How to improve a jazz bass?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by clearnoise, Nov 14, 2005.

  1. clearnoise


    Nov 14, 2005
    Central Texas
    Hey guys and gals, this is my first post on Talkbass and I hope to make it at least a decent one. I'm a young bass player who is interested in getting the best out of my MIM Jazz Bass. What can I do to improve the sustain, tone, etc? I got a good amp recently (or what I think is a good amp), an Ampeg BA-115, but I'm more interested in improvements that I can make on my bass. I'm quite attracted to .....if you have any suggestions, thank you!
  2. Its cases like this in which the search funcion can be your best friend. Its been covered many times over.

    In short, though:

    Tone: try changing the strings, changing the action, swapping out the pickups, swapping out the tone capacitor, changing the settings on your amp, etc.

    Sustain: a more solid, dense bridge comes to mind. People rave about the BadAss II because its moderately priced, easily attained, and will replace the stock brisge without having to drill new holes.

    As far as John East is concerned, he makes a very, very nice product. So nice and so powerful, in fact, that I think putting it on a MIM fender would be absolutely pointless unless you were going to swap out the rest of the electrical components, which would end up costing nearly as much as the bass itself once you figure in all the parts, shipping, and potentially the cost of haing someone install it (which I recommend, unless your soldering skills are top-notch).

    Basically, it goes like this: Swap out the bridge and srtings, MAYBE the pickups, and leave it at that. Anything more and it becomes pointless considering the instrument. Try to get the rest of your ideal tone out of your playing style first and foremost, and then out of the EQ on your amp. After that, save up your money for when GAS (Gear Accuisition Syndrome) hits you. You'll be surprised how versitile the Jazz Bass is with its stock electronics.
  3. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    by Jimmy Miller

    Chapter 1

    Play better.

  4. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Having said that, I probably would upgrade the pickups if they were noisy, but only if they were noisy. Otherwise a Jazz Bass is the world's perfect bass and requires nothing else.
  5. I would generally agree with this, but it is MIM, and the bridges on them are generally crap, at least in my experience. That would be the only for-sure change I'd make, even if I was swapping it for a better Fender bridge.
  6. Not biased. Are you, Jimmy?

    I agree that Jazz basses are awesome instruments...but I think a P-MM is a much more versatile axe...of course, that pickup combination would be placed into a Jazz body :) (I prefer P-necks, but take your pick on that one) ;)
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Nope, PB, not biased at all. I've got 3 non-Fenders sitting right here behind me, and two of them are actually boutique basses! But my Jazz is my go-to never-fail all-around everyone-loves-it-me-too bass.

    Doesn't mean I don't like P/J or P/MM because I do (I have a P/J fretless and a P), but I would never rout out a J to put in P's or MM's.
  8. EricF

    EricF Habitual User

    Sep 26, 2005
    Pasadena, CA
    My MIM Jazz tweaks...

    New strings - D'A Nickels .045-.105 - DONE

    Pickguard - Fender AV '62 (Tortoise) - DONE
    Surprisingly, all the perimeter screw holes lined up perfectly. I drilled a new hole for the center screw and had to trim the guard a bit at the control plate, but it came out great.

    New bridge - Badass II - ON THE WAY
    The G-string saddle height adjustment screws keep turning on their own, so instead of just using some Loctite (that would be too easy), I figured it justfied buying a new bridge.

    Tuners - (still researching)

    Pups/pots - Lindy Fralin/CTS
    It makes no sense to upgrade the pups and use mediocre controls, so all of it will be replaced.

    In the end, I'll probably end up spending more than I would have for an MIA J, but I really like the way my J feels, so I don't see a problem using it as a platform for upgrades.
  9. Shearstown


    Oct 15, 2005
    I do believe I'll be purcashing a mim jazz from Dant with a Badass II and emg's already on them. Makes me happy seeing as I was gonna get a badass and swap the pups anyway.
  10. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    The most effective tone enhancing mod I ever did to a Jazz bass was to add a Sadowsky Outboard Preamp in my signal chain. It fattens the sound and adds girth.
  11. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    :D Beat me to it!
  12. My one unseen, yet very heard improvement is to install steel threaded inserts in the neck and use machine screws to attach it to the body. The alteration is invisible but it's a very good improvement over the 4 wood screws. The system allows more than twice the clamping force be applied to the junction and that makes for better sonic coupling between the neck and body. It also makes it easy to remove and replace the neck without fear of wallowing the screw holes in the maple. I use stainless steel (black or silver) 10-24, oval head bolts and they fit the neckplate like the originals.
  13. jlt


    Apr 24, 2004
    Fullerton, CA
    Hambone, where do you get your inserts and machines screws (both for necks and pickguards)? Can you just get them at any local hardware store? I'd like to use them on a future bass that I might build and I like your idea.

  14. I'm interested as well.
  15. Jonki

    Jonki I will not slap my Bee!

    Oct 14, 2003
    Arendal, Norway
    new strings and a BadAss II brigde would do it. The East preamp seems nice too :)
  16. bigtexashonk

    bigtexashonk Supporting Member

    This is a very good suggestion. One of the simplest things to improve sustain is to make sure the neck is screwed down as tightly as possible. Billy Sheehan used to stand on top of his old Precision/Tele beast and turn the screws as tight as he could get them.

    Another idea is to get a professional set up to ensure the action is a low as possible without buzz and that the pickups are dialied into the "sweet spot".

    I've never been fond of the MIM standard pickups. I replaced the stock ones in my MIM 60's Jazz with Duncan Antiquity II's. Much better - true vintage 60's thud and growl.
  17. Micolao


    Sep 7, 2005

    Schaller BMFL ;)
  18. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    If you don't want to spend big money on the Badass bridge, you can get a Gotoh 201 which is a drop-in replacement for the stock bridge. One thing I don't like about the stock MIM bridge is the lack of grooves for the bridge saddle screws to sit in. The actual saddle of my E string used to move around - it was kind of annoying. You can check out that part and more at

    Btw- kudos to you for a coherent and intelligently phrased first post. Sure beats the heck out of "wut can i do 2 my jaz bass? I wnt it to kick @$$!!!!!"
  19. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    Welcome to TB clearnoise! :D

    Doing mods to a MIM Jazz is a great idea, and lots of fun to boot. I once bought a used MIM Jazz for $200 and put about $400 worth of mods into it. I replaced the bridge with a Badass II, replaced the tuners with pre-CBS style reverse tuners, replaced the pickguard with a mint green vintage PG and replaced the pickups with Fender Custom Shop 60s pickups. For 600 clams I had a nice vibey 60s vintage "custom" J bass that sounded great.

    I just recently bought a new 60s Classic MIM J Bass and am in the process of making mods. I added a Hipshot D-Tuner (already has the vintage style reverse tuners), receiving a Gotoh replacement bridge today, and the pickups will be changed soon...toss up right now between Fender CS 60s, Lindy Fralins, Nordstrand NJ4s or Sadowsky single coils.

    Anyway, don't hesitate to go nuts with your mods, and don't worry about spending more than is "necessary" most certainly won't get back all you put into it, but it's not an investment so who cares? Go for that East preamp if it excites you. The point is to have fun, and the bonus is you'll learn much in the process.
  20. howie


    Aug 29, 2005

    what/who is Dant?