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The wikipedia article says a lot, but doesn't dissect the artifact.

jazzmaster image with clumsy paintbrush highlight

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The picture is too small to see much. – Matthew Read Apr 12 '12 at 15:16
up vote 12 down vote accepted

This image from should help:

jazzmaster wiring

If you can visually flip it around in your head to match the pickguard picture, you can see that the rhythm pickup's volume and tone controls are thumbwheel-type roller pots.

roller pots

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Beautiful! Thank you. So the Rhythm controls are rollers that you operate with the thumb? Can you "nymph" with them like you can by wrapping your pinky around the "vertical" pots? ... And is it easy to flip the switch by accident? – luser droog Apr 13 '12 at 2:21
@luserdroog, please see my edit. Regarding the switches, I've never played a Jazzmaster that I can recall for certain. I do have this Sears Silvertone Moserite-looking thing that has three similar switches. If they are anything like those, they could be switched accidentally, but not that easily. – cornbread ninja Apr 13 '12 at 3:37
Excellent, even more accepted! :) – luser droog Apr 13 '12 at 3:50
your reverse image is broken :( – luser droog Mar 7 '13 at 9:02
@luserdroog sorry about that! I was hosting them in Dropbox and had moved the image. :x – cornbread ninja Mar 7 '13 at 19:03

In the Fender Jazzmaster, essentially there are two different tone control circuits, the "Lead circuit" and the "Rhythm circuit", designed to have different tonal characteristics. You can switch between the two, independent of the selection of pickups.

This was Fender's design, and it proved not to be very popular, but it is retained on new guitars that are patterned after the original model.

Gibson had a related system, called the Varitone, which was a six-position rotary knob that engaged different arrangements of capacitors into the tone circuit to create different "notches" in the frequency response, independent of the conventional tone and volume controls. The Varitone was found on some high-end ES-335-family instruments starting in 1958. It is still available on some "custom shop" models of Gibson and Epiphone guitars today, notably the B. B. King "Lucille" model.

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According to this, the varitone was introduced in the ES-345 (as you rightly say, a high-end ES-335-family instrument) in 1958. – luser droog Mar 7 '13 at 23:11
I modified my answer based on your comment. Thanks. – user1044 Mar 9 '13 at 18:33
You're welcome! ... Not sure if you want to tackle this, but it would great to see some of the possible reasons that the jazzmaster tone controls were not popular at the time. ... Maybe I should offer a bounty for that. :) – luser droog Mar 9 '13 at 18:44
a) The Jazzmaster, when introduced, was the most expensive guitar in Fender's lineup. Most people were much happier with the existing and less expensive Stratocaster. b) Users just found the extra electronics too complicated to negotiate. c) It was marketed to jazz musicians who were probably playing a Gibson archtop. Jazz musicians did not like the Jazzmaster, and in its first run it wasn't on the market very long, and they ceased promoting it. – user1044 Mar 10 '13 at 0:38
The Jazzmaster was a commercial failure for Fender at its first release, which is probably why they didn't continue to use the novel tone control arrangement in other guitars. Many years later rock artists like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur, Jr. and Elvis Costello popularized old Jazzmasters (some of the players had custom-modded the circuitry anyway) so Fender brought the model back. – user1044 Mar 10 '13 at 0:42

This is nothing I know myself, but here's what I could find:

The toggle switch selects the neck, bridge or both pickups just like on other types of guitars. The slide switch switches to the neck pickup regardless of how the toggle switch is set, but the difference here is that the regular volume and tone control are switched out and the volume and tone just under the slide switch are what then control the volume and tone.

from this forum:

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