Buy vs mod vs build a 5 string P/MM?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by gscroggin, Jun 26, 2020.

  1. gscroggin

    gscroggin Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2006
    I'll start with my criteria;
    • 5 string
    • P/MM pickup config
      • A P alone doesn't cut it for the tones I'm after at most gigs, and I love the aggressive sound of a MM
      • Although I reference P/MM as a configuration, I'm flexible with P/humbucker. When I built my J/MM, I didn't put the MM in the sweetspot and I was still happy with the tone, so much so that I didn't really even use the typical Stingray modes for parallel, series, single coil. I've got plenty of basses with humbuckers and all sorts of coil switching options, though for this popular music gigging bass, the sound that I want to add to the P is what I'd describe as a bridge-close big, aggressive, mid-forward series sound.
    • Maple fretboard
    • Preferably 4+1 or 3+2 headstock (I don't like inline 5s)
    • Under 10 pounds
    • Preferably an active/passive option
    • Under $1000 used or ~$1600 new

    I've currently got a beautiful 2014 Fender American Standard Precision Bass 5 in Mystic Blue. Great bass, but ever since I had a J/MM setup on another bass I built, I've really wanted a P/MM setup. I've got a guy locally that I trust to do the MM route and I'm comfortable working out the electronics. But do I really want to mess with a stock Fender in the event I want to sell it down the road?

    From what I can tell the only stock Fender in this config is the Precision Deluxe V, which appears to have been in at least 4 different releases according to the Fender website (Bass Guitar Service Diagrams 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005). It doesn't seem to have come in a shade of blue (my favorite), but my requirement for a maple neck is there, at least with a black or butterscotch body from what I've seen. They seem to pop up every once in a while on the TB board, Reverb, and eBay. I've also seen some really nice one's from Maruszczyk (Jake?). Not sure if there are other non-customs that have a model that's P/MM. I'm flexible on styles and it doesn't necessarily need to be a traditional P body.

    Then of course I could start from scratch and build one (Warmoth, Allparts, etc.) I've done it before, and it can be a PITA to source and fit everything. The last two times I've done it I haven't really saved much money, I've just gotten the satisfaction of getting to tweak it myself and in one case, re-use some parts I had.

    Has anyone else had this dilemma? If so how did you solve it and are you happy with the results?
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
    Monterey Bay-ss likes this.
  2. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Could be a fun project. You have a bass you really like. You want to add a pickup / modify it. I assume there are some minor electronic changes that come along with that. TB may react explosively to this, 2014 Am. Std. P V is a nice bass, a really nice bass. But it is not an investment. If you will enjoy it more, use it more, find it more versatile for the relatively small cost of a pup and your woodwork I'd start there. You can change any other parts without penalty as long as you keep the old ones. But really, for a risk of $50 loss on resale years down the line I wouldn't hesitate to make that tool more functional.

    For investment comparison, I have an essentially pristine 1973 P in original case, fretless, maple 1-pc. neck that looks basically like my avatar except it's blonde, maintained original. It was limited production 47 years ago. I wouldn't call it "mint' but it is nearly in new condition, no visible scratches, rust, or string wear on the fingerboard. In 47 years, maintained but not played, its value has gained steadily 1.5%. That's worse than some savings accounts. Just saying, TBers don't like that blasphemy but unless you found McCartney's missing Hoffner your bass isn't gaining value so don't sweat it. Make it yours.
  3. MMiller28

    MMiller28 Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2003
    Most P/MMs that I know of are higher-end basses. This will be tough in that price range.
    smogg likes this.
  4. Maruszczyk was my first instinct. Probably could find a used 5er within your price range.
  5. wizard65


    Sep 1, 2014
    99A34A06-6C4A-4D51-BD86-362B83D6CF78.jpeg A Sandberg VM5 sounds like what you’re looks for, I’m not sure how they’re priced in the US though.
    RolandMHall, j5eugene, mcnach and 3 others like this.
  6. Obese Chess

    Obese Chess Spicy Big Dad Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2005
    Portland, OR
  7. Mod the Fender. Who knows, it may be more interesting to someone down the road if you see it. It would be to me...
    jallenbass likes this.
  8. Liko


    Mar 30, 2007
    DFW Metro
    If the Sandberg (which is an awesome brand BTW, they need more US presence though) or the American P Deluxe V don't float your boat or aren't available, I say build. Modding your existing P just isn't a good option; you'll need not only the pickup rout, but the battery box and a side jack, and that gives you only three knobs. You might swing volume/pan/3-band by stacking the panpot and one of the EQ knobs, but it's going to be a very compact arrangement, and there's no guarantee an OBP-3 will fit in that control cavity under a DPDT pot and two stacked ones.

    Building is likely to be expensive, but you can shop around for a luthier who will do exactly what you want, from materials to scale length and spacing to control layout to color scheme. If you're going to pay for custom work, get it custom. There are boutique builders anywhere from about 2 grand up to 2 firstborn children, that can do anything from traditional Fender styling to ultra-modern.

