'heavy' sound unobtainable with the then-predominant Stratocaster. The Les Paul was an unfashionable model during its initial production because of the recent introduction of the "space age" Strat and could be obtained in the '60s for relatively low prices.

Jaguars have also found favor among players with small hands. The Jaguar and Mustang are two guitars in the Fender lineup with a short (24 inch) scale length and slim neck. Players with small hands find these necks easier to play when attempting difficult chords and long stretches.


Fender reissued the 1962 version of the Jaguar in 1999 as part of its American Vintage Series (lower cost Japanese-made versions have been available since 1986/87, originally made of basswood, now of alder like their American counterparts). Several other variations have been released within the last decade, including several humbucker versions and a Jaguar bass guitar in 2006. Fender of Japan also produces Jaguars for its own domestic market with numerous special editions including an accurate version of Kurt Cobain's modified model. As of 2007, the main difference between Japanese and American models is the electronics - American models use higher quality chrome rather than stainless steel parts and have brass shielding plates installed in the cavities (Japanese guitars made before 96/97 also have brass shielding). No standard US made AVRI Jaguars sport matching headstocks unlike their vintage counterparts, however many Japanese models do, and also offer some custom colors not found on American models.

Although Fender has many signature Stratocasters and Telecasters designed in conjunction with famous players and the first signature Jazzmasters were introduced in 2007, no signature Jaguars currently exist. In the past, a Kurt Cobain replica Jaguar was made for the Japanese domestic market and the Fender Jag-Stang, a Mustang/Jaguar hybrid, was built for Kurt Cobain with his design input.

In May 2008 Fender introduced the Classic Player Series Jaguar and Jaguar HH with dual Enforcer humbuckers, which are made in Mexico and sell for under $1000. Fender have made numerous changes to the classic design, however, replacing the bridge with a Tune-o-matic type, giving it a 9.5" fretboard radius, moving the tremolo plate closer to the bridge and installing high output pickups.


;Fender Jaguar Special HHHas the same body shape as the standard Jaguar, but is equipped with two low-output Fender designed Dragster humbucking pickups, a fixed adjusto-matic bridge (similar to a Gibson Tune-O-Matic), a 24" scale length, and chrome knobs.

;Fender Jaguar Baritone Special HHSimilar to the Jaguar HH, except that it has fewer switching options, and a longer 27" scale length (as opposed to the normal 24"), and is designed to be tuned a fourth below a standard guitar (B E A D F# B, low to high).

;Fender Classic Player Jaguar Special HHA Jaguar modelled after the guitars of players such as Kurt Cobain. This Jaguar has two humbuckers which are able to be coil-splitted, a Gibson-style "adjust-o-matic" bridge, and the whammy-bar tailpiece has been moved closer to the bridge.

;Fender Jaguar Baritone CustomA combination of a Jaguar and a Fender Bass VI with additional features. It has a fixed bridge, a 28.5" scale length and heavier strings to achieve a tuning one octave lower than a standard guitar.

;Fender Jaguar BassEssentially a Fender Jazz Bass with a Jaguar-shaped body and Jaguar-styled switching options. Features a switchable on-board preamp with bass/treble controls.

External links

* [http://www.fender.com Official Fender website]
* [http://www.jag-stang.com/index.php A Site Dedicated to Jaguars, Mustangs, and Jag-Stangs]
* [http://www.jag-stang.com/News/2007/09/02/detailed-fender-jaguar-and-jazzmaster-review/ Jaguar and Jazzmaster Review]

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