Bass starter packs for 4th-8th graders

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by RutherfordBrave, Oct 13, 2011.

  1. My wife is a middle school band teacher in local catholic schools, and she teaches a lot of beginner bassists in addition to first time woodwind and brass players. Think slobber and three stooges, and you have a good picture of her typical day...

    Every year people go to the music store and get screwed over when they're sent home with $500 of bass gear that is either low quality or not a good fit for the kid. I've been recommending short scale basses, which she says have helped the 4th graders immensely, but this year there are lots more parents asking "is Rogue a good brand" and "my uncle's neighbor's dog walker says I should use [...]" So here's my question, TB:

    If you were to start out a 4th grader on bass, knowing that he/she has to carry that instrument AND AMP to/from school every day they have band, what would you suggest? Remember that these are totally naive parents, and they also don't want to spend a lot of money on something their kids might quit in a few months.

    My first thoughts:
    Squier Jaguar SS ($169) -- short scale, decent build quality
    Ampeg BA-108 ($99) -- lightweight-ish, versatile, not Fender...

    Add another $60 for a cable, strap, gig bag and tuner and it's $317 shipped. I haven't had a chance to play either of these, but I would love to hear opinions from anyone who has experience with other inexpensive stuff that can be delivered to the door, taken out of the box, and played without going to a luthier to get it set up properly (I'm wary of SX, mainly...). Bring on your opinions!!
  2. I find the Jag uncomfortable, and when I started playing in the summer between fifth and sixth grades, I thought my Squier P bass was perfect. But then, I realized, the scale was so long and a pain. Then, I found my Hofner, and loved it. Granted, it's $770. They could look for a used Icon, which new, goes for $300-ish. Used, maybe a lot less. The amp, I would go with a Fender Rumble 15. Sure, it's not the best, but I had issues with Ampeg's combos.

    Fender Rumble 15 V2 15W 1x8 Bass Combo Amp: Shop Bass & Other Musical Instruments | Musician's Friend

    I still use my Rumble 15 as my practice amp, when I play by myself. It works if you need to hear yourself. Those are just my two suggestions. The strap, is that really necessary? They can sit and play, can't they? Why not buy a couple tuners and keep one at school and one at home? They're cheap.
  3. mdogs

    mdogs Supporting Member

    I have a 10 year old that has been playing about 1 year. He wanted no part of short scale basses, fine with me as far as I am concerned he is most likely going to out grow it anyway (yes I know there are plenty of adults playing short scale instruments). When I took him to buy a guitar, he hated the Squires and loved Ibanez because of the skinny neck. Plus, IMO, the quality of the Ibanez basses is leaps and bounds above the Squires. As far as the amp goes, who knows...
  4. There are at least two of those kits on craigslist at any given time where I live, for very cheap. I've been thinking about a beater P...
  5. MaxSBM


    Oct 10, 2011
    This guy is on to it. I bought an ibanez starter pack, still use the ibanez, sounds GREAT for the money you pay, the amp isn't a great sound, but atleast it hasnt broken yet, and it is fine for starting, i used it for a year. The lead it came with broke in a few weeks, but that is easily replaced, comes with a soft case, picks, tuner. But the ibanez really is great.
  6. soulman969

    soulman969 Inactive

    Oct 6, 2011
    Englewood, Colorado
    And if that's true then here's an Ibanez Bass Package that's similar in price to the Squire Affinity Package;

    Ibanez IJXB190 Electric Bass Jumpstart Pack: Shop Bass & Other Musical Instruments | Musician's Friend

    And here's a stand alone short scale Ibanez Bass; $180

    Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro Short-Scale Bass Guitar: Shop Bass & Other Musical Instruments | Musician's Friend

    Ibanez has a very nice little 15w amp with an 8" (although the ad calls it a 1x10 so I'd confirm) that would be a nice match to the bass for $100

    Add another $50 for a strap, tuner, cable, and gig bag and you can build your own package for around $330. If they wait for a sale they can save another 10%-15% and bring the cost below $300. If it were my students this is what I would do and avoid the pre-packaged deals.

    I bought an Ibanez guitar amp for my 8 year old nephew for about the same priced as this bass amp and it was a very nice sounding little amp. Hard to go wrong with this gear for around $300. :)
  7. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Ibanez sr300 and a peavey or acoustic, 10" or 12" combo amp. No rogue is not a good brand, neither is SX, They both require far to much work to make decent and they use soft frets, poor build, and generally poor electronics. As far as ampeg goes, theyve never impressed. None have been able to nicely handle high output basses withoutn sounding wimpy and farty for open E string.

    If the Ibanez sr300 is too expensive, one of the lower price ESP Ltd B series basses.

    I dont know of any compfortable, balances well standing, short scale basses in the $300 and under price range. Unless squire made one with extended upper horn. Dont buy a bass for kids that neck dives. Avoid all that dont have extended upper horn. The common trick of move front strap pin to neck plate simple trades one problem for another. That of the bass or guitar wanting to pitch over forward. And it doenst help neck dive that much either in most cases.
  8. mdogs

    mdogs Supporting Member

    I probably should have been a little more specific, the Ibanez that I bought him was an SRX series, not part of any starter pack. I am not saying that the starter packs are bad, I don't know I never tried one. I do know that the SRX we bought will be usable for him for a long long time, the thing plays great and sounds good enough!!
  9. soulman969

    soulman969 Inactive

    Oct 6, 2011
    Englewood, Colorado
    That GSR20 Ibanez Short Scale has the same body shape as the SR300 but with a mahogony body and a P/J pickup configuration. The SR300 alone is $300 and the amp and accesories would add another $150-$200, so about $500 total.

