Help Me Become a Bassist!
First post here, and let me start with an obligatory disclaimer: I am not a bassist. At least, not yet. I am a 20-ish year guitarist, looking to expand my musical horizons by experimenting with 7-string guitar and its infamous partner-in-crime, the 5-string bass.
Having never seriously picked up a bass in all these years, I used my buddy's old beater to lay down a couple of tracks about a month ago. Somehow, it just clicked. I've always been able to naturally groove with a drummer on guitar, but this is really the right instrument for that! It was a lot of fun, but now I have a GAS problem...
I am hoping to pick up some good info around the forums, and for the moment I am in search of a decent set-up to get started with. So let me tell you a bit about my intended play style, and what I was planning to look for, and hopefully you more experienced folks will be able to help steer me in the right direction in case I've gone astray.
First off, I feel like I need a 5-string. I just started playing 7-string guitar, and if I don't have that low-B available for parity in my compositions, I'll most likely end up trading in any 4-string that I would get otherwise.
Second, coming from a guitar background, I'll be playing bass with a pick, at least to start. I use really thick picks (V-Picks) so they may end up sounding closer to fingers than your typical guitar pick, but I figured this might make some difference in suggestions.
Third, my primary musical interests are Classic Rock, Blues, and Modern Rock, with a little gratuitous chugga-chugga every now and then. My range is fairly broad, but the current project is focused on originals that I would consider a cross between Metallica's Black album and early-mid-90s alternative.
I've never really paid any attention to bass gear, or even listened to bass tone in songs before the last few weeks, so I feel like I need some help to get started off right. I have only been able to play a couple instruments in stores: an Ibanez SR-300 (great neck, nice snap on the E string, very light and comfortable), SR-305 (neck felt odd coming from the 300, B seemed floppy and buzzy), Schecter Studio-5 (much heavier than the Ibby's, B string felt a little smoother, neck feel didn't make an impression positive or negative).
My plan was to go with active humbucking pickups, since I may need to be able to handle some distortion or overdrive (or do I? hmm...I think that may be the guitarist in me talking - any insights would be welcome here). Also I will mostly be going directly out of an amp into my buddy's mixer/PA system for 'live' work and recording, so keeping noise to a minimum is desirable.
Oh yeah, and there's the budget issue. I'm looking to get started with a new (not used) bass and amp for a maximum of $750. Personal aesthetic tastes aside, my only real solid criteria are: 5-string bass, and the amp must have direct out and be able to handle the low B on a 5-string.
Anyways, thanks for taking the time to read, and any help is greatly appreciated!
Just wondering -- why have you ruled out used? You'd be able to get probably twice the bang for your buck.
If you are adamant about getting new gear, I don't know what to specifically, recommend, other than to play as much as you can in your price range and see what clicks the best.
Buying used always seems to be a compromise. Getting exactly what you want is usually not possible unless you are either extremely lucky or extremely patient, and I am neither. I suppose it would be worth a quick search though, if I had a particular model in mind. Any suggestions?
A lot of guys here will tease that real bass players don't use picks. I only play fingerstyle now, but I started out using a pick about half the time. I ended up liking fingerstyle a LOT better.
Just get used to playing in a rhythmic manner, not so much melodic like you do on guitar. Practice every day, and you'll notice progress. Have an open musical mind while at the same time retaining your own musical originality.
Maybe try out one of Squire's 5-string active jazz basses. They're an excellent bang for your buck. Or even a used MIM Fender 5. Just a couple of ideas.
When I play my bass with a pick, I like Dunlop Gator Grip 2.0mm picks. I started using Dunlop Tortex .73 picks and I felt like something was missing.
For the bass and amp in your budget:
I've no experience with either, so try/buy at your own risk. I do know, however, that it you want a tight B string, you should look for a 35" scale length bass. The most common scale length is 34". If you can get away with a direct box for recording, I'd put that $750 into the bass and add the amp later.
As for active vs. passive, that largely comes down to preference, and yes, both can be run though OD and dist pedals. However, not all pedals will sound good with both active and passive.
I agree you should go with a 5 string. Not just because you are taking up 7 string guitar, but its nice to have the option of going to those low notes on a bass. You are sacrificing very little if anything from going from 4 to 5.
To advise you on which bass, I'd have to know what kind of sound you are going for. Like guitar, there are three time-tested benchmark standards of tone. On guitar, you have the strat, tele and les paul to compare to. On bass we have the P-bass, Jazz bass and Music Man as the big three most distinctive sounds.
Of course the best instrument is the one that feels and sounds right to you.
So you need to get your hands dirty in the search process.
From there, it just gets more complicated. String type will also play a large role in your sound... Since the cost of strings is so high, the experimentation process is rather slow. Unless you are addicted to that nice zingy snap of fresh roundwounds, you might want to opt for the nice dead thud of flatwounds and not have to change your strings again for years.
