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Guitar player looking to learn bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jcharbneau, Mar 14, 2020.

  1. jcharbneau


    Mar 14, 2020
    I've been thinking of learning bass, and have heard that a Fender P, J, PJ are all good "beginner" bass guitars. I've also heard good things about the Ibanez SR 250/350 range. With that knowledge in hand, I visited a couple of GC's in my area; and was a little surprised I guess. On some relatively expensive bass' (Fender), the fit and finish was not as nice as I would have anticipated, while the 300 - 500 range Ibanez' were really really nice. I also noticed that the action was really high on most of them. Is this normal on bass guitars? On my strat, I tend to prefer the action pretty low, as my fingers feel lost in the height when its too high up, so curious if there is a need for them to be so much higher on a bass.

    So my questions are:
    - Is it normal to have higher action on bass guitars?
    - Is setup of a bass similar enough to guitar that I could set it up myself (meaning slight truss rod adjustment with some adjustment to the saddle height on the bridge)?
    - I tend to like to play bluesy stuff, rock, metal, etc. I know some metal guys use PJ styled bass' (thinking Jason Newsted as an example), but also see some folks using Humbuckers so am curious if there is any advantage either/or (and curious if the P & J style pickups "hum" the way non-noiseless single coils on a guitar do - I didn't get a lot of hum' out of them when plugged in at GC but I was trying not to be too obnoxious)
    - Any thoughts on starting with a "short" scale bass? I tried a couple, and the scale length being not too much different from guitar, it felt good - however all of the short scale bass' were on the lower end, and the fit and finish didn't seem that great on the ones I tried
    - is it worth it to go through the lower level "basics" of learning bass? I took lessons on bass some 20 years back or so, but switched to guitar and have been pretty much there since then :), with many guitar specific lessons along the way in various styles. I've been noodling bass lines from songs I like on the lower four strings on my guitar (My Friend of Misery intro, Seven Nation Army, few others)

    Thanks in advance for any direction !!

    Last edited: Mar 14, 2020
  2. jcharbneau


    Mar 14, 2020
    Meant to mention that I also tried out a used SRMS805. The multi-scale piece felt a little odd, but it was a really nice instrument, just concerned that mixing in multi-scale may be a bit much for "learning".

    Another thing comes to mind, and that is whether the 4 or 5 string are the way to go. The 5 string feels like a 7 string guitar to me and a bit wide to wrap your hand around, so curious how much "thumb" usage there is on bass versus bluesy guitar grips :) . I've also read that if you like to use drop tunings that a 5 string bass may be more "useful" longer term. I do down tune quite a bit, usually a half step, maybe drop d; and I have one dedicated guitar tuned a full step down; so had thought "maybe"?

    I guess at the end of the day, I would like to set myself up for success in learning, so thanks again for any thoughts!
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2020
  3. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    Don't let the name on the headstock sway you.
    Play 20 or 30 basses and I'm sure you'll find something that feels good and sounds like what you expect a bass to sound like.
    However, if you have the opportunity to try one of these, make sure you have money in your pocket, even if it's just enough to put it on layaway.
    nateh415 likes this.
  4. ejaggers


    Aug 18, 2009
    Fort Worth, tx
    Welcome to TalkBass.

    There's a lot of good people here with a vast amount of knowledge.
    But opinions can range from one extreme to the other,
    which means your questions may or may not be answered.

    For instance, the war between 4 and 5 string players.
    The war between J vs P, short scale vs long, Fender lovers vs Fender haters, etc.

    Your Qs:
    1) Action should be low, but no one trust GC to have a decent setup.

    2) Setup is similar, but I’d get a Pro setup first, then you maintain afterwards.

    3) I don’t get hum from my SS Jag P/J but I used my P pup mostly.

    4) I started on short scales and have always preferred them. Out of my 11 basses I have 5.
    They have become very popular lately on this site.
    I rarely had the luxury of only playing bass, and I found SS easier to play while singing.
    While it’s true that many SS’s are lower end, they are still excellent basses.
    There’s all kinds of short scale clubs here that will give you as much info as you need.

    5) I’m not sure I understand this Q, so I’m going the defer this to others.

    I don’t think you can go wrong with a 4 string SS bass, and there are plenty
    that get respect around i.e. SS VM Jag, Mustang, Gretsch, etc.

    So let the bidding begin!!
  5. jcharbneau


    Mar 14, 2020
    thanks @ejaggers , on question 5; it was more of "do I get the basics' book" or should my guitar scale knowledge roughly transfer over. Also curious what others found most helpful if making similar in-roads to bass from guitar.

