Adding a piezo system to a Fender Precision bass…
I'd like to add some organic woody tone to the possibilities of my P bass. I love the sound of the pickup but when I put my ear on the body of this bass i hear beautiful harmonics that are very reminiscent of an upright bass and that the electro magnetic pickups don't give. Can a piezo system be added to my bass? If so what's the best way to go? Ideally I'd love to be able to adjust volume levels freely. Tone as well.
I know GHOST makes complete systems for most any application. Never tried one though.
Can you add a piezo? Yes.
Should you? Depends. Most piezo systems require a bigger control cavity than a normal P bass has, so that you will have room for an onboard preamp, battery, and controls. You'll have to figure out where to put all that. You'll be replacing the bridge saddles, if not the whole bridge, to add the piezos. And you'll have to run wires from the bridge to the preamp through the body of the bass.
When you run the mag pickup through the preamp so that you can blend it with the piezo, it's going to end up sounding different. Might be better to your ears, might be worse.
You'll also be lowering the resale value of the bass, if you ever decide to get rid of it.
If I was you I'd look for a bass that has a factory piezo system, or that would be easier to add one to. An active bass with a rear-routed control cavity would be a much better candidate.
bridge piezos end up sounding more zingy-piano-y than warm and woody.
with the right onboard preamp (which it has to have to work worth a damn) it's a neat sound, very deep and also bright, essentially wider bandwidth than any electric pickup. it does not sound anything like an upright, though.
the graphtech ghost system is a good one.
Ghost's preamp kit is pretty small actually. Not sure I'd have to dig anything except maybe increase the width of the tunnel between the bridge and the electronics.
I have a pair of old Godin LR Baggs model Acoustibasses that are fantastic. They were my carry for tonights gig. Fretted and fretless. They can be bright but the onboard pre allows me to knock that down.
I sometimes wonder why I own other basses...
String selection is huge with piezo basses as well. I prefer LaBella or D'Addario tape wounds. It's definitely not going to be close to URB. As Walt mentioned, a well installed piezo with the right preamp and string selection is a lovely sound. What I most appreciate is that the note envelope tends towards the fast ramp up, rapid decay - which inspires me to formulate my lines more as if it were an upright. For lack of a more salient expression, it plays more acoustically than electrically. Again, it sounds nothing like an upright...
I expect that you would have to do dome routing for the board and you will want a battery box as well.
Jeff thanks for the Brubeck post! Tasty! I saw Chris back in the 70's a few times with his funk band Skyking. Those guys were hot! I was living in Connecticut and the two generations of Brubeck act was around a lot as the clan lived about an hour down the coast. I expect most any bass will sound good in his hands...
I remember the Wendler. Was that the one Chef sold ? A thing of beauty! My fingers were hovering over the send button on that one...
Given the cost of the Graphtech/Ghost setup - it ain't cheap... You're most of the way to a used Godin... And will have a modded up PBass at the end of the day albeit maybe a great sounding one. I think I'd punt in favor of the Godin and start looking for the next Acoustibass that pops up. It sure won't be one of mine! There were some early Godin A4's that were done with the Baggs bridge and preamp - those are much better voiced than the current RMC pickups Godin uses, RMC allows for the synth access though which gives them a leg up for that market.
I got my Wendler around '07 on ebay from a guy in Colorado. Cool bass...a little neck heavy. I still had the Azola Deco then so the Wendler never got much love.
cyberprimate if you're near Vancouver, BC I'd be happy to show you how to get what you're after with just your hands and a set of really old strings.
I have a Ghost Piezo on my Stammy.
Very nice,deep. Be aware Piezo's are bright
and some EQ may be required.
Also not all buffer/preamps are created equally. I've read many times the right one will give a nice natural sound. But I don't know who makes the best one for bass.
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