Reverse Evolution

Converting a '90s Music Man StingRay Bass to a Precision Bass.

This is one of the more involved projects I've tackled in a while, but one I was rather excited to try. My friend, Tom, had a Music Man bass he wanted me to tinker with. He was happy with the action and playability of it but felt that the active pickup wasn't really the sound he was going for. He owned a Fender Precision Bass (P-Bass) and loved the sound of the split-single coil. I couldn't agree more, I've always thought that active pickups in a bass have kind of a funky Victor Wooten sound that I'm not really a fan of, I would much rather hear a split-coil pickup in that beautiful guitar. Plus, I hadn't yet had the chance to build a split-coil pickup, so I jumped at the chance.

Tom's bass was a perfect starting point for a great sounding guitar: ash body, bird's eye maple neck, good hardware, good tuners, it just needed a little work in the electronics department. I noticed that there was a large space in the pickguard where a P-Bass pickup could go.

I ordered a P-Bass router template and pickup kit from that included all of the parts for the pickup including Alnico V magnets, flatwork, covers, eyelets, and leads. I would also need a couple of 250k pots, a capacitor, and an output jack to convert the electronics from active to passive.
I tested the harmonics of the guitar by tuning to concert pitch (E-A-D-G) and gently running my finger up and down the string while plucking it and listening for harmonics. Then I placed the template so that both sides of the split coils would be directly under a couple of harmonic "sweet spots."

I used some double sided tape to attach the template to the pickguard (measuring and re-measuring many times to make sure I had it on straght) and then used a table router to make this totally custom pickguard.

By attaching the new pickguard to the body, I can trace the lines where the pickup rout will go, this ensures the holes in the body line up with the holes in the pickguard.

Using the same template attached with poster tape, I routed the pickup holes in the body.

Some black shielding paint will help keep interference away from the electronics.

Copper shielding tape on the back of the pickguard.

Winding the new pickup. I found that the kit was fairly priced ($16, not including coil wire) but leaves a couple details to be ironed out: the top flatwork didn't fit firmly enough to keep the bobbin together (had to use super glue) and the plastic covers didn't fit over the polepieces (had to use a Dremel).

Out like the 1990's: active electronics. It's out with the new and in with the old here at Schuyler Dean Guitars.

Here you can see I wired up a simple 1 volume 1 tone (250k pots) circuit for the split-coil. The two pots on the right are dummy pots to fill the place of where the active EQ used to be.

Once I had everything put back together I plugged it in and turned it on. We now have a unique-sounding bass with a little P-Bass growl. The pickup gives it lots of lows, a nice growl and crystal clear details. You can hear an MP3 sample that I recorded here or hit the play button on the player at the bottom of this post.

MP3 Sample