11 Jazz Bass Upgrades to Look and Sound better

upgraded bass

The traditional Jazz Bass is a timeless classic. What sets it apart from other models is the distinct Offset Waist Contour body combined with its hum-canceling abilities to output unique lows, scooped (attenuated) mids, and well-defined high frequencies.

But there’s always room for improvements and modding instruments, and we’ll go over a couple of ideas to upgrade your jazz bass, while also paying attention to mods that require more experience or could potentially be harmful in any way.

It’s best to learn from the mistakes of others, and we’ve gone over a lot of these in the past so you don’t have to.

Why Upgrade a Jazz Bass?

Jazz Bass Upgrades

Although you’ll certainly find people that do not like the idea of switching between components, especially on instruments made by more famous brands, it’s ultimately up to you, the owner, to decide what to do with it.

Whether you should or not go for jazz bass upgrades should come down to these two factors:

  • You’re not happy with the way your bass looks and sounds
  • You are confident that you can make the upgrade yourself.

About the second item, even if you’re not able to make the changes you want alone, there’s always the possibility of taking the instrument to a professional luthier, although this will certainly cost more.

If you have an instrument that you think needs improvement, you’ll certainly gain experience by attempting to upgrade it, and while usually there is always room to make it look, play, and sound better, it doesn’t mean that you’ll always get it to sound like a more expensive bass.

If you make the decision to try it, remember that the upgraded parts will always add to the overall value of your instrument, and you can keep the old parts as a spare in case you need a replacement.

Pickups and electronics – Jazz Bass Upgrades

Pickups are fundamental when it comes to achieving a tone that’s:

  • Good
  • Clean
  • Full
  • Detailed

To put it simply, pickups are magnets that translate the vibration of the metal strings into electric signals.

This means that the better the build and material quality (in terms of conductivity for instance), the better the pickup will “perceive” and “translate” the sounds your bass makes.

But before anything else, you should take your time to ensure the new pickups will fit your bass nicely.

This requires an understanding of the inner electrical components, like potentiometers and the connections, especially in the case of active instruments.

The steps taken to replace the pickups themselves aren’t that complicated, and the tools needed are usually easy to find, but it requires a bit of disassembling and soldering in a couple of spots. We’ve described it in full detail in this article: Upgrading your bass’ pickups.

If you choose and install it the right way, It can be a guaranteed way to boost your output signal. However, when in comparison to other upgrades listed here, this is one of the most expensive.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that the better the quality of all the components together, the better signal you’ll get, this involves not only pickups and potentiometers but also wires, capacitors, jack, batteries, etc…

Locking Tuners

This is another upgrade that won’t be too hard to accomplish and can help your Jazz Bass stay in tune.

  • Strings set up in standard tuning pegs will rely solely on the grip of the strings while winded against the tuner poles to stay in place.
  • When playing, we apply extra tension to the strings, and this might cause them to slip from their intended position occasionally.

This is a much more serious problem in instruments that have strings with smaller diameters, but it also occurs in Bass guitars as well, especially on the G and D strings.

Locking tuners will allow you to secure the strings in place first and then proceed on to tensioning them to the right pitch.

In order to make this upgrade, you’ll likely need only a hex wrench and a Phillips head screwdriver.

In case you suspect your bass is suffering from issues related to staying in tune due to low-quality tuning pegs, it’s an excellent idea to replace them yourself, and it doesn’t carry too many risks in case you get something wrong

You’ll need a bit of measurement to acquire the right replacement set, such as guaranteeing the screw holes will be in the same position as the neck.

When in doubt about the model, take one apart and get your local store representative to take a look at it.

Strings – Jazz Bass Upgrades

Bass Strings are way more expensive when compared to regular electric guitar strings.

But they also last as much as 10x longer.

Upgrading from your old strings set will allow you to perceive the improvement in sound quality and playability instantly.

Not only that, but you have a wide range of options to choose from:

  • Flat strings
  • Different gauges
  • Colored strings

It takes a bit of trial and error to find that one set that seems to be the best for you, but it’s well worth experimenting with every chance you get.


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This is where things can become complicated if you’re new to instrument modding and upgrading.

The correct setup of the instrument (tuning, action height, etc…) depends on very intricate adjustments involving many different components, and the bridge acts as an important part of the whole.

The bridge is the component that holds the strings in the correct position (distance from one another, height, angle, intonation, and more), and a better bridge can contribute to sustaining the notes for longer, extending the strings lifetime and tuning abilities.

Given that the bridge must be meticulously aligned to work as it should, we won’t go into too much detail in this article, as it requires a bit more experience and specialized tools to set it up.

Our recommendation here, if you don’t have experience with it, is to take your instrument to a professional guitar shop to avoid costly mistakes.


Just like the bridge, the nut is another essential component to achieve the perfect setup of the instrument.

The nut will need replacement every once in a while because it suffers from the friction the strings exert over it.

There are many materials to choose from, like bone and metal, and each one will give you a different feel, and durability.

Upgrading the nut requires a source of heat like a blowdryer, wood glue, sandpaper, and the right set of files to do it right. It can be quite difficult to get the filing part right on the first try, so we advise you to try to replace it by yourself only if you have a spare instrument that you don’t depend on.


It is practically impossible to avoid wearing the frets over time, especially on bass guitars.

Due to the friction of the strings against them, the surface of the frets will inevitably become irregular, which might lead to buzzing and added difficulty to play.

New frets, properly installed and crowned, can make your playing much more comfortable, not to mention the improvements in sustaining and tuning properties.

To upgrade/replace all frets correctly in a neck isn’t quick and easy, though.

You’ll likely find that this is one of the most expensive upgrades on this list, and we’ll cover the process in its entirety in a near future.

Strap Lock

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Disassembled Strap Lock

This simple and relatively cheap upgrade can save your instrument.

Old and used straps are probably the main reason why instruments fall straight to the ground. Regardless of whether the neck or the body hits the ground first, chances are that you’ll be looking forward to an expensive trip to the repair shop.

  • Paintjob
  • internal connections
  • the overall setup

… and other things can be damaged when your bass falls to the ground.

A simple upgrade such as installing a strap that allows you to lock it in place against the strap button will definitely help you to avoid these unpleasant and expensive circumstances.


There’s an infinity of colors, patterns, and materials to choose from, and the jazz bass pickguard has a distinct shape that allows you to pinpoint if the new one that you’re looking for will be a perfect match.

  • Replacing the pickguard is one of the best visual customization options any electrical stringed instrument has.
  • The Jazz Bass also comes with the advantage of not needing to remove any of the electrical components in order to replace the upper and most visible part of the pickguard, since they’re stored safely under a separate section.

To replace the pickguard isn’t too difficult, but like everything else regarding instrument repair, it must be done carefully.

You should remove the strings, and the pickguard is simply attached to the wood with Phillips head screws around it. Unscrew them, lift the old pickguard, fit the new one in, screw it in place, and that’ll be it.

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Other upgrades for your jazz bass

  • Pick Holders: Fitting in a pick holder in the back of the headstock is neat, if you do happen to like playing with picks, of course. They usually come with some form of adhesive or mechanism to attach them to a portion of your instrument that would otherwise be of little use.
  • Clip-on tuners: Another cool addition are clip-on tuners. Though they’re intended to work when in quieter environments since they require no interference in order to pick up the vibrations from the headstock itself when you’re playing the bass.
  • Thumb Rest: Lastly, you can always consider installing a thumb rest on your instrument. Jazz Bass models do not have it by default. It’ll certainly require some good measurements, and some drilling to fit the new screw(s) to the body. It’s a matter of playing preference, but it’s the little details in playability that make the difference at higher musician performance levels.

In Conclusion – Jazz Bass Upgrades

If you’re the type that likes to do things by yourself, and you don’t mind if you end up altering the monetary value of your instrument (sometimes for the best), then going nuts on your spare bass guitars will be right up your alley.

People will act like people. Some will frown upon your results, some will think it’s way better now that you changed something on it.

At the end of the day, what matters is deepening the relationship you develop with the instrument(s).

Experience and knowledge are gained every time you attempt something. And these can be valuable down the journey as a musician/instrument builder.

Just be on the safe side and do not mess up with very rare and expensive instruments that you cannot replace, should you have any around.

You can certainly get creative when performing jazz bass upgrades, and soon you’ll find yourself adding lots of value to the instrument.

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