How does one choose a bass to buy?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by cjazz50, Jun 12, 2001.

  1. In other words, how can you be sure to get a bass that you will still like several years in the future? I've tried basses in music stores. I've made recordings with my minidisc recorder. I've even played my saxophone over those recordings. In each situation I had a different favorite bass. I guess the ultimate test would be to set a bass up with the strings you like, with the action you like, etc. The problem is that you can't do this with very many basses. How do you narrow the list down? What is more important for narrowing down the list: sound or feel? Sound can be changed by changing the strings or the amplifier. Feel can't be changed as much. I guess I'm worried that I will spend thousands of dollars on a bass and end up not liking it a year from now. Any comments or opinions would be greatly appreciated.
  2. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
    Ya pays your money and ya takes your chances! :D

    Lots of used basses out there that someone thought was "the one."
  3. Yeah, most of 'em were mine! Heh, heh!
  4. Old Blue

    Old Blue

    Mar 18, 2000
    I check for three things. First, how does it play? It has to feel right. No neck dive - I hate to have to hold the neck up all the time. The fretboard has to be comfortable for my hand. The body has to ride well against my ribs. Second, how does it sound? I like to check its acoustic tone by placing my ear against the body and plucking the strings. It has to have a smooth, resonant tone. You can always change strings and pickups, but you can't do much with an instrument's inherent tone. Third, how does it look? While this isn't as important as the other two, it still counts. I don't like white basses. And some of the bizarre or kiddy flavored styles won't go home with me, either.
  5. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    There is no HOLY GRAIL. :) Every bass has something different to offer. If your looking to buy a bass, do what Old Blue said.

    For me it's a hobby. I love collecting basses. It can be a very expensive hobby. I currently have 15 basses. From an inexpensive Jay Turser MM copy & 70's Ibanez J copy to a 2 USA Spector's & a Sadowsky on order.

    As for recording (I hope my band will record in the next month or so) I'll probally bring a few basses with me. I'll probally end up recording w/my Sadowsky 24 fret 5 (if it's ready) or my Soectir NS-5.

    When I play live I'll use what ever I'm in the mood to play that day. Latley I've been playing a Warmoth 4 string Jazz & a 70's Ibanez Jazz copy.

    Good luck.
  6. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    Unless you play one 'type' of music, it is tough to find one bass that does it all. When I was building my bass collection, I chose basses that are very different, each suitable for different situations.
    G&L 2500 is my 'live' bass, simply because it's so versatile, and I can use it for most of the material that we play. When I'm messing around in my studio, having a Jazz, a fretless Rick Turner, an Alembic etc gives me a wide selection of sounds to play with.
  7. Old Blue, I'm glad there's someone that feels the same way with white basses! Everytime I see one, I cringe...
  8. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    In the 16 years I have been playing, I have owned 13 basses. They are kind of like girls, it may seem like a great thing at the beginning, but things just go south.

    In addition to sound and feel, I would look for craftsmanship. One of my current basses is a G&L L-2500. True it is quite tonally diverse and I really like the heavy, toolish feel of it. But thing thing that keeps my love affair going with it is the quality of it. Everything about the bass was done with upmost care and attention. If I play this bass ten years, it'll still be a great bass.

    There are basses out there that can only handle so many bad truss adjustments, drastic climate changes, sweat baths and the other various things that happen to performance instruments before they just don't do their thing well anymore.

    Please consider that you are going to change. Whether you have been a bass player 20 minutes or 20 years, your technique, ear and taste are going to continue to change. With that, your needs are going to change. Your wants are going to change. It's sort of the nature of the business.

  9. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    And, I also don't like white basses. Or black ones either for that matter.
  10. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    cjazz - If any of us could answer your good question definitively, we'd be jillionaires from doing market research consulting for the big name instrument companies......and the used instrument market would be much smaller.

    Others have given you good direction on feel and playability. You're right, you can tweak the sound, but it's quite hard and expensive to change the feel. Remember, though, the instrument can't adapt to you beyond what adjustments can be made, but you can adapt better to the instrument over time. Many big name bassists were playing less than great basses as they rose through the ranks. The musician made the bass, more than the bass made the musician.

    As for the "lifespan" of you enjoying the sound, that's a real crapshoot. Depending on how much music and good gear you are exposed to, your ear will become more sophisticated, more selective, with time. I'd take a bass with one great tone and no switches and rows of knobs over one that had more controls than Microsoft's T1 room and got 20 mediocre tones. Ears never get tired of good, fundametal tone. If you want to play with the tone, you can always pick up a stomp box.

