Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer Guitar Project 2012 Part III

I'll probably post some pictures once I get everything. I'm going to try and assemble it all in one day. Hopefully. I don't foresee any big difficulties, but there are a few things that may be tricky:
  • Neck fit
  • Drilling holes
  • Soldering electronics
The neck pocket is about 1/16 of an inch too narrow. I'm not sure if that's due to the paint, but I'll have to sand the pocket to allow a nice tight fit. On top of that, none of the holes are drilled for any of the hardware. The plate, pick guard, strap buttons and bridge need to have screw holes drilled. I also have to drill a channel for the bridge grounding wire.

I'm no soldering master, but I'm going to put it all together myself. I apologize if this is boring or the terminology doesn't make sense. Google it.


When you think of Jazz basses, there's a distinctive sound that has evolved over the years. Fender Jazz basses usually employ two single coil pickups, with one toward the neck and one located toward the bridge. Two volume knobs and a tone knob adjust the sound. Pickups are comprised of some sort of ceramic or alnico magnet and wrapped wire. Looking at vintage Fender Jazz pickups the DC resistance of both the neck and the bridge pickups come in between 7.0-8.0.

Single coil pickups have a 60 cycle hum. Turn up that volume and the hum is apparent. That's why they invented humbucking pickups with dual coil wire wraps to eliminate the hum. It isn't a bad thing though. That's just part of the sound of the bass. With proper shielding and grounding, the hum isn't so bad. Some players prefer that sound, and pickup makers continue to reproduce pickups to vintage spec.

That vintage sound is hard to come by unless you have vintage gear laying around. Spend the right amount of money and you can approximate the sound of a vintage bass. Who cares about vintage sound? It all depends on the music you play, and that vintage tone would be inappropriate for certain styles of music. Jazz pickups are made with all sorts of materials these days, in any configuration possible. Some musicians have made a name for themselves based on the sound of their recordings.

I wanted to find some pickups that were split coil humbucking pickups. I don't care for the hum, from all those years of playing an active bass. Looking around the best pickups are probably Nordstrads. They are hand wired and can be set up to replicate the real deal. They're expensive but high quality pickups.

Then I came up on the Dimarzio Model J pickups. I haven't seen a bad review for them, and from what Ican tell, bridge the gap between vintage and modern sound without losing the low-end. I don't want a super hot pickup, and I don't really want something that will be unjazz sounding because this is a fretless. The magnetic poles look.. adjustable? Getting the pickup height is important to be able to get the correct volume for each string.

So I got the Model J's. Other folk's on the internet have said that they are really good for fretless. That's cool. What's better is these pickups have a four wire configuration that will allow me to wire them to push/pull pots in the future. That way I can switch from series to parallel whenever I want, altering the tone.


Then comes the wiring.

It seems like there's probably four or five different ways to wire a Jazz bass. They all work, and I can't really decide what the difference is. I can't read a schematic. It's all nonsense to me. Here are a few ways to wire this... and they all are very similar, but the differences with grounding and some other soldering locations puzzles me.

Fender Jazz Wiring
So I went to Fender's website and looked at their basic Jazz wiring diagram. It looks different from the others, but if it works for Fender... it should work for me. I hesitate to seriously solder anything, but here goes nothing. If it doesn't work, I'll try another diagram.

I also want to shield the inside cavity with copper tape, just in case. It's always a good thing to do even with the humbucking pickups. 

Next time: Finishing up and strings!