The Mystery of the ‘59 Jazzmaster Tone

The mystery of the ‘59 Jazzmaster tone.

I still see discussions on internet forums about whether the wood in an electric guitar has any effect on its tone or if it’s all in the pickup. There are some people who insist the instrument itself makes no difference in its tone.

There was a good series of articles a few years ago in the Guild of American Luthiers quarterly magazine about how just the body shape of a solid body electric guitar affects nodal patterns of vibration at different frequencies—just the shape of the body!

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Welcome To The DULLhouse

We get asked all the time, “Why does my old pickup sound dull?”

There are many reasons the tone can suffer on vintage pickups…

These p'ups aren't just *playing* dead... They're dead!

These p’ups aren’t just *playing* dead… They’re actually dead!


We can’t resurrect or improve every beaten, tired, old pickup that we come across. Some of them, like the ones seen above, are just too far gone. Only a complete rebuild, with brand new parts could bring them back to life – but at that point, you may as well just replace it! You can’t shine a turd, as they say (even if you could, you’d still just have a shiny turd). But, just maybe, your dull sound isn’t the turd you thought it was, so in this edition, we’ll address the possible causes and potential solutions.


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The Genuine Lollar Experience

Hi Lollar fans! We sometimes get requests to verify the authenticity of Lollar pickups, whether its a set that pops up on eBay, or a used guitar that is said to be stocked with our stuff. Sometime in 2003 or 2004 we standardized how our pickups were marked, and it is still done the same today. The only way to know for sure that you have a genuine Lollar pickup is to check the bottom and look for the proper markings. We label them in a few different ways, from humbuckers to Strats… there are certain things to look for to insure authenticity.


HUMBUCKERS: All our humbuckers have tags screwed to the bottom and are stamped with “LOLLAR IMPERIAL” followed by the year, and if it is a neck or a bridge. Color is important as well… a black label is standard wind, grey is a Low Wind, and red is a High Wind. The name of the builder will be initialed in the right bottom corner.


STRATS AND TELES: All of our Strat and Tele style pickups have this info hand written on the bottom: Lollar, the type of pickup (position if it’s a Strat), initials of the builder, and the year it was produced. LOLLAR is also stamped on the top middle on Strats. We use either white or black paint pens to handwrite on our pickups. A few models like Thunderbird and Johnny Smith pickups  have black baked on enamel that we apply with a laser.




P90s: On our P90 pickups, all the info is stamped like a humbucker, except for our Special winds which are indicated by a hand written label, such as 50’s, -5% or +5%. Same for soapbar or dog ear.


Besides the markings, our overall construction is top notch. If the pickup seems a bit off- not as solid as it should be, it might not be a Lollar. For instance, wax is usually completely wiped off after potting leaving little to no trace, instead of drippy gooey globs all over. We also buff any exposed forbon (like on Tele bridge pickups) so it has a satin sheen instead of dull, matte type finish.  Our lead wires on single-coil pickups lay flat, and there are no frays in the cloth wiring. We also tape all of our coils to protect them from damage. We even buff our plastic pickup covers!  Our humbuckers come with clear plastic tape over the top to protect the finish on the pickup cover. We only use high quality lead wires.



If it says Custom on the bottom (along with Lollar and the date) it could be anything- it may not be in phase with anything else we make and it may not match any specs.  If you know the name of who originally purchased the custom item we can usually look the job up and see what the specifications were.

Occasionally we get asked questions about pickups for sale on eBay that are supposedly Lollar made. It is rare for people to try to pass off fake, uninstalled pickups for Lollars, but here are a couple photos of horribly made pickups that have Lollar written on the bottom.




Loller? Uh, no.





More often, a guitar was sold claiming to have Lollars installed and was purchased by someone and resold. The purchaser had been told Lollars were installed and they never verified it. Even this is not common (but it happens) , so here’s how you can tell…

Going as far back as I can remember (before ’96 or ‘97) the bobbins could have been made out of anything other than vulcanized fiberboard – maybe wood, or often I would make them out of the thin plastic that cassette tape cases were made of- these would be fairly roughly made and would have no markings.

After ‘96 or ‘97 I would have made my bobbins out of vulcanized fiberboard- this is the same material Fender makes their pickups out of. The quality of construction would be quite high, as all of my parts were cut by hand using jigs – everything would be uniform, but nothing would be signed yet unless someone asked me to. You can tell if a P-90 is mine because I have always made the bobbins by hand and after ‘96 or ‘97 they would be made of vulcanized fiberboard.

After my book came out I started to see a few other manufacturers making P-90s using the plan I drew up- vulcanized fiber assembled bobbins. The only time I might use the standard cast plastic bobbin on P-90s would be to restore and old Gibson P-90 that had bobbin rot beyond repair.

