Are looks important in a bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by richperson, Apr 9, 2002.

  1. richperson


    Mar 20, 2002
    Have you ever bought a bass that sounded good, but because you didn't like the looks of it, didn't play it much?

    I am still in the hunt for a 5-string and want one that sounds and looks so pretty I can't let it sit for long before I want to pick it up and play it again. But I might not be able to have both looks and sound. I know sound is ultimately important, but what about looks. For example there is a Zon Sonus and a Lakland 55-02 on ebay now for good prices, but I think both are very ugly (metallic painted-and I like natural wood).

    How important are looks?
  2. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    They are what's known as a cincher, or iceing on the cake.

    Cincher in that if you got two basses that were absolutely insane, and you couldn't live without one of them, then you'd go for the one with the looks.

    Or, if the the bass is all around a excellent bass, then lookin' purty is just one more thing.

    But other than that, it's all about feel and sound. Looks aren't really an issue.
  3. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    It's like meeting a girl or boy. The first thing you notice is the appearance, but to make it a "lasting affair" other things become more important.
    I'd definitely play a not-so-goodlooking bass that sounds and plays awesome.

    I'm not so sure about this with a woman though :D
  4. Amen to that.;) But for me, only a girl.

    Edit: qualification of statement.
  5. well I feel that looks play a large part, but so does the sound....

    and if you want a bass with both of those then get a custom bass, like a Vadim ( yeah ) or a Conklin
    ( thats for Jt... ) or any type. ( preferably those two, they are really good...):D
  6. I once bought an Ovation Magnum bass which sounded so good, but, to describe it briefly, it looked something like a P-bass that had most of the upper and all of the lower horns removed. I tried and tried, but after about a year, I just didn't play it that much, and sold it. I do regret it, but, I just couldn't stand how it looked.

    I guess when it comes to basses, I'm just a shallow Hal. :D

    Don't get me started with women. :rolleyes:

    Mike J.
  7. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I think looks are very important. Obviously, the first thing I look at is tone, then feel (or vice versa). But, I like to enjoy the bass for ALL of its qualities, which includes the aesthetics. If you read some of the posts 'round here, you'll see one person talking about the crazy figuring on his spalted maple top. There are other discussions about wood p/u covers. There are still discussions about subtle things like matching headstocks.

    I think most of us care about the looks. It's just not the first thing we pay attention to.
  8. jasonbraatz


    Oct 18, 2000
    Oakland, CA
    i think there are too many basses out there to play a bass that you don't think sounds good, plays good, and looks good. and if nothing exactly fits the bill, you can always get something custom made.

    it's the last on the list of important things, but it's still important. important enough that i wouldn't play this...

    no matter how good it sounded or smooth it played. :eek: :D
  9. it depends what your price range is, i think. if you're on a budget and you run across a cheap bass that plays and sounds great, but looks ugly, i say jump on it!

    but the way i see it, if i'm going to spend upwards of $1500 on a bass, it's going to look how i want it to look, dammit.
  10. i'd play that spalt, i think its pretty mad, not as my main axe, but i'd defiantly play it fer rock and stuff :)

    I think it is always important...looks etc, but becomes less important as you grow, both in age and expericence.

    When i just started out in the world of the Bass, my parents brought me ap-bass copy....i hated it "looks horrible, i don't like fenders", i wanted something that made me feel like picking it up.

    Now, i have a definate tone i want in my head, and the feel of the bass is the most important thing to me, the tone can be doctered to a degree, but not the feel. But looks are still there, i'd never by a Viola bass, i don't care how they sound, they look crap :), neither would i buy a metallic siler bass, i now prefer a nice natural wood grain.

    so, to some up, IMO... Feel > Looks > Tone

    and so in final conclusion.....CUSTOM BASS :D

    gotta go save money and design basses :)

  11. Zirc


    May 13, 2001
    Los Angeles
    lol, you shallow people

    Don't worry, I am too
  12. I would play a beat up bass that played and sounded great. I wouldn't play a bass (often) that looks good but plays lousy, regardless how it sounds.

    However, I think "looks", finish and details are a critical part of any great instrument. A great luther capable of building an instrument that feels and sounds great would never allow the look and finish to detract from the instrument. I believe these folks are true artists.

