Posted by: Jon | January 9, 2007

The Fender P-bass vs. Fender J-bass

-Jon Chema

Being a musician, I tend to be asked many questions about my hobby. The majority going something like the following… “Is that a guitar your playing?”… “How long have you been playing?”….. “Can you teach me how to play?”…. “How’s your band going?” However, a few months ago, a fellow musican friend asked me a very interesting question. It happened to be the most intelligent one that I have heard over the past few months. The question was simple.. “What is the difference between a Jazz Bass, and a Precision Bass?”

The answer to that question is not a simple one-line response. It is actually quite complex, and I will bet you that the majority of Guitar Center employees could not tell you the difference. Describing something that you hear is normally an impossible task. You can’t quite describe a sound in words. Anyways, I will try my best to give you a little history lesson on the two basses, and then try to explain their distinct sounds.

Back in the early days, the concept of the bass guitar was unheard of. The only real intrument with a “bassy” sound was that of the upright bass. It was an enormous instrument, that could only be played while in an upright position (hence the name) and was not capable of being amplified. In 1951, Leo Fender created the Precision Bass Guitar. He realized that the process of building a guitar could be simplified, and dreamed up the idea of a bass that you could actually hold. This new bass could be played like a guitar, and had frets so it could be played with “precision”. This new bass could also be amplified, thus liberating bassists from unwieldy and increasingly difficult-to-hear acoustic basses. The new concept struck gold, and revolutionized the music industry. Along with the Telecaster guitar, these two historic instruments laid the foundation for a new kind of group and a revolution in popular music—what we know today as the modern rock combo. As opposed to the “big bands” of the era, electric Fender instruments made it possible for smaller groups of musicians to get together and be heard.

Upon seeing the sucess of the Precision bass, Leo Fender decided to create a new “upscale” line of basses. He later named them the jazz bass. This new bass guitar boasted two single coil pickups that hum-canceled more effectivly, a differn’t body style and pickguard, new knobs, and a slimmer (faster) neck. The new line was a sucess, and Fender was truely at the top of it’s game. Over time the Precision and Jazz basses evolved into what we know them as today.

When asked to contrast these two instruments, the first thing that comes to mind is the sound. The Presicion bass tends to have a big bottom end to it. It isn’t neccesarly a muddy sound, but it’s very deep and lacks alot of treble. The Jazz bass on the other hand, has a very distinct sound. It has a different selection of pickups, therefore giving it a unique mid-range growl. The Jazz bass, in my opinion, tends to give a crisp full sound but lacks the amount of bass that the P-bass gives. In modern music, the P-bass tends to be used more in a rock, hard rock, and Metal enviroment. The Jazz bass can me seen more often than not in the Jazz, Blues, and Country genres. However, the two are used in every genre all the time. The choice of bass really depends on the type of bassist, and the sound that they are looking for.

The Fender Precision and Jazz basses have revolutionized the world of music. We owe much of this to their father, Leo Fender.

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Responses

  1. Hey great post…really nice explanation of the two…the history was interesting to learn too..thanks again.

  2. I find the history extremely interesting as well.
    Leo Fender was really a great guy!

  3. WOW I DONT EVEN PLAY BASS AND I WAS ENLIGHTENED!

  4. hahaha. Glad to enlighten you.

  5. Hi Jon,

    Nice article and you are right, i used to say more sophisticated when it came to the Jazz. In playing style i am more a hardrocker. Anyway, i got ’em both USA:-)

  6. I’ve got a Mexican precision bass and want to get a jazz bass. I always wanted the precision and hated the jazz bass for no reason. Then since about a year after getting my precision, 2 years ago, I have been pining after a jazz bass. I’m going to get a jazz in the summer hopefully but will hold onto my precision.

