How to Troubleshoot a Fender Precision Bass

Written by everett bradman
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How to Troubleshoot a Fender Precision Bass
If you're having problems with your Precision Bass, there are several easy signs to look for. (Bass Guitar image by JMS from

Since its introduction in 1951, the Fender Precision Bass has become one of the most popular instruments in the world. The "P-Bass" is usually a sturdy instrument that can take lots of abuse, but if you're having problems with your Precision, narrow down the problem before trying to fix it or taking it to a guitar doctor.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Tuner
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • New strings (optional)
  • Alternate instrument cable

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  1. 1

    Determine the nature of the problem. Is it a set-up problem, an electrical problem, or something simpler that can be fixed by changing strings or tightening a screw here or there?

  2. 2

    Make sure your strings are staying in tune. New strings take a while to settle in, but if yours are slipping out of tune more than a week after you put them on, check that your tuning keys are solid and not slipping. This may require removing the strings and tightening the screws that hold the tuning keys in.

  3. 3

    Examine the nut, which is the piece at the top of the neck that keeps the strings in place. If the nut is worn down, a string may slip from its allotted space, which will affect the feel and the sound of your P-Bass.

  4. 4

    Check the set-up. The distance between your fretboard and your strings, or your "action," may be too little or too much. This can make your P-Bass difficult or awkward to play. Extreme weather changes can also warp your bass's neck. If you think you might have either problem take it to a guitar repair shop.

  5. 5

    Turn your volume and tone pots from "1" to "10." If you hear a scratching sound, fixing the problem might be as simple as spraying a bit of contact cleaner on the underside of your volume knobs and turning them for a few minutes. If you still hear scratchy sounds after spraying contact cleaner, you may need to replace the potentiometers.

  6. 6

    Plug and unplug your cable. If you're hearing a harsh sound every time you plug in and unplug, you may have damaged your input jack, or you might have short-circuited something. Fixing either problem is routine for any guitar shop. Before you go, try a different cable and see if you're still having the same issue.

  7. 7

    Change your battery. If you have an active P-Bass that uses a battery, try putting in a new 9-volt. Most basses last so long on one battery that players forget to change them. If your volume is fading despite the fact that you're turning up the volume, you may just need a new battery.

  8. 8

    Check your electronics. If you're handy with electronics, open up your bass and check it for wiring problems, but otherwise, take it to a guitar shop.

  9. 9

    Look at and listen to your pickups. The P-Bass's single split-coil humbucking pickup is usually pretty sturdy, but there's a slight chance that your pole pieces need to be adjusted. Raising or lowering the pickups can make a difference, too.

Tips and warnings

  • If you aren't sure how to set-up, modify, or troubleshoot any part of your Precision Bass, take it to a pro.

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