Classic Basses, part 2: Fender Jazz

It took quite some time for the electric bass to really catch on. Fender introduced the Precision Bass in 1951, but had to wait for almost a whole decade, before they felt that the market was ready for a second bass guitar from the company.

In 1960 Fender released its deluxe update – the Jazz Bass.

Leo Fender listened to the most common complaints made by players and sampled their suggestions for improvements, and he addressed these issues with the new model. The Jazz has a more slender neck profile, a more ergonomic body shape and it offers a wider sound palette (thanks to its two singlecoil pickups) compared to its forebear.

The very first batch of Jazz Basses was equipped with stacked concentric controls, which offered separate volume and tone controls for each of the two pickups (see the sunburst bass above).

But already in 1961 the electronics were updated to the less fussy combination now widely known as the Jazz Bass -set-up – separate volume controls with one master tone.

The pickups are reverse wound/reverse polarity, which means that when used together they defeat transformer hum and electromagnetic buzz effectively.

While the standard version was offered in three-tone sunburst only, the Jazz Bass was ordered in Custom Color -finishes quite regularly in the 1960s, often with matching headstock faces.

From the end of the ’60s and all through the ’70s the fretboard was bound and featured large block inlays. Maple fingerboards were quite common during the ’70s.

Despite the changes in its looks the Jazz Bass’ sound always stayed excellent. Its sound is slightly more slender and transparent than that of its equally famous stablemate. The front pickup is full, but less throaty than a P-Bass’ split-coil unit. The bridge pickup has a nice, nasal timbre, and the combination is slightly hollowed out with a fresh zing, which made funky slap bass styles so fashionable.

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Check out the sound of my own Squier Jazz Bass (Made in Japan, 1985) here.

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