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Fender Precision or Jazz Bass ?

6 March 2009 by: Adam Major 8 Comments

Fender Bass

To jazz, or to precision: that is the question? This is one of the most common questions asked by bassists all around the globe. That’s no accident since Fender’s basses dominate the world of bass. Leo Fender and his small crew invented the first mass produced electric bass in 1951, known as the Fender Precision bass or for short, P bass. Nine years later, Leo Fender invented the Jazz bass or J bass which is distinct from the precision with a richer and brighter mid range. Through the years, many changes have been made to both model but the new P and J bass still carry the original traditions.

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 beautiful thing about these basses..

The Precision Bass looked radical in 1951. Its deep double cutaways and forward-raked design was like nothing the guitar world had seen. And it preceded the Stratocaster (which has a similar body style) by three years. 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.

Precision Bass

Precision Bass

The Fender Jazz Bass, released in 1960, offered players an alternative to the Precision. Its offset-waist body, which was drawn from the Jazzmaster guitar introduced a couple of years earlier, 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.

Jazz Bass

Jazz Bass

Platonic love is love from the neck up..
Most Bass production models have what Fender calls a C shape neck. Both model’s neck is made with either maple, or rosewood. This is where their similarities end. Neck preference vary different from different bassists preferences. The Precision neck maintains a fairly consistent thickness and tapers in slightly as it approaches the nut. I personally have a precision bass myself and find that it’s thicker neck makes an easier playing for slap bass and hard rock.

Meanwhile, the Jazz starts with its strings in a noticeably narrower spacing at the nut that give it a distinct tapered feel. This is a good advantage when playing busier bass lines wich requires an easier fingering feel. On my Jazz bass the faster action neck makes easier to play faster bass lines or more complex lines since the neck makes an easier fingering.

Having that said, through Fender’s wide variety of neck options for today’s P or J bass buyers, keep in mind chosing a neck that suits your playing style. The main thing is for you to choose the body/neck combination that suits you best.

Sounds of the pickup lines…
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 came out of the chute with dual eight-pole humbucking pickups that gave players a wider variety of tonal possibilities, thanks in part to a softer, less spiky signal that was not possible with the P Bass’s single-coil pickup.

There are some bass players consider to have a cleaner sound(J bass), with more tonal variation through use of knobs that adjusts the balance between the two pickups. Others enjoy more of a robust and warmer sound(P bass) with simply one knob for tone the other for volume.

A decision is the action..
It’s difficult to describe bass concepts like feel and playability in print. Hopefully this brief post has given you the basic concepts surrounding your choice of an electric bass.

Photo: Flickr 1, 2, 3

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8 Comments »

  • Fender: A Legacy | 360 BLOG said:

    […] Precision Bass […]

  • bassplayer2000 said:

    Hi and greetings from Germany,

    I prefer the Jazz Bass, because the Sound is better than the Precission Bass and the fingering is easier.
    Bass Lernen

    Nice Work!

  • Adam Major (author) said:

    I would agree for the fingering being easier, but you need that Fat sound from the P bass When slapping some Funk ! šŸ™‚

  • Bassplayer2000 said:

    Marcus Miller knows how to get the Fat Slap sound from a Jazz Bass

    I like his Sound very much!

    Greetings from Germany!

  • skeins said:

    This is actually very common knowledge, my friend, but thanks! I've owned a Schecter Stilleto 4 for four years now, but I feel somewhat disappointed. The Stiletto has a J-bass set up, and I'm wondering if that might not be the reason for the lack of warmth, or if the difference in price between, say, a Fender Jazz and the Stiletto has something to do with it all. I see many jazz players playing (surprise!) the Fender Jazz, and though I'm huge on jazz music, I prefer the strong fundamental of a P-bass because it reminds me more of an upright. Why then is it that no jazz bassists use the P-bass? I mean, isn't the P good for a jazz bassist, or what?

  • Jake said:

    Just a minor correction. The necks are all maple, just the fingerboard that is either maple or roseweood

  • Nathan said:

    Depends on what you’re going for. Jazz bass is better for finger style bassists (jazz, easy listening, smooth rock, etc) and the P-Bass has more attack and better for pick styles (Rock, punk, funk, etc). The pickup configuration on the jazz bass makes it easy for your hand to feel at ease while the P-Bass is a little less easy to play finger style.

    Personally I prefer the P-Bass, the jazz sounds nice and warm but becomes tough to play with all those pick ups in the way, and the body is really annoying because my arm keeps drilling the side every I play. P bass has a unique sound, plays well, nice body, neck is slim enough, easy to use, amazing for pick style bassists.

    Enjoy!

  • Ray said:

    …both

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