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Reverse Precision Pickups or Standard?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bassrique, Oct 12, 2019 at 11:12 AM.

  1. Reverse

  2. Standard

  3. I can't think of a third, but here it is.

  1. I for one do not know much on this as I have only played standard if I recall correctly.

    Did Leo test the reverse P?
    jd56hawk likes this.
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
    Luigir, BOOG and SwitchGear like this.
  3. UntitledUser


    Sep 18, 2019
    The third solution could be {or usually IS in a lot of modern basses} a stacked humbucker in soapbar format.

    However the very first P-bass had a linear single coil {a.k.a. 51P}
    That was the first Leo's design.

    murphy and shadven like this.
  4. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    Love the reverse P in this!
  5. 4sight

    4sight Supporting Member

    Standard P for me.
  6. Torrente Cro

    Torrente Cro

    Sep 5, 2013
    Both :) IMG_20171216_131127.
    B-Mac, Max Bogosity, teh-slb and 16 others like this.
  7. Craig T Vector

    Craig T Vector Supporting Member

    Sep 8, 2013
    Liberty Hill, TX
    I have reverse on my stock US Geddy Jazz, and I always go the wrong direction when I first start tuning.
    nattiep and MYLOWFREQ like this.
  8. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    This topic has come up before. Someone, years ago, put up some interesting sound clips that illustrated some of the differences nicely.

    I don't know if Leo ever tested the "reverse" P arrangement.

    On basses with a reverse, split-P arrangement, I've seen some that flip the coils around the center-line of the standard P placement (the pickup as a whole is in the same place, the EA/DG coils are just "flipped," with the EA closer to the bridge and the DG closer to the neck) and some with the EA coil in its usual spot and the DG coil "flipped" around that, so that the pickup as a whole is closer to the neck. Some others (particularly when adding a J, MM, or something else in the bridge location) fudge the placement of the P (whether "reverse" or not) or the bridge pickup one way or the other.

    My Power Jazz Bass Special (a late 80s Fender with a P body, J neck, and a reverse P + J setup) has the P in the "standard" spot (near as I can tell from comparing it with "normal" Ps), with the coils flipped around the centerline of the standard placement. (I've also played a few other 4- and 5-string "reverse P" basses, with and without bridge pickups, with various placements of the neck pickup.)

    Taking the P solo (and assuming "standard" placement), the main difference you hear with a "reverse-P" is tighter low strings and more full high strings. (There's some difference in the harmonic profile, too, but let's stick with "tighter" and "more full" for now.) This goes counter the tendency for the low strings to "boom" a bit and the high strings to sound thin, and there are a lot of people (relatively speaking) who argue that this balances out the sound of the instrument better and that this is the way a Precision Bass should have been made from the outset -- "what Leo shoulda done."

    I agree that the sound of the instrument is more balanced/consistent this way (though you can still hear the transition from bass coil to treble coil if you listen) and that it better suits the instrument to some music but, for me, there is still something about the way a standard P is set up, with those more pillowy lows and sharper highs (that have something to do with -- or at least interact with -- the limitations of older amps in a fortuitous way) that... just occupies the space in a different way -- the lows sit differently, the highs pop differently. It you make it growl, it growls differently (more broad, open, relaxed -- subjective, but that's how I hear it). When playing that old music, I feel more connected to it with a standard P than I do a reverse. The instrument speaks and sits in the mix differently.

    All that said, there are a lot of other factors that can influence the sound (even two 70s Precisions are likely to sound different, played side by side) and, next to some of them, standard/reverse P orientation is a subtle thing. A reverse-P still sounds "P" to me and I've played old J5 tunes, Funk, R&B and whatever else on it and gotten a good sound. My Power Jazz Bass Special was the only bass I had for a long time.

    My trusty PJBS (modified -- sorry purists) is still my favorite bass, but I have a (non-reverse) P with flats now that I prefer for some stuff.

