When a bass just doesn’t have “it”

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bobbybass85, Oct 10, 2019.

  1. Flats, everyone needs a P with flats!

    17 vote(s)
  2. Radical pickup change, go full turbo.

    19 vote(s)
  3. Sell it and G.A.S. up with something new.

    119 vote(s)
  1. bobbybass85


    Dec 19, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Howdy everyone! Just wanted to get some insight and opinions on this. I’ll post a pic of my arsenal here, and in it you’ll notice 2 Fender P’s. The black and maple is an American Standard from 2008 and the Sunburst is an American from 1999. Both play great, but the black and maple doesn’t have “it.” The sound is solid, but it lacks the signature midrange wonder that makes a p bass sit in a magic spot in a mix. It is round and mellow, but somewhat hollow sounding. No matter technique changes I am never getting the sound I’m looking for.

    For a long time I just figured I was wrong about what a P bass sounds like until I came across the Sunburst one. It has the complexity in the midrange I love. It can be wooly, it can be smooth, it can grind and gnarl. Technique changes yield widely different tones and despite the rosewood neck, it has a natural brightness to it that the maple lacks once the strings have died a bit.

    So hear is my dilemma: what do I do with the black and maple? I have tried multiple string types, but haven’t done flats with it yet. Should I relegate it to be a flats thumper? I’ve tried multiple pickups from the stock to GZR, Aguilar, and even the full electronic rig from the Sunburst bass. They’ve all yielded minimal changes. FWIW I put the Aguilar in the Sunburst, and wow. Just perfect. So do I try something more wild? Big pole Delano, Aguilar Hot/SD QP, Bartolini? Do I sell it despite my emotional attachment to it (first Fender I bought and I worked my ass off to pay for it)? I have plenty of gas that I could use the funds for and I’d still have an American P in the stable.

    So TBers... what say you? Take care!

    Tom0Blam0 likes this.
  2. JKos

    JKos Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    Surprise, AZ
    Sell it. Life is too short to own instruments that don't excite you. Plenty more out there to choose from.

    - John
  3. organworthyplayer337

    organworthyplayer337 Professional Hack

    Oct 28, 2014
    Charlotte, NC
    Sell it.

    Let her go.

    I know it’s hard. But if you don’t love the way it sounds, there’s someone out there who will. I sold a stingray that was one of the first basses I had. It stings (no pun intended) but I know the guy I sold it to probably played it more in his first week of having it than I did in its last 3 months with me.
  4. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    I'm assuming that the black and maple P has had a good setup, and still sounds bleh.

    If so, then ditch it!

    Your poll is meaningless. Even if you discover that you like flat wounds, wouldn't you rather have them on a bass that sounds great?

    You hit the nail on the head when you talked about dropping the Aguilar into the sunburst P:

    • If a bass has that "it" factor, it will respond to mods in the same lively way that it responds to your touch.
    • If it doesn't, then nothing will wake it up.
    In life, there are going to be a precious few instruments that speak to you, and many more that don't.

    The ones that don't are just a distraction. They will come in all sorts of colours, shapes and sizes.

    Some of them may be super-cheap or look real pretty, but they're all just a waste of your time and attention unless they have that special something.
    dramatwist, Rezdog, TrevorR and 4 others like this.
  5. Sell it if you don’t love everything about it.
    dramatwist, Rezdog, bhendrix and 3 others like this.
  6. tpaul

    tpaul Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2011
    Pickup. The 2008 Fender Ps were notorious for bad pickups. But they are otherwise great basses. Drop in a set of EMG GZR and you're good to go.

    EDIT: Sorry, I read too fast and missed the part where you already tried GZRs as well as other pickups. In that case, as a last ditch effort before selling it, I think I would try swapping necks. If that makes a big difference there is a structural issue with the maple neck (or the black body, but it's more likely to be in the neck). At that point you have the choice of finding a new neck for it, or selling it on.
    You could also try a bridge swap just to rule out the bridge.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2019
  7. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    If it "plays great" enough to make you smile, then keep it and sort out the problems. Your poll should allow multiple choice. . . . I'd start with the pickups (maybe some vintage Fenders?), then flats.
  8. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    I was unhappy with my EB3 copy at one point, and considered various options--but I put roundwounds on it & removed the foam mute--and instant--WOW!
    Not the best bass in the world--one pickup is a bit weak, but the difference was day & night--and it sounded like what I heard in my head.
    So buy choice was not the one with flatwounds.