For an amp, you are going to want the most watts you can afford and likely as much combined speaker area as your back and transportation methods can bear. You will need a minimum of 3 times the power of any guitarist you play with. Its just a matter of the physics required to move the air to make low notes. --Not saying there's not some amazing technological offerings enabling big sound from smaller packages, but those aren't even close to within your budget.
I'd invest a larger amount toward the amp than the bass. As you learn more you might find you want a different tone and your second instrument will likely be closer to what you really want. cause right now, you probably don't know for certain and we certainly can't tell you.
At the risk of being unoriginal, I'd say "try lots".
I got my first bass used, just to have something to practice on, then took every opportunity to try as many basses as I could. Depending what day you talked to me during that process I'd have a completely different must-have bass in mind. It was only through lots of playing that I learned what sort of neck and string spacing felt right to me and what sort of sound I wanted.
You mention impatience and I know how you feel. That's why buying a used 5-string now will help. If you like it, great - your search is over (for now). If not, it'll help keep the impatience at bay and you can be more relaxed about finding 'the one'. And of course, in buying used, you'll probably get back what you paid for it so it'll be like a free loan instrument until you get the one you really want.
I maybe stopped too early in my search. I found a bass that felt exactly right, bought it, then realised that I preferred the sound of my first eBay bass and the Squier P Special that I bought used with the intention of selling. So here I am now with just the Squier, having sold the bass I bought a year ago for half of what I paid. But I'm expecting the imminent arrival of a custom bass that I specified to meet my needs and wants. I could only do that after playing lots of notes on lots of basses - the cheap way of doing that is trying in store, borrowing from friends and buying used.
Enjoy - it's a very fun process! :)
The $750 budget is going to be the trick. Are you planning on playing live with a band through this rig or is it strictly for recording? Let's talk amps first. If you're going to play live with a rock band, you need at least 200 watts through a 1x15 and 400 or 500 watts through a 4x10 or more would be more secure. A combo with those specs is going to cost you something like $500 new right there, leaving only $250 for the bass and anything else. But if you're only going to be laying down tracks in a studio, you can do with a lot less, like 50 or 75 watts in a 1x10 or 1x12. Bass needs more wattage than guitar. If you got something like a Fender Rumble 75 you'd be in good shape to record and could handle practices and jams for $225.
For the bass itself - no need to worry about pick-playing, you do sometimes hear the prejudices against it but it's a good technique. For active five-strings under $500 (what you'd have left over from buying an amp), I kind of like the Schecter Diamond series, which are around $400 -don't own one, but I've tried them in stores and seen guys gigging them, liked the sound. Ibanez is obvious to look at but somehow I never liked them too much myself. The Peavey Grind might also be a good choice for you or an active Peavey Millennium.
One bass I used to have that could work would be the Washburn Taurus T-25. I eventually sold mine because I found others with necks I liked better. It's passive, but has close string spacing which I think lends itself well to pick playing.
As for distortion/overdrive, a lot of bassists don't use it, as it tends to lose the bottom end of the tone. But then, a lot of people do - go to the effects forum here on TB and you'll see bassists with massive pedalboards to rival any guitarist's. It all depends on the tone you want for your music. If you spend $225 on an amp and $500 on a bass, you don't have much of anything left for pedals, but if you get anything, I'd say get an MXR M-80; it gives you DI, EQ, and distortion all in one, and is the only pedal on my board that I have in use all the time (at least for the EQ and "color" feature). It's $139 new but last I saw there were a couple used ones on the TB classifieds for cheaper.
The schecter elite 4 was my first bass. I don't have it anymore but I have to say its a great bass for the cost. Never had anything bad to say about it.
Schecter Diamond P5, new or used. THEE best five string at it's price point. I've had horrible luck with sub-700 series Ibanez SRs. Rubbery necks. Temp changes a hair and there goes the setup. Never with the P5. And I don't remember ever reading one bad thing about them here, and that's rare.
Get a bass you can play, not play bass tech.
You don't need active.
I would suggest a used warwick or new Warwick rockbass, or an MTD. In your price point they both have very good b strings.
get a 5 string brubaker brute either the standard or the single cut. very affordable and a great aggressive sounding bass for the money.
Hello Feelthaflo. Why are active pickups needed for distortion? Here are two passive 5-string basses I see mentioned a lot for people who want to check out 5-strings for the 1st time: The Yamaha BB415 & The Squier Vintage Modified Jazz Bass 5.
As a result, I went through many basses and a few amps until I felt I could tell what I liked and what I didn't. And effects, in particular overdrive and distortion pedals... I had a million of them.
I think my experience is not unusual.
For that reason, starting ff with used equipment makes sense (to me), as it allows you to investigate properly (not just 20 min in a shop or whatever, but in your own environment, with your own band if you have one) various basses, etc, without losing much money everytime you switch.
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