How to choose 1 out of 4 bass options?
Even during this trying time in my life wherein I do not have a bass, I love TalkBass because I can find numerous answers to any questions I have. It has taught me that, by and large, questions about instruments can be answered with opinions, many of which are entertaining as well as informative.
So I welcome your opinions on what I am about to put forth.
I already said I don't have a bass. I got rid of my bass and amp to make some extra money and lighten the load before I move far away. The only instrument I currently own is a bagpipe. In my relentless bass-fantasizing, and examining sounds, benefits and drawbacks, I've noticed that there are several different basses/configurations I've been looking at, which all have different benefits, and basically, presented with these options, which would you tend to go for?
1. The Fender Precision
Benefits: Nice and basic, and I love the sound. I have pined for that mellow and ballsy sound for years. And even though the lefties have limited color options, I find Fender instruments to be generally aesthetically attractive.
Drawbacks: they're expensive and only have rosewood fingerboards for the lefties.
2. The MTD Kingston Heir 4-string fretless
Benefits: I also love the sound of fretless bass. I am aware I would have to relearn things like intonation and really keeping my ear keen, but I just love that I can emulate the sound of bending notes like I would on a guitar, just by sliding my hand around. Also, having no frets, would give me a pretty mellow sound, which, paired with the 3-band active EQ, I could probably quite closely emulate the sound of one of the old P-Basses and get tonal options other than that as well.
Drawbacks: what if I need clunk? Or buzz? I could be playing a grunge tune, and really need to shittify my tone, and be unable to do it because the fretless tone is invariably clean.
3. The MTD Kingston Heir 4-string fretted
Benefits: Because frets are classic. Fretted basses are the standard tool for modern music-making, and I can do a lot with them. These basses also come with a maple fingerboard in lefty, and are made of ash with a maple top. These are the materials I would prefer tonally on a bass. I also like the thought of playing in tune anywhere on the neck with the Buzz Feiten tuning system. My previous two basses did NOT play in tune all over the neck, no matter how well I intoned them.
Drawbacks: Kind of a bland setup. Time-tested and good-sounding in my opinion, but relentlessly bland.
4. The MTD Kingston Heir 5-string (fretted or fretless)
Benefits: I really liked the lows I could get out of the 5-string. If I liked nothing else about it, the lows were pretty nice.
Drawbacks: During my short ownership of a 5-string, I noticed a lot of things I personally don't like about 5-string. Mine had an extended 35" scale, which made the tension on the B-string perfect, but the other strings felt tighter than they would on a 34" 4-string. Also, it always felt like there was a sort of "hangnail" on my playing, as no matter what, I had to be aware of muting an extra string while I was playing. I like 4-strings because I can use the thumb-anchoring technique instead of the floating thumb, and I barely have to worry about muting at all.
So this is my current existential crisis, and in a way I'm thankful for that, because it does not impede my ability to survive or function in society. And at the same time, it drives me nuts. I'm waiting to strike it rich as a high school teacher after I earn my Master's </sarcasm>, and will be wanting to start off with the one bass that I could do the most with.
Since I often hear that the kind of music one wants to play has a strong bearing on how many strings to use, here's what I usually listen to and play: rock, hard rock, heavy metal (old school as in Ozzy and Metallica and nu-metal as in Marilyn Manson and Slipknot), blues, slap/funk, pop (top 40), solo, and stuff that sounds like The Police.
So given that information, which of the 4 above options would you personally choose? And do you have any other ideas for things I should consider that I might have left out?
Well, I can answer partly from experience. I started out with a 4-string Yamaha with P/J pickups, loved the sound. Got a Kingston Heir 5, sold the Yamaha. Loved the quality of the bass, the feel (particularly the asymmetric neck), really liked the low notes and increased options for positions, sound was okay. Bought a £90 Squier P Special (P/J), suddenly didn't like the Heir any longer. I realised I loved the P sound, with the option of mixing in some J, and the J neck. Only one problem - 4 strings. I used it as my main bass for a short while and really missed the B string, which I realised I'd really incorporated into my style.
