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Does a Jazz Bass have to look like a Jazz Bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by DaveAceofBass, Jun 17, 2014.

  1. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    With all of the new basses on the market, many builders have their own body styles that are offset, and similar to the original Fender look of a Jazz Bass. As long as they have jazz pickups, they more or less sound like a jazz bass, right? SO, do you have to have a bass that's shaped like a jazz in order for everyone to think it's a jazz? A good example is the Carvin SB4000 or SB5000...would that suffice for a jazz bass if that's the only instrument you had with jazz pickups? It sounds like a jazz bass, but looks different...what does the TB community think?
  2. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    It's a little arbitrary, IMO. In terms of auditions, my experience is that Fender on the headstock can go a long way. It's safe. But, I also think that is changing. Play a bass you are comfortable with and focus on your playing.
    hover and DaveAceofBass like this.
  3. Malak the Mad

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

    Many folks have their own criteria for what qualifies as a "Jazz" or "Precision" or whatever. My personal way is a lot like you'd use towards cars…if it's, say, a Mustang, but it has a different model engine or exhaust system, it's still a "Mustang". So by that system, if it's an offset body, like the kind popularized by the Jazz "silhouette" (or "footprint", if you like), it's a Jazz bass to me. To elaborate further with some visual…


    Here's a parts-bass project I assembled and had modified early this year. It's a Jazz body, Jaguar neck and a P/J pickup configuration. But despite the different parts and electronics, I still call it a Jazz bass. And to further this idea…


    …if anyone sees it from behind, with no peeking at the configuration or headstock, they're gonna say "That's a Jazz bass." So, to briefly summarize, my personal mode of classification is by the body-type, neck and electronics be damned. Besides, sound and tone are subjective and malleable for me to use as a classification. Body-types are much more tangible, illustrative and less prone to such subjectivity.
  4. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Do you mean when they hear it, or when they look at it?

    If your concern is that people who look at it will think it's a Jazz, it's going to need to look like a Jazz. That means it will need to have a Jazz-shaped body. If they're looking closely, it should probably say "Fender" on the headstock, too.

    If your concern is sound, playability and functionality, any bass with a slender bolt-on neck and Jazz pickups is likely to get you everything you need, Jazz-wise. In that regard, a Carvin SB would be a very functional "Jazz", but nobody who knows what they're looking at will mistake it for a Fender Jazz Bass. If someone heard it on a record, however, I seriously doubt they'd be able to hear that it wasn't a Fender. Two of the best "Jazz Basses" I've ever played are ESP lawsuit copies from the 1980s. They don't say Fender on them, but they outshine a lot of Fenders I've played in the Jazz Bass department.

    It all depends upon what's important to you. Do you care what people see, or are you more concerned with what they hear and how the bass feels in your hands?
  5. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    Let's just say I'm planning to part ways with a great 4-string jazz bass shaped instrument to get a custom 5-string with jazz pups. They're both great, but I'm thinking the latter will feel better, to me.
  6. Gougedeye

    Gougedeye Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2008
    Central Washington
    That FrankenFender is completely badass! OP, this is really subjective, as people have said. Single coils and a Jazz profile neck will get you where you want to go. However, there is no substitute for the jazz body profile...ymmv.
    Malak the Mad likes this.
  7. TonyP-

    TonyP- Excuse me but you have your I-IV-V in my II-V-I Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2003
    Boston Mass
    A-Designs Audio Mike Lull Custom Guitars Gallien Krueger amplification Tsunami Cables GHS Strings RMI Basswitch Nordstrand Pickups Darkglass Electronics
    This has been talked about before on here and you might find some interesting responses.

    When I personally think of a J bass 2 things come to mind first and other things follow. The pickup style / location and a slimmer neck (1.5" on a 4).

