1970s P Bass Vs 1960s P Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by RalphieBoy, Jan 12, 2013.

  1. RalphieBoy


    Jul 25, 2012
    Fort Smith, AR
    Well I finally convinced myself to save up for a 1970s or 1960s P Bass the only questions I really have are as follows:

    Should I even bother doing this since I already have a MIA Standard 2011 P Bass?

    What's the major difference besides value of 1970s and 1960s P Basses?

    If 1960s whats the real difference between Pre-CBS and that you can hear?

    If I go with a 1970s P Bass should I just get pickups from that era and buy a Highway One P Bass since it is the same aesthetic styling, but a lot cheaper on my end?

    Any response is welcomed and appreciated much.
  2. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    You are going to get a bunch of oft repeated cliches about all of this. I will just say that a good P from any era (including a new one), will be as good as a good P from any other era.
  3. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    Right on King Biscuit.... In fact, newer Pbasses have better hardware, the CNC cut are way more precise than anything you will find from the 60s or 70s and you will pay less $.

    No matter what, play a bunch of P basses, you will find one that says "buy me".
  4. glutah


    Nov 5, 2012
    Salt Lake City
    Love my old pbass, pre CBS is going to be very expensive. Just something about an old one...
  5. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings
    In general the 1970's were the worst era for Fender. CBS was cutting costs and the quality was inconsistent. However, they also made some great basses during that period. I have had owned many 1970's P and J basses which played and sounded great. I think its like anything else you buy. Inspect it carefully and play it. If the bass looks like it was well made, plays and sounds great you should buy regardless of when it was made. Personally, I would look for a 70's because they are a lot less expensive but it would be nice to have a 60's era bass.
  6. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    los angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    Plenty of good and bad instruments made in any decade by Fender. I've played really good new ones and some terrible pre-CBS ones. Main difference is nut width (mostly 1-3/4" during the 60s, mostly 1-5/8" during the 70s. Beyond that finish and electronic details.

    If you like your current one, no real reason to buy an old one. They aren't magic and there is some seriously bad "vintage" instruments out there. There are some great ones but they are hard to find and pricey.
  7. Lowbrow

    Lowbrow Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2008
    Pittsburgh PA!
    You have the possibility of finding great basses from either era. For a somewhat qualified response to your question, I'll say that - as someone who has owned a 2008 MIA P, a 62 P, as well as a few 76-79 Ps that I bought new off the shelf, the bass you already have (new MIA) probably bears more similarity physically to a 70s P than it does to a 60s P. I say this mainly with regard to relative weight and to the neck profile. In other words, an early-to-mid 60s will be more of a change-up.

    I anticipate other will pick away at minutiae, but really the only test is in the playing when considering vintage instruments.
  8. Low_blow


    May 14, 2005
    If you are going to spend a lot of money for a vintage Fender bass, play it, at first. There are bad sounding instruments even among 1960-early70's basses. Once I tried two Fender Jazz basses - made in 1965 (with dots) and 1966. So I had an opportunity to compare them side-by-side. I liked the sound of the 2nd bass (made in 1966) MUCH more. It had a very open and round sound. And the 1st one was just a vintage bass, which was just "ok" sounding, nothing extraordinary. My opinion: a GOOD vintage Fender will be definately sound better than any modern one. I don't say, modern Fenders suck, no, but tonewise they can't compete with GOOD vintage basses. You will hear it acoustically. So, if money is not an object, I would go with a vintage P-bass. Just try a bunch of 60-70's basses and find yours. Everything is IMHO, of course.
  9. "No 2 pieces of wood are the same". I've played on pre-CBS P-basses that got ROFLstomped by the cheapest Squiers, and I've played on CBS-era P-basses where I was happily willing to give several testicles for owning that bass.

    In general, you have to keep in mind that quality control was a bit stricter in the sixties than in the seventies (dodgy neckpockets, necks that could warp,...), but also:

    pre 1968-necks: 1.75" nutwidth, fairly shallow profile with low frets.
    Post '68: 1.60" nutwidth, a bit more "meat" in the profile, frets got bigger.

    The neck and fretwire is the biggest difference. Also the woods for the body changed. In the sixties, alder was used, and in the seventies, (heavy) ash was used.
    In 1964 the pickup was changed from a formvar-coated blackbobbin pickup to an enamel-coated greybobbin, thus boosting the output a tad.

    And in the pre-CBS era you still have to consider the changeover from slab- to veneer fretboard. A slab (mid 59, mid 62) sounds a tad warmer than a veneer (mid 1962 onwards), because there is more rosewood in there, instead of the harder, clearer sounding maple.

    If I were you, I'd go for a "transition-era" P-bass, from the period 1966-1968. It isn't pre CBS anymore (so you don't pay for that), but QC was still good, and it was decently put together.
  10. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    If all you are looking for is 'good quality' or 'good tone', I do not think one needs to find a vintage Fender. However, if you lust for that certain something that a vintage bass has, the mojo, the history, the authenticity, the resale value... then it may be a great decision.

