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Fender Bass Guitars: A Brief History

With a background as a qualified electronics technician, Leo Fender started Fender’s Radio Service in 1938 before moving on to building musical instrument amplifiers. Fast-forward through the lap steel years to his early steps into electric guitar design with the Broadcaster, and then its successor, the indomitable Telecaster. Thereafter, followed the Precision Bass in 1951.

Fender’s Precision Bass shared several design features with the Telecaster but differed in having a double-cutaway body. Over the years contoured edging was introduced to ensure greater playing comfort, the pickup arrangement evolved as well as some hardware appointments but the general fit and feel of today’s models harks back to its earlier forefathers.

The Jazz Bass (originally the Deluxe Model, which accompanied the Jazzmaster guitar at the time) was designed to be brighter in tone and richer in the midrange and treble, whilst adopting an offset lower bout that would make it sit comfortably on the knee for jazz ensemble bassists of the time. The pickup arrangement also differed to that of the Precision Bass with a pair of single-coils in place of the evolved single-coil/split single-coil set up.

Both the Precision Bass and the Jazz Bass were game changers in the field of low-end instrument design borrowed features from the electric models. Creating a comfortable, ergonomically designed performance partner for working double-bass players was not easy, yet Fender pulled it off and they are virtually unchanged from their original design. Over the years there have been many variations with regard to electronics and hardware, and more signature models than your could shake a stick at.

On the other hand, there have also been many a bass version of Fender’s popular guitar lines too including the Jaguar and Mustang basses. Scaled-down proportions and a shortened scale-length on the Mustang combines a punchier output with greater playing comfort for those with a shorter reach and smaller hands. The Jaguar has become a favourite of players across a diverse range of genres including Troy Sanders (Mastodon), Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Air, Beck, Nine Inch Nails), and Pino Palladino (literally everyone, legend) to name but a select few.