Fender Precision Bass

Fender American Vintage '57 Precision Bass, Honey Blonde

The Precision Bass, also shortens Precision or P-Bass - known in German music circles also spread " Preci ", is an electrically amplified bass stringed instrument that was developed by the U.S. musical instrument manufacturer Fender Musical Instruments. The Precision was the first bass guitar with solid wood body with no resonance body ( Solid Body ), which has been industrially produced in series at launch in 1951. The eponymous feature ( "Precision" ) consisted in its decor with frets that facilitate precise intonation and allow a guitar-like playing style. The Precision Bass has become a widely used e- bass model since the 1950s.

  • 2.1 Instrument neck, fingerboard and saddle
  • 2.2 headstock and tuners
  • 2.3 scale
  • 2.4 The instrument body and its components
  • 2.5 caps of metal
  • 2.6 bridge and saddles
  • 2.7 Electromagnetic pickup
  • 2.8 finishes
  • 2.9 Further Development

History of development

Acoustic Bass Plucked with bundiertem neck such as the bass sounds have been known since about the 17th century. Another bass musical instrument with frets is related with the double bass South Slavic folk instrument Berda. In Russia, has long been a part of the three -stringed, fretted bass balalaika in any ensemble. From the 19th century, various acoustic bass stringed instruments originated in guitar shape, their differentiation from each other, however, is not completely possible: the contra-guitar, bass guitar and acoustic bass guitar. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the U.S. instrument manufacturer Gibson produced a similarly constructed acoustic mandolin " Mando - bass ".

Electric amplifiable predecessor

The development of electrically verstärkbarer bass stringed instruments began in the early 1920s with the double bass. Some years before the development of the Precision Bass, there were several attempts to amplify a bass electric. One of the pioneers in this field was Lloyd Loar, from 1919 to 1924 head of the development department of Gibson. One of his experiments was the sound pick-up of a double bass by a pickup at the bridge of the instrument.

In the 1930s, an electric upright bass to be amplified by the manufacturer Rickenbacker followed with an electromagnetic pickup under the strings. As the first commercially manufactured, electrically verstärkbarer and horizontally like a guitar played bass equipped with frets, the Audiovox Model 736 Bass Fiddle in the 1930s, developed by the Seattle-based instrument Contractors Audiovox Paul Tutmarc applies. The commercial success of the predecessor of the electric bass remained insignificant.

The U.S. musical instrument manufacturer Kay Guitars was involved in the development of the electric bass since the 1940s. There had been attempts to construct a bass guitar by the body of an acoustic guitar model from the manufacturer was provided with a prototype custom built neck and pickups. The designs of the company reached, however, until 1952, about a year after the launch of the Precision series production. Kay published in this year's model K -162 "Electronic Bass", which was offered for U.S. $ 150.

Development of the Fender Precision Bass

The founder of Fender Musical Instruments, Leo Fender had, in the late 1940s the idea, in addition to an electrically amplified guitar with solid wood body to develop just such a bass, which should be produce industrially as simple as possible. Such an instrument should also be not only lighter than a double bass to carry, but also easier to play. The trigger for this idea came during talks with unemployed Fender guitar: Many guitarists could get a job as a bass player, but did not come to terms with a double bass. Leo Fender said in an interview with journalist Tom Wheeler in the U.S. trade magazine Guitar Player:

As a guitar-like bass instrument without resonance body represented a complete novelty, Fender had the concept of this bass develop itself, but he got the advice and support of professional guitarists and bassists. He also relied on the development of Precision on the experiences that he had made with the 1950, also developed by his electric guitar model Telecaster. From the model of double bass at the Precision Bass Electric, ADG are ultimately only four strings and their tuning in fourths, remained. Remarkably - and typical of Leo Fender's practical approach - is the idea that the body of the Telecaster guitar add an upper " horn " which hung perfectly balanced on the strap to the instrument. He had the ergonomically ideal basic shape of the electric bass from the first moment defines valid. Sales of the new type of instrument began in November 1951, and in March 1953, Leo Fender finally a U.S. patent for his newly developed instrument was issued.

