Jazz Bass or Precision Bass? What to choose – the differences

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Every beginner bassist, when choosing his first instrument, faces an inevitable dilemma – Jazz Bass or Precision Bass?

This choice is not easy and, as with other instruments or audio equipment, depends on many factors. If only on the genre you are into or your skills. That’s why it’s very important to make an informed decision about buying a bass. In today’s guide I will try to give you an idea of the differences between a jazz bass and a “precision” and help you choose the right one.

Main differences

Let’s start with the basics. Some of the differences are visible at a glance, and the most important of course are the pickups. J-Bass guitars are equipped with two single-coil (single coil) pickups, while pretzels are based on a single split-coil pickup (using two coils).

Mixed PJ bass
Mixed PJ bass

It is worth noting at this point that basses combining both solutions are also available on the market. These are models with a “mixed” PJ layout, where the split-coil pickup is located closer to the neck, and the single-coil closer to the bridge. I will talk about how the pickup layout affects the sound later in the text. However, it is worth mentioning that it defines what knobs we will have at our disposal while playing. The J-Bass in its simplest version has three potentiometers:

  • Master Tone (tone saturation),
  • Volume 1 (volume of the neck pickup) and
  • Volume 2 (bridge pickup volume).
Jazz Bass Type

Precision, on the other hand, puts the Master Tone and Master Volume knobs at our disposal. This arrangement, however, can vary from model to model. This happens, for example, in the case of basses equipped with active electronics (that is, those offering a built-in preamplifier and often an equalizer). Then you will find four or even five such potentiometers. At the same time, they can also be additionally equipped with push/pull switches or additional switches.

Precision Bass
Precision Bass
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Bass shape

Another very noticeable difference is the shape of the instrument itself. The J-Bass resembles stratocaster-type guitars in its design, with its characteristic vertical asymmetry of the body. The Precision, on the other hand, has a simpler, more symmetrical design. The final difference regarding the design itself is the construction and profile of the neck. While the J-Bass has a slightly narrower and more rounded neck, the Precision is characterized by its more massive and “solid” design. Hence, Jazz Basses are definitely more popular among beginners. This is because the neck and fretboard are considered more comfortable and accessible in these models for those who are just learning to play.

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Examples of Jazz bass and Precision bass

Typical examples of J-Basses include Fenders from the Player series or deviating from the classic design Ibanez GSR180 BS or Epiphone Toby Standard IV EB. On the other hand, if you are looking for an affordable precision, be sure to pay attention to the Squier Mini Precision Bass LRL BLK. For the more discerning, on the other hand, the real treat will be the Fender American Ultra Precision Bass MN APL.

In this video, I’m comparing and contrasting the jazz bass and the precision bass. I’ll show you why one is better for some situations and why the other might be a better fit for you. I’ll also give you some tips on how to pick which one is right for you.
So if you’re looking to get into playing bass, be sure to check it out!

Before we move on to the differences in sound, a brief mention should be made of bass guitars equipped with humbuckers, i.e. pickups with two coils. A good example of this is the uniquely styled Epiphone Thunderbird Vintage Pro TS, or the Ibanez SR305E-CUB, which offers two dual-coil pickups and a built-in equalizer. These types of basses are most often used in contemporary music – metal, progressive rock or pop. They are characterized by a strong sound with high selectivity and generally do not work well in more subtle genres. There are also models on the market equipped with a single humbucker (such as the Gibson Les Paul Junior Tribute DC Bass) or a humbucker and a single-coil/split-coil pickup, such as the Cort GB 74 OPN.

As you can see, the combinations are really many, and each of them has its own unique character.

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Jazz bass and Precision bass sound

So let’s move on to the most important issue, that is, the differences in sound between J-Bass and P-Bass. The names alone are able to tell us something. Jazz Bass will ideally suit… well, jazz. It offers a slightly more modern sound, also suitable for classic rock and funk. It’s an excellent choice for bassists who play mainly with their fingers and are looking for a deep, low-frequency rich sound, with a slightly soft and rounded finish. Without a doubt, the J-Bass features more flexibility than basses with a different pickup arrangement. It will also prove to be the only right choice for musicians playing with slap. A technique that involves striking the strings with the thumb and pulling them up vigorously.

Jazz Bass or Precision Bass
Precision Bass or Jazz Bass

Precision type basses, on the other hand, are a slightly different tale. These are instruments that feature high aggressiveness and a high level of dynamics. They will mainly work well for bassists looking for an old-school, almost buzzing sound. Any admirer of the Foo Fighters, Aerosmith or hits produced by Motown Records should direct his attention precisely to pretzels. It is worth mentioning here that one of the advantages of P-Basses is the fact that split-coil pickups, due to their design, completely cancel out noise. This makes the signal sit perfectly in the mix and very often does not need any additional treatment to beautify it.

To play the Precision Bass, a cube is used much more often. In addition, sometimes it also uses the so-called down, which is a sheet metal attached above the pickup. It enhances the sound of the guitar and gives it a slightly metallic character.

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Conclusion

So it’s safe to say that J-Basses are aimed at musicians looking for a modern, versatile sound that will work across a range of genres and techniques. Precision, on the other hand, is designed for conscious bass players. Often those who already have experience, as well as beginner musicians who are looking for a unique, dynamic and scratchy instrument. Remember, however, that this division is conventional. How you use your bass and what you decide to carve out of its sound is up to you.

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