Question about the sound of a '74 Jazz bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bassphil, Dec 10, 2012.

  1. Bassphil

    Bassphil Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2005
    Hey, doesn't anyone out there happen to own a '74 Jazz bass AND a '60's Jazz bass?

    I picked up a '74 a few years ago solely because it fell into my lap. I already have an unbelievable sounding '69. At the time I was thinking that I could leave the '69 at home and take the '74 on the road.

    Well, I'm just now starting to fool around with the '74 a bit. I've been setting it up- truss rod, intonation, pickup height, etc... but nothing I do gets it to sound as fat as the '69.

    It seems to me like the front (neck) pickup isn't pulling it's weight. I've checked everything- all the solder joints, volume pots, jack, pickup... everything seems to be completely in order. It's not like there's active electronics to fail, so I'm guessing this is just what a '74 sounds like.

    I bought it from the original owner, who said he never did anything to it. I should mention that it's a rare 4 bolt neck- none of that tilting weirdness.

    My question is, what is a '74 supposed to sound like? This one sounds good, it's just a little light in the bass compared to the '69. Is it normal to have a weak-ish front pickup in '74? It sounds super clear and nice, just a bit anemic for my tastes.

    I'm planning on selling it, and I want to make sure that there's not an issue with it before I give it to someone. Thanks for your time!

  2. guroove


    Oct 13, 2009
    Buffalo, NY
    70's jazz basses sound different because the placement of the bridge pickup is closer to the bridge giving it more of that bridge pickup sound. It shouldn't sound thin though. I've never found any two fender basses to sound the same, so it's not surprising that they sound different from one another. Are they both set up? Have you checked the pickup to string clearances?
  3. funk7856

    funk7856 Supporting Member

    Feb 22, 2012
    I don't own a 60's Jazz but I can tell you there is no lack of low end on my '74. FWIW, compared to my '64CS, the '74 has a slightly darker, more snarly growl to it. My '64CS comes across as much brighter sounding.
  4. michael_atw


    Feb 28, 2009
    Jamestown, NY
    Probably just a weak pickup either by design or age.
  5. Bassphil

    Bassphil Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2005
    Thanks for the replies everyone!

    Hmm, so it was either built that way, or it's aged into that sound. The more I think about it, something has to be up, but what could possible "break" on a passive bass. There should definitely be more low end, but I can't imagine that it would have been built that way.

    One thing I noticed is that as I turn the volume up on the front pickup, it takes about a 1/4 turn to make a difference. It's almost as if the volume pot isn't letting the pickup turn up to its proper fullness.

    The pickup height looks good to me, but I'll check it again.

    Maybe the question I should be asking is, can I pickup somehow loose it's gain?

    Thanks again for your help!
  6. michael_atw


    Feb 28, 2009
    Jamestown, NY

    I don't know much, but pickups can degrade over time without completely losing sound. Does the pickup bobbin show any warping, corrosion, etc?

    Also, older pots have that issue where they seem to lose their muster - or weren't born with it. I've dealt with some 50's-60's guitars and basses where the volume pot would need to go about 8 to even come on. It would go from 1-10 in two numbers. You'd lose that initial volume control but otherwise it didn't affect the "top" end of the pickup's ability. 10 would still be 10, just 6 would be 0.
  7. Bassphil

    Bassphil Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2005
  8. Bassphil

    Bassphil Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2005
    I noticed that the copper was pretty dark. I have a ’65 P bass that I recently bought (thus the reason for selling this Jazz). When I checked the pickup dates on that bass, I noticed that the copper was super clean and bright copper colored. This Jazz is definitely tarnished. .

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    The wire should be dark. It is enamel coated. That isn't the issue. You could try a different set of pickups in it, but the bass will sound thinner than a 60's anyway as the bridge pickup is a half inch closer to the bridge.
  10. Bassphil

    Bassphil Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2005
    Whew. Based in what I'm hearing so far, this maybe just be the way this bass sounds. Still, I'd like to be able to check the output of the pickup scientifically. Doesn't anyone know how to do that? I guess that I would simple touch my multimeter to the leads and look at the reading. Anyone know what setting and what reading I should be looking for?
  11. michael_atw


    Feb 28, 2009
    Jamestown, NY
    I figured you had already checked the resistance. The Ohm setting (omega symbol). I don't know how much they read at that point but I'm guessing around 7k? Someone else would know that.

    What can degrade is the magnet in connection to the wire. It can die from the inside out - insofar as the simple understanding I know.
  12. bobalu


    Oct 1, 2004
    above the 49th
    My '74 is pretty fat sounding when I compare it to my Road Worn Jazz. I can't get over the "clarity" of the sound, it's just amazing.
  13. Luckydog


    Dec 25, 1999
    I have two 69s, a 77 and a 76. The 69s definitely have a bigger bottom end, and thicker overall sound. Lots of differences- weight, pickup placement, body wood, pickup winding, tone/vol pots, finish, perhaps even neck joint.
  14. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
  15. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    First things first...measure the output of the pickup. Back then, pickup winding can be inconsistant. You can find anywhere from 6.2 to 7.5k
  16. Bassphil

    Bassphil Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2005
    Okay, I finally had a minute to pull the pickup back out. Using my Fluke Multimeter at it's Ohm setting, I'm reading 20.8K. I touched the red and white Fluke probes to the black and white leads right where they connect to the pickup.

  17. michael_atw


    Feb 28, 2009
    Jamestown, NY
    Not a legitimate reading.

    You have to test until you get a legit reading.
  18. NWB


    Apr 30, 2008
    Kirkland, WA
    I think you found the problem. As Caca de kick noted, it should be in the neighborhood of 7k. It may be a broken coil wire somewhere inside the pickup.

    Perhaps a rewind is in order?
  19. Bassphil

    Bassphil Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2005
    I decided to pull both pickups and lay them on their backs to make sure that I was making solid contact.

    Since the volume and tone pots are affecting the signal, I did a little experiment and checked the reading with the pots either all the way up (on) or all the way closed (off). Here's what I found. The readings are in ohms or kilohms (I'm assuming that's what the K means on the meter...).

    All three knobs off:
    Front pup: 7.04k
    Back pup: 7.01K

    Front On, Back Off, Tone On
    Front pup:125.4K
    Back pup: 38.7

    Front On, Back Off, Tone Off
    Front pup:125.4K
    Back pup: 39.6

    Front Off, Back On, Tone On
    Front pup:16.5
    Back pup: 7.02k

    Front Off, Back On, Tone Off
    Front pup:16.5
    Back pup: 7.02k

    So, what do these readouts look like?

    By the way, when I pulled the rear pickup out, the white wire popped off. I was hoping that a faulty soldering joint was somehow causing the problem. I soldered it back in, but it didn't affect anything.

    I when I put everything back together, I made sure the front pickup was as high as I could get it, then I lowered the strings to get them in even closer. It still sounds anemic :rollno:

    Thanks again to everyone for your help!!

  20. tjnkoo


    Apr 19, 2011
    Metro Atlanta
    I would possibly attempt a pickup swap. My 77' has EMGs from the 80's, and it sounds killer. The thin tone could also be partially because the bass is so light. I'm by no means an expert here, but my 77' weighs nearly 11 pounds I believe, and it has a big sound to it. I've heard a teacher's lighter 78' and it had a much thinner sound to it. The weight/thickness of tone was expounded upon in a Juan Alderete interview I saw once.