Development of the J bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Heavystringsguy, Apr 9, 2020.

  1. Howdy y'all.

    I've really been enjoying my P bass for all my gigs over the last year, I basically stopped playing my J (a 4 st G&L MJ-4 trib.), and recently sold it (when I started losing all my gigs due to the 'Rona).

    That said, I was thinking, maybe that's not my last J bass, and I started gasing over a 5 string J, as it would be the perfect foil to my P. P for rock, motownish gigs and a J for gospel, fusion type hits. I think having a 5 would round out my arsenal well, too; Ballads, latin, etc.

    ANYWAYS so I have some GAS and I began to look at affordable-ish (1-2k) 5 string J basses - I was looking at the Fender Elite, Japanese Sadowsky's and the Sire V10. I started noticing that there appears to be two sides of the spectrum frequently mentioned - the 70s style neck and bridge spacing and the 60s style. I guess the 70s necks usually have those block inlays?

    I don't know anything about the differences between different J basses. So, what are the major different types out there? Who was responsible for this? Were there reasons that these basses started being made this way or that way?

    I just want to be more informed about what to look for, thanks!
  2. bigtone23


    Dec 10, 2014
    Denver, CO
    The 60s vs 70s neck is more of an appearance thing-pick that wholly based on whether you like blocks and binding or not. If the neck profile is historically accurate, the 70s necks tended to be a little thinner from front to back.

    The pickup locations is a little more than subtle tonal thing. I would choose 60s vs 70s bridge pickup location based on how you tend to run your J. If you favor the neck pickup or equal blend tones, the 70s spacing has a little more bite and a wider variation in tone. I prefer the 70s spacing on Js and P/Js for that reason. I never solo the bridge pickup.
    If you tend to solo the bridge pickup, the 60s spacing, being a touch farther from the bridge, will give that soloed bridge tone a little more body.

    For the ultimate one-two punch, I would compliment your passive P with an active 5 string J.
  3. dabbler


    Aug 17, 2007
    Bowie, MD
    Bigtone is right on the money IME. But I also think that a passive 5 string J with 70s pup spacing AND a series/parallel mod would give you plenty of tonal variety.
  4. garp


    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    Well, I guess you could thank/blame Jimmy Johnson for having convinced Alembic to build the first 5-string bass with a low B. (The Fender Bass V – made from from '65-'71 – was strung E to C.) Since then, everyone else has simply been playing catch-up.

    Try and play as many different examples as you can before purchasing. The Fender Elite Jazz V and the Sire V10 both have an active/passive switch. As I understand it, the Sadowsky MetroExpress 5 doesn't have a true active/passive switch, but rather a bypass switch that attenuates a certain frequency range on the preamp circuit. The serial/parallel option mentioned by @dabbler is also a cool feature to have. Whether any of this matters to you will depend upon your ears, which is why it's worth taking the time actually play the various instruments.

    Good luck on your search!
    Heavystringsguy and dabbler like this.
  5. dabbler


    Aug 17, 2007
    Bowie, MD
    Basically, different strokes for different folks. And what matters to you may not matter to me.

    That said, in The Beginning, Leo tried to make what players wanted and his decisions were mostly based on that, tempered with practicality in manufacture. He's long gone and music has changed a bit from the, mostly country, players he conferred with, so I don't know what is behind some of the changes these days.

    OK, I'll also add this. The Sire line had inputs from Marcus Miller and if nothing else the Pre on those (which have a passive switch, a passive tone control AND a mid frequency select knob on it's 3 band active mode) is the most flexible pre I've ever played! But understand, I don't buy high end basses.
  6. bigtone23


    Dec 10, 2014
    Denver, CO
    True that! If you go passive, try the series/parallel mod. It adds an extra tonal feature. Lots of P guys have this on their Js to keep that thicker tone.
    Thegrandwazoo and Malak the Mad like this.
  7. Malak the Mad

    Malak the Mad Over the River and through the Looking Glass Supporting Member

    That is true!
    That is also true! I have a series/parallel push-pull pot on a '70s-style Jazz and it's almost like having another bolder and brasher bass at my fingertips. I highly recommend! :thumbsup:
  8. LadyLoveStingRay5


    Jul 17, 2004
    Sounds like a great plan. I have the same setup . It works for me. I must admit that I would like to add a 4 string jazz to my current arsenal.
    5 strings are like Pbasses in the fact that you really have to get your hands on as many as you can and find out what pickup spacing , pickups , preamps, and neck specs you prefer. Weight and body size/ shape and fretboard radius as well as string spacing all make a big difference too.
    Trial and error takes place but it’s worth it on the end.

    Have fun with the search . Be patient and it will all come together. Although they didn’t work out for me, you may find that you prefer something with humbuckers rather than true singles. Musicman Stingray5, MTD, or evening a Yamaha BB pj might be what you find works .