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My evolving experience with the Fender Jazz bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by reno88, Oct 26, 2018.

  1. reno88

    reno88 Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2008
    Howdy, y’all.

    I’ve responded to a few posts of Fender P vs J, and the discussion (argument) can go on ad nauseam. Here’s a brief rundown of my experience for those interested:

    I’ve been playing P-basses for 35 years. I went off the rails and dabbled with a Stingray from ’89-’91. I wanted to like it – it felt great, played great, but I couldn’t get it to sound good. I’m sure that’s due to operator error. I traded it even-up for what became my #1 for over 20 years – a ’73 sunburst P which replaced my first bass, a ’79 P which I bought used in Austin (which I still have). I played the ‘73 all over TX and the southeast through the ‘90s and ‘00s up until I built a beater P bass about 5 years ago. Instruments have a tendency to disappear from dive bars and cars, so I relegated the ’79 and ’73 to home use.

    In October of last year, I bought a used ’16 MIM ‘70s Jazz from a fellow TB-er. Mint condish, pau ferro board, blocked and bound, sunburst. I got it for a great price figuring I’d give it a go.

    I set it up right, put decent strings on it, plugged it in, and it sounded terrible. No matter what I did, it was thin and weak. So I put SD Quarter Pounders in it, and I also set it up with stacked knobs thinking that independent tone control would help (and it looks cool). Better, but I still couldn’t get it to sound like I wanted it. I tried flats, then other flats, then zingy rounds. It felt great, and I loved the way it played, but I would practice in my band (power trio) starting with the J, and about 3 songs in, I’d go back to the P bass. This went on for a few weeks until I just stopped trying to use the Jazz. It stayed in the closet untouched for months. I was this close to selling it.

    Then I had the revelation (no one would mistake me for a Rhodes Scholar) of tweaking my amp. Duh. I’ve been playing a Mesa D800 for a few years. I tweaked everything, especially the mids and treble, and there it is. I think I’ve found it. Last night was the 3rd consecutive practice where I used the J bass through the entire practice. This thing kills! It’s the subtle tweaks of the D800 (very sensitive controls) and the tone controls on the bass. P basses are simple and awesome, and that’s perfect for me. But a Jazz bass requires a little more finesse (at least in my opinion) to get the goods. To quote my band mate, "It's in there. Keep working."

    Though I have yet to play it live, I’m going to play it on our next gig. And I’m not going to bring a P as a backup (I don’t ever bring 2 basses to a gig anyway).

    I’m so jazzed (pun intended) that I’m looking at getting a used American J bass. I never thought I’d play anything other than a P bass. The world we live in…
  2. saabfender

    saabfender Banned

    Jan 10, 2018
    When switching back and forth between my P and J on my practice amp (rather, the amp I practice with), I'm always struck by how much I need to re-EQ it to keep the current bass from sounding like poo. And if I forget I need to, I always start out blaming the bass.
    pacojas and reno88 like this.
  3. filler83


    Jan 5, 2015
    Cleveland, OH
    So how did you set your eq levels on your amp to make the j bass sound good? I’m curious.
    10cc and waynobass like this.
  4. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    As a primarily Jazz player, though I certainly like great P’s, I would be the first to say that Jazz Basses require a good deal more effort in the signal chain to get them to sit up and do their magic. But, the end result can be well worth the effort.
    pht2356, 10cc and reno88 like this.
  5. RadioactiveGuy4

    RadioactiveGuy4 Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2011
    New Orleans
    I pretty much had the reverse problem. I could make Jazz Basses sound great but every time I tried a P Bass I hated the sound.

    I had let P Basses go figuring I was just a jazz bass guy until a MIJ P Bass Lyte made its way to me. I was finally mature enough to take the time to EQ it correctly to make it sound good.

    If I had to used both basses at a gig I would set up an EQ Pedal with the changes I needed so that I could go back and forth with the touch of a button.
    reno88, pacojas, BAG and 1 other person like this.
  6. jnewmark

    jnewmark Just wanna play the groove. Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2006
    Stax 1966
    Third St. Cigar Records staff musician.
    Curious as to your EQ settings for the P bass. I've never been able to EQ a P bass to my liking.
  7. Jim C

