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Electric Bass for Upright Player

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by turf3, Apr 2, 2014.

  1. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    So, let's talk about going the other way.

    I've been playing upright for about three years now. My background is saxophone, so I have no background on electric bass. As with many other people, there are situations where it is really really difficult to deal with a double bass. Typically for me this is either an issue of transportation, or of a very restricted space in which to play. So, I am thinking about getting a solid body electric bass.

    I play mostly bluegrass and a traditional jazz. I am not playing at a very high level (although I am having a great time, and I think I'm improving every day). I don't think I need to invest $1500+ in a super duper US made all the bells and whistles electric bass, nor do I want to.

    What would the group here think about something like the Squier Precision Bass starter kit, with careful adjustment of string heights, fretboard relief, etc., and a set of flatwound strings - maybe with some foam rubber under the strings to cut the ringing? I am confident I can make adjustments on an electric bass; I have thirty years in mechanical engineering and have completely rebuilt all types of equipment and musical instruments (although I am not planning to do anything too wild with my double bass!) Anyway, a bass like that is cheap enough that even in the worst case scenario I would not be losing much.

    Would a bass like that be adequately playable for root-fifth and walkups, or a little 4-4 walking on a trad jazz tune, given that I am playing at a very amateur level? Is the build quality of these bottom-feeder basses so low that I need to bump up the budget to get something usable?

  2. experimental bassist

    experimental bassist

    Mar 15, 2009
    The cheapest Squier bass today is light years beyond the stuff I started out on 30 something years ago and with a good setup and set of strings could easily be the first and last bass any amateur/weekend warrior bass player would ever need.

    The build quality will be fantastic. The components will be adequate, but easily upgradable.

    The only downside I can think of with any Squier, and believe me I'm stretching to think of something, is the tone may not be as brilliant or vintage or deep or what-have-you as the so-and-so "high end model" with the brilliant or vintage or deep or what-have-you pickups and pots and electronics, but hey, all that stuff is upgradable and would drop right in a Squier if that's what anyone wishes to do!

    Hard to go wrong with today's Squier models, get it an enjoy! :)
  3. macmanlou

    macmanlou Don't push it. Just let it fall. Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2007
    Washington, DC Area
    For what you've described, I'd recommend the Vintage Modified Precision over the Affinity "kit", LaBella white tapewound strings and one of the little Ampeg combo amps (BA108, 110 or 112). A little more money for a considerable step up in quality IMHO.

    The tapewounds reduce the need for foam a bit, and coming from an upright I think you'll be pleased with them compared to flatwounds on frets.
  4. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    I agree. You'll get a better bass for your buck IMO. For what you're planning, you might want to consider either an inexpensive fretless (Squier again) or EUB such as the $500 Palatinos I see around. If all you're looking to do is provide a portable version of what you have with the upright, this might suit you better. If, on the other hand, you're looking to explore the world of electric bass then, by all means, get a Squier P-bass and go to town!

    As far as Macmanlou's string suggestion goes, strings are a very personal thing and the choices are myriad, but those tapes are as good a place to start as any and they do cop something sorta close to an upright sound. If you do a search on flatwounds here on TB, you'll have enough reading to last you the rest of your life!:help:
  5. macmanlou

    macmanlou Don't push it. Just let it fall. Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2007
    Washington, DC Area
    The Squier fretless Precision is an excellent choice (and the current "ebonal" fingerboards seem to be much better than the early Squier Jazz fretlesses were). LaBella white tapewounds sound great on fretless.
  6. Unless you are itching for a conventional electric, you might consider a Dearmond Ashbury (tiny bass with silicone strings) probably the closest to an upright sound among bass guitars. Then there is a cheaper used electric upright. They can be very portable.
    Otherwise a fretted bass guitar gives the option of learning to thump.
  7. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    I agree with those who suggest the Vintage Modified series of Squier. Much better instrument than the starter pack. For amps, if a whole lot of power is not needed, I'd recommend the Ampeg BA112. That would be a nice little set up.
  8. 77stingray

    77stingray Supporting Member

    Oct 6, 2010
    I was pretty impressed with the 60's classic vibe Squire p bass and the vintage modified J bass. If you can spend $700 or so, look for a used Fender road worn P bass here on TB or a standard passive Carvin P bass.
  9. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Good idea! Talk about portability... The Kala U-bass is also super-tiny and cops a pretty good upright bass tone. Either one; Ashbory or U-bass is a whole other animal than a regular EB, though. They're sort of a bass family in and of themselves.
  10. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I'd personally check your local craigslist for a mexican Fender P-Bass or Jazz Bass. Passive electronics and I wouldn't get fretless. I went fretless for a couple of years after I had been 99% of my work on doublebass for a while. I had the occasional jazz casual where it didn't work physically with my DB, so played electric.

