From ShortScaleThe Jaguar is a guitar designed by Leo Fender, originally intended to take over from the Stratocaster and Telecaster. Its popularity was somewhat hampered by its complicated electronics and other idiosyncrasies, as well as the conservative nature of guitarists. Despite this, it has managed a cult status over the last 20 years thanks to its prominent use in alternative bands.
In the Beginning
The Fender Jaguar was created in 1962, just 4 years after Fender introduced the Jazzmaster.. The Jaguar has the same offset body as the Jazzmaster. They also shared the same bridge and floating tremolo that was very unique at that time. But there are differences between these two offset body guitars. The two main differences being the scale length (Jazzmasters have a standard Fender 25.5 inch scale while the Jaguar has a shorter 24 inch scale) and the pickups (Jazzmasters have overwound single coils where the Jaguar's pickups are almost identical to that of a Fender Stratocaster), the Jaguar's pickups also sit in a 'claw' which was designed to improve sustain.
The Jaguar and Jazzmaster both have two circuits and share the unique rhythm circuit, this allowed a pre-set tone for rhythm playing but the 'Lead' circuit is different with slider switches instead of the toggle switch. The Jaguar also has a 'Low cut' switch that reduces bass frequencies whilst using the Lead circuit, because this gives the circuit a restricted trebly sound it was commonly known as the "strangle switch" and was popular among 60's Surf guitarists. A few other differences that the Jaguar has is the 'mute' which only features on vintage and vintage re-issue Jaguars, the chrome control plates and improved RF shielding.
Jaguar values today are lower compared to other full scale models because of the shorter scale length. The pickups are better shielded and more powerful which eliminated some of the hum problems previously associated with the Jazzmaster, however, Japanese Jaguar pickups are not factory wax potted so guitar players looking to use the Jaguar in high gain situations usually notice microphonic feedback. This can be resolved by having the pickups wax potted by a tech or by upgrading them. Initially surf band's loved the shorter 24 inch scale as it suited their music but during later years the Jaguar became unfashionable and was discontinued in 1975. They dropped in value which is beleived to be one of the reasons alternative musicians eg. Nirvana, Placebo, Red Hot Chilli Peppers etc. started to use them due to it being an affordable Fender with quirky looks. The guitar soon gained a cult status like its brother the Jazzmaster because of its association with alternative styles of music and also the success of these bands, making it once again popular and came back into production during the 1990s. The current models available that stay fairly true to the original 60's Jaguars are the AV and CIJ. There are other models available based on variations of popular modifications such as the Jaguar HH.
During the 90s and later years due to the Fender Jaguar's popularity other designs based around this guitar where manufactured such as the Jagmaster and the Fender Jag-Stang. These guitars offered variations on the Jaguar theme such as humbucking pickups, different tremolo systems and different electronics to name a few.
Common Jaguar Upgrades
The Fender Jaguar arguably does have a few design faults in its stock form. These minor problems can be solved with a little knowledge and patience, yet most players and owners opt for common upgrades. Here are a list of a few common upgrades and why:
The Jaguar bridge (like the Jazzmaster's) is notoriously problematic- it buzzes, rocks and the grub screws work themselves loose. There are many solutions to solve these problems and this is a widely argued topic amongst Jaguar owners.
Common modifications include;
i)setting the saddle grub screws with glue or grease so they don't fall out,
ii)cutting down the length of the D and G intonation screws so they do not encroach on the strings,
iii)taping the bridge posts with insulation tape so that the bridge is set rather than rocking (however this does not let the tremelo system work efficiently),
iv)filing the string slots deeper on the saddles so that the strings don't jump during playing.
Alternatively there are upgrades such as fitting a Fender Mustang bridge or a TOM (tune-o-matic) bridge. There is also a device called a "buzzstop" that fits behind the bridge guiding the strings downwards thus creating more tension on the bridge, some players swear by these to reduce bridge buzz and they allegedly improve sustain.
All down to personal preference.
If you have a Japanese model Fender Jaguar the pickups are not wax potted (which makes them prone to microphonic feedback in high gain situations), fairly low output and have a 'spiky' treble sound to them (although this is part of the Jaguars personality). Some players find the stock pickups fine and feel no need for upgrades, yet others that want a smoother/warmer sound especially when using overdrive or distortion look towards upgrades.
