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Jazz Bass pickup placement...how critical is it?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by JRBrown, Jun 11, 2004.

  1. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina
    I been looking at tons of J-Bass these last few weeks. One thing I've noticed is that some luthiers position the pickups at different distances from the bridge and neck [relative to the traditional Fender Bass design].

    - I've read that the pickup placement is critical to good Fender J-bass tone and growl

    - Bass Player Mag says that it's very critical; you deviate from the standard, you deviate from the tone.

    Your thoughts?
  2. rudetay


    Sep 19, 2003
    Well, diffrent pickup placements make diffrent sounds...If you want a normal J sound, put em in the normal place, if you want diffrent put it in a diffrent place...
  3. Nick man

    Nick man

    Apr 7, 2002
    Tampa Bay
    I think its absolutely essential.

    Im pretty sure thats why dual MM pickups rarely give you that MM sound. Neither pickup is where the origional should be.
  4. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Instruments dont just give you the note of the string, they also give off a lot of other notes, their varying dynamics, etc, etc - this is what we call overtones.

    Lots of things have effects on this - ranging from body wood, neck wood, neck thickness, FB wood, etc, etc, strings, playing technique, playing position, p-up-placement,... these all affect it.

    There are positions where certain overtones will come out better, certain harmonics will ring out while others dont - so the two things that control the sound from this is your hand (where exactly are you playing) and p-up-position.
    You see, even though p-up position can have an effect on the sound, its not the only thing. IMO most 2-pup basses, ceteris paribus, (given they have all other things the same), will be able to get most of each others tones, unless the pups are placed rather radically

    AFAIK and IMO applies to all that i've said
  5. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member


    On my Lull P5, the A string polepieces are on the coil closer to the bridge... unlike a standard P-bass, where the A string polepieces are on the coil closer to the neck. The difference is only 1 inch or so, but I can definitely hear it.
  6. yeah, i think i read about the importance of pickup placementin bp mag's interview with mike pope. when he was designing the bass, he took hours trying to find just the right spots for his pickups, so it must be pretty important!

  7. zawali


    Sep 28, 2003
    France (PARIS)
    What a bout the 70's fender jazz bass that had a PU closer to the bridge ??
  8. Isn't there some relationship between pickup placement and harmonic locations on the length of a string. So I don't think that you can just stick a pickup anywhere and get a good sound. But I could be wrong.
  9. Andrew Jones

    Andrew Jones Banned

    Feb 28, 2001
    Northampton Mass

    Zawali's Right Fender moved the bridge pick up something like 5/8's of a inch closer to the bridge. it one of the most overlooked yet significant tone effecting changes they made.

    Pick up placement is one of the most critical variables.
  10. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina
    What was the result? Sadowsky, Lakland, and most Fender J-Basses have the bridge pickup in about the same position. Chris Benavente installs his bridge pickups much closer to the bridge. Could Chris be aiming for that certain 70's vibe? Which 70's Fender J-bass has the pup closer to the bridge? I haven't seen one yet. :eyebrow:
  11. metron

    metron Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2003
    Yup and they switched back in the 80s. I know the current MIA basses have the original spacing.

    Ampegsvtca you are right. There are points on a vibrating string called nodes and thats what you are referring to. Specific harmonics are zero at node points so it does effect sound.
  12. My Fender Marcus Miller Jazz Bass (which was modeled after Marcus' No. 1 '77 Jazz Bass) has the bridge pickup closer to the bridge. This makes a big difference and gives it that less vintage and more wiry tone.
  13. Andrew Jones

    Andrew Jones Banned

    Feb 28, 2001
    Northampton Mass

    About the same is still to much variable remember we're talking one pick up (bridge) and its about 1/2 inch.

    Sadowsky I believe has them in the 60's position but I do know that the sadowsky tokyo had them in the 70's spot this combined with the full size hard ash body (not swamp) made those really great 70's replica's. I really wanted a black one with the pearliod block inlays.

    Lakland is in the 60's position.

    I would assume that the closer position gives a little more bite and articulation.

  14. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina

    If closer to the bridge equals more bite/articulation, then futher from the bridge equals more what ?
  15. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina
    I just saw a 77 and a 78 Jazz bass with the rear pup close to the bridge. :meh:
  16. Brian Barrett

    Brian Barrett

    Nov 25, 2001
    Murfreesboro, TN (Nashville)
    Dealer LowEndBassShop.com, Builder LowEndBasses.com

    not so much bite and articulation :D

    Actually it’s the right reply, but I was also joking with you. Moving the bridge pickup back does give more growl and tightness in the finger style tone. Moving it forward to the 60's pulls some of the bite out and adds a little more bottom. Like with the neck pickup the closer to the neck the more bottom end and the closer to the bridge the tighter and edgier the tone gets.
  17. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina

    I worded my question the way I did so that no one [cept you] would give me that answer. It's hard to comprehend that luthiers would move the pup foward to simply decrease a good thing...therefore, I was aiming for the positive impact. Anyhoot, I noticed that Benavente and the Lowend basses have the pups positioned closer to the bridge. I emailed Chris last week with similar questions, but I guess he's too busy building basses. I must admit that the Benavente basses sound killer in the sound and video clips that I've played...very articulate!

    - Brian, Is that what you are aiming for with your new line of basses? 70's articulation?

    - Anyone, Is pickup placement the primary reason for differences in 60's, 70's, and 80's J-Bass tone?
  18. Brian Barrett

    Brian Barrett

    Nov 25, 2001
    Murfreesboro, TN (Nashville)
    Dealer LowEndBassShop.com, Builder LowEndBasses.com
    I don't know if it was really an aim at a 70's jazz it was really just where we liked the placement of the pick and the sound it gave us. To say its in the exact same position I would need someone to measure a Jazz bass bridge pickup center from the nut.

    I wouldn't say moving the pickup forward like on a 60's is a bad thing at all. Its just a different sound and in the end its all about what works best for you and what you hear in your head.

    A number of changes happened in the 70’s and actually through the 70’s, but the same happened in the 60’s as well. So to just make a statement of 60’s and 70’s isn’t really hitting it all. Finger boards changed, neck profiles changed, heck even tuner’s changed for a couple of years in the 60’s. In the 70’s neck profiles changed, number of bolts in the neck, body woods, pickup position, etc.

    If you play a 68 fender is a totally different animal to a 64 fender as a 71 fender is to a 78 fender.
  19. Nick man

    Nick man

    Apr 7, 2002
    Tampa Bay
    I cant believe I didnt thik of this answer before!

    Of course it makes a huge difference! Thats why the neck pickup sounds so much different from the bridge pickup.

    You arent going to get a Jaco tone by soloing your neck pick up,

  20. steve_man

    steve_man Supporting Member

    May 15, 2002
    I've been noticing what you guys have been saying and this question poped up to me:

    While it's understandable that there have been numerous changes over the years to materials and what not to fender J-basses (yet no real change to design).

    What do people mean when they say traditional j-tone?
    (eg. Are they referring to a 70's j-bass tone, 60's j-bass tone, or somewhere in the middle)

    I mean, I've played fenders that have pickups closer to the bridge and further away and I think they sound very different.