The Bass Whisperer


Bass Whisperer Tone Test:

Nordstrand SCPB Pickup

One of my favorite basses of all time is the 50's style Precision, or single coil P Bass (SCPB). Leo's original P bass design is a unique beast unto itself - big, fat, wooly, wide open tone that fills out the stage like nothing else, with a surprising amount of high end too. But the one drawback is 60 cycle hum - with that solo single coil pickup, you're gonna get it, no matter what. I have a 51 Reissue model that plays and sounds awesome, and I use it quite a bit - in spite of the hum. But in some rooms (especially the ones where you have no choice but to plug into the same outlet as the Coors Light neon sign) the hum can be downright overbearing. The solution of course is to change the pickup, but there are relatively few choices for replacements that fit into the existing slot.

Nordstrand Pickups has a great reputation for unique designs that simply put, kick ass, and when I found out they make a split coil version of the SCPB pickup, I got one immediately. Don't ask me why it's not listed on their website... they do make them. In a rare moment of clarity, I decided to record the bass before I swapped out the original pickup so I could compare the before and after tone. I was happily surprised to hear virtually no difference in the two pickups - except that hum was gone. If you listen very closely, you will hear the slightest change in some of the high mids, I'd estimate it to be a small bump in the 1 - 2K range - and it's mostly a result of the slightly reduced high frequency response that naturally occurs when you have more wire wrapped around the bobbin. But for me at least, this is not an issue - I keep this bass setup with flats and stuff foam under the strings, so high end is not exactly a big concern. I think the Nordy SCPB pickup does an amazing job of retaining the original character of this bass, and eliminating the biggest issue - 60 cycle hum. I think everyone playing one of these basses should get one, it'll make playing it even more enjoyable.

Sound Samples

Here are the samples I recorded with the 51 Reissue P Bass, first with the original pickup, then with the Nordstrand. They were recorded into ProTools direct using a passive Radial Engineering ProDI with Evidence Audio cable. No additional eq was used, and only minimal compression.


Fender SCPB Pickup.


Nordstrand SCPB Pickup.