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The best Jazz Bass is... a Precision Bass? ! ! ! :-)


Mark Schmieder

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I made a big switch tonight after re-evaluating bass usage the past few weeks, and swapped my five-string Dingwall Afterburner for a four-string Fender Precision Bass with maple fretboard and D'addario flat wound strings.

 

From the first note, I knew I had the band and the audience. There was no looking back. This is THE bass for jazz as well as almost anything I threw at it. But of course with the treble cut almost fully engaged.

 

When I first bought the bass, I didn't think it was a keeper, until I had it set up properly and took off the round wound strings. P-Basses are so bright as it is, for crying out loud! Before the string swap, even fully cutting the treble didn't help, and it had a weird phasiness to the sound.

 

Interestingly, as good a bass as it is, my 60's style Jazz Bass with rosewood fretboard is useless for jazz (though not for other genres).

 

I am able to get into fretless territory with this combination and sound almost like an upright if I want, without accidentally pushing into "mwah" territory as on my fretless P-Bass.

 

The P-Bass with flats has such a focused tone and is so balanced with strong mid-range, it just sits with everything else perfectly and grounds the music without sounding too assertive -- unless I want it to, such as when soloing.

 

I have never played better in my life than I did at today's gig, technically or musically, and got the most compliments ever (including from one big-name musician in the audience, which sort of took me aback and embarrassed me since the bandleader was right next to me).

 

I feel reborn as a bassist, and that the limitations of four strings will force me to make better choices. Only a few times did I miss the "B" string, and only for a note or two due to the key and the movement of the phrase as opposed to my usual tendency to play down there to get a stronger fundamental sound that sits better with the other instruments (especially when people are soloing).

 

I probably need setup work on the Dingwall after playing thousands of hours these past couple of years, and I'll try their new nickel-plated strings next time (I just used up my last set of all-steel Voodoo strings last weekend -- they are no longer made). But regardless of how that pans out, I have zero criticisms of the P-Bass with flats and felt that I had the most control I've ever had over tone, with every subtlety coming out and of course a strong attack to each note.

 

I have no idea if the P-Bass has been used much in jazz, but I did learn recently that most pre-69 pop hits were on flats and also that Bootsie apparently played flats and a maple neck P-Bass on most of his 70's slap/pop work, even if later such artists preferred MusicMan, active basses, rosewood, or maybe 70's J-Bass w/ maple (and the special pickup spacing), etc.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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I believe Anthony Jackson played a p early in his career, I'm sure others will come to mind.

 

My own personal P w/ flats is just a workhorse machine that can do pretty much anything. The flats (Chromes) are a couple years old now and are really getting the thump, but still have some zing to 'em. Mine does not have original PUs, though.

 

You might consider a PU change to remove some of the brightness, if you want. Maybe Fralin or Seymour Duncan "vintage" line. Many decent options available.

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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The P-Bass with flats has such a focused tone and is so balanced with strong mid-range, it just sits with everything else perfectly and grounds the music without sounding too assertive -- unless I want it to, such as when soloing.

Can you elaborate on this point, please?

 

Are you doing anything different to go from "sit in the mix" to "assertively out front"?

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Yes -- it's all in the fingers. :-)

 

On the PU notes, thanks for the suggestion. What I really wanted was to swap for a P-Bass with the original '51 non-split-coil style as the two I have tried (Custom Shop Relic models) had a much more balanced tone and had a usable treble knob.

 

Unfortunately, I don't think you can put that kind of pickup in one with the split-coil, but I can check around. Not even sure the placement is the same.

 

I don't like relics; I treat my instruments with care and especially resent spending thousands of dollars to ruin an instrument. The only non-relic with '51 PUP is the Sting model, which no one carries and which anyways isn't well thought of.

 

All three single-pickup models use two-saddle bridges, which also annoys me. That's why I was hoping they'd do a Select version, but this year's Select and Custom models are stupid and weird beyond belief. I mean, not "different" in a potentially creative way, but more random darts at the board by the marketing team.

 

Oops, to clarify, so far they seem to have only announced new guitars, not new basses. What a weird way they have chosen to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Strat! My 60th Anniversary Precision Bass was thought out so well!

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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