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How to look for good Basses

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Ezmar, Jun 9, 2011.

  1. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    Okay, I'm pretty bad at choosing good titles, so I'll try to elaborate as much as I can.

    I'm a pretty good bass player, by anyone's standards. I picked it up 5 or 6 years ago, and progressed VERY rapidly, probably because I've been playing Cello since I was 3, and am intimately familiar with the function and execution of playing stringed instruments. I also have a tendency to pick up on style very quickly on anything I do, such as Drums, I listen to a lot of Rush, and I've got Neil's style DOWN. (I'm not nearly as good, though :p.) And recently, a group from school that I play with did some Phish stuff, and I was lost for a little while, but I eventually got the Jon Fishman style down pat as well. Same on Bass, I play Remarkably like Geddy, but when I play other stuff, I can match the style very well. I don't really know why I'm saying this, probably just to prove that I'm no newbie to the electric bass, or music in general, and I understand that a lot of the sound comes from the player, and that you need to try different stuff and pick what suits you best.

    Despite my skill and proficiency, (wow, I sound like a pompous ass, I'm not, trust me.) I am completely lost when it comes to getting gear. I got my bass as a Christmas present, and it's just a Fender J-Squier, with a Fender Rumble 15. Nothing fancy. Anyway, I'm going to need to get a new bass at SOME point, because I plan on making a career out of playing rock music, (I know, right? :rollno:) and I need something more than what I have. I like the tones I can get out of my bass right now, but I know that I can't really say that I like it more than anything else, because it's what I know. So the solution would be to go and test-run basses, and see what I like.

    There, I run into a couple problems. First off, There might be a tone that I really like initially, but that I would grow tired of within a little while, and have wasted my money. Secondly, I don't have money to spend, because I don't have a job, I don't have a driver's license yet (time constraints), and I'm going to college next year, so I'm in a very financially... UN-powerful position. Also, with no car, and little time to work with, I have no way to get to a music shop to try basses, and the best place is QUITE a drive, an hour or two, and it doesn't even have a great selection of basses (it's a guitar center), although on second thought, there is a bass shop I could look at, but I still can't drive to get out there, so the point is moot. Another problem is the fact that I use Rotosound swing bass 66s, and most basses do NOT have those strings on them at the store, so they're going to sound MUCH different than they would if I decided to buy them. That one's kind of minor, but it's still a factor. The last problem is I just don't know where to start. With the different strings they have, different amplifiers, different playing conditions, I will just have no way of telling how I like them.

    So to recap, I have no money, no car or license, no experience choosing basses, and no time. Any bass I buy is a MAJOR investment, because if I don't end up liking it, I just threw away a lot of time's worth of money. I should probably find a job, too, and I've got some applications, but I've never applied for one of those, either, and... yeah, it's a problem I have, I get stuck if I don't know what I'm doing, and end up doing nothing at all.

    One solution would be to look at reviews, but that really doesn't give me an idea of what the bass would sound like when I play it, or how it would feel to me. And.... Basically, I know the answer to the question posed by the title is, "Go out and try them, and get the one you like best." And I guess I'm saying that that's much more easily said than done in my case, and I really, REALLY don't want to make a mistake, because it's a serious investment, because I don't have that kind of money. I kind of just need help, suggestions are sort of welcome, but I really need to know WHAT IT'S LIKE, not just, "this bass is good, feels nice, sounds better." I need to find a bass that I like, and that fits me. So I'd rather just get help and advice on what I should do in my situation, where I need a new bass, because I'm much more serious than my bass is, but I don't have the time, money, or opportunity to go out and go bass fishing. I'm just kind of stuck, and I don't know what I should do.

    If this is in the wrong forum, feel free to move it. Any help is VERY much appreciated. I'm going to be famous some day, so help me out! :p
  2. Old Joe

    Old Joe Guest

    Apr 22, 2011
    Get a car.
  3. You've already answered you're own question. There are really only two answers anyway. The first is what you, yourself, said in the quote above and the second is to constantly buy used basses and sell them when you want to try something else. I did a whole lot of both ;).

    If you enjoy playing bass then, with time, you'll come to find what kinds of tones you want out of your basses. Again, it's just a matter of time, more specifically, time spent playing. Did I know 4ish years ago that I'd totally love jazz basses? Nope, not at all. But after gettin' my hands on damn near anything I could, I sure do know it now!

