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Adding a neck pickup to a P bass.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Meddle, Aug 19, 2012.

  1. Meddle


    Jul 27, 2009
    Hello all.

    I've decided to try and do some work on my backup fretted bass to make it more usable for various things...

    Basically the bass in question is a black/maple precision bass with a high mass bridge and an old Dimarzio pickup in there that packs a real trebly punch...

    However I want to add in a bit more bass end, and have it switchable. I've messed around with 'stealth' pickups in Telecaster guitars. Basically you hide another pickup under the pickguard (like the old Fender Marauder concept guitars in the '60s). This way you can make a Fender Esquire sound more like a Telecaster.

    When people add a neck pickup to a P bass they seem to always add a 'woofer' Mudbucker pickup. Sometimes they go down the Wife route of having it feeding a different amp. In my head I envisage blending a hidden jazz pickup that is under the pickguard and closer to the neck. I don't really want it to add character as much as a wee bit more low end thump. For this reason I may even have a capacitor in parallel with the pickup at all times to reduce it's character further...

    I see nobody has done this (if Google is to be trusted), so is it a waste of time?
  2. +1 very intrigued by this concept, I had the same idea a few years ago about a hidden mudbucker in a jazz bass but no responses. My main fear was output matching to the other pickups in order not to lose output when switching/blending tones but I guess this isn't a huge concern yor you
  3. solderjunkie


    Jan 27, 2008
    Nashville TN
    I've thought of adding a neck humbucker under the pickguard, but drilling holes and using longer polepiece screws. The screws could be visible, or could be painted to match the pickguard.
  4. Meddle


    Jul 27, 2009
    It is not a major concern as I don't want it to be a P bass that I can dial up a neck J bass tone with, I just want to add back something that gets taken away when you turn up the tone on my P bass.

    One concept that interests me is to reshape the neck pocket so the neck doesn't meet the body straight but at a slight downward angle so a hidden pickup is still close to the strings, and you raise the saddles to compensate.

    I'm also interested in the idea of having just the pole-pieces visible, like this;

  5. monti2889


    Jul 19, 2012
  6. monti2889


    Jul 19, 2012
    I'm also interested in the idea of having just the pole-pieces visible

    visible pole pieces brings to mind a pick up with adjustable poles, so you can still have some adjustability there...dimarzio maybe.
    PawleeP likes this.
  7. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    PawleeP likes this.
  8. Meddle


    Jul 27, 2009
    Yes! This is the thing! How does it sound?
  9. How does the neck pickup sound? I'm contemplating a similar mod on my p/j but the neck jazz pickup bring up alongside the P pickup
  10. jbednarski


    May 31, 2010
    Chicago area
    I've seen this done with a Ric pickup in the neck position. I'd like to try that.
  11. Rip Topaz

    Rip Topaz

    Aug 12, 2005
    Willow Street, PA
    Beta tester for Positive Grid
    That would be a really cool look.
  12. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    This sounds like a bad idea to me. If you raise the saddles to compensate, then you are back where you started with pickup height, plus your action would get higher and higher as you go up the neck. Also, I would think you'd have structural issues with the strings pulling at an angle at the nut and bridge.
  13. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Here's a variation on this theme - a P pickup plus a Charlie Christian style pickup at the neck. Description in German, but you can hear the pickups separately and together.

    Interesting, but it mostly makes me suspect if I had this kind of bass I'd just end up using the P pickup 100% of the time. That's just the kind of bassist I am, though.
  14. Meddle


    Jul 27, 2009

    The Charlie C pickup is a bit noisy on its own! You can tell when he switches onto it straight away.

    Actually I took out my forstner bits a few nights ago and started seeing how much wood I would need to hog out and I got an attack of the cold feet. I'm just keeping the Dimarzio Model P in there just now and manning up for the time being. As somebody else said the bottom end doesn't drop out the bass when you turn up the tone control.

    Still I hope somebody somewhere picks up the the reigns. I couldn't work out if I wanted to wire the bass VVT and risk having the noise of the solo'ed jazz neck pickup or gang the jazz pickup to the P pickup volume control and maybe have a kill switch (so it is always the Model P in the mix and selectively the neck J pickup). The third option was to have the J pickup in series with the Model P as a third coil (and hope the phasing is all good and well) and see how that rolled

    For VVT I was looking at taking out another sharp forstner bit and putting a jack socket in the edge of the bass (and making sure the jack didn't enter into the control cavity where it would foul the pots or other components). Basically I know I don't have the talent yet to pull this off with any grace, but props to the first person that does!
  15. Meddle


    Jul 27, 2009
    Bumping my own thread, but I've made some inroads into this subject.

    I wired a Jazz pickup into my P bass with a series/parallel switch. I held the pickup over the 24th fret position on little blocks and fretted some notes with the bass lying flat. In Series the bass had a bit more low end (than if I held the pickup away from the bass for example) and in parallel I got a thinner jazz/Rickenbacker sort of tone.

    Because the J pickup is further away from the strings, the main P pickup was still doing most of the talking, so it never sounded too thin or distinctly underpowered.

    I then went and borrowed a wee wood chisel, and after sharpening it up a lot I carved out a rout for the J pickup. I need to go get a Wilkinson J pickup from my collection at my parents' house so that I can properly complete the project (I might wax pot the Wilk pickup) but I hope to have this all up and running by the end of the week. I also took this as a chance to respray the headstock of my bass black to match the body (maple necks with black headstocks have a nice '70s/japcr@p look about them in my book).
  16. sloppy_phil


    Aug 21, 2011
    Toronto, ON, Canada
    Not actually named Phil
    it sounds like a neat experiment. From my perspective across the pond, I'm glad your feet got thawed out and that you took the plunge on the project! looking forward to seeing/hearing how this all turns out
  17. seedokebass


    Mar 21, 2009
    I was just thinking about this yesterday. To avoid the hum, could you use something like a Nordstrand nj4sv, and wire it VVT?

    The idea of the pickup under the guard is intriguing too.... is there any benefit of this versus having it out in the open like a normal neck pickup?
  18. Is anyone else bothered by the misaligned pole pieces on that pick-up?
  19. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    I did this install years ago and solved the pole piece alignment issue by angling the p.up like on a Warwick Thumb. You could also use something with a bar magnet like an Armstrong Split Tube Jazz.
  20. Meddle


    Jul 27, 2009
    Sweet King Crimson avatar! Thanks for the words of encouragement. As much as I like my P, I like the idea of having a different tone available, especially as I'm in a bass + drums only band.
    PawleeP likes this.

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