What makes a p bass a p bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Cut the middle, Jun 5, 2020.

  1. Cut the middle

    Cut the middle

    Apr 17, 2020
    Full disclosure, I'm not crazy about p basses, although most band mates have preferred the sound to anything else I used.

    But what makes them so overwhelmingly the world's favorite?

    Thanks in advance!
    Clemouze likes this.
  2. Yogi Bear

    Yogi Bear

    Aug 14, 2000
    IMO - the P pickup in the "sweet spot."
  3. Yahboy


    May 21, 2008
    Only Leo Fender know how and why he invented Pbass.
  4. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    It's plug and play. Set the eq and go. Also, it may not have the perfect bedroom tone, but the kids always make it sit in the mix well
  5. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    The neck pickup gives a heavier/punchier tone than J pickups but we notice that because we're bassists. The tone from a standard P pickup is really versatile. The neck is more broad than a jazz neck. That's my favorite part. So much that I have a couple Jazz with P necks. Neck shape is a subjective thing. The P body is more squared at the back where a Jazz looks like you take a P and smoosh it forward? I honestly care a lot about the neck shape and not as much about the body shape. But Precision is the benchmark because of its heritage.
    bassliner50 and Kenova like this.
  6. fretter


    May 24, 2012
  7. nnnnnn


    Oct 27, 2018
    Are they the overwhelming favourite? Are there really that many more P basses than J basses?
  8. Inara

    Inara Fierce Fun Fretless Female

    Jun 12, 2017
    Seattle, WA USA
    If it has a P pickup in the sweet spot and has the general look of a Fender Precision, I'll casually call it a "P bass," or a "P clone." I reserve the term Precision Bass for Fender and Squier models. (I prefer ones with Jazz necks, personally.) To me, it's the midrange character you get from that pickup in that location that is most important to why it works so well in so many mixes. That also happens to be my favorite tone anyway, even practicing by myself, so I like P basses quite a bit.
  9. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    it's all about TONE
    Jazz Bass = good tone
    P bass = great tone
  10. Samatza


    Apr 15, 2019
    After many decades of J style and humbucker equiped basses I bought a P Bass and started to take it to gigs. Everyone loves that sound of it, musicians and sound guys alike.

    I had a think about this and I believe that that pickup in that position gives it a nice round bottom and enough bite on the top without being overwhelming, the mid forward sound then allows it to sit in the ensemble sound nicely, never too muddy, never to sharp, just exactly right. That's my take on it anyway.

    I still love and use J basses, you can't beat the slap sound on those and the StingRay is also in use but if the gig requires simple finger style/pick playing then the P is right on the money.
    Rezdog, TN WOODMAN and TREYontheBASS like this.
  11. Cut the middle

    Cut the middle

    Apr 17, 2020
    Does the bass need a fender pickup in the sweet spot?
    I had a Yamaha bb1200 once. It was non active and had the same style pickup in generally the same spot, but it didn't get any love from anyone but me.

    I sold it because the neck was too much like a fender.
    Thegrandwazoo likes this.
  12. Cut the middle

    Cut the middle

    Apr 17, 2020
    Honestly I don't know.
  13. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
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    BTW, my Mustang LE PJ has the best P bass sound I've ever played.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2020
  14. Odinbass


    Dec 6, 2006
    Cleveland, OH
    I think it stems from being the first widely used bass guitar and being on so many early records of the era. The next generation wanted 'that sound' and used P-Basses. It just kept going from there.

    Like others have said, they are also the ultimate plug-n-play bass. Less fiddling with knobs and gear.
  15. GoesThump


    Jul 13, 2007
    What makes a p-bass a p-bass, you ask?

    This is a Platonic forms type question.

    Is there an ideal P, one that serves that as the mental archetype of the P-bass? Idealtypen, to borrow the German word? Could one play Max Webster covers on such a Max Weber concept bass?

    Would the ideal P have some ineffable quality? And if so, what would we call it? If the ideal chair, in the Platonic sense, has a transcendent quality of chair-ness, what quality would the ideal P have?


    Okay, my nonsense aside, I think Yogi Bear hit it : the right pickup in the right spot.

    TN WOODMAN likes this.
  16. Ric5

    Ric5 Inactive

    Jan 29, 2008
    I like 5, 8, 10, and 12 string basses
    What makes a p bass a p bass?

    Yellow Bang66, cnltb, Rezdog and 11 others like this.
  17. Mark 63

    Mark 63 Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2012
    TN WOODMAN and Pdaddy1978 like this.
  18. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    What makes a p bass a p bass?

    The frets do.
    Chickenwheels likes this.
  19. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    this discussion has been done literally countless times,

    the reason this one does not need to be done countless times is because the answer is generally agreed upon.

    split coil pickup placed in the correct (fender) position.

    some folks might say it needs to have fender on the headstock, but i think most don't care. If your playing a carvin P model, nobody is going to claim it's not a P style instrument.
    TN WOODMAN and MynameisMe like this.
  20. REV

    REV Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    The Fender P bass is probably the most recorded bass in history. We have become accustomed to its sound. It fits right where it is needed in the sonic spectrum of popular music.