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51 P Bass Pickup Issue

Discussion in 'Ask Adam Nitti' started by jcodyhall, Aug 27, 2010.

  1. jcodyhall


    Aug 27, 2010
    Kingsport, TN
    Hey Adam,
    I own and play a Fender '51 P-Bass Reissue. I have had it for about 4 years now and gig at least twice a week with it. I am running it through an Ampeg SVT-450 head into an Ampeg Classic 610 cab. The pickup that comes in the bass is just a stock single coil pickup. It has done well, but I just cant get the right sound out of it. I am looking for a nice clear tone with plenty of punch as well as a nice low end when needed. I play a slightly poppy kind of straight ahead alt-rock style of music. Something like the Goo Goo Dolls meets Coldplay. I mostly play driving bass parts and I keep a solid kick groove on slower tunes. Right now, when I play with the tone nob, I either get flat muffledness on one end or thin, high, clackety noise on the other end, and theres really no happy medium. I really love the bass but the pickup issue is really starting to become a pain. I'd like to find a pickup that already fits in the hole thats there if possible. I've been told to buy active pickups, stacked humbuckers, and Bartolinis. I don't really know what to do, but I am open to suggestions...please help me find that killer tone!
  2. adamnitti


    Nov 29, 2001
    hey there!

    for me personally, when it comes to more traditional bass tones like a p-bass, i usually lean more in the direction of passive pickups than active. the traditional p-bass tone has not typically been associated with high levels of clarity because of its configuration. (of course, every p-bass sounds a little different, though!) p-basses really do well at providing a roundness to the bottom end and offer a thick midrange growl and cut due to the placement of the pickup. they hold a really nice space in driving music. when played with a pick, they really cut. if there is a 'weakness' of the p-bass, it is its tonal limitations because of its single split pickup. it's a little bit of a 'one-trick-pony' for that reason. based on your description of the problem, it is remotely possible that changing out your tone potentiometer with a different spec might smooth out the tonal range for you and take away the brashness of the high end when you turn it 'up.' (keep in mind with a passive bass, turning the tone knob all the way up is really like turning the bass up back to flat eq...) having said that, based on your description of what you're looking for, an active solution might possibly be the right one. i'm not sure, but i'm assuming if you go active that there will be some routing or other space compensation that has to be done to the back of the bass to accommodate addition of the preamp. ? if that doesn't bother you, then you might consider trying out an active pickup/preamp combination like a bartolini, aguilar, or similar. if it was my bass, i would explore an alternative passive solution first to see if that helped. it will also probably be a cheaper solution, as well. fender puts a 'vintage'-type of pickup in their reissue basses, but folks often get mixed results from them. i've played 2 of the same model (with same finish and specs) p-basses back-to-back before and heard COMPLETELY different tones. bummer is, it costs money to keep buying different pickups to try, unless you know someone with a stash you can swap out. :) i'm just kind of rambling here without giving you a clear direction, but i hope that helps. others will hopefully chime in and offer their experience with different p-bass configurations.

  3. Luckie


    Jan 1, 2010
    Northfield MN
    I'd suggest trying the hum-cancelling split-single from Fralin.
    It fits in the existing rout and is more punchy and mid-bass heavy (IMO) than the stock single.
    Also, try some nickel round strings. I recommend GHS progressives. They should help with clarity issues.
    As Adam said, changing up your tone pot value can also help.
  4. shade615


    Dec 25, 2010
    Analysis Plus
    Yo, jcody.

    The largest single issue regarding the original Precision pickup is that the pole pieces lie directly beneath the strings. This gives a lot of attack, but fails to accurately respresent the energy applied to said strings when you dig in.
    Hence, Leo redesigned the pickup for the 1957 model year. These split-coil, but, more importantly, split-pole pickups gave considerable improvements in the realms of punch and girth. It is largely this design that gives Fender basses (post 57) their distinctive growl when pushed.
    That being said, I'm not really aware of any pickups for the Mk1 P being made currently that have split poles. It would also be a shame to rout your bass for Mk2 pickups as the Mk1 P is a pretty cool animal in its own right.
    The good news is that there are several folks doing excellent custom pickup work. Perhaps Novak would make you a split pole Mk1 P pickup.
    I also would reccomend Thomastik flatwounds. They will get you lots of punch while still being quite clear. Plus, you don't have to change them till you break them. That is, of course, unless you're one of those folks that needs zing and string noise; or if you slap and pop, I reckon.
    Be sure to use good cable, too. Try lots of different brands, as well. They all will season your tone, some subtly, some less so.
    I hope I've helped.

  5. adamnitti


    Nov 29, 2001
    great info, y'all, thanks!