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Are humbucker more versatile than J?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by JFT, Jun 19, 2002.

  1. Hi Guys,

    This is my first "official" post on this forum and sorry but it'll be long.

    (Great forum BTW). So here's a little background:
    I play guitar and I'm about to convert to bass.

    So I'm gathering information and shopping before getting that first bass. Just got a kid so I'll be able to afford a single one before a LONG time (years) so I'm looking at getting as flexible a bass as I can afford. (around 500$)

    I don't expect to become a Jaco or a Stu Hamm or Victor Wooten. I like several style of music going from funk to rock including smooth jazz. I want to be able to lay my own bassline in my compositions which spans quite various styles which is why I target a versatile sounding bass.

    I find it very difficult as a "newbie" to go and test bass in store and it is even worse to test pickups. It is so easy to turn treble and bass knob must be easy to assess bass pickup versatility... WRONG of course not because a newbie isn't good at equing a new instrument and has no idea how it "could" sound in a mix with other instruments. To top it off salesman have a tendency to push what they like. The last one attempted to sell be a Yamaha BB-604, pushing really hard (while all I wanted was info on sound produce by various pickup)

    Which bring me to the title...
    My ears tell me I prefer somewhat meatier sound (P-sound?) to the Jazz sound (over all J sounds too thin to my ears) but P are really lack luster flexibility wise. May be I got it all wrong but a single P-pickup with just a tone control isn't that exciting to me especially thinking this will be my one and only bass for a few years. So would humbucker/soapbar be the solution for me? Are they meatier and more versatile sounding than both J and P pickup?

    My wallet allowing I'm thinking of a pickup configuration similar to a BTB-400 or NS-2000/Q4 if soapbar are the holy grail of flexibility.

    Thanks again for reading this VERY long post.

    P.S. I read many people post regarding MTD Kingston but aren't those one trick pony sound wise due to a single pickup with a single tone control? Thanks Again
  2. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Don't worry about how mnay pickups the bass has. Most of your tone will come from you fingers. Changing the attack, the plucking position, switching to thumbing, etc can give you a huge variation of tones. Here is a quote from a very famous pickup designer and guitarist, Bill Lawrence. He is talking about a guitar, but the same principle applies to bass:

    My point is, if you like the P-bass sound, go with a P-bass. It would be a great choice for the type of music you are describing. Just learn how to play the crap out of it!
  3. Thanks for the answer but this doesn't really clarify the question to me.

    You probably have more than one bass. If you were to have a single one for 5 years wouldn't you choose the most versatile of the bunch?

    I like the P-Sound for sure but I don't want to be limited to that sound. I can't identify which bass was used when I listen to a record and I like the sound. (Some doesn't sound P at all)

    I know that there isn't a single pickup/bass that can do it all that's why I merely looking at pickup combination providing as a large a sound palette as possible.

    I simply can't stand the idea to get a P-Bass and be satisfied with it for 5 years. I love diversity too much for that. The technique and touch subtility you talk about don't develop quickly but very slowly. I have a guitar which has 2 humbucker and a single coil I challenge you to select a single of these and through sole use of pick and placement achieve all the sounds the other provide...

    You're point is true nothing replace techniques but different kind of pickup aren't meant for that neither. I'm not a professional musician. I'm simply an amateur musician that can't live without music.
  4. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    In the J vs. P debate, disregarding technique and whatnot (which, can, as stated before, change your tone), a Jazz bass with two single coils will be more flexible than a Precision, simply because you have two pickups that you can solo or blend together in an infinite number of ways.

    BUT- soapbars (assuming they're humbuckers) lend themselves to the wonders of switching. For example, you could install a coil tap, a phase switch for each coil in the pickup, or for both of the pickups together. There are very few inexpensive basses with these kinds of options, but modifications can always be made.

    So, if you are willing to modify your bass a little bit, drill a hole here, buy a switch there, you can have a plethora of tones at your fingertips with soapbars.

    Also, a bass with an oboard preamp will offer more tonal options, as well.
  5. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Sounds like you need a bass with a PJ setup!

    Soapbars can be pretty meaty but I don't think I've seen any that will really cop the P-bass tone (they can get close). There's a lot of wire in a P-bass pickup.
  6. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    P.S. I have to vehemently disagree with lo-z. :) There's just no way you can make a P-bass sound like a J-bass with both pickups on. Doesn't matter what you can do with your fingers, you can't emulate the frequency cancellations that the two pickups both on creates.

