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. This is where the distinction lies and we go into the details further down the post. The main differences are as follows.
- The bodies have different shapes (called “P shape” and “J shape”)
- They have different pickup systems (Split coil humbucker and Single coils)
- Their neck widths are different sizes (Jazz basses have a smaller width)
Most beginners would typically be inclined to get a Precision bass because of its simple usability. Its tone meets a very specific expectation and this is where this bass excels. It’s easy to use and good at one thing. That’s not to say some players don’t gravitate to the Jazz bass first. Physically it’s easier to play and provides the player a wider sonic variety of tone with it’s dual coil pickups.
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
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 and 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.
Are you interested in Bass Rigs?
We have a WhichBass channel on YouTube listing all of the famous bass players guitars, amplifiers, effects pedals and more. If this is something you’re interested in you can watch the most popular videos in the playlist.
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 has a thicker neck which can be difficult for new players to fret or articulate their notes. With practice this will give them the strength to play the instrument properly and much better in the long term.
Jazz basses 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 Precision 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 most of its presence in the lower spectrum of the mix. Some describe it to be “bouncy” and “thick” with a bit of a twang. 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. The second pickup in the neck helps give warmer tones with a higher register than is possible with a standard Precision Bass and a sweeter, “rounder” tone from the neck pickup than the overpowering presence of the P Bass.
If the Precision can be summerised as “bouncy” then the Jazz bass is “honky” with a midrange burst.
The Precision Bass in today’s music
In general Precision basses are 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 split coil 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. Together with 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 Precision bass early advantages. Because of this the Jazz 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 this bass was associated with Jazz musicians in the 60’s after they chose it 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, honky 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 and is in your face.
What can the Jazz bass do for you
The Jazz is seen almost as much as the Precision 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
All in all If you’re still not sure what bass fits with your sound or style then consider 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. But what if there was a bass that offers the best of both worlds?
There is a bass guitar called the Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass which combines a Precision style 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 and the player the choice of Precision or Jazz.
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.