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Why do people say a P bass ISN'T a 1 trick pony?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Feb 14, 2020.

  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    A P bass has 1 pickup and 1 tone control.

    It sits in just about any mix perfectly, and a good player can coax MANY sounds out of it - but as for the bass itself, it IS a one trick pony.

    If a bassist can get 500 different sounds out of a P by using different techniques, that player can get 2000 out of jazz. They can get an infinite number out of Big Al, or just about any other active bass with more than a single pickup.

    There are versatile basses.
    There are versatile players.
    A P bass is the LEAST versatile bass someone can purchase.
    It does one thing, with limited variation (the tone control).
    It does that one thing excellently.

    That's just a fact, and there's is nothing wrong with that. Why do people argue it? If anything, I think its a compliment to those who choose to use them, and use them well.
    nozkcb, Novarocker, Thorny1 and 97 others like this.
  2. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    I thought the P bass is the one trick pony where the one trick is 'sounding/sitting-in-the-mix as a bass should'
    and that this is common knowledge. Do people argue that?
  3. Where does the bass end and the player begin? I'd say that if a player can get 500 sounds out of it, then it's a 500 trick pony. If some other player can only get one, maybe we should better call it a one trick jockey? :whistle:

    (edited for grammar)
  4. Volker Kirstein

    Volker Kirstein Supporting Member

    To use the dreaded car analogy...

    The Model T. The "first", and the one that set the bar. Plain, simple, accessible. Also a "one trick pony". Then came the T-buckets, rats, and street rods to do some new tricks.

    Nowadays, there are also lots of other cars, and many desirable ones. A nice Model T, original or modified, will still turn heads, still doing it's one trick.

    * Yes, I know it wasn't the first car, cars have been around since the late 1700's. But it was arguably the first mass produced car available to the masses.
    Novarocker, LowBSix, SzunaP and 13 others like this.
  5. “1 trick pony” suggests it is inferior, and some people are easily offended. :bag:
    nozkcb, Novarocker, sprag and 40 others like this.
  6. brocket


    Sep 12, 2017
    Coastal NC
    An egg can be fried, hard boiled, soft boiled, poached, and scrambled all with numerous variations, but all an egg really does is sit in a shell. So it’s not the egg that’s versatile, it’s the cook? So an egg is just a one trick pony?

    To put a twist on an egg related saying, what came first: a bass capable of a variety of tones, or a bass player capable of making a variety of tones on the bass?
  7. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    I think that this might be the issue.
    While the beauty of that concept lies in that very simplicity, people perceive an inferiority.

    When you give people a bass that can only do one sound, the one that sits right,
    it means at the same time that they can't do it wrong.

    Compare that to a bass with two humbuckers that can be split and active three band EQ with sweepable mids.
    You get about a bazillion options to ruin your sound.

    ...but when you get a useful sound out of a machine that has a million possibilies to fail, compared to a machine that simply can't sound wrong - what is the bigger achievement?
  8. jamro217

    jamro217 Supporting Member

    I would argue that a P bass isn't a one trick pony based on the following examples of P basses:
    1.) Bernadette - The Four Tops > James Jamerson
    2.) Takin' It To The Streets - The Doobie Brothers > Tiran Porter
    3.) Happy Anniversary - The Little River Band > George McArdle
    4.) The Boys Are Back In Town - Thin Lizzy > Phil Lynott
    5.) Chameleon - Herbie Hancock/ Headhunters > Paul Jackson, Jr.
    6.) Forget Me Nots - Patrice Rushen > Freddie Washington
    7.) American Woman - The Guess Who > Jim Kale

    I wouldn't assume these recordings were all made on the same model instrument in a blindfold test. I thought surely "Takin' It To The Streets" was a Ric until I read in an interview that it was, in fact, a P.
  9. godofthunder59

    godofthunder59 God of Thunder and Rock and Roll Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2006
    Rochester NY USA
    Endorsing Cataldo Basses, Whirlwind products, Thunderbucker pickups
    Entwistle Live at Leeds.
  10. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    That's a very good example. Who here can poach an egg properly? I know many people that can fry them, boil them to any desired degree, scramble them, and do all kinds of tasty things.
    I know only a few that can poach them.
    I also know a few that manage to fry them but that's about all they can do in the kitchen.

