Precision Bass vs. Jazz Bass – Which is Best For You?
P-bass or Jazz-bass has been an ongoing argument in the bass guitar community for ages, and bass players are often faced with the dilemma of which model to choose. Although both models have their own place on the market, there are some distinct tonal properties and differences to consider. This blog post breaks down which option is best for you.
Read on to learn more about Precision bass vs Jazz Bass!
The Main Differences Between P-Bass and Jazz Bass
If you’re in a hurry, here are the main differences between P-Bass and Jazz Bass:
- The P-Bass is chunkier, whereas the Jazz Bass is the lighter option.
- The P-Bass guitar has a symmetrical contour in the waist area.
- The Jazz Bass has a 1.5-inch nut, while the P-bass has a wider neck with a 1.625-inch nut.
- The P-bass is equipped with split-coil pickups, whereas the J-bass features single-coil.
- The J-Bass features an offset shape body while the P-bass has a Strat S-shape.
- The tone of a Jazz Bass is brighter and richer in the midrange.
Leo Fender was a car enthusiast, and I think he nailed it when he described the differences between the P-bass and the J-bass. The Precision Bass was a Chevrolet and the Jazz Bass was a Ferrari or Cadillac. Depending on his mood.
We will outline the differences in more detail below!
Fender Precision Bass Guitar
- Ideal for beginners
- Easy to use with only two knobs
- Cheapest entry model
- Faster learning curve due to larger frets
- Thick neck that offers better grip and adds resonance to the tonal quality
- Basic tone-shaping controls
When Fender released the first Precision Bass in 1951, it was a cornerstone of modern electric music. It was the first electric bass guitar to earn widespread attention. Bass players could carry around their bass over one shoulder, going to live gigs or rehearsal studios.
Predecessors such as the upright double bass were clumsy and immobile. More importantly, they were extremely hard to amplify. With the P-Bass, all you had to do was to tune up and plug it in. Unlike the upright bass, the P-Bass also had frets, which instantly removed intonation issues – which is why Fender called it the “Precision” Bass.
Since its first release in 1951, the P-bass has been one of the best-selling bass guitars of all time and still is. They’re built in California and every instrument that leaves the plant is flawless and high-quality.
So what can you expect from a P-Bass? Let’s break it down!
Nut and neck
Like most modern electric bass guitars, the Fender Precision Bass has a c-shaped thick neck that generally maintains pretty much the same width along its length. The neck is made out of the premium tonewood maple, which gives the guitar a unique feel.
If you’re unsure what C-Shape means, think of it as a neck that is rounded into an oval profile. Most bass guitars use this neck shape due to the all-around comfort and playability it provides.
Most P-bass guitars have a rosewood fretboard, but there are some outliers with maple. The fretboard includes 20 frets and the scale length measures to 34-inch (86 cm).
The precision bass also features a 1.625-inch nut. Even if it’s only slightly wider than the jazz bass, experienced bass players will notice the difference.
Even if P-basses and Jazz basses to a high degree feature the same parts, the P-bass still feels heavier. Why? This is due to the fact that Precision bodies are thicker, while Jazz bodies are slimmer.
The body of a Precision Bass has a symmetrical waist contour, making it comfortable and playable while both standing up and sitting down. It also has a double-cut design that resembles the classic Stratocaster.
The P-bass guitar also has a large pickguard that drops all the way down to the tone knob and the volume knob.
Now over to the electronics! The original precision bass has a single split-coil pickup with hum-canceling technology. It also has staggered pole pieces that provide bass players with a clear high-end combined with a booming low-end.
Due to the humbucking nature, the P-bass is quiet when it comes to background noise. This makes them particularly good for high volume and high gain styles. Overall, the pickups on the precision bass have a fat sound with a tight low/mid-tone.
The Precision Bass has a nice deep, warm tone with a lot of mid-range presence. It might not have the most pretty-sounding tone but if you’re looking for that “in-your-face” sound, the P-bass is your best option for Fender bass guitars.
Most P-bass guitars only have a volume knob and a tone knob. Some bass players argue that this is too basic, and some love the simplicity. To be fair, the tone knob has an enormous effect on the sound.
