Precision Bass Timeline 1951-1982


When Leo Fender invented the first mass produced electric bass no one could have guessed that it would have such a massive impact on music. The first Precision basses looked liked over-sized Telecaster guitars.

With simple slab bodies and a not so powerful single coil pickup, the Precision Bass did not exactly burst on to the music scene with great success. Many bassists were skeptical of this new instrument and thought it wouldn't last.

By the late 1950's however, the Fender Precision Bass became the definitive electric bass in modern music. So dominate was the Fender P-Bass that any musician who used an electric bass was known as a Fender bass player, regardless of the actual make. The Precision Bass completely and totally changed music forever.

The Precision Bass has gone through several changes and modifications during it's long and esteemed history. Listed below are the most important and interesting of those through the years.

In 1951 Fender introduces the Precision Bass, a slab ash body with a one piece maple neck and a single coil pickup in the middle position. The bridge is a two piece pressed fiber design. The strings go through the back of the body and the headstock resembles that on a Telecaster. A finger-rest is mounted below the G string with one screw. The only color option is blond with a black pickguard.

By 1954 Fender adds body contours to the upper arm bout and back just like the newly released Stratocaster guitar. The bridge is changed to steel and a new two-toned sunburst body is available with a white pickguard.

In mid 1957 the Fender Precision Bass is completely redesigned. The single coil pickup is changed to a split coil humbucking design. The A pole piece is raised to balance string sound. The headstock is now larger, the shape resembling the one on the Stratocaster guitar. The bridge has threaded saddles and each barrel is adjustable. The strings are now top loaded, no longer going through the body. The white pickguard is replaced with a gold anodized aluminium one and the finger-rest is now mounted with two screws.

Fender adds a three tone sunburst finish in 1958 and certain custom color options are now available.

In Early 1959 Fender replaces the maple fingerboard with a slab Brazilian rosewood board. The gold aluminum pickguard is changed to a four ply celluloid tortoise shell pattern. The A string pole piece is lowered so that all the pickup poles are level. The bridge saddle grooves are made deeper and wider for better string stability.

The hootenanny, a strap button on the back of the headstock is added in 1960.

In 1962 Fender replaces the slab rosewood board with a radius laminated rosewood version.

The clay position markers are replaced with faux pearl dots in 1964. Fender also changes the nitrocellulose pickguard material to vinyl. The Precision gets a new block style decal on the headstock. The tuning gears are now mounted flush to the back of the headstock.

The CBS era begins in 1965 as Leo Fender sells his company. Leo says on as a consultant for five years.

In 1966 Fender changes the smaller vintage frets to the medium jumbo frets. The tuning gears are now manufactured at the Fender factory and are no longer reverse turning.

By 1969 the headstock decal is changed to a larger bolder font, known as the T.V. logo. The hootenanny button is removed. Fender starts using polyurethane finishes on the body and neck although the headstock and top coat are still nitrocellulose lacquer.

Fender changes the threaded saddle bridge to a single notch barrel design in 1970. The Precision is now available with maple or rosewood fingerboards. A fretless Precision Bass version is now offered. An Ash body natural finish Precision is introduced.

In 1972 Fender changes the wider Precision "C" neck (1 3/4") to a thinner "B" neck version (1 5/8").

In 1974 Fender moves the finger rest from below the G string to above the E string now making it a thumb rest. The tortoise shell and white pickguards are starting to be replaced by black ones.

Fender changes the decal again, making them smaller in 1976. The serial number that was always on the neck plate is moved to the headstock under the logo.

Fender introduces the Precision Special in 1980 featuring active electronics and gold hardware.

In 1982 Fender starts the Vintage reissue series with 1957 and 1962 Precision Bass models. These basses feature accurate design and finishes of the original classic Fender basses.

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