Denial, Depression, Acceptance. Three Stages of "Not the Right Bass"

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Jeremy Crockett, Apr 19, 2021.

  1. Jeremy Crockett

    Jeremy Crockett Supporting Member

    On Saturday I had an interesting experience. I realize that I am not the first, nor will I be the last to make this discovery but I just wanted to write out my XXX moment to (hopefully) get some kind of reasonable perspective and to walk through the steps to reduce the chance of it happening again. Again, it's not a tragedy by any means, just an "Oh! I see, now!" moment.

    I have been wanting a Stingray since the late '80s. The first cognizant appreciation I had for them was John Glasscock's use of one on the Jethro Tull album, Heavy Horses. Admittedly, the "Real Thing" has been out of my financial reach.

    In the meantime, I did get into the position of being able to purchase what I thought would be a serviceable alternative; the SBMM Stingray Ray24 CA. I did what I thought was as much research as I could considering the limitations of COVID-19. I listened over and over again to online reviews and samples of the instrument. I did have to opportunity to see one at our local Guitar Center and was very impressed with the build quality and feel of the bass.

    Eventually, I picked one up from AMS.

    Over the months, I found myself playing my $229 Squier PJ far more often than I did the 'Ray. I could never quite put my finger on why this was the case. Why was I reaching for the cheaper bass so often? Why was the "thing" that I was so certain I desired just not "doing it" for me?

    Maybe I just was not comfortable on the Stingray? I had never had it set up so I took it to a local guy and had him change the strings and to a proper setup. He absolutely loved the bass (but no tech is going to bad-mouth a customer's ax if he wants that customer to come back, right?).

    So, there I was on Saturday -- the Stingray freshly back with a proper setup and better strings and for the life of me, I could NOT coax any tone of out it that I liked. I fiddled with the amp controls, fiddled with the controls on the bass, NOTHING!

    "Maybe the amp is the problem", I think. "Maybe I just 'bought in' to the Ampeg hype"... "I will try the Squier and that will sound just as disappointing"...

    MOTHER OF... There is the sound!

    Man, am I stupid...

    " What's wrong with me?", I continue to prod at myself. The Stingray had active electronics, that's supposed to be better, right? The Ray cost more, that means something... right? The Stingray was not exactly my dream bass, but it was close... Yes?

    Is it doing what I want it to? No.

    I need to sell it -- WHAT?!?
    Sell it and move on, it's not a big deal -- But, but I wanted it!
    Stop it, you're being ridiculous -- But...
    Stop! -- *sigh*
    You told yourself "one in, one out". There is a Gretsch on the way, sell this and pay off the Gretsch.

    Again, none of this is a huge deal. But I hope it's interesting enough to share, having (personally) never gone through this kind of experience with equipment before. I have always had only one bass and made do with it.

    I certainly learned a couple of valuable things: First, I am not an "active electronics" guy. It's not that there is anything bad with the quality of the SBMM, in fact, it is a great, well-made bass it's just not "my sound".
    Second, I might be a "Fender guy" after all. I have not had a ton of basses in my lifetime but I keep going back to them (yes, I realize that Squire is not a Fender in the truest sense of the word).
    And lastly, flats on a P all day. Man, there is nothing like it.

    I am still wanting to try out a genuine late '70s Stingray, so I need to start saving for that eventuality. In the meantime, I plan on playing the daylights out of my budget Squier and appreciating what I have already. I think that should be regarding whatever we have, yes?

    Thank you for your indulgence.
  2. MCS4

    MCS4 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    I think that's a great lesson in trying to pay attention to what your hands and ears are telling you, as opposed to what you think "should" be right.

    However, I will say that it might be a bit premature to entirely disregard active electronics (and possibly also Rays) entirely, unless you have a fair amount of experience with other basses that aren't discussed in your post. I had completely written off five-string basses for the better part of 20 years until I just recently found one that happened to "click" with me for various reasons, and I can't put this one down.
    Novarocker, Ronzo, One Way and 14 others like this.
  3. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Don’t be so hard on yourself!