    Take someone that has just started out and is pounding out roots. It takes up all the concentration that person can muster to stay in time and make the chord changes. Manipulating HOW they play is not yet within their grasp. Give this person a P bass. Then a J bass with both PUs on full, bridge/neck PU singled. Then give that same person one of those early Alembics, one that's bristling with knobs and switches an go nuts on these.

    It's like Joe said.
    When you can coax but a single sound out of a bass because you lack technique, your versatility is 1.
    A bass that can do only one sound when played, employing only one technique also has a versatility of 1.
    The player's versatility and that of the bass multiply.
  11. jamro217

    jamro217 Supporting Member

    Good one! I was trying to give a list of various artists and tones without taking up the next twenty pages or so of the thread. There is such a huge catalog of P bass recordings, this isn't even an ice cube, never mind the tip of the iceberg.
  12. bassboysam

    bassboysam Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2001
    Ottawa, Ontario
    other basses may have 2000 sounds but 1498 are not useable in real world situations.
    Novarocker, Saulful, gozbass and 28 others like this.
  13. GtenderG


    Feb 29, 2008
    It may be a 1 trick pony but it's one hell of a trick....
  14. sears

    sears Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2005
    ec, md
    Joe, you're better than this.
    10cc, jamro217, bobyoung53 and 11 others like this.
  15. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Hmmm... the way you worded that has somehow got me thinking. I am willing to be wrong, ya know :) .

    I want to see how others weigh in on this.
  16. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    I see the P Bass as being the Small Block Chevy of the Bass world...... It's the most popular, it fits pretty much anywhere, it's largely unchanged over the last 60 years, and you can get aftermarket parts to modify them very easily.
  17. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    1) Why are you pondering this at 5:30 a.m.? :D

    2) I see your point. It's funny though. Something about that pickup placement is magic. I don't get it myself. Yes, I have to make MYSELF more versatile when I play a P bass. But, TO ME, using the side of my thumb over the fretboard to get a rounder tone sounds "better" on a passive P bass than it does on anything else, including a mudbucker at the end if the neck. But, using a pick back by the bridge to get a grindy, edgy tone also sounds better on a passive P bass....better than a jazz or other bridge pickup. There's a special sauce in that pickup style/placement.

    My main player has a P at the neck, and a dual coil at the bridge. I play it with just the neck (P) pickup most of the time. I'll add the bridge if I'm playing some GnR, or solo the bridge (boosting bass frequencies) when playing Journey to mimic that killer beefy burp he got on those hits. But almost all night, playing everything from modern country to old soul to pop and rock, that P pickup gets it done.

    So, I guess what I'm saying is that the majority of the time the dozen or so tones I get coax out of a P bass (like you said, using the tone knob and technique) seem to work better for me than anything else I've tried. I own three PJ basses, and I still use just the P pickup the vast majority of the time.

    Being that you've been an Ernie Ball guy in the past, would you say the same thing about a Ray? (I ask because I'm still toying with the idea of buying a Pre EB Ray.)
    durph and ObsessiveArcher like this.
  18. rockscott


    Aug 28, 2010
    If the p bass is indeed a one trick pony, that's just fine, as it has been turning tricks amazingly well forever! I have always wanted a nice p bass, but my hands are just too small to play one comfortably. I finally got the p bass tone I have always desired 5 years ago, with the purchase of my birdsong!
    Mike Whitfield and nick4bass like this.
  19. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    From Merriam-Webster

    one-trick po·ny
    1. one that is skilled in only one area
    That should do it on it's own, but examples above do a great job of showing why pickup count ≠ versatility.

    The number of different usable and desirable tones that can be coaxed out of any given decent Precision are almost too many to count. :)
  20. Planespotter


    Oct 11, 2015
    The P bass does one trick, but that one trick happens to be amazingly versatile. where the confusion lies.

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