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Advice for novices on trying out an bass in a shop?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by nosedivekarma, Aug 4, 2005.

  1. nosedivekarma


    Jun 28, 2005
    Any novice will tell you how intimidating it is when trying a bass out in a shop. The assistants are one thing, the other customers are something else: all trying out their fave lines.
    What should we look for in a bass before purchasing? Any advice on questions to ask and answers to be weary of? And how do we get over that awful moment when the assistant asks if we'd like to 'give it a try?' I know i'm not on my own here, please help.
  2. first off, don't let them pressure you at any stage. If it takes you two years of trying to find the right bass, then it takes you two years and that's that. No one should be hussled into a deal on ANYTHING, especially cars and musical instruments! Tell 'em to go serve other customers and let you get on with it!

    Go in the quiet times so you can really hit out without feeling self concious. Keep the amp the same, flatten the eq, don't touch it while you try different basses. There's time for tweaking later, for now you want to compare raw tones.

    The biggest let down at my local is that they can't set up the action to save themselves. So, sometimes that can be a misleading factor on what should be an awesome bass. If you can, get someone who knows what they're doing to set up the instruments a few days in advance.

    Man, this is turning into a big post... I might truncate a bit.

    Aside from the tone, which you are best placed to judge, you're looking for things like; comfort (too heavy, hard to play etc), function (knobs switches and layout, do they impede your action?), playability (does it feel good, does it make you change your technique, does it make you play better?) etc.

    Check carefully for fret buzz or dead notes (notes that don't sound as bright or sustained as the others)

    Look closely at the fit and finish. How are the routes? Is the neck smooth? Any glitches in the finish? Screws tight etc.

    But, given that we mostly go on tone, pick a riff you know well and try it on all of them without adjusting the EQs. Turn up to stage volume because things can really get hairy when you do that!

    Heaps of other stuff to think of, but that's a good start!
  3. Aj*


    Jun 14, 2005
    West Yorkshire, UK
    Always make sure you learn some stuff to play before you go to avoid feeling awkward. Also, if you know one, take along an expereinced bass player (I took my brother who has about 15 years bass playing behind him) and get their opinion. Niftydgo covered most of the basics so I'll leave it at that.
  4. Bassliner


    Mar 15, 2005
    Hmm, I usually either go to a HUGE store, or a REAAAAALLY small boutique. And both have little chambers where you can check out the basses you like. Assistants should only come when asked, I can't believe they still don't get that. They're scaring potential customers away. As for the other customers; **** 'em. They started out like everyone else. And if you can't **** 'em, go by the store when it's quiet. Early in the morning most of the showoffs will be snoring in their beds.
    Stuff to look for: (not necessarily in this order ;))
    • How does it look? It's important that you like the way it looks (on you), no matter what others might say...
    • How does it feel? Even if you're 'just' a beginner, try to compare basses and you'll find out that some are more comfortable than others
    • How does it sound? Put the test amp flat: No boosts and all EQ settings on center. Try to test on an amp you have or buy in the future!
    Try to bring a collegue bassplayer to help you and take the assistants attention away from you. ;)
    The other customers might help you also, they're more experienced and could give you good advice. Probably much better advice than the assistants in most "big store" cases.
    I tell you, if anyone would ask me something when I'm "playing my fave lines: ;), I'd be more than happy to help and share my opinions. Just watch out that you don't let people convince you to buy something you don't really want to buy.

    Questions to ask:
    Does it come with a (complimentary?) gigbag?
    And don't settle for any "crappy" bags! It should be padded and carry comforably.
    The boutique-store I was talking about give every bass that you buy a decent gigbag, and that's how it should be!
    How long does the warranty last?
    I can think of more but... it's getting late here ;)

    And if the assistant asks if you want to give it a go, give it a go! He/She shouldnt even have to ask that! ;) You should ask them: "Can I give this one a go?"

    And if you're really unable to form an opinion about a bass because you lack playing experience, ask the assistant or friend or other customer to give it a go and listen!

    Don't be afraid to play and don't be afraid to ask!
    I'd say, you come in the store, you look around in your price range (and also something outside your range that you maybe find really beautiful, just to compare). Then, shoot! Change roles with the assistant, ask them questions, and ask them to play the basses for you.

