Mod Garage: Rewiring a Fender Jaguar
Want to beef up this iconic solidbody’s sounds? We’ll show you how.
Now that we've explored a mod for the Fender Mustang (“Rewiring a Fender Mustang"), let's turn our attention to another of the company's outlaw guitars—the Jaguar. Although the Jaguar never achieved the enormous success of the Strat or Tele when it was released, in recent decades it has become an iconic model for indie rockers, thanks to such players as Johnny Marr, Elvis Costello, and John Frusciante.
Some background. The Jaguar was introduced in 1962 as a somewhat enhanced version of the Jazzmaster. Boasting a 24" medium-scale fretboard, the Jaguar was the top-of-the-line model in the Fender catalog—more expensive than a Strat or Tele. Its features included an offset-waist body, 22 frets, a new floating tremolo design, a string muting device, shielded pickups, and an extravagant switching system with two separate circuits that Fender thought was very innovative.
But the Jaguar didn't sell well, so its initial production run only lasted 13 years. It gained some popularity with surf guitarists, but Fender's initial goal of wooing Gibson players completely failed. The model was dropped from production in 1975 until punk and alternative rockers rediscovered unwanted Jaguars in the '80s. Today Jaguars made between 1962 and 1975 sell for several times their original price. Fender currently offers Jaguars ranging from budget axes to Custom Shop models.
The stock switching system. Four switches and four pots control the Jaguar's two pickups, and understanding how they function almost requires a manual. Here's a short explanation: The Jaguar has dual circuits—one for lead and another for rhythm—each with independent volume and tone controls. This scheme allows for two preset tone and volume settings.
The lead circuit comprises three 2-way sliding switches located near the treble horn, and two pots mounted on a chromed metal plate near the bridge on the treble side of the lower bout. Two switches are on/off switches for the neck and bridge pickups. The third switch engages a 0.003 µF capacitor that serves as a high-pass filter for the lead circuit, bleeding some bass frequencies away. Today this is typically called the “strangle" switch. The pots are 1M master volume and tone controls for the neck and bridge pickups, and the tone control is connected to a 0.01 µF capacitor.
Located on the bass horn, the rhythm circuit consists of a single 2-way switch and two thumb-controlled roller pots. The switch functions as an on/off for the rhythm circuit, and the pots provide volume and tone controls for the neck pickup. (You can't access the bridge pickup from the rhythm circuit.) The rhythm circuit has a 1M linear volume and a 50k linear tone pot connected to a 0.1 µF tone capacitor.
The Jaguar's two single-coils are smaller than Strat pickups and have notched metal side plates for improved RF shielding. This design is very effective and makes the Jaguar less prone to interference than a Strat or Tele.
Before you start tinkering with the stock wiring, take a few minutes to study the original Jaguar circuit online. You can find schematics at Fender, Seymour Duncan, OffsetGuitars.com, and many other websites.
Circuit mods. One quick and easy way to spruce up the rhythm circuit is to replace both controls with 250k or 500k pots, and swap out the original tone cap for one with less capacitance. I recently modded a customer's Jaguar with a 3300 pF cap on the rhythm tone pot. This let him dial in some nice warm tones without losing all the highs and definition.
We'll explore other mods for the Jaguar's rhythm circuit in future columns, but for now let's focus on its lead circuit. Remember, we have three DPDT switches with master volume and master tone controls.
Many players never use the strangle switch, so let's convert it into a series/parallel switch that will yield some really beefy single-coil tones. (This is similar to what we did to the Mustang last month.) Keep in mind this mod doesn't affect the rhythm circuit.
Let's start with two steps to prepare for this mod:
1. Replace the lead circuit's two 1M pots with 250k or 500k pots. The 0.01 µF tone cap can be reused, depending on your personal taste.
2. Separate the bridge pickup's ground following the instructions in “Preparing Your Tele for Future Mods," which you'll find at premierguitar.com. Separate the bridge pickup's ground following the instructions in “Preparing Your Tele for Future Mods." The principle is the same for the Tele and Jaguar bridge pickups. When you're done, your bridge pickup will have three wires. This is an important step for trouble-free operation in the series pickup mode.
Fig. 1 shows the lead circuit modified for series switching. We're looking at the backside of the chrome plate—the same way you'll be looking at the components as you perform the mod.
There you have it. Next month we'll see if it's possible to mate a Strat with a PRS to get the best of both worlds. Until then ... keep on modding!