To Mod or Sell, that is the question...
As a frequent bass buyer, I see a lot of stuff come and go and it's rare for me to keep anything. When I do, there's a darn good reason.
My dilemma right now involves a bass I've had for a very long time. It's a Fender US Deluxe V with the neck from an FMT and an East preamp. Those upgrades were part of our "growing together" process and I feel very attached to it.
I sold it once, only to regret it, buy it back, and vow never to sell it again. It's been my "Bass Wife" for a number of years...
But I have found others to take her place and make me happier in other ways. A Status and a Stingray have been keeping the wife in the case because they are more aggressive and have more tonal capabilities.
So that got me thinking... "This is a Jazz bass. There's upgrades!"
I tried the pickups before, went with Nordstrand NJ5FS. But they didn't do much more than the SCNs do and cost a lot of money. The only pickups that truly make me happy for J style are the Sadowsky HC or the Nordstrand Big Splits. But neither of those will fit this bass without major surgery.
And even if I did major surgery, there's no guarantee that it isn't the body OR the neck OR the preamp OR the bridge that is holding me back. Don't get me wrong, the bass sounds damn good, but I'm after something more and it's not getting me there.
So that begs the question... Sell it or Mod it?
(And just so there are givens here: I won't use single coil pickups that hum and Bartolini isn't an option for me - ever)
personally i would say mod it.. unless you have the original fender neck the resale value wont be anywhere near what it is worth to you.
When you personalize a bass, you RARELY get your money back out of it. Unless I know the guy or who did the work, the term "mod" or "hot rodded" just sends up red flags for me. Not saying this applies to you, OP, but often times people end up with a lot of shadetree luthier work done on an instrument that should have been left stock when they say it "has mods". With stock you know what to expect, simple as that.
I will say this on the topic of not playing them. Giving an instrument "Case time" isn't always a bad thing. I've had basses they I kept in the HSC in my closet for MONTHS and found new inspiration when I broke them back out again. Sometimes a change of strings can do the same thing for a bass (though that can be costly). Some basses get played more than others, but I look at them as seasonal changes. It took absolutely all of my strength to let go of my Warwick Corvette to get a very nice Ibanez guitar and some drum looping software. So now I'm down to just 4 basses instead of 5...but that's ok! I have two HSCs and two stands :D
Mod it. I've learned from many musicians much older than I that if you have an instrument that means anything at all to you to keep it.
You can always try talking to David from SGD about a custom pickup option.
I'd go for a new bridge. If you already bought it back once.... stop the cyle now. :ninja:
The SD Quaterpounders work really good in my Jazz. Just a thought.
And don't forget the capacitor. It can have a big effect on the sound.
Rotate them. That's what I do.
Maybe try some different strings? Sometimes that makes a huge difference. Or some EMG pickups...
The big scare on a body-routing pickup mod is that 99.9% of "luthiers" around here, in my experience, are god awful. So yes, I'd be afraid to have the body routed. So far, all of the mods I did are bolt-ons and can be reversed. The neck is a Fender neck from the FMT Jazz. Didn't sound much different than the original, but looked a lot nicer.
As for rotation, that's what I do. And this one, every time I bring it out, lets me down. It sounds clean and clear, but doesn't have the anger that I crave.
If Duncan made a split coil version of the QP, I'd be on it like ugly on ape... but there's nothing I hate more than single coil hum.
Try DiMarzio. They have several models of J pickups including a few split coil options that don't hum.
You asked whether to mod or sell, but my question is:
If you're going to modify a bass, what's the decision tree look like?
How do we think about identifying an instrument's shortcomings and prescribing specific modifications to improve it?
Are pick-ups the best place to start?
I feel like they are. I've swapped pickups out on a number of basses and found the staggering difference between "blah" and "HOLY ****! That's AMAZING!" to be directly attributed to the pickups.
The preamp is a great pre and I have used them in a number of basses. But as I have found, they modify the tone that goes into them. If that's no good, the preamp isn't magical. It can help, but will reach limitations.
If I had to put an order to what I would try, it would be pickups, bridge, and preamp. I'd plan to sell if that doesn't work. While I feel like an ash body or an all maple neck could make things interesting, that just puts me over the edge to "new custom built bass" territory.
I picked carrots... But with a reason.
As was mentioned above, case time is not such a bad thing. I have a few (ok, a LOT) of basses that sit in their cases for weeks. Sometimes I'll pull one out for a 'special' recording or show that needs *that* sound. Other times, I'll take one out, play it for an hour, and put it back. I still love them all... Just right now I have about 5-6 that get the regular rotation.
Back to your dilemma, Red. This one's your baby. You've made some mods already. Those are yours por vida. I'd say do nothing now; wait a while and see which direction your playing takes you - maybe you'll go all passive, or maybe you'll grab an Aguilar pre and go that route.
Either way, you're the big winner...
Mod it. Because modding is fun and you learn a lot.
I agree with you that the pickups will make all the difference.
But man, you gotta go with single coils if you want that thing to snarl and spit like I'm guessing you do.
Maybe that's not the type of jazz sound you're after but IME Hum cancelling/noise cancelling duel coils just don't get there. They will sound clean and clear but not as grindy.
Just run them all the way up, voila, no noise.
I can't do single coil. The noise would drive me nuts. And I have to pan the pickups for different tones.
The Sadowsky HC pickups, Dimarzio Ultra Jazz, and Nordstrand Big Splits all did exactly what I liked. But none of them fit :bawl:
It sounds like you've already crossed the Rubicon, or Modicon. I had a Firebird that was pretty well "modded" when I got it that was the victim of my soldering iron and whatever other tools I had hanging around.
It prevented my doing damage to a virgin.
I have to think some custom pickup maker can make you something that would work and still fit the rout.
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