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Precision bass - Sounds so good because it was first, or it's just near to perfection

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Michael Jewels, Apr 30, 2004.

  1. The Fender Precision bass is still used by many amateurs and pros alike. Its tone is more or less the reference tone by which many other basses are judged.

    So, do you think the old, reliable P-bass' tone sounds so good to us because it was the first electric bass, and therefore a de facto reference tone, or did Leo Fender just happen to get it right on the first try?

  2. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    Leo must have been divinely inspired...the fact that those early P's STILL sound good after all the tinkering and embellishment the instrument has gone through in 50 years is nothing less than amazing...
  3. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    IMO P bass tone is brash and raw. unsophisticated comes to mind. But, that is to be expected from any protypical development.
  4. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    IMO he got it just about right on the first try. The '57 P-Bass was right on the money. The '51's just took care of the low end until we got there.
  5. Slightly off topic;

    I love the way P-basses sound, but I cannot play them. When I am using a pick, well, it gets fumbly, and clumsy. And when playing with my fingers, resting my thumb on the pickup does not feel right, and I need something under my fingers when I play with my fingers.
  6. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I think he was on the money for some people. I think the P bass tone is awesome, but i could never see myself ONLY owning a P bass. For me a P/J combo is perfection. I need that little bit of growl from the J for slapping.
  7. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    I'd say he got it right on the second try, i.e., the '57 and following P. The pickup is a masterpiece, the body contours are comfortable whether you're fat or skinny, and it fits many types of music.
  8. i think he got it right on the first try, and also got it right on the second try, too.

    i started on a p copy and walked away from a tone i didn't like. but the more i played and the better i got, i realized it wasn't the tone of the bass but my own playing that i didn't like. these days i loves me a good pbass.

  9. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    Isn't that really the appeal, tho?
  10. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile

    :bassist: ROCK-N-ROLL :bassist:

    It's not my voice bass wise, but most times I'm moved by an electric bassist's tone... he's (or she's) thumpin a P
  11. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Not seeing a downside, here.
  12. Thor

    Thor Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    I agree with that. A lot of people I like have used them
    Duck Dunn especially, but I don't want one.

    I also don't care for the neck.

    But that is just me.
  13. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    IMO - It's what you cut your teeth on.

    Yeah, I love Precis's.......but that's all I knew when I was in grade school.

    Try talking to someone like Larry Pollack at Aero Custom Pickups. He told me that their best selling pickup is hardly their best sounding pickup, from an audiophile's point of view. But it sells the best because it has "the sound" that is most familiar to most people.

    Bill Bartolini is the same way. He used to be a Spanish/flamenco guitar luthier, a highly complicated art, and is a tone purist. But his pickups sound "too natural" for some people.....(even though they rock just fine for me!).

    Sometimes, a Big Mac tastes way better than pate' de foie gras.
  14. I think TB member Andy Daventry summed it up best when he described a Precision's tone as, "complex."

    I also think that a P-bass pickup only sounds *right* when it's in the spot Leo intended it to be in. Sure, you can move it a little towards the neck or the bridge, but my old B.C. Rich Eagle had a double P set up. The P-pickup at the bridge never sounded right to me; I think it didn't hear enough fundamentals.

  15. metron

    metron Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2003
    I didnt care for the sound of a p bass until I learned how to play. Before that it seemed to me like the bass was lacking something. I was looking for lots of knobs and active boost to make up in sound for what I could get using my fingers. Now I cant live without my Precision! :bassist: I dont think its an issue of it being a reference tone. It never was for me. I think Leo just got it right the second time! :D
  16. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Yup. People who grew up on recordings played on the P (because that was the only bass around), then seeing the players playing Ps, for the same reason, and then getting a P, also for the same reason, naturally associate bass tone with the P-bass.

    I respect the P-bass, the impact it has had on music and the world of bass, but I dont like it. I dont like the shape, (especially ones with big white pickguards! yuck! :spit: ), and I dont even like the tone that much... "Brash, raw, unsophisticated" - it is like a blunt axe, it's not a precise thing - even though its name is 'Precision'... :rolleyes: . It's got a hollow tone I dont really like, and most of the people play it wiht picks... Its not really for me... Much rather a Jazz, if I would have to choose a Fender - but since they dont make sixes, I dont think I will (and by the prices they have here... :mad: stupid dealers!)
    Just my opinion
  17. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003
    Leo got it right.
    !957-66 never played a bad one, some were better than others.
    They alway record great.
  18. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    The P-Bass does have a raw tone, but it is a tone that can be mastered by a subtle player. I believe that the P-Bass, like any bass, rewards a good player. Anyone who doesn't get a good tone on a P-Bass, probably hasn't worked at it enough. That's not to say that the Precision will be everyone's cup of tea, I just think that the Precision is very malleable. Afterall, look at all of the different sounding bassists who have made the P-Bass work in very different settings. :cool:
  19. IMO, the P owes 90% of its success to getting there first. I had one, and very quickly got bored with its limitations.

    IMO, if the P and J were introduced today for the first time, the market would reject them.

    I'm grateful that today, bass players can choose from a wide variety of wonderful, modern instruments, rather than be limited to boring Fenders.

    My two pesos.
  20. rojo412

    rojo412 Walnut is fun! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    I personally feel the only upside to the P bass coming to pass is the fact that it was what new instruments were developed from. In other words, people said "Well... I hate this sound, so what can I do to make it better?" And so we have the bass market of today.

    The bass itself is great for it's lack of complexity, so for people who are careless, you don't have as much to break. For makers, it's cheap as hell to produce. For people who know no better, it's easy to start with.

    On the other hand, you have 1 pickup, 1 volume, and 1 tone knob. This puts a HUGE damper on the versatility of the tone of the bass. I know many people that use these like them for being a "no brainer" bass and they just sit back and lay a basic groundwork of music. Not a problem if that's your bag, but it's not mine. I mean, yeah, you see bands playing these all the time, but like the bass, the songs sound the same through the whole CD, they are imitating the tone used by other P users. Yes, many genres (punk, metal, soul, etc), but that doesn't mean they sound right for the job.
    Most Fenders I've seen have awful, cheap necks. Keeping a bass like that intonated and set up is a nightmare. The bridge is weak, the neck is weak. The neck/body joints almost always have a huge gap. And yes, I'm talking about the vintage, USA, Mexican, etc... all of em!
    The headstock is huge and weighs a ton. I never found the bass to balance that well due to this fact. Also, I hit many ceilings taking it off, though that's my fault I suppose.

    You know, I could go all day on how they blow, yet someone else could go on with the merits of them. The way I see it, progress is good. The modern computer I type on, the broadband connection it uses, the fuel efficient car I drive, the cell phone I can carry with me in my pocket... the active, graphite necked, 24 fretted, exotic wooded basses I play.

    If you want to write letters and send them postal, if you like the 5 mile per gallon boat you drive, if you like spinning a rotary dial phone in your living room, the P bass may be great for you.