The components of the instrument

Instrument neck, fingerboard and saddle

The name of Precision ( German: "Precision " ) was chosen by Leo Fender for the instrument because the fingerboard of the instrument is equipped like a guitar with frets. Thus it was possible to meet with this bass any sound by simply gripping the string against a fret precise. In contrast, the double bass until then almost exclusively used has no frets and requires players to the learning and mastering a precise intonation. The neck of the Precision Bass has twenty frets divide the fingerboard into semitone, and therefore - tuned in fourths, four strings - a range of nearly three octaves. The frets of the bass are made of silver wire and inserted into precisely -placed grooves in the fingerboard.

Neck, headstock and fingerboard of the first models were made from a single piece of maple; a material that, because of its stability and Fender chose because it was easily available in the U.S. market. The neck design is equipped with an inner neck tie rod ( truss rod ). This by allen screw from the neck base of adjustable metal rod that connects the neck curvature and thus the string height can be adjusted, as used in the Telecaster through a milling in the back of the neck, which was then sealed with a strip of darker wood ( " Skunk Stripe" ). On later models a separate fingerboard was glued to the maple neck, fitted with frets after the tie rod was inserted into the front of the neck. The neck construction of the Precision bass is associated with four screws and a metal cover plate on the body back to the body.

At the head-side approach of the fingerboard, a saddle made ​​of bone was inserted into the fingerboard at the early precision models; one used for the plastic saddle on later models. While the width of the neck still amounted to 44.8 mm in the 1950s at the saddle, they changed from the 1960s in favor of lighter playability to 41.2 mm - since the standard measure of the neck width viersaitiger Precision basses.

Headstock and tuners

The narrow shape of the top plate of the first model from 1951 is similar to the outline of the Telecaster. In the top plate, the four arranged in a row tuners are used in metal; Mechanisms in an open design that were made ​​in the first production models by the manufacturer Kluson. For the prototype of the Fender Precision had initially used tuners double basses; which can become evident when made ​​up to the first series instruments that the rotational function of the mechanics of a double bass was like: turning the tuners clockwise voted the strings higher, lower counterclockwise. This has been corrected after the manufacture fewer instruments, and the function of the direction of the mechanics was adapted to the Telecaster and other guitars.


The Precision has a longer scale length than an electric guitar. Fender put it down a length of 34 inches ( 864 mm); corresponding length of the neck had to be canceled. According to legend, took the measure of a Fender physics book he had borrowed from his secretary Elizabeth nail Hayzlett. According to Fender's long-term employees George Fullerton and Don Randall but own attempts have been made with different scale lengths 30-36 inches, in order to achieve the best possible resonance without scientific basis. They finally settled on 34 inches than just convenient to cross- measure. The scale length of the Precision is thus approximately in the middle between that of a Telecaster (25 ½ inches) and the Standardmensuren the widespread three-quarter double basses (40 or 42 inches). Since these scale length medium length represented an innovation had to be made ​​for the instrument also specially strings in an appropriate thickness and length. After initial experiments with stahlumwickelten gut strings and piano strings had not led to the desired result, Fender finally ordered specially made steel strings to the required length at the company VC Squier. The length of 34 inches is now the standard for electric basses with long scale length ( Long Scale ).

The instrument body and its components

The solid wood body of the Precision Bass is typically made of alder or ash wood. On the cabinet front page a pickguard ( pickguard ) is screwed to cover the milling for the electronics. By 1957, this consisted of bakelite and 1957-1959 in anodized aluminum. Since 1959, the pickguard is made ​​of plastic and secured with ten screws on the body. The first model series had on the cabinet front page in addition a chromed metal plate for the cover of the compartment with the potentiometers on which the two chrome buttons for volume and tone knobs were.

Due to the unnecessary resonance cavity of the body of the instrument with 4 cm thickness falls from relatively flat. It is larger than the body of a Telecaster in outline. In contrast to the Telecaster P -Bass has two carcass cuts ( cutaways ) to simplify gaming at higher pitches on. The second, overhead and extended corpus horn was required to move the bolt- fastening button for a strap ( " Guitar " ) to the horizontal balancing of the instrument in the direction of head plate can. Otherwise, the long neck would have led to the serious tuners while playing standing up to top-heaviness of the instrument. This design feature was acquired Fender Stratocaster electric guitar introduced in the 1954 model.

The body had the first Precision Series no ergonomic cutouts and no significant rounding at the edges, but resembled in his " board form " with only slightly rounded edges the body of the Telecaster. In 1954, simultaneously with the appearance of the body is provided with a contoured Stratocaster, and the Precision Bass received a more ergonomic body shape with more rounded body edges, beveled armrest and contoured back.

Caps made ​​of metal

Early versions of the Precision and its subsequent reissues had great screwed caps also from chromed steel plate fastened with three screws on the bridge and above the individual pickups (see photo right). The metal cap over the pickups should protect them by means of a soldered the pickups and cap cable against harmful electrical interference. In the cap over the web a string damper rubber was glued in the early models of which had been devised by Fender to approximate the sound of the instrument to the sound of a double bass.

Bridge and saddles

In the first models of the Precision, the lower ends of the strings at the bridge were similar to the early Telecaster passed through the body and anchored to the body back in order to achieve better resonance (see photo left). This design feature was given simultaneously with the introduction of more contoured body. From this version the strings were hung in the web consisting of a steel plate angles, which was henceforth fixed in favor of greater stability with five instead of three screws on the body. Another change concerned the two saddles on the bridge: while these were still consisted of press fiber in the first model sound reasons, two tabs of metal were in 1954 in favor of better oscillation period of the strings used.

Electromagnetic pickup

In 1957, the Precision Bass has been thoroughly revised: He received a larger headstock, a complex constructed frame with four instead of only two saddles metal as well as a newly developed pickup model, the " split coil " ( German: " split coil "). In this type of pickup the magnet whose coils and pole pieces are separated into pairs and housed in a single place in two separate plastic enclosures. By pairwise opposite winding of the solenoid coils disturbing noises (for example, by humming fluorescent lights due to interference ) suppressed. The split-coil pickups develop a stronger, more assertive and more direct sound than the previously used single-coil, which was humming vulnerable and could transmit deep, loud sounds only to a lesser extent. This was due to the fact that the string vibrations, the magnetic field left side in heavy stop. This led to a kind of natural " compression " - which helped protect the then little weak amplifier - but on the other hand, for a limited dynamic range. The new pickups the strings now swung between each 2 pole heads, what the dynamics significantly improved. Therefore, this new Tonabnehmermodell was one reason for the continued popularity to this day the instrument and has a significant share of its signature sound. The original design with a simple single-coil ( " single coils " ) pickups has been marketed in the second half of the 60s again under the name Telecaster bass.


In the first three years of manufacturing the Precision Bass was only in the body paint " Butterscotch Blonde" ( a semi- opaque nitrocellulose lacquer in a bright yellow ocher, which was first used by Fender in the Telecaster ) and in " Nature " ( a colorless transparent paint) available. In 1954, at the same time a paint job came with the revision of the body shape in two-tone gradient, the "Two- Tone Sunburst " as well as occasional special paint at special customer added. It was not until 1957, started as Fender to use opaque DuPont paints, the model was also officially and a five percent price premium in special colors ( "Custom Colors ", for example " Honey Blonde ", see photo in infobox above). But until the beginning of the 1960s, as the demand for special colors rose again, Fender Precision basses were also available in color brochures of the company in the then fourteen different body sprays.

Further development

In 1959, the Precision Bass was the same with all the other guitar models by Fender with a rosewood fingerboard instead of maple used before. Thus, the instrument had accepted his now " classic " designated as a phenomenon. Details of the P -Bass were changed again and again in the years that followed and further developed, but without that far away from this basic concept. Gradually, additional models came with active electronics instead of the classic passive electronics and with additional pickups in the bridge position (mainly single coils and humbuckers ) and five-string and left-handed models on the market. In contradiction to the reason for the original name " Precision" and fretless versions appeared ( fretless ). The most popular, however, remained largely unchanged base model from the late 1950s. Similar to the 1961 introduced Fender Jazz Bass has been omitted since the 1970s, on the screwed on the body sheet metal ceiling covers over the bridge and the pickups, as these were found to be distracting while playing and therefore usually removed by bassists. These cover plates are mounted again because of the Faithful Only when introduced in recent years, new editions of models from the 1950s and 60s.

Importance and success

The Precision Bass was directed at its launch in 1951 to double bassists and guitarists alike. Bass player should be confident with the bass compared to six times smaller dimensions and the assertive sound of the instrument, guitarist with the simple intonation thanks frets. A first article in the music trade press about the new instrument was published in early 1952 in the U.S. magazine The Music Trade. After the instrument at a price of 195.50 U.S. dollars had come on the market, it had, however, initially sold slowly and was greeted with skepticism by dealer and musical circles initially. Due to its advantages, however, the precision could soon establish records in productions and live performances as at least equivalent alternative to the double bass.

