For years the Fender Jaguar’s popularity has been on a rollercoaster ride, dropping in and out of the limelight. Is it still worth it to buy?
This article will discuss various aspects of the Fender Jaguar and its comparisons to decide if you should purchase this vintage guitar.
The Fender Jaguar has been around since 1962, introduced as the 4th guitar from Fender, after the Jazzmaster, Stratocaster, and Telecaster.
In the 60s, during the “surf-music” craze, such as the Beach Boys, the Jaguar was infamous amongst surf guitarists. However, the surf-music era ended, and so did the Jaguar’s popularity. It went out of style to the point that Fender discontinued the Jaguar in 1975.
For more than two decades, the Jaguar found itself in a rut until the 90s with grunge music, until punk artists brought it back to life. Notably, Kurt Cobain and other indie musicians were using the Jaguar, thanks to its cheap price tag.
The Jaguar then became mainstream again, reviving a new identity and a new generation of Jaguar enthusiasts.
It was odd for the Jaguar to disappear as quickly as it did, as it was a pioneer and marked new beginners for Fender from its debut. For instance, Jaguar was the first Fender guitar with four different options for neck widths. The options were A, B, C, D from narrowest to most expansive, with the standard being slightly narrow or twice as wide as the standard.
Lastly, the Jaguar made the first appearance of the new “transition” logo from Fender, distancing itself from its original spaghetti logo from the end of the 1960s.
Consider: The Fender Mustang Guitar
Aspects of the Fender Jaguar
The Fender Jaguar is a solid body electric guitar with many unique attributes that make it attractive to beginners and advanced guitarists.
We’ll cover the features in detail to give you a general overview of this great guitar.
The Fender Jaguar’s body is an “offset” or “offset-waist” because its lower and upper halves are disproportionate. The upper horn is extended, like most Fender offset guitars, giving the contoured asymmetric look. Also, it’s made from alder and basswood.
Chrome plates occupy the lead circuits of the guitar while giving it a more sleek and polished appearance.
If you were to look back at the other Fender models before the Jaguar, you might notice the pickups are different.
The Jaguar has narrow, tall, high out-put pickups. Notched metal rings, also known as claws, surround the pickups to reduce hum, focusing on the string’s magnetic field.
Today, this feature is a distinct aspect of the Jaguar, as the only other Fender to have it is the 1961’s Bass VI.
An exciting feature about the Fender Jaguar is the dual-circuit design, which feels like you have two guitars in one. It’s an advantage over other guitar designs like the Les Pauls, as it gives you more tonal versatility.
The Jaguar has two circuits: lead and rhythm.
The lead circuit activates both pickups using three slide switches on a chrome plate on the bottom of the guitar. It has two knobs, tone control, and master volume.
The rhythm circuit uses the upper part of the chrome plate to influence the neck/rhythm pickup. It consists of a two-way slide switch that engages the heavy-bass neck pickup. Also, two wheels on the horn change the volume and tone, also called treble roll-off.
The bridge pickup deactivates in the rhythm setting, with the volume and tone controls on the bottom going inactive.
Each pickup has an on/off switch and a treble-cut switch.
Three Switch Pickup
One of the main differences between the Fender Jaguar and its predecessors was a three switch pickup located on the guitar’s bottom curve. It is part of the lead circuit, controlling tone and volume.
The functions of each switch are:
- First switch: Engages in a capacitor called mid-tone cut switch, or “strangle” switch to thin out the sound.
- Middle switch: On/off for bridge pickup.
- Third switch: On/off for neck/lead pick up, also known as a bass roll-off.
The three switch pickup on its chrome plate allows for more in-depth or thinner sounds because of more controls, such as the mid-tone and bass roll-off.
The Jaguar’s sound is more bass-heavy yet more crisp and clean than the guitars that came before it because of the three switch pickups.
Also, the pickups have a heavier sound due to metal claws surrounding them.
The Jaguar’s versatility comes from the rhythm and lead circuits, as well as the filter switch.
Unfortunately, the bridge is a sore spot for the Fender Jaguar, with users not happy with the stock bridge from Fender on this guitar.
