Opinion: PJ Basses

You may encounter PJ basses, which are Precision basses with an additional bridge Jazz pickup. They often have thinner necks than traditional P basses, and are marketed as “best of both worlds”.

Well, if that would be true, every pro player would have a PJ and nothing else, which is not the case.

Neck pickup solo: You may think that this will give a traditional thick P sound, but it might not. A chunky neck is allegedly part of the low-middy P sound. As a supporter of this theory; I subjectively believe that a typical skinny PJ neck is a sound compromise – but if you have a thick neck on your PJ, that’s fine. Nevertheless, additional J components on the bass might compromise the sound as well.

Jazz pickup solo: Depending on the pickup position, you can usually get a good 60’s or 70’s J bridge sound – typically heard from Jaco. Not the typical choice for support playing, but a good choice for soloing, chords and articulation.

Pickup blend: Beauty of a J bass is that you can blend the pickups in various percentages to get different sounds, the JJ pickups complement each other nicely. However, on a PJ bass, you can’t blend them so nicely – the P pickup will dominate most of the settings and E-A strings will sound different (dull) than D-G strings (ringy). So, forget the wide palette of JJ blend options. In my experience, blending is only useful to add some high-mids to the P pickup.

In summary, PJ basses that I tried lean towards the P and J simultaneously, but didn’t really sound like either. I’d rather have a separate P and J. The only PJ sound I loved came out of a Yamaha BB2024X; but it was heavy, noisy and the neck was uncomfortable (for me).

However; I didn’t play all of the PJ’s on earth, preferences are subjective and ear sensitivities vary from person to person. Victor Wooten plays a PJ, so it should work just fine for many others as well.

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