    There is a third option; buy and mod. Your Am Std P V is not a great modding candidate, but the Sire P7 5-string might be. Feature-wise, all it needs is the MM pickup rout over the existing J rout; the pickup bodies of a J5 and MM5 are the same, and the MM's footprint will easily cover the mounting tab routs. The swamp ash models have maple fretboards just like you want, the only problem is the color; they come in white, natural and sunburst. If you have your heart set on blue, then after the routing's done, rough up the poly with a little 400-grit wet-dry, then take it to a car body shop and have them hit it with whatever blue you fancy plus a few coats of clear poly. Put it all back together and this bass is uniquely yours. The bass itself will cost you between $725-$850 depending on where you get it (cheapest price atm is Thomann), plus whatever you'll be charged for the routing and the paint job. And your existing P-bass stays undefiled, its secondhand value preserved.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2020
  9. TheLowDown33

    TheLowDown33 Supporting Member

    Jul 4, 2009
    Western MA
    How true do you want the pickup positions to be? They do overlap a bit, and there isnt any manufacturer that makes a sweet spot MM with a P pickup in the correct-ish position. There is a Nordstrand Dan Lutz bass that i think is very close to what you're envisioning. It has the pickups right up against each other. My vote is to mod in this case, as you can grab either a P or a Musicman for a reasonable price and then rout it accordingly.
    JRA and TrustRod like this.
  10. Ric5

    Ric5 Inactive

    Jan 29, 2008
    I like 5, 8, 10, and 12 string basses
    I build myself frankensteined p-mm basses


  11. darwin-bass


    Mar 29, 2013
    Salem OR
    I'm too picky about my basses to buy. I always build. I want light weight and specific hardware. Specific pickups, etc.

    Pickup location will be the issue. The MM sweetspot overlaps the P sweetspot. You can do it if the P is reversed. Otherwise the MM pickup moves closer to the bridge.

    My approach would be to build. I'd start with a Warmoth P body with the MM pickup in the sweetspot and a pickguard with no PU opening. I'd then do my own reverse P routing (since they won't) and route the pickguard to match. Add a PU switch plus a MM-like preamp and away you go?
    kodiakblair and gscroggin like this.
  12. Gougedeye

    Gougedeye Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2008
    Central Washington
  13. InhumanResource

    InhumanResource Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2012
    Bucks County, PA
    I think it's important to note that none of these are likely to sound like a MM which seems to be part of what OP is after. A big humbucker in the bridge position isn't going to be the same thing.
    mcnach and TrustRod like this.
  14. skyline_01

    skyline_01 Endorsing artist: Nordstrand Audio, Tsunami Cables Supporting Member

    Nov 14, 2006
    Lebanon, OH
    All are great options, but I'll go with mod here. I had my Squier VM P5 done recently in a similar way (with an actual Fender Precision Deluxe humbucker a friend gave me). I kept it passive (mainly to keep the parts cost and amount of labor down) and had it set up V/T stack ('62 Jazz style knobs) and the tone pot became the blend. I also added a KickAss bridge and a CTS/Sprague/Puretone harness.

    It turned out way better than I ever expected, and even my tech said it was good enough to run against any MIM or maybe even a few MIA.

    Attached Files:

    gscroggin and wizard65 like this.
  15. JW56789

    JW56789 Guest

    Feb 18, 2017
    If you have a competent repair person that can do the surgery cleanly, I'd advise smartly modding something that's almost there for your needs. A P/MM combination isn't going to be for every one, but a smoothly modded name-brand will aid at resale time ( . . . . . and there will always be a resale time down the road somewhere . . .). Buy smart (barely used, mint minus, etc.) and you could do the mods and end up around the original, box-stock selling price, which is a good target.

    Of course you could build it as a parts base from scratch, but put it up on Reverb, eBay, or the other usual suspects, and 'custom built' usually presses the 'cheap' or 'how do I know what I'm getting here' buttons out in the market with no real name on the head. You can certainly build wonderful, excellent basses out of Warmoth and other parts, but for most used buyers, they can be a big non-starter, and besides, by the time you're finished, they are usually not cheap at all.
  16. TrustRod

    TrustRod Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2016
    Northern California
    My solution

    My OLP, and what it has become.

    Almost all the P/MMs on the market move one or both pickups far out of their classic positions because it looks funny and most people won't buy them if they are too close. If you want a bass that can do both sounds you have to make it. I think it's easier to start with a MM and add the P, you only have to move the P less than 1/4" from it's traditional spot and no one will hear that.
  17. And I

    And I

    Feb 19, 2009
    Witchtown, MA
    Harley Benton MP5-EB. Replace the Rosewell MM with something meaner, and you're there.
    NigelD, Liko, JRA and 3 others like this.
  18. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    A MM pickup and P pickup won't fit in their standard positions. I'm working up a bass now (a Covid-19 project) I reversed the P pickup, so the E/A pickup is in it's traditional position, with the D/G closer to the neck. The MM is in it's standard position. It's due for polish this weekend and assembly early next week.
    gscroggin and JRA like this.
  19. TrustRod

    TrustRod Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2016
    Northern California
    There is a MM/P thread here somewhere that is filled with different takes on where to put the pickups, and it has lots of pictures.
  20. Buy, Mod, Build...depends on how long you can wait, how large your budget is, and how good you are with tools and assemblage/setup of instruments.

    if I had money, I would probably buy one already made. But since I don’t have money, I have to assemble basses from parts that I buy as I can afford them.
    I am also pretty good with tools and set up, so I have modded a bunch as well...
    JRA likes this.