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After the runaway success of the Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster, which were popular with country and rock musicians, Leo Fender next turned his efforts towards developing a guitar specifically for jazz players. The resulting guitar was the Fender Jazzmaster, which was first released in 1958. The Jazzmaster featured several distinct differences compared to the Fender guitars that came before it. The body was somewhat larger, and featured an "offset" waist design, where the narrowest part of the contour of the guitar's waist is closer to the bridge on the high E string side, and closer to the neck pickup on the low E string side of the body. This improves player comfort when holding the guitar while seated. The Jazzmaster also was the first Fender guitar to feature the new rosewood (as opposed to the earlier maple) fretboard. A new "floating" tremolo was also designed for the guitar that differed from the unit in the Stratocaster. It had a floating bridge unit that was detached from the vibrato mechanism's arm and spring, which were mounted on a second metal plate located a few inches further down towards the end of the guitar.
All of these features -- the offset body design and shape, the rosewood fretboard and the new Floating Vibrato unit made their way on to Fender's next guitar -- the Jaguar, which was introduced in 1962. The Jazzmaster had failed to attract the attention of jazz musicians to the degree Fender was hoping for, but it became very popular with Surf musicians, in part because of the vibrato tailpiece. However, the wide and flat "soapbar" pickups of the Jazzmaster were designed to have a warmer, more mellow sound that would be suited to jazz, and many Surf musicians liked the brighter, twangier sounds of the Stratocaster's pickups, so Fender equipped the Jaguar with two pickups that had more similarity to the Strat's pickup design and sound, as opposed to the Jazzmaster's. These single coil models also included external metal shielding plates to help make the guitar less susceptible to hum and electro-magnetic and radio frequency interference that may cause noise.
There are other differences with a Jaguar. The guitar has a slightly shorter 24" scale length and 22 fret neck, which both increases the note range and makes it easier to play for people with smaller hands. Like the Jazzmaster, it has a second set of "rhythm circuit" volume and tone controls, but the switching is even more comprehensive, with more tonal options. All of the controls are mounted in chromed metal plates, arguably giving the Jaguar a more upscale appearance. Indeed, when it was introduced, Fender considered the Jaguar to be their top of the line instrument. While never as popular as the Telecaster or Stratocaster, and even less so after Surf music's heyday in the 1960s, the Jaguar's popularity increased dramatically in the 1990s when alternative and grunge rock musicians began to widely embrace the model. Famous Jaguar players include Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Bilinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine, John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Today Fender offers various takes on the Jaguar concept, with everything from more stripped down models to accurate vintage recreations.
Fender Jaguar Starting at: $599.99