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Piezo only Precision Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by mohessa, Jul 8, 2014.

  1. I'm jazz bass player who's been at it for 30 years. Ten years ago I had to switch to electric because my left hand gave me problems.

    I tried all kinds of basses and approaches looking for a personal sound. Then I read an interview with Steve Swallow where he explains his view on things: He sees himself as a jazz guitarist! He just happens to play bass guitar.

    This approach means that you can tap into the endless resource built up by the jazz guitar greats: from pick technique (playing close to the neck), licks and phrasing, to thicker strings, greater string height, and humbucker in neck-position.

    This was exactly what Swallow did back in the 70's. He chose the Gibson EB-2 and the rest is jazz bass guitar history.

    I immediately liked this "I'm a jazz bass guitarist"-approach. So a few years ago I completely changed everything about my playing. Today I play with a pick. Mostly I've been using a conventional P-bass.

    Just like Swallow I added a high C string after a while to get greater solo range. Also, to enable my pick technique the string spacing at the bridge is just 14-15 mm. In short, I've converted a 4 string P into a 5.

    With these specs in place I've been wanting to try piezos for a long time. And finally I got around to it last weekend.

    I decided to make the build as lightweight as possible and ordered a paulownia body and Hipshot Ultralite tuners. The bridge is 5 x ABM single bridges with built in piezos. The pre-amp is a GraphTech Ghost Acosti-phonic for bass. Total weight: 3.1 kg (6.6 lbs). And in perfect balance. No neck dive!

    And hey... The sound is simply amazing!!! I couldn't be happier.

    It's a much deeper and more solid bass tone than with mag pups, and it has a crisp clear presence. Great sustain. Great natural tone.

    With a total build cost of just 1100-1200 USD this is really an instrument that players in other genres should check out. Definitely! Hip hop, r'n'b, reggae... Just try it out.

    And come on... Exactly how cool is a piezo only P?! Doesn't it just look awsome?!

    I'll try to get back with some sound clips shortly.

    Last edited: Aug 18, 2014
    Jim Carr, adi77, Jhclark and 16 others like this.
  2. Super Iridium

    Super Iridium Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2013
    That's a seriously cool looking P. So the pickup is built into the bridge? Doesn't that tend to overemphasize the higher harmonics over the fundamental? I'd like to hear a sound clip when you get around to it. I bet a fretless version would sound cool too.
    mohessa likes this.
  3. very cool looking
    mohessa likes this.
  4. Grissle


    May 17, 2009
    Excellent, well done!
    Z -Bar and mohessa like this.
  5. M0ses


    Sep 11, 2009
    Los Angeles
    That is very sexy indeed!
    mohessa likes this.
  6. Matt B

    Matt B

    Mar 31, 2012
    New Zealand
    Looking forward to the sound clips...
    mohessa likes this.
  7. inate_hex


    Apr 4, 2010
    Manchester, England
    I occasionally wet the bed.
    Cool bass. I'm really looking forward to the sound clips!

    Musicman Bongo club #175
    mohessa likes this.
  8. wideyes


    May 9, 2007
    Eugene, OR
    Man, that is just a beautiful combination of things I like! I might be interested in one of these someday...
    mohessa likes this.
  9. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    Interesting. It makes me think of something out of an alien movie though

  10. Great idea mohessa and perfect execution!

    I was wondering if someone would ever do this.

    Not a Fender story, but certainly a Piezo story. When Keith Roscoe built my first bass in 1999, I had him use an RMC piezo system with a 13 pin Roland (midi) output, along with the Bartolini mags that came standard on his basses. When I got the bass and brought it to rehearsal, every time I turned the mags off and went Piezo only the band would go - WHOA, what did you change - that sounds GREAT! After a few weeks of this I finally called Keith and said, Hey - I am not using the mags, can you make me a new body with no pickup routings? I want the clean look - this bird's eye maple is too sweet to cover up with pickup routings and I know you have some more spectacular maple from the same batch. Of course, he thought I had lost my mind, but I wanted the clean look of that beautiful wood. So I boxed up the body and sent it off to him. He made me a new one and when I got it, I bolted the neck back on, made some minor setup adjustments and I was off and running. The original bass was basically a Jazz profile neck and I had him make another in 2000 with more of a PBass neck profile as a matching twin:



    Later when I was re-imagining one of my Fenders, I had an ETS piezo bridge and a Richter preamp, both out of Germany that I bought for another project and never used. I decided to use them on my T-Bass as below. I really got hooked on the "closeness" piezos provide and I secretly wish I had piezo's on all of my Fenders.


    Of course, my Rob Allen "mouse" is also piezo only.


    Kudos to you Mohessa for boldly going where few men have gone before! I don't know about you - but it cleaned up my playing a lot. I find the piezos to be very unforgiving as far as what they pick up in the way of nuances. Definitely influenced my playing in a GOOD way.

    Sound clips would be appreciated if you have any!

    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014
    chuck norriss and mohessa like this.
  11. pnchad


    Nov 3, 2005
    I think I feel a project coming on

    also a jazz player - can't do DB much due to damage

    I've got lots of piezos around but an experiment is in order
    mohessa likes this.
  12. Cool idea. I too am looking forward to some sound clips.
    mohessa likes this.
  13. I saw this piezo only idea on a fretless Tune Bass Maniac in the 80's.
    Pearl white with an extended ebony fingerboard, it was gorgeous.
    Just like your Pbass.
    mohessa likes this.
  14. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    Great bass!.. I'm waiting for the sound clip(s)...TY
    mohessa likes this.
  15. darrenmt


    Dec 15, 2004
    80's Godin Zeta Z1 springs to mind.
    mohessa and topcat2069 like this.
  16. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    That's a radical P-Bass.
    thanks for sharing.
    mohessa likes this.
  17. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    The Ghost bridge pickup is amazing. I have not heard it for bass, only guitar, but was blown away by the sound quality. Looking forward to the sound clips.
    mohessa likes this.
  18. and the Gibson Explorer Shadow.
    I love love love the clean look of piezo-only...but need a thumb anchor which would ruin the lines anyway :(

  19. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    Now that's different!

    mohessa likes this.
  20. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    LOVE IT.

    Two words: FLOATING THUMB! It's a good technique to adopt regardless. (I'm not all the way there, but I'm trying!)
    mohessa likes this.

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