    I went through the same thing with a proper Stingray about 20 years ago. It wasn’t the tone, though, it was the neck. For me, acceptance comes when I realize that the physical part of the instrument is just not working.

    Having a bass that feels good but is maybe not your first choice for tone is not a terrible thing. At least you’ve got a bass if and when you need “that tone”.

    I reach for my Fender four string PJ much more often than my SBMM Ray5, but at least I know I have an active 5er when the circumstances call for it. Same with guitars - I’ve got got a PRS dual HB, a Telecaster and a Gretsch 6120N. All different tools for different jobs.
    Shafty likes this.
  4. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    I am the complete opposite. I love every bass I get my hands on. Sometimes I need to lower the volume and dig in harder or raise the volume and play softer. Sometimes I need to tweak the EQ. But I love them all......Passive, Active, frets, no frets.
  5. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    after doing all that creation stuff I think God spent His first Sunday playing a P with flats
  6. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    You just might not be into the sound of a humbucker near the bridge. The bass tone on Tull's album may have been heavily processed and not really a reflection of what a 'ray inherently sounds like. Pickup winding and placement have an enormous impact on sound. P/J tones are as different from the classic 'ray sound as Brazil nuts are from blueberries.
  7. ClusterFlux

    ClusterFlux Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    TL,DR ;)

    To me, buying a bass that doesn't work out has one phase: Annoyance.
  8. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    Well another thing too, that finding might not be final. I've had that experience any number of times, but later on after I'd grown more as a player, I'd revisit the old boy-meets-bass->gets married->nasty divorce bass and rediscovered it, and actually liked it the next time.

    The Rick 400x is the example I'm thinking of. It was my dream bass back in the 80's. I finally got the opportunity to get a 4001, but sometime around 3 days later, I was wishing I hadn't gotten it. It hurt like hell to play and I sounded terrible on it. But I was a broke college student and I remained broke for many years after that so I was stuck with it. I gigged with it nearly my whole gigging career. It broke my arm and I couldn't ever get clean notes out of it.

    But many years later, after I'd quit gigging and still did a lot more playing, I had a 4003 that stayed in its case for years after I bought it. Took it out, and played it and loved it. I don't have it anymore but I'd love to have another one.

    A lot of improvements in my technique and playing later, in other words, I began to like it again.

    So, a remarriage some time later after a divorce does happen, after you go through a lot of changes in the intervening time. Maybe after a while you'll pick that bass up again and go, ah ok, now I see what I was missing all this time! :)

    Alivefor5 likes this.
  9. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Sometimes you have to have enough confidence in yourself as a bass player to accept that what you actually do like isn’t necessarily the things you’ve been told you should like. :)
  10. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    I've learned that you should not disregard anything entirely. I've also GASed for certain equipment for years until I was in the position to pull the trigger - to learn that it's not what I thought it would be. Quite often, after such a purchase (and subsequent sell) of expensive gear, I approached the topic with an open mind (and a pocket full of cash) and found gold where I'd never have looked before. I don't think anyone is a pure active or passive guy. I've owned an active bass that sounded so organic and had the preamp working in such a subtle manner that you could sell it as a passive (with a lot of knobs) and people would believe you.
    I've also acquired two passive basses in a row after playing active basses exclusively since the mid nineties.
    petrus61 and JRA like this.
  11. nickpc


    Jul 23, 2012
    North Carolina
    I had my hands on a used Ric 4003, as near as mint as I've seen a used instrument, and the price was good, but I passed based on the number of people here who just couldn't love them. I didn't need to sink that much money into something I wasn't sure I'd love.