    You also, said in your original post that you wouldn't be able to get a feel for an instrument from a written review. Remember those words because they are the absolute truth (and you said them yourself :p). I put no stock in words on a piece of paper telling me anything more about a bass than it's price. I also put very little stock in what people have to say about a bass unless they know me and what I'm looking for tonally. So basically, if I don't at least see and hear it for myself (live, youtube videos, soundclips, etc.), then there's a good chance I'll just ignore it. That sounds really exclusionary, but trust me, you can hand the same bass to 10 different people and have them all play it but put them all in separate rooms and ask them about it, you'll get 10 different descriptions of how it sounds.

    In short, do yourself a few favors and 1) Take everything that everyone says about basses and gear with two tablespoons of salt 2) buy used and 3) play a lot and get your hands on as many basses as you can. You'll know what you want in time.
  4. Sounds like you really like playing the bass! Ha!

    1. Get your license. It's ridiculous you do not have your Driver's license at this point. You are 18 right? Going into college without that? No time for it? Make time for it!

    2. Finish the job applications, ask your parents/family for help. Accept the crap they give you about it and finish them.

    3. Save money, get a car and so on.

    Good bass? In all honesty, basses of all price ranges can be used on stage. Play what you want and be done with it. Best way to do it is to find a bass you like and look for it used. It will cost less and you can generally get a better model for not much more.

    I probably sound like your mother, don't I? :) I speak from experience! I was in the same position as you! Maybe not in the same order, but hey, just relax and focus on your life first. At least you have a decent bass in your hands right now.

    As for basses at the stores with different strings; just be happy if the basses you try have roundwounds. Roundwounds all have a similar bright and strong low end feel to them - along with that, the basses on the shelves are beaten up and the strings are all less bright than a new set. So guess what? The strings will blend into each other - you will not be able to tell one brand from another at the store.

    Lastly, try a bass on three different setups at the store - if it sounds good to you on each one, I think you have a keeper.
  5. waynobass


    Feb 27, 2008
    Just stick with the Squier for now.

    And if you can live without a car, continue to do so. You're saving a ton of money by not owning one.
  6. +1000
  7. IMO, drive to the GC, test out the feeling of the basses in your price range. You don't want to guess that you will like a bass and find out the neck is too big or heavy or something else. Sound is a little bit easier to talk about, and you can also find a few videos on youtube that give a decent tone of a bass.

    If you are really stressed on cash, I would buy on ebay. Find a bass that feels good, then see if it sounds good, then look for a used one on the internet. You can always upgrade pickups too.

    If you really want to play rock, I would suggest a jazz or a mm sub or ray34 if you can find one cheap enough. But I don't know your price range, so it is possible the mm's are out of your range.
  8. TRichardsbass

    TRichardsbass Banned Commercial User

    Jun 3, 2009
    Between Muscle Shoals and Nashville
    Bassgearu, Music Industry Consulting and Sales. Tech 21, NBE Corp, Sonosphere.
    Here is what everyone else here is missing. While strings do make a huge difference when you are trying out basses in the store you have to use an AMP that is similar to yours. In this case you have a Rumbe 15, and you could probably find one or a similar one in the store. Hook up the bass to THAT!

    I have a crappy bass that sounds crappy in my old 60W Peavey Basic 60, but sounds more then passable when I use my Hartke LH500. Why? One is solid state, one has a tube pre-amp. One has no watts the other has 500 watts. One has just a 12" speaker, the Hartke has either a 4X10 or 1X12 or both. One is old, one is new, etc.

    To tell the difference in sound you must play through what you are familiar with. Or, conversely, you need to bring YOUR bass to the store and then play your upgrade potentials with it side by side. I always prefer using smaller, cheaper amps to guage actual bass sound.

    Also, don't let the wanna be in the store play it for you. It will always sound virtuous in their hands.

    Oh, and get off your arse and get a job young man!
  9. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    Yeah... all that stuff about not having a job or a car... it's not that I'm lazy, or anything, it's just that things are really busy around our house. Both of my parents work full-time, to put me and my two siblings through school, and there's a lot of work around the house to get done, and We're all VERY bad at planning ahead, so it's hard to make time for things. I'm not trying to garner pity, or anything, I'm just trying to clarify that I'm not some lazy freeloader who just plays music all day. Everything's just so busy all the time... the time just seems to slip by, and before I know it, it's my 17th birthday, and I haven't had time to take my behind-the-wheel classes. I've got to get around to it sometime this summer, but with my parents working full time, it's hard to even get an opportunity to get out of the house. Again, I'm just saying this so you don't all think I'm just lazy and never do anything to try and help myself out. Not looking for a pity party or anything.

