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Fender Precision Bass : The First Mass-produced Electric Bass Guitar

The Fender Precision Bass (often shortened to "P Bass") is an electric bass guitar designed by Leo Fender as a prototype in 1950 and brought to market in 1951. The Precision was the first bass to earn widespread attention and use. A revolutionary instrument for the time, the Precision Bass has made an immeasurable impact on the sound of popular music ever since.

Although the Precision was the first mass-produced and widely-used bass, it was not the first model of the instrument, as is sometimes believed. That distinction was claimed in the late 1930s by the Audiovox Manufacturing Company in Seattle, Washington.

In its stock configuration, the Precision Bass is an alder or ash-bodied solid body instrument equipped with a single split-coil humbucking pickup and a one-piece maple neck with rosewood or maple fingerboard and 20 frets. To this day, the Precision Bass is among the best-selling electric basses of all time.

The Standard P-Bass is sanded, painted and assembled in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico along with the other Standard Series guitars. As of December 5, 2008, the Standard P-Bass has been updated with CBS era-style decals, a 3-ply parchment pickguard and a tinted maple neck with rosewood or maple fingerboard. Other features include a split-coil hum-cancelling pickup and a return to the knurled chrome flat-top control knobs. Models produced before 2003 came for a period with aged white Stratocaster control knobs.

Since its introduction in 1992, the Standard Precision Bass used (like the rest of the Standard series instruments) a post-CBS era silver transitional decal. Fender changed the headstock decal to the bolder CBS-style in 2008.

The American Standard (featuring a high-mass vintage bridge and Hipshot lightweight staggered tuning machines), American Deluxe (featuring a J-style humbucking pickup in the bridge position and an active 3-band EQ with an 18V power supply), Highway One (featuring '70s styling, BadAss II bridges with grooved saddles and a Greasebucket tone circuit since 2006) and American Vintage series models are manufactured in Corona, California. American Deluxe "Ash Body" Precisions were offered from 1995 to 2006; the 2004 color chart listed Aged Cherry Sunburst, Butterscotch Blonde and Tobacco Sunburst as available finishes during that period. Fender discontinued the ash body option as of 2007. As of March 23, 2010, all American Deluxe Precision Basses came with a N3 stacked-coil Jazz Bass pickup in the bridge position, a 21-fret tinted maple neck with compound rosewood or maple fingerboard with white or black pearloid dot markers, an active/passive toggle switch, a high-mass vintage bridge, Hipshot lightweight vintage tuners, a stealth retainer bar for the A string and a bold CBS-era headstock decal.

The Road Worn Series 50s P-Bass (introduced in 2009) features a distressed alder body with nitrocellulose lacquer finish, a 1-ply gold anodized pickguard, a synthetic bone nut, American Vintage hardware, a split-coil humbucking pickup and a 1-piece maple neck/fingerboard with 20 vintage frets.

Similar to The Beatles and Yes' effect on the popularity of the Rickenbacker 4001, the early adoption of the electric bass was in part due to Bill Black's ownership of the instrument. Black was beginning to use a Precision Bass during the filming of Jailhouse Rock. Fender also delivered an early Precision to LA session bassist and arranger Shifty Henry.

1962 Fender Precision Bass
The double bass was considered difficult to play in tune, physically cumbersome and difficult to transport. It was becoming hard to hear in increasingly large bands or in bands that included amplified electric guitars. With electric pickups, a small body and fretted neck, the Precision Bass overcame these problems. The name "Precision" came from the use of frets (as opposed to the fretless fingerboard of the double bass); players of the electric instruments could play in tune much more easily - they could play with "precision."

The electric bass produces a timbre that differs from that of the double bass: it is a more focused, harder-edged sound, with less percussive thump and a more clearly articulated fundamental tone. By bringing the sound of the bass up in a band, the bass became more dominant in its role and transformed the beat and rhythm of pop music. The electric bass allowed driving rhythms while still outlining harmonic structures and is essential to the evolution from jump blues and swing to rhythm and blues and rock music, and today is still used regularly in any genre requiring the use of a string bass instrument. [source : Fender P-Bass]

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