    You gotta start somewhere!
    Good luck and have fun!
  5. Bassliner


    Mar 15, 2005
    hehe you thought you had a long one... :)

    Seriously, I wish I could go with you and help you. Music stores have become my second home :D
    Again, good luck!
  6. angrydad


    Jul 31, 2004
    A certain major instrument chain store ( at least the 8 or so I've visited) is in the habit of B-L-A-S-T-I-N-G music (usually metal) through thier store sound system. Don't be afraid to ask them to turn it down, or off, if it is interfering with your trying to hear the bass. If they say no, see managment. If managment says no...they've said no to your business.
  7. The Eristic

    The Eristic Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2005
    Cartersville, GA
    Heh, I've gone to GC with my dad before (I'm 21 - he just likes going guitar/bass shopping with me), and watched him waltz over to and turn off their system. :^D
  8. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    Play the bass both sitting down and standing up (ask for a strap).
  9. The Eristic

    The Eristic Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2005
    Cartersville, GA
    Adding to the very good advice above, regarding instrument demoing and dealing with salesmen:

    Salesmen, for the most part, can bite me. I am one occasionally, and while I try to be informative and helpful, I pretty much leave folks to do what they need to do. I'm never afraid to ask to try something, and I never let salesmen push me around. I've told more than one to go away, in those exact words. I take all the time I need, and a good salesman will respect that. Instruments are extremely personal, so if you feel you need to spend three hours playing two basses, do it. If disrespected, walk.

    With instrument in hand, always demo acoustically first. Since solidbody instruments can be difficult to hear unplugged, I put my ear against the neck and play. I'm sure it looks funny, but I can tell VERY quickly what a bass (or guitar) sounds like, how it resonates and sustains naturally. Doing so quickly gives me a good idea of what I think should come out of the amp. If I like what I hear and feel unplugged, then I can be fairly certain I'll be able to get what I want plugged-in, either stock or with electronic modification (swapped pickups, preamp change, et cetera).
  10. el_Kabong


    Jul 11, 2005
    All good advice above. The only thing I can add is not to stress too much on getting 'the best' bass. Play as many as you can get your hands on and get something you like, plays decently and that you can afford. For sure as your skills as a player and musican develop your idea of the perfect bass will change and you'll appreciate different aspects of different instruments. Some folks seem to work on the basis that if they get 'the best' early on then they won't have to worry about it any more. It doesn't work that way (unless you never learn anything...). As for the nerves... no guts no glory!! Just have fun.
  11. Take your own strap. (if you have one that is) A bass being played while seated, might feel quite different while standing, ie ...weight, balance, hand comfort on the neck. Remember, you'll most likely do most of your playing standing up. So take a strap that you are comfortable with, make sure it doesn't have strap locks, and ideally, is easily adjustable just incase the bass sits high, or low. Take a couple of picks with you as well.

    And if the sales staff tries to pressure:

    "this is the last one we have, so you better buy it now" kinda thing, remember, there is always another store, and another bass. Take your time and have fun.
  12. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    As far as the money aspect, just remember that a sale that ends tomorrow will be followed by another sale (maybe a different store to the one you are at) in the near future. Christmas, Easter, end of financial year, excess stock clearances... i know we get excited and want to come home with a brand new bass immediately; but we need to remember that a sale will happen somewhere else eventually. This allows you to keep a clear mind and you will be able to concentrate more on objectively assessing the instrument.


    1. Check the sustain on ALL frets. many basses have great sustain for the open strings and the first 5 frets, but above that the sustain differs from bass to bass (ofcourse, setup will affect that). An example is my SX jazz. Great sustain on the open E and A strings, but practically no sustain on a fretted note (and i like to let notes ring out every now and then, so this is a major problem).

    2. Do scale runs up and down the neck, these are universal exercises that all of us do everyday, and they are the best way of evaluating a bass's playability.
  13. Worshiper


    Aug 13, 2004
    New York
    Go in and play high end...even if you have no intention to buy. That way you know what good tone sounds like. Then play the basses in you price range and try to find the tone most comparable to the tone of a high end bass you liked. When you play, although most of my "strategies" were said before, another thing I like to do is to play every fret of every string and listen for buzz. That way you know if the frets are leveled.

    By the way, i find if you can get to the music stores early on weekdays, close to opening, the store is empty so you don't have to worry about feeling intimidated and salesman are still kinda setting up so they won't bother you unless you ask them for help.
  14. nosedivekarma


    Jun 28, 2005
    Thanks so far guys. All of that's been incredibly useful, not just to me but i'm sure a few others out there who get a touch of nerves when entering a guitar shop.
    I'm thinking about getting an S.U.B so I suppose, from what you've said it'd be a good idea to try a Stingray first just to see how its little brother compares.

    Again, thanks so much for your help so far.