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Thread: Electric Bass Guitar Build

  1. #1
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    Electric Bass Guitar Build

    My SO wants a bass guitar. And I'm getting bored watching the lacquer cure on the other guitar.

    I took some 1:1 scaled drawings of bass guitars, glued them to 1/4" MDF, and started cutting templates. The neck and back are completed, with the exception of the neck heel. I don't want to cut that until we decide what pickguard will be used.

    Based on the p-Bass.


    Based on the jazz bass.

    When we were at Sam Ash, my SO picks up a Rickenbacker and loved how it felt and remarked how much lighter it was over the Fender P-Bass. I guess the Rick is 1-1/4" thick vs. the 1-3/4" Fenders. Also the Rick has a through neck. But there's always the issue of neck dive, so I don't know how that's countered. The Rick has a decent sized headstock, probably about the same overall weight as the Fender.

    Anyway, where we are right now is trying to decide what components to use. My SO wants something that is versatile (rock, jazz, blues), something lightweight (as much as possible) and something that's comfortable (easy) to play.

    As far as woods, the only thing for certain is an ebony fretboard. I have a really pretty piece we bought just for this purpose. In stock, I have a slab of 6/4 bubinga that is wide enough for a one-piece body. I have a slab of very straight grained 8/4 African mahogany, but my SO seems totally uninterested in that for a body. For the neck, I have some medium figure BE maple and some curly maple. I also have walnut, jatoba, figured cherry, sapele (figured and straight-grained) and padauk.

    This is the bubinga slab:


    There are more options if we went with a through-neck but I'm not so sure about my abilities/knowledge venturing into that. So for this build, I'm kind of pushing toward a bolt-on neck.

    My SO wants as much of the wood as possible to show - small pickguard. This is a JP-90 and it has about the smallest pickguard I've found so far.



    The body looks like a jazz bass body but with the horns being cut a bit sharper. I kind of like it buy my SO likes the one I have the template for.

    Questions:


    1. Would basing this build on the JP-90 create a bass that is versatile, sounds good for jazz, rock and blues, is easy to play and comfortable?
    2. Would the above pickup configuration satisfy the sound desired?
    3. Would the bubinga be too heavy for the body?
    4. If the bubinga would be too heavy, would maple be any better?
    5. Would you trim the headstock? I think the JP-90 and maybe the jazz neck have trimmed headstocks.


    You guys helped me so much on the other build, you created a monster!

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Julie Moriarty View Post
    Anyway, where we are right now is trying to decide what components to use. My SO wants something that is versatile (rock, jazz, blues), something lightweight (as much as possible) and something that's comfortable (easy) to play.

    There are more options if we went with a through-neck but I'm not so sure about my abilities/knowledge venturing into that. So for this build, I'm kind of pushing toward a bolt-on neck.

    Questions:


    1. Would basing this build on the JP-90 create a bass that is versatile, sounds good for jazz, rock and blues, is easy to play and comfortable?
    2. Would the above pickup configuration satisfy the sound desired?
    3. Would the bubinga be too heavy for the body?
    4. If the bubinga would be too heavy, would maple be any better?
    5. Would you trim the headstock? I think the JP-90 and maybe the jazz neck have trimmed headstocks.


    You guys helped me so much on the other build, you created a monster!
    Julie, it is clear that you have been assimilated... As a preface, I don't play bass often but I have and can.

    to your specific questions:
    1) I have never played or held a JP-90. The Fenders I have played are Jazz, Precision and Telecaster Basses. I think that they are all ok in their way. My favorite bass is a Rickenbacker 4001. If you are looking for vesitility, I would want separate tone and volume controls for each pickup. I think tapping the coils on the pickups also ad versatility.

    2) I think I would want the neck pickup closer to the neck - probably centered on the twenty fourth fret position. As to the pickups themselves, I have no knowlege that is relevant.

    3.) Bubinga is heavy. If you are looking for light weigh, you're going in the wrong direction. Would you consider a bubinga "cap"? If you insist upon the Bubinga, you may want to hollow it out to relieve weight. This will waste a lot of expensive wood.

    4.) Maple is lighter but still heavier than a standard fender body.

