Advice for first-time Fender J-bass buyer?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by The Big, Oct 6, 2020.

  1. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020
    So the day has finally come. I've been working my ass off all summer and during my gap year, far too many hours to even stay awake all day, but I can finally afford a Fender. So far, all I've owned is a Korean Squier and an extremely old Japanese lawsuit hollowbody, both at least fourth-hand. Both are awesome, got me into bass playing and I'll never get rid of them, but I want a real workhorse for gigging and studio stuff. A genuine Fender Jazz seems like a solid bet.

    I don't want an MIA, but I don't really want a MIM either. I'm looking for consistency over all else. From what I understand, a used vintage MIJ is the best bet for the best price. Plus I have great experiences with Japanese instruments.

    I've got my eyes on a couple deals on Reverb. The one I like the most is a MIJ 1995 '75 Vintage Reissue in natural finish. It looks solid, it's in great shape, and goes for a little over $1,000.

    I don't really know the value of a bass like that. Could anyone give me pointers, what to look out for, buy or pass, what do I do? Thanks!
    59Bassman and Raoul_Duke like this.
  2. Raoul_Duke


    Jun 13, 2010
    The American Standard line was a high point for the brand, from around 2010-2016. I owned a P and a J from that stretch and both were outstanding instruments. They can be had for around $1000, maybe less if you look around.

    I know you said “not looking at MIA”, but that’d be my advice, and I’m crazy about jazz basses. I don’t think I’d pay that much for the CIJ/MIJ stuff. I seem to remember those showing up on Reverb in the $600-$700 range pretty often.

    Someone will post telling you to go to a store, play a bunch of Fender Jazzes, and buy the one that speaks to you. That is really good advice that may or may not be appropriate for your situation. I know I’m pretty much relegated to buying online due to where I live.

    Good luck in your search!
    droo46, Tbone76, shadven and 4 others like this.
  3. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    I'd agree with this. Jump on one when it comes up in the classifieds and you'll get a great bass and some change.
  4. pineweasel


    Nov 21, 2003
    Try to find one from 2012 or later, as they have excellent Custom Shop pickups.
    lowendrv, Tbone76, bigjames and 2 others like this.
  5. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020
    Thank you, that's actually very good advice. I was about to go for the MIJ reissue, but maybe there's a reason it's been stuck on Reverb so long.

    Do you think it'd be better to try a bunch of the American Standards new at GC and get one, like you mentioned, that speak to me, or hunt for deals used? Could I fit into $1k looking for a new Standard?
  6. caasi91


    Sep 18, 2009
    SF Bay Area
    Check the TB classified and your local Craigslist deals.

    I sold off a very nice 2015 USA Geddy for $925 to a lucky dude getting his studio together.

    With $1000 and some daily hunting you’ll probably find an MIA jazz you’ll be happy with.

    Just be mindful of it’s weight!!
    droo46, Tbone76 and bigjames like this.
  7. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020
    Is there an ideal weight to look for, anything that tends to affect weight negatively? Besides species of wood, of course.
  8. Raoul_Duke


    Jun 13, 2010
    The American Standard line was replaced with the American Professional series in... 2017ish? The Am Standards will likely only be available used unless the store you visit has a lot of NOS ones.

    The pro series is good, but the pickups are different and not as highly regarded. I tried one and didn’t care for the tall narrow frets. Overall I thought the American Standard jazz I owned was one of the best non-custom shop Fenders I’ve ever had in my hands, hence the recommendation.

    EDIT: If weight is an issue for you then look for something around 9lbs or less. I feel like thats a safe weight that most people who are weight conscious (like me!) can deal with.
    RocknRay likes this.
  9. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020
    Alright, looks like I'll scour the listings and my local used gear sites for a few days/weeks and see what I can get. I'm sold on the Standard. Looks and sounds awesome. Was going to go for natural finish, not much for sunburst, but surprisingly, it really fits the body style.
  10. garp


    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    I think that's a sound strategy.

    I love the MIJ/CIJ stuff – including that particular 75RI Jazz – but there's no way would I pay a grand or more for one. As others have noted, you'd probably be better off shopping around – preferably locally – for a nice preowned MIA. It may take some patience, but you're eventually bound to find a great deal. If for some reason you don't bond with the MIA, you should be able to flip it relatively quickly without incurring a loss, and then you can continue your hunt.

    Good luck.
  11. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020

    Just to add, how much would you give tops for a used MIA? I see a lot of stuff around $800-$1,000, mostly just pro's though. Would it be reasonable to not go over, say, $900?
  12. caasi91


    Sep 18, 2009
    SF Bay Area
    An ideal weight IMO is between 8-9lbs but it’s subjective as some bassists don’t mind gigging their 11 pounders and some don’t go over 9lbs.

    Most Fender Jazzes are made from either a combo of alder/ash/rosewood/maple and within the standard MIA line they tend to be around 9lbs but I’ve had some that approach the 10 pound.

    My last three 70s style Fender Js weighed over 9lbs and I got rid of them due to that.
    bigjames, RocknRay and The Big like this.
  13. garp


    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    Highly subjective, but if $900 is the budget, then stick to it, and in the meantime, brush up on your negotiating skills. You might be surprised how loudly cash talks these days. As an aside, I've never paid more than a grand for a Fender bass, and never will. I own MIAs, MIJs/CIJs, and MIMs.
    The Big likes this.
  14. 59Bassman

    59Bassman Plank Cranker

    Nov 30, 2012
    Knoxville, TN
    I agree with @Raoul_Duke that the 2012-2016 Am Stds are great basses. I recently got a P from that period and it is a wonderful instrument. I also used to have a 5 string Jazz from that period and it was very good as well.

