ADD ’EM UP, AND PRECISION-STYLE AND Jazz-style basses—whether from Fender or the myriad manufacturers who have drawn on those iconic designs—command the lion’s share of the bass market. It’s no surprise the two styles are so popular; for those of us who grew up loving both the gutsy growl of a P-Bass and the throaty snarl of a J, choosing just one can be a bit like picking a favorite child (which, it turns out, is easier some days than others). If you’re seeking both the midrange punch of a Precision and the roundness of a Jazz, a single bass with P/J configuration is a certainly worth a look.
In a landscape crowded with P- and J-style wannabes, Godin has done a darn admirable job carving its own niche. We were impressed by the Quebec-based company’s semi-acoustic A4 and A5 basses when we reviewed them in 2007, and were similarly smitten with the first bass in its Shifter line, a triple-pickup 4-string with a surprisingly wide array of tones. With its latest addition to the Shifter collection, the Shifter Classic, Godin aims right at the happy spot of P and J lovers alike.
Twenty-some years ago, Godin established itself in the electric guitar game as a supplier of necks and bodies for better-known brands in the U.S.A. Those years of experience come to bear with Shifter Classic. In subtle ways—body contour, pickguard design, control layout, tuner silhouette— the Shifter Classic asserts its own unique identity, yet still pays homage to Leo Fender’s legacy. Body-wise, the Shifter Classic feels like a P-Bass with a somewhat smaller dimensions and more angular edges. With its satin finish, shallow “C” profile, and 1.5” width at the nut, the Shifter Classic’s neck is a J lover’s dream. From its hardware and fretwork to its mouthwatering Crème Brulee finish, the Godin boasts excellent craftsmanship. A dual-action bridge that allows for through-bridge or throughbody stringing is an added bonus.
For electronics, Godin keeps it old-school, with simple passive volume and tone controls and a 4-way pickup switch that selects for solo’d P and J pickups, and both series and parallel wiring when the pickups are combined. The solo’d P and J pickups sound just as they should—burly in the neck position and barky at the bridge. The bridge pickup on its own didn’t do much for me, but that was no surprise; like most other bridge-position J pickups, it seemed to sound best blended with the neck pickup. On its own, the neck position had a nice midrange hump that could go it alone. The two combinations of the pickups are what got me jazzed about the Shifter Classic. With the pickups wired parallel, the bass has a bite that blended the P pickup’s midrange muscularity with the J pickup’s more refi ned articulation. In series, the pickups combine to create an entirely different sound characterized by beefier lows, increased output, and hum-free operation. Solo’d and parallel, the pickups introduced minimal RF noise. In series, they had none. The tone pot’s taper was smooth and even, lending nuance to each of the four pickup settings.
Neat-O! Th e Shifter Classic 4’s spartan control cavity lacked shielding, but it was clean as a whistle.
In all, Godin hit upon a particularly groovy recipe with its vintage-style Shifter Classic. If you’re after a well-built, old-school, versatile 4-string at a pretty excellent price point, the Shifter Classic is, without a doubt, a worthy candidate.
Bottom line The Shifter Classic offers exceptional value, giving a goodly sum of the tones P-style and J-style basses are known for. The build quality is excellent, the neck feels especially comfy, and the series/parallel pickup switching makes this vintage-style Godin all the more versatile.
SHIFTER CLASSIC 4
Width at nut 1½"
Pickups Neck, Godin GBP split-coil; bridge, GBJ1 single-coil
Controls Volume, tone
Weight 8.9 lbs
Gig bag Included
Options Maple fingerboard, Black Burst semi-gloss finish ($700 street)
Made in Canada