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Why is my P-Bass so damn tough on me?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BWB, Aug 29, 2007.

  1. BWB


    Aug 30, 2000
    Knoxville TN
    Going to ask the gallery for an answer to a riddle ---

    Assume my skill level on playing the bass is high to very high -- I'm now in my 26th year of 4-stringing....

    I own a '90 MIA P-Bass that I've had since new.

    I've discovered in the last few years that (no surprise) other basses are much easier to play. I didn't know any better as I had crappy basses early on and then this was my only bass from 1990-2002. Lower action, better string feel... including some cheapie basses that I wouldn't quite have expected to be well playable. The dilemma is that it seems like MOST basses are easier than my P-Bass to play. They don't SOUND better, but they are a helluva lot easier -- my P demands I yank the strings hard, the action is high. left hand doesn't move nearly as well -- I used to be happy with it because I really didn't know any better but I'm getting more and more distressed about it...

    On advice, I took the P to <insert store name in Knoxville, TN that has the rep as the 'players' music store that I've had good dealings with> to have them set it up for me. It came back, well, kind of feeling just like it did - high action, hard to play - ***? I'm now REALLY unhappy. Is this just... the way it is?

    SO, bass experts, what the hell do I do now? Is it just that P basses are really tough to play and I've been in the dark about it all this time? Is the damn thing set up wrong even after "being set up" by the local luthier/guitar repairist?

    It's getting to the point where despite having owned this bass for 17 years I'm thinking of just putting it in storage and never playing it again. HELP!
  2. Set the action lower? Or possibly replace the neck with one more comfortable.
  3. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Get thee to a luthier, not a music store. You may have neck issues. Your P, while being the boat plank of wood that it is, shouldn't be so tough on you. My 2 70's era P's play great, admittedly way different from a 90's era P, but still P designs. When you take the bass in for work make sure to mention you want low action with no fret buzz. Be very descriptive in what your problems are and what you want and you'll get better results. Good techs are worth gold and worth tracking down. Just my 2 cents.
  4. purfektstranger


    Apr 10, 2003
    Did you explain to the tech that you wanted the action lowered? Is the neck warped? If you are uncomfortable doing it yourself, take the bass back to the setup guy and tell him the action should be lowered. If the neck really is warped he should let you know or rather should have let you know. Personally I don't find Fender P's anymore difficult to play than other basses and I have smaller than average hands. Truth is my hand tends to cramp up quickly on basses with skinny necks.....go figure.
  5. Keef


    Jul 3, 2003
    Hollywood, CA
    This is not a quick fix, but I would suggest that you learn to do your own setups. I do all of mine, and as a result, all my instruments play exactly like I want them to. Don't be intimidated, go slow at first – I can assure you, it's not that hard! It's very rewarding, you might actually grow to enjoy doing your own setups (I do).

    It seems some techs set up instruments the way THEY like them, not the way YOU do – if you asked for low action and got high action, I think you're going to the wrong tech. He/she didn't do what you paid for.

    I hope this post doesn't sound like it came from Mr. Smarmy Pants, that's not what I intended. In the mean time, maybe somebody here can suggest a tech in your area who actually listens to what a customer wants?
  6. Oh man, this discussion could get violent..........

    Yes, there are more comfortable and easier playing basses than a Fender P bass. If you like a P bass sound but want more comfort, try something like a Lull, Valenti, etc.
  7. BWB


    Aug 30, 2000
    Knoxville TN
    Yes -- I specifically said that the action was too high and that I had to pull the strings too hard to play it any longer and that I had to grab the strings hard to play it. The neck is perfect. I have no physical issues -- healthy, strong 38 year old guy... no wrist or hand problems.

    I just want to be able to play the bass -- particularly with my left hand -- with a lighter, faster touch. I feel like I have to grab the neck hard, pull the strings hard, my left doesn't move fast -- then I pickup my cheapo Dean bass and it plays smooth and fast but not the same sound.

    Yes, there are other basses easier to play, the problem is THIS BASS sounds EXACTLY like what I want. :meh:
  8. Terrik


    Jul 21, 2007
    i have the same problem with women...

    some are fast and easy...

    others are slow and high maintenence...

    usually not attributes i seek in my basses tho :p

  9. contakt321


    Jul 31, 2006
    New York, NY
    +1 to Keef - I do all of my own setups and now all of my basses play with super low action up and down the neck. I dare to say that my basses play better now than when I payed to get setups.

