Why the weird shape...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by honza992, Jan 25, 2006.

  1. honza992

    honza992 Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2006
    Can anyone enlighten me as to why the Fender Jazz is the shape it is? I'm assuming the asymetrical body serves a purpose rather than being purely aesthetic?
  2. shnapper


    May 1, 2005
    Interesting question, SO!! I did a search on the WWW and found this. Not really in depth on the actually shape, but the history is all there for you, Enjoy................


    The instrument is a descendant of the double bass (a cousin of the violin and viola da gamba) and shares design attributes of the electric guitar and features in common with a range of other bass instruments. Electric basses may be fretted or fretless, although fretted basses are more common.

    The electric bass, in contrast to the upright bass (or double bass), is played while being held horizontally across the body. Unlike the double bass, it is not played with a bow; instead it is usually plucked with the fingers (and sometimes also the thumb) or a plectrum (pick).

    In electric basses, as with the electric guitar, the vibrations of the instrument's metal strings within the magnetic field of the permanent magnets in the pickups (pickups), produce small variations in the magnetic flux threading the coils of the pickups. This in turn produces small electrical voltages in the coils. These low-level signals are then amplified and played through a speaker. A less common variant of pickup uses one or more piezoelectric elements usually in the bridge assembly directly to sense the mechanical vibrations of the strings. Various electronic components, and the configuration of the amplifier and speaker, can be used to alter the basic sound of the instrument.

    The electric bass is the standard bass instrument in many musical genres, including country, jazz, many flavors of rock and roll, soul, funk, and modern orchestral music.


    There is much debate among musicians and fans of the instrument about what to call the instrument. While "bass guitar" (pronounced "base") is, generally speaking, a more common term among non-musicians, others prefer "electric bass guitar," "electric bass," or simply "bass." Many are happy to use the terms interchangeably but some express a strong preference for one or other of them.

    Fender's early dominance in the market for mass produced bass guitars led to the widespread use of the term "Fender bass" to describe the instrument. After the prominent bassist Carol Kaye published her popular bass instructional book in 1969, entitled How To Play The Electric Bass, musicians's unions in the United States followed suit, changing the name from Fender Bass to "Electric Bass" in their directories. Additionally, with the plethora of alternative manufacturers producing similar instruments, the term "Fender bass" has largely fallen out of use.

    Modern bass playing draws on both guitar and double bass for inspiration as well as an increasing vernacular of its own.


    The necessity for a louder individual bass instrument can be traced back to the 1920s. Jazz combos had double basses accompanying banjos, brass and woodwind sections, pianos, and drums. Simply being heard was hard, and transporting a double bass was harder.

    The Audiovox Manufacturing Company in Seattle, Washington had an upright solidbody electric bass on the market by February 1935, designed by Paul H. Tutmarc, a musician/teacher/instrument & amplifier maker. Audiovox's sales catalogue of around 1935-6 listed what is probably the world’s first fretted solid body electric bass played horizontally - the Model #736 Electric Bass Fiddle. The change to a "guitar" form and the addition of frets made the instrument much easier (and more precise) to play.

    The first mass-produced electric bass was developed by innovator and manufacturer Leo Fender in the early 1950s. Fender trained as an accountant and was a self-taught electrical engineer who started repairing radios and built P.A. systems before getting into the electronics and amplification of electric instruments. Ironically, Leo Fender could not even play guitar or bass: by his own admission, "not a note."

    The Fender Precision Bass was first offered in 1951. Named for the exact intonation a player could achieve with its fretted neck, the Precision Bass was equipped with a single piece, four-pole pickup, and a simple, uncontoured 'slab' body design. In 1954 the body was contoured with beveled edges for comfort. In 1957, the pickup was changed to a single "split pickup" (staggered) design. The pickguard also underwent a radical change, as did the headstock.

    This 1957 design has remained as the standard electric bass, and is still widely available. Another industry standard, the similar, but more highly-engineered Fender Jazz Bass, was introduced in 1960. These designs have become so ubiquitous that pickups based on the ones found on the Precision and Jazz basses are often referred to as "P" or "J", respectively. (Fender also produced a six-string bass, the Fender VI, in the 1960s, although it was tuned higher than a modern six-string bass.)

    Following Fender's lead, other companies such as Gibson, Danelectro, and many others started to produce their own version of the electric bass. Some, like the Rickenbacker 4000 series, became identified with a particular style of music. Rickenbackers were pioneered by Paul McCartney, John Entwistle, Chris Squire, Geddy Lee, and other progressive rock bassists.

    In 1971 Alembic established the template for what would subsequently be known as "high end" electric bass. Key design elements included active electronics, premium woods, and multi-laminate neck-through-body construction. Other innovations by Alembic included the world’s first graphite neck bass and the first production 5 string bass with a low B string - both in 1976.

    The first low B string on a bass appeared in 1975, when Fodera collaborated with Anthony Jackson to create a new six-string electric bass.