    Try out as many different necks, body styles, fingerboards, in short, basses with different dimensions and electronics as you can. All it takes is picking up another bass one fine day to discover that Ol' Faithful doesn't ding your bell as much any longer.

    Finally, really give some thought to the cosmetics. You know those goofy body styles like BC Rich makes? Once those owners get out of high school they don't look so cool any longer. Another example is a quilted maple job I got last fall. I origninally thought I'd like a natural finish. But as I thought about it over a month, I decided I would get less tired of a cherry sunburst on it that gave the quilt some variety. Natural or one-color-stain quilts look good too, but that was just my thinking ahead, "Will I even notice the finish when I take it out of the case 6 months from now?'
  11. go to a store, try out all basses they have, if they don't have a bass that fits you, go to another store. And don't forget.. a lot of things on a bass can be adjusted to fit you.. for instance, the distance between strings and fretboard, the distance between strings and pickups, the truss-rod, etc..

    whatever you do.. don't buy a particular bass because the bassplayer of your favorite band has the same one..

    the key-point : take your time to find that one bass that fits your needs.. don't let any salesman try and push you into buying a bass... it's your money, and if you are a serious bassplayer, you'll want to spend your hard-earned ca$h on good stuff.
  12. I guess I'm the odd one out here, my only bass is a black Yamaha, and I'm saving up for a white Fender Jazz. My main bass buying strategy was to buy the one I can afford. When I got my first bass, my dad bought me the cheapest for my birthday. Then, when I got my Yamaha, I bought the only fretless I could afford. It worked for me, they grew on me.
  13. Old Blue

    Old Blue

    Mar 18, 2000
    Yeah, and I don't know why. I can't stand white LPs or Strats, either. Here's the really weird part: I kinda like white (well, blonde, anyway) Teles. And I think just about anything in yellow is putrid. Bass, guitar, autos, houses, you name it.
  14. lol, looks like you have an eye for color, Old Blue.

    Chasarms - I halfway agree with you on the black basses. However, I've always thought that a black bass with a tortoise shell pick guard would look cool...
  15. don't like black basses, but i'm savin' up for a white rumblefish. i also like the looks of the white deluxe active jazz.
  16. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    To make sure you'll like the bass for a while... Just make sure you play it on your rig, make sure it has a good feel, make sure it sounds good, and last (and least) make sure it looks nice.

    The main thing you have to do though is try the bass out over a long period of time.

    Like say you don't have money for a bass right now... Go into a store and just try basses, that way if you fall in love, you can't buy it right then. That way, you can keep trying it, and if it retains it's interest, you can buy it.
  17. Try buying a left handed bass or guitar, they only come black!!! (Well thats what it seems like) :) :) :D
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    There has been a lot of goog advice here and I agree with what Allodox said in the rest of the post, but I'm not sure about this part - why not do this?

    I must say that in a way I did this. That is, I couldn't quite get the sound I was aiming for in all the basses I had tried - despite going to every store and trying literally hundreds of basses.

    So there was a period where I went to see a few Jazz groups with electric bass players and really liked the sound that three of these bassists were getting and all three were playing "pre-Gibson" (i.e. handmade) Tobias 5 string basses.

    So I stored this fact up and eventually found a similar bass to buy in the Bass Centre in London and have never been more happy with my choice of bass. It does exactly what I wanted and more - it constantly inspires me to try new things and always sounds great.

    I think that if you know what style and sound you like, then why not go for the same type of bass as the players whose sound and playing you like best? Obvsiously you can't guarantee that you will sound exactly like them - but who wants that anyway? And at least you know that the "potential" is there, to get a sound that you already know you like.
  19. i meanth the funky looking Bc.Rich thingies..

    a lot of newbies buy a Bc.Rich coz the bassplayer of their favo metalband has one too.. but after a couple of months they realize that it sounds like sh**, and buy another one..wasted a lot of ca$h..
  20. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    While this might seem obvious...It bears repeating to say....
    Do NOT buy a bass to please anyone,except YOURSELF.
    I have a bass that is not popular at all. But the neck fits my hand perfectly. It is easy to play and I get exactly the tone I want. When I pick up this bass....I feel like I can play ANYTHING.
    So even though I get slammed for my choice of bass, it's the only one that I can see myself keeping for life.
    Bruce made a good point about achieving the tone you want. That's a great place to start, because if you don't get the bass sound that you hear in your will never be happy with any choice you make. Then...go for the feel of the bass and how it plays.
    Of should look good least to you. :)