    Also, about the strings... I'm not so sure about all strings being the same. There are a LOT of differences between SS and Nickel, and I don't know if I'd be able to gauge how well I like the tone just from Nickel. They might ALL sound "off", if you know what I mean. I'd feel like none of them had the tone I was looking for, because I like the Steel tone. it's probably a very minor thing, though.

    The main thing is ONCE I get a chance to get to the place to try out some stuff, I really won't know when to decide, because I think I feel I have to be more sure than I really have to be. I'll be getting a new amp, too, probably before the bass, an Acoustic B-150. I think what I'm looking for in a bass is one that feels fantastic, which I should be able to tell, although I'll probably be using a different gauge of string; and one with a lot of tonal versatility, because I don't want to be stuck with one tone, even if it's one that's okay, because I like to be able to have a lot of different kinds of sound.

    Basically, if there are any tips about the process, I'd appreciate that a lot. Common mistakes, how to tell if a bass is WRONG, even if it might seem right, what I could expect from the store in terms of help, what is overpriced, what's a bargain, anything that would help me not make some dumb decision. I recently got a new set of pickups for my guitar, I've been doing a lot of work on it, and between the new bridge and the pickups, I can't play it anymore, because it's so thin sounding, everything I play sounds like the blues. not bad, but also not what I play, so not good. Is there anything that could be said about neck scale that would influence the decision? If I want to be able to play fast, what are the differences between different scales... stuff like that. Any specific tips beyond just "pick what's right for you". How would I be able to tell if I would regret purchasing any particular bass? For example, I've been thinking about getting a Fender Jag, but It would be stupid to get one without being sure I want it, so if I were to play a bass, to try it out, what would tell me that I shouldn't buy it, even if I might like how it sounds? I'm just worried that my lack of experience buying basses might lead me to make a hasty, poor, choice in an attempt to not overthink it.

    Basically, How do I tell? I know a lot about playing bass, and how to play a bass well, but absolutely nothing about how to tell if I like a bass or not. I'm in that place where you can't tell if the problem is in the fingers or in the bass, so... yeah. Thanks for the input, I really appreciate it.
  10. I feel ya man. Not everyone can do what they want and have other priorities to take care of. What do you like in a bass? Thin or fat neck? Do you like a lot of growl in your tone, or do you prefer a softer sound? What body styles do you prefer? These are all questions you need to ask yourself. Also, your budget can limit some of the things you are looking for. Once you make up your mind on your bass preferences, people can point you in the right direction.
  11. john grey

    john grey

    Apr 19, 2011
    Oracle, Arizona
    I'm there on that. The amp is certainly a HUGE percentage of the sound. I'm very careful NOT to make any buying decisions without an amp of comparable quality and STRENGTH to what I'm going to use.

    A Bass pushes a lot of air trough a speaker cone & needs power. To complicate the thing, the variety of multi woofer / single large woofer / wide range or crossover configuration with horn or tweeter designs mean more complications in cabinet design.
    A very interesting experiment is to play the same riff, same instrument, through a multi cone (w/ horn) & compare it to a large single cone. SOME things sound VERY different.

    Music is much too subjective to take someone else's ear to heart :bassist:

    I think you could make a shoebox with wires sound good with the right hands and a damn good amp. If I ran a store and wanted to move product I would make sure the best amps were the 'demos".
  12. JxBass

    JxBass Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2008
    +1, only you can decide what is best for you; everyone else will just tell you what's best for them.

    Agreed. Nothing wrong with a Squier bass, and it sounds like you have higher priority issues to address.
  13. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    You're worrying about the things you cannot do, or do not have access to.

    Worry about the things you do have access to, and move forward. And as others have said... get your damn drivers license. It WILL hinder you soon by not having it, and in a family emergency situation YOU could be responsible for getting somewhere. Just because you HAVE your license doesn't mean you have to own a car.

    Regarding basses... play what you have... and then play as many other basses as you can as you move ahead. What you like will point itself out when you play it.

    Regarding amps... you have a tiny amp that is having a tiny impact on your basses potential tone. more amp will give more tone overall... and within reason.

