Tell me the difference – Precision vs Jazz bass
The difference between the Precision vs Jazz bass is simple to explain aesthetically. Both basses are made almost the same but have very specific advantages to them and this is where the distinction lies. We go into the details further down the post. The answer though, may surprise you.
- The bodies are different shapes (P style and J style)
- They have different pickup systems (Split coil and Single coil)
- Their neck widths are different (Jazz basses have a smaller width)
Most beginners would normally choose a Precision because they want the growl and fat full tone of that model but might not care to have a variety of tones, while others players go for the Jazz for the easier play ability and wider sonic variety.
No wrong answers for beginners
The question has always be asked which bass is better for beginners, the Precision or Jazz bass? Regardless of the choice between the two basses the player will not be disappointed. Both basses are extremely versatile and have been used in just about every genre of modern music for the last 50-60 years.
Go out and play at a shop
Consider this, who’s sound inspires you? Which sound grabs your attention and makes you think “I want to sound like that!”? Find out who does that for you and at first try their instrument type.
Then go out and PLAY both basses, see what feels comfortable. Choose the bass that suits your musical tastes and style. If you have a blast playing it and it sounds brilliant then that is the correct choice.
Precision vs Jazz bass
The advantages of the Precision and the Jazz bass are outlined below. It’s all well and good playing them from your own perspective but there are physical advantages to a specific models.
The Precision Bass
- Perfect for bass beginners
- Easy to use. 2 knobs – Tone and Volume
- Cheapest entry model
- Larger frets, better clearance and easier learning curve
- Thicker neck – Allows a better grip, adds resonance to the tonal quality
The Jazz Bass
- Ideal for guitarists starting bass due to the smaller fret gap.
- Slimmer neck than the Precision bass
- Designed for faster fretting technique
- Cleaner and more accurate fretting
- Versatile tone for all genres
Precision vs Jazz bass a detailed summary
Bass body shape – The fat Precision and the slim Jazz
The Precision bass has a large round sized body. Its split coil pickups are located centrally in the bass. The location of the pickup and its tone is what gives the P Bass its iconic tone.
The Jazz has a different body contour with an “Offset Waist” that in theory makes it more comfortable to play while sitting. It has 2 single coil pickups, one at the neck of the bass and one at the bridge.
Neck size – Chunky full resonance or agile fretting
The Precision bass (P Bass) has a thicker neck which can be difficult for new players to fret or articulate their notes but with practice this will give them the strength to play the instrument properly and much better in the long term.
Jazz basses (J bass) have slimmer necks in comparison which is a nice start for players with smaller hands or those making transition from the electric guitar. It also gives players the flexibility to be agile and play smoother.
Pickups – Full bodied humbuckers or thin punchy bursts
Split coil pickup
The P bass has a split coil pickup also known as humbuckler (bucking the hum). Bigger by design it eliminates background hum and interference during periods of no play (e.g. between songs). This mechanism works due to how many turns of wire there are on the coil. When put out of phase the noise is cancelled out.
Single Coil pickup
The Jazz bass has 2 single coil pickups, its main benefit is that the pickups can be used as a pair – Bridge soloed, Neck soloed or either pick up together at the same time. This provides 3 distinct tones (and everything in-between). A good comparison is that of a guitars’ pick up selector switch.
The tone of a Precision and Jazz bass
The Precision bass tone is loud with a most of its presence in the lower spectrum of the mix. With only 2 control knobs (Volume and tone) it’s impossible not to get a great sound from it.
Jazz basses are capable of wider variety of tones than a Precision, with much more metallic and high register tones from the bridge pickup than what is possible with a standard P Bass and a sweeter, “rounder” tone from the neck pickup than the overpowering presence of the P Bass.
The Precision Bass in today’s music
Precision basses are typically found in nearly all types of live music. Notably heard in – all forms of Rock genre variants. It’s used by scores of musicians since its inception. Its thick bottom end, percussive qualities and solid build make the Precision bass a work horse for travelling on the road or for aggressive music genres, it will never let you down.
Power to the masses
Because of its design it is likely you will lose some treble in the overall sound range but in result, the power output of the humbuckler is much more powerful than single coils (like a Jazz bass) which is to be considered an advantage.
What does the Precision Bass offer?
The Precision Bass with its thick neck and humbuckler makes it a distinct and recognisable woolly tone, well sought after in its own right. The bouncy bottom end will play with nearly all genres of music and is commonly found in and used by Punk, Punk-Rock, Blues, Rock, Pop and Disco to name a few.
The Jazz Bass in today’s music
The Jazz Bass uses a similar design to the Precision and has learned and improved on some the P bass’s advantages. Today the J Bass is used in all music genres and its flexibility provides endless choice to the player. Warm sounds, bright sounds, loud or quiet the Jazz has its place in all musical forms.
Not just for Jazz
Don’t let the name throw you though, it does not mean that you have to play Jazz or that it will sound Jazz like. Far from it – You will find that Jazz musicians in the 60’s chose the bass for its portability and because it was the newest electric instrument at the time and much smaller than a double bass.
Its single coil pickups give it a recognisable character of smooth yet rich, raw, bright mid tones. This can be used to cut through the mix and attempt to stand out in some genres for instance in Jazz bass solos where bass has a prominent role to play.
What can the Jazz bass do for you
The Jazz is seen almost as much as the P bass in the musical world, these basses are like tools and both do a specific job. A lot of popular top 40 musicians will use them depending on their style, you can commonly find them in and used by Rock, Classic Rock, Punk-Rock, Funk, Pop, Disco, Reggae, Blues, Metal, Heavy Metal, Jazz and more.
The final Precision vs Jazz bass argument
Option number 3 One bass to rule them all
If after the entirety you still aren’t sure which bass is the better choice … Then there is a third option. Many bass players will suggest to take the Jazz as the two pickups will over more versatility than then standard Precision pickup alone. What if there was a bass that offers the best of both worlds?
There is a bass guitar called the Fender Aerodyne. The Fender Aerodyne Jazz bass as it is commonly called has a Precision humbucker in the neck position and a single Jazz coil in the bridge. This combination of volume, presence, warmth and clarity gives this bass the true meaning of versatility.This particular bass will give you the best of both worlds in every sense. Not only can this bass have plenty bottom end. It can be loud and twangy in a brilliant vibrant sense. It’s light weight, looks amazing and sets you apart from other bass players so you can adapt your performance to every situation.
That is how you end the argument for the Precision vs Jazz bass.