How Fender’s Precision Bass Set the Standard for Electric Bass Guitars in 1951

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Looking back, one could argue that no other Fender design has had such a cultural impact as the Precision Bass. Appearing in late 1951, it wasn’t just a new model – to most people it was a whole new kind of instrument.

This horizontal, fretted, solidbody electric bass guitar changed the course of music almost single-handedly. From early ’50s dancehall bands to contemporary electronic dance music, the P-Bass’ heritage is evident.

Sure, there were other electric basses that came before it (produced by manufacturers such as Tutmarc and Rickenbacker), but none were designed well enough to alter the way modern music was written and performed.

Infinitely more convenient and easier to play than the ubiquitous upright basses that came before it, and with the ability to be heard clearly at virtually any volume without feedback, the Fender P-Bass has carved its way into the high, leaving the little competition there. was in the dust.

Fender Precision Bass

(Image credit: future)

The Precision Bass was released just months after the release of its six-string sibling, the Esquire – Fender’s first Spanish-style electric solidbody – the previous year. This original incarnation of the P-Bass bears more than a passing resemblance to the Esquires and Broadcasters/Telecasters of the early 50s.

In fact, Fender released a “reissue” called the Telecaster Bass in 1968, inspired by its flagship design, although its white pickguard (not to mention the rare Paisley Red and Blue Flower finishes!) set it apart.

Fender Precision Bass

(Image credit: future)

As with the 1954 and earlier Blackguard Teles, the P-Bass in its original form featured a slab ash body with a blonde finish and black pickguard. And while the headstock profile was instantly recognizable as cut from the same Fender cloth, the Precision featured a new offset double cutaway, allowing easier access to the upper frets, while helping balance the weight of the instrument. .

This unique shape influenced the plan of the Stratocaster. In return, the P-Bass carried over more of the design features of the Strat when it was released later in 1954.

That year the Precision began to transition from a Tele-style design to a Strat-style design, a similarly contoured body with a two-tone sunburst finish and white pickguard establishing it as the bass partner of the new Fender’s flagship guitar.

Further modifications derived from the Stratocaster occurred in 1957 when the headstock profile was reworked. Additionally, the instrument’s pickguard has been reduced in length away from the bass bell and extended further into the lower treble area where the two control knobs were now mounted – effectively replacing the chrome control plate of Tele-style.

However, the most significant revision to the Precision Bass design that year (certainly in terms of sound) was the introduction of the split humbucking pickup, which replaced the original four-pole single-coil variety.

From that point on, little has changed from the essential design of the Precision Bass. There were, of course, a few (mostly cosmetic) changes – including the introduction of a rosewood fingerboard in 1959 – but today’s Fender P-Bass versions are unmistakable. Much like the Tele and Strat, this winning design means it has never been let down.

The evolution of the Fender Precision Bass

  • End of 1951: First expedition; ash body; fretted maple neck; blonde finish; black pickguard; single coil pickup
  • Spring 1952: First announced; Bassman 26 watts/1×15 (partner amp)
  • 1954: Contoured Strat-style body; 2-tone sunburst finish; white pickguard
  • 1956: Alder body
  • 1957: Strat-style headstock and gold pickguard; split-humbucker pickup; 4-saddle bridge
  • 1958: 3-tone sunburst finish
  • 1959: Tortoiseshell cellulose nitrate pickguard; ‘slab’ rosewood fingerboard
  • 1962: Rosewood fingerboard
  • 1967: Available with maple fingerboard
  • 1968: Early 50s Style Telecaster Bass (Blonde, Paisley Red & Blue Flower finishes)
  • 1970: Comes with a fretted maple neck
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