Not all 5-string Jazz Bass pickups are created equal. And we’re not talking about tone here. We’re talking about if they’ll even line up with the strings on your bass. And if you’ve ever bought replacement pickups for a 5-string Jazz, you may have learned this the hard way.
The culprit is string spacing.
Don’t worry. It’s not as confusing as it sounds. And we’re going to dig into it all right now, explaining what string spacing is and why it matters. We’ll also dissect the pros and cons of each commonly used spacing, how to measure your bass’s string spacing, and tell you which Seymour Duncan 5-string bass pickups work for each.
What string spacing is and why it matters
String spacing is the distance between the highest and lowest strings where they contact the bridge saddles. This spacing plays a significant role in the alignment of the pickups’ pole pieces. Get the wrong ones for your bass, and your strings may run between the poles. This can severely compromise your tone and sustain. But get the right ones, and they’ll deliver their unique tones as intended.
Some bassists prefer narrower string spacing for playability, while others like it wider. Therefore pickup manufacturers must offer 5-string Jazz Bass pickups in different dimensions.
The pros and cons of each commonly used spacing
Though there are many different string spacings, the two most common are 70mm and 74mm. For reference, most traditional 5-String Fender Jazz basses are 74mm, while the modern Jazz Bass V is 70mm.
Obviously, understanding this is incredibly helpful when choosing replacement 5-string Jazz Bass pickups. But because it affects playability, it’ll also help you find the perfect bass next time you’re in the market.
74mm (Roughly 19mm between each string)
By spreading the strings further apart, basses with 74mm spacing offer more real estate between the strings. This allows slap players more accuracy without worrying they’ll hit the wrong string. So if you’re a funk or gospel player, 74mm string spacing is just the ticket.
The downside to 74mm spacing is that it makes string-to-string transitions a bit harder. It also moves the strings closer to the edges of the fretboard. Some Jazz-style basses account for this by widening the string nuts and fretboards. But if you have a heavy fretting hand, this is something to consider.
70mm (Roughly 17mm between each string)
Today, a lot of builders craft 5-string Jazz Basses with the narrower 70mm string spacing. By bringing the strings closer together, they minimize the distance to your next note. This helps with faster string skipping and easier access to quick passages.
And you can still slap on a 70mm bass! Many bassists love this spacing and get punchy, articulate slap tones with no problem. But if you’re new to slap, know that the smaller spacing does require more precise technique.
How to measure your bass’s string spacing
So how do you measure your bass’s string spacing? There are two easy ways to check.
- At your bridge saddles, measure (in millimeters) from the center of your lowest string to the center of your highest string.
- That number is your bass’s string spacing.
- Look online. Many bass and bass hardware manufacturers document the specs and spacing right on their website or in their manuals.
Some sources use inches instead of millimeters when listing their specs. They may also list the spacing as the measurement between each string. So you may have to do some quick conversions.
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