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How much do you mess with a vintage Fender?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Master P, Mar 26, 2002.

  1. Master P

    Master P

    Mar 26, 2002
    Here's the question..... I have a '71 Precision. When I bought it the neck had been replaced (Boogie Bodies). Since then I've added an active EMG pickup. That required some routing for the preamp and battery. I'm getting ready to refinish and refret. This bass is part of a growing armada of basses that get weekly use. As far as affecting the value of the bass on the vintage market, I couldn't care less. It was the 1st quality bass I ever bought and I won't part with it. The question is this.... When modifying a vintage instrument, at what point do begin to stray from the basic character of the bass?
  2. SoComSurfing

    SoComSurfing Mercedes Benz Superdome. S 127. R 22. S 12-13.

    Feb 15, 2002
    Mobile, Al
    I think adding the active electronics to a '71 P strayed pretty far from the basics of this particular bass, but part of being a bass player is finding out and applying what you like. Some may be disgusted at the though of routing an old Fender and changin g the neck, but if it's a player's bass, do what you need to do. It wasn't all original when you picked it up, so why try to preserve it! If it gets weekly use, it's probably getting a little beat up in the process, but at the same time it's gaining character. Each little ding or modification has a story behind it.
  3. boogiebass


    Aug 16, 2000
    When you alter its basic tone, as you did with yours when you added an active p/u.
  4. To me the character of a bass is a living thing make up of the basic components of the instrument itself, (body, neck, electronics) , the player, the players mood, the strings. And in the wost cases the physical environment (humidity and tempature).

    Zen and the character of a bass if you will.

    If it were mine and I liked the tone alot I would be very careful in my choice of re finishes. In my opinion as the woods age the less finish you have on the guitar the better it sounds. If you do decide to go with a painted finish make sure the body is cleaned and sealed really well before painting. I personally love simple oil finishes on older instruments.

    And to offer my answer your question anytime you do something that could permanetley alter the tone of the instrument you have changed its character.
  5. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    My basic POV is that a bass is just a tool: if a vintage Fender owner doesn't care about resale value, then s/he should modify the bass as s/he sees fit.

    That said, your bass already had a replacement neck, so there wasn't as much resale value to lose.
  6. LarryJ

    LarryJ banned

    Dec 12, 1999
    Encino, CA (LA)
    I found a '69 P-Bass at a vintage shop-It had been spray painted (!) black & had a lot of scratches-
    real "character"!
    The bridge was completely rusted, the electronics were weak, pickguard cracked, frets worn, & the machine heads had been replaced with these ungodly Fender hooded replacements.
    This axe had the best neck & playability I had ever experienced. I re-finished to natural alder with light
    stain- re-sanded the neck w/ light tung-oil-
    Re-fretted w/ OEM wire, & replaced the bridge
    w/ A BadAss II. I changed to Duncan passive P-Bass pick-ups, OEM in character, but with more compression. I changed the pickguard & replaced the disco machine heads w Fender OEM's.-everything in black chrome. This instrument is awesome! It has a vintage P-Bass sound, chunkier & funkier than anything out there. It has a vibe, cause I resurrected it.
    Now- a collector would appraise the bass low-
    If it were mint stock, it would be worth I think at least 2-3K. The fact that it is not original makes it
    what it is- a player's bass- That's what I want.
    I wouldn't have made it active- IMO a P-Bass stands for "passive"- I dig the natural finishing & the up-to-date replacement components are improvements sonically & funtionally over the original.
    The"soul" of the instrument, the wood & the neck ,remain original-just as they were made over 30 years back.
    That's my story & my opinion is contained in there somewhere!

    -Larry NJ
  7. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    Welcome to TalkBass!!!!

    Changing the pickup is no big deal!!!!It's not a major modification. You could easily put the original back in, if you still have it. I'm a big fan of EMG, so leave it in. ;)

    Do it since you it's an everyday bass & needs it. Since it's a replacement neck, it dosen't really matter.

    If you're just gonna refinish the neck, go for it. If you're thinking of refinishing the body, I personally wouldn't do it. Since it's a workhorse, every nick & scratch tells a story. It adds character & like SoComSurfing said, it might change the sound of the bass completly!!!!!

    If you're really into making the bass alittle more "original", I've seen early 70's P-bass necks on eBay from time to time. I'm assuming the Boogie Bodies neck (which is now Warmoth) is a killer neck since you're condsidering putting the $$$ to refret it.
  8. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    In your case, the value has been lowered a LOT because of the non-original neck (neck and body intact are the MOST important factor in the value of a vintage bass. The pickup mod plus the refin and refret will make the bass worth only about $600 when you're done (vs. maybe $1500 or so it were stock in good condition).

    Good example is two early 50s P basses I saw recently. One was stock and in good condition for $7500, the other had a replacement neck and was only in fair condition (body and pickup were still original) for $1500 :eek:

    As far as the "vintage character" the neck is probably more of an issue than the pickups in changing the tone and feel of the bass.
  9. Master P

    Master P

    Mar 26, 2002
    Thanks for the replies.
    Concerning the refinish, I have decided to go with the alder lightly yellowed up to mimic the neck,black pearloid pickguard,and tung oil only.
    To Nino Brown: Yes, the neck is awesome. Thin in both diminsions and straight as a string.

    Stay Hard,
    Master P