There are many different bass’ to choose from when shopping for your first one. Chances are, the two you are going to decide between are perhaps the most famous bass guitars out there the Jazz Bass or the Precision Bass. On first viewing, there may not be a lot of difference between these 2 models but when you pick them up and plug them in, you’ll see that looks may be deceiving.
Let me take you through, the difference, similarities and everything in between! Hopefully, I’ll be able to clear a few things up and perhaps let you know something new. Let’s jump right in.
Shoutout to Fender.
Stating the obvious, both bass’ are Fender guitars. Nowadays, you are able to pick up many iterations and replicas of both famous bass’ but it was Leo Fender’s company that is the proud creators and purveyors of the real Mccoy.
There is quite a daunting roster of musicians who have played either a Jazz Bass or a Precision Bass. From James Jamerson, Steve Harris and Mike Dirnt to Jaco Pastorius, Kim Gordon and Flea. Both instruments are found throughout every genre you can realistically think of and have been utilised by many different styles.
The Fundamental differences are as follows:
Pickups – 2 Narrow Pickups vs Single Split-Coil Pickup
Body Shape – Offset Body vs Stratocaster based shape.
Neck Size – Tapered Neck at Nut vs Consistent Thickness
Since we are fans of chronology, let us start with the Precision Bass. Leo Fender invented many iconic things in the 1950s but the Precision Bass is perhaps the most influential in modern music. Before the Precision Bass came to market in 1951, you would expect to see the bass player playing a traditional upright bass. Enter the P-Bass. No longer did you need a separate van to carry your bassist instrument, for better or for worse, they could now ride with you in the same van!
As music got louder, with the birth of Rock ’n’ Roll, bands needed something to be able to compete with amplified guitars and drum kits. The upright bass was no longer cutting it. Being able to plug the Precision Bass into a speaker was the perfect answer. The springing up of louder, smaller bands facilitated the domination of the Precision Bass throughout the ’50s, ‘60s and beyond.
The Precision Bass was further immortalised by players like James Jamerson in the 1960s. Motown Records in Detroit were dominating popular music which was masterminded by Jamerson. The sound of Motown Records in the 1960s laid upon Jamerson’s infectious bass line that was grooved on his 1962 Precision bass, ‘the Funk Machine’.
Throughout the years there have been other P-Bass players who have continued the legacy of the instrument in popular music but for now, I’m going to move on.
The foreground had already been lain by the Precision Bass, so the next bass Fender was going to introduce had to live up to the expectation. In 1960 the bass that was introduced to do this had arrived, the Jazz Bass.
In comparison with the P-Bass, the Jazz bass was marketed as a much more deluxe model. With 2 narrow pole piece pickups, which you can blend with the volume and tone knobs of each pickup there was a much bigger palette of sounds you could use. The Jazz Bass also came with a thinner nut width which makes for a thinner neck as it tapers towards the nut.
Like its 6 string namesake, the Jazz Bass has an offset waist. This was an ergonomic choice, as it was thought that an offset waist was thought to be more comfortable for players whilst sitting down. The offset waist also contributed to a slightly weightier bass compared to the Precision. Which pleased the players out there who think weight contributes to tone.
Jaco Pastorius was the Jazz Bass’ James Jamerson. Pastorius is synonymous with the Jazz bass and is certainly the first player that comes to my mind when I think of famous players. Very much a trailblazer in the world of electric bass playing, Pastorius displayed virtuosic skill with the Jazz bass during his lifetime. Check out one of his many on-stage solos with the instruments.
What is the right one for you?
The best way to decide is to get your hands on one! When you get both in your hands and try them out next to each other, you’ll quickly decide what one you like best. At Kenny’s Music, we are more than happy to facilitate you in getting the correct bass for your needs.
Rest easy in the knowledge, that whatever bass you go for either a Jazz Bass or a Precision, they are both brilliant instruments and will do any budding bassist a very good turn.