    If the student is older and wants a standard scale bass and a little more effective amp and is willing to spend that much then your suggestion is perfect. :)
  10. MaxSBM


    Oct 10, 2011
    Ah I see, well, My model, (GSR190 I believe) is a great starter if you don't want to spend as much as you would on an SRX.
  11. The local music shops, + Best Buy, GC & others sell hundreds, maybe thousands, of these starter packs every holiday season. X - percentage are bought for kids who aren't interested, or whose only interest is to look cool, then the enthusiasm wanes, & on CL they go. Usually hardly touched, and way cheaper than new. But, as with everything used, do your homework before you plunk down the cash...
  12. Makes me sad to see instruments go to homes where they won't be loved. :(
  13. This was the exact setup I was going to buy my 4th grader last week. I had thought about getting a regular 34" scale bass so he could grow into it, but when I saw how much trouble he was having on the 1st and 2nd frets, I decided that he is more apt to really get into playing if he was successful right off the bat. I ended up getting the Jag, strap, gigbag and book for $225. The bass fits his small hands and skinny body perfectly and has no trouble pressing the strings down or reaching around to fret on the E string. Like mdogs said, there are plenty of adults playing short scales and he can always keep this one when he grows up more or go to a regular scale if it's more comfortable.

    I almost went with the Ampeg over the Fender Rumble of the same price, because the Rumble I tried in the store sounded terrible when we cranked it up. But I was able to pick up a Crate BT1000 that I borrow from a friend for rehearsals in his band for $75, so having played that amp, I went that way. It has a tuner built into it which is nice.

    As for a strap, I think yes everyone should use one. I always have a hard time with the bass slipping around without a strap holding it in position.
  14. Ronnietex


    Aug 11, 2011
    I have some high end bases. I have a Fender Squier Jaguar and do not see how you could possibly go wrong with it. It's not a Fodera or Spector, but not much is. It will take a kid a Long way in my humble opinion. I dont know about the amp much, as all of mine are pretty expensive. I got the Jag when I had to go somehwere I dont want to take an expensive bass. It's really a fun little bass. I put flatwounds on it, but it's fine just the way it comes. Just set the intonation if needed.
  15. tedsalt


    Aug 5, 2010
    Kansas City
    Not sure about amps, but for starter basses in shortscale (30" scale), they could try a used Squier Affinity Bronco Bass. This would be minimal quality, but sizewize would be much better than any 34" scale bass for this age range. For a little more money and much better quality (and less commonly available) I would go with the Squier Vintage Modified Mustang Bass or the Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass. The Mustang actually uses a through-body bridge, giving it a better anchor for the strings and probably more sustain.

    Craigslist would be a good place to find these. Also, one could go to Guitar Center Used Gear, and have it shipped from any GC store in the U.S. GC may recommend paying for a gig bag to protect the bass during shipment, but this could be returned to a local GC upon receipt. I've purchased a used Squier bass thru GC in this manner with excellent results. Do a national search under category: bass for bronco, mustang or jaguar. You'll see lots of less expensive but decent basses. Call 'em and ask if the neck is straight, and if everything works as designed.

    The Bronco is definitely on the low end though. The Mustang and Jaguar are basses that one would keep, whereas the Bronco is definitely beginner quality, something that one would want to upgrade from down the road, and as such, not as inspiring ...
  16. ehque


    Jan 8, 2006
    Group buys like these are the best time to go for stuff like SX, imo. I've been in the situation where we mass-bought yamaha classical guitars for my guitar club, and then have a few experienced guys setup and restring the whole lot.

    TL;DR, buy cheap stuff reputed to set up well, then get that done en masse. SX is perfectly servicable if set up properly.
  17. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    There is an issue with this range of grades; 4th graders are still little kids who would normally be overwhelmed by a standard scale bass; an 8th grader will normally have hit the puberty growth spurt and be better able to handle it.

    Is it possible to have amps secured at the school so the kids don't have to haul them? Kids have enough stress on their spines with all the school books they have to carry.

    Personally, I'd vote in favor of contacting Rondo to place a group order of SX's and having a tech from your local guitar shop give them all setups at one fell swoop. They already have bulk packs of acoustics and might be willing to set something up for basses. Their short-scale bass packs start at $119 and standard-scale at $129. Might even make sense to have the school buy a set of them based on a typical year's use and rent them to families with an option to buy at the end of the year.
  18. Great comments, everyone. I probably should have asked something more along the lines of "which inexpensive SS bass" for a 4th grader, I suppose. The biggest hurdle to overcome is the fact that parents see $300 as a whole lot of money to throw away if their kid quits, and typically do them a huge injustice by spending as little money as possible on instruments.

    A number of the kids ended up with Bronco basses last year, and they seem to be pretty decent to learn on. For $30 more than an SX and no need to take them to a luthier, I think it's probably well worth it... Non-musical parents are notorious for having no idea what is going on when it comes to their kids learning an instrument, so the simpler the better...

    Seems to be a pretty resounding "no" on the Ampeg, which I guess doesn't entirely surprise me. Not everything can be my fliptop :) That Crate with the tuner sounds interesting...but because they have to bring it to school I don't think it would work b/c it's a 15"... Too big for a little kid to handle.

    Seems like the gist of what everyone has said so far is:

    Basses --
    - Fender SS are decent options
    - Ibanez SS/LS are best bang for the buck
    - SX if they have someone do a setup

    Amps --
    - Ampeg=no
    - Ibanez maybe? (I like the tiltback design for this scenario)
    - Others??
  19. That would be nice... I won't go into the details of why that can't happen, but it's too bad it isn't an option. Life would be better if neo prices stayed low and class D penetrated the practice amp business -- a 10" 50w amp is ideal, but it would really be nice if they went from 20ish pounds to about 10...