In our last post we wrote about all the basic parameters one needs to know about a Bass Guitar before buying one. Taking that forward, we'll talk about rest of the various parameters that'll help you to make a more informed choice and end up being with the guitar you'd play and keep for years to come.
Fender’s Precision and Jazz Basses dominate the world of bass guitars; and that’s no accident! Leo Fender and his small crew invented the first electric bass guitar more than 50 years ago. And though there have been many changes to both models over the past 50 years, the new P Bass or J Bass you buy today still carries the tradition of the classic originals.
So how do they differ? What makes a player choose one over the other? The primary differences can be summed up in three areas: the body, the neck and the pickups.
The Precision Bass was a radical design in 1951. Its deep double cutaways and forward-raked design was like nothing the guitar world had seen. In 1954 the Precision Bass, which had been a “slab” until then, adopted the contoured body of the new Stratocaster. These sculpted recessions at the bottom and top made it more comfortable to hold. The original Precision body was ash; now you can choose from models with ash or alder bodies.
The Fender Jazz Bass, released in 1960, offered players an offset-waist body, which was drawn from the Jazzmaster guitar introduced a couple of years earlier. This moved the mass of the body forward and out of the way of the player’s right arm. As with the P Bass, ash and alder body models of the J Bass are available.
Most Precision and Jazz Bass production models have what Fender calls a “modern C shape” neck. Each model’s neck is maple, with maple, rosewood, or pao ferro fingerboards available. Despite these similarities, the Precision neck maintains a fairly consistent thickness and tapers in slightly as it approaches the nut. However, the Jazz starts with its strings in a noticeably narrower spacing at the nut, which gives it a distinct “tapered” feel for what some players feel is easier fingering.
Upon its first release the Precision Bass had a single-coil pickup with a chrome-plated cover. Within a few years Fender moved to a split-coil pickup that offered a more defined and solid bass sound. The Jazz Bass was released with dual 8-pole humbucking pickups that gave players a wider variety of tonal possibilities. The end result was a bass some players consider to have a cleaner sound, with more tonal variation possible through use of a pan knob that adjusts the balance between the two pickups.
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It’s difficult to describe guitar concepts like “feel” and “playability” in print. But hopefully this guide has given you the basic concepts surrounding your choice of an electric bass. One thing is certain – your BAJAAO Sales Engineer can help steer you to the bass that’s right for you. Call today!
Electric bass guitars are most commonly solidbody electrics, although a few semihollowbodies are available for a rounder and more acoustic sound.
Choosing what type of neck your bass should have is dependent on the size of your hand. Necks come in a number of shapes: round, oval, flat back, “vee” and asymmetrical (thinner either on bass or treble side).
Longer necks provide a more defined sound on the low strings, while a shorter scale is acceptable for 4-string basses and is good for smaller hands.
Enclosed machine heads resist rust and airborne corrosives, and therefore don’t require as much maintenance or replacement as open tuning machines.
Intonation determines whether the notes play in tune as you move up the neck. If the distance between the frets (usually above the 12th fret) is off, the bass will be incapable of playing in tune and therefore is useless as a recording or performance instrument.
Neck-through basses are stronger, with better sustain and note resolution. Bolt-on necks have a punchier sound but are more likely to have dead spots.
A coated fingerboard helps produce a whining, trebly “fretless sound” and longer sustain, which wears much longer with round-wound strings. Uncoated fingerboards have a warmer, more natural sound.
Number of Frets
Most basses have 21, 22, or 24 frets. Since most bass playing takes place in the lower positions, this is a matter of personal taste.
Pickups have more effect on your bass’s final sound than chooice of wood. A pickup can give quite different results on different basses, and is also affected by the age of your strings.
The important question regarding the wood is whether you like the sound of the bass. Choice of woods naturally affects the tone and weight of a guitar, so consider how you will use the bass (ie. playing long gigs or sitting in a studio).
With all this information, we hope you'll be able to make a good decision, and get the bass that'll suit your need and playing style. Leave a comment and let us know if this guide was helpful to you or if you have any questions or comments :)
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