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Geddy Lee Jazz pup replacement

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by swartzfeger, Mar 23, 2009.

  1. All, I moved recently and had to sell my beloved PRS bass and (slightly less loved) Steinberger. I just bought a Geddy Lee Fender Jazz and it's as good as the rave reviews say. Except for one thing -- the pups.

    The tone is incredible and fits my style perfectly -- clear, articulate, a nice growly overdrive, punch, tight bottom end that isn't too boomy. The problem is that the volumes have to match or it's hum/noise city. This really takes the tonal variety away since I have to keep both pups equal.

    I'm looking for pup replacements that are passive and still maintain that nice growl -- any recommendations? I've been hearing quite a bit about Lindy Falins. I really want to keep the tone as close as possible and simply want to eliminate the noise (having them a bit hotter wouldn't hurt since the stocks seem a wee bit underpowered).

    Also thinking about replacing the nut and the tuners -- any recommendations there? Thanks!

  2. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    May I suggest... Rather than replace the p'ups, get some shielding foil and shield the crap out of it. You dig the tone, right? If you are happy with the tone, then the *last* thing I'd do is muck with the p'ups. Besides - a humbucking solution will sound different no matter what - there is a sound that a single-coil J p'up has that is distinct.

    And why replace the nut & tuners? Do the tuners not... well, tune well? Is the nut broken?

    My overall point here is that you *dig* this bass. You have reasonably identified one issue with it (single coil hum). Work on that and don't stress about the rest unless there is a *need*. Tuners just gotta A) tune and B) stay in tune... Right?
  3. James Simonson

    James Simonson

    Feb 2, 2008
    Detroit, MI
    Endorsing Artist : Ernie Ball and Ampeg
    The problem you are having is the problem all jazz bass players have to deal with. People often deal with this noise in a few different ways.

    1. You can find a set of "noiseless" pickups. These are typically small humbuckers. Some are wound in the form of two mini pickups stacked on top of each other in one case. Some are side by side like a mini p-bass pickup. The only problem is that they can tend to lack the sonic flare of a good ol' single coil. If they were exactly the same, then everyone would simply switch and that would be the end of it. From what I've heard, the most quiet pickup on the market is the EMG. There are several brands... I've heard good things about the Sadowsky noiseless. I've never tried them.

    2. Some guys just get real good about dealing with the hum by staying on it every time the music stops. I've gotten in the habit of turning the bass off ALL THE TIME. Sometimes I'll even do it out of habit when I'm resting for a few bars. Maybe, you would like your bass wired vol./balance/tone so you can retain your setting.

    3. Use a noise gate. The boss brand is solid. I abandoned this because I got annoyed dealing with the extra pedal.

    4. You really should shield the bass. All of it. The whole cavity and the pickup cavities with copper tape. It won't eliminate the problem when the pickups aren't balanced but it will keep all the RF out. This really only works well if you really go over the top with it.

    5. Get a really great cable. Spend the dough.

    After all the years of dealing with this, I've settled on either the Semour Duncan 1/4 pound single coils or the Aero single coils. I ride the volume knobs like crazy. The basses are fully shielded.

    I believe it's part of the jazz bass "mojo". I felt when I tried a few different sets of noiseless pickups the bass sounded fine and good, but I was missing the special character that a great single coil has to offer.

    Keep in mind that many great bassist of are time have played the noisey jazz bass. Jaco, Marcus Miller, D. Jones, Tom Barney, and Geddy Lee! I've never heard an once of RF noise from them. If Geddy liked the sound of noiseless pickups, he probably would have wanted them in his bass.
  4. Thanks, and you're right, the shielding should be the first order of business.

    I guess a more specific question would be has any one that replaced pups in a GLJ/70s re-issue found a replacement that maintains the vintage tone while mitigating/eliminating noise?

    That's the issue -- they tend to go out of tune. Some people have no issues, many do. I've had a few issues. And I'm not stressing, just asking out of curiosity. :)

  5. Low Main

    Low Main Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2004
    If it's a newer Geddy, those should be the upgraded tuners. The man himself had Fender upgrade the tuners a couple of years ago.

    If you just got it new and the original stock strings are on it, they could be tired and not be holding pitch well, or could be poorly wound around the tuner posts. I've seen more than a few poorly strung new basses in stores.

    Leave the nut alone unless there's a problem.

    Not only shielding but grounding needs to be done. With a comprehensive grounding and shielding game plan, you can really quiet down a noisy J bass. There's lots of previous discussion on that. The basic rule I follow is that when you start to think you're maybe being too obsessive about it, you're only halfway home.

    There is no such thing as being too obsessive about eliminating hum. You need to go after everything. (Well, if you find yourself wrapping copper foil around the flush handle on your commode, that might be taking it a bit too far).

    Once you quiet down a J, then you're ready to step up a notch and quiet down a Jaguar or a Marcus Miller. Not all of which are noisy, but the ones that are offer a fair test for the would-be bass husher.
  6. hands5


    Jan 15, 2003
    good 'ol USA/Tampa fla.
    and that kids is our lesson for today. Good,sound advice
  7. Yeah, except for the fact that I stated in my followup that the tuners *do* have occasional issues staying in tune. Any recommendations on rock-solid tuners?

    EDIT -- and thanks to all for the shielding/grounding advice, this will be the cheapest and most efficacious mod I can make. I haven't soldered in 20 years, but thankfully my dad is an experienced solderer/welder.

    I've got a few other issues -- a slightly dead E string. It seems to thud somewhat when played unamped, but sounds ok (with a quick cursory listen) when plugged into my SWR combo. I often like to practice/compose unamplified because I like to play lots of chords/double stops/arpeggios/alternate tunings which to my ears often sound better sans electricity.

    The D string has a really annoying buzz played open, but I have a fairly light touch so I can avoid most annoying clatter until I really dig in. But I'll deal with the dead/buzzing string stuff after I shield.
  8. Low Main

    Low Main Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2004
    Best thing to do is check the backplate style and mounting screw pattern on the existing tuners, then search online for upgrades that match up so you can do a drop in swap with no new holes needed.

    I haven't seen the backplates of the Geddy tuners, so hard to know exactly what you've got. It's pretty much got to be one of three styles, though.

    For Fender upgrades, I've had the best luck with Grover and Hipshot. Gotoh Fender tuners are OK, but not as good as those others.

    Check out Bass Parts Resource. And Fender style tuners come up on eBay all the time.

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