The Jazz Bass is one of the most popular bass guitars of all time and is loved by beginners and experts alike. In this article I’ll take you through the controls on every Fender and Squier Jazz bass available so you know exactly how to use yours.
Basic Jazz Bass Controls
The basic Jazz Bass control layout is seen on pretty much every Squier and Fender model.
At the time of writing, the only Jazz Basses which don’t use this configuration are the Fender Player Plus, Fender American Ultra, Fender Gold Foil, Squier Paranormal and Squier Contemporary Jazz Basses. If you have one of these models, scroll down to relevant sections for a guide on how to use their controls.
Most Squier and Fender Jazz Basses have two passive single coil pickups and three controls:
- Neck pickup volume control: located closest to the neck of the bass
- Bridge (aka middle) pickup volume control: the middle control
- Master tone control: located furthest from the neck of the bass
Here is a diagram to demonstrate.
This configuration is used on the following Jazz basses:
- Fender American Vintage II 1966
- Fender American Professional II
- Fender American Performer
- Fender Player
- Fender Vintera
- Fender Made in Japan Hybrid
- Fender Aerodyne Special
- Squier Classic Vibe
- Squier Affinity
Check the the headstock if you’re unsure what model you have.
Now let’s go through the functions of each of these controls.
Pickup Volume Controls
The volume control for the neck pickup is the knob which is closest to the neck of the bass guitar, whereas the volume for the bridge pickup is located in the middle of the three controls.
Note: I’m referring the to the pickup that is located closest to the neck as the “neck pickup”. Technically, this is actually referred to as the “middle pickup”.
This one is pretty self explanatory and simply controls how loud the pickups are by adjusting the signal sent to the amplifier. You can have the control on maximum to make the pickup sound as loud as possible, have it on “0” so that the pickup signal is not passed through to the amp at all, or somewhere in between.
The neck and bridge pickup sound different from one another, so you can use the volume control to change the tone of the bass, as well as the volume.
The bridge pickup produces a brighter and more defined tone than the neck pickup which sounds warmer and more mellow.
- Increasing the volume of the neck pickup OR decreasing the volume of the bridge pickup will cause the tone to sound more warm and mellow
- Increasing the volume of the bridge pickup OR decreasing the volume of the neck pickup will cause the tone to sound more bright and articulate
Having independent volume controls for each pickup allows you to achieve many different sounds.
If you’re looking for a smooth and rounded tone, try increasing the volume of the neck pickup and decreasing the volume of the bridge pickup. On the other hand, if you want a tighter and punchier sound with more cut, increase the bridge pickup volume and lower the neck pickup volume.
Master Tone Control
The master tone control is the knob which is closest to the bridge of the bass guitar (furthest from the neck).
The master tone control affects both pickups and can be used to cut the treble frequencies to make the tone sound darker and more mellow.
Having the tone control on full (10), will mean all the treble frequencies are preserved so the bass sounds as bright and clear as possible. Turning the tone control down will cut these frequencies creating a warmer but less articulate tone.
Fender Player Plus and American Ultra Jazz Bass Controls
Both the Fender Player Plus and American Ultra Jazz Basses have two pickups and the following controls:
- Toggle switch: this allows you to toggle between passive to active mode
- Master volume control: adjusts the volume of both pickups simultaneously
- Stacked EQ control: the bass control is the lower portion and the upper control is the treble portion
- Mid-range control: this adjusts the mid-range frequencies
The active EQ controls can be used to adjust the balance of bass, mids and treble. Having more bass results in a warmer tone, the mids help to create fullness and the treble brings clarity and brightness.
Since these basses just have a master volume control (as opposed to independent neck and bridge pickup volume controls), it also has a pickup selector pan pot control.
Fender Gold Foil Jazz Bass Controls
The Fender Goil Foil Jazz Bass only one pickup and two controls:
- Master volume
- Master tone
The master volume control is pretty self-explanatory and simply adjusts how loud the pickup is. The master tone control adjusts the treble frequencies and can be turned down to cut them, making the tone less bright and articulate.
The Squier Contemporary Jazz Bass has two active humbucker pickups and the following controls:
- Master volume: adjusts the overall volume of the bass
- Blend: rolling it towards the neck will activate the neck pickup only, towards the bridge will active the bridge pickup only, and the central position will equally balance the volume of both pickups
- Passive tone control: adjusts the treble frequencies. Turning it down will reduce the treble and make the tone less clear and articulate and more warm and mellow
- Dual-centric active bass and treble control: the lower control boosts the bass frequencies and the upper control boosts the treble frequencies
Squier Paranormal Jazz Bass ’54
The Squier Paranormal Jazz Bass ’54 has two single coil pickups. It has two knobs which are both dual concentric, meaning that there are actually two controls stacked on top of either other for each knob.
One knob controls the bridge pickup, and the other controls the neck pickup. The lower control in the stack is the tone control, and the upper control is the volume control.
Check out my complete guide to bass guitar amp settings.