    @jd56hawk - Ok, will keep that in mind. What kind of bass is pictured? I don't recall seeing that one, but I was pretty much just trying out the Fender/Squire and Ibanez lines.
  6. ejaggers


    Aug 18, 2009
    Fort Worth, tx
    @jd56hawk - Ok, will keep that in mind. What kind of bass is pictured? I don't recall seeing that one, but I was pretty much just trying out the Fender/Squire and Ibanez lines.[/QUOTE]

    I believe that's a Reverend Thundergun

    jd56hawk likes this.
  7. L-1329


    Aug 8, 2004
    There are countless young kids who play full scale basses just fine, scale length won’t hinder your technique. As a guitarist you have a big head start, but now you need to develop the brain of a bass player. It is a totally different instrument, with a totally different roll, and the techniques are not the same at all as guitar. I’d say get a full scale 34” bass to start. First there are countless good inexpensive bass options, and second it will take you farther out of the guitar influence just because it will seem so different.
    jcharbneau likes this.
  8. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    Yes, the Reverend Thundergun

    You might want to check out G&L, too.
    The Tribute series.
    nateh415, One Way and jcharbneau like this.
  9. jcharbneau


    Mar 14, 2020
    Ok, thanks for the replies everyone! Really appreciate the input/discussion.

    @L-1329 - Fair point in regards to scale length and cross over knowledge - thanks!

    @jd56hawk - thanks again, will definitely keep an eye on those (I'm actually a fan of G&L guitars, never owned one but have played several that left good impressions - will try out one of their bass' first chance I get), and will definitely try the Reverend next time I'm near CME :)

    Thanks again all!

    jd56hawk likes this.
  10. ejaggers


    Aug 18, 2009
    Fort Worth, tx
    Since no one is recommending SS, I'll throw in these for you to try.
    Mustangs are "Hot" right now, and Squier just came out with a new line.
    Nice bass at the right price:

    The Squier VM SS Jaguar is also highly respected around here as well, but they are getting harder to find, Here's mine:

    Jaguar Full.JPG
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2020
    nateh415 likes this.
  11. I'm with JD56hawk.

    Play something with a maple finger board, for grins, you'll love it.

    Would not trust anyone at GC with my dog's dish.

    If you have a "Music-Go-Round" in your area, you can find some screaming deals, plus trade away old unused gear and walk away with a great axe for next to nothing.

    Be patient, you'll find her and know it when you do.

    P51 2006.jpg
    jcharbneau likes this.
  12. Just remember, don't try to play the bass like a lead guitar. Keep time, keep it simple, all the fills & frills will come naturally in time. I play a lot of guitar with some folks and bass in an alt country band. The front man plays acoustic guitar and a tele, taught himself to play guitar 6 years ago. He was the drummer in a blues band I was in. If I sit down with him me on guitar and hand him the bass it's a disaster, he has no patience to stay on the beat and keep it in time, always wanting to do fills and runs. Surprising too, as he is a damn good drummer.
    jcharbneau likes this.
  13. nabilhuakbar


    Jan 13, 2020
    Howdy and welcome to the club! I'm in your same boat -- I came over to bass from guitar -- so I'd like to pass on some first hand experience I wish I would've known when I started this whole thing.

    First: Check your local used market for things. Chances are, there are some amazing deals floating around there on CL or Facebook Groups or whatever other local used sales thing you've got going in your area.

    Second (also related to the first): If you're going local, get an Ibanez for your first bass (or, see my Third point about Thomann and their Harley Benton line). Their necks are the most "guitar like" and, for me at least, still feel the best overall. Check your local market...in general Ibanezes tend to go for really cheap used and the SR series is awesome. The higher the number is the better (allegedly) the bass is. The SR300 and 500 series are excellent for the money. I got a used SR750 used locally for dirt cheap and it's still my favorite bass.

    Third: Check out Thomann's website. Thomann is the Euro equivalent of Guitar Center, but better. They ship to the US, so if you're getting into bass and you want a NEW guitar and you don't want to spend a ton of money, their Harley Benton series is excellent. You get really good basses for excellent prices and the most you'll end up spending is like $350 for their really "high-end" models. They even have audio samples for most of their models so you can get a rough idea of what they sound like before you order. They also have excellent beginner packages that come with a decent gig back and a surprisingly nice practice amp. The one downside is resale vale isn't great but if you're not too concerned with that then get a Harley Benton. I didn't know about these guys until well after I'd started playing bass and I wish I'd known from the get-go.

    The action on the bass is a lot higher than the action on a guitar, even when that bass is set low. That's just the nature of the beast. Guitar strings are these little sissy fairy wires, and the technique you develop for playing them is to fret and pluck as lightly as possible. Bass strings are mighty thunder cables from Thor and so they need a bit more room to move around in. Depending on the style (but mostly for rock and metal) a little bit of fret buzz is good and sounds nice and nasty, but that buzz should be controllable depending on how hard you're fretting a note. Same goes for picking. If you're using a pick (again, recommended when you first start playing bass but you should also learn fingerstyle so you can do both), you're going to want to get a super thick one (like 1.5-2mm) and you're going to have to develop different muscle memory and pick those strings with some real authority.

    Your fretting hand is gonna get a really nice workout. Bass strings are a whole different game. Things that would be simple to play on guitar are a lot more challenging on bass.

    yes indeedy

    This is really gonna depend on personal preference more than anything else.

    You'll get a bit more tonal versatility out of a P/J since a lot of recording artists ended up using P basses on their tracks and it'll hold up in metal fine, but humbuckers will give you a more "modern" sound. I'm of the "why not have both?" mentality. You could go to Thomann and get a P/J bass and also a Humbucker bass for around $300 for both and shipping and you could try them both to see what you like better.

    Bass also has a lot more going on in terms of active electronics than guitar did, and a lot of humbucker basses are also active.

    I will refer you again to Thomann and their Harley Benton line.

    You will have to change your pickstyle technique a bit to account for the thicker cables, and if you've never played fingerstyle then you'll definitely want to go through the "basics" there. Fretting technique is more or less the same, you'll just be pushing down a lot harder and you'll be using your pinky a lot more on the lower frets to be able to reach certain notes.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2020
    jcharbneau likes this.
  14. One last note and I will shut up.

    Not that there is anything wrong with it as a lot of players play bass well with a pick or the thumb...if you learn to play with your right hand fingertips your bass playing satisfaction will increase exponentially as will accuracy and tone. Feels strange at first and I always played with my thumb for confidence & accuracy. Then between bands I taught myself to play with alternating fingertips playing chromatic scales across all 4 strings, just always had a bass in my hands, not even turned on in an amp, just worked on it any free time, day after day, week after week, month after month. Being on the other side of 50, even surprised myself at the results.
    nabilhuakbar likes this.
  15. nabilhuakbar


    Jan 13, 2020
    +1 to this. I don't know why or what it is about it, but something about fingerstyle playing is just soooooo satisfying.

    I disagree on tone and accuracy, though. I don't think fingerstyle tone is "better" -- its rounder and fatter and fits in better with certain styles of music. That fat roundness can also cause fingerstyle playing to disappear in a mix in other genres.

    I also don't think it's more accurate...it's the same amount of accuracy as pickstyle, just a different motion you're using with your hand. What matters more is how much you practice with both, because ultimately you as a player are what determines how accurate you play. A good player can make a $70 eBay bass sound amazing and a crappy player can make an $11k Fodera sound like total garbage

    To OP regarding fingerstyle and pickstyle: they produce different tones (fingerstyle is "fatter and rounder", pickstyle is "sharper and thinner"). One isn't better than another, and you'll see endless debates where fingerstyle bassists pick on pickstyle bassists. That's all stupid. They're both tools in your toolbox that create different sounds that fit better for certain songs/genres. Being a purist is what people fall back on when they're insecure about not possessing a different skillset so they have to make their current skill set the "superior" one to feel better about themselves.

    Hammers are good at pounding nails, screwdrivers are good at driving screws. Hammers aren't better than screwdrivers, they both do a specific job well and you need to know how to use both to be proficiently handy around the house.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2020
  16. jcharbneau


    Mar 14, 2020
    @RR-rambler - thanks! I'll keep your advice in mind. I too love a maple fretboard (on my #1 strat), so will definitely give that a try next time I'm out looking (in Ohio, so practicing isolation right now...) :)

    @nabilhuakbar - Thanks for your notes too. I've also noticed the sharp vs soft "feel" when using fingers vs pick (tho to this point, mostly on guitar).

    Good points all around! Thanks everyone!
  17. Yahboy


    May 21, 2008
    If money no issue, highly recommend spend on Fender Vintera 50s precision bass or Performers Jazz bass.
    jcharbneau and RR-rambler like this.

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