The Precision Bass (often shortened to "P-Bass") is a bass guitar manufactured by Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Designed by Leo Fender as a prototype in 1950 and brought to market in 1951, the Precision was the first electric bass to earn widespread attention and use. A revolutionary instrument, the Precision Bass has made an immeasurable impact on the sound of popular music ever since.
The original Precision Bass of 1951 was essentially a bass counterpart to the six-string Telecaster and shared several of its design features—the main difference being its then-radical double cutaway body. In 1953 the Precision Bass received contoured edges for comfort while otherwise retaining the existing Telecaster-like styling. In 1957 the Precision Bass received a major restyling; the headstock and pickguard were redesigned to closely resemble Fender's recently introduced, ultra-modern Stratocaster guitar, with a rounder neck heel replacing the original square shape introduced in 1951. The redesigned P-Bass pickguard was made of a single layer of gold anodized aluminum with 10 screwholes (1957–59) and then changed in 1960 to a 13-screw celluloid "multilayer" with 3 or 4 layers of black, white, mint green, aged white pearloid and brown tortoise shell. The original single-coil pickup was replaced in 1957 with a new split-coil pickup with staggered polepieces, connected in a humbucking mode; however, Fender never emphasized this, as the Seth Lover patent on the humbucking pickup had not yet expired. Two years later (1959), a rosewood fingerboard glued on a maple neck featuring "clay"-style dot position markers replaced the 1-piece maple neck. The rosewood neck became a standard feature until 1966/67, when the CBS-owned Fender companies began to offer a separate laminated maple fingerboard capped on a maple neck. Rosewood fingerboards were made of a veneered round-laminated piece of wood; pearloid dot markers replaced the "clay"-style inlays introduced in 1959. Since 1969, the 1-piece maple neck option is a standard feature on many Fender basses, with the rosewood fretboard offered as the second neck wood option. Meanwhile, the original Telecaster-derived design, with a few updates, was reintroduced in 1968 as the Telecaster Bass. Within a few years, however, it had evolved into a distinctly different model from the contemporary Precision Bass, and continued to be manufactured alongside the P Bass until the early '80s. There are two artist designed models using this Telecaster Bass body style. The Mike Dirnt Precision Bass using today's standard single split coil Precision Bass pickups, and the Sting Precision Bass using only a single coil Precision Bass Pickup.
Some Precision Basses made in the 1970s were also available with an unlined fretless rosewood, ebony or (usually) maple fingerboard, popularized by endorsees Sting and Tony Franklin. Fender briefly offered a fretless P Bass in the mid-1990s as a part of the first-generation American Standard line, featuring a lined fretless rosewood fingerboard. The fretless American Standard P Bass left the Fender pricelist at the end of the 20th century. The American Series Precision Bass (introduced in 2000 and discontinued in 2008) sports the S-1 switching system since 2003, allowing the split-coil pickup to be wired from series to parallel, giving the bass a brighter, snappier tone similar to a Jazz Bass. This feature has been discontinued with the introduction of the second generation of American Standard Series instruments in 2008. As of March 23, 2012, the American Standard Precision Bass (except the 5-string version) comes with a Custom Shop 60's P-Bass split-coil humbucking pickup. From 1980 to 1984, the Precision Bass has been redesigned with new pickups, an active onboard circuit and a high-mass brass bridge. The range included the Special (1980) featuring a split-coil pickup with white covers, gold hardware and a 2-band EQ with an active/passive toggle switch and the Elite (1983) with one (Elite I) or two (Elite II) special-design split-coil humbucking pickups, TBX tone circuit and a fine-tuner bridge made by Schaller. Some models were available with a solid walnut body and a stained ebony fretboard. Japanese models appeared in late 1984, sporting the same specifications as their American counterparts, except for the addition of a downsized body shape and a modern C-shape maple neck with 22 medium-jumbo frets. The Elite Precision's Schaller fine-tuner bridge has been later used on the Plus Series models in the early 1990s. Fender has also produced several 'Deluxe' or 'Special' models over the years which feature active electronics and/or a Jazz Bass pickup or humbucking soapbar at the bridge position in addition to the normal split-coil pickup. Both of these measures are designed to increase the tonal options available to a fairly simple bass. Some P-Basses with J-style bridge pickups usually feature the traditional Jazz Bass control layout of 2 volumes and master tone and a side-mount jack socket; others had the front pickup volume control moved a step forward, leaving room for the top-mounted output jack. Other variants include dual stacked control knobs similar to that of an early 1960s Jazz Bass or a 3-way pickup selector switch (as used on the Tony Franklin Signature and Plus Series P-Basses). The 1990s saw the introduction of the Precision Plus and Deluxe Plus basses in 1989 and 1991, featuring Lace Sensor pickups, fine-tuner bridges, 22-fret necks and passive or active electronics on certain models. The Custom Shop 40th Anniversary model of 1991 was a luxurious version of the Precision Plus Deluxe bass with gold hardware, a quilted maple top and an ebony fretboard with side dot position markers. Other variants (sometimes with 21 or 22 frets on the fingerboard) and special-edition Precision Bass guitars have been offered in recent years. Fender made an American Deluxe 5-string model with a split-coil neck pickup, a humbucking J-style bridge pickup and a 3-band active EQ between 2001 and 2007 and currently produces a passive American Standard with a high-mass vintage bridge and a gloss-coated maple neck with satin back and vintage tint as of 2008, tuned BEADG, along with a Squier Standard version sporting two J-Bass pickups with alnico magnets. The company has also built a Korean-made Squier ProTone 5-string Precision with dual humbuckers and gold hardware in the mid-1990s and a short-scale passive 5-string tuned EADGC called the Bass V during the CBS period in the mid-1960s. The Bass V did not sell well, and after it was discontinued, Fender did not offer another 5-string bass guitar until the 1980s.
