Part 3 — Understanding Jazzmaster Switching for Optimal Tone
One of the significant differences between Jazzmasters and other Fenders is that the main tone and volume controls use 1 Meg ohm pots. When set on 10, these pots do not roll off much signal. The result is more high end and presence than you are use to hearing on an electric guitar. The extra treble can be annoying if you use an amp that can reproduce high end treble (like a blackface Fender amp). On Fender tweed amps that extra treble is nowhere near as noticeable.
So the trick to getting a good tone with the Lollar Jazzmaster pickup is to roll either the tone or volume down a click or two. This will roll off the extreme high end. (I prefer using the volume) The idea is to roll it a minimal amount—far enough to affect the tone level, but not too far to actually start hearing a volume drop. If done in this way, the tone will change long before the volume is affected. Using the volume control this way will leave treble in reserve if you need it occasionally to cut through a mix. On tweed amps if you are pushing them pretty hard you can leave the volume on 10. Another option is to replace the volume and tone pots with a lower value pot. The 500K would probably have about the same tone as a one Meg pot on 8. I personally like the one Meg pots, so I have never tried other values to determine what works.
Everyone wants to know what the black switches on the upper bout do. There is one slider switch and two rollers. The slider switch defeats every pickup selection except the neck pickup alone. Once the slider switch is activated only the neck pickup functions, and the main 3-way switch for the pickups will no longer work. When the guitar is in the neck-only mode, the two rollers act as an additional volume and tone for the neck pickup. These allow you to preset a volume and tone level different than your main volume and tone controls. You can play normally with the main controls working… put it in the bridge pickup position with full volume for a solo then hit the slider switch and it drops you into the neck pickup with whatever volume and tone you have preset with the rollers. It’s an interesting idea but I have never found much use for it.
Thanks very much for reading our three part series on Jazzmaster style pickups and the Fender Jazzmaster guitar. We hope it has been informative. Follow this link to see more details on our Lollar Jazzmaster pickups.