Apart from the solution of wax potting the original stock pickups there are choices of Jaguar pickups available from various companies such as: Seymour Duncan, Fender USA vintage reissue, Lollar and Novak. Wiring in new pickups is usually a straight forward job especially if they are Jaguar pickup replacements, for additional info here is a schematic.
For more detailed information on Jaguar modifications detailed check this link
Bands/Guitarists that have used Fender Jaguars
Kurt Cobain, My Bloody Valentine, the Blue Stingrays, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Jimi Hendrix, Fu Manchu, Spacemen 3, the Three Stooges, Ride, Placebo, Dinosaur Jr, the Edge, the Flaming Lips, Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, the Trashmen, the Eliminators, the Zuton's, the Deftones,Yo La Tengo,The Stereophonics, Pixies, the Beach Boys, the Ventures, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Telescopes, Happy Mondays, the Arcade Fire, Chapterhouse, Graham Coxon, Coldplay, James Dean Bradfield, The Mystery Jets, Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins)..
Fender Jaguar set-up
Set-up admission from a CIJ user
A general rule of thumb when setting up your Fender Jaguar is to use heavier gauge strings such as 11s. If this prospect isn't what you would normally do consider the fact that the Jag has a shorter scale so moving up a gauge from your usual choice will not be noticeable, plus it helps bridge stability, sustain and tone.
Considering the bridge modifications have been carried out and the intonation is correct that leaves us with the 'playablity' of the guitar....
Depending on your style of playing the Jag's action will matter. Most players prefer lower action and the best way to achieve this is lowering the bridge (which helps eliminate 'buzz') and raising the saddles. However this will mean the D and G intonation screws will need cutting shorter so that as mentioned before they do not encroach on the strings. The neck's truss rod may need adjusting and, whilst it is always advised that if you don't have sufficient guitar knowledge you should let a guitar tech carry out this work you can attempt this yourself with great care, once again I state take great care when adjusting truss rods, overturning can cause irreversibile damage!
We will assume the bridge's problems have been resolved, you've strung up with your preferred gauge of strings and stretchedthem in, we can now look at other adjustments.
Setting up the Tremolo System
The Jaguars tremolo system offers many possibilities- you can set it to hard tail, lock it off so that string breakage will not send all the guitars tuning flat, set it for light "shimmers" or set for more extreme whammy bar tricks. On setting up the lock button, you have to make small adjustments with the tension screw to find the point that when the guitar is in pitch the lock button will slde effortlessly just under the plate almost touching. The reason for this as mentioned is so that when the trem is locked breaking a string will not send all the tuning flat (with the loss of tension).
If you do choose to use the trem a common adjustment is to use a piece of insulation tape near the end of the arm where it sits in the socket so that you have more control/dip when in use. However, this is'nt very stable and the arm can fall out quite easily. I found a more permanent adjustment much better, I slightly bent the arm upwards at the point it is right angled and also slightly bent it upwards where the arm's shape kicks-up about midway. This means I have maximum control/dip with the arm still firmly in the socket.
Now uou may look towards adjusting the pickup height with the two screws either side of the pickup covers. The Jaguar has fairly low output pickups and because of this moving the pickups closer to the strings does'nt sonically make things too hectic but try to keep the distance around 4mm for the best results.
By now your Jaguar should be playing and sounding good. There hasnt been much missed out here other than obvious set-up procedures like rubbing graphite in the nuts string slots and saddle grooves, also making sure all moving parts are lubricated.
Fender Jaguar sound clips and Goodies
The Fender Jaguar? A beautiful guitar with so many possibilites and so many varied styled users, what is it capable of? Well, anything! We can see from the list of bands/guitarists that it has been used in Surf, Shoegaze,Indie and Heavy Metal music to name a few and in this section there will be some sound and video clips of guitarists using the guitar in an orthodox way and unorthodox way. Everything here is a demonstration on how the Jaguar can be applied to any style- enjoy!
Firstly are a few video clips by shortscale.org forum users. Clip One demonstrates how the Jaguar can be applied to heavy rock (pickups upgraded to Seymour Duncan Cool Rails). Clip Two demonstrates a more raw Thrash/Hardcore Punk sound (pickup upgraded to a Seymour Duncan QaurterPound for Jaguar). Clip Three is the indie/shoegaze band Chapterhouse performing live. Clip four is My Bloody Valentine's "feed me with your kiss" video....always plenty of Jags or Jazzy's!
Fender Jaguar websites
Here are some other great websites that hold a lot of Fender Jaguar information: