Pandemic Bass

A.K.A. “P-Bass”

October 2020

I’ve never bought a bass. I’ve been the custodian of several, mostly as a result of bands failing to materialize and bass players leaving their basses with me, but never really had one of my own.

The Fender Precision Bass had an enormous impact on modern music. You kind of need bass, and before bass guitars became widely available in the 50s, the only option was an acoustic upright bass, which are expensive, hard to play, and barely fit in your jalopy. Fender wasn’t exactly the first to produce one, but they were the first to successfully get them into people’s hands, and the cumulative effect on music from having a garage band on every street is incalculable. The Precision Bass established a blueprint that is still relevant today.

I’m not a bass player. I mean, it’s conceptually similar to a guitar, and any guitar player can technically coax noise out of one, but I’m barely even a guitar player and bass is really a different instrument. That said, I do love bass, and occasionally need to be able to throw something on a track. I’ve had access to a Fender Jazz bass for years, and while the slim neck on a J-Bass is comfortable for guitar players and it’s got two pickups with infinite blending for a bunch of tones, I kept wondering if what I really needed was the “other” bass. The one with the baseball bat for a neck that would remind me that I’m playing the big boi. I’m never going to play a solo on bass, I’ll never need it to stand out, and I don’t need to be distracted by tonal options: I just want to pick it up and have it sound right in the mix. I just want it to thump. So I made a P-Bass.

The Downlow

It was the pandemic and I felt like building something, but didn’t want to be stressed out with having to make a bunch of critical decisions, so I bought a kit. Everything was fine with that except that I like to have things a certain way, and as a result was unhappy with the body, the neck, the pickup, the electronics, the bridge, the tuning machines, the pickguard, the strap buttons, and the knobs. The string tree wasn’t great, but I think it’s the only part that remains.

The body is Spanish cedar, which is neither Spanish nor cedar. Cedrela odorata is a tropical hardwood, more closely related to mahogany than actual cedar (which is a softwood), although it does have a cedar-like scent and is lighter and less dense than true mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla). It’s great to work with, and while I remain skeptical about the ultimate effect of wood on the sound of a solid body instrument, I was curious to try something outside the norm (which would be ash or alder). The neck is maple with a rosewood fingerboard. The pickup is a Seymour Duncan SPB-1, which is their lower output, more vintage style P-Bass pickup. The bridge is a Hipshot KickAss. It’s strung with flats, perhaps obviously.


It does exactly what I wanted it to do. I find it gloriously mellow and thumpy.