I posted about my experience with MJS pickups a couple of weeks ago, when I had a Jazz bridge pickup installed in my P-Bass. But I posted in the basses forum instead this one by mistake. Have a legitimate update though, replacing the original P-Bass pickup as well!
I recently picked up a used 2010 MIA P-Bass with maple fingerboard. Pretty much redundant in my collection given what I already had (two other P-basses in my collection of six basses in total) … but couldn't resist!
I had previously given some thought to adding a Jazz pickup to one of my other P-Basses for some extra bite when needed. I just love my other P-Basses too much to customize them. This newest addition to my collection instantly become my guinea pig bass.
I’ve installed pickups successfully before, but there’s no way I’m going to take a router to any piece of wood myself, so the search was on for a luthier who could help with the routing. Meanwhile, I did lots of reading and searching on Seymour Duncan, Dimarzio, Lollar, Bartolini, etc., websites trying to figure out what Jazz pickup would be best. I knew I wanted relatively low output for treble and “bite”.
Coincidentally (or was it fate?), the guitarist that had just joined my band the week before was good friends with a luthier just 10 minutes down the road from me. His true passion though is making custom pickups. This is where it really got fun.
The maker – MJS Custom Guitars and Pickups (MJS Custom Guitars & Pickups: Home Page
) – loaned me a bass with pickups that he considers his “reference” pickups so I could try it out with my band. I could then tell him what I was looking for in relation to the sound of those pickups. That part was easy … I wanted to keep his reference bass. The growl was incredible. No hum-cancelling here … true single coil tone, no compromise. I’ll accept some hum for a tone like that (and the hum is pretty much negligible).
Must say that was such a crucial step too since when I first tried the bass at home, I wasn't sure I was that in love with the tone at all. Having the ability to hear the pickups at band practice made all the difference in the world. Cut through and could hear notes so clearly, but still bassy ... just not boomy.
Then I sat at his place for an hour, playing bass and really honing in on what I wanted. Then he went to work making a pickup to match my existing P-bass pickup with the characteristics I was looking for. His reference bridge pickup is apparently obscenely low output … but sounded great. My P-Bass pickup reading was something like 10.5k (I think), and the Jazz pickup he wound to match is 9.2k.
I decided to keep things simple. V/V/T controls … no worries of bleed, or extra resistance impacting the P-Bass tone, or the so called V/V/T syndrome. The bass required extra routing for the pot, but otherwise no issues.
The routing job for the bridge pickup is completely flawless.
After two weeks, I also replaced the original P-bass pickup. New pickup is slightly lower output than the original, but incredible "growl" while still sounding deep like a P-Bass should with the bridge pickup completely rolled off.
Turning the Jazz pickup all the way up really focusses the tone … brighter, tighter and cuts nicely. My fave setting is having the P-Bass pickup at 75% and the Jazz on full.
Where I get the most flexibility in tone is keeping the Jazz on full and rolling back the P pickup (lots of variations of great tones in there ... more than I require). The Jazz pickup on its own is very good and useable although not quite the tone for me personally – which is not what I got the pickup for. It’s there specifically to add presence with both pickups on.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s perfect and this bass is my new #1.
Cosmetically, I think it looks cooler with the Jazz style knobs and old fashioned "tug bar". Just a “vibe” thing I like
I must say I'm pretty much a bass hack, but it was very cool to go through such a detailed process to create a pickup just for "me".
Below is the “before” and “after” pics … same bass, but the second one was taken under brighter lights that really brought out the “orange” in the burst!