Precision vs. Jazz


Master Member
I understand the differences in sound, feel, etc between Strats, Teles, Les Pauls, etc.  But I don't know the difference between a precision and jazz bass!  I have a pretty poor ear for bass tones...  It seems like a lot of my favorite rock bassists use J-basses, like John Paul Jones, Tim C, and Flea.  Others use P-basses, like John Entwhistle and Nick Oliveri.  Is one more suited to certain styles of music than the other?  (Is "Jazz" a total misnomer?  Seems like a lot of rockers use them.)  P-bass pickups are humbucking, right?  Does that make as big a difference as it does with guitars?  ???
A lot of people use Jazz's simply because of the smaller, more comfortable neck. Myself, for one. I have stubby little pork sausage fingers.

Tone? To me, a Jazz sounds "rounder", a P-Bass sounds "flatter". Yea, I know. What the hell does THAT mean?
I just found this interesting article...
Hard to say... but I find my Jazz bass a bit bright - good when ya need it!~  As such, I usually run the tone control down a little,  just enough to supress some of the brightness and string noise.  I've been using pure nickle 7150's on mine.  I've played a P bass, in the past, also a Tele bass (60's type, single coil pickup).  I acutally like the tele a whole lot, but remain a fan of Duck Dunn's pbass style - and I can get that tone and more with my Jbass... so no issues there.

I find most of the playing in the middle of the neck, where the skinny of the j bass is less evident.
I've always found the P-Bass to have a thinner, single coil, clear, woodier type tone, vs the J-Bass to have a more rounder, thicker, humbucker in parallel type sound.

maybe it's just me. :)

Not much of a bass player, and haven't got around to building one yet, although I have a couple of friends who keep asking me about building one for them.

I'm with CB; when I get around to building one, will definitely be a J-bass; you can get a wider range of tone/sound than with a Precision.
jackthehack said:
I'm with CB; when I get around to building one, will definitely be a J-bass; you can get a wider range of tone/sound than with a Precision.

Plus Jazz basses look way cooler.
The P/J is the way to go, I think; jazz neck with the P pups and a jazz bridge pup.
Jazz for me, please. The offset is where it's at! My planned bass could have bridge and middle Precision p/ups. Silence.

Boy, that reviewing guy has some wicked hot chops.  :laughing7:
Cool is most certainly subjective.

I will never be as cool as Duck Dunn on his P-Bass. And I will never be as BAD as Mr. Booker T. Jones on the keys. Or any other instrument, for that matter.
The Jazz bass was introduced as an upmarket two pickup model from the Precision in'61. By then the Precision had evolved quite a long way from its original form, a slab sided single coil "tele-like" affair. What a lot of people regard as the quintessential P bass came out in '57 and continues in that form. Body contours and headstock more "strat-like" and the two piece pickup. Both halves are single coils but reverse wound. This pickup and the top loader bridge gave the second/current incarnation a characteristic tone.
The Jazz bass, having two seperate pickups with individual volume controls was designed to add versatility over a single pickup instrument and to answer competition from other makers who offered two pickup basses. (Rickenbacker for one) Fender incorporated the offset waist, which they had introduced with the Jazzmaster and reduced the nut width from that of the precision to further differentiate between their new model and the (then) cheaper precision. A few years later they even tarted it up a bit with block inlays and bound fingerboards.
I play both types and usually leave everything up on them. I guess there are more sounds in a Jazz, especially in the brighter range, and the thinner nut does make it faster to get around. The offset body makes for beautiful balance, which is a Godsend when toting my walnut example which weighs in at 12lbs+ but I still love the thud of a precision that you can't quite get from a jazz and I rather like the wide string spacing at the growly end. It's a personal thing.
There are two separate tonal issues: one is the pickups and wiring, which you can now put any combination on any body. The other is the neck width. Even though I don't have extra-long fingers, I still like the extra meat and depth of tone you get from a full-size, Precision-width neck. No amount of EQ can add back in woody tone that's not there to begin with. Jazz basses can get loud, but P-basses can thunder.... sometimes I like to be scary. :evil4:
Precision Bass: traditionally a wider, flatter neck.
Jazz Bass: traditionally a more narrow neck (smaller nut width)

Precision Bass: full, deep, fundamental sound; punchy, not too bright; great choice for more traditional rock styles, heavier stuff, country, 1960s R&B - anything where the bass should lay a grooving foundation, but should not be too prominent.

Jazz Bass: neck pickup: not as deep and punchy as the P's split coil pickup, tighter, more focussed, but also thinner; bridge pickup: singing mids and bright treble, not too much bass; both sounds can be blended; great choice for music where the bass plays a more central role and solos sometimes (jazz, funk, modern R&B), great for modern rock styles where the bass plays a more prominent, melodic role; great for bigger ensembles with lots of instruments, where the tighter, more focussed sounds sits better in the mix and does not muddy up the lower frequencies.

I personally also like the PJ-combo: you get the deep & punchy P-bass sound, and you get the "goodies" from the J-bass, you can dial in the brighter, singing, mid-focussed bridge pickup that will help cut through the mix when you want to get funky or play a solo.
RomanS, thanks so much!  That's exactly the sort of description I was looking for.  Sounds like the P-Bass is the instrument for me if I ever get around to building a bass.  If I have the cash I might throw the J pickup on there, too,  just to open up more options.