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The History and Evolution of Fender Precision Bass Guitars

Updated on November 8, 2012

Fender Precision Bass Guitars

Fender are most famously known for their 6 string guitars, in particular the famous Stratocaster and Telecaster models. Fender however did in fact introduce the electric bass guitar to the world.

The Fender Precision Jazz Bass (also known as the P-Bass) was invented largely by Leo Fender 1950 - it was made available to buy in 1951 and promptly became the first commercially successful electric bass guitar ever.

Early Precision Bass Advertisement

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Advertisement for the Precision Bass

(img source: Fender)

50s Style Fender Precision Bass
50s Style Fender Precision Bass

The Beginning of the Precision Bass by Fender

How the Precision Bass Began

The Fender Company achieved and accomplished a LOT in the 1950s in both the guitar world and the bass guitar world. However, in just the 12 month period of 1950 to 1951 they launched the Broadcaster electric guitar and the Precision Bass guitar. 2 brands of guitar that are as popular as ever today.

The influence of the Precision Bass can still be seen today as the shape of it has defined what an electric bass should look and sound like. After all there was no electric bass before Leo Fender introduced the Fender Precision Bass to the world. Yes, that's right, Leo Fender invented the Fender Precision bass and the electric bass guitar as we know it,

The First style of Fender Precision Bass

Though beautiful and bold the first P-Bass (as it has come to be known by bassists around the world) was not perfect. The body which was based on the Telecaster guitar and therefore shared a lot of things in common such as the headstock and shape. It shape however was not comfortable for the different style of playing required for an electric bass. It was only available blonde (the colour showed in the image).

(img source: http://kitarablogi.com)

Precision Bass from 57
Precision Bass from 57

Improvements begin to be made...

Fender made tweaks here and there to the Fender Precision Bass over the years.

  • In 1954 the contours of the body were refined. Its pickups were tightened up and the standard colour became a sunburst
  • 1957 was the year the P-Bass underwent a massive overhaul. Brand new split coil pickup was introduced (this is still pretty much the one that still remains today). The Tele headstock was causing problems with some amps and setups, so a larger Stratocaster-esque headstock was applied to the P-Bass.

Over the years, the essential DNA of a Precision Bass is still pretty much the same as it ever was. It started out great and has only been improved on over the 60 years it has been about. In fact, a bass player today could play a Fender Precision from any era and it would still feel, play and sound pretty similar to how it always has. That's the sign of a great bass guitar and it's why the legacy of the Precision Bass Guitar still lives on to this day in the more modern and improved iterations of the P-Bass.

Sting playing live with his Fender Precision Bass!
Sting playing live with his Fender Precision Bass!

Famous Precision Bass Players

Some famous bassists who love some P-Bass!

  • Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy)
  • Sting (Police)
  • Paul Simonon (The Clash)
  • Bruce Foxton (The Jam)
  • Mark Hoppus (Blink 182)
  • Tim Commerford (Rage Against The Machine)

Special Edition Sting Precision Bass

Sting was so fond of his P-Bass he had his very own model created. The Sting Precision Bass Guitar is modeled on the 50s style Precision bass (pictured earlier), you can definitely see the similarities. It has beautiful vintage style frets on a 34" neck.

It's still available to buy today.

The 2012 Fender Precision Bass Guitar - The new and improved P-Bass

2012 Model of the Fender P-Bass
2012 Model of the Fender P-Bass

In 2012 the innovation, improvement and evolution of the P-Bass is still apparent as the new 2012 version of the Fender American Standard Precision Bass is the best yet.

The 2012 Fender American Standard P-Bass includes:

  • Fender Custom Shop 60s split coil pickups
  • 20 Frets on 34" scale
  • Modern 'C' shaped neck
  • Graphite reinforced neck
  • Easy access Master Volume & Master Tone controls
  • Graphite Truss Rods

But best of all, the P-Bass still makes the most awesome bass sound that we have come to expect from it. That is why the P-Bass remains is still the absolute number 1 choice of electric bass guitar for bass players around the world.

About the Author:

Paul Norris is a music fan and guitarist first and foremost. After graduating University in the North East of England with an English Honours degree Paul went on to become a reviewer of music and guitar equipment. As part of Paul's work he has an ongoing involvement in the music journalism industry.

More of Paul's writing can be found at

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Your thoughts on the P-Bass - I want to hear them!

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