    I like both. I enjoy modern instruments and love finding ones that I really like and/or partswapping. I also loveee vintage ones because sometimes you find qualities in them that are very difficult to come across. This may be an aesthetic nuance that is present, or just an overall resonation quality that seems to be unique.
  11. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon. Supporting Member

    What he said.

    I have played 70's P basses that were a joke. Thin sounding, neck pocket 1/4"+ too big, heavy as hell, etc. terrible. My 1974 P s a freak of nature... Under 8lbs, well constructed and sounds amazing. I had a $2k budget 5-6 years ago when vintage instruments were still the rage, but I probably played 12-15 before finding "the one".

    I have owned 3 or 4 2008-2012 American Standards and they are killer. VERY consistent, but do sound and feel different than vintage Fenders. Not sure if that isn't partially in my head though!

    Late 60's CBS P's are more consistent that 70's, but there are still dogs... Just not as many.

    Pre-CBS in my opinion are generally good if the necks and electronics are original and in good shape. I have only played 5-6 early 60's P's and 2 or 3 from the 50's. All but one I would have bought if they weren't so overpriced.

    YMMV, but look at players like Marcus Miller... 1975-1979 were notoriously bad years for Fender basses, but he seems to like his and makes it sound incredible.:bassist:

    P.S. buying a "closet classic" mid to late '70's Fender bass is completely crazy IMO. I strongly advise against buying a 70's Fender sigh unseen.
  12. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    After years of used instruments, I stopped fighting their 'vintage' nuances and started buying new. New neck, new bridge, new frets, new body, set up achievable, reasonable or great tone...plus, no questions about pedigree, case candy, a case(!) and a warranty.

    Not that older instruments can't be a good value but, if they've been through many hands, it's questionable as to their use as tools to make music.

    My 2010 Precision V has vibe I have yet to find in any older basses. It also has tone, playability and feels good in my hands as it delivers all that.

    Since you already have a 2011 Precision, you know how good they can be new. If you find a good one that's priced well, jump on it I guess.

    I'd just find a new one in a color I wanted & get to playing.


    Aug 20, 2010
    Before you spend a huge fortune simply to have a "vintage" P Bass,perhaps you should
    try the Fender Custom Shop Pino Palladino P Bass.Fiesta Red, bases on a "61 or '62,
    Rosewood fretboard.In the last forty years, I have played and owned many P's.This
    is the best P bass I have ever played.
  14. there is something to be said for the aging of the pickups, and my observation that the 60's pickups were a bit more "middy" and could punch better, but outside of that, You should play the bass before you buy. From the very beginning of fender basses, there were a lot of variations between basses. I had an original single coil P Bass, and it near perfect, but a friend's bass from the same year was kind of sloppy and didn't have the resonance mine had. The 70's were the same way, only worse. there are good examples, but they are rare. And it is true that a computer cut bass is far better in quality than what was made by hand back in the day. If you are looking to collect, or just want one because you are in love with a 62 (for instance), then pick the year and search for the right bass for you in that year. But I played a friend's 62, and was truly a bass to fall in love with. It spoke to you as soon as you played the first note..
  15. Lowbrow

    Lowbrow Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2008
    Pittsburgh PA!
    PS: try a new Road Worn and a 60s CV Squier for the heck of it.
  16. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    My favorite P bass is my '75. It's a pretty typical 11+lbs, 3TSB, but it happens to have a maple "A neck" that I just love. I got it a few years ago for about the price of a new MIA....the thing is, it was for sale at a local shop and I had the opportunity to play it a number of times before making the decision.
  17. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY
    I found a 61 that was refinished. Sounds, plays, and looks great. Expensive but no where near the huge money and original 61 would have cost. Neck is very wide compared to a 70s era. Mine sounds really great.

    If you are looking for a player, this might be an option for you. If you are a collector, not. I played a $3300 new Fender relic last week. My 50 year refinish smoked it and they are worth about the same
  18. pbassnut

    pbassnut Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2004
    Falls Church, VA
    I'd say that if you like your 2011 USA Precision, then you've got a winner as I've been hearing a lot of good things about the post 2008 Fender Precision and Jazz basses (and have played some nice ones on the racks at stores). I don't know when Fender started putting the Custom Shop pickups on their American Standard basses, but if yours was made before then (which is, I believe, 2012), a Fender "Original" Precision pickup or any of the outstanding options available these days ... like the Fralin, Nordstrand or Lollar replacement pickups would be the icing on the cake for that bass as the stock hardware is top shelf (IMHO).
  19. RalphieBoy


    Jul 25, 2012
    Fort Smith, AR
    I really appreciate the replies and understand what each one of you all are saying. I hope more people will comment and give there opinion/knowledge.
  20. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    the old ones really do sound different. not anything youll notice once youre buried in a mix but if thats the criteria we went by,we would all be playing squier affinity's.

    rob is right on point regarding refins. all the playbility and tone without the price. my 62j,64p,and74j are all refins, sound and play amazing and were much less expensive than trying to track down original finish pieces. all of my old fenders were purchased sight unseen off of ebay,classified ads or guitar center. some needed work, but thats why they were cheap.