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P pickups for Motown sound. Which ones?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Jim Boiter, Jan 1, 2004.

  1. Jim Boiter

    Jim Boiter

    Jan 1, 2004
    If you were going to change your P's on your Fender what would you go with for a Motown sound?
  2. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    I personally would use the Basslines SPB-1 "Vintage" (in fact I am using one), the Fender Original '62, the Duncan Antiquities, or Lindy Fralin.
  3. And definitely not the Duncan Hot nor Quarter Pound series. Nor the DiMarzio Will Power Middle. Been there, done that, with both.

    Add flatwound strings, for sure.

    Fender 9050 flats, Pyramid Gold flats for sure. Probably LaBella Jamerson flats and maybe D'Addario Chrome flats.

    No TI Jazz flats, as they have a different tonal character, and (to me) more midrange. I play TI Flats all the time on my P.
  4. Metal Mitch

    Metal Mitch

    Jul 14, 2003
    Ditto the SPB-1 and Fender 9050 flats, that's what I'm running on my '76 P. For Motown definitely use 250k pots and turn the tone almost all the way off.

    I know this is the pickup forum, but I can't say enough good things about those Fender flats. Much brighter than I expected, they still sound like a SS string but without the string noise. The gauge selection has a more natural feel than +.20 per string increment I'm used to. The G is less twangy and the E is less boomy. Thx to Bruce and Flatwound for turning me on to those.

    Sounds like... WOOD. Gives me a nice refreshing break from the stuff I do most of the time. "Get on the Night Train...

  5. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    For me, the quickest way to get to point A to point B is to use what Jamerson did, or at least as close as you can get in 2004. The previously mentioned Fender CS reissues, or the Lindy Fralins, James Jamerson Labella flats, and an Ampeg flip-top will get you as close to JJ's sound without having his head, heart or hands.
  6. pyrohr


    Aug 28, 2001
    Pakistani compound
    Lindy Fralins :bassist:
  7. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    My formula is Fender CS Original 62' P pickup, Flatwounds, and a foam mute that goes under the strings near the bridge.
  8. gfab333


    Mar 22, 2000
    Honolulu, Hawaii

    I just slapped a set of SD Basslines Hot P pick ups in my MIM P bass. I'm after the Jamerson tone as well; I also want to use the bass for blues and classic rock applications, with flatwounds naturally. I selected this model pickup after hours of research here at TB reading threads on pickups, and talking to other players. The SD Hot set has a fat bottom which can still be very punchy. The mids and high are warm and smooth. Bassically, you get a vintage Fender vibe with a slightly fatter bottom and mid-bass. I've heard good things about Fralins, certain Bartolini models, and the Fender Vintage pickups.

    I've read a lot about Jamerson and listened to his work. IMHO, it's not just the pickups that make up his sound. Aside from Jamerson's awesome fingers, the tone also arises from the bass's "setup" and the amp rig. You need to impart a certain amount of relief to the neck (for example, more than I normally would have for my 5 string basses which have nearly straight necks), and you need to raise the string action a bit. Not extremely high, but significantly higher than what you would call "low action". This set up helps gives the string that Jamerson-style attack and decay, when it is played.

    Next the amp. No need for a Hi Fi rig here. We can't all go out and buy a vintage Ampeg tube amp, but we can adjust how we run our own rigs. Turn down the horn, if you have one, using the attenuator nob and roll of some highs on the amp head. I find that I need to totally change my amp's EQ settings when I use the P Bass as compared to my other basses (my 5 strings all have real low action and round wounds). I also found that having a tube amp, or a tube pre / SS power amp setup, helps in getting a fatter tone. having that tube in the equation fattens up your tone nicely. Having been a SS kind of guy running GKs for decades, it took me awhile to get around to buying a head with a tube preamp.

    Another thing is string gauge. The Labella Jamerson flats are huge! 110-95-73-52. I tried them, and they really do give you that Jamerson tone. The increased tension required a lot of truss rod adjustment in order to keep the neck at my preferred relief. I went back to the standard gauge due to personal preference though, but kept the Jamerson G, so my gauges are 105-85-65-52.

    Once you pick your desired pickup, put some flats on there, do some tweaking, you'll be off on your own Jamerson tone-journey. Have lots of fun with it!
  9. gfab333


    Mar 22, 2000
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    A side note, on the stuffing a piece of foam under the strings at the bridge... I tried that as well. I remember seeing bassplayers in clubs down here doing that in the early 1970s. You probably noticed that Bob Babbit did that in some of the recent sessions in the Standing in the Shadows movie.

    I noticed two things during my recent experiment in trying this out. Once you've figured out how thick to cut the sponge so that you obtain the desired muting effect and you stuff it under the strings at the bridge... you indeed get a real nice Jamerson-sounding muted tone with a fast decay. I was pleased with that. Here's the other thing, which wasn't surprising... The bass will play in tune from the open string to about the 10th fret or so. Once you get up to the 12th to 18th+ fret, the bass is slightly out of tune. maybe less than a 1/4 tone or so, but it's still noticeable. The pressure of the foam against the string throws off the intonation of the bass. But then again, I don't recall any Motown bass lines going up into the extreme upper scales of the bass.
  10. Metal Mitch

    Metal Mitch

    Jul 14, 2003
    Gfab, great post!

  11. My formula for that Motown bass tone is pretty simple: My pickups in my 83 MIA Pbass are Fender CS Original 62's, TI flats, foam mute under the strings. For amplification I use my Ampeg B25-B head and an Aguilar GS112 cab with the tweeter off. I can definitely capture most of the bass tone vibe from the Motown recording but the fact that the bass was recorded direct on most if not all of those recordings is what prevents me from truly mimicing that sound.

  12. How about tone control? I find that my Precision (with flats) sounds better when the tone is rolled off halfway or even all the way (with a Roland Cube 30!).
  13. gfab333


    Mar 22, 2000
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Rabid G,

    That's how I run the tone control on my P bass for the "Jamerson or Duck Dunn style" tone, regardless of what rig I'm playing through.
  14. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    maybe he's a graverobber and an evil scientist... in which case he may very well have his head, heart, and hands.

    but if that were the case, i guess he wouldn't be asking this question
  15. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    I had a beater P mid '70's that came to me with a yuchy yellowed DiMarzio. I replaced the D with a Fender Vintage '57 RI with the staggered poles, and I think that came really close to the right thump. Wish I still had that bass.