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Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by DAKnox, Jul 16, 2019.
The original Jag bridge (threaded saddles, which IIRC is what should be stock) and the other bridge you have obviously are adjustable for radius. People get rid of them because sometimes the grub screws rattle or lower themselves. Clear lacquer drops on the screw tops, once adjusted, fix this issue.
You want to increase the break angle and pressure on the bridge, which is what the shim is for. You also don’t want the strings to touch the back ‘lip’ of the bridge plate. 3 to 7 degrees is a good break angle for a Bigsby and Floating Trems, but I don’t know off hand how much angle you can get on typical Mustang bridges before you start hitting the back lip. It depends on radius too, since Mustang saddles are all machined to different diameters. The back curve of the bridge lip is not the same as the fretboard.
Since it’s new to you, the Trem might sound finicky, but it’s all basic geometry. Like most vibrato contraptions there is a finesse to cutting the nut and bridge slots, as well as knowing the sweet spots of the hardware.
I have always found the original bridge & trem to be a terrible design. Fender keeps reproducing them for the sake of tradition & only in the last decade or so has admitted mods were needed by doing what many of us were already doing on our own & putting different hardware on all non-vintage correct versions.
I bought my first Jaguar long before I had internet & the world's wisdom to guide me. While I loved the look & feel of that guitar the entire bridge & and vibrato system were full of issues. The saddles vibrated themselves lower, the pivot screws vibrated in the posts lowering the whole bridge, the bridge could be rocked or knocked out of position, the strings rang behind the bridge, & the vibrato rarely returned to pitch if allowed to remain floating.
So, you can shim the neck to increase break angle, thread lock all the adjustment screws so they stay where you left them, put nylon tubing around the bridge posts to keep them centered in the pockets, something to dampen the ring behind the bridge, increase the spring tension on the vibrato & use the lock button which only allows one direction of movement so it comes back to the same place.
Or you can acknowledge there are a lot of problems with the design & start swapping things out.
My first Jag got a T.O.M. style bridge with deep string grooves. My second Jag got a roller bridge and a Buzz Stop.
The angles created by the buzz stop aren't ideal but putting a Spacer under it would help that. IMO it's the lesser of two evils though because allowing the bridge system to work as designed isn't anything I'd be interested in.
For some modern playing styles, the JM/Jag will have some issues. For most other kinds of music, it’s pretty adept. I say the floating bridge design was better than Bigsby, the main floating bridge ‘competitor’ so to speak, back in 1959. It was improved because the bridge has adjustable height, string spacing, individual string intonation, and radius. Pretty good deal, given that dive bombing wasn’t a thing yet. I can’t tell ya why people before the internet didn’t give it a shot. Probably had to do all the guitar mythology/paradigms back then.
You know what I hate about Strat trems? The six screws aren’t needed, and you need hardened steel screw ends with a perfectly machined fulcrum point. Oh the bent saddles suck too, grub screw sticking out too much, unless you shim it or something. The trem arm, what a PITA! I have to decide also if I want to float the thing or run it flat. 5 springs or 2/3. Never returns to pitch unless I keep it stiff and stuck to the body. So finicky in my opinion, but it’s worth it once you figure out all the kinks and learn all the tricks. I’d like to improve it, make two fulcrum knife points, float the thing, machine new saddles, lock the strings down. Then it’d be a perfect tone machine, right out the box....
The original design worked for some people, but not for others. I’m in the ‘worked for me’ camp, and yeah the internet helped, no harm in that (here we are). Fender did improve the design too. My AV 65 was supposed to be a copy of the original, but it has an angled neck pocket. The bridge has a groove machined down the threads on bridge post screws. Kinda makes it hard to turn, hard to rattle itself down. Maybe the grub screws and saddles are better machined. I don’t know but the guitar worked perfectly brand new, with 10s. The bridge does ratchet to one side if I use the trem too much, but that’s why I’m a non-rocking bridge guy. The AV has a Mastery now, because I like to use the trem a lot, in extreme. Great tuning stability. I use those tones behind the bridge, everyone does it now. Fender does offer JM/Jags with the gawd awful TOM and forward-shifted trem, even abominations with Strat trems or stop tails. Keeps everyone happy, and the critics typing
Add to that that the Jag and Jazzmaster were designed to be strung with heavy gauge flatwounds, not rounds, and you can see why the trem doesn't work for a lot of people. It was never designed to be used in the same way as, say, a Strat's trem; more it was meant to give you that slight 'wobble' of a Bigsby. If you try to do Hendrix-style stuff on a Jag or Jazzmaster, it's probably not going to work, but a lot of people see it as a flaw in the design. It was developed in the 50s when electric guitar playing was different to what it would be in the 60s onwards. Bands in the 80s reintroduced them because they could pick them up cheap; the landscape of music changed and Fender's flagship models were left behind.
Happy new Jag day
12s on a jag are like 10s on a tele.
The Jazzmaster and Jaguar are majestic beasts, but were not designed for playing modern music with light gauge strings. You can certainly do this with them, but you need to understand the original design if you want to deviate from it effectively. I've owned several examples of each, and always use the stock bridges since the other alternatives involve tradeoffs that I don't find desirable.
With a proper setup, you can wail on these guitars like a British nanny and the strings stay in place. You won't do '80s metal stuff with the vibrato, but you can use it pretty aggressively and it stays in tune just fine as long as basic setup procedures have been followed (such as remembering that most tuning issues involve the nut). I once strung a Jazzmaster with .09s to prove it could be done, and other than sounding wimpy it played just fine.
Here's a good article that outlines the basics-
There is also the Offset Guitar forum.
I don’t trust those guys, they cuss a lot
the info there is solid. it's a nice change in perspective too.
If TDPI is old blooze guys in cargo shorts and bumched shirts, the offset forum is hipsters in skinny jeans. Some of those folks really know their business about offsets though.
That's funny. At the Gretsch forum they're all Setzer swingers/Malcolm rockers?
I put 11 52 on my Jag. No problems yet.
All the classic Jaguar "problems" are solved, or at least greatly diminished, by a suitable setup.
The first thing to know is that they were designed around 12 gauge flatwound strings, which they came with from the factory (at least initially). Next, they usually had at least some degree of factory neck angle when stock (from a shim, not from an angled pocket). So the "problems" that most rock-n-rollers have with them is due to an unsuitable setup for the strings and styles of play they're using, and/or the removal of the original neck shims.
If you want the thing to be as stable as possible while still having the original style vibrato and bridge, you want to make it basically feel like a Gibson in the end: plenty of neck angle, lots of break over the bridge, but no contact of the strings with the back of the bridge plate (or with anything else).
The first thing you want to do is to jack up your bridge saddles (not the entire bridge) as high as they can go while maintaining a suitable string radius. (Don't bother lowering the entire bridge to compensate for the increased total height that you get by doing this. You will be taking up the gap with the next step.) The purpose of this step is to keep the strings from contacting the rear lip of the bridge plate, once you finish the setup.
The next thing is to add as much neck angle as you can, without going outside of the height adjustment range for the bridge pickup. Many people use a 1 degree angle (any many Fender Jaguars and JMs these days have the 1 degree angle routed into the neck pocket so no shims are needed). IME, the more the better, and you can [barely] use as much as 2 degrees without needing to put a shim under the bridge pickup (FWIW, a typical Gibson SG neck angle is 2 to 3 degrees). But each guitar will be put together slightly differently due to normal tolerance variations in neck pockets, neck height, etc. Therefore, you can't always just pick a certain degree and know that it will work; there's some degree of trial and error involved. At any rate, step two is to put a neck shim in, and I would go no shallower than 1 degree, myself.
Step three is to go up one gauge or two on your strings. This is optional. You can get the guitars working fine with lighter strings, but heavier does make it easier. An increase in string tension is also generally helpful on any short scale guitar (not just Jags), so there are other benefits as well. Therefore the tighter strings will help more on a Jag than on a JM, because with the same string set, the JM already has higher string tension than the Jag. Also, using Fender Bullets or Super Bullets can help a bit, theoretically (the ends seat better in the vibrato tailpiece).