    Early uses of the instrument saw bassists doubling the double bass part or replacing that instrument entirely with their new, more portable and easily amplified alternative. The upright double bass became functionally obsolete for a while in many kinds of popular music, allowing bassists to move further up front in the band mix, both visually and audibly. However, the improvement in pickups and amplifier designs for electro-acoustic horizontal and upright basses as well as the trend for "unplugged" performances has led to a revival in interest in the upright bass and the increase in choices for acoustic-electric basses.

    Innovations and refinements continue through to the present day.

    Excerpt taken from Wikipedia................
  3. spit.gif

    "BASE" Opps! Why didn't someone tell me!?!?!?!

    All these years I've been making an idiot out of myself.
  4. shnapper


    May 1, 2005

    LOL, that explains bass fishing or is it base fishing? :D
  5. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    The Jazz body was an offset offshoot of the fender precision bass(which also influenced the shape of the stratocaster). Designed to be a bit more "modern" (It was origionally called the deluxe model bass). If I remember correctly, it was influenced by the offset shape of the Jazzmaster and Jaguar guitar designs, or at least part of the same design asthetic in Leo Fender's mind.
  6. klocwerk


    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    It was also designed to be comfortable to use, sitting or standing. Leo was all about contouring to the shape of the body.
  7. Sippy


    Aug 1, 2005

    That is what I have always thought. My question is why is it called "Jazz" bass? I know why Precision bass is called "Precision bass" but how did the jazz bass get it's name?
  8. shnapper


    May 1, 2005
    I think your correct, sound as if the p was updated to look more like the New Strat this excerpt says.......Nothing really on why the body is shaped the way it is, must have just been how it came out. Maybe since its cousin is the acoustic from way back the design just sort of played off that?

    Design Updates

    In 1954, the body design was changed to more resemble that of Fender's then-new Stratocaster guitar, with the edges contoured for comfort. In 1957, the pickup design was changed, with a 'split pickup' or 'staggered' design being used. This design actually connected the pickups in humbucking mode; however, Fender never emphasized this, as Gibson's patent on the humbucker had not yet expired. In the same year, the headstock and pickguard were redesigned. The original design, with a few updates, was reintroduced in 1968 as the 'Telecaster Bass.'
  9. shnapper


    May 1, 2005

    Well here you go............

    The Jazz Bass was the second bass model created by Leo Fender. First introduced in 1960 as the "Deluxe Model", it was renamed the Jazz Bass as Fender felt that its redesigned neck - narrower and more rounded than that of the Precision Bass - would appeal more to jazz musicians. The Jazz Bass has two bipolar "Jazz" pickups. As well as having a slightly different, less symmetrical and more contoured body shape (known in Fender advertising as the "offset waist contour" body), the Jazz Bass neck is noticeably narrower towards the nut than that of the more common Fender Precision Bass. The original intention was to make it easier for upright-bass players to make the switch to electric bass. It has three control knobs (instead of the two of the Fender Precision Bass), two of them controlling the volume of the two pickups and one for the overall tone. A fourth, push button control is available on some models of Jazz Bass produced after mid-2003. Known as the "S-1 Switch" this feature allows the pickups to operate in standard, parallel wiring, or alternatively in series wiring when the switch is depressed. While in series, both pickups function as a single unit with one volume control, giving the Jazz Bass a sound similar to the Precision Bass.

    I'm nabbing all this from wikipedia so if something isn't right please don't yell at me LOL!
  10. Don't they have meds for that now?
  11. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    I don't know where the above info came from but I've always read in interviews with Leo Fender and others from the early days that "Jazz" Bass came from the slang of the time, as in "jazzed up", as it was the deluxe model bass.
  12. i thought it was offset like that for the balance, so you play it at an angle for wrist comfort, and the cut into the lower horn was so you can access the higher frets, and the top cutaway was so it looked a little more symmetrical with the overall line of the bass...
  13. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Speaking of "slang of the time", many etymologists claim the word "jazz" originally meant sex, and was essentially the same as "jizz".
    link 2
    Some researchers give it an earier Irish or French origin:
    link 3
    Link 4
    In those it means "energy" or "pep", and probably was used to mean sexual enthusiasm as well.
  14. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    bongomania, interesting links! :)

    ...I particularly liked this one:

    "jive - 1928, "to deceive playfully" (v.), also "empty, misleading talk" (n.) and "a style of fast, lively jazz and dance music," Amer.Eng., from Black English, probably of African origin (cf. Wolof jev, jeu "talk about someone absent, especially in a disparaging manner"). Used from 1938 for "New York City African-American slang." The adj. meaning "not acting right" is attested from 1971. "

    ...anyone seen that Jive1 character 'round here??? The 1971 definition seems somewhat appropriate, based on photographic evidence from the NAMM show...

  15. puff father

    puff father

    Jan 20, 2006
    Endicott, NY
    I think the shape, like that of violins and violas and double basses, are sexeh. They mirror the shape of a woman.