...just call me "Four-Jags!"...
Sometimes, trying to capture the intrinsic character of a particular instrument is more rewarding than merely grafting on the latest and greatest upgrades. In some ways, retro-fitting a standard type bridge to my Jaguar, might be seen as a step backwards. But with a Fender Mute, Flatwound strings and a bit of a tweak to the geometry - I think I've brought it closer to it's 60's roots.
So if I try to work with some of the Jaguar's unique design features, take a good look at the principles at work, and treat the bridge more like I might on an archtop - what is that going to mean for the setup itself? Is there a way to achieve a perfect balance between solid-body form and archtop function?
Clearly - the original Fender Jazzmaster / Jaguar bridge has it's issues. For many - that's enough of a reason to look for alternatives. However, I want to try and stick to the technology of the time on my "62" Jaguar project. If I can't fix the bridge entirely - perhaps I can find a way to tame it, and make it work better by setting it up right.
One of the "received truths" about the Jaguar - seems to be that the original bridge design is at fault for just about everything - (although there are a whole series of common mods which address some sonic characteristics as well). With the bridge however - many of the "fixes" appear to cause problems, or unwanted knock-on effects, themselves. ...what does that mean for the setup itself? Is there a way to achieve a perfect balance between archtop form, and solid-body function?
Comparing the various Jaguar bridge options got me thinking. I just couldn't work out what that Fender Tune-o-matic bridge was trying to achieve. Since I plan to have a few offsets to set up over the next few months, I need to work out how to solve some of the technical differences which make Stratocasters and Jaguars so, apparently, different. I began to realise, I'd have to look at things in a different way...
With two new offset projects, and an existing Jaguar build to upgrade - I need to make a few choices. I've collected a few different bridge options over the past few months. Now might be a good time to go through the options, and work out which bridge might best suit each build.
That's the way it goes sometimes. Guitars get rotated around, and sometimes you don't play a particular favourite for ages. I recently started a few modifications on my Ash Stratocaster and, looking around for an alternative to hand, I took my White Jag out of its' case for the first time in ages. I get to have a good long look at an old favourite with "new eyes", and the benefit of a good few months working on other projects.
The Jaguar brought a new set of challenges. Nitro finishing, a fiddly wiring job and a bit of shimming to compensate for a higher bridge. The winter months have meant that the workshop is uncomfortably cold to work in - so the final finishing has been mostly done in the warmth of the kitchen. Over the last month or so, I've managed to finish both the Jaguar and the Strummercaster. Time to step back and have a look at what's been achieved.
The Jaguar has been sitting for a little while, to let the strings stretch, the neck to adjust under tension and to generally let everything settle. It's already pretty playable - but a proper setup should improve this even more.