Fender Jazz Bass Mods and Upgrades

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Fender Jazz Bass Mods And Upgrades

The Jazz Bass is an iconic Leo Fender design. The second of his ground breaking solid body basses, since its introduction in 1960, this instrument has been fundamental in the development of players sounds in musical styles across the spectrum: funk, disco, Reggae, progressive rock, jazz fusion, etc. Below are a few ideas to help you put your own spin on this classic design.

Hardware Upgrades For Jazz Bass

Pickguard Replacement

With how simple it is to change, swapping out the stock plain white colored pickguard for the dark pearloid one pictured was too tempting to resist. With no electronics to contend with, you can match jazz bass pick guards to your outfit if you’d like!

As with all pickguards, there is some variation between different years and models of Jazz bass. It is important to make sure to order one that fits your particular instrument. It is not uncommon for pickguards to require a bit of additional shaping and fitting during an installation. Some other popular options are red tortoiseshell, white pearloid, mint, black, or even mirror finish.

Strap Locks

For some, strap locks allow for crazy stage tricks like spinning the guitar over your shoulder. For the rest of us, they are a reliable piece of security against dented guitars, broken headstocks, and really awkward moments on stage.

Care should be taken during installation and case storage to avoid stripped mounting hardware

Hipshot Bass Xtender

This cool device allows a musician to detune a string quickly, accurately, and reliably with the flick of a lever.  With this gadget you can quick change into “Drop ‘D’ tuning” before your guitarist even has a chance to step on his tuner pedal.

They are available in many different styles and finishes, so there is bound to be one to fit your bass! If you are tired of waiting for your guitarist to catch up, they even make them for guitars too!

Leo Quan BADASS II High Mass Bass Bridge

Perhaps our favorite bass upgrade is the “high mass bridge”. While there are many imitations on the market now, The BADDASS II bass bridge by Leo Quan is the original and a favorite of an eclectic mix of musical icons like Marcus Miller (Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock), Geddy Lee (Rush), and Mike Dirnt (Green Day).

Often times these bridges can drop right into the existing mounting holes without much effort required beyond a proper setup!


Electronic Upgrades For Jazz Bass

mods control plate

No instrument hot rod would be complete without an upgrade to the electronics!
Here is an opportunity to address what is arguably the portion of the instrument most open to improvement.

Noiseless Jazz Bass Pickups

One of the single biggest tonal changes you can make to any electric instrument is to replace the pickups.  

If you hate pickup hum, the stock Jazz Bass is tonally limited by the fact that the two single coil pickups are typically only fully hum cancelling when they are both run at full volume.

While shielding the control cavities can certainly help to minimize noise that is related to electronic interference, swapping in a set of “noiseless” style pickups gives the freedom to explore the range of tones that are available by blending the two pickups in different combinations without introducing annoying hum to your signal!

Active Tone Control Upgrade

For most players, the traditional passive tone control is not an inspiring tool. Rolling off all the high frequencies makes your tone disappear. 

An active 2 band EQ, such as those offered by Seymour Duncan, allows for the individual boosting or cutting of high and low frequencies.

This upgrade provides infinitely more tonal control when compared to the original.

Pickup Blender / Master Volume Mod

The individual pickup volume controls on a stock jazz bass aren’t ideal for tone tweaking.

Swapping for a master volume and a pickup blender control allows you to have all neck pickup, all bridge pickup, or any combination in-between with the turn of one knob.

Then you can easily adjust your overall volume with the other without effective the degree of pickup blend.

Series / Parallel Mod For Jazz Bass

Traditional jazz bass wiring runs the pickups in “parallel” when used together.  

While this is a great sound, adding a “push/pull” potentiometer to the mix, creates the option to put the two pickups “in series” with one another. This yields a more midrange heavy “hum-bucker” type sound that is not typically available on a jazz bass!

Battery Box Installation

Active circuits such as EMG or Fishman Fluence style pickups, or active tone controls, need a power source in order operate.

Since the control cavity on a jazz bass is rather small, routing the body to accept a battery box creates room for the required battery.

Even if there is room in the control cavity, a battery box is an excellent option to facilitate quick and easy battery replacement.

The mods presented here are just a few of our favorite options to customize your bass. For price inquiries, please see our repair menu. Calico Guitarworks stocks many of the parts necessary for these mods as well countless others. If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our article outlining some great ways to mod and customize a Stratocaster style guitar. Rickenbacker bass owners may also be interested in our post regarding upgrading Rickenbacker bass bridges.

Picture of Erik Salomon - Calico Guitarworks Owner / Head Technician
Erik Salomon - Calico Guitarworks Owner / Head Technician

Tech Talk articles are part of an ongoing effort to provide clear and detailed answers to common questions about guitar maintenance, modifications, and repairs.
While not intended as a step-by-step guide to servicing your own instrument, we hope that you will find value in the information provided.

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About Calico Guitarworks

Calico Guitarworks is the area’s premier destination for fretted musical instrument care and maintenance. Owned and managed by Erik Salomon, the shop is dedicated to providing quick, honest and reliable service. The staff at Calico Guitarworks has a combined 25+ years of professional guitar repair experience. Sharing the knowledge that we accumulate in this focused pursuit is at the core of what we do. Learn more About Calico Guitarworks, explore our Frequently Asked Questions, or Contact us with a specific request.

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