How to play guitar like Fender offset heroes

Johnny Marr
(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Fender’s Jazzmaster was released in 1958 as a premium sister model to the Stratocaster. Its target market of jazz guitarists never really took to it, but its warm, twangy tones soon found favour amongst a generation of surf guitarists, then later in alt-rock and indie/shoegaze.

We love the classic Jazz shape here at TG, but it’s easy to mix it up with similar off set lines of Fender’s Jaguar – which would appear in 1962. The principal difference is the scale length (the Jazz is 25.5” compared to the Jag’s 24”). 

But also look out for the pickups – the Jazz is usually spec'd with soapbar-style single coils, whereas humbuckers and standard single coils are more commonplace on the Jag. Below we inspect a handful of artists, genres and tones associated with Fender offsets.

1. Surf

(Image credit: Future)

The Jazzmaster’s futuristic look fitted right in with the 50s and 60s surf boom – The Ventures and The Surfaris were both spotted with ’em. Strats were also popular for surf and a bridge single-coil pickup with a fairly clean tone is your best option for this lick.

2. The alt choice

(Image credit: Future)

The leftfield look of the Jazzmaster found favour in alt-rock, notably with Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis, while Sonic Youth, Television and My Bloody Valentine regularly used Jaguars and Jazzmasters. Our distorted alt-rock riff employs powerchords and single notes. Easy!

3. Nirvana

(Image credit: Future)

On In Utero, Kurt Cobain refined his rig. Jaguars and Mustangs had already made studio appearances in the Nevermind sessions, but where Mesa/Boogie and Vox featured heavily in 1991, by 1993 he opted for the services of a Fender Twin Reverb. Try your hand at our simple Cobain-inspired riff.

4. Slipknot-style metal

(Image credit: Future)

Jim Root took the well known Jazzmaster recipe and spiced up the signal with active EMG humbuckers. Our example uses low voiced powerchords to create a grinding riff. Try playing the same riff in drop-B (B F# B E G# C#) for the full Slipknot effect.

5. Johnny Marr-style cleans

(Image credit: Future)

Marr’s a well-known Jaguar, player but none of The Smiths material was recorded with one – Johnny picked his Jag up in 2005. Still, it’s a mainstay in his rig now, and you’ll hear it used for Smiths covers, too. Try out these Marr-style arpeggios and remember to hold down each chord shape for its full duration.

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Total Guitar editors

Total Guitar is one of Europe's biggest guitar magazines. With lessons to suit players of all levels, TG's world-class tuition is friendly, accessible and jargon-free, whether you want to brush up on your technique or improve your music theory knowledge. We also talk to the biggest names in the world of guitar – from interviews with all-time greats like Brian May and Eddie Van Halen to our behind the scenes Rig Tour features, we get you up close with the guitarists that matter to you.