Single-coil P-bass (or Tele bass) vs J-bass neck pickup tone?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by billgwx, Apr 23, 2012.

  1. billgwx


    Apr 10, 2009
    Centereach NY
    Have unsuccessfully searched the site for some definitive advice on how the tone of a single-coil P-bass (or Tele bass) compares to that of a J-bass with the neck pickup solo'd. So here's a thread devoted to that topic...what say you who have heard both? I'd imagine since they're both single coil pickups they'd be pretty close, but that might also depend on pickup placement for starters, which may or may not be similar between the two basses. Thanks...
  2. billgwx


    Apr 10, 2009
    Centereach NY still wondering about this.
  3. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin' Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    I own a Classic '51 reissue and have owned a Jazz. The pickups on these instruments are very different from each other, and are located at different distances from the bridge.

    The single coil Precision/Tele is essentially a Telecaster guitar pickup altered for a four-string bass, and shares that pickup's single-polepiece per string design. This gives it a fast attack and a fast decay -- much like the upright bass Leo was looking to supplant.

    The Jazz pickup was born ten years later, and incorporates the improvements that Leo had made when he redesigned the P in 1957. It has the same two-polepiece per string as the split-coil Precision, which eases the attack and adds sustain. The spacing of the bobbin under the strings is different, and no doubt the other specs as well.

    As I mentioned, I have owned both, and I found no similarities between the two basses. Each one has a very distinct voice that will not be mistaken for the other. In my case, I love the single-coil P and am not fond of the Jazz, so the J is long gone.
  4. solderjunkie


    Jan 27, 2008
    Nashville TN
    They aren't in different places... only different pickups. The Jazz has a wider, shallower wind while the '51 has a taller narrow bobbin. The Jazz single is a much wider pickup with polepieces straddling the strings, while the '51 has a single pole per string directly under it (mine is actually a Lace Strat p'up, so it has a cover).

    Here is a pic of a '54 style Precision next to a Jazz bass next to a later split-coil Precision. They are hanging from identical hangers from identical heights. This pic tells the story for pickup placement for all three Fender designs... the '51, Jazz neck and Precision bass-side are all in the same location:
    BlueAliceOasis and aaronious like this.
  5. Fender 60s Jazz Bass Pickup (neck) - 7.1kΩ

    Lindy Fralin Jazz Bass Replacement Style - 8.5 to 9kΩ

    Lindy Fralin '51 P-Bass Style Pickup (stock wind) - 6.5kΩ

    I presume the 8.5kΩ measurement in the Lindy Fralin Jazz set would be the neck pickup.

    You can expect the one with the lowest impedance to have greatest clarity and frequency response.

    I'm another fan of the '51 P pickup who doesn't care for the J neck pickup. It was my pleasure to play a '68 Telecaster Bass (the earliest reissue of the '51 with a fiber bobbin, string-wound pickup that had a ground wire to the pickup "ashtray"). It had an incredibly raw sound picked with Fender nickel flats. But this is not really about the pickup all by itself in isolation. It was in a hard ash body (weighed a ton) and I was playing it LOUD through a 100w, 215 Bassman.

    The reason I'm no fan of the J neck pickup is because it's impossible not to compare it to the split P pickup. That's not an unfair comparison because I would guess that many people who buy a J for the slimmer neck end up playing it with that neck pickup only, and whereas it's wound hotter than the '51, losing the benefits of being underwound, it's nowhere near as hot as the P, which in addition is two short, fat little pickups instead of one long, skinny one.

    Now the J neck pickup contributes to the unique sound when both pickups are on. I don't like both on equally, though that's the only way to get the hum cancellation. I like the sound of one being a little less than the other. But I'm just not too crazy about that neck pickup by itself.

    So what are you thinking of doing? I see by your profile that you have both a P and a J. That's the way to do it. No way to get both sounds out of either. I haven't played a PJ, though. Never got around to it, and I may never get around to it. I've always wanted one "do it all" bass, and after listening to the sound samples for the SGD ND3 pickups, I think that may do it.

