P-Bass Tone ( for the experts )

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by The Bassmaniac, Aug 25, 2004.

  1. This thread probably won't be of interest to those who are'nt fans of the P-bass tone; but if you happen to be one of those who love it, I'm curious as to your thoughts on what it is that gives these instruments their distinctive sound.

    I always thought that it was the mid positioning of the split pick up that did it, but when I play my bass acoustically, it still has that FAT low mid sound. I have other basses that have split P pick ups in them but they just don't sound anything like my P bass.

    What is it then, the shape of the bass? the resonance of the thin pressed steel bridge? etc, ect.

    Anyone got any thoughts on this?
  2. I think that the split coil pickup would be the biggest factor. But maybe alder body wood gives more midrange than ash of vise versa. Also maple vs. rosewood on the neck.
  3. Split coil pups in the perfect "sweet" spot. Leo Fender was a genius - plain and simple. The pups/positioning doesn't explain the acoustic sound, but I agree with you on that one as well - just enjoy it! :hyper:
  4. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    As with any bass, the pickup is definitely the biggest factor. The split coil in particular has a fat sound due to the wide bobbins. Of course placement is also critical: the EA strings have plenty of thump, and the DG strings sing a little more because the coil is closer to the bridge.

    Some prefer the split coils reversed (EA coil closer to the bridge, DG coil closer to the neck). That config arguably a little more balanced, string-to-string. But I *much* prefer the standard configuration. I've always enjoyed playing the strings for tone: choosing 12th fret A string over 7th fret D string, for example.

    Single coil P-basses are another animal due to the narrow pickup and having just one small polepiece per string.
  5. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    IME, P-basses and J-basses are essentially the same without the electronics. One could argue that the skinnier J-bass neck makes some difference, but it'll be subtle at best... I've never noticed it.
  6. not to mention that the coils are hooked up in series, giving it that extra punch. i think that booty, plus the clarity that comes from the string only being picked up in one spot, is where the magic happens.
  7. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    good point... I neglected to mention the series wiring, which is a big part of the trademark wooly P-bass tone! The P pup also sounds good wired in parallel (big output drop) but the resulting hi-fi sound is too polite for my taste.
  8. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    I'm not a P bass guy but I give it a shot periodically. I just picked up a P pup from a Celinder bass. And definetly not an expert though I've gone to considerable extension to isolate where the tone in a bass actually comes from. But the response stands for any bass.

    From messing around with various pups and pup configurations (active and passive), routing basses, playing basses with different acoustic properties, swapping a neck around once, playing different strings, running passive as well as through various onboard preamps.

    The bass itself to me is like a band, there are certain combinations that are just magic. Change one element and you lose something. Pups are definetly a great place to change tonal character of a bass in a major way but the acoustics of the bass will show through the pup regardless. Certain pups just seem to match the harmonics of the bass well. A pup can sound good in various basses but stick it in that one and the tone shifts to another level. I've got a set of Marcus Miller Jazz pups I can't tear my self away from and though they sound decent in my other basses, in one bass they have an edge to them that's just not there in the others. Even picked another set of MM pups but didn't get that edge in the bass with them.

    On the other hand, I defretted a bass and missed being able to play it fretted cause it was acoustically the brightest bass I had so I swapped the neck from a thudder bass to it, and the thudding characteristic of the other bass followed that neck. The bright bass wasn't bright anymore.

    When you throw your rigging into the mix, it gets into the same thing all over.
  9. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    IMO the alder body and wide neck are a big factor in it's acoustic tone. In the past I owned P's with maple fingerboards, my newest P has a rosewood fingerboard. To me, a rosewood fingerboard sounds ever so slightly smoother.

    I've replaced it's stock pickup with a Nordstrand NP4 pickup. I thought the stock pickup's low end was too muddy. The NP4 sounds very vintage to my ears.

    I agree, Leo Fender was a genius. Look at the simplicity in the P's design, yet it's tone suits so many styles of music. It's perfectly functional. It can be raw and upfront, it can be smooth and warm, and pretty much anything between. I'll always have a few Precisions in my collection.
  10. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    I'm not necessarily an expert (as I've been a jazz bass guy most of my life), but the pickup design and placement is probably the largest contributing factor, but certainly not the only factor. However, since having a chance to play a few Lull P4s and P5 relatively recently, I've definatley becoming a P-bass convert. I will definatley end up ordering one for myself, but I've really been diggin' that deep, grindy, classic P tone lately. Long live the P!!! :hyper: :smug: