In the minds of some bass players, there are but two kinds of electric bass – the P and the J. These are instruments based on Fender’s classic Precision and Jazz lines. From there on in, it starts to get more complex and there are too many variations to easily list, such as the headless, six string Sei Flamboyant that has been my main instrument for almost twenty years. However, the Precision and Jazz archetypes are still strong enough that you only have to say P or J to most bassists (and many other musicians and producers) to instantly conjure up a picture and an idea of what kind of sound might be expected.
For a while I have been hankering for a new bass with simple passive electronics and a straightforward, vintage-inclined tone. A 1960s P would be just the ticket although out of my budget. You can get very cheap P type basses online but, although I’ve been watching a fair few videos of late, I wanted a chance to try out a range of them. Today Jane was meeting a friend in Coventry so I offered to drive her over and lined up a number of shops to visit although, in the end, I only made it to two.
The second of those was Bass Direct, situated on an industrial estate on the edge of Warwick. It’s stuffed full of bass goodies but, as far as basses go, it leans towards the boutique so I didn’t try anything out in there. However, I’d already spent over an hour in Express Music in Coventry where I’d tried numerous instruments at a wide range of price points. At the moment, you have to book time to do this kind of in-depth browsing but that also means less interference – I had the bass section to myself for the entire time apart from the occasional check from Tim, their bass guy, to make sure I was okay.
I tried some Fender Precisions, with prices ranging from a little under £700, to well over twice as much. All of those were good instruments but much more than I wanted to spend; trying them was really about setting a benchmark. I also tried a range of Squier instruments (a brand licenced by Fender) ranging from mini Precisions (£150 – finicky little parts and sounds that went from way too trebly down to too trebly) to a ‘classic 50’s Precision’ model (£300 – nicer than I expected but I found the body and neck uncomfortable). There were a couple of Squier Affinity PJ models. The brand new one was £20 dearer than the older one (at £220) but sounded much better to my ears. I also tried a couple of P type basses from other brands and a few wildcards, like a Gretsch Jr Jet II (£300, “nice but not for now” in my notes).
Did I end up with anything, apart from much updated knowledge on available P type basses? Yes, and I’ll probably post more about it tomorrow, but it was one of the other wildcards in the form of a Squier Affinity Jaguar, the other type of J bass:
It’s a fairly light-weight, medium scale (32″) bass with simple passive electronics which give the sort of tone I was after. Job done!