How does a musician choose an instrument? It is by the shape, the color, or maybe even something else? In the case of Kurt Cobain, the legendary and iconic singer and guitarist of the grunge band Nirvana, a guitar was an instrument that was supposed to represent both taste and yet still retain a certain distinct sound and appearance. With that in mind, Cobain worked closely with Fender to create his ideal, custom instrument. After a long period, and several prototype models, the result was named the JagStang, and despite having a mediocre sales record, the instrument was re-released in 2004, and for the price, it is definitely one of the best guitars on the market.
The JagStang looks almost exactly like one would imagine it, a rather long body with either aqua blue or orange paint, a pearly-white pick guard, and a rosewood fret board. The body of the guitar is constructed out of basswood, and the neck is maple. The guitar has a floating tremolo, controlled with a removable trem arm, and one single coil pickup along with a special design humbucker.
When it comes to how the JagStang plays, it really becomes a matter of debate about the preferences of the individual player. The short scale neck is thoroughly enjoyable, although it may not be the most ideal choice for players who styles tend to include extended scale runs or excessive playing on the higher frets. While the guitar does have a very cool option to switch the style of each pickup, resulting in a lot of different options when it comes to tone and overall sound, it has to be said that theirs really not a whole lot of difference between the different settings, and the sound is overall slightly strange. Of course, the option to switch off the pickup entirely is interesting, and can make for an interesting effect when toggled on and off during normal playing rhythm.
Although it’s hard to put your finger on, there’s something just slightly strange about the way that the JagStang sounds. It may be the strangely shaped body, but the guitar just doesn’t seem to have any resonation or sustain, and notes often fade away as soon as they’re picked. The pickups are interesting, if only for the fact that they really do make a distinctive sound when compared to other guitars on the market, and the tremolo really does sound good, although it tends to require a lot of retuning after a little bit of use.
Though it may not fit the profile of modern rock, the JagStang sounds truly excellent when plugged into a small blues amp and taken through some chord progressions. When the distortion is switched on, the guitar rags through trebly chords and really does remind players of that grungy Nirvana sound.
Of course, it is very unlikely that the rather strange shape and distinctive sound of the guitar would appeal to just anyone, but fans of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, and those looking for a reasonably priced guitar with a lot of distinction and some very interesting features should be well recommended to check out the Fender JagStang. It’s far from the best guitar on the market, but it is an interesting buy nonetheless, and one that fans should be very happy with.