As I described in my post on the Jazzmaster, the original Jazzmaster bridge is problematic in a number of ways: often buzzing and failing to retain the strings seated in their saddles when any heavy string bending ensues. I have been reading about the Mastery Bridge —an aftermarket replacement bridge that claims to solve these problems—for a couple of years.
Shortly after purchasing a Fender Blacktop Jazzmaster, I became frustrated with the aforementioned bridge issues. At that time, I recall the Mastery Bridge costing close to $300—way out of my price range. Fortunately, Matt at 30th Street Guitars offered me an affordable quick fix. He swapped the original Jazzmaster bridge for a Fender Mustang bridge, which is apparently a direct replacement. Voila!— the strings stayed seated through the most extreme bending.
Still, a certain amount of buzzing remained, and sustain was not what one would hope. I limped along with this fix for a few years before deciding that I had spent too much money to stop now (Seymour Duncan custom wound MJ pickup in the bridge, Sheptone http://www.sheptone.com/landing.html humbucker in the neck, WD tortoise pickguard, re-wiring to two volumes and a tone, having a new input jack placed on the side). I opted to spring for the Mastery Bridge, in the hope that it would turn this folly magically fabulous. Besides I really love the guitar’s neck.
Mastery Bridge mentioned at :48
Fortunately the price had come down considerably in the interim. Nick at Joe Glaser’s in Nashville said they might have one in stock so I had him install it—in for a penny, in for hundreds of dollars.
So–was it worth it? The answer is an unequivocal, resounding YES!
The strings still remain firmly in place when bending, but it is the difference in tone and sustain that is astounding. No more buzzing at the bridge and the sound seems perfectly transferred to the pickups. Did I mention that the intonation is way better now as well? Thanks to the Mastery Bridge my Blacktop Jazzmaster has gone from an interesting, but potentially failed, project to an instrument I will be proud to play anywhere.
Next stop the Mastery Vibrato http://www.masterybridge.com/offset-vibrato.php . Hopefully by the time they are back in stock I will have the money.
Thanks for the informative review.
Could you tell me which Mastery Bridge exactly you out on the Blacktop Jazz?
I have the same issue with mine and am wanting to buy one, but a local guitar tech told me they wont fit on the Blacktops?
Just want to make sure before I drop the money.
They absolutely will. Just make sure Mastery sends you the right sockets for the studs. Contact them and they will be helpful and your guitar tech can contact them for help as well
Ahhh, the phenomenon of having to replace everything….just because.
I’m old enough to remember when thousands and thousands of perfectly good guitars were changed for the better (!) because of perceived ‘issues’.
What so many people don’t seem to understand is that ‘issues’ are actually part of the sound of an instrument.
By all means, the old tele bridge is a simple (!) cheap bridge and any modern bridge is ‘better’ but hey – why the frugg – the old one has a sound that cannot be duplicated with those ‘better’ ones.
The mastery bridge, well, it’s really nicely machined. If you issue is that the springs jumbo out of the grooves, how difficult would it be to file your groove a bit deeper and raise the whole thing a touch…? That’s what one does, right. The new bridge gives you more sustain? That begs 2 questions, one is like really ??? and two is like why would you want that? You could actually play a Les Paul if you want sustain for a change OR you could do what thousands of peoples did in earlier times, obsessed with other fads, mounting all kinds of brass hardware including a brass nut on the guitar and even add brass weights to the head plate. Yup, those things sold by the thousands. Coming to the last point: why would you say the Mastery bridge improves intonation? Because it totally does not! It actually limits your intonations possibilities compared to the original or the Jaguar bridge.
I do understand that all those aftermarket gadgets cater to somehow unhappy/unfulfilled guitarists and of course we all are to some degree unhappy and unsatisfied with whatever. But surely gadgets won’t change that – be it your latest ‘hand wound’ PU or the ‘Mastery bridge’ or any such stuff.
You make some interesting points Joe. The sound of a guitar is affected by the bridge but overall its tonality is much more a product of the scale length, woods, and pickups. If you want the exact sound of a vintage Jazzmaster, by all means don’t change a thing. But for myself, Nels Cline, Bill Frisell, and others, we obviously feel we can retain enough of things we like about the instrument, while making some improvements that we deem essential to using the guitar in the context within which we are working.
For myself, as I explained in another comment reply, I just like the look and the ability to play behind the bridge. Others may want the more of the original package, like the original pickups, which I have replaced. Whatever works for the individual’s musical needs. As to intonation, my experience has been that good intonation has less to do with the degree of adjustability on a bridge than the way the harmonic overtones of the instrument react together. The Mastery Bridge has audibly improved the harmonic interaction on my instrument and apparently has not created any issues for Cline and Frisell.
Guitarists have been modifying their instruments to help create the sound they hear in their heads for decades. Eddie Van Halen wanted a Stat scale and a whammy but with a humbucker in the bridge so he took a chisel to his guitar. If your Jazz master satisfies your musical needs as is, leave it alone. If you hear something else, get out the chisel. It is all about the music. (unless of course, one is a collector).
Yup, I have a Mastery on my Bigsby Telecaster and it is fabulous.
Incidently, I have a Classic Player Jazzmaster and I am currently using a Classic player Jaguar HH (with Kinman Humbuckers) and both those use a stock Gibson type bridge which has been working really well … a real upgrade over the original setup IMNSHO.
That’s why I loved this one: https://www.guitarmoderne.com/gear-2/review-squier-by-fender-j-mascis-jazzmaster. I thought about installing a tune-o-matic on the Blacktop but figured it would be even more expensive than the Mastery