J J Burnel Signature Basses

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.

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The Models….

Currently there are three JJ Burnel Signature bass models…

The original signature bass, as heard on the Suite XVI album

The Signature Lite bass, as heard on the Giants album

The new Zenith bass, currently just heard live.

The carbonlite bass is now discontinued, it was a limited run of 25 instruments.

Signature

J J Burnel Signature Bass

  • 34″ scale
  • 20 frets
  • 43.5mm nut width
  • 20.5mm neck depth at 1st fret
  • 22.5mm at 12th
  • 19mm string spacing at the bridge
  • gentle c carved neck
  • rock maple neck
  • rock maple or indian rosewood fretboard
  • two way truss rod
  • carbon fibre reinforcement
  • jumbo stainless steel fretwire
  • brass nut
  • Black 6mm face dots
  • Black 2mm side dots
  • satin neck lacquer
  • Schaller BM tuners
  • 3 piece swamp ash (wings) and white ash (core) body
  • square heel and neckplate
  • usual forearm and ribcage contours
  • polyester basecoat
  • black polyurethane topcoat
  • black / white / black s/plate
  • chrome hardware
  • custom wound pickup
  • Gotoh bridge
  • volume and master tone
  • Schaller s-locks
  • Shuker / hiscox logo hardcase
  • Rotosound 45-105 swing bass strings

Signature Lite

J J Burnel Signature Lite Bass

  • 34″ scale
  • 20 frets
  • 43.5mm nut width
  • 20.5mm neck depth at 1st fret
  • 22.5mm at 12th
  • 19mm string spacing at the bridge
  • gentle c carved neck
  • rock maple neck
  • rock maple or Indian rosewood fretboard
  • two way truss rod
  • carbon fibre reinforcement
  • jumbo stainless steel fretwire
  • brass nut
  • Black 6mm face dots
  • 3mm luminlay side markers (black ring with fluorescent green / blue centre)
  • satin neck lacquer
  • Schaller BM light tuners
  • Alder and white ash (core) body, multi chambered
  • Alder body top
  • square heel and neckplate
  • usual forearm and ribcage contours
  • polyester basecoat
  • black polyurethane topcoat
  • black / white / black s/plate
  • chrome and black hardware
  • custom wound pickup
  • Gotoh bridge
  • volume and master tone
  • Schaller s-locks
  • Shuker / hiscox logo hardcase
  • Rotosound 45-105 swing bass strings

Zenith

J J Burnel Zenith Bass

  • 34″ scale
  • 20 frets
  • 43.5mm nut width
  • 20.5mm neck depth at 1st fret
  • 22.5mm at 12th
  • 19mm string spacing at the bridge
  • gentle c carved neck
  • flamed roasted maple neck
  • flamed roasted maple board (cut from the same block so it matches back up)
  • two way truss rod
  • carbon fibre reinforcement
  • jumbo stainless steel fretwire
  • brass nut
  • Black 6mm face dots
  • 3mm luminlay side markers (black ring with fluorescent green / blue centre)
  • satin neck lacquer
  • Schaller BM light tuners
  • Alder body, multi chambered
  • Alder body top
  • reduced heel and recessed neck fixings
  • usual forearm and ribcage contours
  • polyester basecoat
  • black polyurethane topcoat
  • Matt black s/plate
  • black hardware
  • In-house custom wound pickup
  • Gotoh multi-tonal bridge
  • volume and master tone
  • Schaller s-locks
  • Shuker / hiscox logo hardcase
  • Rotosound 45-105 swing bass strings
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J J Burnel Signature Bass

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 Schaller tuners are improved versions of the elephant ear tuner. Very high quality.

The satin finish on the neck feels much less sticky than gloss.

The headstock has the Shuker bass logo and JJ decal. On the rear each is numbered and signed.

J J Burnel Signature Lite Bass

March 2013 – J J Burnel Pbass Lite body

The body is made from two woods, a dense white ash and lightweight alder, six separate pieces of wood in total. There is a solid centre section and two chambered ‘wings’. The centre section is a sandwich of the ash and alder, the ash is the upper piece where the neck, pickups and bridge are mounted, the rear the alder. The reason for using the ash on the top is that all the main components are bolted to this dense wood, 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, using the alder on the rear keeps down the weight but also the alder has a more full range sound and adds an amount of warmth to the sound.

The wings are lightweight alder, the upper bout is chambered to lighten the body further. The chamber starts just forward of the forearm contour and stops just before the top horn and is routed to two depths so that the rear contour can be carved. Then a top laminate of alder is glued over the upper wing, this is 6mm thick, which is a fair bit thicker than a top would be for a bass that’s chambered for acoustic reasons, this is because it tends to get thumped often…..

The lower wing is also chambered but just forward of the waist and up to the lower horn, so that the cavity for the controls can be routed from the front without breaking into the chamber.

The wings are glued to the centre section and the bass routed and carved. The body is finished in a polyester basecoat then a gloss black polyurethane topcoat. So all in all quite a complicated build for a P bass, but when together this makes for a bass that weighs only 7 ½ lbs.

J J Burnel P Bass Lite 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.

Schaller bml lite tuners which are the lightest tuners available and are made by one of the most respected manufacturers of guitar hardware, not cheap because they are made from lightweight alloy and cast carbon resin.

J J Burnel Zenith Bass

April 2021 – J J Burnel Zenith Bass body

The body is made from alder, before jointing the two parts are sawn so we have an 8mm top that will be jointed and glued back on once the internal chambering is done. There are 4 chambers in the body, 3 in the upper bout and one in the lower. The reason for the 3 chambers over the single one on the lite model is to increas rigidity and strength in the body. Because the body still has the normal ribcage carve the upper chambers are graduated in depth and follow the rear carve at a thickness of 8mm. The top is glued on, neck pocket, pickup and control cavities are routed, a reduced heel for better upper fret access, carved, sanded and then its ready for the lacquering. The Zenith has a matt black pickguard following the same shape as the previous carbonlite model

J J Burnel Zenith Neck

The neck for the bass is made from a single block of roasted maple. Its flamed and quartersawn. Benefits of the ‘roasting’ treatment are that the wood is very stable and also lighter. The neck and fretboard are made from a single piece that is sawn into two so the board can be glued back on re-aligning the grain to give the appearance of a single piece of wood but with truss rod and carbon fibre fixed internally. The neck is lacquered in matt finish polyurethane lacquer. Stainless steel jumbo fretwire is fitted and a brass nut. The carbon rods as well as adding incredible strength also transmit every nuance and harmonic into the body, making the bass feel and sound very much ‘alive’

J J Burnel Zenith bass hardware

The hardware is made by Gotoh and Schaller. The bridge is Gotoh’s modern multitonal unit, made from steel and brass with a low profile, quick string change and very comfortable on the palm The tuners are Schaller BM lite tuners, the worlds lightest tuner but still sporting a full size gear and engineering far beyond the quality of other lightweight manufacturers. The nut is brass and handmade.

The new pickup in the Zenith is handwound and made in-house to J J’s exacting specifications to give him a string defined low ed with unsurpassed sub bass response, strong, focussed and aggressive mids when played hard and a bright controlled treble, an all round full range response that is slightly overwound to give a strong powerful tone. The controls are passive volume and tone, the tone control giving a lower cut off frequency than most passive tone controls.

Recently Built

J J Burnel Signature Zenith Bass

Chambered body with roasted flame maple neck. In-house wound pickup, gotoh bridge, schaller lightweight tuners.

Build Diary

A J J Burnel signature lite bass being constructed. Chambered alder body with white ash centre. Maple neck with maple board

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