    I've got my humbuckers setup to switch between inner and outer coils, and the "pop" sound between the two settings is drastically different - with the coils moving in or out less than half an inch.
  7. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I never meant to imply that a P will sound like a J bass. I was saying that you shouldn't think of a P-bass as being limited to one sound, that any bass, even single pickup ones, can get an amazing variety of sounds. I am also suggesting to JFT that if he likes the P-bass sound, get a P-bass. A P/J would also be a good choice for him. It will not sound exactly like a P-bass, but it may be a sound he likes.

    By the way, you can put a series/parallel swith on a P-bass sickup and get a huge variety in tones. P-basses are normally wired in series. Putting them in parallel mode will give you more mids like a J-bass.
  8. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Actually, I don't think lo-z was saying you could get a J sound from a P bass. He's talking about versatility that comes from varying your technique. I feel the same way.

    JFT, here's the problem... you're looking for a hard and fast rule for something that simply can't be pinned down. While some people buy into some of these "rules", like a 35" scale is better than a 34" for a B string... I don't. You could have a very versatile bass with two P,s, a P and a Jazz, JJ, dual humbuckers, HJ (like a Musicman pickup with a J, etc.

    You really have to look at the sum of the parts. A dual humbucker bass with coil switching could have loads of different sounds but if you don't like them, who cares? I have a couple of basses* that are capable of drastic changes through tweaking the controls. Add in understanding how your playing technique can also affect tone and the result is tons of versatility. Would you prefer a gorgeous sounding bass with a single pickup or an adequate one with loads of adequate sounds?

    There's a mindset that a one pickup bass has only one sound. If that logic held up, a two pickup bass would only have three. It doesn't hold up. There are lots of bassists playing Musicman Stingrays, yet they don't all sound alike.

    Check out a G&L L2000... they're versatile as heck, relatively inexpensive, especially used and then you can focus on the real limiting factor... you;)

    *G&L L2000E, Brubaker NBS-1
  9. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Psst, Brad! Can't find the Brubaker, nor the H&K, in your profile - run out of space? ;)
  10. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I second the G&L L2000 suggestion. It has a very good P-bass sound plus lots of others. It is also a very well built, good playing instrument.
  11. Thanks you for the input.

    I've read the other thread about a versatile bass and had figured out the G&L unfortunately I leave in Canada and they are pretty rare used. The only one I found L-2500 is way over budget to me.

    I've got a budge of around 500$ US which translate to 750$ Canadian.

    G&L new are around 2000$ Can and use around 1200$ (roughly twice my budget).

    Io-Z at this time the PJ and double humbucker/soapbar were the two pickup configuration I'm investigating altough I was bias for the 2 H (with no real reason). I maybe wrong but from the various sample I could hear on the net I "think" my ideal pickup combination would have been a MM+J but I simply don't believe I'll be able to find one in my price range :(

    Brad your answer intrigued me alot. I assumed so far that Singrays where rock/slap machine with a "bright punch" kind of tone, I guess I was wrong then. :confused: Don't they lack a J (MM+J) to be really versatile. BTW a Kingston + a J would be a no brainer buy...

    Here's the list of misconceptions I have about the various bass/pickup. Please point me where I'm wrong:

    P-Bass: Very punchy, warm and deep tone. Not good for slap but awesome for walking bass and non-metal rock.

    J-Bass: Very twangy and thin (at least compared to the P) sounds. Funk/Slap machine and light rock. I expect walking bass to be too "light" and not meaty enough of these.

    Stringray: THE slap bass. Very percussive punch and deep tone but not really warm. Awesome for anything rock or funk related, but not warm enough for smooth walking bassline.

    2 Humbuckers/Soapbars: Sharpest sounding combination with very high tone definition. Warm? Deep? No idea. I only know these are used alot in rock and metal, not sure if they can convey "woodiness" and depth as much as the other pickups.

    MM+J: The most versatile sounding but most expensive. Awesome slap and funk tone from the MM and in combination with the J provide for a warmer but still punchy tone for those jazz bassline. This would be my dream configuration. (This is derived from samples from the Carvin website BTW)

    Now I'm sure I've have a lot of these all wrong so please correct me.