    So I'd sell it then & find a bass that does it for you
  9. Volker Kirstein

    Volker Kirstein Blippy the Wonder Slug

    Sell the black and maple. To me!

    To quote Anvil Chorus:
    Blonds in black drive me insane!
  10. UntitledUser


    Sep 18, 2019
    check the wiring and pots and change pickups.
    Black magic doesn't exist in instruments making, and wood has a marginal influence on tone {but great influence in sustain} in a solid body instrument. Once that a pickup is placed in the correct position from the 12th fret, and the wiring is good and correct, the pickup is what gives you the big part of the sound. It is like the engine for a car....
    If it sounds hollow, the pickups are not first quality, or not a model that you like, or simply your sunburst one has a different pickup that you like more than those basses.

    Search a youtube video where someone play a P pickup model with the tone you like in particular, than buy the same identical type and wire it in the same identical way.
    Of course you should use the same amp or a similar kind to achieve the same tone of the video, however the pickup alone for sure is good for that; then it is only a problem of amp.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2019
  11. mouthmw


    Jul 19, 2009
    I find it hard to believe that EMG GZR didn't give you the mids that you wanted or that the change was minimal. Maybe you didn't really like any the pickups you tried in it, or the bass isn't setup well. I bet both Ps can be set to sound near identical, if both have the same pickup installed, same strings and setup. I'm not a wood tone fanatic by any means, and a P bass is a simple design as it gets. Also, alder and maple are not science fiction.

    What you should focus on is a good setup, strings that you like and the pickup that you like. And yeah, flats for sure, always good to have a P with flats and P with rounds :D
  12. andruca


    Mar 31, 2004
    Madrid (Spain)
    Not this one, worst most dead P pickup I've ever owned. Worse than the P pickup in an 88€ thomann P-bass kit build I own. That's how badly DEAD those are. Will never again touch a big poles Delano pickup again. MM types also suck as much. Had them both on a Maruszczyk Jake 5a+ and sold that (otherwise magnificent) bass because of that (not the kinda' guy that plays a lot with pickups, as I mostly play Musicman). Have observed the exact same thign on each and every Sandberg I've played with those pickups, loke a blanket suddenly falling over your amp.
  13. I put a Quarter Pounder in my '99 American Standard along with TI flats and found home.
    LYNCHMAN likes this.
  14. LowRick


    Mar 24, 2019
    Sell it.

    And remeber to tell it: it's not you it's me.

    Very important that...
  15. MotorCityMinion


    Jun 15, 2017
    Some instruments are just tone dead. Price can be irrelevant. It's gonna happen every now and then.
    punchclock likes this.
  16. Yep. Ditch it. You’re already ahead...you have another good Precision already.
    Having said that, La Bella black nylon tapes rescued my ‘75 from the chopping block. Suddenly it was perfect!
  17. Erik Asma

    Erik Asma

    Jul 20, 2019
    Tried swapping pups with a bass that does have the magic?

    If that doesn't cure it you can swap untill you're blue.
    You then know 100% it isn't the pup.
    But somehow you already know if the Aguilar does rock in the other one.

    I'd say adios. It'll always remain that bass that makes you wonder if it could be better.
    punchclock likes this.
  18. garp


    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    IMHO, you've already gone above and beyond in your attempts to get this bass to make a joyful noise. Ultimately, you'll be happier liquidating it and investing the proceeds into something that works better for you. And believe me – I understand the emotional attachment thing. But I predict that if you sell it, a decade down the road, you won't find yourself regretting: "I never should've let that one go!"
  19. Leo Thunder

    Leo Thunder

    Sep 27, 2018
    Swap the neck of these two P basses and see what happens.
    JIO, Wisebass and MotorCityMinion like this.
  20. ultra60

    ultra60 Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2010
    Herndon/Chantilly Va.
    I've only heard that on Talkbass. It's actually a fine pickup. I play an '08, with stock pickup, through an SVT. I have musicians, and non-musicians, actually compliment me on the bass tone. If I play something else, I go unnoticed like most bass players, lol.
    Rezdog and punchclock like this.
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