Fender Jazz Bass Guitar
- Small fret gap makes it ideal for guitarists looking to learn the bass
- Slim neck designed for faster fretting technique
- Clean and accurate fretting
- Versatile tone suitable for most genres
- Body contours helps lower the weight of the guitar
- Limited options for tonal shaping
- Heavier body design
The Jazz Bass came to market in 1960 and was Fender´s second electric bass model. As with the P-bass, the Jazz bass is also built in the United States. It was initially called the “Deluxe Model” and the name change was a marketing tactic to entice jazz musicians.
Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect when playing a Fender Jazz Bass.
Nut and neck
The J-Bass has a tapered neck, meaning the sides of the neck shape are tapered back away from the edge of the fretboard. Just like the P-bass, the J-bass has a “C” neck shape made of maple. Another similarity includes the scale length of 34 inches.
The main difference is that the Jazz Bass is a bit more ergonomic. Why? Because of the slimmer neck. This is ideal for bass players with smaller hands, since the strings are much closer together. Easier fingering makes the J-bass ideal for fast passages found in genres like funk, jazz, and reggae.
The J-Bass has a 1.5” wide nut. That may seem like a small difference compared to the Precision that measures 1.625”, but that’s definitely noticeable.
The original J-Bass features a rosewood fretboard but some modern models are equipped with a fretboard made of maple, Pau Ferro, or Indian Laurel.
While the P bass has a symmetrical design similar to a Stratocaster, the J bass has an offset body style. So what does that mean?
An offset bass guitar has an asymmetrical body shape which makes it look unbalanced and lean towards a certain angle. The J-Bass has an exaggerated waist and horn which sets it apart from a traditional single and double cutaway.
Lastly, the Jazz Bass is a bit more contoured compared to the Precision Bass. In my opinion, this makes it a bit more comfortable while it also decreases the weight of the guitar.
The Jazz Bass features dual single-coil pickups with two pole pieces per string. This setup gives the J-Bass a brighter and more trebly tone than the P-Bass.
Also, having dual pickups with two separate volume knobs offers more tonal-shaping capabilities.
Some modern Jazz-Bass models feature a “P/J” pickup configuration, meaning there is both a split-coil pickup from a P-Bass and a single-coil pickup from a J-Bass. This combination offers bass players even more versatility.
Since the Jazz Bass features two single-coil pickups, you get one extra knob compared to the Precision Bass. In total you have 3 knobs:
- Neck pickup knob: The neck pickup is positioned close to the fretboard, meaning the pickup captures warm and round tones. Using the knob to increase the volume on the neck pickup makes the tone deeper and less defined.
- Bridge pickup knob: The bridge pickup is positioned in the opposite direction, closest to the saddle. Increasing the volume on the bridge pickup gives you more attack along with a brighter and more defined tone.
- Master knob: The master knob is positioned closest to the input jack. Once you have the other two knobs dialed in, you can use the master knob to add or cut treble (high frequencies).
Which bass guitar should I choose?
So, P-bass vs. Jazz bass – Which one is right for you? And which one is best for specific music styles? Nothing is etched in stone and both bass guitars can obviously be used for all genres. Still, I prefer the thick, raw, and in-your-face tone that the Precision bass offers for genres like classic rock, metal, punk, country, or grunge.
My opinion is that the Jazz bass offers more playability. I think it’s a more beginner-friendly choice due to the thinner neck. If you’re an experienced bass player it may be your cup of tea as well. It’s easier to play fast passages that are representative in genres like jazz, fusion, progressive metal, or power metal.
P-bass vs. Jazz bass all comes down to personal preferences, and both models have been used across all genres of music.
When trying to decide between the two, it’s crucial to audition both models before making the final decision. You should visit your local music store and spend some time playing the two different bass guitars. By doing that, you’ll learn how they fit in your hand, how high the strings are in relation to the fretboard of the neck, etc.
There is a reason why these two instruments have set a new standard for electronic bass guitars, and you can’t go wrong with either choice.
I hope you enjoyed today’s blog post. Let me know which model you prefer in the comments below!