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How did the Bass of Doom start out?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Cat2017, Jun 18, 2017.

  1. Cat2017


    Jun 16, 2017
    I've looked at a lot of pictures of Jaco's bass and recently finished a biography of him but there's no real discussion of his bass. Was this a Fender Jazz bass that had the pickguard removed? What were his mods?

    Ghastly likes this.
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Fender Jazz Bass with the frets removed and the fingerboard coated with epoxy. Jaco lived in Florida so he used a marine epoxy for boats. Not sure that is necessarily the epoxy of choice for musical instruments in the year 2017.

    Honestly if you want to learn to play like Jaco, any decent fretless Jazz, such as the Squier Vintage Modified, is a fine place to start. There is no need to go the Jaco path of defretting a fretted bass, not when there are so many options on the market today. :)
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
    MobileHolmes likes this.
  3. Cat2017


    Jun 16, 2017
    I've heard mixed reviews on the Squier model, specifically the fretboard and cheap parts so I'd probably lean to a standard Fender Jazz Bass myself. Was his guitar produced without a pickguard or did his just remove it? I don't see too many models without one....of Fender anyway.
  4. As far as I know, the bass was either a 62 or 63 standard jazz he removed the frets from, put putty in the fret lines, and used Petit's marine epoxy to cover the rosewood fretboard, to keep the rotosound SS strings from chewing up the fretboard.

    He didn't run any mods to the bass that I know of, mostly just running the bridge pickup and an Acoustic brand amp system with 18" speakers live. He used a looper, but I don't know the brand or type off the top of my head. It's all well documented though.

    As an interesting point, Jaco initially started playing drums until a broken arm pointed him towards the bass. He also started with a traditional upright bass, but one morning he woke up and found the bass in a bunch of pieces due to the high humidity of the Southern Florida weather, and the Hyde glue let go on that bass. Instead of fixing it, he got the Fender Jazz, pulled the frets out, and the rest was history as we see it.

    Invention is the mother of necessity. Jaco wasn't trying to create a new thing, he was simply wanting a fretless upright, but as he couldn't afford to have the uprights constantly break due to the humidity, he modded an electric jazz to get the sound, stumbled across something pretty cool, and along the way changed out lives forever.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
  5. I can remember the 1st time I heard the album "Heavy Weather" and the track "Teen Town". It changed me for the better.

    Jaco had a sound in his head that he couldn't get with any current electric bass so, he modified his own and turned the bass playing world on its' ear.
    Pbassmanca and alaskaleftybass like this.
  6. I started with the Squier model, and it actually was a great fretless bass. You are right about the cheap electronics though. They need to be replaced to get a good sound. I have a Jaco signature, but I honestly play a modded parts bass with the Squier neck on it live. There isn't anything wrong with the necks at all. You can get a great mwuah tone as well. I'm not saying it feels as good as the Jaco sig, but it's a great bass for getting going in the fretless world.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
    petergales, Ikkir, design and 2 others like this.
  7. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Jaco's bass would have originally come with a pick guard. However, I wouldn't count on being able to remove the pick guard on any random instrument. Lots of modern J style basses have a hole from the CNC router that won't look very good if you remove the pick guard.

    No sense in a beginner worrying about such things, though. The pick guard makes absolutely no difference in the sound, and removing it won't make you play like Jaco. If you have the cash, then by all means choose the Fender brand over the Squier brand, if you like the instrument better. But Jaco's magic had nothing to do with gear: it was all about his encyclopaedic musical vocabulary. So if you want to learn to play like Jaco, buy whatever bass you like (doesn't even need to be fretless), turn on the radio, and start learning songs. :)
    pudgychef, Ikkir, John Conte and 2 others like this.
  8. Cat2017


    Jun 16, 2017
    I'll see; I'm not ruling out the Squier, especially since the only fretless standard available from Fender is black.
    bassestkkm likes this.
  9. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    May 3, 2009
    N.E Illinois
    I believe that Jaco's bass was a '62 Jazz.
    It wasn't CNC made.
    Fender wasn't making basses without a pickguard back then.
    He removed the pickguard.
    There are many pics of his bass that show screw holes.
    Aqualung60 likes this.
  10. winterburn69


    Jan 27, 2008
    It started out like every other 1962 sunburst Fender Jazz. Very classy looking; like John Paul Jones' Fender Jazz.