Design variants Edit
In its stock configuration, the Precision Bass is a solid body instrument equipped with a single split-coil humbucking pickup and a one-piece maple neck or a maple neck with rosewood or maple fingerboard and 20 frets. To this day, the Precision Bass is among the best-selling electric basses of all time. The Standard P-Bass is sanded, painted and assembled in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico along with the other Standard Series guitars. As of December 5, 2008, the Standard P-Bass has been updated with CBS era-style decals, a 3-ply parchment pickguard and a tinted maple neck with rosewood or maple fingerboard. Other features include a split-coil hum-cancelling pickup and a return to the knurled chrome flat-top control knobs. Models produced before 2003 came for a period with aged white Stratocaster control knobs. Since its introduction in 1992, the Standard Precision Bass, like the rest of the Standard series instruments, used a post-CBS era silver transitional decal. Fender changed the headstock decal to the bolder CBS-style in 2008. The American Standard (featuring a high-mass vintage bridge and Hipshot lightweight staggered tuning machines), American Deluxe (featuring a J-style humbucking pickup in the bridge position and an active 3-band EQ with an 18V power supply), Highway One (featuring '70s styling, BadAss II bridges with grooved saddles and a Greasebucket tone circuit since 2006) and American Vintage series models are manufactured in Corona, California. American Standard Precisions are currently available as of 2012; the 2012 color chart listed 3-Color Sunburst, Olympic White, Black, Candy Cola, Jade Pearl Metallic, Charcoal Frost Metallic as available finishes during that period. As of April 19, 2012, the American Standard Precision Basses are loaded with the Custom Shop '60s Precision Bass Split Single-Coil Pickups, a 20-fret Graphite Reinforced Maple neck with compound rosewood or maple fingerboard with white or black pearloid dot markers and a high-mass vintage bridge. The American Standard Precision bass can also be bought as a 4 or 5 string bass. American Deluxe "Ash Body" Precisions were offered from 1995 to 2006, and are currently available as of 2011; the 2004 color chart listed Aged Cherry Sunburst, Butterscotch Blonde and Tobacco Sunburst as available finishes during that period. As of March 23, 2010, all American Deluxe Precision Basses came with a N3 stacked-coil Jazz Bass pickup in the bridge position, a 21-fret tinted maple neck with compound rosewood or maple fingerboard with white or black pearloid dot markers, an active/passive toggle switch, a high-mass vintage bridge, Hipshot lightweight vintage tuners, a stealth retainer bar for the A string and a bold CBS-era headstock decal. The Road Worn Series 50s P-Bass (introduced in 2009) features a distressed alder body with nitrocellulose lacquer finish, a 1-ply gold anodized pickguard, a synthetic bone nut, American Vintage hardware, a split-coil humbucking pickup and a 1-piece maple neck/fingerboard with 20 vintage frets. Fender also produces a line of Precision basses as well as Precision/Jazz "P-J" configured basses in the Squier line of products. Similar to The Beatles and Yes' effect on the popularity of the Rickenbacker 4001, the early adoption of the electric bass was in part due to Bill Black's ownership of the instrument. Black was beginning to use a Precision Bass during the filming of Jailhouse Rock. Fender also delivered an early Precision to LA session bassist and arranger Shifty Henry. The double bass was considered difficult to play in tune, physically cumbersome and difficult to transport. It was becoming hard to hear in increasingly large bands or in bands that included amplified electric guitars. With electric pickups, a small body and fretted neck, the Precision Bass overcame these problems. The name "Precision" came from the use of frets (as opposed to the fretless fingerboard of the double bass). Players of the electric instruments could play in tune much more easily - they could play with "precision." The electric bass produces a timbre that differs from that of the double bass: it is a more focused, harder-edged sound, with more sustain and a more clearly articulated, forward tone. By bringing the sound of the bass up in a band, the bass became more dominant in its role and transformed the beat and rhythm of pop music. The electric bass allowed driving rhythms while still outlining harmonic structures and is essential to the evolution from jump blues and swing to rhythm and blues and rock music, soul music and funk. It is still used regularly in many genres worldwide.