    The sound I defined I know I won't find them in 500$ US bass. With that price I'll probably be looking at "least bad" cheap versatile bass.

    I just don't want to be stuck with a one trick pony as I will like to try, as all newbie, varous the techniques I read about and choose bits of those to form my own sound.

    P.S. My comments about the J-bass comes from Jaco. I really dig his composition and interpretation but his "mythical" growl leave me totally cold, not punchy nor meaty enough. Don't get me wrong it's a sound would probably like once in a while but not the one I want to be stuck with.

    Thanks again for reading such a long post!
  12. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    In funk and smooth jazz, the Jazz rules over the P. The meaty sound of the P makes the bass a bit too muddy in those situations. In rock, the fatter P sound can be nice but lots of rock bassists use a J (Noel R. with Hendrix, JPJ with Zeppelin) and they don't get a thin sound.
  13. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Buy used!

    I have a MIA Jazz I got for $500 with case and a MIA Precision that was $200 with case.

    They are out there.
  14. Another thing to consider is the placement of the pickups. I remember reading somewhere that this is very important as well.

    Look at the P/J vs. MM+J setups. In both setups the J pickup is in a different place on the bass (the bridge position on the P/J and the neck position on the MM+J).

    So, where both setups include a J pickup, if you just dialed in on that one pickup, I'm sure you would get a different sound..

    I've also noticed on some basses that the humbucking pickup is placed closer to the bridge than others which would vary its tone from other basses with a similar setup.

    Just other things to think about..
  15. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Sorry I misinterpreted you lo-z. :cool:
  16. i wouldn't call a p-pickup punchy. warm and deep, yes, but rather than punchy i think they sound hollow and sometimes nasal. those might seem like derogatory terms - not so, i love the p-bass sound, but those are the best adjectives i can think of.

    the punchy sound resides more in twin coil humbuckers, IME.

    twin J's, in my experience, give the "fullest" and most consistent sound across the frequency spectrum. not as much punch as humbuckers but with defined lows and clear highs.

    i like all of these sounds, which is why i love my reverend rumblefish XL so much. the two J pickups in parallel are a great all-around sound, and i can switch them into series wiring to make them into a large humbucker for extra punch when i need to cut through. and i can solo the neck pickup, which gets pretty close to a P tone for playing green day and the pixies.
  17. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    Ouch! The Canadian Peso in action!

    Are you close enough to the border to make a quick trip down and take advantage of our prices? Used G&Ls are usually cheap here in Chicago for some reason...
  18. Your best bet would be to go out and play a few different basses. A few very good basses in your price range (500?) are a used Fender J or P, Lakland Skyline, Conklin GT, or the G&L. Id go with the used Fender J (MIA) or the conklin which IMO is an outstnading bass with all the flexibility you could ever want. But, you should really go out and try em all and choose the best one not only in terms of its tone, but its playability as well. Dont be afraid to take a cheaper bass if it just feels better.
  19. Thanks to all! Your various comments really are starting to define THE answer (assuming there is one ;) )

    Brianrost: Well so far I wasn't convince (musically speaking) that a J would suit me now. You've seen the sound quality I'm after do you have a example I can listen to of a J-Bass having these? (That salesman that push me to get a BB604 Yamaha J-Bass with active preamp, would certainly be glad ;) )

    Heavy Duty: Yeah it's really starting to look like the peso... How much would run a G&L in the US? 700$ Remember I have to x1.5 to get the canadian price... 700x1.5 is over a grand for me....
    Your comment in my other thread about the Sterling is an eye opener though. Especially considering dancehallclasher comment which straighten up my perception of the P-Sound.

    I'm definitively looking for something that is punchy, meaty and deep. Warm and mellow once in a while. I guess what I'm heading to is that probably the Sterling would fit (except for the price...) Is the diagnostic sound (Pun intended) :D Any lower cost Sterling-copy that have the coil splitter and an honorable 2 band eq?

    I guess I was wrong to aim for 2 soapbars combinations? Anyone to champion that combination?

    Thanks again this forum is terrific!
  20. boomerang

    boomerang Guest

    Dec 9, 2001
    just to clear things up.. i can get a brand new G&L 2000 for 1400CDN. and a 1500 for 1200CDN. this is pre-bargain' . used, are non existant as far as i know.


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