My solution? Sell the Heir and use the Squier while waiting for what I really wanted: a 34" 5-string, passive, P/J pickups, with an asymmetric neck. I got it hand-built for £200 more than the Chinese-made Heir, and about £200 less than a US Fender.
So my view: if you know exactly what you want, and no-one makes it as standard, go custom! It sounds like you still need to decide on the fretted/fretless issue. And that you probably want a 4-string.
Obviously what you really need is to buy four basses...
Ok, musing through this... since you don't have a bass, I assume you're not currently in a band, so there's no "need" to have this or that sound because we're just talking about something to play in your bedroom. I'm not seeing any huge pull towards a five-string apart from maybe the nu-metal you like, but I'm guessing you could just tune to drop-D for that most of the time, no? You DO seem rather enchanted with the idea of the fretless. So of the four you list, I'd go with the fretless MTD. Down the road, if you find yourself in a band where you need frets, you can get a fretted version or a basic Fender P.
Thanks for your input guys. @hrodbert696: I concur with your assertion that I need to buy 4 basses, so maybe I should rephrase the question as "Which bass should I choose FIRST?" xD
Me personally I'd go for the Precision every time, just because it's a Swiss Army bass. But since you're not planning on doing this for a living, you're not as bound to people pleasing as others may be, and MTD does make nice basses. Might hold off on a fretless right away, but it's you who has to play it, so get what your gut tells you to get.
If this is your main bass then fretted would be the most useable solution for most situations.
4 or 5 decision needs to be made next.
Then decide which bass. Sound is very important to me, sound and feel. These are the two factors that have to be in place for me to consider a purchase.
I would go for the Swiss Army Bass, the Precision, too. You might consider the P5 (either Fender or the new Squier) if you think the B string will be useful for the music you like to play. If necessary, I could sell all my basses and make do with a single Precision.
fender precision lefty, install a J pup in the bridge, and get a warmoth replacement neck with whatever woods you desire
EDIT. You know a steinberger spirit can go both ways :hiding: just a thought.
I haven't read all of your posts, and I don't know where you live, and somebody has probably already said this but the only advice I can give is consider this too:
I wouldn't shy away from fretless. 12 year olds learn to play upright bass. You can certainly learn to play a fretless bass. I used to have a fretless. I sold it because it wasn't the "right" bass for my gig. Well, I miss it. And there really isn't a "right" bass for a gig - with a few possible exceptions but they aren't necessarily carved in stone, either.
I only had my fretless for a couple months while my fretted was being built. I played it for everything and it worked great. It only has to sound like a fretless when you want it to. You do have to listen, but you should be listening all the time anyway. I know on fretted I can "mail it in" and get all the notes right. That's not the case with fretless.
Looking at the variety of music you're interested in, I would agree with posts here that you need that one reliable bass that would serve well in all of them. Out of the options on your list, it's the Fender P-Bass. Also, for overall functionality, a fretted bass is recommended. That being said, there are other options with the Fender P-Bass model in mind - you can always look at other brands that would circumvent the drawbacks you identified. P-Bass clones are generally more inexpensive, have more options in terms of color and what kind of wood on the fretboard.
Always good to have that one reliable, multi-tool of a bass that's comfortable to play on. Once you start talking about a second bass, that's where you can explore other avenues such as fretless, five string and so on that'll expand your sound options.
Thanks Max. I must admit I really like the P-Bass idea as well. You can do everything with a good p-bass. Especially now that they've got the 60s-toned pickups and high mass bridges. Mmm. Yummy.
1) Keep the 5 string fretted.
2) Go to www.bassstringsonline.com to get your strings. Make a custom set with a heavy B string and lighter EADG strings.
I'm currently at 6 basses, but if the house was on fire I'd grab the (Squier CV) P-bass first.
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