    5.) I am a little unclear about what you refer as trimming. Do you mean "cut down" or trimmed out with veneer form the body?

    As to your other questions, I think a through neck can be very nice. I have an Ibanez prototye guitar with a through neck, and two coil tapped pickups. It is the most versatle guitar I own. It was my back-up when touring.

    Julie, would you consider no pickguard at all on the bass. Especially if you go with the bubinga, it would look stunning. All your cavities would be through the back of the Bass.

    All in all, if I were to do this. I would make it from ash or mahogany with the bubinga cap. There would be no pickguard, as I would weight relieve and mount the electronics from the back. I would do a bound body and neck with the ebony fretboard. For versatility, maybe 3 pickups HSH with the pickups individually switched and coil tapped. This is similar to my Ibanez guitar (not a bass, but...). As to body and headstock shape, I don't care much for the fender bass shapes, so I would try to develop a different aesthetic.

    I can post a couple of pictures if that would help.
    Shawn

    "no trees were harmed in the creation of this message, however some electrons were temporarily inconvenienced."

    "I resent having to use my brain to do your thinking"

  3. #3
    Some nice ideas here.... I was hoping to take a walk in the same direction...... if things permit.
    Maybe slightly off topic, but even if the Fender JB and PB are probably the most commonly used basses, are
    there any opininions on "the best bass" out there?
    ( I know it is somewhat like shouting in the woods - and topping that, I hardly play guitars myself...... )

  4. #4
    re: pickup locations
    Actually, I have to disagree with Shawn a little bit. If you bring the pickups much closer to the neck, I think you'll get a very, very muddy bass sound. If you check out most basses, it's pretty rare that the pickups are much closer, if at all, than what you have there. I think it just looks funny because the pick guard is funny.

  5. #5
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    Yes, Shawn, I have been assimilated. Resistance was futile. You gave me a lot to think about though.

    On trimming the headstock, I was referring to reducing the overall size. From pics I've seen, it looks like some of the Fender bases have that Strat head but it's smaller than the template I made. I've thought about back cavities and no pickguard. In fact I showed my SO some pics of some really nice thru-neck, back-wired basses and we talked about doing something like that got shelved for another day. My SO is itching to play some bass. The Fenders are easy as are getting templates.

    I do have a CAD file of a Rickenbacker 4001 I was playing with this morning, trying to see if all the dimensions were accurate. The scale didn't translate to AutoCAD and when I scaled one dimension, another was off. I'd probably need to have one in my hands to verify the accuracy of the file. We watched a number of video comparisons of different basses today. The P-bass sound eeked out a win. The Rickenbacker was close but the player kept hitting the bridge pickup with the strings. That thing is massive! Don't know if that's an issue one needs to learn to avoid.

    When we discussed bubinga or maple and the weight, the figure of the wood won out. Funny how once introduced to beautifully figured wood, it's hard to look at anything else. If I put that big pickguard Fender is famous for, I could rout out some weight underneath it but that seems like a waste. I can't top the wood unless I do it in two pieces. My bandsaw only resaws to 9.75". I need almost 14" width for the bass body. My SO nixed that anyway.

    Halgeir, something I've heard again and again regarding the best musical instrument for you - it's the one you love the best. Everyone has their own opinions. I'm doing the Fender thing because parts and drawings are so easy to get. And they are pretty easy to make. But it's hard to ignore the fact that the design of Fender guitars have changed little over the last 50-60 years and they are still selling like hotcakes.

    John, I was looking at a number of different basses and all of them have the neck pickup in the middle of the body. So I think you're right there. When listening to the PJ basses (precision neck pickup and jazz bridge pickup) it was pretty clear that you could go just about anywhere you want with that setup. But a lot of people said you need a matching set or you may have to turn down the volume on one to get both pickups to put out equal volume. I've seen some PJs with a mini-toggle, to switch between pickups and some just rely on the volume controls to do that. But it's rare to see two volume pots and two tone pots. It seems most are just one tone pot.

    Of course, StewMac will be one of the lucky winners in this new project. I'll have to get a new scale template, fretwire, radius block and a few other tools for the bass. All the basses I've seen have a 10 degree radius fretboard. I'm thinking Schaller mini tuners. Someone recommended Fralin or Nordstrand for pickups. The ones we heard today sounded pretty clean. But active pickups got nixed. And I have to do some homework on nuts, bridges, action heights, truss rods (1 or 2), strings...


