After playing bass for years, but never owning an actual Fender P-Bass1 I recently got this nice clean 2012 Candy Apple red Mexican Standard P-bass second-hand for very sensible money.
I wanted a MIM P-Bass as it is much cheaper than the US models and also easy to modify. It doesn’t deviate much from the “standard” 1960s design, so almost all the aftermarket parts just fit. Post-2008 is also a good period for Mexican Fenders as the designs got pretty close to the US instruments and the quality improved too.
It was owned by someone that had hardly played it or messed about with it, so it was pretty much in mint condition and completely stock specification.
Over the years, due to lack of adjustment, the neck had got rather bowed with a massive relief (over 40thou) and the overall action was very high, over 9/64in at the 17th fret. So I had to fix that so it would at least play before doing anything else.
After about 2/3 of a turn of the truss rod and a bridge saddle adjustment I got it to 12thou relief and 6/64in (E) – 5/64in (G) action (Fender stock suggestion). The intonation was very close already so I didn’t touch that. The first fret action was a bit high on the highest 2 strings – not painful, but 30thou-ish instead of 20-22thou so a tiny bit stiff. I went with it for now.
Result – it plays. The sound is pretty respectable on just the stock pickup, so my plan of doing an immediate pickup upgrade is not the priority I thought it would be2.
The only serious snag as far as I am concerned is that the fret ends are a bit too rough to be comfortable when sliding my hand up and down the neck. It’s the G-side where it shows up mostly, the frets don’t stick out proud of the fretboard edge, but the bevel isn’t smooth at all. I also quickly went over the frets with a rocker and there were 2 up the dusty end that were a touch high, not high enough to buzz at the action I had set, but they would be a problem if I tried to go much lower than my usual action for any reason.
Ironically, it’s the fact that this bass is almost unplayed that is the problem, normally a 5-year old bass would have seen a guitar tech at some time in it’s life and the neck issues would have been sorted out with a decent fret dress and thorough setup (£95-ish maybe outside of London).
Now, at this point on the discussion forums everyone piles in with “Mexican Fenders are rubbish, should have bought a US Fender…” etc. This kind of misses the point that I would have had to pay at least 2-3x as much for a s/h USA P-bass and it is still not guaranteed to be perfect3. The cost of a MIM P-Bass and a setup is still far cheaper than a USA P-Bass and the MIM instrument is a great modding platform. Yes, the US P-Bass has slightly better components4, a better finish and so on, but the MIM bass can play just as well as the US bass when the setup work is done.
Fortunately, I do all my own instrument teching and I have all the tools to do fretwork. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this bass that I can’t fix.
TO BE CONTINUED…
- My Yam BB1100s is sort-of like a P-bass with a J pickup added, but it is still not the same.
- But of course, I like to tinker so I will swap it soon!
- I have a s/h USA Telecaster guitar – it still needed a full setup and some fret work.
- Tuners and pickup mostly. The bridge is a heavier unit on the US P, but the Mexi bridge is the traditional “bent bit of tin” design that some people prefer.