Two of the earliest known player of the Precision Bass were William "Monk" Montgomery ( brother of jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery ) and the bass player, composer and arranger John Willie " Shifty " Henry. These musicians wore the beginning of the 1950s significantly help to increase awareness of this new instrument. Another early electric bass player was Roy Johnson, who was a member of the jazz big band Lionel Hampton as well as Monk Montgomery. The unusual presence of " Two Guitars " in the orchestra image (the second " guitar " was the electric bass) attracted the attention of the trade press for the first time. Among them was the renowned jazz magazine Down Beat, in which music journalist Leonard Feather wrote in 1952: " All of a sudden we realized that something was not right with the band. She had no bass player. And yet - we heard a bass ".

Since the Precision was long market is dominated by (the first competitors were the Kay 1952 presented K -162 "Electronic Bass" and the EB produced from 1953 to 1958 by the competitor Gibson and his successor ), he was in the instrument specification on record sleeves long rather than " electric bass " or " bass guitar ", but given as "Fender Bass". Today, it is measured at rest and dissemination of the most successful musical instruments ever made. The Precision Bass is used in almost all styles of popular music and its development has also made ​​partially possible. An example of this is the soul music of the U.S. record label Motown Records. When creating the typical " Motown Sound" in the hit success of the label in the 1960s and 1970s who used the Motown bassist James Jamerson Studio Precision Bass played a major role. He used for his " Funk Machine " baptized P-Bass from the early 60s, in which he never changed the strings (except if one was cracked). " Funk Machine " can certainly be regarded as the most important Precision Bass in music history. He is now considered lost.

One of the musical pieces of popular music, in which the distinctive sound of the Fender Precision Bass most clearly heard and - used with and without electronic sound effects - can be seen which is in the year 1971 by the British pop group Pink Floyd released on their album Meddle instrumental One of These Days with the music there in the foreground standing bass playing of Roger Waters.

Modern Precision Bass model series

The manufacturer offers the Fender Precision now in about twenty different configurations ( series, pickup configuration, Strings, woods used ), which are also available in different body paint finishes for the most part. Some modern Fender Precision series (selection):

  • "Standard" Precision Bass - In Mexico manufactured base model with basic facilities
  • " American Standard " Precision Bass - manufactured in the USA model with more massive bridge ( to be fitted by the possibility of strings and string - through-body ) and lighter tuners
  • "American De Luxe" Precision Bass - manufactured in the USA Premium model with active / passive circuit and 3-band EQ.
  • " Blacktop " Precision Bass - In Mexico -made model with newly developed humbucker pickups for more punch in the bass.
  • " American Special " Precision Bass - manufactured in the USA model with simple décor, height gate with "grease bucket circuit"
  • " American Vintage " Precision Bass - Special models with features 1957 or 1962
  • "Classic " series - various new editions of historical series ( "50s ", " '51 ", " 70s" )
  • " Road Worn 50s P- Bass" - corresponds to the "Classic 50s" model, but with artificial aging traces
  • " Artist" - renowned bassist dedicated models, including Mike Dirnt, Nate Mendel, Sting and Roger Waters
  • On the occasion of sixty - year anniversary of the introduction of the Fender Precision Bass made ​​in 2011 in a limited edition ( Limited Anniversary Edition ) produced before special model, the 60th Anniversary Precision Bass. Meanwhile, body painting, pickguard and cover of the control panel are similar to those of the model from 1951; the rest of the form and features of the instrument are similar to those introduced later versions

However, there are also very many copies, variations and evolutions of the model by other producers who also sell successfully. One is the Fender Squier own brand, under the label " Squier by Fender" affordable replicas of electric guitars and basses of the parent company offers.

Bass amp: the Fender Bassman

Shortly after the introduction of the P -Bass Fender brought the beginning of 1952 the first model of the specially constructed for this bass electric booster out, the Fender Bassman. It was a combo model with 26- watt amplifier section in tube construction and feature a 15 - inch speaker of the brand Jensen, both mounted in a rear half-open case design made ​​of wood. Although originally designed for bass amplification, the Bassman was in later years, some lovers among electric guitarists who appreciated the full sound and performance of the device.