Friday, September 15, 2017


by Mark King for

I bought this short scale (31”) Squire Jaguar Bass for Mary to noodle around with. I’ve already adjusted the neck to be very straight and the action is low but not buzzing. The top-loading bridge on this bass is very similar to what Fender puts on their USA P-bass and Jazz bass instruments. The volume and tone control layout is the same as the classic Fender Jazz bass. 

Stock, the bass was sort of midrange-heavy and it lacked serious low frequency reproduction. The high frequencies were not bright and clear either. When both volume controls were all the way up the bass made a weird distorted sound which was really odd for a passive instrument. 

I replaced the pickup on our other Squire P-bass a few months ago with a standard Seymour Duncan P-Bass replacement and the results were incredible. The bass instantly had much deeper tone and clearer high frequency sound. 

I love the short scale and fast playing action of this little Jaguar bass so it was time to see if we could make it sound better. I recently got great performance from a Seymour Duncan 1/4-pound series on a Stratocaster rebuild so I was attracted to that 1/4-pound design for this project too. The 1/4-pound pickup is higher in output but you can also look at it as higher in sensitivity if you're not trying to overdrive an amplifier. 

I ordered the matched set of Seymour Duncan 1/4-pound for bass from Amazon right before Hurricane Irma roared through Florida. They showed up three days late as a result of hurricane delays, the plastic box they came in looked like it had been sat on by an elephant, it was cracked and crushed but careful examination of the pickups led me to believe they were ok so I proceeded with the installation. 
Stock wiring

Stock wiring closeup, tiny cheapie Alpha pots
I did not have replacement pots in stock so I decided to reuse the existing controls for now, they are only a little over a year old. The P-Bass 1/4- pound split pickup was just a teensy bit larger than the stock pickup, five minutes of carefull hand filing opened the holes to allow the pickguard to fit properly around the larger American made Seymour Duncan P-bass pickup. The replacement Jazz bass pickup fit perfect, no filing or mods were required. 
New pickups fit with tiny amount of filing on pickguard
I was surprised to find that each of the pickup cavities in the Jaguar bass was painted with electrically conductive paint and featured a ground wire to the paint under each pickup. This is pretty high class wiring technique for an imported Fender instrument. 

Fender bass pickups are mounted on foam rubber with long screws, the screws compress the foam rubber to act like a spring behind the pickup so the height is adjustable. 

I was able to reuse the original Fender pickup mounting screws which were black as opposed to the chrome ones that came with the Seymour Duncan pickups. The stock black screws fit the holes in the wood and the holes in the pickups so that meant no redrilling or adjustments were required. 

The wiring on this project was drop dead simple since I was reusing the stock controls. I noticed that Fender was relying on the chrome metal mounting plate for the controls to complete the ground connection between all the components. I hate that wiring scheme because if a pot becomes slightly loose in its mounting hole then horrible static and noise will occur due to the intermittent connection. I added a ground wire soldered between the three pots to give the controls a good solid ground connection. 
New wiring, note soldered ground connection between pots
I soldered the new pickup output wires to the existing pots, tested the wiring and then screwed it all back together. I’m planning on replacing the cheapie control potentiometers and output jack with high quality units in the future, for now I wanted to hear how these pickups sound. 

Rear of Seymour Duncan 1/4-pound Jazz bass pickup
I reused the Rotosound strings that are about two months old. I tuned it up, plugged it in and cranked it up. WOW, what a great sound and tone this bass and pickup combination produces. The low notes from the P-bass pickup are massive, deep and punchy. The “ping” and clarity from the bridge pickup is off-the-charts GREAT and a gigantic improvement over the stock pickups that came in this instrument. The odd distortion complaint I had about running everything all the way up is gone, it sounds clean and clear in every setting. These pickups have a lot more output which translates to a lot more tonal adjustability with the volume controls. 

I have short fingers and although I like playing and recording with long scale bass instruments if I was going to go play a four-hour gig I would take this Squire. It is so easy to play and now has tone that can hang with the best available. 

I’ve always enjoyed the bass playing and tone of Stanley Clark, I got to see him at the Fox Theater years ago with “Return to Forever” and his tone was amazing. It’s only been recently that I’ve learned he favors a 31” short scale bass (custom made by Alembic). That really peaked my interest in upgrading this little short scale Fender to see what kind of tone it could produce. 

OK, I”m willing to admit this little Squire Jaguar is no Alembic but with the Seymour Duncan 1/4-pound series pickups installed it delivers an amazing pro sound. The standard Fender Jazz bass wiring scheme delivers lots of tone options without resorting to active electronics. 

The short-scale Squire Jaguar bass originaly cost around $160 delivered from Sweetwater, the pickups came in at around $130 so for under $300 total we got a really great sounding and playing short scale bass. If I could only keep one of our three bass instruments I think this might be the one. I love our ’51 P-bass reissue with its brass nut and Leo Quan Badass bridge but this little Squire Jaguar is so easy to play due to the short scale. It no longer sounds short scale, through the right amp it sounds like a killer bass guitar which is all that matters.

One last update, I replaced the stock strap buttons with Fender Straplock buttons. The original screws were larger diameter than the replacement Straplock mounting screws, what to do? Toothpicks and Elmers to close up the hole a bit? Nope!

I busted out my Makita electric drill and opened the holes in the Straplock buttons to allow me to reuse the original mounting screws, problem solved.

Good music to all!