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Does a High Quality Bass Improve Our Playing?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Zeus_Mutation, Dec 11, 2018.

  1. Zeus_Mutation


    Feb 6, 2010

    I'm hoping to get feedback on sonic truths of bass materials and parts.

    So, I've always struggled with gear and the perception of sonic quality as it equates to pricing/materials. I'm mainly a drummer. I strongly believe in using the highest of quality cymbals while drums can be of significant lessor quality and still sound amazing. Never have I heard the opposite though...

    I play a Squier Matt Freeman P w/Steve Harris Seymour Duncans & upgraded pots. I started with a Squier Affinity Jazz pack. I also dabble on guitar... lucky enough to land a top-o-line Stratocaster. This has every bell and whistle Fender enthusiasts like to boast about. The fit & finish are exceptional. Its acoustic properties are gorgeous... and it feels amazing. This guitar has me asking...

    With a bass... can anyone honestly hear a sonic difference between an Adler & Basswood body? At bass frequencies, does the body wood actually make a noticeable difference? I'm suggesting no.
    I do think mahogany sounds different. I do think maple/rosewood sounds different than maple/maple.
    What about bridges... one high mass versus another... if equally balanced and weighted... which tech is a difference maker?
    Tuners, as long as they stay in tune right?
    How about the nut. Does nut material create a noticeable sonic difference?

    I think if vacuum tested and scientifically analyzed the numbers could say so... yet, I can't help but think... could we ever notice that in a live band setting? I mean with so many tone shaping tools outside of the instrument and being you can choose pickups from wherever. Without getting detailed on music genre and allow generalizing... would anyone notice a Fender custom shop versus a Squier sonic differences? Would anyone know any name brand versus an entry level by sound alone?

    So, my fancy Fender... it so nice I'm careful every time I touch it. Kinda not fun... my Epiphone Les Paul is not as concerning but I'm mindful. Squier, although appreciated. I'm never careful and its available for anyone to handle. My question becomes does having a higher quality bass actually add to my playing or limit it? IDK.

    What have you decided? If you play a $2k bass... how carefree with it are you? If you play an entry bass what bothers you most about it if anything?

    If it matters I'm playing through a Mesa Boogie Prodigy Four: 88 into a Bergantino 4x10 & Mesa Boogie PH 2x10

    jamro217, dmt and Pbassmanca like this.
  2. Torrente Cro

    Torrente Cro

    Sep 5, 2013
    I had to buy better gear just to find out that's it's me, not the gear.
    Now I play the cheapest bass in the world but it's modded to suit my taste. Also have some more expensive basses that get some playtime once in a while.
    In studio or in high profile gigs I suppose it matters, but not for my bar gigs.


    Feb 10, 2016
    Michigan USA
    I once played with someone who had a nice cream U.S. strat which he loved. Someone gave/sold him a 1983 black Squier Strat that had been singed in a house fire. He liked the sound but said it felt kinda crappy to play,like most guitarists he had issues describing things like sound and gear.:D:D. Anyway, i took it home and gave it my standard TLC and set it up basically to standard Fender specs. Took him a whole 3 weeks to sell his beloved American Strat! Not really an answer to the OP's question, but i think you get the drift.
  4. Bass_Thumper


    Oct 20, 2009
    Madison, MS
    As far as does this wood sound different than that wood etc., I believe that it does when you play at home by yourself. As soon as a live drummer comes into the equation, I believe all of that minutia mostly goes out the window so play a bass you like the look and feel of. I have basses ranging from mohogany, alder, Ash and basswood and I believe that basswood is my favorite because it's light but doesn't feel weak and sounds great in a band mix.

    The thing that I've found with basses over 2k (for me that's my Bongo HS 5 and Yamaha Nathan East) is that they provide so much clarity that you can really hear your mistakes. This made clean up any slop in my playing and I believe makes me sound better live.
  5. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Whether any given detail makes a difference is up to you to figure out for yourself. My basses are all pretty expensive but that doesn't stop me playing them. And don't worry too much about your electric: it's way less fragile than an upright (the cheapest of which will likely be more than twice what your electric cost) and players take those to clubs all the time. :)
    jamro217 and mikewalker like this.
  6. Solude


    Sep 16, 2017
    High quality yes, high priced no.
  7. portpc


    May 31, 2011
    The problem with cheap basses is that they are more prone to frequent adjustments/failure due to materials/construction methods.
    I'm talking about basses that are frequently gigged with, not hanging on a wall.Those may stay relatively unchanged forever.

    Some components, pickups being #1 directly effect the sound, others like the nut directly affect the action/playability rather than the sound.
    Having above average pickups and a quality nut can make a huge difference.

    At the end of the day though I'd say simply play whatever your'e happy with,
    I'm off to a Hamptons holiday party gig this eve with a 2nd hand Epiphone EB0....
    FunkyEel, Malafaia, jamro217 and 3 others like this.
  8. And I

    And I Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2009
    Witchtown, MA
    Having the bass set up properly for your playing style (the action where you want it) and having a neck shape and string spacing that is comfortable for your hands / playing style will help you play better, all things being equal. A high quality instrument is usually easier to set up and intonate. Neck shape and string spacing is really all up to your own tastes / preferences.
  9. Maxdusty


    Mar 9, 2012
    Michigan USA
    I agree with the post above. A properly set up bass is really all you need and is a far more important factor in being a better player. So there's a happy medium as to what works best for you, buy a bass with shoddy craftsmanship and inferior parts, that's likely not the ideal instrument - also, you don't need a $2K bass to become a better player, in fact, if you feel you can't play the instrument as you'd like because the value of the bass is on your mind, then that one's not right either. It's an instrument, not something that should be handled with kid gloves. You just need a well made instrument that's suited for you and you're comfortable playing.
    portpc, jamro217, wmmj and 3 others like this.
  10. Lance Bunyon

    Lance Bunyon

    Jul 17, 2018
    Play on junk, sound like junk.
  11. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    I've played and enjoyed $200 and $300 basses.
    Now I own a G&L L2000 and a Reverend Thundergun.
    Am I playing any better with better basses?
    Am I sounding better?
    Am I feeling better?
    Absolutely no question that I am.
    Tbone76, alpan254, portpc and 8 others like this.
  12. saabfender

    saabfender Banned

    Jan 10, 2018
    Yeah sure. It’s that way with all instruments. The better they are, the easier they are to play, the more you can play the way you want to. The audience can certainly hear the difference between working your axe and getting what you’re after versus playing something you’re fighting.
  13. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Hillsdale, Portland
    There’s a threshold for quality materials and build.
    MM’s Stingrays are an excellent example of a timeline of lesser quality.
    It’s how you feel about your bass and by extension yourself too.
    All my basses are mid $$ but solid players and I think of myself as the same
    Kirk Bryant, smogg, spvmhc and 3 others like this.
  14. Zeus_Mutation


    Feb 6, 2010
    Awesome stuff everyone. I appreciate all the feedback...
    jamro217 likes this.
  15. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    lost angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    To quote my attorney ex-wife, "it depends." $300 buys you a perfectly gig-worth bass these days. Do a setup on it and you're off to the races. Is a $600 bass better? Probably has some better materials. Is a $1200 even better? Probably - likely slightly better materials and more attention to detail. Is a $10K bass even better? Sure - you're getting the best materials that you can find, and a lot of hands-on work from very talented builders. Is it worth it? Depends on what someone wants out of an instrument.

    Another factor is what you are trying to do on the bass. In some of my gigs, I actually will play on the 24th fret, so that is something that figures into what I want in a bass. I'll also comp chords from time to time, so I want a fairly low action and a bass that "speaks" clearly. What I have found with boutiques is they tend to be a bit more articulate and accentuate your technique - for better or for worse. Sloppy technique will typically sound better on a garden variety P-bass than a boutique, because the instrument is reproducing everything you do. I can say for a fact that I noticed shortcomings in my playing when I got my first Fodera that were much less noticeable on other instruments. So that means I can either woodshed to sound better or get rid of the bass. I chose the former.

    All that said, diminishing returns is a fact of life, so the more you spend, you start to reach a point where you're not getting huge improvements. For some that break point is $500, for others $5K (around $1500 seems to be a somewhat middle-ground figure).

    And yes, I gig my expensive basses regularly. I have instrument insurance, and I figure if a gig is safe for me it is safe for my bass.
  16. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Higher quality basses (which generally equates with higher $) tend to be better at capturing more detail. Having every nuance of your playing come through very clearly is a double-edged sword; you can play really expressively and add the subtle touches that really make a line come to life like a little vibrato here, dig in for a little more fret growl there, etc., but it also very clearly lays every flaw in your playing bare.

    So I would say that a high quality bass will improve your playing, but not necessarily by making it easier. It'll let you know where you need to improve, and it'll reward you immensely when you do.
    dpaulb, portpc, Bob Growler and 8 others like this.
  17. dxb


    Dec 25, 2016
    I'd say this is true for amps, not so much for basses though.
    TrustRod and 40Hz like this.
  18. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly. Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    Ergonomics is very important to me. I want to feel comfortable playing. So I spend extra bucks to get a bass that is relatively light in weight and has a neck with dimensions that my hands feel comfortable with. If I could get the qualities that are important to me in a less expensive instrument, I'd change over in a minute. I've run through about a dozen instruments in the last four years (oddly enough, around the time I became active on tb...hmmm?) and only two fit well, and only one fit really well, and it's what I'm playing in my avatar pic.
    portpc, bebi, wmmj and 2 others like this.
  19. bearhart74

    bearhart74 Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2009
    if it makes you practice more then yes
    Coolhandjjl, ELG60, alpan254 and 13 others like this.
  20. symbolic_acts


    May 24, 2004
    makes you practice more, might be able to do fast/stretched out stuff easier.
    r10 likes this.

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