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p bass off?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by mophead, Nov 8, 2005.


  1. mophead

    mophead

    Oct 24, 2004
    Texas Panhandle
    I recently brought home a friends 78 P bass for a cleanup and jack replacement. After trying the p bass side by side with my newer (2000) Jazz bass, I found the E string on the P was much less pronounced than on the Jazz. I also have a Mexican Jazz with flatwounds and it sounded much deeper than the P on the E string. I then went a bought a set of flatwounds to see if that would make any difference on the P and they really did not change the sound much. Not having owned a P bass before, I thought this was probably something to do with this P bass.
    Is the sound that much different between the P and Jazz when it comes to the E string? I tried raising the pickup which did not help, then cleaned the top grunge off the pickups and the sound remained the same. Running this through an Ampeg V4B amp and V4B cab with two Altec 15's. The jazz will really rumble down low, but the P bass had no balls on the low end.
    Thought I always wanted to own a P bass just because, but not sure now. It feels good to play, but does not reproduce the low end like either Jazz does.

    Is there that big a difference or are we looking at something wrong with the P?
     
  2. I'm going to have to stick my neck out, and ask how you had the pickups blended on the Jazz, and if both basses are bone stock? (minus flats, of course) I'm no Fender buff, but it sounds to me like either A.) The P Bass isn't at 100%. Or B.) The older Precisions just don't go as low as they do now.


    ~Ryan
     
  3. Good questions... I've got no experience in this issue but I'd like to hear an experienced opinion.
     
  4. mophead

    mophead

    Oct 24, 2004
    Texas Panhandle
    As far as I know, everything is bone stock on both my jazz basses. I normally run both pickups at half volume with the tone knob about 1/4 off low tone.
    I know the p bass tone knob worked because you could tell a significant difference when turning it stop to stop. The volume pot seemed to be in order also. The D and G strings on the P bass seemed brighter than my jazz, so I started to wonder if a P bass is just set up for a brighter tone with less emphasis on the low end. Let me state I am no expert when it comes to instruments, other than keeping my kids in cellos, trumpets, and keyboards, but when you hit the E string on the Jazz, the garage door rattles like crazy, when you hit the E string on the P bass, you hear it, but you do not feel it. If that makes any sense.
    My thoughts are that the P bass was always the low end machine for Fender and the Jazz came along as an alternative to allow more sounds via two pickups and being able to blend as you see fit.

    Perhaps I am bassackwards on my thinking?

    While this may tread on sacred ground, the 70's models that I have had in my hands, when compared to the more modern versions, say '95 on, are not the quality instruments of today as far as how they fit together. This P bass does not fit very well at the neck pocket ( also tried out a 74 Jazz with the same problem). When you can slide your drivers license into that pocket, that ain't a good fit. I started this journey with a Marcus Miller Jazz (Japanese) that fit together better than anything else I have seen. I am not a fan of the active pickup. Probably too lazy on my part. The sustain of my 2000 Jazz just goes on forever when compared to either of the two aforementioned 70 models. Yet the prices of these 70's just keeps on climbing. Not playing in the 60's, I have no idea what a pre CBS model sounds like, and at their prices, I'll just have to do without that knowledge.
    Our group jams at a friends barn on weekends sometimes, and I just want the P bass to sound good. Sometimes I just drop in from out of town traveling and use the P instead of my own because I do not have my bass with me. Regardless of the fit, I just hate to see it not be used. It is a Frankenstein looking beast, old white refinish peeling off, tuning pegs that have never been cleaned, pickguard that looks like it was polished with 80 grit (although the matching serial number is on the back of the pickguard). Guess this would be instant Karma in some circles, but without any low end gonads, it will probably just stay in the case unless it is the only one available. Seems like a shame for an old bass to be left out of the mix. It can probably tell some stories and feels good in your hands, just does not have that low end.
    Thanks for any thoughts on what to do with this bass.
     
  5. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    Raise the E side of the pickup a little.
     
  6. FenderDez

    FenderDez

    Nov 4, 2005
    Berkshire, UK
    hey, this is my first post. i've a 2004 Jazz and P bass and have also noticed the difference but it hasn't bothered me as in my opinion the jazz can be a bit tooo low. I've set the EQ up on my amp to make both basses sound really good, it's a matter of taste obvioulsy but with the right EQ anything can sound good. :bassist:
     
  7. AGCurry

    AGCurry

    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    It's really impossible to know "from a distance" whether anything is wrong with the P bass. As Chef wrote, check the pickup height.

