Fender introduced the Jazz bass in 1960. The Fender Jazz was the next Fender bass design after the Fender Precision bass. One of the main reasons it was first designed was to provide the existing Jazz and upright bass players a louder electronic option. It has a much richer and brighter tone than the P-Bass. To my ears it is more smoother, refined and less percussive sounding than the P-Bass.
It also has more tonal options in its standard pickup design. The split bridge and neck pickups with twin magnet poles for each string also have separate volume controls. Along with its volume knob, the other control knob on a passive Jazz bass is purely a tone control.
I like this setup in itself as you can dial a wide range of tones and sounds just using differing pickup volumes and positioning of your fingers. Max the bridge pickup volume and play with your fingers right above the bridge pickup and you can get that toney-buk-puk Jaco Pastorius sound. Have more neck pickup and or play it higher up the strings and you get a smooth deeper vintage tone and lots of sustain – and anywhere in between.
The active pickups in the “Deluxe” models have additional bass, mid and treble boost/cut controls. I’m not a huge fan of active pickups to start with on basses because I find them harder to dial in a good level with the “hotter’ signal into your amp/effects petals/unit. Playing live, I’ve also found having the “extra” EQ control on board your bass counter-productive. I’d rather focus on the getting the EQ right on the Amp unit.
The Jazz bass body is larger and heavier than the P Bass and has a more modern flowing design . The Jazz bass has noticeably thinner nut and more rounded neck compared to the P-Bass. I just can’t get comfortable on the P-Bass neck. To me its like playing a rectangle pole compared to the Jazz bass neck.
If I was totally new to bass and just starting out I’d go straight for the Fender Standard Jazz Bass (made in Mexico). You can’t get a better all round bass for neck feel and quickness, range of tonal options with simple control, reliability and instant street cred. If you can afford it go for the American built standard, but if not, even the cheaper Chinese Fender Jazz Squire ($400 $AU) is awesome value – especially for junior!!
Ed Friedland – The Bass Whisperer, is the guru and knows bass. This is his run down video on the 50th anniversary Jazz Bass which also provides some great info about the Jazz bass.
On eBay there is a great online Fender guitar parts re-seller The Stratosphere. The have an awesome range of Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster bodies, necks, plates, pickups everything. Unfortunately, for my wallet, they also have Fender Bass parts. Its a regular Jawa like recycling operation .. well better. So, I’ve decided to build myself a couple of custom fender basses. I love the look of the 70’s Jazz neck with the pearl inlays. So I’m keen to set one of those up on a Jazz body.
AND! Shock horror, I’m also toying with the idea of slotting one into a Precision Bass body!! I just can’t stand the P-Bass neck… but with a sweet Jazz neck on-board would it be a different proposition? It is a commonly done swap. Lets go shopping!! My first lot of parts has arrived already from the USA!
I’m keen to give the P-Bass pickup setup a go but as I’ve ranted before, I’m just not into the P-Bass necks. Stratosphere list Precision and Jazz bass bodies and necks separately, with new stock coming in all the time. Fender Jazz & Precision Bass bits are very interchangeable. I want to build a vintage-like custom Jazz Bass and a Precision Body/Jazz Neck Hybrid Bass. I want to use these basses live with Stellas Kitchen and to experiment with tonal options – particularly the hybrid P/J Bass. So I’m not going to go too crazy on costs… I hope.
60’s / 70’s Fender Jazz Basses
There is plenty of debate about which is the best sounding Jazz bass era. From what I’ve read and the opinions I’ve heard most seem to say the early 60’s was the best decade for jazz basses. That is, before Leo Fender sold Fender to CBS in 1965. Production quality went downhill from this point as CBS sought to maximise every cent out of the Fender business. Like, they reduced the number of neck bolts on the Fender bass from 4 to 3.. I mean thats just pure genius cost cutting measures! Fender bass nerds far and wide argue about whether it was the basses made 60’s, or those made in the 70’s which are the best. I’ve never played a legitimate 60’s or 70’s bass so I can’t say. However, I do like different design features in each decade.
In the 70’s, Fender Jazz basses also came with the sweet looking pearl fret inlays and the larger Jazz tuning heads with the cool Fender logos. This neck design was really the focus for this build – I just wanted a 70’s inlay neck okay!! In the 70’s Fender shifted the bridge pickup a little closer to the bridge. I tend to like playing a bit behind the bridge pickup if I’m going for that sharper toney bridge sound so I like the extra space away from the bridge the 60’s (standard Jazz) placement provides.
But the 60’s series of basses had the stacked pickup and volume and tone controls (2 knobs) which I find a bit dicky. The three knob set up works much better. Fender make a 60’s and 70’s reissue series of Jazz basses. They each have been created to replicate some of these design features I’ve mentioned along with vintage single coil pickups. The 60’s reissue body does have the 3 knob control setup too. There are also set colour combinations available from Fender in each series which can be limiting.
So I picked up an Olympic white 60’s reissue body which has the closer together pickup spacing and the 3 volume controls setup. With a 70’s reissue neck going straight in with no problems and a white pickguard. I’ve merged together what I like about the 60’s and 70’s designs and colours. Its also got a Leo Quan Badass II Bridge on it.
The finished bass: