For the last several years I have been focusing my musical energies on mastering the Chapman Stick, an endeavor that I have written about previously. Recently I decided to take a break from that instrument and return to my primary performing instrument, the bass guitar. So I put the Chapman Stick back in it’s case and brought back out my main bass, a reissue 1958 Fender Precision Bass.
I bought my P-bass about 25 years ago. A band I was in was contributing a couple of songs to a charity CD and we were going to record them at the Power Station, the legendary recording studio (The Rolling Stones, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and many others have recorded there). At the time I was using an Ibanez bass and I figured this was a good time to upgrade my equipment. I went into the Sam Ash guitar store on West 48th street (long gone) but I didn’t have a specific preference for what I was looking for. At the time, I wasn’t a big fan of Fender basses. I thought they were too old fashioned. I tried out a bunch of basses but nothing was getting me excited. The salesperson suggested I try some of the Fender Vintage reissues basses that had just come out. I tried a vintage reissue J-bass but still no cigar. Then I tried the reissue P-bass and suddenly I found what I was looking for. It gave the old school sound that I hadn’t realized I was looking for until then.
My baby –
The Precision Bass, designed by Leo Fender in 1950 and brought to market in 1951, was a response to the volume limitations of the upright bass which were becoming hard to hear in large bands or those that used amplified instruments. The upright bass was also regarded as cumbersome and a pain to bring to gigs as well as requiring different skills to play that are distinct from those of the guitar. The Precision Bass was designed to overcome these problems. The name “Precision” came from the use of frets to play in tune more easily than with fretless fingerboard of the upright bass. This made it much easier for a guitarist to double on bass. I think the importance of this cannot be emphasized enough since it made it possible for many a guitarist to switch over to bass, including myself (another guitarist who became a bassist was Paul McCartney, just imagine if he never picked up the bass). With the additional volume and presence of the P-bass and it’s many offspring. The sound of popular music itself was transformed. Without the Precision Bass, music as we know it today would not exist.
Since 1952, the Precision Bass has gone through a myriad of modifications and the video below (courtesy of Chicago Music Exchange) give a brief overview of the many face of Precision Bass.
History of the Fender Precision Bass –