  7. Hi Jon,
    I have been searching for this answer for awhile now, and I am so pleased that you have answered this in a paragraph. I’ve even tried looking at different reviews between the two guitars and gotten no joy. I did notice that the jazz bass had the single coils and I assumed that it would be a more ‘cleaner’ sound, but the sales person didn’t know. I’m glad you answered this. I’ve only started learning guitar about 10 months ago and my boyfriend has a passion for bass guitars, so together we’ll be able to jam chili pepper songs! woohoo! There is a package at the music shop for the same price you can get a fender p bass or a fender j bass so I wasn’t sure what the difference was. I’m still having trouble deciding since he’d want a ‘rockier’ sounding one and is less into country or jazz music. But I like the thought that the jazz bass is cleaner, has more treble and crispness. Please feel free to email me if you have any suggestions. We both love rock music but like the mellower alternative rock too.

  8. I am looking at learning to play the bass. I found your explain.. very good. The Guitars that I am looking at have both P and J Pick ups. What can I expect from That combo?

  9. The Chili Peppers are AMAZING! Flea is the perfect example of a bassist that is all about their tone. Listen to a few of their live songs live and you will see what I mean. Good luck with your playing!

  10. Your friend asked about the a p bass versus a j bass but i was wondering what kind of tone difference their is between an acoustic bass and a p bass.

  11. I found your description right on target; I love both sounds and their combinations so I just bought a Fender Aerodyne Jazz bass, which has one precision pickup and one jazz pickup, so it’s the best of both worlds

  12. Both are great basses. As for the jazz bass and rock – think Geddy Lee of Rush. I like all kinds of music an play a Carvin bass, but also play a jazz and it’s great, especially if you like the slimmer neck.

    • Geddy used a precision on the debut album (think Working Man) and jazz on Tom Sawyer (and on everything after Counterparts,1993). Between, there was Steinberger, Wal, and Rickenbacker.

  13. I love electric distorted blues! Johnny Winter, Rory Gallagher, Deep Purple +++ Currently have an OLP MMII – (Stingray copy)….me & the boys play lots of everything classic rock (lots of cleaner stuff, too). NEED to get a Fender. I know I do and want to upgrade & add another piece to the arsenal (converted Guiter player with a Les Paul, 2 other electrics, 3 acoustics & 1 Acoustic bass-Dean Playmate…lots of fun & dirty sounding, at times). Should I look at the derivations of Jazz or P more serioously???

  14. I have the P bass and an old EARTH tube amp.I was trying to get that Glenn Cornick,(jethro tull),Geezer,(sabbath),and Noel Redding,(hendrix),sound out of my bass but it just ain’t happening.I realized they all used the JAZZ bass and I get a very chromatic sound out of my Pbass.I love 70’s progressive music because the Bass is just as important if not dominant over the 6 string guitar in that genre.Today’s bass is hidden and overpowered by riffs.

  15. i havent much money and bought a mexican p bass used very cheap it was in nice shape. ash body very nice looking. but pickups were nasty replaced them with 62 fender re issues and put a heaver bridge. the excuse me but a badass bridge 2. i also put elixir strings on it. but still get tinny sound of the neck. i play tru a carvin br615 bass combo. iam going tru some medical probs right now and have not alot of money any suggestion are should i just get rid of it. i was a lead guitar player but are church needs a bass player and iam really getting to like it alot. iam 56yrs old played worship 20 plus years christain rock and metal. but bass guitars i don know much about. all my guitars have emgs in them, but had to sell them because sickness in the family thankyou any suggestion will help

  16. Wow, Gary… You really killed that discussion.

  17. How do the pickups differ between the P and the J? Does the P-bass only have a single coil? And is the J-bass fretless (based on your description of why the other one is called “precision”)?

  18. where can I read a little more on the history or background of Leo Fender,, I’m A “Fender” and
    was wondering if I might be related ?(doubt it)

  19. Oh , by the way I’ll be getting my first J-bass tomorrow…. I’m off work for a while and always wanted to learn to play ! !

  20. Rico, the pickups on the precision bass are called split coil. They are in essence a single coil pickup that is split into two separate areas. One part picks up the E and the A string, while the other picks up the D and the G string. Both coils pick up the same noise, but since each string is only served by one coil, a single-coil sound is provided. As for the Fender Jazz bass, the bass features two single coil pickups that have opposite polarities. This helps to cancel out hum and noise. Hope this answers your questions!

