My Jazz bass doesn't sound like a jazz bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Lesterbeat, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. Lesterbeat


    Nov 20, 2011
    Hi all,

    I still have one of my first basses. It's an ESP that I got from Dr. Sound in NYC over 20 years ago. At the time, the buzz was that the made in Japan ESPs were better than the current Fenders. I bought one and it's been a great bass.

    A few months ago, I had the frets taken off and then had the neck finished.

    Now I can't remember what the bass used to sound like, but now, it doesn't sound like a J-bass. Particularly when going for the Jaco sound. It's very muffled and dead sounding. I've tried different strings and even tried Fender vintage noiseless pickups. Luckily, I was able to return them after they made little difference.

    So my question is: is there a PUP out there that will give me that sound or is the bass just not built for it?

    My tech says my ESP is modeled after a vintage J. SO I"m hoping that I can get PUP that will give me the classic sound.

  2. A part of Jaco's sound came from the finish on his fingerboard. After he removed the frets, he gave the board several coats of marine epoxy which gave it a very hard, glassy surface. Fretless Pedullas are finished like this. Fresh roundwounds will help, but Jaco had very strong and long fingers with hard callouses, and if you look at videos of him playing, he dug in fairly hard much of the time. Combine all those elements with the worn nitro finish on his J (yoúrs is probably polyester or urethane) and you get that sound.
  3. Lesterbeat


    Nov 20, 2011
    Thanks Marty- I didn't consider the finish. But the playing issue isn't really a factor. When I play my Geddy Lee J, It sounds Jaco-ish. I can't imagine the finish on the body could make the bass sound so dull. And even the finish on the neck doesn't make much sense since open strings sound just as dull. The roundwounds made a big difference compared to the flats but it's still very dull sounding.
  4. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Thoroughly Nice Guy Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    String type? Setup? Fingerboard wood?

    I think the poster you responded to might have been asking whether the fingerboard itself was refinished. Jaco's was covered with epoxy or something, and that surely made a difference. A quick search lists Rotosound 66s as his strings of choice. Dunno if that's true, but stainless rounds are usually brighter than nickels and much brighter than flats.

    Do you have any recordings or vids- anything that might give you a clue as to what it sounded like before? You say it was a great bass, but if you can't say whether it sounded "like a Jazz" before, you might not have any reason to think that it should sound like one now.

    I've defretted several ( > 15) basses myself over the years and filled the frets with different materials depending on my level of experience (wood putty early on, then super glue, then thin strips of plastic) at the time. What stands out for me was that the basses that sounded great with frets sounded great without them regardless of how good or "correct" my job was. None of my DIY defrets turned a good bass into a poor-sounding one or improved upon a mediocre-sounding bass.
  5. Lesterbeat


    Nov 20, 2011
    THanks for responding.

    I don't have a before/after recording but I remember that when I wanted the bridge pickup Jaco sound it was always there. But my ears weren't as developed as they are now. It's very possible that the bass sounds the same as it did with frets. I don't think the defretting has anything to do with it. So let's say that the bass always sounded the same. I've stried different strings and , as I said, compared to my other jazz, it's very dull. MAybe I'll make a video to demonstrate the difference.

    I want to try another set of pickups but am concerned it will sound the same.

    BTW-the neck was originally unfinished but since I was using rounds on it, I wanted to protect it. So i had my tech finish it. What's annoying, possibly because I didn't understand the process, is that the finished neck is still getting damaged from the roundwounds.

  6. Mark4


    Oct 21, 2007
    The classic Jazz bass sound comes from singlecoil pickups. I'm pretty sure that the Noiseless pickups are humbuckers, which might explain why they didn't sound right. Fender Originals or Custom Shop '60s should do the trick, but other single coil pickups may get you into the same ballpark as well.
  7. Lesterbeat


    Nov 20, 2011
    THanks Mark,

    I'll try the custom shop ones. They say there like the 60s ones. If they don't give me the sound I'm after, I'll give up.

    I'll let you know what happens.

  8. Duke21


    Nov 14, 2010
    Narvik, Norway
    The Geddy is a jazz bass, thus heavy body, single coil pups. In addition the fretboard is finished with clear epoxy.
  9. Lesterbeat


    Nov 20, 2011
    OMG- You guys are going to laugh!
    Problem solved!
    While playing my bass today, I stumbled onto something odd. I usually roll up all the knobs on the bass and then pull down the volume on the neck PUP out of habit. But today I didn't touch all the knobs and what do you know? It isn't dull anymore.

    I remember now that when my tech took the frets off he said there was something wrong with one of the pots so he changed it. He must have put it in backwards or something because it's working the opposite of how it should.

    The bass sounded dull since the fret job because the tone has always been all the way down.

    I can't believe I installed new pickups and returned them.

    THis is funny. I knew the bass used to sound better.

    Thanks for all who chimed in.
  10. Duke21


    Nov 14, 2010
    Narvik, Norway
    Man, I must say, I must laugh a bit!
    Always when I pick up a bass I check the relief and the controls position ;)
    Glad to hear you solved the problem!