    Whew... that's more than I mean to type. I'll add two things, though:
    • When a bridge pickup is added to the mix, I prefer the reverse-P. If you're looking for a "Precision with a little bite from the bridge blended in," fine, go with a standard P, but taking the blended sound on its own merits, with the pickups at roughly equal levels, the reverse-P/J works better than a P/J in my opinion. (There are some very good-sounding P/Js out there -- and P/humbuckers, P/MMs -- but that's my opinion and I'd take a reverse-P with them, too.)
    • How you play will have more of an impact on how well you can sit in a given mix/tune than will the orientation of the coils on your split-P.
    I'll step away from the keyboard, now.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2019 at 1:37 PM
  9. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I can't recall where I saw it, but I did see a discussion once where it was claimed he did it that way on the assumption players would play a lot of octaves on a bass - when you do that, staggering the pickup the way he did makes the sound more consistent across the strings - your fingers are staggered that way on the strings, so if you gotta pick one way or t'other, that might be the rationale he used. I do play a lot of double stops - octaves and fifths, and I find the "normal" arrangement woks very well for me.

    On top of that recollection, if you've seen some of the "test mule" stuff he did - a big board, with strings up in the air, and pickups mounted on little shuttles he could slide around and determine where things sounded best, I'd be willing to bet he tried both "normal" and reverse. Leo was a tinkerer, and something that obvious? - yeah, he would have tried it.

    Here's a pic of him with a test mule. All the P pickups here are "normal", and yeah, the mule pictured is a guitar, but you can see it would have been easy for him to try "reverse". This picture is obviously G&L days from the headstock, so my guess is he tried reverse decades before (in the 50's, when he was working on the split pickup P) and discarded the idea, which is why you don't see reversed P shuttles here:

    Leo Fender test mule.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2019 at 1:52 PM
  10. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    I've read that, too. Makes sense to me. I've you've heard Bobby Vega play a P, you know that it can do some amazing, singing stuff with chords, well beyond the usual "thump" a lot of people associate with a Precision Bass.

    I knew he tinkered (and I've seen some photos of prototypes and stuff), but I'm not sure I've seen that. There's a good chance that you're right.
  11. Bassaga


    Sep 4, 2015
    Considering the P Bass has gone on to become The P Bass, it's hard to say there's anything wrong about it. But reversing those pickups just makes so doggone much sense. TV Jones has them reversed on his Thunder Mags, and that's good enough to convince me that it's at least not a bad idea. More power to the folks who like it the original way, but if I were to choose, I'd go reverse.
  12. codiak


    Mar 16, 2017
    Madison, Wisconsin
    I made a custom Ripper with two sets of reverse P’s, so I vote reverse.

  13. TrevorOfDoom


    Jun 17, 2007
    Austin, TX
    The solution IMO, is the “Half Reverse P”.
    The E&A coil is in the traditional spot, but the D&G gets swapped to the neck side.
    Adds beef to the D&G strings, but keeps the E&A in their already perfect position.
    It’s glorious.
  14. REV


    Jun 18, 2006
    I tried this when I had Dan Atkinson make me a P bass. I didn't really notice a big difference in sound/tone and I couldn't get used to the pickup location when I played it. It just felt weird. Other than that it was a great bass. I wish he were still building.
  15. gwangi

    gwangi Supporting Member

    Jul 4, 2009
    Forbidden Valley
    DAMN!!!! I bet this bass sounds serious!!!!
  16. Keger Jupit

    Keger Jupit SUSPENDED

    May 10, 2018
    The Great PNW!!


    ...if you know what I mean...:D
  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I usually play them as they lay, but all of my basses with P's have standard and I see nothing at all wrong with it.
    bolophonic, Mili and packhowitzer like this.
  18. UntitledUser


    Sep 18, 2019
    there is space to add a jazz single in the center and a 5-way positions switch like the in Strats, that does: bridge; bridge+middle; middle; middle+neck; neck.
  19. I happen to just LOVE this configuration. Not your normal P bass for sure,..but the same general idea. Ulyate is the p'ups builder

    christle, wraub, JCooper and 2 others like this.
  20. UntitledUser


    Sep 18, 2019
    Precision pickups in rectangular shape like this are more elegant.
    The standard P-split is a bit ugly, as it is, honestly.
    dralionux and xJasonSmithx like this.

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