    Years later I played around with a '78 P for a long while, trying to decide if I wanted to pull the string on it or not. What finally made me walk away was the fact that I've NEVER bonded with a P-neck (I can tolerate my T-40, but at <10% the price...), and for as great as it sounded I knew I'd find myself disliking that wide neck. The next bass I touched became my Sadowsky - I'm very happy I passed on the P!

    And looking at my collection I'm pretty disposed to Fender and FSOs. Almost exclusively.

    Learning and knowing what you like and don't like is one of those signs of maturity. Am I closed off to a Ric or P? No. But I know I need to really do my homework if I'm going to step into that territory.
  12. Try centering all of the tonal controls, then spend some time with it. People who aren't accustomed to active instruments have an inclination to turn everything up, which sounds awful.

    And if you decide after that that you still don't like it, you at least know that you tried.

    JRA, N4860 and msb like this.
  13. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    It's more heartbreaking when the "not the right bass" is your old bass that used to be your perfect bass.
  14. N4860


    Mar 28, 2017
    As an avid Ray player, I would also suggest starting with the eq controls centered and then using cuts rather than boosting to sculpt your tone. At least that's how I like to do it with my SR Specials.
  15. rockdoc11


    Sep 2, 2000
    Ha! The OP made me grin.

    Over the last thirty years, I've bought and sold StingRays three times, because I so much wanted to like them and I was so sure I could make it work for me.

    In each case, after a few days or weeks I had to sadly admit to myself, "It just ain't happening here." I loved the look, and loved the sound. But I simply could not bond with these beauties.

    Some things just aren't meant to be.
    N4860, JRA, BassBuzzRS and 4 others like this.
  16. Bonecat


    Oct 22, 2005
    Similar thing here. I sold both of the SR’s I bought. Love the Stingray tone, but just can’t get comfortable with them. Great basses, but not great basses for me.
  17. That's me with 6/7 string basses. I had a lovely Conklin Groove Tools 7-string and played wonderfully and had just killer tones, but gave me tendonitis, so I sold it. Then I bought a cheap LTD 6-string that played great. Replaced the OEM preamp with a Mike Pope FlexCore and good god that thing would sing. Sold it because of the close string spacing. I now have a lovely Ibanez BTB846SC that, well, I just can't play worth a damn because too many strings for my brain. It's for sale. It scares me to think I'll want another down the road and ultimately sell it.

    EddiePlaysBass and rockdoc11 like this.
  18. Jamvan

    Jamvan The Bassist Formerly Known As Meh Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2014
    I went through a similar experience and came away realizing that I just don't like the sound of the alnico pickups/preamp in the Sterling Ray's (I had a 2 band Ray34 Classic and a 3 band Ray34 before they changed the models (see pic)) and my ears just never bonded with the tones. I fiddled. I tweaked. I changed entire signal paths/amps/cabs and it just always sounded...plasticky? While absolutely stellar to play, the sounds just left me flat.

    FullSizeRender 38.jpg

    The good news is, now you know what you don't like!
  19. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    If you're looking for a support group,'re already here. Have a seat, wait for your turn.

    "Hi, I'm Jeremey, and...I'm a Fender guy"

    "Hi, Jeremy!"
    EddiePlaysBass, JRA, mexicant and 3 others like this.
  20. thabassmon


    Sep 26, 2013
    New Zealand
    Not every famous bass is for every player. I have tried multiple examples of many well known basses and very few of them do I like.

    I like players that use them, but not the basses themselves, I came to the realization a long time ago it's the player not the equipment that appeals to me. So I've learnt to forget about brand, price and if a well known player uses them (because I ain't them), I judge an instrument on how I like the sound and feel. For me that's all that matters, it could be something odd, cheap, expensive, whatever but if I can't get the sounds I want out of an instrument then I don't want the instrument.

    That really helps kill GAS. Otherwise if I got every bass I thought was (looked) cool, they'd be glorified ornaments and only good for bragging rights. Two things I could not care less about.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2021
    EddiePlaysBass and JettBlaq like this.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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    Jul 27, 2021

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