How to Use a Jazzmaster: Controls Explained


The Jazzmaster by Fender and Squier is a pretty unique electric guitar in terms of its controls. However, things can get confusing especially when you start to take all the model variations into consideration. In this article, I’ll go through the controls on every type of Jazzmaster so you can figure out how to start playing!

The Quick Answer

The Jazzmaster has a lead/rhythm switch on the upper horn of the guitar. In the rhythm position, only the neck pickup is active, and the rhythm volume and tone controls. In the lead position, both pickups can be used via the 3-way pickup selector, and the tone and volume controls on the lower horn are active.

However, different Jazzmaster models have different controls, so I wanted to take an in-depth look at each model and how to use them. I’ve split them into the following categories:

  • Classic Jazzmaster e.g. Squier Classic Vibe, Fender Vintera ’60s and Fender American Original
  • Fender American Professional II
  • Fender American Ultra Jazzmaster
  • Simple Jazzmaster controls e.g. Squier Affinity, Squier Contemporary, Fender American Performer and Fender Player.
  • Fender Noventa Jazzmaster (3 pickup configuration)

Remember, if you’re unsure, you can simply check the headstock to find the model of your Jazzmaster.

Classic Jazzmaster Controls

The classic Jazzmaster controls can be found on the Squier Classic Vibe, Fender Vintera ’60s and Fender American Original models. These models have two single coil pickups.

These models operate by using a lead/ rhythm switch to activate either circuit on the guitar. By activating one of the circuits, you can use different controls to change the tone.

  • Lead Circuit: gives you access to both pickups, the pickup selector and the tone and volume controls. The lead circuit sounds bright and crisp. This is the “down” position on the switch.
  • Rhythm Circuit: uses only the neck pickup, and the rhythm tone and volume controls, so bypasses all the other controls on the guitar. The rhythm circuit sound warm and mellow. This is the “up” position on the switch.

Although you can use the neck pickup on both the rhythm and lead circuit, the tone will actually be different, depending on the circuit you’re using. When the lead switch is active, it will sound brighter compared to the rhythm switch.

Lead Circuit

When the lead switch is active on the Jazzmaster, the lead circuit controls are active. These are located on the bottom half of the guitar (closest to the high E string) and include a pickup selector, tone control and volume control.

  • Pickup selector: this is a 3-way pickup selector and allows you to activate either the bridge pickup in its own (sounds brighter), the neck pickup on its own (sounds warmer and mellow) or both pickups together for a more balanced tone.
  • Tone control: this allows you to adjust how bright the pickups sound. Decreasing the tone control will reduce the treble frequencies and make the tone more mellow and warm.
  • Volume control: this allows you to adjust the volume of both pickups.

Rhythm Circuit

When the lead/rhythm circuit switch is in the rhythm position, the only controls that will affect the sound are the rhythm tone and rhythm volume controls. In this position, only the neck pickup will be active, and it will sound even warmer by comparison to the neck pickup when in the lead switch position.

  • Rhythm volume: this adjusts how loud the neck pickup is.
  • Rhythm tone: this adjusts the brightness of the neck pickup. When you decrease the rhythm tone control the pickup will sound more warm and mellow.

Fender American Professional II Controls

The Fender American Professional II Jazzmaster has similar controls to the classic Jaguar and uses a rhythm/ lead switch, and the same rhythm and lead circuit controls as described above. The only change is addition the push/pull tone control. This allows you to change the tone of the bridge pickup from a vintage low-output sound, to a powerful and heavier tone.

Fender American Ultra Jazzmaster Controls

The Fender American Ultra Jazzmaster are quite different to the controls on the classic Jazzmaster. It’s pretty confusing, so I’ll try and take you through it with a few diagrams.

The Ultra Jazzmaster has the following controls:

  • Volume controls for both pickups on the upper horn (these work when the phase/ parallel switch is in the “up” position.
  • 3-way pickup selector (bridge only, neck only, both together)
  • Master volume
  • Neck tone control
  • Bridge tone control
  • S1 Switch
  • Phase/ parallel switch (labelled as switch on the diagram)

S1 Switch

  • The S1 switch is activated and deactivated by using the push/ pull control on the bottom of the guitar.
S1 Switch on Fender Ultra Jazzmaster

S1 Switch

  • Pressing the switch downwards to turn it on activates the series mode which sounds darker and louder to make them sound more like humbuckers.
  • When the S1 switch is on, you can also use the switch on the top horn to switch one of the pickups out of phase which sounds thinner.

Simple Jazzmaster Controls

Some Jazzmasters have very simple controls including the Squier Affinity, Squier Contemporary, Fender American Performer and Fender Player. These guitars have either two humbuckers or two P90 pickups, a pickup selector, tone control and volume control.

  • Pickup selector: this is a 3-way selector allowing you either activate the bridge pickup only, neck pickup only, or both together. The bridge pickup sounds more aggressive and brighter compared to the neck pickup which sound more mellow.
  • Tone control: this adjusts the brightness of the pickups. Decreasing the tone control causes the pickups to sound warmer and more mellow by cutting the treble frequencies.
  • Volume control: this adjusts how loud both pickups are.

Fender Noventa Jazzmaster

The Fender Noventa Jazzmaster has 3 pickups and a 5-way pickup selector with the following positions:

  • Bridge pickup only
  • Middle and bridge pickup
  • Middle pickup only
  • Middle and neck pickup
  • Neck pickup only

It also has a single tone and volume control.

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Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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