  21. Hey John, I am embarrassed to say that I myself only know a bit about Leo himself. I do know a bit about the history of the company and if that is what you are looking for this site explains it great!

    http://www.musiciansbuy.com/Fender_History.html

    Congrats on the J-bass purchase! You are going to LOVE it!

  22. Hey Jon thanks for the artical on FENDER, —
    Im’ really happy with my bass,, (actually is a p-
    bass though) oh well Im determined to learn it–
    -Is there a good way to limber up and s t r e a t c h the wrist & fingers,,( I’m only 56 but I seem to be plagued with a bit of arthritis )

  23. Precision Bass over Jazz any day. You simply cant beat its midrange growl!

  24. you are cocks.

  25. Sorry I logged into the wrong page. I do not mean to cause offence. Bless all.

  26. In order to get the bass sound that blink-182 has should i get PBass or JBass?

    Please Help im getting my bass Soon!!!!

  27. […] Fender P or Fender Jazz Some cursory Googling led me to this article. […]

  28. Flea plays a Modulus bass. Not Fender.

  29. Great post. If you would include audio samples, to contrast their differences, that would be super!

  30. Good article, I’ve always preferred the Jazz’s tone and slim neck, but have recently aquired a taste for the Precision’s fat bottom! The P-bass also has a nice crunchy tone when you turn its tone control up, which punches through nicely in a rock/metal setup.

    BTW, I’m getting my fretless J-bass very soon! Yay!

  31. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  32. Sign: umsun Hello!!! rcuwwymhyw and 5349ssgfhphzye and 4313Thanks. We look forward to hearing from you again and for your opinions on the world of work.

  33. I am the proud owner of a rather strange beast… It is comprised of a jazz bass neck from 1966 and a P bass body from 64-65. Was this ever produced by Fender, or does it have to be an after market marriage?

  34. hard to think of a world without Leo Fender and Les Paul! I guess there really is a God!

  35. Bro! You’re awesome.. I’m a professional music producer and musician who’s now learning to play bass.. It’s guys like you that has kept me excited about learnning instruments all these years.. So,I’ll follow your lead in my bass adventure.. Forget Victor Wooten, soon I’ll be the man!So, Just call me Victor Tooten! Lol.. God bless you bro, and all of your followers that read this comment.. Lata!

    Rob Rogers…

    • Thanks Rob!

  36. Both are very useful, both rule and it is generally a good thing to have both and a third dimension which is a P/J variant.

    • Agreed. You can never have too many basses! 😉

  37. i think laying off the back pick up on jazz can give you a slight p bass sound useing 15 in 10’s for p bass it comes to personal prefrance p bass is my choice for 30 yrs

    • Yes, i’ve found playing style “plays” a huge rule in your tone more than gear or any bass can.

  38. Many thanks for your helpful posting. After 30-plus years, I’m again looking at buying a bass guitar. I had a bass which was copy of a Gibson SG in the past but I’m now looking at a Fender. On the basis of your comments, I tend to favour a Precision bass, even though I imagine the Jazz bass, with the slimmer neck, is easier to play. Again, from New Zealand, many thanks.

    • Neil the P-bass is super versatile and has been used on so many records and at so many concerts worldwide. Great choice, however if you are also sold on the J-bass neck you should look into a P/J combo. Pbass body and pickups with a J-bass neck!

  39. Another sound difference involves the design of the guitar bodies themselves. The P resonates more of the fundamental frequency and hence puts a strong low E harmonic into everything one plays on the instrument, whereas the J body does’t emit such a strong low E harmonic.

    Jeff

  40. Here is the link I forgot to paste on my first post. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-U1tg3DEAwU

  41. Best way to learn how to play worship songs on guitar online. Easy to follow step-by-step process.Very affordable compared to private lessons.

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    You can learn guitar at your own pace. I learnt guitar by paying $50 per hour. which was out of my budget and then after few sessions, I had to quit. But then My friend suggested me to learn guitar online and referred me – http://howtoplayworshipsongsonguitar.com/ . Which was quite interesting and reasonable. Now I write and play worship songs on guitar..


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