Step four, once it is all strung up, is to fine tune the bridge. This is a rocker bridge by design, and the stock vibrato system only works well if it is kept as a rocker bridge. Defeating the rocking action is something you want to do ONLY if you will never, ever use the vibrato, or if you have a hard tailpiece in place of the vibrato unit, which you do not have. (And you don't want a roller bridge unless you have defeated the rocking action. It's one or the other; if you have both, they will be working against each other.) At any rate, level the bottom of the bridge plate to the string plane (just like a Gibson -- at least like a properly constructed Gibson). Set your saddle radius how you like, and use overall bridge height to set your "global" string height. In the end, you want to make sure that the strings behind the saddles are not touching anything but the tailpiece on the vibrato. The strings should clear the back lip of the bridge, and they should clear any screws on the vibrato plate (the low E is the most likely to contact one of the vibrato screws). If they don't clear, you need to raise the saddles more, and lower the overall bridge height to compensate. If your saddles are maxed out in height, but a string is still dragging somewhere, you can use the penultimate resort and raise the height of the vibrato tailpiece with a spring adjustment.* If it still doesn't work, then as a last resort, you can place the bridge plate parallel to the top of the guitar, instead of parallel to the string plane. That will usually clear the bridge (but won't affect the contact with the vibrato screw -- you need to use the spring adjustment to do that).
If you do this, and do it well, you will have increased tension on the bridge saddles, which will reduce rattling, saddle jumping, and pinging, will increase sustain, and will improve vibrato performance by decreasing string slippage over the saddles when using the vibrato. Remember, it's a rocker bridge, so you don't want the strings sliding over the saddles; you want the bridge to move with the vibrato, not the strings moving over the bridge.
As for which bridge to use, you could use either. Both designs use the same baseplate and overall height adjustment/rocker mechanism, so they're each a drop-in replacement for the other. The Mustang version has a fixed radius and fixed saddle height, and deeper/straighter string grooves. Advantages: less chance of string jumping, and all the saddle buzz/rattle/ping is eliminated via nuclear option, rather than with setup for increased tension. But the drawbacks are that you need to shim to adjust saddle height to clear the back lip of the bridge. You also need to shim the saddles if you want anything other than a perfectly matching saddle-to-fretboard radius (which is always IMO -- a perfectly matching saddle to fretboard radius doesn't play as nicely as a flatter saddle radius vs. fretboard radius). Personally, I think converting a Mustang to a Jag/JM bridge is a better mod than converting a Jag/JM to a Mustang bridge...but people use the Mustang bridge all the time, and love it. I say just try both. I think the best design would be a Jag/JM style bridge, but with non-threaded saddles -- deep string slots instead. Marc Rutters could probably make replacement saddles like this via custom order. It would combine the best elements of the Jag/JM and the Mustang bridges.
No, you don't need the Stay-Trem, and IMO you don't want it...unless you just don't want the Jaguar to act like a traditional Jaguar. It's a patch for symptoms that don't exist once you treat the root cause (i.e. set up as explained above). Same with thread lock and other such classic Jag/JM tricks. Not needed if set up very well.
* A note regarding the Tune-Lock on the vibrato. IMO, ignore it; it's near useless in the real world. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a vibrato defeat mechanism (i.e. something that simulates a blocked vibrato). All it's designed to do is to let you return your guitar to proper tune if you break a string in the middle of a song. Just adjust your vibrato spring the way you want it, rather than being locked in to the only spring setting that will allow the Tune-Lock to do its [fairly useless] job. It's more important to have the vibrato action that you want than it is to have a working Tune-Lock feature.
My only gripe with them is their weight.
Beauty of a guitar
This is not the reason to use the Mustang bridge. Jag/JM saddles are individually adjustable for string height. I.e. they can match any fretboard radius out there, so this is not a problem that needs solving...and the Mustang bridge doesn't solve it anyhow. Mustang bridges have a fixed radius (some 7.25", and some 9.5"), and IME, it's not ideal setup to have the saddle radius perfectly match the fretboard radius. So the Mustang bridge is actually disadvantageous when looking at this aspect. If anything off a Mustang, I'd use one of the 9.5" radius versions on a guitar with a 7.25" fretboard radius.
What the Mustang bridge gives you is a way to reduce rattling, buzzing, and string jumping, without having to add a neck angle. In other words, it's a workaround to doing a good setup (or for those who hate the feel of a neck angle on a Fender).
The saddle slots on the Mustang bridges are much better, but I would gladly sacrifice them in order to gain full adjustability on each saddle (height, intonation, and string spacing). That said, if you are willing to give up the ability to adjust string spacing, you can always use metal shims underneath the Mustang saddles, as a cheat for adjusting the saddle heights individually.