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How to get this p-bass tone like on the video? (pickup change)

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by toores, Nov 28, 2017.

  1. toores


    Apr 26, 2017
    I like the tone of this 1977 p-bass on this video:

    I like the growl and the bright highs and the piano-like string sound. Of course i like the tone to be punchy also.

    I have fender elite p-bass (p/j) with ash body and maple neck (like the 77 bass has), but i'm not happy with the tone. I'm thinking of changing out the p pup because most importantly i want the bass to sound good with p pickup only. If there is a good p/j pair, i'd change both though.

    I have looked for sound samples and comparisons and first i thought maybe Custom Shop 62 pup, because it's fender in the video to begin with. And a friend of mine also suggested to look up Delano PC 4 AL. Other the that i'm clueless :)

    What pickup should i get for similar tone? All help would be appreciated.
    REMBO and peteybass like this.
  2. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    The pbasses in this video are all stock Fender P pickups - they all sound good. Sure, its a pbass. Hard to mess that up. Your Elite is active bass. That probably is what you don't like. You can ad a bypass and a vintage tone control and you will be where you want to be.
    Check out this video of pbass from many different manufactures - they sound very similar.
    Atshen likes this.
  3. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    I have an ash/maple '76 P that's all original, and it sounds like the '77 in that video - I also have an early 90s USA Peavey Fury that nails that same tone, too - with it's original pups...
    dukeorock, REMBO and Axstar like this.
  4. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Cool video! The '77 P has the least "bottom" to my ear. Try a slight cut on your "bass" or "low" EQ control (and increase the gain/volume if necessary to compensate). :)
    alesreaper9 likes this.
  5. bigtone23


    Dec 10, 2014
    Denver, CO
    The 77 P sounds like ash and it may have a .022uF tone cap as it's roll off was higher sounding than the others (which may have had .047uf??). There is a chance it's pickup had less winds on it, which would make it brighter.
    Otherwise, as most P videos show, Ps sound like Ps. Get a 10-11k alnico 5 pickup and go...
  6. toores


    Apr 26, 2017
    The bass that i have has active/passive switch and it has been in passive from day 1. I'm not using the preamp so no eq'ing. That is in fact why i think it the elite p-bass pickups are different and need to be changed.
  7. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    It would be a small procedure in it's own right, but try installing a switch so that you can completely remove the J pickup. Or simply wire the P directly to the output jack (temporarily).

    I'm not sure how that P pickup is voiced, but if you replace it, I'd go for more vintage inspired pickups. SD SPB-1 seems like a good place to start on the low cost side...

    Also, did you mess with pickup and string heights on your bass? And of course different strings are an often overlooked, but simple and cheap solution when chasing minute tonal differences.
  8. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    All of this.

    I have read over and over again that a blend knob does not totally take the J pickup out of the equation. A switch does it better, I think.

    And, yes, strings have a huge impact on your tone. What kinds of strings are you using @toores ?

    And, as mentioned above, the cap value can have a huge impact on tone as well. Maybe @line6man or somebody will know if there is a difference in the cap value on a 70s bass as opposed to a new Elite one.
  9. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017

    Agreed with all of the above, but will add - IME/IMO, those 70s P basses typically had pickups that were slightly brighter and slightly hotter than an SPB-1, although some EQ could probably get you there...

    As I've said, my 90's USA Fury has that sound, too - I think it's pups are much closer to those of my '76 P - and definitely closer than an SPB-1, as I've had those in both basses at times... Maybe you could get some of those pups from Peavey - I'll bet they wouldn't be that expensive....
  10. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    As I've said, my '76 nails that tone, and IIRC - it has a .05uF cap... To my knowledge, Fender never used a .022uF as an OEM cap...
  11. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    Interesting, my experience and readings suggest that hotter pickups tend to have muted highs. That said, I don’t know the secrets of pickup winding well, so I presume different components and technique can yield hotter sounding pickups without overwinding them?

    I gave SPB1 as an example, a starting point really. Swapping pickups can be such a guessing game, one might as well start with a well known and cheap option. But if Peavey sounds closer, and I suspect it might be had for even cheaper, it could be a winner.

