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3 or 4 Bolt Necks?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Motorhead Mark, Apr 1, 2005.

  1. :help: I did a search, and I didn't find what I am looking for, so I'll post here.

    I have been 'gasing' for a new Fender 75 RI Jazz for a while now, and the ones that I have found, for the most part have a 3 bolt neck. I have always played 4, and here lies the problem. I am not an overly aggressive player, but I am worried that a 3 bolt neck would break like a toothpick. They just don't seem as solid as a 4 (kinda like the whole MIM / MIA debate).

    Has anybody had ANY problems with a 3 bolt neck?
    Could you take the 3 bolts out, and replace with a 4 bolt neck plate, or would the previous holes weaken and leave the neck even worse off?
    Or is this one of those things that shouldn't/doesn't even come into play, because unless I pull a Paul Simonon, the 3 bolt will be perfect etc etc?

    Any input would be great.
  2. christle

    christle Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2002
    Winnipeg, MB
    Caveat: I don't have experience with that particular RI.

    Generally speaking the 3 bolt neck was a cost cutting measure implemented by CBS when they owned Fender. It was part of the overall decline in quality in many Fender basses of that era. I am not particularly fond of three bolts and avoid them if at all possible. Having said that, if you played and liked it, my opinion shouldn't matter :)

  3. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    If we've learned anything from Jens Ritter, more bolts means more better.

    Good bass:

    And by deductive reasoning, Rickenbackers, with no bolts must be horrible basses. :)

    But in all seriousness, they're solid enough, if you're not a rough player go for it. If you have a problem, you can always convert it to a 4 bolt.
  4. I found that the 3 bolt Micro-tilt necks were significantly less stable on all the Fenders than the 4 bolt variety. Be that as it may, those natural finish 75 RIs and the Marcus Millers sure look good to me.
  5. .

    Thats what, (natural finish) is what i am looking at.

    Couldn't you just throw 4 bolts in there? I can't see why not, and then I would be really happy.
  6. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    I really wouldn't suggest going and drilling a 4th hole in there... who knows what that'd do structurally to the neck etc. With that said, I played a few basses with 3 bolt necks for gigs, and never had an inch of a problem - but note - I did NOT own those basses! Just going from gigging expirence where I was asked to play some dudes bass (don't ask - long story). I had the same concerns when I first saw it, as well.

  7. dhodgeh


    Jul 15, 2004
    My understanding that the three bolt micro-tilt neck was an attempt by Leo to improve the adjustability of the neck.

    It was a poor implementation by CBS that was the real problem - not the three bolt neck.

    For a number of years, G&L's all had three bolt necks, with no complaints from the owners. A change was made in the late 90's to a multi-bolt design, and I have heard of those that miss the adjustability of the three bolt. I think the SB-2 still uses the micro-tilt design (don't hold me to that).

    Here's a link to a FAQ on the Guitars by Leo site on the subject:


    That said, I've owned both designs from G&L, and could not tell a difference in stability.
  8. pyrohr


    Aug 28, 2001
    Pakistani compound
    I would like to know what cost did they cut making the 3 bolt neck as opposed to the 4 bolt neck? The 3 bolt neck hads an extra circular peice in the neck for the "micro tilt" adjustment. The "micro tilt" adjustment was meant to allow you to tilt the neck to allow action changes not available with 4 bolt set up. Fender basses with 4 bolt necks out of the 60's had "shims" in the necks to offset neck pitch, the "micro tilt neck was more or less Fenders way of getting rid of the shim. I have 2 3 bolt neck basses and they are both rock solid and don't move. Fender basses in the mid to late 70's sucked big time and 3 bolt necks were only a small part if any part of the problem at that time. Fender around the time of the 3 bolt neck started to decline in quality due to materials that were used and the quality of woods and parts. Wood had gotten significantly heavier, electronics began to hum badly, some basses were feeding back. I remember shopping for a new Fender in 1976 and being upset with how aweful all new Fender basses were. I went to Sam Ash on 48st in Manhattan and found only 1 or 2 and both totally sucked. I asked what was the problem, I was told that all the new Fenders that they sell came back for intonation, hum and other problems. I was told it became a hastle to sell new fenders that soo many came back it was'nt worth the sale! That was the year Sam Ash came out with the Carlo Robelli line that totally smoked new Fenders at the time! I bought one and it was my main bass for years, an exact duplicate p-bass that sounded felt like and looked exactly like a Fender p. Then came the Ibanez lawsuit stuff. It was Fenders quality that did them in in the 70's not the 3 bolt neck, remember the p-bass still had 4 bolt necks and they sucked too!
  9. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003
    I was into early 70's Tele-basses.
    3-bolt micro-tilt necks.
    I owned 3 of them, they all were subject to instability
    in neck due to weather. I live on a island, could not play them in the summer.
    A 4-bolt has never done that were I live.
  10. christle