    The thing is, I didn't really play it in tune on the gig. Not that i couldn't. If I was at home practicing, I could play it pretty well, but on a gig, it's not my normal instrument, I don't really practice on it, the scale is different, I'm mixing DB and EBG technique and I just wasn't on top of the intonation.

    The reason Leo called it the "Precision Bass" is because if it's set up right, you play in tune. One less thing to worry about. The difference in coolness factor of saying you don't need frets? Big. The difference in tone to your audience in a bar over the sound of a blender? non-existant.

    Flatwound or tapewound strings, as suggested and have fun with it.

    You don't an expensive bass, but you don't want a poor instrument either.
  11. macmanlou

    macmanlou Don't push it. Just let it fall. Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2007
    Washington, DC Area
  12. Most important thing is to buy a bass you really really like personally. So play a bunch to get a feel for what YOU like. There's a lot of choice under $400 used.

    Anything with a split P pickup in it would be MY first choice. Strings are definitely the most personal thing on a bass - you might need to try a few before you settle on a favourite.
  13. shrigg

    shrigg Beta Tester for AudioKinesis Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2007
    Traverse City, MI
    I have a hard time connecting with any of the lower grade instruments I see in music stores today, I much prefer a used mid-line instrument with some miles on it. I'd hunt for a deal on a used MIJ P Bass and throw GHS Precision Flats on it. I found this 1983 SQ Precision here on talkbass for $350 last year and it has been outstanding, lightweight and compares well to a great MIA P Bass!

  14. vmabus


    Nov 1, 2013
    Yes, the Ashbory has terrific sound, but if you are accustomed to string bass, you may find it difficult to play an 18" scale in tune (I did). You may wish to avoid fretted instruments, as the frets will be a distraction when you already know how to play in tune.
  15. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    +1 i've owned two different mij fender/squier basses and both were very nice instruments and great values used.
  16. experimental bassist

    experimental bassist

    Mar 15, 2009
    Checking back in because I strongly agree with this.

    Great combo, fantastic tone. I recently picked one up myself. :hyper:
  17. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    I certainly can't argue that it's easier to play in tune on a fretted bass, nor that under many circumstances the difference to the audience may be minimal, but I have to respectfully disagree with some of your assessment of fretless here. With routine practicing F/L should not be difficult to play in tune to a double-bassist and, depending upon playing style, the differences to the audience - even with the blender running great guns - can be very obvious. You're absolutely right that getting a fretted bass will have the OP up and running more quickly and easily, but F/L has a different feel and sound and if those appeal to the OP, I see no reason to steer him away from it. A little more work? Yes. More work than playing a DB in tune? Not in my experience. Everyone's wired a little differently, I guess.
  18. +1 for the Mexican Jazz bass recommendation. I played a lot of instruments before purchasing my used MIM Jazz Bass. It spoke to me like none other in its price range.

    I'm still very happy with the bass. I put flat-wounds on it about a year ago, and love it even more. I don't play it a lot right now; too busy with the upright, but I know I'll be back.
  19. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    The key is ... and I can't answer for the OP ... does he want to put that practice time in? He indicated that he had never played EBG before and I didn't get the impression from his post that he was interested in branching out that way as opposed to just needing a more portable, practical instrument at times.

    I got my first EBG for on my 12th birthday in 1979. By the time I owned my first fretless P-Bass I was in my 40's and had been gigging on DB for years, had a good teacher and practiced it many hours a week on top of gigs. I didn't also practice playing the P-Bass in tune every week, so it was problematic for me on a gig. I could sit in my basement and do it and I know that if I had practiced it every week it would have been fine, but I wasn't interested in putting that work into EBG, I was putting it into DB and the P-Bass was just a tool.

    I got a short road gig with a rock band and with two guitar players cranking stacked power chords, it was really problematic to me. I traded it even for a jazz bass and never looked back.

    So, I think it depends on what the OP wants and how much he wants to invest in developing that technique. It is different technique than DB. I stand by my recommendation, but understand the allure of a fretless instrument too.
  20. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    It's tough to beat a Jazz Bass with flatwounds. I sold mine, but man it sounded and felt great.

    I picked up a mid-90's passive Warwick Corvette, which has the same J-J configuration. I love the neck and am using GHS Pressure Wounds on it, which are a nice versatile string. It doesn't get played much, though....maybe I'll give it some love tonight. I've been listening to a lot of Stax Records lately. Duck Dunn...