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funkle

Dual P Pickup Bass - Modding a Mexi Fender

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Not quite a build diary. But I guess such an irreversible mod that it may interest others. 

I scored a relatively cheap 2005 Fender Mexi Precision on here with the explicit purpose of making a dual P bass. Having listened to many of these on various videos, I became infatuated with them, though not the price that many command on the secondhand market (especially the BC Rich Basses). So I decided to make my own. 

Here’s a workbench photo from my local luthier, who I asked to do the routing. I also had @KiOgon make me up the electrics, and scored some other bits secondhand on here.


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The main P/U is a Mexican P, the bridge is a secondhand Aguilar Hot P. Put on a secondhand Hipshot bridge as well. Dual V/T setup and series/parallel switch.

Didn’t help that the pickups were out of phase to each other at first.....Had to flip the leads on the Mexi P pickup to get everything working right. I was confused until I figured it out though - the lows thinned out when I blended pickups, though each pickup individually soloed was fine.

I thought carefully about the pickup placement and whether it should be reversed. I ended up putting the EA bridge coil at the location of the coil of a rear 60’s Jazz Bass pickup, non-reversed - controversial....but I didn’t want to reverse the main pickup, and I feel that both pickups should be oriented the same way after listening to a lot of dual P videos, so...

Both pickups in parallel sounds great. The Aguilar Hot P is a little dark for my taste, though great output, and will be changed. I really like how the typical Precision character is kept by keeping the main pickup in usual location and orientation. Rolling in the bridge gives a meaty Stingray/Jazz-ish type flavour without really sounding quite just like either of those. I dig it. The mid scoop from both pickups full on together sounds good too; different place to a Jazz though. Bridge pickup on its own is meaty Jaco type tone with a little touch of more ‘quack’ on the D/G strings, due to the coil location. The amount of this can be varied quite a lot depending on where I play. I like it, others may differ. I never play bridge pickup solo only, so it makes little odds to me, as the blended sounds with the main pickup are what I’m after.

Both pickups in series is a gloriously dark, middy, thick, rich beast of a tone. I think it would work great with distortion. It sounds fabulous with a pick. 

I can match pickup output levels with height adjustment but impedances of these pickups are wildly different. That may have an impact. I still have my sights set on a dual DiMarzio Model P setup - like the BC Rich basses of old - we’ll see how that sounds when I test it. I also plan a swap from rosewood to maple neck - rosewood just sounds a little dark for my taste, at least for this bass.

The joys of modding!

Edited by funkle
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By the way, here's a couple of videos that served as inspirations to me. Maybe they inspire someone else too.

 

 

There were plenty of others I ended up researching, but these two really show what is possible with a dual P setup - and with the same pickup set-up too, spacing and all. 

 

Edited by funkle
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Ok, an update. 

After a lot of testing, I ended up with dual DiMarzio Model P pickups in the bass. They are much grittier in the mids than the typical Fender/vintage type pickup, and two of them together is pretty beastly. I definitely won’t have any problems being heard in the mix, that’s for sure. 

They look cool as anything as well, lol. 

I’ll try for some pics soon - it’s not with me at the moment. Maybe some video as well.

Next up, I’ll try out a Fender roasted maple neck. That will be a month or so yet. But it should give me even more treble, I think...not that this setup lacks it!

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Yep. Allen head poles. 

I did check out Billy’s - great sounding pickups, perfect for distortion! 

I’m a DiMarzio fan for sure. 

Edited by funkle

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18 hours ago, funkle said:

Yep. Allen head poles. 

I did check out Billy’s - great sounding pickups, perfect for distortion! 

I’m a DiMarzio fan for sure. 

Next up try the DiMarzio Split P all you have but much more of everything,  a huge sound.

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It’s odd, the videos I have found online of the Split P seem to have much less high end than the Model P. It’s not what the EQ graph shows for it on DiMarzio’s website, but from video, the pickup sounds nothing like the EQ curve shown on their website. 


 

Edited by funkle
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Does the P at the bridge overcome the problem with some passive PJs where the J is noticably quieter than the P?

