If you are fans of Fender’s offset guitars like the Jazzmaster and the Jaguar like I am. You may be quite interested in correcting what many players feel are shortcomings for Leo Fender’s high-end solid body guitars.
I have recently completed two popular upgrades for my Fender Jazzmaster and Jaguar guitars. I would recommend these to anyone that has a Fender offset guitar.
A properly setup Jazzmaster or Jaguar can be just fine with the stock tremolo and bridge. So these are not absolutely needed upgrades. They are not inexpensive, but many, as well as myself feel they are well worth the cost. Makes a great guitar even better, more playable.
In regard to the Mastery Bridge, it can add better sustain and tone. Best of all it resolves the sometimes incorrect string spacing for the stock bridge. Also stops the strings from being able to pop out of the shallow grooves in the treaded saddles.
The Staytrem tremolo upgrade will give you better control of your tremolo. It allows the tremolo arm to stay where you put it and stop it from falling to the floor when playing.
The stock bridge on Fender Jazzmasters and Jaguars use threaded saddles. They tend to rattle. The grooves are narrow and makes for arbitrary string spacing. Sometimes when played hard the strings can actually pop out of the groove in the saddle. One solution is to file in a better groove for the string on the threaded saddles. Many players swap out the stock bridge and replace it with a Fender Mustang bridge as it is better designed. This can be a good option.
There are a few other bridge replacements available like the Staytrem bridge which is like the Mustang bridge in design.
Some players like the Buzz Stop when used on Jazzmasters or Jaguars. Said to increase sustain and keep the strings from popping out of the saddles. It is a metal part that screws onto the stock tremolo plate that shortens the string path and increases their angle. It also tends to add more string tension, which I personally don’t care for.
The Mastery bridge is well regarded and used by many players like Nels Cline & Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Elvis Costello, Troy Van Leeuwen, Bill Frisell, Thurston Moore & Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth. It eliminates buzzing and rattles with the stock threaded saddles. The deep grooved design make sure the strings won’t pop out — no matter how hard you play. The Mastery bridge saddles are made of solid brass that is plated with a unique, self-lubricating hard chrome only found on the Mastery bridge. The Mastery bridge is very well made.
The Mastery bridge requires no modification to the guitar. Can always go back to the stock bridge if desired. According to the maker, the Mastery bridge changes the downward tensions and this can add sustain Instead of around 18 lbs of string tension bearing down on an individual saddle as found on most bridges, our bridge applies over 50 lbs of downward string tension on each saddle. This added tension per saddle forced downward transfers more string-to-body energy, which you’ll hear in your guitar acoustically as well as amplified.
I ordered two Mastery Bridges for Offset guitars to retrofit onto my Fender American Vintage ’65 Jaguar and my Fender American Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster. Both of these offset guitars share the same bridge type. Except my Fender Jaguar also had a Fender Mute installed under the bridge (more of this later). You can only order these direct from Mastery Bridge website. It took about 2 weeks for them to arrive. They arrived well packaged.
First thing you notice is how much better this bridge appears as compared to the stock Fender bridge. Bit heavier and substantial. The install is pretty easy as it comes with detailed instructions and there is a video on the Mastery Bridge website showing the installation on a Fender Jazzmaster. You do not need to be a luthier to install one of these. If you have changed your own strings and can do simple intonation adjustments you will have no issues.
As mentioned my Fender American Vintage ’65 Jaguar came with a Fender Mute assembly which is a device to mute the strings installed directly under the bridge. Fender designed these string mutes as it is hard to palm mute these guitars when the bridge cover is installed. Most players remove and discard the cover (like they always did with Telecaster Ashtray covers). The Fender string mute was rarely used by most players who would rather palm mute the strings for more control. Many times you will find the Fender Mute removed (only has two screws). It is rare to even find a vintage Jaguar with the mute still installed.
I decided I wanted to keep the Fender Mute installed on my Fender American Vintage ’65 Jaguar. I rarely use it, but like the look. What I discovered when I removed the stock bridge was that the “posts” that feed into the body thimbles were narrower that the Mastery Bridge posts. Likely why the stock bridge can rattle at times. The issue I encountered was the posts on the Mastery Bridge did not fit thru the holes of the Fender Mute. I had to remove the mute and drill/file larger the holes in the Fender mute for it the Mastery Bridge to install over the top of the mute.
Was really not that big of a job. Since the Mastery Bridge (as well as the stock bridge) covers the holes anyway it is not much of a problem. Once I made the oval holes large enough to fit and still function as a mute, I was able to install the Mastery Bridge without an issue.
The Mastery Bridge replacement is a nice improvement over the Fender stock bridge that could always be put back on the guitar if desired. The Mastery Bridge is more solid and with their design, does not rattle. The strings will not pop out. Best of all is the string spacing over the pickups and neck are now perfect. I also think it improves the tone and sustain of the guitar as well.
Staytrem Tremolo Upgrade
The offset tremolo sometimes get a bad reputation, but actually work amazingly well. Although not made for dive-bombing, they are very musical smooth vibratos with a range similar to a Bigsby. In some ways an improvement to the standard tremolos on the Stratocaster. With a proper setup and decent strings they stay in tune quite well.
The Staytrem tremolo upgrade replaces the stock tremolo arm and collet. The stock collet/bushing tends to allow the tremolo arm to come loose, rattle and even fall on the floor when playing. It rarely stays put and spins freely. Not great if you like the tremolo arm to stay put in the position you leave it in. Due to the way the tremolo arm fits into the tremolo unit it may also have some play, which makes the tremolo harder to use accurately.
The reason is that the Fender stock collet/bushing uses slotted “teeth” and some pressure. These are not screw in tremolo arms like a Stratocaster tremolo. You can try and tighten the “teeth” by unscrewing the tremolo plate and using a pliers to bend them tight a bit, but they tend to loosen again and you need to be care not to break the collet/bushing.
The Staytrem uses a an internal nylon sleeve to hold the tremolo arm. No metal to metal contact with the tremolo arm allowing a very smooth rotation that stays where you put it. It is manufactured to last for years. The metal is stainless steel. Best part is it looks like the original tremolo are and collet and no modification to the guitar is required. You can easily put back the original parts at any time.
One thing to note is when you slide in the new tremolo arm that comes with the Staytrem it takes a good push. If you do not push it down enough the tremolo arm will be too high and not stay put sometimes. Just give it a good push down and it is all set. It is a very nice improvement over the stock Fender parts. The tremolo will have less play and the arm will stay where you put it.
Apparently, Johnny Marr is a fan of this upgrade. This is the same tremolo arm and collet used on his Fender Signature Model Jaguar he helped design.
These are nice improvements for two very cool guitars.