1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Why can't a P/J bass sound as good as a P or a J bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Kahrmine, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. Kahrmine


    May 25, 2013
    Someone suggested this as if it was widely accepted truth.

    But I'm curious, what stops a P/J from sounding like a P when using just the P pickup and sounding like a J when using just the J pickup?

    It sounds like someone needs to do some math, or something, because I would assume they could cop P and J tones on their respective pickups.
  2. Webtroll

    Webtroll Rolling for initiative

    Apr 23, 2006
    Austin, TX
    Some would say they sound better. I suppose it's up to the individual.
  3. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    A PJ sounds a lot more like a P than a J. IMO, nothing is stopping it from sounding like a P when just using the P pickup.

    On J basses, I use both pickups on full and that sounds nothing like a solo'd J bridge pickup or a PJ.
  4. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    There are some who feel that the impedance of the volume and tone controls connected to the other pickup will load the P pickup and change its sound, even with the other pickup rolled all the way off.

    I have never really put that much thought into it, myself. I have P-basses that sound different than each other, so I'm not sure what "sounds like a P-bass" really means anyway. My P/Js, with the bridge volume down, always sounded enough "like a P-bass" for my needs.

    As for sounding like a Jazz... nope. Sorry. The neck pickups sound too disimilar to get close, IMO. When I dial in the bridge on a P/J, it sounds like a P/J... which is fine!
  5. eqvolvorama

    eqvolvorama Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2000
    Arlington, Virginia
    There is a common idea that a PJ can't sound like a P even with the J pickup muted. Some people think that the circuit can't ever really be rid of the interference, or the J will somehow drag on the string magnetically.

    Me, I'd be willing to bet my mortgage that nobody could tell the difference between a PJ with the J pickup muted and the same bass with the J pickup removed (and rewired) altogether. I think it's the case of a rumor getting around for so long people assume it's true.

    I'd say the same thing about the J pickup solo'ed compared to the same setup on a traditional J.

    Now, I WOULD agree that a PJ can't totally cop the JJ sound with both pickups mixed, but this is a function of the shape, aperture, position, etc. of the P pickup design. It's a different sound, really. I'd describe it as a bit more modern.
  6. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007
    I have owned only one P/J. It sounded like a P when the P pickup was solo'ed and it sounded like a jazz bass when the bridge pickup was solo'ed.
  7. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    It's nothing like "a widely-accepted truth", so don't lose any sleep over it. People make all kinds of whacked-out statements about things they clearly know nothing about.

    In fact, I don't even know what "Why can't a P/J bass sound as good as a P or a J bass?" is even supposed to mean. Exactly what - or who's - standard of what "good" sounds like are we supposed to accept as consensus, universal truth? It's a nonsensical question.

    A P/J bass generally sounds different from a straight P or a straight J, because it is different. It sounds different because it's supposed to sound different. That's the whole point.

    Whether one sounds "better than" or "as good as" another is for you to determine for yourself... :eyebrow:

  8. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    The pickup on a P bass is in a location that is peculiar to the P bass. The location of the pickups along the strings has a strong effect on the tone of the bass so if you want your P/J to sound like a P bass the P pickup had better be in the P bass specific location. Some P/J basses put it there, a great many do not. Among those that do not some are closer than others. So if you want an authentic P sound from your P/J you have to be careful which P/J you buy.

    If you want an authentic J bass sound you are out of luck. The P pickup cannot be in both the P bass position and the J bass position. And it won't sound exactly like a J pickup in either position. But many people find the P/J does an acceptable J bass imitation anyway. J basses are not all the same either so it is harder to say what the J bass sound is.

    The electrical loading on the P pickup in a P/J is different from that in a P bass and that does make a difference. Some people are more particular about this than others but you could add a switch or two to reconfigure you P/J to eliminate this problem if you find it objectionable.
  9. takeout

    takeout Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2002
    Kansas City area
    This. Also, who cares? If it sounds good to your ears, it is good, P vs. J orthodoxy be damned.