    Regarding your impression of your own playing... learn to play like YOU, not like others. As you've said, you learn to play like others and then are lost when you need to do something different. Learn to "PLAY" rather than learn to mimick others playing.


  14. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    Ookay, I didn't really mean to say that I have a billion things to worry about and don't have time to do anything, I was just trying to explain that I'm not just some lazy guy who needs everything to be easy. It's not really that big of a deal, It's just... yeah.

    So it's not that I'm really in a position where I can't afford anything, I just need to make it count, and not waste money. I'm just looking for things to look for, anything in general that would help make the right decision, especially because They probably won't sound in the store the way they will if I'm playing it myself. Just what should I watch out for if I don't want to make an expensive mistake? Ideally, I'd get something way out there, like a Zon, or some other custom bass, but I might want to get another step up, where everything's set up right, and I don't have to fight with the bass ever to get maximum playability. I guess I'm just looking for tips on how to get an Idea if a bass is right or wrong for me. I don't want to JUST go with my gut, because It's very possible that I'll just make a hasty decision I'll regret within a couple of months. Just what I could look for, how to tell if a bass would be good despite sounding mediocre in the shop, or the wrong choice despite sounding all right? I sort of think I just want to know if there's any way I could tell if I wanted it without actually having to buy it and play it for a couple months before deciding it was not the best choice. Are there any warning signs that say that a bass might eventually become unplayable or undesirable? What sort of things should I be willing to overlook, and what might have a significant influence over whether or not I'll like the bass long-term? I've never really gone out and bought anything to improve sound, at least not with testing beforehand, and... yeah. I want something that's more playable, and feels nicer, just overall feels better and lets me get myself into my playing more, but I don't want to ever wish that it sounded like the squier. How can I avoid getting a bass with a tone I'll regret? It might be hard or impossible to give blanket answers, but My playing is heavily influenced by Geddy Lee, and maybe it would help if I said that I'm just looking for a tone that can stand it's own, but can still be dialed in as I need it. Bright, strong, precise, but not a one-trick pony. I don't know if that helps, but instead of just saying "You'll know", how will I know when I know, rather than making a purchase I'll be disappointed with? Sorry if I'm asking the impossible, I've just never done this before.

    Also, about my playing style: I guess that came out a little different. I don't go out and try to emulate different styles, I was saying more that I'm an extremely good imitator. Like, if a song is played with a particular "feel", I have an extraordinary knack for picking up on that. I have my own style, to be sure, because it's an infusion of everything I've ever imitated or learned. I just pick up on things quickly, and I meant to say that I'm just really good at playing "like that guy". I can capture feel very effectively, which translates into a very wide expressive palette of my own. I don't TRY to mimic others, I just end up doing so, I just pick up on the subtleties. That's what I was trying to say. I play a lot like Geddy and Neil NOT because I'm trying to emulate their sound and play "Like them", but because the sound appeals to me, and it's a sound I like. I play like that because I want to sound "That good", rather than "Like that", if that makes any sense. I don't play like Ged because I want to be "just like him", I play like he does because his sound appeals to me greatly, and I just like it. It resonates with how I want my bass playing to sound, so I play like that. Not because I want to sound like that, but because that's how I want to sound. I hope that makes sense, I have a tendency to beat things like this to the ground, because I don't want to be misunderstood, so... yeah. I worry a lot about the extent to which I've been influenced by Rush, because I'm afraid that when I finally start a band, People will think that I'm trying to "be" Rush. Which is partially true, but only in the sense that Rush has very completely matched my vision of what I like about music, not because I want to be like my idols. It's not like I grew to like their music, it's that everything they did just seemed right to me. I also have a lot other influences besides, so it's not as one-track as all that, but Rush is still my favorite band by a landslide. whatever, this is getting off topic. I just kind of worry about that a lot. :p I also have a tendency to ramble, and... yeah. Sorry about that. :D
  15. I own three basses at the moment, and I love them each for different reasons. By the way, I did not pay more than $250.00 for any of them, and they all came with cases. Used is the only to go, but without a job even $100.00 is a lot of money. You may have to own a few basses before you find one that suits you.
  16. I understand the car thing, I'm 22 and still don't have a license, and it'll be a long time before I can afford a car.
  17. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    Well, I like the way the Fender sounds, so I wouldn't mind having an actual Fender Jazz bass, but I don't want to get stuck on a single tone without exploring other options. But I want to avoid grabbing a bass for a tone I won't like for very long. I don't want to end up with an instrument that I can't get to not sound a particular way when I need it to. I mean, a Jazz bass is fine, and I usually don't dislike the tone, especially with the control I have with the individual Pickup volumes, but I think I should try looking into other stuff, because it's very possible there's something out there that I'll like way more, and I don't want to box myself in to any particular instrument's sound before I've tried other stuff. And I want to try and make the process as cheap as possible. I could do it easily if I had the time and money to try a billion different basses, but I'd rather not have to make a lot of expensive mistakes, so I'd like to know if there's any way I could avoid them before I buy. I don't want to end up with a tone that I can't get away from, or that I can't change if I want to.

