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String/Pickup Covers

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by MikeyFingers, Mar 25, 2006.

  1. I'm just curious, I've never had a good explanation about this.
    What is the point of these things? Do they do anything, or is it just for looks?
  2. paul n

    paul n

    May 6, 2005
    Arden, NC
    There was a claim that they were for shielding, but they aren't grounded so that's bunk. The real reason is just cosmetic.

    Look at Leo Fender's other designs, he liked to cover anything that looked mechanical, or unrefined. Originaly, Telecasters had a large "bell" that covered the entire bridge asembly/pickup suround. You almost never see 'em, but Strats had a small cover that went over the bridge to hide the saddle mechanisms. Actually, I think if Leo could have he would have put the pickups on the Strat under the pickguard, but he couldn't so he just used plasic covers that matched the pickguard. Even the Jaguar and Jazzmaster had small covers over the bridge. The same mentality went into the design of the basses.

    Most people found them to be in the way, and removed them (the bridge bells make changing strings difficult). However, some players found them useful as a hand rest, such as Marcus Miller, Joe Osbourn and James Jamerson just to name a few.

    Hope this helps.

    ~Paul :)
  3. ElBajista


    Dec 13, 2005
    Sebring, FL
    I might suggest trying a search, as there are have been many threads about this in the past.

    They are used mostly for cosmetic purposes, but some players such as Marcus Miller (and myself :D) use the neck pickup cover as a hand rest while playing. There has been mention about them being hum-shields, but I think that's just simple speculation.
  4. froovs


    Mar 17, 2005
    theyre coloqially referred to as "Ashtrays", because thats what most of them ended up being used as

    I put a pair of them on my fretted P-bass project and persisted with them for a while since i love the way they look, but had to admit defeat and take the p/up one off - it just gets in the way for me

  5. -Sam-


    Oct 5, 2005
    Sydney, Australia
    i reckon they are awesome and would love a jazz with them on. the only problem in the jazz style bridge cover is huge and restricts playing over the back pickup. making my tonal expression at level one out of ten. so i was wondering if the P style bridge cover would fit on a jazz as it's smaller than a jazz's
  6. paul n

    paul n

    May 6, 2005
    Arden, NC
    It should, the bridge is the same on both the P-bass and the J, might look a little odd though. Most people seem to take the back tray off and leave the front one on. The back one just gets in the way of changing the strings and making adjustments.

    I use the front tray on my P'; I'm a picker, so it makes a great hand rest. I have a BadAss on there though, so the bridge tray wouldn't fit.

    ~Paul :)
  7. instigata


    Feb 24, 2006
    New Jersey
    well, on older basses they were filled with a foam which would act like a muffler for the strings, dampening the harsher sounds to provide a more upright vibe (which is what they were supposed to be repodoucing.. uprightsounds from a lighter, easier to handle instrument)
  8. Someone mentioned earlier that the covers weren't for electric shielding. Actually, that's not entirely true.

    On the first Fender P-Basses (1951 - 1957 before the introduction of the split coil P-Bass pickup), the single coil pickup had a heavy wire coming straight off the grounding of the pickup. This wire was placed onto the wood surface where it contacted with the chrome pickup cover when it was screwed in place.

    In this case, the wire created a contact with the chrome cover, which acted as a shielding device, and also changed the way the pickup sounded. If you get a chance to see one of the originals (not one of the stupidly over-priced Fender "still production line, but lets call them Custom Shop" jobs) you'll see a small indentation between the pickup rout and the screw cover hole. This was caused by the wire being forced into the wood surface when the plate was screwed down.

    I had one myself years ago, but stupidly sold it. I am getting another soon (in negotiation right now). I'll post some digipics to show you when I get it.

    Here's a pic of Bob Daisley's 1953 P-Bass. terrible pic, but you can just see a vague shadow between the pickup rout and the cover mounting screwhole on the G string side - that's the notch where the grounding wire was.

    After the introduction of the split coil pickup, the covers were for show on the pickup side, with the bridge ashtray still having a foam strip in place to dampen the strings (most players removed this strip it has to be said)

    Do I get my "bass anorak of the month" award????
  9. paul n

    paul n

    May 6, 2005
    Arden, NC
    Yeah, but that was only on the one over the bridge.

    Well, I stand corrected! I think I heard that once, but I can't rember where. Very cool!

    ~Paul :)
  10. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    As others have written, the bridge cover came with a foam strip that pressed against the top of the bridge to dampen sustain. My first bass was a brand new 1974 P Bass and in addition to the covers, it came strung with flats... Imagine the tonal difference when I pulled off the covers and slapped a set of Rotosounds on it!!!

    The Jazz was designed as a deluxe model which, in step with the automobiles of the late '50s/early '60s, meant more chrome!!! Leo probably killed two birds with one stone by extending the J's bridge cover to hide the bridge pickup too.

    Besides possible shielding, the front pickup cover on both P and J basses was probably intended to give the pick player (remember that one of Leo's sales points was that guitar players could now play bass too) a place to rest their hand. I have an old Deep Purple Machine Head song book with a photo of Roger Glover doing just that. And the cover for pickplayers would allow string contact in the same area that thumb players would have with the pre '74 finger rest or finger players would with the '74 and later thumb rest.
  11. instigata


    Feb 24, 2006
    New Jersey
  12. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize!

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Thanks! I had heard about the ground wire but nobody could confirm it was true. I was looking into it to help cut down on the hum problems with tapewounds.
  13. paul n

    paul n

    May 6, 2005
    Arden, NC
  14. well i just popped a bridge plate on my jaguar bass (the mentioned F logo plate) and it looks amazing yes it limits tonal possibility but i just love the look.
  15. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    I'm often torn between having the pickup cover on my Marcus Miller bass.

    Yeah, it gets in the way a little bit, but it looks so cool!
  16. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    The proof appears to be as close as Page 72 of the April 2006 Bass Player magazine. Dan Erlewine's Basstech column shows a '55 P-Bass that was in for repairs. The pickup cover is missing but the closeup of the pickup in Figure 5 shows that the G side screw is still present and has a wire (originating in the pickup cavity) wrapped around it. The screw nearest the E string is long gone.

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