    Great luthiers sweat EVERY detail. I believe this is true of any great craftsman. "Good enough" is just not part of their language. I appreciate that.

  13. xush


    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    Aesthetics matter somewhat, to me. I don't discount the appearance, but it's not the MOST important factor.

    I used to think of it like a relationship, where usually your first impression is going to be based on appearance; it's what may initially draw you to someone, or make you notice them, but it isn't usually the most important factor as you get to know them.

    But now I can't look at it that way. You can only have 1 spouse at a time. I can't relate to that bass-wise.

    I'd RATHER have a nice-looking bass, but if it's the right one in every other aspect, I wouldn't reject it based on appearance. Heck, I finally got a P...
  14. Looks are important, but are not the ultimate deciding factor. My fretless frnakenbass is BUTT UGLY. The body is spray painted silver, and all dinged up. The neck is ok, but overall, it is the ugliest bass I have. I still play it, but I'm not proud of it by any means, other than it's the first bass I assembled. I just won a bass on ebay that isn't the prettiest thing. It's a fender P clone. Sunburst finish, white pick guard, ugh, and matching sunburst headstock, ew. But the price was right $60. It needs some electrical work done (output jack needs to be rewired, no big deal). It's not the prettiest thing I've seen. I'm picking it up someday next week hopefully. Not the prettiest thing I've seen. But I wanted a sunburst finish. The rest I can deal with. New pickguard, sand off the ugly sunburst veneer on the headstock, and I'll be fine with it.

    OTOH, I got my Yamaha 5er because of the way it looks. It sounds awesome, too. But I didn't know that, since I bought it unplayed. Looks drew me to that bass. My Squier was plain looking. Black finish, white guard. I got bored with the way it looked, so I tossed a black guard on it and a bridge cover. Now it looks sweet.

    I'd say looks are about 50% of what I look for in a bass. Playability and tone make up for the other 50%
  15. I dont think looks matter. for a begginner they do. my last bass is a jack son kelly i hated the odd body shape i went to guitar center for a fender. i liekd the fender so i told the guy to bring it down and whuile i was waiting i picked up the kelly for fun. i hated how it looked then i started playing and its got the best sound ive ever heard. it was used with new emg actives.

    but still my next bass is a fender fretless jazz
  16. crud19


    Sep 26, 2001
    I disagree. I think as you get older, you get a better idea of the asthetic that you enjoy in a bass. As you spend more and more money on a bass, you expect (obviously) more for your money. Part of those expectations include the appearance of the bass. When you get to the point that you're spending over $1000 on a bass, it had better darn well look the way you want it to.
  17. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I agree with this statement 100%.

    I see basses as more than a hunk of wood with wires and magnets that produces sounds. I see it as an extension of you. I need to be comfortable with things that are part of me, and cosmetic would definatley play a role in that.
  18. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    I wish I was so fortunate to demand that, crud. But when I bought a new bass a couple of months ago, I opted for the most plain-jane bass I've ever owned. My other choices were lovelier, all the choices were $1000+, and all were priced comparably. But this homely (to my eye) bass simply was the clear winner when it came to tone.

    Good tone will prod me to practice more than looks any day. It gives me more pleasure. Cosmetics don't generate any paychecks for me.

    If I don't have to compromise tone for appearance, I'll pay a little bit more for cosmetics.

    The situation is analagous to paintings. I'd rather see a great painting hung in an abandoned factory than a good painting hung in an art gallery.

    Fortunately, the bass I'm having built should allow me to have my cake and eat it, too.
  19. richperson


    Mar 20, 2002
    Thanks for all of your comments. I don't mind modest looking instruments, and certainly don't mind instruments that show their experience and age. I do struggle with a relatively new bass that comes in spaceship silver. I'm afraid every time I use it I will feel like I should be in the Buzz Lightyear extravaganza at Disneyland (complete with matching silver suit). I still wonder why quality luthiers select fine wood for their instruments and then paint them up to look like luthite ergodynes.
  20. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    * I would not own a bass that looked great and played like crap

    * I would consider owning a bass that played great, but looked like crap

    * I'm glad that there are enough options available at most price levels that I don't have to compromise on either quality


    James Martin