Because there is a shallow break angle over the bridge, the bridge tends to leak vibration. The strings resonate behind the bridge due to the downward angle, which is smaller than other guitars.
Other complaints included ringing sounds, buzzing, and grub screws falling out of the bridge.
Fender knew about these issues and changed the tremolo and bridge. Fender moved the tremolo bridge more forward, creating a sharper break angle and putting in a Gibson style tune-o-matic bridge, making it more concrete.
However, this didn’t last as the Jaguar lost its original edge, with many deciding to change the bridge.
Swapping the bridge out for a Mastery Bridge is a standard solution that works, bringing out the best of the guitar.
The Jaguar is still a fantastic guitar once the issue is solved, making it worthwhile due to its versatility.
Differences Between Jaguar and Jazzmaster
The Fender Jazzmaster, which came before the Jaguar, sees the most comparisons because of its similarities.
When Fender introduced the Jaguar in 1962, it was marketed as an upgrade from their past models, especially the Jazzmaster.
At a glance, the main differences between the Jaguar and Jazzmaster:
- Jaguar has 22 frets; Jazzmaster has 21 frets.
- The Jaguar has a 24” scale neck; Jazzmaster has a 25.5” scale neck.
- Jaguar has narrow single-coil pickups, while the Jazzmaster has flat, wider pickups, meaning the Jazzmaster sounds smoother, and the Jaguar packs more of a punch.
Fender purposely shaved off 1.5” and added a fret to the Jaguar to create a more comfortable, faster guitar than the Jazzmaster.
Exterior and Scale Length
The Fender Jaguar and Jazzmaster look incredibly alike, but some features allow you to spot the difference.
The most prominent feature is the three pickup switches on the Jaguar at the bottom of the guitar. In contrast, the Jazzmaster has a single toggle switch in the same spot.
If you put the two guitars together, the height difference is noticeable because of the Jaguar’s shorter neck.
Because the Jaguar is 1.5” shorter, it gives a more comfortable, compact feel when playing, especially for smaller individuals.
The Fender Jaguar has tall, narrow pickups surrounded by the metal claw, which helps to shield the guitar, reducing a 60 cycle hum.
In contrast, the Jazzmaster uses a wider, flatter pickup, which results in a more well-rounded, warm sound.
Both the Fender Jaguar and Jazzmaster have similar problems with their bridges.
The tremolo for both guitars does not have enough down tension to keep the strings in their slots, resulting in ringing or buzzing sounds.
As a result, many people swap the bridge out for an alternative.
Both the Fender Jaguar and Jazzmaster are dual-circuit, except they work slightly differently.
The Jazzmasters dual-circuit system is simple to use, as it’s an up or down switch. When you move the switch down, the lead circuit activates, and moving the switch up activates the rhythm circuit.
The rhythm circuit is at the upper corner of the guitar, with separate tone and volume controls. When the switch is up, the lower corner controls do not work, with the bridge becoming inactive, where only the neck pickup works.
The lead circuit on the lower corner has one master volume and one master tone knob.
The three-way selector pickup is a toggle on the upper horn on the bottom of the guitar, with three options: neck pickup, bridge pickup, both pickups together.
The Jaguar is strikingly similar, with the same rhythm and circuit pickups located in the same areas, with the rhythm near the upper horn, and lead on the lower corner. The same controls apply, as rhythm controls tone and volume, with the lead circuit having its own master and volume controls on the lower end.
The three-way pickup selector on the Jaguar is different from the Jazzmaster. As the Jazzmaster has a toggle, the Jaguar’s three-way pickup selectors are switches.
The three switches have different functions from the Jazzmaster, as the options are:
- Mid-cut tone, also known as a treble-cut switch, or “strangle”; low-end filter
- On/off bridge pickup
- Neck/lead pickup that gives a heavy bass sound; bass roll-off
Ultimately, we recommend the Fender Jaguar because of its sound and versatility. The Jaguar’s come in a variety of colors and styles, showcasing its beautiful craftsmanship.