    There may be something wrong with the pickup. You may have a lemon. There were quite a few lemons among late-70s Fenders.

    All that said: I've always found the Jazz to have a deeper tone, but without the midrange of the Precision. The P has a thicker tone, but not deeper.
     
  8. tplyons

    tplyons

    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Sounds like a pickup height problem from the first post. Check that first, raise it if you need to. If not, check all solder joints, that's sometimes a problem.
     
  9. mophead

    mophead

    Oct 24, 2004
    Texas Panhandle
    I did raise the pickup height as far as it would allow and it did not seem to make a difference. As per AG's comment about the deeper tone of the jazz, it might seem that I have stumbled into the real difference between the two instruments. I had always thought the P bass would be the deeper sounding of the two.

    The bassackwards thinking comment may be proving true.

    Is there any way to test pickups to see if they are performing properly? Ohms, volts, or other measurement that can be done with a voltmeter?
    Thank you all for the comments. Very much appreciated.
     
  10. AGCurry

    AGCurry

    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    Another possibility is that you have a bum E string.

    I think that if the pickup works at all, it should work for both the E and A strings. Someone correct me if I'm wrong...
     
  11. thedoctor

    thedoctor

    Jun 20, 2005
    I do not keep a P around for very long but have noticed the same thing. The placement of the pickup along the string/scale could be responsible but I lean towards the pickups themselves. A non-Fender P-style guitar does not carry this trait like a real Fender.That is one of the reasons I don't keep one around because I am spoiled rotten.
     
  12. jgsbass

    jgsbass

    May 28, 2003
    Floral Park, NY
    Either of 2 things.
    Bad E string. It happens. Is the A string a problem, too?
    A pickup on its way to being microphonic or dead. When you tap the pickup does it make a high pitched clink of a sound?

    Mid to late '70's Fender ran hot and cold, the later, the colder. My experience with P basses and their clones is: its a fat deep instrument. Thick sounding? Yes. But fat and deep as well. You should be able to go E to E with a stock Jazz bass and have slightly different but wholly usable, deep E string sound.
     
  13. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    I have 2 1972 P's; one fretted, one fretless.
    They both have plenty of lows. Something ain't right there...
    Plenty of companies make really nice replacement pups, but put some fresh strings on there, and pull the cover to make sure all the solder connections look good...make sure you signal cord is good too.
     
  14. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    IME, yes, a J-bass on 50/50 blend has a smoother "deeper" sound. A P bass has plenty of supportive bottom, but is really all about the stronger mids, which is what makes them bark and sit so well in a rock mix. The P pickup is closer to the bridge than the neck pickup on a J.

    I always had the same reaction to Ps (having learned on Js). It wasn't till I spent some real time with a P in a live rock band that I really began to understand them. You have to hear them in context.
     
  15. The 0x

    The 0x

    Aug 24, 2003
    Timonium, MD
    I always found Ps to be deeper sounding than Js.

    Also, the P pickup is in the same position as the J pickup on a jazz.
     
  16. thedoctor

    thedoctor

    Jun 20, 2005
    It seems that there is enough agreement to say your perceptions of the P bass are common and normal. They do seem to lack the low rumble of a J or other bass, at least in some configurations and vintages. That should be enough of a disclaimer to keep me out of trouble.
    The J bass and other designs came to be in order to address some issues. This would be one of them. It still is one fabulous piece of guitar and benifits largely from effects, EQing and a good understanding of how it plays with different amps and technique.
    This forum is way cool in that people can discuss stuff like this without someone "flaming" or going on a tangent tirade.
     
  17. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    Fatter or deeper? I think a P is fatter and a J goes deeper.

     
  18. the split p-bass pickup is actually a quite bright sounding pickup (as a general rule, of course). It's the placement that gives it its character...which is more a full lower-mid than a heavy bottom

    Indeed Jazz basses can generally get that lower end a little better, but IMO they don't capture that "tight in the mix" tone as well..

    as far as the clarity on the E-string...thing...that's the strings doing that, most likely....my P-bass copy with flats has a clean, defined E.
     
  19. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    A slightly weak E string is a common flaw on 70's Ps. When I say that a 70's P is "a good one", I mean its got a strong low string and no dead spot.
     
  20. jgsbass

    jgsbass

    May 28, 2003
    Floral Park, NY
    Absolutely false. Its different position accounts for its unique tone