Edited by Cato

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Yes. The pickups balance easily with height adjustments. It turns out I prefer the neck pickup slightly louder anyway, so I have kept it a little higher than would otherwise. But equal impedances/outputs makes it easy.

To be fair I found balancing the Mexi P pickup with the Aguilar Hot P pretty straightforward as well - pickup height worked fine there. But there may have been tonal effects from the differing pickup impedances.

For PJs, I have found using a DiMarzio Ultra Jazz bridge pickup a very good solution. It’s so powerful that it can actually overwhelm the P!

Edited by funkle
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Man. This is such a great bass now. I’m almost tempted to go the whole hog and add a neck humbucker like a DiMarzio Model One....lol....overkill though...

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On 16/10/2020 at 20:46, funkle said:

 

 

There were plenty of others I ended up researching, but these two really show what is possible with a dual P setup - and with the same pickup set-up too, spacing and all. 

 

TUNE!! Thanks for sharing this.

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I’m no longer certain that a maple neck is required. The DiMarzios seem to have plenty of top end...might just be wasting my money! 

I’m also toying with routing out the bridge pickup space further to allow me to swap around to reverse P there. And then using a surround of some sort to allow me to make it look good. The D and G strings are a bit clavinet-esque with the current layout, though I knew that would be the case going in. 

Anyone know if it’s easy to get someone to 3D print stuff? A custom pickup surround would be a natural thing to get printed...

 

EDIT. Ok, played around with pickup heights some more. This made a huge difference, more than I had realised was possible. I lowered the bridge pickup a touch for DG coil - and much of the clavinet-like quality disappeared from that coil. The rear pickup now sounds more like a beefier Jazz type pickup. Lowered the neck pickup to match outputs with the bridge more than I had previously and the blend quality of both pickups full on changed a lot as well. I may still tinker with this more just to experiment - especially as the Dimarzios have easily adjustable individual pole pieces - but this will do for now.

Lesson for me - pay more attention to pickup height.  

Edited by funkle

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Love this. I was super keen to do a dual p but didn’t want to mess with my number 1 p bass any further having routed it for a TBird pick up. 
I was inspired by the Alien Audio basses. Not sure if you’ve seen them but Chopper used reverse p for his bridge position. 
 

It’s been good to read the journey with this one. 

Edited by krispn
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I love the Alien Audio basses. They sound fabulous in all the videos I have found of them.  The Tim Akers band has a bassist called Gary Lunn who plays one; he sounds fab. 

Of interest, the Alien Audio basses actually change the pickup locations quite a bit. I attach below a table I made of all the different basses I had and how pickup locations compare. The Alien Audio basses don’t have the middle coils in the classic location - the front pickup is moved quite a bit towards the neck, and the rear reverse P has its EA coil line placed in the 70s Jazz position.

The research may be of interest to all folllowing this thread. 
 

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Edited by funkle
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Hmm. After a lot of playing the bass, I think I will swap the bridge pickup around to being reversed. There is still just a bit too much ‘clavinet’ to the sound on the DG strings. So I guess I’ll end up the the ‘John Entwhistle’ solution - as on his Buzzards etc - main P non reverse, bridge P reversed. 

I will fill pickup gaps with a solution that lets me reverse things if I wish - I’ll take some Precision pickup covers (closed top) and trim them to size and screw them into place. I’ll post again once I’ve made time for the mod and can post pics. 

Wish me luck!

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How about keeping the bridge e/a pickup in the same place and just adding a reversed half p pickup that you can switch between for the d/g? Best of both worlds for when only that clavinet sound will do! :)

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Clever! Could do. Let me look at that...might eat into the pickguard though

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Ok, long time since last post, but I’ve been doing a reasonable amount of experimenting. 

First thing to say, I definitely prefer a reversed bridge P pickup. 

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It’s not quite as pretty as it was to start off with, but this set-up lets me flip the pickups back around should I wish to. So far, I don’t wish to.

I contemplated shifting the bridge pickup up further towards the neck one, but it eats into the pickguard. 

I have had a lot of learnings from this project, and I will share them, so others do not make my mistakes. 

