In wanting to build a classic 57-early 60's passive precision-style bass, I wanted to experiment with body weight. It seems to me Jazz-style basses don't need as much body mass to get that mid-rangey tone, but the Precisions I have built in the past, although sometimes playing great, always seem to be missing something at the very bottom. I still have an unfinished, custom-made slab-style Precision body waiting to paint in the shop, to go for John Entwistle's famous Frankenbass with the non-contoured slab body and overwound pickups. That bass is still to be made, and all of the parts are ready, once I build up the courage and find the time to paint it (cans of Guitar ReRanch nitro are standing at the ready). But I found a dealer on eBay with a VERY heavy, pre-finished 2-tone sunburst Precision body (I think it's a Mighty Mite - like their bodies, but have not had luck with their necks). Even though it's a poly finish, the weight intrigued me, and the finish enticed me, so I ordered the body. I also ordered a set of custom scatter-wound pickups (totally vintage spec) from Mark Lariccia, a pickup maker in the Los Angeles area (his eBay user name is mcm_guitarworks). This is the first set I tried from him, as well as the first bass set he has ever made, so that was a total shot in the dark, but I got a good impression from his other listings and email communication.
I scavenged a maple neck from an older sunburst Precision I built and played regularly with a Who tribute band (and plan on trying that body with a maple fretless neck I have in the ready to recreate John Paul Jones' fretless Precision). I remember that although the bass lacked some bottom, it had a great-playing vintage finish Eden neck (a Chinese neck supplier I have had good results with) and top-shelf Hipshot tuners with a D-tuner on the E string, so very versitile. The fret ends were never finished well (I filed them after I assembled the bass), but it always felt great at all positions. All I had to do was apply a newer FUNSTER JOEL BASS decal, with lots of clear coats on the headstock. A nice heavy bridge with brass saddles, a brass nut, a tortoise pickguard and a 1mil orange cap with 500k pots finished the parts list (along with a new set of La Bella flats, my favorite flatwounds), and here you go:
It's certainly a beauty, and I already knew it would play well from previous use of the neck. It is certainly the heaviest Fender-style bass I have played, coming in at over 10lbs (I think my custom Fenderbird may be slightly heavier - I'll feature that one soon)! Mark's pickups did not disappoint: they are full and warm, and I have gotten great compliments from sound engineers who ran the bass direct at live gigs with no need for addition EQing (I now have 2 more sets of Mark's pickups waiting for use in a Jaguar bass and a passive sunburst Jazz bass build). But the extra weight (with a very wide strap, thank you very much) seemed to do the trick - this thing has amazing bottom end, so much so that I spent a few gigs going back and forth with pickup height adjustments to find the right balance (I actually backed them off a bit more than normal to keep a real clean tone). The dynamics are wonderful - I can play light, then really pull a louder and slightly edgier tone out of it, while still maintaining a clean sound up and down the neck.
|The Funster JOEL BASS logo decal is something I designed and had made just for my basses; no one ever figures out it does not say Fender unless I make a big deal out of it (which I TRY not to do, sometimes succeeding).
NOTE: I build these basses for myself, not for resale (generally), but I love sharing build ideas with other makers and players.