    christle Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2002
    Winnipeg, MB
    I like it when someone doesn't quite read the whole quote before criticising. I said it was part of the overall decline in quality. What I was implying was that when CBS tried to cut costs they used poor implementations of Leo's ideas. Just like having less windings on some of the pickups, poor wood choices for some of the basses, and lousy Q&A. In terms of the cost cutting, it seems to be widely accepted that CBS used sub-standard parts for the micro-tilt when it was first introduced in an effort to trim costs and maximize profits. The question I have for you are the 3-bolts that you have now modern era basses or 70's era basses? If they are modern-era I am sure that they are properly implemented. My preference however is to have a 4-bolt with the micro-tilt (such as in my Zone).

    I played a CBS era P-bass on Wednesay. I got to say I couldn't play it nearly as well I my modern basses. That thing must have weighed at least 15 lbs!
  11. pyrohr


    Aug 28, 2001
    Pakistani compound
    I was not being critical of you at all I just wanted to know If you knew something I did not know. Iv'e been playing since 1971 and was there during the Fender decline and I never thought that Fender tried to cut cost but totally did not know what they were doing as far as running a musical instrument company. In 65 when CBS broadcasting bought the company they bought all of it's stock, that stock lasted for a couple of years well into the late 60's. trial and error basses were made in the late 60's where noticable differences became apparent. In the early 70's p-basses were no longer $219.00 and decline was on it's way. The only other worthy basses at the time were Ricks (sorta limited at that time) and Gibson's, which were mud city no matter how you tried to adjust your amp. New Fender owners suffered till something better came along. When 3 bolt necks came along they were intended to make (like I said before) neck angle adjustments easier.
    If you just read the first line of your post it sounds like you were saying the 3 bolt neck itself was the cost cutting that Fender did.

    And by the way my 3 bolt necks are newer basses :)
  12. christle

    christle Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2002
    Winnipeg, MB
    I re-read my post I can see how you took it that way, my apologies for the crustiness.

    Cool! I just spotted my next Fender when I was out cruisin' the shops with my daughter. I'm liking the transparent red :)

  13. pyrohr


    Aug 28, 2001
    Pakistani compound
    Good man! :)
  14. Pickebass

    Pickebass Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    San Antonio, TX
    I have a '77 and '78 jazz with three bolt necks and play both often and agressively. I haven't had a problem. Unless you really beat the crap out of it you shouldn't have any problems.
  15. HiFi


    Apr 20, 2002
    Anaheim, CA
    Played pretty aggressively on a 3-bolt Marcus Miller sig. for almost two years without any sign of a problem.
  16. Fred312b

    Fred312b Proof that gear doesn't make you a better player Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2002
    Chicago, IL
    i haven't noticed my 3 bolt neck on my MIJ '75 RI being unstable. i don't play it much, but it stays pretty consistantly in tune over the long breaks and climate shifts. i looked into converting my 3 bolt into a 4 bolt and was told by several techs not to bother. i am not a rough player though, but i remember seeing a guy yank the neck of a three bolt up and put it all kinds of out of tune (not to mention what i'm sure he did to the bass). that said, i used to be able to move my 4 bolt necks from the past if i tried hard enough (back when i was young and didn't know any better ;) ). i remember reading an article with billy sheehan back in the day talking about all the shims he'd put in the neck pocket of his 4 bolt fender p to stop it from moving... :bassist:
  17. The Jazz I am looking at is in fact a RI, so the quality issues they had from the 70's shouldn't be a problem. But I just can't seem to get past the 3 bolt.....argh, why is this so hard lol?
  18. Showdown

    Showdown Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    I don't have any experience with the Fender 3 bolt necks, but I've had two G&Ls with 3 bolt necks and they were both solid as a rock.
  19. Tfunked


    Dec 30, 2003