I ended up not liking the DiMarzios for this. I am still experimenting with pickups as I slowly accumulate secondhand stuff from the marketplace, but so far I really like the Seymour Duncan SPB-1 at the front, and a Kent Armstrong Hot Precision PBE-1 ceramic (enclosed) at the rear position. Similar pickup resistances and easy to balance outputs.

I will see what else comes up in the marketplace and continue my footering, for now. Main takeaway is that the mid scoop/bass boost that comes with both pickups fully on, changes quite drastically with the pickups installed. Not surprising. It really it not terribly predictable, though, and it seems to me the best bet is to try and at least get pickups with similar resistances/outputs. Or look for people who report combinations that do well together for them already.

Another lesson. A solderless loom has been absolutely invaluable. Worth paying for and no doubt about it. It just makes the process so much easier. However, I did make errors here. My mistakes here were two fold.

One, the dual V/T setup is largely pointless. Either tone affects both pickups when the pickups are fully on, fun but not necessary. V/V/T is cheaper and simpler and would still give me exactly what I want.

Two, having 4 x 250k pots in a passive circuit dulls the high end, absolutely no doubt, and you can’t EQ it back in. I would go for a V/V/T, possibly 500k, if I were to buy again, though one less potentiometer would brighten up the circuit and I could probably get away with 250k in that circumstance. 

Another thought. The series/parallel switch is nice but not essential. It’s a very fun ‘voice’ to play with on the bass though. 

I’m waiting to see if another Seymour Duncan SPB-1 comes up secondhand in the classifieds. Might snag it and experiment if it does. I’ll have to have a Precision bass pickup clear out in not too long. 

It is now clear to me why Precision basses with dual pickups (P-J, P-MM, P-P) often move the front pickup to another location. Yes, even a few mm seems to me to be a key change.....A single P pickup bass in the classic spot gives a really beautifully rounded and complete sound. It is really easy to subtract too much away from that sound with a second pickup and the midrange phase cancellation that goes with that. It’s really hard to get the dual P setup right, the results are just difficult to predict. 

Knowing what I know now, I’m not sure I would undertake this experiment again, although it has been fun and I am continuing it. I would probably just stick to a PJ bass, or any multi-pickup P bass where someone else had done the research and built it already. It’s a very tricky business to do it right. 

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I have a SD Hot P Bass pick up if you fancy trying it. It was bought for a similar project with the idea that a mid forward pick up in the bridge might be a ‘better’ option. I’ve not got round to digging a hole in my bass😀 I had considered making a Mike Dirnt style 50’s p with reverse p in a Harley Benton though! 
 

I digress you’re welcome to try it out if you fancy. 

Edited by krispn
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Ooh, very interesting, yes, if that is the SPB-3, I had been waiting for one of those to pop up secondhand to see if it worked at the bridge. I’ll PM you

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This thread is probably relevant here: 

Although it focuses on the P vs. reverse P in it's middle/neck role - I imagine it's an even bigger difference in the bridge position, since you're moving each half of the pickup so much farther in proportion to the "speaking length" of the string (from the saddle to the sensed area of the string).

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Ok, posting an update for those of you who are following. 

I still await a reasonably priced Seymour Duncan SPB3 to try out in the bridge position, although I may have to go back and try out pickups there that I have tried before, because...I made a few changes.

 

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One, I took off the pickguard and attached an old chrome P Bass control plate I have lying around. This makes pickup/wiring swaps much easier to test out. It also looks rad, lol. I'll need to sort out a pickguard at some point. 

Two, I swapped the electronics out for a stacked dual 500K volume pot and a 500k tone pot with pull switch for series mode. This change of pot values was a great idea. (Another solderless loom.)

The high end has hugely opened up on this bass now. Like I said before, I could not get the high end out of the bass I wanted, and figured that all the pot loading was the problem. Well, I was right. It sounds brighter, and the pickups sound a bit different as well now too. I guess there was more pickup loading going on as well? Passive electronics are a funny beast.

Anyway. I am getting used to a slightly different sound, and I like it. The bridge pickup is definitely a winner in this orientation, it just plain works better.

Will post more as I get time to test bridge pickups out a bit more again. I really want to land either an SPB1 or SPB3 for the bridge pickup; I think either could work well. 

 

Pete

 

 

 

 

 

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