Fender Jazz Bass Mods and Upgrades
Great Mods and Upgrade ideas for the Fender Jazz Bass
I hope you enjoyed last months look at some great ways to improve and customize a Stratocaster style guitar. For this installment, its time to show some love for another iconic Fender design: The Jazz Bass. Since its introduction in 1960, this instrument has been fundamental in the development of signature sounds in musical styles across the spectrum: funk, disco, Reggae, progressive rock, jazz fusion, etc. Below are some ideas to help put your own spin on this classic design.
These stylish instruments are easy to accessorize. With how simple it is to change, it was a no brainer to swap out the stock plain white colored pickguard for the dark pearloid one pictured above. As with all pickguards, there is some variation between different years and models of Jazz bass. It is important to make sure to order one that fits your particular instrument. It is not uncommon for pickguards to require a bit of additional shaping and fitting during an installation. Some other popular options are red Tortoiseshell, white pearloid, mint, black, or even mirror finish.
Strap Locking System Installation:
I know I mentioned it last month, but it bears repeating. I am a big fan of outfitting an instrument with some type of strap locking device. The Schaller style pictured at right run about $20 for the set and in many circumstances are field installable by the average player with access to a wrench and a screw driver. For some, strap locks allow for crazy stage tricks like spinning the guitar over your shoulder. For the rest of us, they are a reliable piece of security against dented guitars, broken headstocks, and really awkward moments on stage.
Hipshot Bass Xtender:
Another gadget that bassists will love is a Hipshot bassXtender. This cool device allows a musician to detune a string quickly, accurately, and reliably with the flick of a lever. On our shop demo bass we have one setup on the low string for a quick change into “Drop ‘D’ tuning”. They are available in many different styles and finishes, so there is bound to be one to fit your bass! Psst… just incase you are tired of waiting for your guitar player to tune down, they even make them for guitars too!
J Bass Bridge Upgrades:
Another favorite bass upgrade is the “high mass bridge”. The “Baddass” bridge by Leo Quan used to be the only name in town for those seeking to replace the stock equipment on their instrument. It is a favorite of musical icons like Marcus Miller, Geddy Lee of Rush, and Mike Dirnt of Greenday. Fortunately there are now several different manufacturers making upgraded bridges to improve the clarity, sustain, and intonation of your bass. Often times these bridges can drop right into the existing mounting holes without much effort required beyond a proper setup! Rickenbacker bass players, be sure to checkout our post regarding upgrading Rickenbacker bass bridges.
No instrument hot rod would be complete without an upgrade to the electronics! Here was an opportunity to address what I find to be an area of this instrument that is most open to improvement. The first thing I like to do is to alter the stock control layout: The individual pickup volume controls just don’t do it for me. I like a master volume and a pickup blender control much better. This way you can have all neck pickup, all bridge pickup, or any combination in-between with the turn of one knob and can easily adjust your overall volume with another. You can also add a “push/pull” capability to the volume knob that allows the tonal variety of being able to put the two pickups “in series” with one another. This yields a more midrange heavy “hum-bucker” type sound not typically available on a jazz bass!
While we are on the subject of tone: one of the single biggest tonal changes you can make to any electric instrument is to replace the pickups. For this bass I selected a set of Dimarzio Ultra Jazz pickups. Unlike traditional Jazz pickups, these are individually hum bucking for low noise. Rather than creating a “Stacked coil”, one on top of the other, like many of Seymour Duncan “Bass lines” popular aftermarket pickup upgrades, Dimarzio uses a side-by-side coil for each pair of strings. This allows for a cleaner and more traditional tone.
Active Tone Control Upgrade:
The last major electronics mod was to upgrade the stock tone control. The basic passive tone was replaced by an active 2 band EQ made by Seymour Duncan. Pictured at right, the stacked control knob (pictured) allows for the individual boosting or cutting of the high and low frequencies. This provides infinitely more tonal control compared to the original.
Battery Box Installation
Of course, any “active” circuit requires power. Since the control cavity on a jazz bass is quite small, I routed wood from the back of the instrument in order to install a battery box compartment. Even if there were room in the cavity, a battery box is an excellent option, making for quick and easy battery replacement when necessary.
The mods presented here are just a few popular options of the many available to upgrade your Strat. To cost inquiries please our price list. Guitar Repair Long Island stock many of the parts necessary for these mods a well countless others. If you have any questions about these or any other work, please reach out anytime!
About Guitar Repair Long Island:
Guitar Repair Long Island is the area’s premier destination for fretted musical instrument care and maintenance. We fix all fretted instruments, including: guitars, basses, banjos, mandolins, and ukuleles. Conveniently located in Ronkonkoma NY, the shop is dedicated to providing quick, honest, and reliable service. Our vast experience in all aspects of instrument repair ensures that we can help with whatever your needs are. Contact us or book your appointment today