Sometime around ‘98 or ‘99 I would have started to write model names on the bottom of pickups and dating them- still no signature unless asked for it. If the pickup in question has a model name that corresponds to something I still make then the specs are the same- same magnets and turn count. If you bought a pickup in 1996 and you buy another one today to match with the old pickup, the new pickup will be in phase with the old one- I never changed that.

Also, if you have an old single coil neck pickup (like a P-90) and you buy a new bridge pickup, not only will it be in phase but the set will be hum cancelling. Around 2001 or 2002 most of my pickups had established model names, and you’ll see the model name either abbreviated or written out on the bottom- usually in paint pen along with the date and my initials or last name.

If all else fails and you are still not sure, take a picture of the bottom and send it to and we’ll take a look for you.

Best Selling Lollar Pickups – Jazzmaster & Single Coil for Humbucker Rout

This is the fifth article in our series about best selling Lollar pickups. In this article we’ll talk about some of our best selling items that can’t be classified among the main categories of pickups like strat, tele, and humbucker style pickups.

Lollar Jazzmaster Pickups:

Lollar Jazzmaster style pickups are a consistent favorite. Overall the Lollar Jazzmaster style pickups have a nicely detailed treble and a bit more midrange and bass when compared to a strat style single coil. They also have a very responsive dynamic range.

As you may already know, the size and shape of a pickup coil affect the quality of the tone it will produce. For example, the Jazzmaster coil is very short (1/8″) but very wide. This gives it more surface area and allows the pickup to sense the vibrations of a longer length of the strings. This is part of why they have their own unique tone qualities. To read even more about the unique properties of our Jazzmaster pickups, follow this link to an earlier Lollar pickups blog about Jazzmaster pickups and the Jazzmaster guitar.

Also worth mentioning are our “hybrid” style P-90 / Jazzmaster pickups. They are an interesting option to consider if you are looking for a little more midrange and a little fatter tone than our standard Lollar Jazzmaster. The thickness of the coil and internal construction of the bobbin is actually like a P-90. But the forbon flatwork top and bottom are sized to fit a Jazzmaster sized cover, rather than a P-90 cover. So essentially, they are a P-90 coil wound onto a Jazzmaster sized bobbin. And rather than the fixed AlNiCo pole piece rod magnets of a Jazzmaster, they have the adjustable pole pieces of a P-90. They are also made using two flat bar magnets – just like a P-90. We make the hybrid P-90 / Jazzmaster in all of the same versions that we build our standard P-90s, including an underwound neck and an overwound bridge.

Compare the Lollar P-90 style Jazzmaster to the standard Lollar Jazzmaster.

Compare the Lollar P-90 style Jazzmaster to the standard Lollar Jazzmaster.

This photo shows a side view of the hybrid Lollar P-90 /Jazzmaster (top pickup) and the Lollar standard Jazzmaster (bottom pickup).  When you look at them from this angle you can really see the differences between the two pickups.  You can see the thin Jazzmaster bobbin (1/8″) and the thicker P-90 style bobbin (1/4″).  You can also see the P-90 style bar magnet spanning the full distance alongside the adjustable pole piece screws of the hybrid P-90 / Jazzmaster.  Compare this against the 6 individual pole piece magnets of the standard Jazzmaster.  You can also see how these 6 AlNiCo pole piece magnets are set to a radius.

To read more about either of these styles or to listen to sound clips, follow this link to Lollar Jazzmaster pickups.

Lollar Single Coil for Humbucker Rout:

Another popular “miscellaneous” pickup is our Single Coil for Humbucker Rout. For a “non-standard” pickup, they are a popular choice. The main advantage to this pickup is that they offer a chance to install a single coil pickup into an instrument that is routed for full sized humbuckers. AND – best of all – no routing required.

We like to be precise with our terminology when talking about this pickup. Customers often call and ask if we make a “P-90 for humbucker route.” We think it’s important to point out that this pickup sounds very much like a P-90, but it’s not a “true” P-90. Like we mentioned above, the size and shape of the coil affect the tone. The most popular cosmetic choice is the chrome surround with the matte black top. To learn more about this pickup please follow this link to Lollar Single Coil for Humbucker Rout pickups.

We hope you have enjoyed this series of blogs on best selling Lollar pickups. Like we’ve mentioned before, there is no “wrong” answer. All of our models of pickups have their own unique advantages, and much of what’s involved in the selection process is simply a matter of personal preference. Our best advice is to know what you’d like to accomplish for the particular instrument you’re working with, and then choose the pickups that will help get you there. Contact us if we can help point you in the right direction.

Jazzmaster Pickups and the Fender Jazzmaster Guitar – Part 3

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.