One constant you’ll find across eras and models of jazz bass in the shape of the body, which uses an offset-waist that shifts the mass forward, out of the way of the player’s arms. They also tend to have a narrower string spacing at the nut than precision basses, giving it the tapered feel that many players find more comfortable.
The main differences between various models of jazz bass available today are in the materials used in the construction, the style of the pickups, and the other small details—like the bridge and tuners—that give each instrument its own unique sound. Below we’ve compiled what we consider the 4 best Jazz Bass guitars on the market. Take a look!
Fender American Standard Jazz Bass
The American Standard stays true to the classic style of the Fender jazz bass, visually as well as sonically, using the same asymmetrical body shape as the original. The details are just as vintage-inspired, like the Fender Custom ‘60s Jazz single-coil pickups and the high-mass bridge that gives it an incredible sustain. Improvements to the original design include the Posiflex graphite neck support rods that make the instrument (see full specs) even more stable and durable. The tuners have also been altered to be 30% lighter, which, combined with the thinner finishing undercoat, improves the resonance of the strings, giving you more power and depth.
Fender Jaco Pastorius Fretless Jazz Bass
If you’re looking for a fretless jazz bass, this model is one of the few options you’ll find in Fender’s catalogue. It’s based on the famous fretless bass played by Jaco Pastorius, a player who’s become legendary for his genre-spanning style and unique approach to the instrument. The main unique feature on this bass is the shape of the neck, which has a more subtle taper than most jazz basses, though it also comes with two vintage-styled Fender jazz pickups, at the neck and at the bridge, to emulate the sound of the legendary player.
The instrument’s body (see full specs) is made of standard alder with a beautiful sunburst finish while the neck is maple with a rosewood fingerboard that has 20 vintage-style fretline markers. The attention to detail Fender brought to this instrument gives it a full yet subtle tone that’s a perfect tribute to the jazz bass legend. If you want the best Jazz Bass guitar, you just might be looking at it.
Fender Standard Jazz Electric Bass
This bass gives you a modern version of the classic Jazz Bass sound for less than half the price of the models above, making it a great value as well as a great instrument. The body has the classic offset shape, made of alder and with an option of lacquer colors, from the classic sunburst to Candy Apple Red. The neck is a modern C shape, made of maple with a maple 20-fret fingerboard.
It also uses modern single-coil pickups that give your tone clarity and punch, while the shielded body cavity reduces the background hum of the instrument. If you’re looking for a jazz bass with a vintage look and a modern sound, the Standard Jazz Bass has you covered.
Squier by Fender Vintage Modified Jazz Bass ‘70s
This affordable bass from Squier is designed to bring the classic Super ‘70s feel and tone into the modern era. The body is constructed of soft maple with a Polyurethane finish. It uses proprietary single-coil pickups at the bridge and middle positions, with volume controls for each along with a master tone knob. The hardware is chrome and consists of a four saddle bridge and open-gear tuning machines.
The end result is an instrument with a powerful tone that stays clear throughout the entire range of the instrument. It’s especially perfect for players in funk ensembles, but the craftsmanship and value make it an excellent option for bassists in all styles. If you’re on a budget, this just might be the best Jazz Bass guitar you can buy.
While pickups are one of the more easily altered parts of an electric string instrument, when you’re dealing with basses made with the care and attention to detail that Fender brings to all its instruments, the pickup that comes with the instrument is designed to bring out the best qualities of the instrument’s sound.
While the original jazz bass was released with 8-pole humbucking pickups, most jazz basses you’ll find on the market today instead employ a single-coil design. Both modern and vintage jazz basses typically come with two pickups—one each at the bridge and neck—often with individual volume controls for each. The difference between a vintage-styled and a more modern pickup is going to be largely in the material that’s used for the magnet and the technique employed in the winding of the coil.
Although the pickups that come with the instrument are selected with care, they are easily changeable, as was mentioned before. If you like everything else about the Jazz Standard but had your heart set on vintage-styled pickups, you can buy a new set from Fender for a relatively small investment, letting you customize your sound to give you the exact tone and style that you’re looking for.
Body Materials of the Best Jazz Bass Guitars
The type of tonewood used in the construction of the body has less of an impact on a jazz bass’ sound that it does when discussing upright basses or even hollowbody and semi-hollowbody electric models. Having said that, we believe the use of high-quality solid wood is still important to getting the right resonance and depth out of your instrument.
Fender was the first company to make use of alder in the construction of its instruments, and this is still the standard wood today when we’re talking about jazz basses. Alder tends to be a bit lighter in weight than other tonewoods and gives you a clear, full sound that’s especially powerful in the low end. The other common wood you’ll see used for the body is maple, which is a dense and heavy wood. Some players find all-maple bodies to be too heavy, though it also gives you a uniquely bright and precise tone that’s tight in the low end and singing in the upper range.
There are other factors that influence the tone of your guitar, from the pickups discussed above to the style and make of the neck, fretboard, and bridge. The tonewood used in the body, though, establishes your baseline tone. If you want an overall brighter sound, a maple body will serve you better than alder, though most players prefer the rich depth of an alder instrument.