    Also, outside of the realm of tone, I have a problem with my bridge where the saddles don't stay put, and they creep down over time. I can't know how much that would be a problem in the store, so how will I be able to avoid problems like that, short of buying stuff to fix it. There have to be basses with bridges that stay put when you want them to.

    Basically I just feel clueless, like I'd go in there and have no Idea what I was doing. I could go in there and just pick a bass I like, but there's got to be some way to be smarter about it. Things I should look for, stuff I might not think to take into account, different factors, stuff like that. I want to be able to say "I'm pretty sure I like this one", rather than, "I like this one, I guess". I don't want to have to guess, I want to be more certain than that if I can. How can I differentiate between "this is good" and "this is different", because something may seem good because it's a change, and sounds or feels different, but after it wears off, there might be some things you don't like about it. how can I avoid that? How can I know if I like something because I like it, or I like it because it's different?

    More specifically, I guess I'd probably want a thinner neck, because I'm a pretty technical player, and move around a lot, and play fast stuff improv, so... I really can't say, because I've never really tried a whole lot. Is there anything that can be told to me, rather than me needing to see for myself? General advantages and disadvantages of things, or just characteristics, or something? I'm just asking this because I really don't know how I can make an informed decision without information. In the end it's what feels and sounds right to me, of course, but how can I know more securely? again, is this something that I really like about this bass, or is it just something that's different and exciting, but not really for me. I just really don't know how much I can trust myself, because I'm the kind of guy who would want one of every effect pedal in existence, because I could find something to like about all of them. I'd have a hell of a time picking which one was the most worth it, though.

    Basically, (wow, I'm just reiterating myself over and over again, sorry), I want to know if there are any tips on deciding if something is right for you, beyond just a general gut feeling. Stuff I could do in the store, rather than stuff I'd have to figure out on my own by owning the bass for months or years. is there any advice? Common things that you might fall for? I'm just looking to avoid picking a bass I'll end up not liking. How can I know if I'll end up not liking a bass? I want to explore outside the safety zone I know, and I'm looking for tips on how to be outside the safety zone safely. I just don't want to buy a bass and regret it for any reason.

    Sorry if I'm being irritating to anyone, I'm boring MYSELF with all this repetition, so I apologize. I'm just kind of anxious, that's all. I want a bass that plays to me, not one that I have to play to, and I don't know if I'll be able to tell. Just, any particular advice on what I should know would be helpful.
  18. Big_Daddy


    Nov 24, 2010
    Central Alberta
    What I prefer to do is set myself a price limit, and try out every bass I can that is within that price limit. The bass will present itself regardless of it's brand. Infact, don't even look at the brand to begin with.
  19. Luckie


    Jan 1, 2010
    Northfield MN
    With all the time you spend typing you probably could've gotten your drivers license. :ninja:
    Get a good setup on that squier, and you should be good to go for a while.
  20. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    Okay, I'll TRY not to write a novel this time. I just want to know if there's anything I could know that would make me more confident in knowing what I want out of a bass. I really just feel like I don't know anything, and that if I'm not going to be playing it as it is in the store, it's basically a crapshoot how it's going to sound. I'm probably being a little overcautious, but I don't know how much I can trust myself to pick something I won't regret. I feel especially about the strings, that I won't be able to tell how the bass would sound with the strings I use unless I try it with them on, and I don't know how I'd be able to guess what parts of the bass' character would change and what parts would stay the same.

    If it was a smaller shop that just sold basses, (there's one in the same city as the GC), would I be able to count on people that work there to help me make a decision, rather than to make a sale? I think I'm sort of not willing to trust anybody or anything. Is there anything I can be sure of?

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