    Then he got ahold of it, and removed the frets, mutes, chrome pickup covers, pickguard and original knobs.

    He also smashed up the bass several times, and the pickups were replaced with custom pickups made by Seymour Duncan at some point during the '80s.
    howlin and spaz21387 like this.
  11. Cat2017


    Jun 16, 2017
    Interesting...but I suspected as much. Taking off the pickguard - I guess, if you don't like it, but why on earth remove everything else?
  12. winterburn69


    Jan 27, 2008
    I've had a Squier fretless Jazz for 4 years, and once the pickups were replaced, it sounded great. My fretboard has a fair bit of wear on it, but I've only used Rotosounds over the years on it, and other than that, it's great.
  13. Which pickups and harness did you install on it?
    DiabolusInMusic likes this.
  14. alaskaleftybass

    alaskaleftybass Will Hanbury, Jr. Supporting Member

    Mar 21, 2012
    Sitka, Alaska
    This is it in a nutshell. Well said.

    We don't know the level of skill you're at, or what your financial situation is. But you have a lot of options available. If you are just starting this journey on learning the Jaco technique, getting a Squire is a good starting point. It can always be modded down the road as you start finding the nuances of your tone and technique. Here's an interesting idea. Get a Squire bass and buy a Fender fretless neck.

    Remember that everything in Jaco's life influenced his playing. He used to take his daughter for walks on the beach and point out all the different sounds. He explained to her that all these sounds were music in his ears. Learning your bass playing technique is just one aspect of understanding the guy. He was a total brilliant Savant on understanding music theory. The way you and I think in words, he did the same in notes. Could compose entire songs in his head and transcribe it later. With many parts.

    I don't even know where I would start a journey like this except for to start listening to his earliest stuff. Follow his progression and along with his playing go to YouTube and try listening to all his interviews as well as every song you can.

    Jaco has inspired generations of bass players-- some of them now grace the global stages of rock superstardom. They all started with the same first step you're taking. You might not exactly end up being Jaco in the end, but his influence will live in your playing. And I think he would really like that. :)
  15. REV

    REV Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    My understanding is that Jaco got the Bass of Doom from a pawnshop so there is no telling what condition it was in when he got it.
    bass nitro and moles like this.
  16. CaseyVancouver


    Nov 4, 2012
    I understand that Jaco used the fretless for high profile gigs mostly, even though most pictures are of him with it. The round wounds chewed up the epoxy which would be a fuss to replace. This white bass is fretted.

    If you get the Jaco 'chops' on any half decent bass, fretted or fretless you are ahead of most Jaco copiers. Check out the TB threads on fretless tips. I believe Jaco would sound like Jaco on all our basses.
  17. Cat2017


    Jun 16, 2017
    That is an interesting idea....would it really fit?
  18. alaskaleftybass

    alaskaleftybass Will Hanbury, Jr. Supporting Member

    Mar 21, 2012
    Sitka, Alaska
    That's the beauty of Fender bass products. They are designed to be field replaceable. One Jazz neck will fit any Fender/Squire Jazz body if I recall correctly. If I'm wrong one of my brothers here please chime in. Even many non-Fender clones use the same specifications for building their copies.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
  19. blue4


    Feb 3, 2013
    St. Louis area
    This is just my opinion, but there is nothing wrong with the Squier fretless neck. Replacing it with anything less than a USA Fender neck that has those extra support rods is just spending money with no gain. Just putting on a standard MIM neck or something like that is pointless, again IMO. You probably don't even really need to replace the pickups, there are legions of cover band guys happily gigging standard Squiers.
    Ikkir, Lvjoebass and alaskaleftybass like this.
  20. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    A Jazz Bass with the pickup covers on is a bit like ordering a fruit salad and receiving a bowl of crab apples...
    gebass6 likes this.