    My main player right now is a PJ cobbled together from various 70s Precision parts and loaded with Fralins. Through an Ampeg-y Sansamp setting (not a real SVT!) and a pair of 15s, it gets me 90% of Darryl Jenifer's Bad Brains tone, which is a Modulus Jazz with EMGs through a vintage SVT and 8x10.
  10. MarkoYYZ

    MarkoYYZ Commercial User

    Jan 31, 2012
    Hammersmith Music
    If you wanted to be as true as possible to an iso'd P or J pickup, a small mod to add a pickup selector switch does the trick, as it will completely remove the other pickup from the circuit.

    Another benefit of doing this is that you can wire it as...

    P only - both in parallel - both in series - J only

    ...which opens up tonal options that neither a P, a J or a typical PJ could offer.

    I'm about to do this on one of my PJs to test out a stack-knob setup that has a vol-tone for each pickup, with the selector switch in between them.
  11. Huge

    Huge Hell is full of musical amateurs. Like me.

    Dec 2, 2005
    I agree. P/J's are what they are, and if you like the sound, then good.

    That being said, I've never heard a solo'd P on a P/J that didn't sound like my idea of a P to me. Surely they exist, but I've never heard one.
  12. msact


    Jan 8, 2013
    Somewhere in NJ
    To us, every bass sounds different. To 99.9% of the people in the audience, they all sound the same.
    Swiegand51 likes this.
  13. Luckydog


    Dec 25, 1999
    I have many Fender P's from 66 through 79. The differences in tone/sound/attack between these "official" P's are just as extreme as the difference between my Sadowsky PJ4 and the Fenders, when the strings are the same and the preamp is not factored in.

    No PJ can sound like a JJ, whatever control settings you use, unless you are comparing soloed bridge pups, how many people actually play that way for any extended period?
  14. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    For what it's worth, I like the sound of a good Precision Bass, and I like the sound of a good Jazz Bass. But I really like the sound of a good P/J bass.

    As others have said, the sound is a lot closer to a "P" than it is to a "J". In fact, the best P/Js offer all the warm, thick booty of the classic Precision sound, with much of the tight, punchy attack of the classic Jazz sound. So it's kind of an idealized, souped-up, Alpha P. :cool:

  15. P Town

    P Town

    Dec 7, 2011
    "Why can't a P/J bass sound as good as a P or a J bass?"

    I'm glad my hearing is not sensitive enough to be able to discern the fact that my Fender Am Dlx P sounds bad.

    I guess I should invest in a "Good-O-Meter" before I buy any more basses.
  16. ExaltBass

    ExaltBass Just a BassGuy! Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 28, 2006
    Twin Cities, MN
    I much prefer the sound of a P-J. I'm suspecting that some P-J naysayers have wedded mismatched P & J pickups... and are not happy with the results. I have 3 P-J's - (1) Fralin P-J set with a 10% overwound J to fatten-up and better match the P pup (2) Lollar P-J set with the same 10% overwound J, same reasoning - both sets sound FAT and great! - and (3) Sadowsky P-J set which also sounds awesome (I'm guessing the J is also overwound somewhat as they are matched SO well!).

    Just my opinion...

  17. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Nicely explained, I agree 100%.

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    While this idea in theory works, you still can't completely remove the other pickup. While it will no longer be in the signal path, it will still be pulling on the strings and will interact magnetically with the other pickup. Roger Gee of Mike Lull guitars mentioned that they have Lindy Fralin wind their (split coil)Jazz pickup used in the PJ's differently to counteract the effect as much as possible.

    The honest answer is that if you feel that a PJ sounds like a straight Precision with the Jazz pickup rolled off then all the power to you! I like the design. Its definitely versatile.
  19. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    The only problem with the PJ set up in my experience is the Jazz pickup. When used with a P pickup which is hum canceling the Jazz pickup is noisy. This problem can be solved with a hum canceling Jazz pickup, but those generally don't have enough output to balance well with the P pickup, which is highlighted by the fact that the Jazz pickup is in the bridge position. It's not that big of a deal, you just have to play with the pickup height to get the balance right.

    That set up sounds best in an active setup IMHO.
  20. xroads


    Nov 6, 2012

    To me, the Jazz bass actually lives from being able to mix two identical PUs. A PJ cannot get that. Otherwise, the PJ can do
    a good P and a good J sound out of the individual PUs, and the mix sound is a unique combination that you might like or not.