    That movie always makes me laugh...


  6. #6
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    John - you could be right. On guitars, the neck pickup on the natural harmonic can give a wonderful "chimey" tone. Jazz guitars almost always have that arrangement. My thinking, for versatility and jazz, the coil tapped neck could give you the slow rumble on a slow walking bass line. The Rickenbacker 4003 has the single coil on the 24th fret. Alembics and my Danelectro have the pickup at the 26th fret position.
    Shawn

    "no trees were harmed in the creation of this message, however some electrons were temporarily inconvenienced."

    "I resent having to use my brain to do your thinking"

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn Pixley View Post
    John - you could be right. On guitars, the neck pickup on the natural harmonic can give a wonderful "chimey" tone. Jazz guitars almost always have that arrangement. My thinking, for versatility and jazz, the coil tapped neck could give you the slow rumble on a slow walking bass line. The Rickenbacker 4003 has the single coil on the 24th fret. Alembics and my Danelectro have the pickup at the 26th fret position.
    Bass is different than guitar!

  8. #8
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    Chris - please elaborate. Do they have different physics? Other than the vibrating mass being larger, the principles are equivelent.
    Shawn

    "no trees were harmed in the creation of this message, however some electrons were temporarily inconvenienced."

    "I resent having to use my brain to do your thinking"

  9. #9
    I wouldn't worry too much about the harmonics. It's only in the "right" place for the open notes. It's in the wrong place for a lot more notes

  10. #10
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    This conversation piqued my curiosity so I did a little research on pickup locations in relation to the neck. I knew I had seen pups closer to the neck. What I didn't realize til now was those basses had 24 frets while the Fender only have 20.


    Did Fender go with 20 frets because it was preferred by the players or because it was cheaper to manufacture? After looking around some more I found Rickenbacker and Gibson also have 20 frets. The more custom basses seem to have mostly 24 frets. But the Gibson EB-3 (1961-1979) has 22 frets with a large pickup butted right up to the neck.


    This is like the guitar build - the more you know, the more you realize there's a lot more to learn.

  11. #11
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    "The more you know,the more you realize there's a lot more to learn"

    That is exactly true,Julie. And it is a true fact that really stupid,ignorant people act a lot more sure of themselves than those who know a lot more. I had a former wheelwright idiot at the museum tell me he wanted to build an airplane. The guy couldn't even build a decent wheel. He had no idea what would be involved in making even a wooden frame airplane. After he got the chop,I had to help the new ones straighten out his bad work.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by george wilson View Post
    "The more you know,the more you realize there's a lot more to learn"
    Also known as digging for pyramids...

  13. #13
    I think it's William Cumpiano that refers to that as the "beginner's mind". I think it starts with a euphoria of "look at what I can do, I'm great!", but then you get kicked in the shorts a few times and get depressed. Finally, you make it to a point where you start feeling bad for charging money for your shoddy workmanship, but the customers seem happy enough so you just keep trying to get better.

    And then there's George. I have a feeling he could toss a bunch of spruce, some chisels, and an old cow bone into a box, shake it for a few seconds, and pull out a guitar.

  14. #14
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    When my kids were younger and just getting into challenging their parents wisdom, I used to tell them, "The more I learn, the smarter my parents get." They eventually got it.
    Still waiting on some decisions from my SO on the bass. In the meantime, I'm moving forward on Rad Axe #2...

  15. #15
    Are you going to keep the two-tone headstock? I think it's pretty cool.

    Just one thing to keep in mind, BTW. Fender gets very upset when someone copies their headstock and tries to sell the guitar. If you have any thoughts that you might like to sell these someday, you may want to start thinking now about making some small changes here and there to stay clear of their legal department. They've been quite aggressive in recent years. I wouldn't bother changing anything right this second, but it's something to keep in the back of your mind for when you have a spare moment...maybe start fiddling around here and there over the next few months. You don't have to change very much. Just tweaking the scroll at the very end would be sufficient to keep them away.

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