    Of course, the SGD neck doesn't sound like a P in the mid slot. It has far more balls. And both SGD pickups don't sound like both J pickups. Same deal. However to me the SGDs capture what it is that I love about Fenders, the shape of the sound, the thing that makes their sound almost a human voice. Also I think these pickups are capable of the same rawness as the '51. Only one way to find out. Save up.
    reddog likes this.
  6. mcm


    Oct 2, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    Never ab'ed them but always thought they were in the same ball park. Really dig both
  7. I own a classic vibe 50s p with cts pots, orange drop cap, and Seymour Duncan antiquity II. hanging next to it on the wall is a fender mij jazz with dimarzio model j's and stock mim wiring. The basses are modded and don't sound remotely close to the same. Even in stock form neither bass really sounded like the other. The middle pickup solod on a jazz just sounds like an anemic jazz, not like a scpb.
  8. rickdog

    rickdog Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2010
    I have a Jazz, and I've played and heard plenty of Precisions.

    I find I get a pretty strong P vibe with the neck pickup of my J - I'd say it's within the range of variation between different versions of P pickups. It's very distinct from the two pickups blended or the bridge pickup soloed.

    Pickup placement has a pretty strong effect on the voice of the instrument, so that's not surprising. Think about the physics of vibrating strings and harmonics - if there's a node over the pickup, there's no string motion there to pick up.

    (Solderjunkie, thanks for the picture showing the pickup positions!)
  9. I kind of think they sound similar. To my ears they both have that scooped sound that's can get nice and "woody" and also very bright. Neither have that signature humbucker p bass tone but can get close enough.

    I remember owning a mij 51 p with an sd pickup that sounded great but I was missing the mids I got from a split p bass so I eventually sold it.
  10. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin' Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    Thanks. I was going by photos of my different basses, which were not as clear as yours.

    I think the concept of "nodes" has pretty much been discredited. No offense, but Leo moved the pickups back and forth until they (a) sounded good and (b) weren't in the way of the player's hand. That said, placement is still important, and Fender spent a lot more time working on that aspect than most of the other designers, and that's a big part of his success.

    As far as I'm concerned, I just don't hear any similarity between the P and J. There are a lot of J players around here, and I haven't heard one yet that sounded remotely like a P. Or, you could ask my old band: the one time I showed up at a job with a J, they sent me home for the P.:D
  11. solderjunkie


    Jan 27, 2008
    Nashville TN
    It has been... because as string-length changes while fretting notes, so do the locations of the magical nodes.

    Exactly. The Precision "sweet spot" came by trial and error, not by any scientific method. Leo built amps... the guitars and basses came second.

    I heard a story from an old-timer about Leo fine-tuning the circuit on the original Twin Amp... he had a Telecaster laying on the workbench next to the amp chassis, and he would strum the open (out of tune) strings while changing cap values and making circuit adjustments. One of his employees was tired of hearing the "KERRRRRANGGGGG" sound of the poor Tele and tuned the guitar to an open "G" so the note would be more pleasing to the ear. Leo buttoned up the amp and called it good.
  12. boynamedsuse

    boynamedsuse Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    I heard Em or E. Still a good story.
  13. peledog


    Jul 9, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    They sound the same to me unless you're playing close to the bridge - a bit more distinctive. Maybe the J is a bit more defined/refined.
  14. MarkusBass

    MarkusBass Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2008
    California Coast
    Graphic Designer: Lakland
    Single Coil P has more snap to the attack in my opinion.
  15. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    To me the SCPB pickup sounds much more "organic" and "woody" than the J neck pickup.
  16. chef wong

    chef wong Banned

    Sep 15, 2012
    I don't know if it's because where the pickup is placed or what, but I do notice a boomy soft tone from the '51 style that you can't get as easy with the Jazz.
  17. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    I've owned a 1970 Telebass from 1971 til 1988. Upon trying all the SD pickup options at the time including the 3/4 lbs. I found they got far from the original sound.
    My next foray was a Japanese '51 reissue that when played properly really does the cop the upright doghouse tone. That original pickup bordered on anemic though. The Rio Grande Muy Grande kept that distinctive SCPB tone while adding fullness and bottom.
    My opinion? The three Fender bass types the J, the P and the Single coil P sound quite different from each other. The solo'ed J is less than adequate, to me.
    The three are so distinct that owning them all is appropriate.

    (Gas Justification)
  18. MarkusBass

    MarkusBass Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2008
    California Coast
    Graphic Designer: Lakland


    Aug 1, 2010
    Can someone explain how the design of a pickup effects the sustain or decay of a note (barring stronger magnets keeping the strings from vibrating)?

    Also, IMO, I think a singlecoil J pickup sound pretty distinct from a splitcoil P. The P sounds more "open" to me, but I'm comparing an ash-bodied 11 lb to an 8 lb P, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.
  20. mcm


    Oct 2, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    I've always thought they sounded very similar.