Updating my older basses

This weekend I finally made some changes to a couple of my B-list basses to (hopefully) make them more useful to me.

My 2000 Jazz Bass V with the pick guard and control plate removed.

My 2000 Jazz Bass V with the pick guard and control plate removed.

First was my 2000 Fender Jazz Bass V. Right after I bought it two years ago I replaced its strings with a fresh set of rounds and it sounded great. What I didn’t like about it was its electronics. I really dislike that one-volume-knob-per-pickup thing, but that’s what I was stuck with. That is until I went to bestbassgear.com and scored a pre-wired harness that gives my a master volume, master tone, and a pickup blend knob.

Yesterday, since I was replacing the strings anyway, I first replaced the electronics. I wasn’t intimidated at all by the process, but my skills are decidedly amateurish. I can follow directions and solder well enough for passive Jazz Basses, but that’s about it. Still, since it worked perfectly a year ago on a different bass, I went for it again.

Then came the strings. Inspired by Joe Dart, I replaced the round wound strings with a set of flats. I figured that if he can get such great tone from a passive Jazz Bass with flatwound strings, I might stand a chance!

The good news is that the strings do sound really good on that thing. It sounds really low and growly without any finger squeaks, which is great.

The bad news is that my wiring skills are shit. While I can get sound out of the bass, it’s only one pickup at a time. When I move the knob to the center spot, it goes silent. I’m sure it’s a simple fix, but this time I think I’ll leave that to the pros.

Next it was time to replace the strings on my 1983 Ibanez Roadstar II bass that I picked up in 1999. It had a set of flats on it when I bought it and they always sounded dull, so I figured it’s high time I slapped on a set of steel core tapewound strings to try and liven it up. I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound 100% better! It’s not going to win any awards, but I may actually start gigging with it.

The problem I have is that it’s a short scale bass: 32” to be precise. I’m not a frequent fretless player, so I don’t relish the thought of dealing with intonation issues because I’m going from a 5-string fretted bass with a 35” scale down to a 32” 4-string with a little wisp of a neck and my fingers can’t compensate quickly enough.

Also, a previous owner did a half-Jaco on it: they pulled out the frets and filled in the slots to make it fretless, but they stopped short of applying marine epoxy to the fretboard. That plus the fact that it’s a maple fretboard anyway means I can’t use roundwound strings on it without causing damage. The tapewounds are a good compromise.

So now I just need to decide which basses I want to lug to gigs. My Lakland will always be my #1, but maybe it’s time to share the load a bit. First, though, I need to bring that Fender into the shop to someone who knows what they’re doing can clean up my mess.