    I am normally very much in the “play it first” camp with Fenders, but with both the Am Std P and J have both been good buys over the internet for me.

    I also recently bought a MIJ Hybrid Jazz Bass from a retailer in Japan. Something to be aware of is that used instruments (particularly MIJ instruments) sell in Japan for really cheap. Cheap enough that there are a number of resellers on EBay and Reverb who will literally take the pictures from the shop’s website and create a listing with a huge markup. If you buy the bass from them, they run out, buy it from the shop, and pocket a nice profit. But some of the shops are used to international commerce, and if you deal with them directly, you can save yourself a bunch of money.

    Looking at Ishibashi Music’s website now, they have a MIJ ‘75RI priced at a bit over $600. If you could get a reasonable shipping quote it is a way to save money on a used bass.
    Raoul_Duke, johnson79 and The Big like this.
  15. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020
    Oh that's actually really good to know. Makes me appreciate the Japanese market even more now. Still, with all the praise for those MIA Standards, I can hardly wait to get my own. Been dealing with clunky necks and ground loops for so long, I bet it'll be a night and day difference.
  16. 39-Bassist


    Jul 7, 2010
    Endorsing Artist for: Brace Audio; Duncan Pickups; Line6, Hipshot, GHS Strings, Somnium Guitars
    Personally the Fender GL MIJ JAZZ is Fantastic.
    Find one of those.
    CTBassGuy, REV and lowdownthump like this.
  17. nilorius

    nilorius Inactive

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    Your current choice is not bad, but it would be a lottery - no chance to try out. The otherside is to buy a used MIA j-bass, the choice is big and i hope you could add +/- 100$.
    Fender_Bender likes this.
  18. Blaze Barlow

    Blaze Barlow

    Mar 8, 2018
    try and not set an exact price limit...a few dollars more or less is not going to make you or break you..especially forma bass you like..
  19. groove pump

    groove pump

    Oct 24, 2006
    I've only owned a couple of Fenders in my day and don't have any of them now. I'm not a "never Fender" guy at all, but I just didn't get any long term mojo working with the ones I brought home for a spell.

    Part of that was probably because I had a fantastic Jazz bass made of high quality parts: Warmoth neck, Japanese ESP body, DiMarzio Ultra Jazz pickups, BadAss II bridge. Every time I sampled a Fender or anything else, they just didn't measure up to mine - and it only cost me about $350 back in the day. Nothing with a price tag of $700-$800 or more had much of anything to offer.

    Warmoth necks and bodies are among the best around, but they do build some of their necks with steel bars instead of graphite for reinforcement. So they're ultra rock-solid, but they're also a little more hefty.

    Our pals above mentioned the issue of weight. That parts bass I mentioned weighs 10.5 lbs. and I finally decided to stop the madness last year - I realized that whenever I gigged with it, I tended to stay stuck in one spot. When I picked up a backup bass a couple years ago that weighs just over 9 lbs., I was much more free to move around some. I'm pretty healthy, but now that I'm 54, my shoulder doesn't want to schlep that 10.5 lb. load around for a whole show anymore. When I was in my mid 30's, that wasn't such a big deal.

    You're probably on the right track with your search as long as you stay patient. Our pals here know the better years for the American builds, so there's that. If I was on the hunt for a 2nd hand MIA Standard, I'd expect to find at least a few possibilities in the realm of $700-$800.

    Not looking to talk you out of your Fender quest, but if you go J-bass crazy and end up with more than one in your stable, you might want to keep an eye out for some other labels. Sandberg has an import line - Electra - and their TT is a J-bass that's active/passive. I got one as my COVID purchase for just over $500 and it's probably the nicest bass I'll ever see for this price. Not my #1 player, but I'm considering a pickup swap to see what differences that gives me. J-bass replacement pickups are a world of their own!!

    I always have a soft spot for Schecter and they have a good looking J-bass (haven't tried it myself). There's also the Japanese company Bacchus. Their basses aren't all over the place here, but they have a huge range of J-style basses from very good quality affordable imports to eye-popping premium instruments that are hand built in Japan. I have one of each. The Japanese model is packed with bells and whistles, might be the best playing and sounding instrument I've ever touched, and my patience paid off - I got it with a case for $650.

    Yaddah-yaddah... Stay cool, keep your eyes and ears peeled, and you shouldn't have to pay anywhere near $1000 for a really good bass :thumbsup:
    ruju likes this.
  20. The Big

    The Big

    Jun 24, 2020
    Oh totally. I'm not strictly for Fender only. I like the brand a lot, but most of my other instruments and gear are offbrands of some kind. The Telecaster I built for my girlfriend is a mix of home-built and Warmoth and it's honestly one of the best Tele's I've played. Ultimately, one day I'd love to get my hands on one of those Alembic things. Seems to fill a niche, and god damn are they gorgeous looking.
    But for raw performance and reliability, Fender has done right by me before, so I'm sure that $800-or-so J-bass will be great.
    groove pump likes this.