Fender Jazz: Pickup Volume Control Question

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Icculus, Mar 20, 2014.


  1. Icculus

    Icculus

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Location:
    South Jersey/Philadelphia
    Oddly, I've made it this far without ever really playing a jazz bass. By playing, I don't mean actually owning. I have hardly ever spent time playing a jazz bass, except for about 10 total minutes in stores over the years. Always liked the sound, but never really wanted to buy one. I'm starting to heavily consider a purchase, so I demoed several today and came away with this...

    The pickup volume controls seem almost binary to me. When I try to blend the two pickups to achieve different combinations, the tone changes immediately when I take one off of full volume, and any lowering of the pickup volume after that is hardly audible. It sounded to me like I was hitting an on/off switch rather than making gradual adjustments, and really limited the range of tones I was able to achieve.

    Jazz basses are new to me, but seem very simple so I was a bit perplexed by the lack of flexibility. Can any of you jazz players (or detractors) elaborate on this a bit? Are there some simple mods that can achieve more of a useful range out of the pickups? FWIW, I tried several models of passive jazz basses, so my assumption is this is pretty much just a characteristic of jazz basses.
  2. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2004
    Location:
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Disclosures:
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    I dunno how Leo (or any electronics engineer) ever let that quirky circuit out of the shop.

    Many have decided to find the V/V/T eccentricities "charming.'
  3. wild4oldcars

    wild4oldcars

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2012
    Location:
    Garner, NC
    They were probably all audio/logarithmic taper pots if they were fender js. Thats probably some of the problem there.
  4. Icculus

    Icculus

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Location:
    South Jersey/Philadelphia
    I don't hate the basses, but I'm kind of disappointed that the only sound I really preferred was both pickups on full. I probably would have liked the bridge on full with the neck rolled off a tad (about 80%), but 80% is basically 10%, so...
  5. Register to disable this ad
  6. okcrum

    okcrum in your chest Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    Media:
    2
    Location:
    Verde Valley, AZ
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Dark Horse strings
    It's in the first 25% of the pot's rotation that all the variation occurs. For audio taper, that is. Swap pots. Most players don't worry so much about this, although most just leave both volumes up full.
  7. Icculus

    Icculus

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Location:
    South Jersey/Philadelphia
    Interesting. I always assumed there was more flexibility in tonal options. Either way, I might still get the bass. I found a Geddy Lee Jazz on CL for $500 with G&G case. Shouldn't be hard to flip it and get my money back if I don't fall in love.
  8. okcrum

    okcrum in your chest Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    Media:
    2
    Location:
    Verde Valley, AZ
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Dark Horse strings
    There's a lot of flexibility, as the Jazz magic is in the VV part of the VVT. It's just that the stock pots put it all in about the first 1/4 turn down from maximum. You really are varying the mid response on the bass when you are in that range on either volume pot.
  9. PJ Muzikmansky

    PJ Muzikmansky

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2013
    You have your three basic, stock sounds on a jazz with the VVT.

    1. both pickups on full (classic mid scooped jazz bass sound a la 70's and early 80's Anthony Jackson)
    2. front pickup on, back rolled all the way off (John Paul Jones)
    3. back pickup on, front rolled all the way off (Jaco...of course)

    Try this though. Both pickups on full, then wind the neck pickup back just a hair...i.e.just enough to get sixty cycle hum (my fave); vice versa for the neck pickup. Now those are some GREAT sounds.

    Also, IMO pickups 'blend' much better if neither is at full volume.
  10. jnewmark

    jnewmark Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Location:
    Stax 1966
    Disclosures:
    Play guitar.
    The Geddy Lee Jazz is a little different as it has the back pickup closer to the bridge than the stock Jazz, resulting in a little bit of a different tone. Some say they can't hear the difference, but I could. Neck is alot more narrower and thinner, if that makes a difference to you.
  11. Icculus

    Icculus

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Location:
    South Jersey/Philadelphia
    Everyone's been very helpful, but this is the exact kind of explanation I was looking for. I tried exactly what you said (rolling back volume just a hair), but I didn't hear much difference compared to the pickup being fully on or off. I'll have to try it again on a couple of different J basses next time I go back to the store.
  12. Icculus

    Icculus

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Location:
    South Jersey/Philadelphia
    Thanks! I will try to listen for this when trying it out. The thinner neck is something I think I'm going to like. My hands strain quite a bit when playing my RW P-bass between frets 1-5. I have a lot of joint/tendon pains so I'm hoping this helps. It may lead to getting a thinner neck on my P-bass as well.
  13. StuartV

    StuartV Out of GAS!! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2006
    Location:
    Bristow, VA
    If that's true, that may explain why I don't care too much for the sound of most players that are playing a J.

    Both pickups on full gives a bit of a scooped sound - i.e. a cut in the mids - which usually doesn't cut as well through a band mix as a tone with more pronounced mids.

    When I play my J, 99% of the time it's with the neck on full and the bridge pickup somewhere between 0 and 50%. The other 1% would be bridge on full and neck somewhere between 0 and 50%.
  14. okcrum

    okcrum in your chest Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    Media:
    2
    Location:
    Verde Valley, AZ
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Dark Horse strings
    That's what I'm talking about! Going the other way allows you to shade some P tone in gradually.
  15. elBandito

    elBandito

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2008
    Location:
    Rotten Apple
    I have the same experience with every factory fender jazz I have. Most of the action is in the first 25% of the knob, and it becomes on/off beyond 1/3 of the turn. I use my VV knobs like a blend knob. I leave the dominant pickup wide open, and roll back the other pickup. Difference is pretty subtle, so I end up soloing either neck or bridge pickup. I don't see the point in rolling back both volume knobs simultaneously, so I'd much prefer a blend knob, instead of two volume knobs. Doesn't bother me enough to swap them out tho.

  16. StuartV

    StuartV Out of GAS!! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2006
    Location:
    Bristow, VA
    I set my J up as Volume/Blend/Tone. I definitely like having one Master volume knob. And I can still get any combination of pickup volume levels, to get any tone, that a VVT setup can.
  17. bachlover

    bachlover Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2013
    Location:
    Calgary, AB, Canada
    I play it both pups full, midrange on my SVT full, frequency selector switch 2nd from the highest (4), tone on the J just a tad off of full treble. Cuts through no problem with loads 'o growl.
  18. elBandito

    elBandito

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2008
    Location:
    Rotten Apple
    exactly. I don't really see the point of having 2 volume knobs.

  19. Icculus

    Icculus

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Location:
    South Jersey/Philadelphia
    No doubt. I guess "it is what it is" and that's why people like them or don't.
  20. Icculus

    Icculus

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Location:
    South Jersey/Philadelphia
    Was this easy and inexpensive to do? Sounds more up my alley.
  21. Turnaround

    Turnaround

    Joined:
    May 6, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto Canada
    Disclosures:
    Bass Technician, Club Bass - Toronto
    Though the VVT configuration does not offer the kind of tonal range some folks expect, many long-term Jazz players have found that there's a sweet spot when both volumes are at about 80%. It has to do with the loading of the pickups, i.e. how one pickup presents a load to the other and the effect of that on the overall sound. It's subtle though.

Share This Page