Matthew Gifford

Weekend notes: 3/5/17

Less is more

Fender Jazzmasters have complex electronics relative to most guitars. Below the strings, they have a set of common controls: a pickup-selector switch, a volume knob, and a tone knob. What sets the Jazzmaster apart is the second set of controls above the strings: thumbwheels for volume and tone and a switch for making either the top (rhythm) or bottom (lead) set of controls active. This allows the player to quickly switch between two preset sounds. It also, in my opinion, adds unnecessary complexity and distracts from the beauty of the design.

While I was in college, I decided to replace the butt-rock guitar I’d been playing for a few years with something a little classier. I tried to scrape together enough to get a Jazzmaster, but couldn’t afford the models that were available at the time. The music shop did, however, have something that looked very similar from Fender’s budget brand: a Squier Jagmaster.

Jagmaster is a portmanteau of Jaguar, another Fender guitar, and Jazzmaster. It actually borrows ideas from three different guitars. It has the body, pickguard, and lead circuit controls of a Jazzmaster, the short-scale neck of a Jaguar, and the bridge and tremolo arm of a Stratocaster. It’s simple, pleasing to the eye, fun to play, and sounds good.

But it’s no Jazzmaster. The tone from the humbuckers is nothing like the Jazzmaster’s single-coil soapbar pickups. The short-scale neck is fun, but is a bit cramped, especially for my big fingers. And the Stratocaster bridge is much less sonically interesting than the quirky Jazzmaster/Jaguar bridge.

Despite these shortcomings, I’ve been satisfied with the Jagmaster being my main guitar.

Until now.

This year, Fender introduced updated designs for its most popular guitars and basses. The new Jazzmaster is perfection.

Time to start saving up.


In my last update, I linked to a story about how awful West Elm’s Peggy sofa is. West Elm is now offering refunds to owners of defective Peggys.


In January, I posted an amazing movie of planets orbiting another star. Since then, NASA has announced the discovery of a system of seven roughly Earth-sized rocky planets orbiting a dwarf star. Three of them are potentially habitable, by our standards. We really need to get the whole near-light-speed-travel thing figured out.



The best conversation I listened to this week was between Marc Maron and filmmaker Raoul Peck.


Finally, what would it sound like if Sufjan Stevens, Cornelius, Mark Mothersbaugh, Deerhoof, and the Beatles made music together? Probably something like this.

March 5, 2017

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