    Re: caps - I don’t find them to matter when tone is open, the sound I believe the OP is pursuing.
  12. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Agree with others here that’s pretty much the classic Fender passive PB tone. I’d recommend experimenting with strings and your technique first.

    If that fails see about getting your bass modded so you have a passive only option as previously suggested.

    If all else fails then it’s time to consider either a pickup replacement or different bass. If there’s any chance you may consider getting a different bass, any mods you do to the one you already have will reduce its resale value and cost money to do. So again, if there’s any chance you may have purchased the wrong bass for the sound you’re looking for and may decide to unload it, think twice about modding it.

    I can nail that sound on my PB, although YMMV because your technique always has a huge amount to do with how any PB you play will untimely sound. My PB (currently) has a David Allen 1080p pickup in it. It’s what I call a hybrid-voiced pickup because it has a mostly ‘60s sort of bottom end with some of that ‘70s clearer and brighter vibe on top. It’s a really nice and versatile sounding pickup. A good choice if you really like that classic vintage PB tone but always wished it had just a little more je ne sais quoi going for it.
  13. Before changing pickups, I'd try different strings.
    I find taperwound strings to get that piano tone best.
    I have some old Circle Ks on my J that do a fine piano tone.
  14. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Your pickup is probably right in the ballpark of what you want. But...it's in an active bass. The sound of a pickup is altered a lot by capacitance of the cable you put it into, and your bass may not have the pickup loaded enough for your taste. Or it may be loaded too much. You can change that. Changing pickups is an expensive crapshoot - you don't know which way things are going to go and each experiment will cost you $100 or so. Let me suggest a different strategy.

    If you know someone who does electronics, you can have them try a bunch of different capacitors across your pickup to see if you can load the pickups to your desired sound. For $5 (plus $5 shipping), you can get 10 different capacitor values from some place like Mouser, and it'll be like trying 10 different pickups in your bass. I'd suggest a kit of 100 pF, 150 pF, 220 pF, 330 pF, 470 pF, 750 pF, 1000pF, and 1500pF capacitors - that will give you a fairly wide range of tuning - one of them probably will be very close to the sound you hear in your head.

    I do this all the time - it works. My avatar is a guy's bass I wired for him that has 4 modes. All the little brownish things in the picture are capacitors - he has a choice, via the rotary switch, of 4 different sounds - different pickup combinations and capacitive loading. It took a couple tries to get every thing to where he wanted it, but each iteration was a buck or two in cost, and he got 4 sounds exactly where he wanted them to be. I have a loading box with a bunch of different capacitors that I built after this, and I can now hook up a half wired bass, and let someone decide what loading they like best, so I can now get the first iteration right.
  15. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You guys...LOL! Turn down the J pickup on a PJ and it sounds 100% identical to a regular P. Had enough PJ's and P's with the same pickup that sounded the same. Maybe your dog can tell a difference.
  16. In the first demonstration, I think they all sound good. Passive, vintage pickups will deliver that tone. I'd be hard pressed to find a favorite from that brief demonstration. Would need it in my hands on a live gig to choose.
  17. Wfrance3

    Wfrance3 Supporting Member

    May 29, 2014
    Tulsa, OK
    You have P/J, so that's going to be different than a P right off the bat.
    Not sure on your bass, but typically a P/J has the P positioned a little closer to the neck than if it were a single pickup P.
    Am pretty suer that if you bypass the Preamp that will get you closer.
    Also, you can try series vs parallel pickup wiring. There are tons of diagrams here on how to do that...
    I have the Jag in my pic wired up with Fralin pickups. It's passive. The J is a 5% overwind. It's able to cop a pretty convincing old school P-tone.
    Hope some of this helps...
  18. bdplaid

    bdplaid Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2007
    Depends on how it's wired. If the blend is not grounded, then neither pickup is totally out of the sound. But if it is grounded, then full turn in one direction or the other will solo the pickup.
  19. bdplaid

    bdplaid Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2007
    Do you achieve a passive-sounding P on a fully active bass? With active (25K) pots for volume and blend? Interesting. I'm about to put a switch on mine, but if this can be done with a cap I might try that first.
  20. bdplaid

    bdplaid Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2007
    How do these myths get started? Measure it. It's the same. Or supposed to be.
    jumbodbassman likes this.

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