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J J Burnel Signature Bass

History of the Signature model

This bass came about by way of an accident! Baz, the guitarist / vocals with the stranglers was a bit annoyed when a pint of beer came sailing across the stage towards him and as any true guitarist should know, the only reaction is to smash up the guitar! a pretty difficult repair job to put the neck and headstock back together (initially I told him to bin it) but it worked out ok. He was amazed that it glued up. A while after that a friend of mine, Shaggy, was talking to JJ at the Hilton hotel in sheffield, JJ was sick of the lack of recognition he was recieiving from an ‘american’ company and the fact that he wasn’t getting on with the instruments as a whole. He wanted a better service and a more superior instrument, preferabley built in the UK. He’d been down this route with a couple of english companies before and nothing even acceptable had come of it. Shaggy told him that he should speak to me and thats how it came about. The following week myself and shaggy made the trip to the Stranglers recording studio near Frome in Somerset, JJ explained what he wanted from a bass, what he liked and disliked from the two he played at the time, we had a few drinks…. and a great lunch the following day… although Shaggy was not impressed that baked beans were not on the menu to go with the pie at the gastro pub and that salad cream was not available to go with the beans….

So I went about making a bass that had the best of both, but also updating the design and trying to make improvements to really bring out his individual style and sound.

His 70’s Precision sounded great, but weighed a ton. The 60’s P was a nice weight, had a great feeling neck but lacked a little in the sound. Both basses weren’t the easiest instruments to play, but JJ is a strong player, really digs in and gives the bass hell. So I knew it had to be quite robust!

I settled on a design that I thought was good, slightly changed the shape to make the curves more flowing, better access to the upper frets, my headstock shape,….heres the spec:

  • The ash is a heavy dense wood, great for a defined low end and crisp trebles, definitely the right wood for JJ’s sound, but very heavy, so its used as a core wood with lighter swamp ash wings. Slightly thinner body too to reduce the weight.
  • The pickups are of course extremely important, they are custom wound to sound like a vintage P but with a higher output, a bit more aggressive sound.
  • The Gotoh bridge is a huge improvement on the original, well made. Heavy gauge baseplate, channels for the outer saddles aids stability
  • The control cavity is lined with copper sheet, soldered at each joint for improved shielding.
  • The tone cut removes a little more of the treble than on the original, giving a wider variety of sounds.
  • The neck is a single slab of rock maple, central is a two way truss rod which adjusts the neck in both planes. Its adjustable at the body end, a small cover in the scratchplate lifts out. Either side of the rod theres two lengths of carbon fibre that increase the strength on the neck immensely, making it very stable but also the properties of carbon fibre improve harmonic content, sustain and attack.
  • The Gotoh tuners are improved versions of the elephant ear tuner. They are also adjustable for gear friction, so zero backlash.
  • The satin finish on the neck feels musch less sticky than gloss.
  • The headstock has the Shuker bass logo and JJ decal. On the rear each is numbered and signed.

Signature Model

March 2006 – J J Burnel P bass original body

The body is made of two woods, dense white ash and lighter swamp ash, 3 pieces in total. The centre section is made from white ash where the neck, pickups and bridge are fixed, the reason is as the new body – the  dense ash in the centre section is where all the main components are bolted, the theory being that the denser ash gives a more defined sound, stronger bass response and brighter trebles, overall a more aggressive sound with stronger sustain and more harmonics.

The wings are made from swamp ash which is a lightweight ash, traditionally used for guitar and bass bodies in the past,  but it lacks a little in sound but helps with weight. The idea in the original body was to emulate the sound of the 70’s black P without the extreme weight of a soild white ash body (which is what it is made from and certainly helps the sound) but to get closer to the weight of the green bass, which I think was all swamp ash.

J J Burnel P bass Neck

The neck is made from rock maple, with a rock maple fingerboard. It has a truss rod that is adjustable at the body end, accessed behind a small cover in the scratchplate.  Two lengths of carbon graphite rods are installed either side of the truss rod, these dramatically increase the strength and stability of the neck, making it extremely strong and solid, also the carbon graphite increase sustain and harmonics, eliminate deadspots.

The headstock is slightly thicker than normal, this increases sustain and neck strength. The frets are made from stainless steel, this makes the bass brighter, but the main reason is to reduce the wear as normal nickel fretwire is just not up to the job…..! The nut is made from brass, this gives a brighter sound to the open strings, a more fretted note sound, also it is pretty much unbreakable and brass is self-lubricating, so doesn’t pinch the strings. The neck is finished is satin polyurethane lacquer


The basses are fitted with a gotoh 203 bridge, which is a traditional bridge but with huge improvements, the outer saddles run in grooves that stops any side to side movement, the baseplate is much thicker than normal, a heavy duty bridge!

The pickup is custom wound to suit JJ’s sound, its based around a ’62 pickup but slightly overwound to give it more output and a stronger midrange and a more aggressive attack. The pickup is complemented by the bass construction giving an increased dynamic range, fuller more defined low end and a crisp, strong treble response.

Just a volume and tone. The tone control is set to cut more treble than usual.

£1950 inc Embossed Hardcase



Instrument Name J J Burnel Signature Bass
Construction Bolt on, Left handed available at no extra
Scale Length 34″ scale
Fret Amount 20 frets
Fret Type jumbo stainless steel
Inlays Maple f/board with black front and side dots, Or rosewood board with white front and side dotsmm
Headstock 4 in linemm
Nut Type Brass nut
Neck Woods Maple neck
Fretboard Wood Maple f/board with black front and side dots, Or rosewood board with white front and side dots
Truss Rod Two way truss and carbon fibre reinforcement
Body Top Mastergrade figured wood facings
Body Woods 3 piece swamp ash and english white ash body
Neck Finish Satin finish on neck
Body Finish Polyester basecoat, black colour, wet look lacquer top coat.
Body Stain
Tuners Schaller BM tuners
Bridge Gotoh bridge, chrome
Pickups Custom wound P pickups (slightly overwound)
Electronics Copper can shielding, wide band tone cut
Hardware Black/white/black scratchplate, straplock buttons


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