11. Popular Models
Fender Precision Bass
The Fender Precision Bass can be heard on countless recordings, but probably the most famous are the Motown classics played by James Jamerson. Legend has it that Jamerson never once changed his strings, claiming that the gunk improves the funk. Jamieson plucked with his index finger, known as the Hook. The P-Bass has a split single-coil pickup with one volume and one tone control. The scale is the usual Fender 34, and the bass has 21 frets. This is not an ideal instument for the soloist, as the tonal possibilities and range are slightly limited, but it nevertheless provides the player with everything necessary to deliver solid thumping bass lines. Many variations on Leo Fenders classic are available today, variously featuring active circuits, J-style pickups, extra strings and longer necks.
Fender Jazz Bass
The Fender Jazz Bass is quite possibly the most recorded bass in history. Many of the most famous and recognisable bass lines were played on one incarnation or another of this instrument. The available models range from the most inexpensive Fender Squier Jazz (as with the Precision bass) to boutique Custom Shop models, and then again to the real antiques which change hands for huge sums of money.
All of these tend to retain the classic Jazz Bass sound in some way. One of the most important factors affecting this is the choice of fingerboard material. Rosewood is more common, giving a darker sound, but a maple fingerboard can yield a much brighter and more metallic tone which is favoured by many slap players in particular. The twin pickup configuration also allows more tonal variation than the Precision, and can provide much more detail in the low register when a low B-string is added.
Another classic design from Leo Fender, first released in 1970. As mentioned previously, the Stingray was the first stock bass to have an active EQ circuit giving controls for bass, mid and treble frequencies. Its oversized humbucking pickup close to the bridge gave much more mid-frequency presence than any of its predecessors. The Stingray is still in production today in both 4 and 5-string versions, and Fretless versions have become popular with players wishing to emulate the sound of Pino Palladino. The Musicman Sterling bass is also worthy of note, in particular for its extra neck pickup.