Fender pickup covers

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jhb138, Sep 19, 2016.

  1. jhb138


    Sep 14, 2016
    I've always wondered, do the old Fender "ashtray" pickup covers have any effect on the sound of the bass? Or were they purely for looks?
  2. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    No effect on sound. Originally designed to protect the pickups in the event the bass was placed face down.
    jhb138 likes this.
  3. msb


    Jul 3, 2002
    Halifax,N,S. Canada
    The original SCPB had a rubber mute glued to the cover that deadened the E string . That's why you sometimes see them reversed .
  4. stingray69

    stingray69 Talkbass Legit

    Aug 11, 2004
    St Louis Area
    Looks mostly - and also to hinder available hand placement options when playing the instrument. :D

    I would think the extra weight of both metal ashtrays could actually be dampening the overall body vibration to some extent - which in turn could reduce the sustain of said instrument to some degree (however slight).

    Though deep down I do truly appreciate the vintage look of them, but I could never leave them installed full time on my "main" instrument due to the limiting hand positioning.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2016
    Kerem Koseoglu likes this.
  5. bassfiddlesteve

    bassfiddlesteve Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    All of the Fender bass bridge covers had rubber mutes except for the the first few years of the Jazz Bass when the mutes were mounted to the body. Mutes were an seen as an essential element for electric basses for the first few decades, and many major manufactures (Fender, Gibson, Rickenbacker, Gretsch) included one in their designs.

    Aside from the supposed grounding function on the earliest Precision basses, I think the covers were designed to for muting, protection, aesthetics, and to serve as a hand rest when using a pick...a design element carried over from the Fender steel guitars. The covers didn't hinder hand placement as most bassists in the 50's and early 60's plucked or picked the strings close to the neck, as evidenced by the pickguard designs and placement of the finger/thumb rest. Plucking/picking the strings over the pickups or close to the bridge is a "modern" concept.

    I don't think the covers themselves affect the sound in any meaningful way, outside of the mute.

    - Steve
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2016
  6. radioripster


    Sep 30, 2008
    I still use covers on my straight up p basses. I like them and I play right in that space between them anyway. I like how i can rest my thumb on the one over the pickups and sometime I want to have a mute and ..well..there you go. Some of the old guys know that you can get a pseudo cowbell sound out of your amp with the pickup cover too. I still do that from time to time. It's cool.
  7. 2cooltoolz

    2cooltoolz i support licensing Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2009
    Lake Conroe, TX
  8. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    My first P bass ('71 or so, post-CBS) had a rubber mute inside the bridge cover that was tapered: wider over the E string to narrow over the G.

    However, no less a bassist and Precision player than James Jamerson has said something to the effect of "That [pickup] cover ain't just there for the looks"... which makes me think there was a sonic element to the cover, but of course in the quote I saw, there wasn't any further elaboration. Still haven't heard what Leo's original intention was, unless DigitalMan, you have some evidence of your statement that it was physical protection for the pickup.