This is the story of a beautiful Japanese made Fender Jazzmaster that has recently graced my bench.
It belongs to a certain surf land villain we all know well from… drats, what was the name of that band?
The complaint was excessive buzziness. Contrary to common belief Jazzmasters need not be beasts of buzz if set up correctly.
The all-too-common problem lies here:
Looks innocent. So, what's the problem?
Well, other fenders, like Strats and Teles have a bridge/tailpiece combo; that is, the same piece of hardware that provides the break point for the string also provides an anchor for the ball end of the string, whether through the body or through a bridge block of some sort.
This provides for a steep break angle of the string over the saddle, like so:
That means lots of down pressure on the strings which keeps them snug to the saddles and buzz free.
Now with a Jazzmaster, the tailpiece is behind the bridge Gibson style, only there is no neck angle to speak of so the tailpiece and bridge are almost at the same height, making for a poor break angle. With little down pressure the strings vibrate horizontally and buzz against the saddle. They also tend to slip sideways and the saddle height screws vibrate loose causing the saddles to sag….
No wonder people get frustrated with these machines.
A tiny shim under the very edge of the neck, causing the neck to tilt back ever so slightly.
Now the neck projects a little bit higher at the bridge, so we can raise the bridge and keep good low action. Since the tailpiece has stayed the same, we get some break angle, and the accompanying down pressure:
Much better. Also note the electrical tape wrapped around the feet of the bridge, preventing the other Jazzmaster problem,
These bridges were designed to pivot and move with the strings when the tremolo is used to help keep it in tune. In reality, it does the opposite and makes it highly unlikely your Jazzmaster will stay in tune after wang bar usage. Better to stop the bridge from moving and let the strings slide over the saddles…even with the shim there aren’t massive amounts of down pressure.
So there it is:
All ready to rock, no buzzing, and stays in tune!