The DIY iOS Musician:  Updating a P-Bass Guitar

I think that musical instruments are like a lot of things such as cars, boats or even homes.  They may work great initially and totally make you happy, but over time they may not be as fun, as shiny or your tastes have changed and you want something different.  

My old Archer bass guitar is like that.  I bought it new from a local music shop, Cascio Interstate Music, maybe 11-12 years ago for $100.  It was not exceptionally fancy or innovative,  It had the basic styling of a Fender Precision P bass but was a fraction of the cost.  I like how it felt, liked the action and I liked how it sounded.  

Over the years, it got more and more difficult to record with it because I could never find the base sound or tone that was just right.  Once I started using JamUp Pro by Positive Grid that all changed, but I had felt that the bass guitar needed a little more kick.  When I started playing bass in the band Ignition89 I decided it was time for an upgrade.

The decision to buy a new instrument over revamping an older one is sometimes a tough one.  In this case, I had read a review for a Seymour Duncan SPB-3 Quarter Pound pickup and instantly my choice was made.  After a purchase from the Sweetwater Music Store, I had the pick up in hand and was ready to install.

This Blog will walk you through how I installed a new P style bass pick up into an existing bass guitar reusing the wiring, pots and jacks.  

So here is my lovely blue bass in all of its glory with the new pickup to be installed.

The next step was to remove the pick guard and access the internal wiring.  

From there I needed to remove the original pickups and get the new pickups ready to be wired in.  The first thing I did was to tin the wires by applying flux and solder to the stripped ends.  Tinning the wires makes them easier to install.  It helps insure a secure clean connection. 

If you are not sure how to wire up the new pickup and make the connections, Seymour Duncan includes a nice wiring diagram.  If you do not have a diagram you can easily search for a wiring schematic online that shows where the connections need to be made.  Here is the diagram from Seymour Duncan.

On this install, I felt like being cheap and not replacing the volume & tone pots, jack, and wiring.  I was really happy to see that when this was initially made, the manufacturer had used Alpha pots.  When I rebuilt my 2 Fernandes Vertigo’s I used all Alpha pots and was very happy with their performance and ease of use.  

So the next step after removing the existing pickups and tinning the wires was to install the new pick ups.  I fluxed the 2 areas to be soldered and made the connections.  It was a quick and painless process.

The next step was to reinstall the pick guard and set the height for the pickups.  The pickups have foam that is adhered to the bottom to allow the height to be adjusted.  Electric guitars usually have springs to do this.  The included foam did not allow enough adjustment for this bass model so I wound up cutting some of the foam packaging into little rectangles and sliding them under the pickups to give me the ability to get them just right. Seymour Duncan recommended that the pickups be set at 1/8″ below the string when pressed down at the highest fret.

From there I tuned my bass, plugged it in and was amazed at the new sounds coming out of my speakers.  I noticed more punch, better mids and in general a warmer sound with some grit.  My favorite part is that the E string is more clear and when playing in drop-D the sound is tight.  The old stock pickups were not bad, but they were nothing like these. 

So, here is the bass all finished.  

So what do you think?  Pretty easy or maybe scary thinking about taking apart your bass?

I would love your comments or stories of your own!  Please leave them below and feel free to ask questions on my contact page if you would like more info.

Thanks for reading my blog!

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