We often talk about P-basses, J-basses and even PJ basses.
These refer to the iconic bass models that were created by Leo Fender – the father of the modern electric bass. Here is a short history of them, outlining their characteristics.
The Precision Bass was first introduced in 1951 and the Jazz Bass came out in 1960. Till today, the Precision and Jazz Bass (or P and J Bass) designs are the most common in the market. So how do you tell your Ps from your Js?
The standard P-bass can most easily be identified by the split coil pick-ups located near the neck.
These offset pick-ups (one under the E and A string and the other under the D and G string) are humbucking (i.e. they cancel out unwanted noise that individual pick-ups tend to… erm… pick up). Its body shape is similar to a Stratocaster and it has a single piece pickguard with a characteristic hook at the end. It only features two knobs, one for the volume and one for the tone. This is the zen of basses, stripped down to its essential function and form.
The J-bass was introduced as the deluxe bass model by Fender and had more bells and whistles than its older brother. This came in the form of a thinner neck compared to the P-bass (to provide better mobility to the player) and an offset body which mirrored that of the Fender Jazzmaster guitar. The J-bass also had two single coil pick-ups, one at the neck and the other closer to the bridge. The tones from these could be mixed together from the three control pots mounted on the control plate to provide a wider sonic pallet compared to the P-bass.
Both designs are bass classics and their staying power is testament to the vision
of Leo Fender who designed them. Of course, there are also variants such as PJ basses which combine the split coil neck pick-up with a single coil bridge pick-up, however, fundamentally, most basses draw their inspiration from one of these two designs.
And now you can tell your Ps from your Js.
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