    As for your P problems, is it a string through body bridge? That may make the tension on the strings feel tighter. Try just going through the bridge.

    Also, are you using the same brand of strings on this bass as others? Some strings feel tighter to me as well.
  10. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    +1. A lighter string gauge will be easier to play.

    If your neck is in good shape there is no reason why you can't get a reasonably low action that is easy to play. I've never found my P-basses (Sadowsky and Fender) to be harder to play then the other basses I've owned (Smith, Elrick, etc.).

    The other bass that you found easier to play; did they have active electronics? IME this can make a difference in the effort required to play. Since active bass usually have more output, you don't need to pluck or or fret (hammer-ons) with as much effort.

    I recommend you do a little research here and elsewhere on the web and learn how to lower your action yourself. Doing your own setups is very easy IMO, and you really can't hurt anything on your bass unless you go crazy and wrench down on the truss rod or something. Get yourself some new light strings, set that bad boy up nice and low, and see how you like it. I have spent many hours and a bit of cash trying out different strings and setups trying to find out what works best for me. I'm sure I'm not alone on that venture. It is part of finding your sound/tone.

    If it is the active electronics that you dug in the other bass, have a preamp installed in your P. My Sadowsky P has one and I just love it.

    Good luck.
  11. middy


    Mar 14, 2007
    I never pull or grab my strings. :confused:

    My P plays just as easily as anything else I've tried. It's got a medium action, but that's how I like it for a clear, buzz-free sound.

    Get an old archtop guitar with high action and heavy strings and play that for a few months. After that, everything else will seem really easy to play. :p
  12. A friend of mine plays a Ric and he hates Fenders, especially the Precision. When I ask why, his response is "They fight back!"

    I have a 2006 MIA Precision and love it. It is somewhat harder to play then my Spector Euro. I find that I need more an "attitude" when playing the P-bass. A light touch does not work well. Of course, I'm not talking about bashing it! It's just a matter of getting that great thump out of it by adding a little more oomph to plucking the strings. Incidentally, another friend of mine that plays an old Spector/Kramer bass experienced the same when he played my Precision.
  13. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    I have three Precisions, and all of them are fairly easy to play. The hardest is the '51 RI, but it's still not bad.

    Your bass probably has the 9.5" fingerboard radius, which in my experience is easier to play on than the 7.25" "vintage" radius...but my #1 Classic '50s P has the vintage radius, and it's not difficult.

    I had a Squier II P with a stripped truss rod nut so the bow couldn't be adjusted out of the neck. Playing it was like lifting weights with your left hand fingers.

    My guess is that you've got a faulty (warped or twisted) neck, if it can't be adjusted for better action. I'd consider trading it in on one that was a better player. With Ps, after all, you can replace the pickups and strings and get the sound you want; the chassis doesn't contribute that much to the sound.
  14. My P bass is probably the easiest of all my bassed to play. I tend to play it when my hands are tired from my other basses. Try lowering the action and putting in really high quality pickup. That will minimize the effort required to get the sound out of it.
  15. All_¥our_Bass


    Dec 26, 2004
    I can almost never enjoy basses from mopst music stores, their idewa of a factory setup os my idea of hell. I like my action as low as you can get and strings two sizes thinner.
  16. mobax


    Dec 31, 2002
    New Baltimore, MI
    My Precision plays smooth like butter. I do all of my setups and also have installed a Jazz bass neck on my P. By all means, learn to do setups.
  17. wow.. alot of P bass ranting goin on.. well not rantin but like

    issues/stories... etc
  18. Rugaar


    Apr 11, 2007
    + another 1

    What are you using now? Some brands and guages are easier to play than others. Different strings plus adjust your action should get you where you want to be. Personally I like my bass to fight back a bit. It lets me dig in a bit harder, which fits my style.
  19. BWB


    Aug 30, 2000
    Knoxville TN
    I'm using D'Addario XL .045, .065, .085, .105 -- I usually use these or comparable size Ernie Ball.

    I can't seem to see any way to get the strings lower on the neck -- and trust me, I've fiddled with this thing way too much over the past few months. I took it to have it set up after I was convinced I'd screwed it up :meh: and it came back with the action high again. Grrrr....

    Maybe I need to try super light strings, but I feel like I'm going to be sacrificing tone to do it.
  20. mobax


    Dec 31, 2002
    New Baltimore, MI
    Have you adjusted the amount of relief on the neck. Also, revisit the shim issue.

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