Things You'll Need
- New pickups (62' Precision pickups or Seymour Duncan pickups)
- Phillips-head screwdriver
- Soldering iron
- Volume potentiometer
- Putty knife
- Additional hardware (frets, tuners, control knobs, bridge)
Fender's "Squier" series of guitars and bass guitars are typically thought of as beginner models. They range between $200 and $300, and used models can be found for as little as $100. This is an unbeatable price for a good-quality electric bass guitar. However, the reduced price also reflects a reduction in the overall quality of the instrument. Nevertheless, it is possible to upgrade your instrument without spending a lot of money. Changing the pickups and hardware on your Squier P bass makes it possible to capture the vintage Fender Precision sound without breaking the bank.
Select new pickups for the P Bass. The Fender Precision bass uses a single-split-coil humbucker pickup. Improve the quality of your P Bass by upgrading the pickups. Replace the stock pickups of the P Bass with Fender 1962 Precision Bass pickups. These are reproductions of the original 1962 pickups and will allow you to capture the vintage Fender sound. They will run you $69.95 plus shipping and handling at Musician's Friend. Seymour Duncan offers a version of the Precision pickup for the same price.
Install the new pickups. Remove the pickguard with a Phillips-head screwdriver. Gently turn the pickguard upside down and lay it on its top. The volume pot is connected to the pickguard. Remove the old pickups with a Phillips head screwdriver. Heat up a soldering iron. Heat up the solder on the pot and remove the two wires from each pot; one wire is black and the other is either red or white. Install the new pickups in the pickup cavity. Screw them in place and solder the wires to the to the tone pot. (Wait to finish the rest until after you have replaced the volume pot.)
Buy a new volume pot. One criticism of the Squier P Bass is that the volume potentiometer is on the weak side. Purchase a better-quality volume pot for the P Bass at your local music store or online. It is smart to replace the volume pot while you are installing the new pickups. Remove the volume knob from the top of the pickguard. It may be necessary to slip a putty knife under the top and push it up to loosen it. Take the knob off and remove the old volume pot. Insert the new volume pot in the hole in the pickguard and reattach the knob. Solder the two pickup wires to the pot and reattach the pickguard.
Inspect the hardware on the P Bass. The hardware includes the frets, tuners, control knobs, and bridge. Other changes you can make depend upon the quality of your P Bass. The quality of the frets affects the sound quality of the bass. The frets on your P Bass may be good or they may be of insufficient quality. Take your P bass to the local music store. Play it side by side with a couple of Precision basses. Compare the hardware of your P Bass with the Fender Precision basses.
Plug into an Ampeg bass amp. The amplifier makes a huge contribution to the overall sound and tone quality of an electric bass guitar. James Jamerson, the Motown legend, and Duck Dunn, from Booker T and the MGs and Stax Records, both achieved their tone with Fender Precision basses and Ampeg bass amplifiers.
If you don't yet own a Squire P Bass, test out a few before buying one. The general consensus among bass guitarists is that there is a wide range of quality among Fender Squier P Basses. Test out different Squier P basses at a few different stores. Take the time to find a good one before your spend your money. Two Squier P basses that come highly recommended by bass guitarists are the Japanese Squier made in the 1980s and the 20th anniversary Vintage model.
Robert Russell began writing online professionally in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between art, entertainment and culture. He is the guitar player for the nationally touring cajun/zydeco band Creole Stomp. Russell travels with his laptop and writes many of his articles on the road between gigs.