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Are the pickups essentially what give a bass its sound?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Santol, Apr 17, 2017.

  1. Today I opened my Fender Jazz Bass and was surprised to notice that it doesn't really contain electronics other than the pickups, the nobs and a capacitor (which is only relevant when using the tone nob).

    So, provided one does not believe that wood affects the sound significantly, does it mean that, if I were to place pickups from a U.S. Fender onto a cheap Squier Jazz, then I would get the same sound? Assuming the strings and the physical features of the guitars are all the same (size, distance between strings and pickups, etc) and putting technique, amps and pedals aside.

    Let's also put aside playability, quality of materials and craftsmanship. I have no doubt that an American Fender will always be superior in that regard. I am only speaking about sound quality. Would it be essentially the same tone?
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017
  2. mmm mmm mmm mmm ,could be!
  3. Flaked Beans

    Flaked Beans

    Sep 9, 2005
  4. ThudThudThud


    Jun 4, 2010
    The more learned will likely chime in soon with their sage wisdom on woods, magnets, wire, capacitors, tone circuits etc. I just wanted to broaden your search.
    It's not just the pickup, it's also the placement on the body of the guitar.
    If you took, say, your Jazz and moved the pickups an inch from their current positions the bass would sound completely different.
    It's where the pickup falls in relation to the scale length that will determine its sound. That's where the sound of the instrument comes from.
    The pickups are important to the sound, but putting them in the right place, on the right bass is just as important.
    gebass6, StyleOverShow, DavC and 20 others like this.
  5. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth

    Jan 2, 2015
    heart of darkness
    the pickups, the metal the strings are made of, the way in which the strings are suspended (nut, bridge tuning machines) all go into the sound that comes out of it
  6. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    I think pick-ups and strings give an electric bass it's main sound and character. In a loud rock band, the same pick-ups and the same strings on similar basses would probably give you a similar sound in a live setting. Especially if you are using the same amp and effects.

    Edit: +1 on pick-up placement being a major factor, if not the main factor, for sound.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017
  7. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Owner of seven basses - eligible for 44 TB Clubs Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    The frequency content of the vibration of the string is a function of the resonance of the system. Hence the notorious dead spot on the G string around the fifth or sixth fret. How people don't extrapolate that phenomenon to be inclusive of the larger system is a bit of a mystery in that it seems to be a dogmatic paradox.

    Pickups play a huge part in determining the sound of a bass, as do strings and technique. However, it all starts with frequency information.
  8. Trouztrouz


    Feb 6, 2013
    Only one way to find out! Let us know how it goes.
  9. Wfrance3

    Wfrance3 Supporting Member

    May 29, 2014
    Tulsa, OK
    That's roughly the equivalent of asking if I put the tires from a Daytona 500-grade race car onto my car, providing they will fit, will I have a faster vehicle...

    There are a variety of things that affect tone. Pickups to be sure, but each and every part of the bass, the amp you choose, the pedals (if you use pedals) you select, all of it. Not the least of which is your technique. I saw an instructional video once, I'm pretty sure it was Scott's Bass Lessons, where the person making the video met a bass player once, who's sound that he really admired. At one point, I guess, Scott (i'm pretty sure it was him) got to test out this admired bassist's rig. He couldn't make it sound like the admired player. I'm thinking the admired player might have been Larry Carlton, but even if I have the names wrong, the point is correct; technique can have as much to do with it as anything else, so factor that in as well.

    Hope this helps!!
  10. RED J

    RED J Lol

    Jan 23, 2000
    This will go well. Yes.
    millertx, Joe Ty, BassWaffle and 6 others like this.
  11. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    and HELL NO.
    ajkula66, Mechanical and Flaked Beans like this.
  12. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Your fingers and how they contact the string is more important in my opinion.
  13. Can I ask you guys to refrain from emotional outbursts? This is a serious inquiry and I'm only interested in unbiased, thoughtful and evidence-based opinions.
  14. Sure. But assuming we put that aside as a factor. Just talking about guitars.
  15. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    A bass makes no sound without someone playing it. I can't put that aside.
  16. Yes. But we're not talking about technique... We're just talking about instruments.
  17. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    Digital Man's reply is correct. It all STARTS with frequency information.
    Squinty Jones and bucephylus like this.
  18. RED J

    RED J Lol

    Jan 23, 2000
    I assure you I am totally composed. :yawn:
    Bioflava likes this.
  19. Then maybe you don't have to react emotionally to what is a very simple inquiry about the technical aspect of tone production of a musical instrument.
    web824 and Klondike like this.
  20. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Indeed. I'm not talking about technique either. I'm talking about sound. Pickups don't matter if no one is playing said instrument.
    kopio likes this.