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What are the differences in sound between a Fender P Bass and Fender J Bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by djbass28, Jun 24, 2014.

  1. djbass28


    Apr 15, 2014
    What are the differences with regards to power, brightness, clarity, tone options, growl, etc... Also where do basses with a PJ setup fall in relation to the other two?
  2. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Somebody will jump on this thread and tell you to go use the search engine.

    That is the problem with being a new person here ... either you are told to use the search engine or they ask you why did you dredge up that old thread ...
    Splods, Tazz, Marihino and 6 others like this.
  3. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    The p-bass is a low mid focused instrument with one pickup.

    The jazz bass has more versatility ... when both pickups are on it will scoop mids and give you a smoother tone.
  4. It's not so much about being a new person on a forum. They're both massive, production line basses, which have been around forever. This question has been done to death all over the internet (plus between real life communities of musicians).

    I'm not trying to offend; go watch some youtube videos of your favourite bands and you're bound to see a few Jazz and Precision basses. Use your ears, make your own assessment. Describing sound is very difficult - if we use technical terms and you're not familiar with them, it means nothing, and if we use random adjectives you may well have a different conception of those words. In fact, when defining what we mean when we say "this bass is really thumpy" or "burpy" etc., we often make reference to known tones, like a Jazz and a Precision.

    @Ric5 's description was probably about as good as you'll get before the trolls appear. Assuming this isn't a troll thread already o_O

    One tip I will give: On fender's website, they often list artists who play their instruments. Look up those artists - likely they've got a signature "sound" which they achieve with (in part) that instrument.
  5. djbass28


    Apr 15, 2014
    Thanks, that's exactly the kind of info I was looking for. I did google it before I made this and couldn't find a clear and concise answer so that's why I asked here.
  6. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    The jazz bass is more versatile in the sense that it has more available settings via pickup balance. The P bass doesn't need to be more versatile, what it does is already perfect for about 70% of mixes out there (and works for the remaining 30% quite well). Additionally, the way you play the instrument (read right hand technique) gets you more tonal variation on a P bass than a J. Maybe due to one pickup, maybe due to pickup location, maybe due to the way the planets are aligned. Dunno, but it does. Also, the passive tone knob yields more results on P basses. I see far more bassists run their tone knob wide open on J's than P's. J's will have a "thinner" sound (read less low mids) which means you can squeeze more notes in (usually) without it getting as muddy. The P bass more girth to the notes which means even playing up the neck your notes will have a heft to them that J's won't be able to do.

    PJ's are either just like a P if you solo the P pickup, or a whole other critter with both pickups on.
    ElMon and DannyBob like this.
  7. metalhead398


    Jul 23, 2013
    +1 YouTube Jaco Pastorius and Mike Dirnt (or just Green Day for the latter) for Jazz and Precision tones, respectively.
    devntran and Moley13 like this.
  8. Hm, interesting, I've never thought about this question...
    Moosehead1966 likes this.
  9. butchblack

    butchblack Life is short. Do good. Find and do what you love.

    Jan 25, 2007
    Waltham Massachusetts
    Of course all bets are off once you start modifying either with different pickups and strings. I play a Fernandes "the function" vintage (@84) J bass clone with DiMarzio 123's (humbuckers) and TI flats. It's a slab body, quite bright. I can get a decent P sound with just the neck pup and the tone rolled down, both give a bit clearer tone and I can get a passable J tone with just the bridge pup. the tone also changes when I pluck over the bridge pup, neck pup or neck around the 24th fret. I'm happy with my tone(s), luckily I'm not a tone junkie. You'll see many here always searching for that magic perfect tone. Figure out what you want tone wise and go in that direction
  10. To be honest, I think P basses and J basses are capable of so many different sounds (with strings and technique) and fit into so many different musical contexts, that feel is the more important decider for you. I could play all the music I play on a P or a J, but I like the feel of a P bass better. Of course, you won't get that classic bridge pickup bark with a P, or that same meaty thump with a J, but those are the extremes of their respective sounds.
  11. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    Booma Rang and MovingPitchers like this.
  12. Hmmmm. I can't say I agree. With the vast majority of music I play, I'd feel (and have felt, when forced to) hamstrung by a P bass. For those special P bass moments, though, I'd feel the J wasn't cutting it. Obviously I can approximate one with the other, and often we must compromise (e.g., for quick changeovers between tunes), but if we're talking ideal scenarios, I'd always pick the right bass for the job. I'm not sure if maybe that's what you're getting at too, though ;)
  13. ElMon

    ElMon Supporting Member

    May 30, 2004
    Oklahoma City, OK

    Knowing this gentleman I can say he's got a well-qualified and road-tested opinion here. Spot on. I've been playing PJ's for years and it's just the best of both worlds IMO. If you love 'the J thing' with both pickups on full it won't do that exactly, but then again neither will the JBass do 'the PBass thang'. Get both. Ash/Maple Jbass and alder/rw Pbass and call me in the morning.
    Kael and Moley13 like this.
  14. Also, there are at least 5 good "Slap: Jazz vs P vs Stingray" youtube videos I've seen, and unless the slap sound you want is that really "cardboardy" (some would say "vintage"!) tone [which IMO should only be used when playing exact reproductions of period recordings], it's clear the P bass is just way out of its depth.
  15. Jefff


    Aug 14, 2013
    I have never felt hamstrung showing up with just a P bass.
    REMBO likes this.
  16. That's great! Clearly we play different stuff :)
  17. Gab124

    Gab124 The path is greater than the destination

    Dec 30, 2006
    I am one of those that played a jazz for years and always struggled changing pickups, amps, new basses, cabinets etc etc trying to perfect it. I never like the physical feel of a P however - so I recently went PJ and have been just as happy as pie... To me it has the meat of the P with some of the definition of the J. I never run the blend 50/50 but will often favor one by 20% or a bit more for song need. Combine that with right hand technique and tone control and you have yourself alot of sounds.
  18. On a side note, I do feel a PJ would be super handy. I almost never use the neck pup on the jazz, and when I do blend them, I expect the P would just fine/better...
  19. I did a sound comparison of the two with identical settings. Listen to it here:

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