What’s the difference between the Jazz bass and the Precision bass?
A Jazz bass is an offset instrument, much like the Fender Jaguar or Jazzmaster guitars with a long lower horn cutaway. Its defining feature is the middle and bridge single-coil pickup combination.
The P bass has a double-cutaway like a Strat, but larger and chunkier. Precision basses have two specific pickup configurations, either a P or PJ pickup sets. This means it has a split coil pickup in the middle position and if it’s a PJ, has a Jazz pickup in the bridge.
There are loads of applications for the two bass guitars. Although both historically produce smooth to gritty vintage tones, guitar builders tailor these shapes for various genres, from classic rock to indie funk to jazz and punk to metal. There’s one out there for you, whatever you play.
Jazz Bass & Precision Bass Comparison:
- Body Shape: offset vs Strat-style
- Neck Width – thin taper vs wide and consistent
- Neck Profile – slim vs chunky
- Pickups – single-coil vs split-coil
Fender Jazz Bass – Key Features
The Jazz bass was introduced in 1960 as a streamlined, ergonomic construction more akin to a Jazzmaster guitar. Like the Precision, Fender nailed it so well the first time around, there wasn’t much in the way of change for decades.
The offset shape body and back contours are completely designed with comfort in mind. Hardware-wise, it’s fairly similar to the Precision and any small incremental changes depends on the decade it was made or modelled after. The two biggest defining factors are the pickups and the neck.
Most companies that make Jazz basses opt for a double single-coil pickup configuration, making it an extremely versatile bass. You’ll squeeze more treble and middle frequencies out of the sound than the P’s deeper, growling tone. If you’re a fingerstyle or slap player, the Jazz will suit you because of its clarity and punch.
While most newly-built P and J basses are equipped with modern ‘C’ shape necks, the Jazz neck tapers off to a slim 38mm nut width. This is unlike the P’s 43mm and consistent size down the whole neck. Ironically, the Jazz will generally offer more precision than a Precision.
Bassists known to play a Jazz include John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Noel Redding from The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Rush’s Geddy Lee.