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Do pickups get old?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by fender58, Mar 29, 2001.

  1. fender58

    fender58 Guest

    Sep 8, 2000
    Southern California
    I am lucky to have been given a old Fender P bass. The serial #(-21175 on the 4 bolt neck plate) dates it to 1958 I think. But I think it is maybe a 1968 from the history I am told. Maybe the plate was switched? ANYWAY would these pickups get old? Would new ones sound better?? Certainly technology has changed. It sounds good; plays GREAT. It is noisy if hand contact is not made with the strings though. Thanks.
  2. gweimer


    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    All things get old, and if they are mechanical or electronic in nature, are susceptible to failure. In the case of pickups, they are nothing but wires wrapped around magnets. If the wires break, or become detached, you'd experience failure at some level. I've had that happen with a bass I used to own. In your case, though, I'd check for grounding problems before anything else. There's simple solution for ground hum - take a 2 ft. section of single-strand wire, and solder an alligator clip to it. Clip the one end to one of your strings (past the bridge), and wrap the other end (stripped of insulation) around your pinky finger when you play. I got that off another site, and it's supposed to work every time.
  3. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    I'm absolutely STUNNED :eek: !!!! that was GIVEN to you!!! I hope no major mods, (pups, neck, hardware, et al), have been made to it.

    You have a holy "nude number" Fender, before Leo started adding his "L" to the serial numbers. My Tom Wheeler book, "American Guitars" and another source, say your bass was built in 1957. One of my Tony Bacon books puts it at 1958, but I've found other errors in his stuff. A Gruhn book or some other authoritative source could probably tell you a lot more.

    As gweimer mentioned, you have a grounding problem, which results in electrostatic noise. One of the giveaways is the string symptom you mention. This kind of repair shouldn't affect the value of the instrument, (unless a museum bought it, where it wouldn't get played anyway). A tech could isolate the problem and may put some "fish paper," used to insulate tight spots in wiring, on it, or may put in a new wire(s). If I was in your shoes, I'd either take it to someone who appreciates what you have, or send it to someplace like Elderly Instruments, (who might make you an offer for it after the repair; free expert appraisal!).

    Insulation on an instrument of that age may have become brittle and broken to expose a wire or two.

    The plates could have been switched, as you mentioned. This is common on vintage Fenders. Then again, having to replace a neck plate is uncommon, since someone gave it to you. There are a some old Fenders on the market where the seller has purposely tacked on an old part with a serial number or even had bogus plates with serial numbers made for them. Whatever you do, don't refinish it if the finish is original.
  4. If that hasn't been signifigantly modded.. it is worth more than my life!
  5. fender58

    fender58 Guest

    Sep 8, 2000
    Southern California
    Thanks for your reply about the P bass Rickbass1. It is nice to think of it as a real old one and even nicer to play. I will try the ground fixers.

    The bass is kind of on a permanent loan forever I guess (thank you Doug in Ohio!). The fellow who "gave" it to me (thanks again Doug) had it back in high school in 1974 ish. It had two owners before that and we knew them both. I am not sure how the first guy came by it other than it was a gift from his folks probably around 1970 or so. I should try to find him....

    It does have a couple of changes or three. A early 70's maple jazz neck with black square markers. (rareish to I think) It has a jazz pick up at the bridge with a well worn grove in the body from a thumb put there by a Stanley Clark lover. I am not sure about if it is original paint I can see gray where the finish is worn off. It "looks like hell but plays great!" The neck plate does not say Fender?

    Klaus Blasquiz "The Fender Bass" Book puts it around 1957 too but elsewhere I saw 1968. Also "the Bass Book" by Tony Bacon says 1958 like you said.

    Thanks again Rickbass 1
  6. Well sounds like a great bass. About pickups, well wire can corode and magnets can grow weaker. If that bass is truly from the late 50s then the pups are about 40 years old. Im sure they still work, but probably have lost some response and tone over the years. If it were mine, and the pups of today being better quality than back then, I would change them, but still keep the old ones around in case I was to sell the bass, you can put it back to original condition. I would even consider changing the pots, as they can break down also.
    Just my thoughts
  7. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    shorscale- the groove you mention? Collectors eat that stuff up!!! People who refinish collectible antique furniture and have the dings and scratches removed, hurt the value big time. It loses its patina, its "character," its "history." Same holds true for basses. There's a division of L&M Music, (I think it is), named Guitar Galleria. The offer new guitars from Gibson's Historic Division, and "pre-beat the snot" out of them, so some yokel can pose like he's some old blues cat or rock legend. They go for about $5k and up into 5 figures, (for new guitars that look like the bodies have been chewed up by use).

    I can't remember when I saw a Fender as old as yours offered that was totally stock. The only ones that come to mind have all been modded when they get that old. I have a `64 P and it has been tempting to get it modded, but I can't bear the thought of losing all the nice crud that has built up on it over the decades.
  8. fender58

    fender58 Guest

    Sep 8, 2000
    Southern California
    Thanks for your reply. I don't think I would ever paint this bass. It has way too much character as you say. I would love to know if the grey paint, or maybe it's primer, I can see under the paint is original? Or has it ever been repainted? I might put in a new pickup and save the old ones as you say.

    , Shortscale

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