    There are other factors but thats what I think...first make something a J.
    Mulebagger and Gluvhand like this.
  8. themarshall


    Jun 26, 2008
    cochrane wi
    Not a fan of blueburst, Jags, or blocks, but that blue p/j Jazz flat works.
    Malak the Mad likes this.
  9. dabbler


    Aug 17, 2007
    Bowie, MD
    Hmm, What's in a name? As has been stated, everybody has their own way of thinking, and I like the car analogy too. As a matter of fact, along those lines, my position is if it doesn't say Fender or Squier on it, it's not strictly a Jazz, which is why I call my facsimiles, J basses or Jazz tributes or Jazz inspired or Jazz copies. WRT to sound, I'm of the opinion that everything matters, to varying degrees, and pickups have a pretty significant impact on sound, so I call my bass with a P body and a P pup at the neck and J at the bridge a PJ, and I'd call it the same thing if it was a J body.

    In the final analysis, though I don't really care what people call their bass, as long as I understand what they mean, so if somebody described their <insert bass company> that was in a J configuration a Jazz, I wouldn't care. Names are just descriptors to help others know what you are talking about. Just don't call me Shirley (weak "Airplane!" joke reference)! ; )
  10. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    People seek out what they know - that's why companies keep following basic shapes (why do you think you can buy a "Strat", "Les Paul", "Jazz" etc for $100-$10,000) - it's safe. I happen to like Fenders, but would not rule out a bass on shape.
  11. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    I think so.

    If it has two single coil pickups but it doesn't look like a Fender jazz bass, then it's a bass with two single coil pickups.
  12. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    Lots of basses will have "Jazz-style" or "J-style" pickups or a "Jazz-style" neck or a "Jazz-style" body. I would argue that you'd need all of those to have a "Jazz-style" bass.
  13. GBassNorth


    Dec 23, 2006
    I consider my Spector NS-2J a jazz bass on steroids... Mostly because it has jazz pickups and sounds like an active jazz bass.

    However; my Warwick, which has jazz pickups, sounds nothing like a jazz bass and has both pickups in a drastically different position than a normal jazz bass. I don't refer to it as a jazz bass.

    And to really add to the confusion, my custom build P/Ray bass has a jazz body, neck, pickguard and control plate but nothing else about it remotely resembles a jazz. I don't refer to it as a jazz bass.

    So I guess, to me at least, if it has jazz pickups and sounds like a jazz I might call it a jazz bass but if it has a jazz body and doesn't sound like a jazz bass I probably wouldn't call it a jazz.
  14. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    Okay, so there is some agreement and some disagreement here. But here's the ultimate question:

    It's been said that every great bass player ought to have a jazz bass in his or her arsenal. Does that mean that every great player should have a Fender Jazz? Or what about a bass that sounds like a jazz? I.E. Sadowsky? Valenti? Sandberg? Lakland? Modulus VJ? A custom bass with jazz pickups in jazz locations? What do you think? Do those players lose work because they don't have a Fender? Or, as long as they have jazz bass tone they're okay?
  15. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    lost angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    3 criteria:

    1. two single coil (or equivalent) pickups
    2. offset body shape
    3. 1.5" ish nut width (4-string)

    That covers sound, looks, and playability that define a jazz. Beyond that it is down to details...
    Moley13, SurferJoe46 and TonyP- like this.
  16. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    By those criteria, a Jazz Bass must be a 4-string. Does a 5-string count?
  17. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    lost angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    Maybe I'm not a great bass player, but I don't own a "jazz bass" and likely never will. I don't care for two of the three criteria I set forth (pair of single coils and offset body). I have yet to lose a gig because I didn't have a "Fender Jazz" to play.
  18. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    lost angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    Wasn't what I meant - just meant that if it is a 4-string, it would have a 1.5"-ish neck. For a 5-string, there is no "standard." But if you want to get picky, the canonical jazz bass is 4-string.
    SurferJoe46 likes this.
  19. lfmn16

    lfmn16 SUSPENDED Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    If you want to call it a Jazz bass, it should probably look like a jazz bass, but it's been my experience that unless you play something really different, nobody but other bass players really care as long as you sound good.
    SeamzKing and DaveAceofBass like this.
  20. johnpbass


    Feb 18, 2008
    Glen Mills, PA
    IIRC, when the Zon Sonus was released, it was touted as the "Jazz bass for the 90s".

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