    Jim C Is that what you meant to play or is this jazz? Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    I think they both sound great and different and my amp settings are not all that different for each.
    The P is so open and big, and the J can get tightly focused; both sit it the mix well, IMO/IME.
    I played a J for many years with an ocassional Stingray for live use.
    Now I'm back to a P bass, partly because I can't make up my mind, but mainly becasue I feel this one is a better fit based on the type of music I'm playing these days.
  8. reno88

    reno88 Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2008
    i turned down the treble to below about 11 o'clock and increased the high and low mids to just over 12 o'clock. and i tweak the tone controls on the bass until i like it. i run the volume and tone wide open on the p basses, but i have to fine-tune the knobs on the jazz bass (particularly the bridge pup). lots of tonal varieties. the thing is, no one notices (or cares) but me particularly when we're running at gig volume and playing 3-chord post-punk riffy nonsense.
  9. jnewmark

    jnewmark Just wanna play the groove. Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2006
    Stax 1966
    Third St. Cigar Records staff musician.
    Yes, my experience with a Pbass. I much prefer the tightly focused sound of the J.
    pht2356 likes this.
  10. 4sight

    4sight Supporting Member

    This more or less echoes my experience, although once I'd finished tweaking things so I had my perfect J sound, I still didn't like it as much as my Precision, which is pretty much plug and play.
    Groove Doctor and reno88 like this.
  11. Jim C

    Jim C Is that what you meant to play or is this jazz? Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    That nasal honk of the J with both pups on full does work for alot of music.
    I don't think James Brown would have sounded as good with a big giant P bass tone.

    The neck full on with a J is interesting but the hum makes it unusable to me.

    I have one with model J's but to tell you the truth, it a compromise.
    It sounds more like a P with the neck pup and it doesn't sound all that much like a J with both on.
    For me, a very generic bass tone. It got a lot of studio action years ago (left it where I worked or rented it) as it always sounded fine in the mix with zero noise, It also had both pups wired with series/parallel switches.

    For me, it didn't sound as good as a pure P or J.
  12. I recently found a similar thing. Changing from my P to my fretless Jazz the Jazz just disappeared in the mix even with a lot more volume and gain. I'm might try an eq pedal at the next jam however the reality is that I love how easily I can get the sound I like out of my P.
    Karl_V and reno88 like this.
  13. FirewalZ


    Aug 14, 2014
    S.E. Michigan
    You wild man....what were you thinking, that's just plain crazy:nailbiting:. Although I've had a similar love/hate relationship with Stingrays.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2018
    reno88 likes this.
  14. 10cc


    Oct 28, 2013
    Sweet. I kinda went through this same thing about three years ago.

    I’m a local metro area TBer so let me know when ya play out again and I’ll try and make it out to hear the bass in person.:thumbsup:
    reno88 likes this.
  15. jnewmark

    jnewmark Just wanna play the groove. Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2006
    Stax 1966
    Third St. Cigar Records staff musician.
    The " buzz " thing is variable, imho. I have a '98 MIA, that I can favor either pup with just a tiny buzz. My RW jazz also is pretty quiet in regards to this.
    reno88 likes this.
  16. InhumanResource


    Dec 28, 2012
    Don't be afraid to experiment with backing down the bridge pickup a little (or a lot) here and there! With EQ that can get you in P territory again. I run mine on neck pickup only for a bunch of tunes and it works well.
    reno88 likes this.
  17. TideSwing

    TideSwing Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2014
    I’m more used to the Jazz Bass sound as good to my ears however playing Ps in a band setting and having others say how good it sounds has been common lately.
    reno88 likes this.
  18. hennessybass

    hennessybass Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2008
    Houston, TX
    When I went to a jazz, it took me a while to kind of “get it”. But now I love it. So many good tones just moving your right had position or a little change in the pickup setting.

    I agree that rolling the bridge pickup back a little is a great sound. I like the bridge and tone both rolled back about a quarter. Great rock sound that cuts through. I like this setting with a pick.

    I’m usually all full up, but like the above setting, and the neck only pickup is a really cool thing too. Not that into favoring the bridge pickup much. When I want that tone, I play closer to the bridge.
    reno88 likes this.
  19. aproud1

    aproud1 Don't surround yourself with yourself. Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2007
    Cincy, OH
    A single coil Jazz is a great thing but sits in the mix differently than a P bass (which almost always seems to be in the right spot). I found if you use some good humbucking jazz pickups it helps move closer to the P bass in the mix spot. I love the way single coils sound on a jazz but prefer a different sound with a dense mix. All IMO of course.
    reno88 likes this.
  20. Im used to the jazz bass feel... but always get compliments when i play the P. Still adjusting to the neck tho!

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