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History of the Fender Precision Bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by lo-end, Aug 1, 2004.

  1. lo-end


    Jun 15, 2001
    Yo guys,

    Can anyone give me a link to some sort of history of the precision bass? I want to know what changes happened to the bass every year, which ones were pre-cbs era or whatever, and maybe even which years sounded better than others. Stuff like that.

    If you dont know of such a website and are a fender buff (with enough time on your hands), please feel free to make a post explaining all this.

  2. Ralphdaddy

    Ralphdaddy Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    Chicago, Illinois
    Anything from around mid 1965 or earlier is pre-CBS which is considered to be superior. I've played a 66 which was unreal honestly. The 70's were known for heavier basses and used ot be considered of lesser quality but are now becoming collector items in their own right. The early 60's, late 50's seem to be the most sought after but with eBay are now commanding HUGE prices fr all original basses in the ballpark of 5k. I don't know much beyond that, hope it helped boss.
  3. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    The Fender Percision Bass
  4. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
  5. lo-end


    Jun 15, 2001
    I dont understand why CBS era basses are more sought-after today than post CBS ones. I thought their quality control was terrible, and now Im hearing about mid 70s P Basses sounding amazing.

    I know for a fact that today's P Basses are awful. My friend just bought a new one with that S1 switching gimmick and the electronics failed 10 minutes after he took it home. He took it back to the shop to get it repaired for free, and then it broke again about 5 minutes after plugging it in. So he went back and exchanged the bass for a brand new Precision and the same exact thing happened, so he angrily went back to the store and exchanged it for a used Musicman Sterling, swearing never to buy a Fender bass again.
  6. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003
    1957-1965- P basses are most collectable.
    1966- is a great year.
    1968-1973- P basses are fast becoming big money basses.
    As the 1970's basses age and sound better they are in more demand.
    Sad to say the new fender p-basses do not hold up to older ones.
    If you buy new get a laklnd skyline, better than any new fender.
  7. bassaussie


    Oct 6, 2001
    It's a historical thing. The pre-CBS tag has existed from nearly the beginning of the CBS ownership. After CBS took over (the actual takeover being in January 1965), there was a certain shift in the management of the company, and this is supposed to have resulted in a gradual reduction in quality (perceived or not). Some players from around that time claim to have noticed the difference (John Entwistle was a well known example), and started to search for the earlier instruments made before the CBS takeover as they felt they were better - hence pre-CBS.

    Now, as to whether they are better or not is another thing. Probably the safest thing to say is that, amongst 100 pre-CBS instruments, the hit rate of good instruments is probably better than 100 late 70s instruments. Yet tell that to Marcus Miller, who's stayed loyal to his 78 Jazz Bass for nearly his entire career. There's certainly no hard and fast rule, and just because a '60 stack knob Jazz Bass has a $15000 price tag doesn't automatically mean it's a better bass than a $1000 79 Jazz - it's just more collectable, which is a completely different thing entirely.

    The only hard and fast rule is that it's probably best to try an instrument out to see if it works for you. But then, that can be applied to any bass ever made!
  8. bassaussie


    Oct 6, 2001
    Very true. I've got a '66 P Bass which is a killer bass, and I tried a lot of different instruments out when I bought it, including some pre-CBS instruments.
  9. thumpbass1


    Jul 4, 2004
    Collecting vintage basses is different than judging the bass as an instrument.I once owned an honest to goodness 63 p-bass which was a good bass but I later obtained a 78 p-bass on the cheap that smoked the 63 tone wise.For sure the 63 was a bit more refined detail wise, but the so called crappy era 78 p-bass had the tone I that made me grin from ear to ear.I guess I'm more worried about the tone and feel of any Fender bass I might consider buying than the whims and lunacy of the vintage collectors market.Of course this works great for those of us who might be selling a vintage piece and yes there were a lot of killer P-basses made in the 60's as well as some in the 70's /80's etc.
  10. lo-end


    Jun 15, 2001
    Well to clarify, I'm not really interested in vintage P Basses as collector's items. I just want a really nice sounding and playing bass. The new Fenders are unacceptable (see above post), so I'm looking at vintage ones, Mike Lull's P4, Sadowsky's Ultra Vintage Precision Bass, and Lakland's Bob Glaub signature.
  11. bassaussie


    Oct 6, 2001
    If you're willing to put the time into it, and to look at a lot of examples, then there's no reason why you couldn't find a killer 70s P bass. There is one reasonably safe rule to go by, though - a later 70s P bass is generally going to be a fair bit heavier than a 60s or early 70s. Of course, there'll be exceptions to the rule, but this is one rule that's fairly will backed up in the market place.

    Another thing to consider. What sort of neck do you want - maple board, or rosewood. That'll dictate what era you can buy from. If you want maple, then it's gonna be 52-58 (roughly), then 70s onwards (I think the exact year was 72, but I can't remember exactly off the top of my head). There were some maple board Ps made specifically for the UK market in 66, but these are very rare and command a huge premium.

    If you want rosewood, then it's around 59 onwards (again, roughly).

    I've heard that maple boards were offered as a custom option during the 60s, but I've never seen any examples, so I can't confirm that. If it's true, they'd be very rare, and therefore very collectable, so again, you'd be paying a fairly large premium on the collectability of the item.

    Regarding pricing, the late 50s and early 60s are going to be the high ticket basses. The Precision's major change came around 57/58, when the split pickup was introduced, along with the changed headstock, pickguard and bridge. The first versions had maple boards, then they moved onto rosewood. Up until 62 (roughly), the rosewood board was a "slab" board - basically, the slice of rose wood had a flat base that connected to the neck. After this, the slice was curved. The slab board Precisions are very collectable, and again, this is reflected in the price.

    If I was you, I'd go for an early 70s bass. There's some very nice examples around, and they're not yet commanding the big dollars that a 60s bass gets. They're still very expensive (easily past $1000), and that price will continue to rise, but they're not into the astronomic category yet! Also, you're lucky you're going for a P bass - if it was a J, then things would be very different, as even 70s J basses are commanding some big sums.