“Jazz Bass”

This is an early ’70s Japanese Matsumoku manufactured copy modelled on a mid-’60s era Jazz Bass, probably branded ‘Westminster’ when new – however the original headstock decal got replaced with ‘Fender Precision Bass’ somewhere along the line! While back in the day it would perhaps have been considered something of a budget model, now we know better about the quality of many of the Japanese ‘lawsuit’ era guitars, and this is actually a pretty nice bass, with a one-piece maple neck having a bound rosewood board with block inlays and good fretwork, and three piece solid ash body; both are well made and finished, although it certainly has picked up forty years worth of dings and scratches along the way. The body is drilled for the Jazz Bass bridge and pickup covers, but as is common these have long since disappeared.

Unfortunately it also had no strings and was missing its truss rod nut. Being from the far east the rod is threaded metric, so I measured the thread specs and fabricated a new slotted truss rod nut by drilling and tapping some suitable bar stock to fit (as I was unable to find a suitable replacement part for sale anywhere). When a truss rod nut is missing it always raises the spectre of a malfunctioning/broken truss rod, or a neck which then warps when put under tension, but I guess this one had just literally fallen off and gone awol, and with my new nut the neck adjusted fine and I got a good action with a set of La Bella standard guage flat wounds (flat wounds do put more stress on necks than rounds). I did have to shim the neck at the pocket though, a single thickness of business card cut to shape proving ideal. The truss rod adjustment is at the heel with an inadequate access channel, so the neck did have to come off a few times while I was setting it up, and to intonate it correctly required quite a bit of back and forth adjustment of the action and string spacing since the bridge only has single groove saddles. The earlier vintage threaded type saddles would probably give more stability here, but an after market bridge upgrade would be altogether better for these adjustments. The plastic nut’s string slots are now rather low so a new bone one cut to suit the instrument better would also be worthwhile (probably essential with some playing styles for reduced fret buzz arising from its low action).

While it now feels nice under the fingers (and weighs in at a very manageable and well balanced 7 and 3/4 lbs with its light tuning machines), the budget grade electronics let it down sound-wise, particularly the weak pickups, so it will be getting new better quality pots, tone cap, output jack and some proper Jazz Bass spec pickups installed once the routings are enlarged to suit them. While we are wiring up, another worthwhile change is to install a push-pull switch pot for one of the volume controls to allow series connection of the two pickups as well as the parallel arrangement of the stock Jazz Bass wiring scheme. The series combination gives more mid-range definition and punch, which makes it sound more like a Precision Bass (and it is still humbucking for noise reduction).