An electric guitar introduced in 1958 as an upmarket sister to the Strat, the Jazzmaster has 2 wide "soapbar" single-coil pickups. Its mellower, jazzier tone as compared to the Strat was designed to appeal to jazz musicians, although it was picked up more by surf rock guitarists. Its tendency for feedback made it popular for experimentally-minded bands like Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine. Jeff has been seen with several Jazzmasters, including black, white and red.
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On the US leg of the Other Side of the Kaleidyscope tour (October 2011)-as well as previous tours- Jeff has been seen with 3 Jazzmasters- cream, red and black. When asked about any differences (such as tuning, etc.), he had this to say:
All three Jazzmasters are in standard tuning. The Red one is a mid-nineties ’62 reissue that I’ve had forever. The bridge has been changed to a Mustang-style bridge and the pickups are Lollars. It’s one of the best sounding Jazzmasters I’ve heard. It has that extra “thing” to it that you can’t explain. The other two are J. Mascis (ed: Dinosaur Jr.) signature models that Fender custom painted for me. The cream colored one has Curtis Novak pickups. These are his standard vintage-spec pickups. They sound very clear and chimey–the classic Jazzmaster sound. The black one has Novak wide-range humbuckers. These are the same pickups Lee Ranaldo (ed: Sonic Youth) puts in his guitars. In fact, I’ve heard the pickups Fender has been putting in the Lee Ranaldo signature models don’t sound anything like they are supposed to and Lee has had to have Curtis make him replacements.
On a normal night, this is the breakdown of Jazzmaster songs:
Oceania – Red
Suffer (first night only) – Cream
Obscured – Cream
Pale Horse – Cream
Owata – Red
For Martha – Red
Pinwheels – Black
However, because of noise issues usually having to do with bad power in the old theaters we’ve been playing, I’ve ended using the Black Jazzmaster because it has humbucking pickups. The single-coil pickups in the others are just too noisy to use some nights. Total bummer. It’s probably for this exact reason that people like David Gilmour, Clapton, and Jeff Beck–as well as a zillion other players–switched to using EMG‘s and/or Lace Sensor type pickups in the eighties and nineties. So on nights where I use the Black one a lot, it’s just because of noise and not sound preference or tuning.