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What makes the "Pbass" sound?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Lii, Apr 19, 2009.

  1. Lii


    May 5, 2008
    I've searched for threads on this, but can't find the answer. Is it primarily the type of pickups and the "passiveness" that makes a Pbass sound like it does? I have a cheap, no name part, very frankenstein Pbass that still sounds like... a Pbass. It's no Funkmachine, but it still gets the job done: Nice warm sound with some growl, sits well in the mix, and I love those mids. It'll do motown and rock just fine (not that I wouldn't want a MIA P, just doing what I can with what I bought.) So, just where does that sound come from?
  2. savit260


    Mar 6, 2006
    The low wide split coil pickup. Where it's postioned in relationship to the length of the string, and probably somewhat due to the basic construction of the bass it self. (required IMO)
  3. DeanT

    DeanT Send lawyers, guns and money...

    I don't think there is such a thing as the P-bass sound anymore. I say this because there are so many different types of P-basses out there.

    Originally, the P-bass sound was due to the '50s P-bass -- the shape of the body, the type of wood used and the way the passive pickups were wound. That went a long way to establishing the sound -- the low, ballsy tone we all know and love.

    Today, P-basses come in different woods, with different pickups, different pickup configurations, active, etc. Each sound a bit different than the other.

    I have a 2006 P-bass Special and it comes pretty close to what I consider the P-bass tone. It's very versatile. But it's more modern sound that the traditional P-bass tone. Still, I like it.
  4. I'm going to say it revolves around a split-coil humbucker. IMO.
  5. nickbear


    Jun 12, 2007
    surrey, uk
    the split coil pickup in that position, passive and i think that 20 fret basses sound different to basses with more frets ( slightly)
  6. Toneman


    Jun 6, 2001
    Long Island
    I would think the main reason would be the large split coil pup and it's location and to a much lesser extent the larger neck mass.
    To me P's are know for in your face lo mids and loose ( I mean this in a good way) low end. I've tried for years to appreciate the jazz bass but always come back to using a P. Classic P sound to me is any stock passive Fender P bass from 1957 top present with the tone control rolled at off at least half way.
    Disclaimer> SCP owners no disrespect intended pre 57 era P's rock to be sure but sonically different than what most would call the classic P tone.
  7. kb9wyz


    Sep 8, 2008


    Couldn't help it.
  8. J. Crawford

    J. Crawford Supporting Member

    Feb 15, 2008
    KB... :D
  9. idoru


    Dec 18, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    I'll add a huge + heaps to passive electronics making up a fair chunk of the P sound. Played a 2006 US Deluxe P the other day, and just could _not_ get that sound I had in my head.

  10. BillyRay

    BillyRay Supporting Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    A p-bass.
  11. Martizmo


    Mar 26, 2009
    Metro Detroit
    The Larger necks on the p bass tend to contribute to the tonal qualities.
  12. Ryan Mohr

    Ryan Mohr

    Oct 23, 2007
    That split-coil pickup in the "sweet spot" yields that throaty, warm, fat tone.
  13. GlennW


    Sep 6, 2006
    It's a little known fact that Fender uses special output jack washers made from a secret alloy only on their P Basses. That's where the tone comes from. Every note played passes through that washer and becomes magically transformed.

    More than one P Bass owner has been stumped after changing the jack...blaming the pickups, strings etc. Now you know the truth.
  14. And the washer is lubricated with snake oil.
  15. J. Crawford

    J. Crawford Supporting Member

    Feb 15, 2008
    No. Turtle oil.
  16. I won't say it.
  17. As someone else noted, there isn't a single P bass sound. There are various P pickups with various tones, rounds vs flats, pick vs. fingers, fretted vs. fretless, etc. One wouldn't say that Duff and Jamerson had the same tone, eh?
  18. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    I didn't read the rest of this thread (I will tomorrow) but...

    if it sounds like absolute hell, and conversely sounds AMAZING with a band? It's a P-bass.
  19. you have two or three basic P bass tones... there is the old single coil... then there is the classic split coil... and there is the 70' HB...

    the basic design of the pickups determines the character... single being clear sounding, split having the cutting power and the mud from the bucker...

    if you measure the distance from the bridge you can find that all are positioned different... today a P bass pu is placed all over the place, most of the time in a wrong place!!! ;)

    the wood and construction don't influence the sound as much as PU and its position!!! saying that i have found that fretboard does make audible difference!!! and the thick neck does influence the strength of the notes... i know this cuz i have a P bass neck on a jazz bass... and it sounds stronger than most thin necked jazzes
  20. pickup position

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