Cheapest pro-grade bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Blackbird, Mar 27, 2002.

  1. Blackbird

    Blackbird Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Over the past few days, I've been wondering where the line between "pro" and "amateur" lies. If one considered an instrument "pro-level" solely on the merit of its sound, a MIM Fender, especially the ones with Deluxe electronics, would be adequate in most situations. Sure, Upright bassists usually have to pay upwards of $3000 or so for a good instrument, but the cutoff line for electrics, from my observations, seems to be below $1000, topping at around $1500. Anything that costs much more than that seems to be icing on the cake. I have seen photos of bassists in places like Cuba doing fine on Steinberger Spirits and Aria Pros.

    Sure, some people drive Rolls-Royces, but one can get around quite comfortably on a Caddilac, or a Honda. With basses, the difference seems to be even less pronounced, since instruments are even more personal than cars. Some people eschew Alembics in favor of Fenders. I find my stock Peavey TL-6 is as much bass as I need, and while the tone doesn't make me hop with joy all the time, it still sounds great and sits in the mix really well, both live and in recordings, which is more than can be said for a lot of highticket basses. This thought is wreaking a bit of havoc in my collection, as my higher priced basses feel a bit like ballast.

    Anyway, here's the question: Supposing you had a high-profile gig, which bass do you think is the minimum a pro can settle for?

    Edit: Typos
  2. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    I think budget basses improved a lot in the last years, so I guess you can survive with pretty much any bass in the 250-300$ range and upwards, especially if you kick in a few $$ for better pickups and maybe better electronics. But most active electronics are at least usable nowadays.

    And I've seen guys smoke on cheap axes on a lot of gigs, e.g. a Hohner Steinberger copy.
  3. I think It depends on the bass. Like, I would DEFINITELY do a high profile gig (if i was good enough) with a MTD Kingston, which costs in the realm of $500.

    On the other hand, I would definitely not gig with a Ibanez SR1000, which costs around twice the Kingston. I think the vast majority of basses above $1K are gig-worthy, and they really depend on your style, the music you are playing, your hands, etc.

    Like for example, John Turner's 7's and 8's are very high-quality Conklin customs, but they really aren't necessary for the music I play, nor do I think I'd be able to play them in the first place (tight string spacing, wide necks). But for what John does, they are helpful AND necessary (he needs the range and chordal qualities that exist on a 7 and 8). I think that is part of what make bass such a beautiful thing; it can vary so much and still kick so much ass.

  4. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    The newest MIM Jazz(with the reverse wound bridge pickup) and the MIM P bass are both basses that I could make do with, and play all of my gigs, and sound good. The MTD Kingston is probably the lowest price 5 I feel the same way about. The Kingston and the MIM Jazz 4 would both hold their own with much higher priced axes, if you add a good preamp. For a little more $$$, from what I have heard about the Lakland Skyline, for $700 - $800, depending on number of strings, you can get a 55-01 that will give a lot of high end basses a run for their money.
  5. absinthe

    absinthe Guest

    Jan 20, 2002
    Great Britain
    Interesting question and I'm sure that everyone has an idea of their "dream rig". I believe that, while some basses definitely sound and handle better than others, a pro could make just about anything sound good.

    So, I think it's a relative situation - relative to the talent of the bass player and what's available. (A saying about "poor workmen blaming their tools" springs to mind about now!)
    For instance # 1 - I could probably make the most expensive bass out there sound like an excuse for firewood.
    For instance # 2 - Sting could probably pick up a cheap-off-the-rack four string and make it sing to make your heart bleed.

    Thing is, basses of today are made so much better in all aspects than they were in years past: body and neck wood, finishes, electronics, pickups - the lot. Which means your cheapo bass is, by yesterday's standards, a relatively decent piece of equipment.

    Hypothetical:- if you took an average well-made entry-level bass of today and travelled back in time to meet some of your heros from the 60's and 70's, you'd probably have an instrument to equal theirs....
    ....and if you were to take an average, well-made mid-range bass of today back in time, you'd probably be hailed like Moses coming down from the mountain with the stone tablets!

    Thing is, we still respect, admire and try to emulate bass players of old when a lot of them were playing live and recording with the equivalent of today's cheapest "knock offs".

    If you pay £10, £100 or £1000 for a bass, if it'll stand up to the rigors of gigging and you get it to respond the way you want it to, then that's as pro as you need, in my humble opinion. Thing is, most professional musicians aren't earning huge money so they're less likely to "risk" an expensive bass out on a gig - and we all know that accidents happen on gigs. So, when you mean "professional", are you talking touring/recording/TV interviewed artists or the majority of musicians, the "small time" pros, I wonder?

    Now, I don't know if I answered your question or not, but what you raised was certainly interesting, and this is my tuppenceworth anyhow. :cool:
  6. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone.

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    For a "high-profile" gig, a U.S.A. Fender P-Bass. Probably used by more pros than any other bass.
    For a "not very high-profile" gig, anything goes. 1st call session bassists have used anything from $150 Danelectros to $the-sky's-the-limit boutique basses.
    Pros will usually choose the right tool for the job (regardless of the price of the tool), and can usually get the job done with the tools that are available to them (i.e. the bassists in Cuba).
  7. I think the difference is between a high end bass and a low end bass, instead of a pro to amateur.

    Reason being, if you take my bass for example, it's custom made here with very cheap labor. It cost probably about less than US$500 including electronics. Does it mean it's not considered a pro because it's cheaper? Probably not. As you've mentioned, many pro players do not necessarily choose an expensive bass(ex.alembic over fender as you mentioned above) over cheaper ones. That is simply because they're profesional enough to know what they want to accomodate their styles, or deliver the sound they were required to create for their gigs. It could be a gig in your local starbucks, or laying bass track for major record deal.

    Even if manufacturers or stores differentiate gears by using the term "pro" and "amateur", they're simply seperating the expensive ones and the cheaper ones I think. :D
  8. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    Great topic Big Wheel

    I think a pro can settle for an Mim deluxe active jazz. Especially if he's using a good rig. Then you add in the fact that he'll be either mic'd, running directly into the board (or both) and eq'd again there as well.
  9. For a long time now the answer to this question for me has been MIA Fender.

    Full stop.

  10. CS


    Dec 11, 1999

    I would agree but I played this JV Squier yesterday...
  11. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    With the right endorsement deal... just about anything;)
  12. Blues Bass 2

    Blues Bass 2 Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2001
    Davenport Iowa
    I've had a couple of MIM Jazzes,a standard and a deluxe.The standard had a really good neck and played as well as any other U.S.built bass I'd had. I changed the bridge to a Shaller,the pickups to EMG JVs and put in EMG BT controls.I would put that bass up against almost any.
    I sold that bass to get a 5-string(Kubicki).The Kubicki was a great bass but I missed my Jazz.I bought a MIM Deluxe Jazz thinking I wouldn't have to modify it to get what I wanted.I used it on some gigs and it worked fine for a few months but then the neck started warping.Fender covers this under warranty but it took months.
    The point is that while these basses(MIM) can be pro axes, quality isn't as consistant as the American made of the same models IMHO.
  13. Blackbird

    Blackbird Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    I know what you mean, but I was hoping (praying) that people would be flexible enough to take their local currencies into account when answering the question.
  14. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    It seems to me that people get caught up in the appeal of the name more than the bass behind it. Here's an example: many people, if money's no object, would sooner take an MTD over a MIM Jazz. Why is that?

    Similarly, people I've heard from are dedicated just as much to their Stingrays, Alembics, Foderas, Spectors, Warwicks, and so forth. How many of these people would prefer to save the money and buy a MIM Jazz or P-bass because it "fits the bill"?

    I'm not totally convinced there's a huge difference in manufacturing "quality" between a MIM Jazz and some of the other basses that we call "high-end". But, those differences that do exist, can we pinpoint 'em all? Or is it just some kind of image thing?
  15. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    In a lot of cases that's true but...

    Speaking for myself (and anyone who thinks exactly as I do;)) it's not an image thing at all. I can hear a difference. I can feel a difference.

    I really like my L2000E... that throws the image thing right out the window for me.

  16. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Well, Brad, you defy common marketing and advertising assumptions!:D

    Anyway, I'm sure your L2000E is a great bass. What separates it from a $4,500 Fodera, though? Do you like it any differently (read: better or worse) than your MTD?
  17. Tony Kanal of NO Doubt gigged, im not sure if he still did, with bottom of the range Yamaha BB 4 strings. So, if its good enough for him (and he's better than me IMO) then its good enough for me.

  18. rhythmrod


    Oct 27, 2001
    Austin, Texas
    Very good topic!!
    I was given a "Ric" back in 1985, hated it! Sold it last year for a little over 1K. I used the cash to purchase 2 "cheapo" basses, 1 12 string and a fretless 5 string, neither bass cost more than $600.00. I use those two basses along with a MIM Fender 4 string on all my gigs, never had a problem. I've been playing bass for over 24 years, been told by other pro musicians that I'm very good, although I consider myself competent. I can afford virtually any high dollar bass on the market today, but there is no need when the "cheapo's" can do the job. I feel that talent level is the key.
  19. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I know this may sound like BS but they both do what they do extremely well. The G&L is just plain old phat, that bass moves some serious air. The MTD is so nice sometimes it's scary but it won't do what the G&L can do naturally and vice versa. This is a serious apples-to-mangos kind of comparison, a real thoroughbred vs. a crafty veteran, a 6 vs. a 4, etc. They both shine in their own way.

    This basically describes most of my basses... there's very little redundancy, even my fretlesses are very different from each other.
  20. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    IMO, there is nothing at all about the sound that makes a bass a professional bass. If you get payed to play it, it is a professional bass. Everyone has a different perception of sound.

    Beyond that it comes to type of sound. If you are a pro and want that bolt-on Fender-model sound, then there are plenty out there that do it. If you want hi-fi, get hi-fi.

    I bought the Q5 because I wanted an ultra-clean tight R&B, contemporary sound. There are others out there that do it just as well.

    Thing about being a pro is you have to have something that is going to survive the beating of the loads and unloads and work exactly as you expect it work every night when you plug it in. This is where cost is an issue.

    $200 basses aren't known for their dependability. Everything from pots, and jacks to nut materials, bridges etc. was cut to make it be able to be sold for $200.

    But if I was playing old style, R&B Motown stuff again, I wouldn't think twice about going out with a STOCK MIM P bass. As long as I had four or five of them to take with me in the road.

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