How to shop?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by SoVeryTired, Oct 19, 2011.

  1. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    I've finally had the revelation that all the online research and careful consideration in the world will not help me choose a new bass unless I actually get my hands on a few. Given that my local shops are pretty poorly stocked I'm planning on heading to a specialist bass shop at the weekend to help with my research. The idea is to try some basses out, either to buy as new or to give me a better picture of what my ideal bass would be to buy used.

    I want to make the most of my time there so I was looking for any tips on how to try things out in a store. My thinking is that the neck feel is the most important thing so I want to try a load of different basses unplugged first, narrow down to the ones that feel right and then find out what they actually sound like. I accept that the action may not be perfect (although, from a proper bass shop, it may well be) but I think the feel is the real thing to test.

    For testing the sound, I'm thinking of playing the same handful of pieces on each bass, with a mixture of fingers and pick, and starting with a flat EQ before messing with it.

    (I play through a DI rather than an amp so the choice of test amp is less important).

    Does this make sense or am I missing something important?
  2. Osprey


    Jun 20, 2005
    Nothing personal, but I think the important thing missing is that you're in the UK. There's a large country across the sea to the west of us where I believe it's possible to try out instruments from a range of major builders on a Saturday afternoon, and it's easy for us to assume we can do the same.

    I expect your local shops are like my local shops: a new Fender Jazz plus half-a-dozen other basses from a local builder you probably haven't heard of. The thing is: I only know of two specialist bass shops in London, and one of them wasn't much better than that when I was there. I'll leave other posters to give you specific advice about good shops and good times to go there. I'll only say that on a weekend you'll be very lucky to carry out the research you describe without having to be overlooked by passing teenagers and having to compete with someone quite talented doing what those guys to the west of us seem to call, with no embarassment, "wanking".
  3. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    Your shops sound more interesting than mine - there's nothing from a local builder in mine!

    I was planning on going to Bass Direct in Warwick - about an hour's drive from me and apparently with a good stock based on their website and from recommendations from other bassists. I'm hoping that what seems like an industrial estate location will keep passing teenagers at bay!
  4. malicant


    Oct 14, 2011
    You guys over the pond are spoiled, try bass shopping here in Ireland. You'll get low to mid range fender, musicman and ibanez basses but that's about it. The recession killed off the market for higher end stuff :(
  5. msb


    Jul 3, 2002
    Halifax,N,S. Canada
    Sometimes it's good to tell the clerk that you might be looking to buy a bass . Ask if they have anything special out back . Might help to give 'em a little knowing wink when you ask that .

    Pick a time when the shop is not too busy .

    Try not to walk out with the first one . There might be another you like even more . Sometimes you can negotiate a better price than what's initially written on the tag .

    That might be best covered in another post though .
  6. I must admit that the problem you have in the OP is similar to the one I have. Seems to be a huge issue in the UK as a whole as far as I can tell, and unless you go to the trouble of visiting a specialist bass store, and have the money to do so, chances are you'll be forced onto the 'Net.
  7. purfektstranger


    Apr 10, 2003
    I think it helps to have an idea of what you are looking for as well as your budget. I try to avoid visiting music shops on Saturdays because they are usually extremely busy. I like to try a bass and then walk away to something else but will always come back for a second try if I liked it to begin with. Although some people prefer not to talk to the salespeople too much, I always ask questions because some of them are actually really helpful.

    On a complete side note I was in MK a few years ago and distinctly remember four things....the cow statues....the endless shopping mall....the indoor ski hill in the middle of nowhere....and the most roundabouts I have ever seen in one town in my life. I trust the cows are still standing?
  8. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    Thanks - it's true that there are some good salespeople out there. I don't think I can avoid going on a Saturday but I can get there at opening time, which should help.

    The cows still stand!
  9. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    If I won a stinkin' lottery, I'd fly you folks here. Even in metro Detroit, in any direction from my house, I am no more than 20 minutes from at least 10 different stores retailing everything that Fender, MM, G & L, Schecter, Ibanez, etc. Plus, their inventories at times include a few exotics. Not just the standards but signature models too.

    Not too mention the variety amps & other accessories.

    I haven't won the stinkin' lottery yet. :bawl:
  10. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    Here's hoping you win. :D

    The place I'm going to has hardly any Fenders, just a few higher-end (i.e. too expensive) models. I may try a number of basses outside my price range just to assess the feel - I may decide that I love the feel of the Jazz neck but am not going to pay £2000 for one!
  11. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    I don't think you are missing anything.
    Try to know a little bit before you go-

    What number of strings do you prefer?
    What woods or wood combinations?
    Active or passive?
    Heavy or light?
    9v or 18v if you like active?
    What kind of features do you "need"?
    How many pickups and what kind and possibly mike do you prefer?
    Are there any makers whose instruments you like specifically?
    Are you prejudiced as to the country of origin?
    All these things and more can come into the decision as to what bass to buy.

    Have fun!:)
  12. arsie


    Jan 19, 2011
    There is a specialist bass shop in Camden, London. Probably want to give that a try as well.
  13. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    Here's a big part of the shopping experience for me - the answer to most of those questions is... "don't know". A big aim of the trip is to help me narrow things down. Even the number of strings - I had a thought that I might want a 5er, then played one the other day that I really didn't get on with, but I'd want to try a few more before I dismiss them. I'm almost completely open.

    Apart from the Fender Jaguar. Until I try one, or find something else that blows me away, I'm always going to have GAS for it. But hardly anyone stocks them. So I'm prepared to let it go if I find something esle I really enjoy.
  14. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    ah I see,
    What shop are you going to?

    I really doubt one visit will sort you out, but it sure is a first step, and a good one.
  15. I don't quite have it that good here in Oregon.

    There are three shops in my area that have any real selection.

    Small independently owned shop that has some Fenders, some EBMM, and some off brands.

    Another locally owned shop that has a lot of Ibanez, Fender, and Squier.

    And the local Guitar Center which has a lot of Fender, Ibanez, Squier, and a few others like Shecter and Dean.

    I've never seen a Lakland, Sadowsky, or Prestige Ibanez at any of these shops though. :(
  16. maxiegrant

    maxiegrant Bassist in Transition

    Nov 26, 2007
    Sellersburg, IN
    I must be just lucky. I live in the Louisville, KY area. There are some outstanding music stores around. I also can drive up to Indianapolis or if I really want to get rednecky down to Nashville (although, as far as visiting cities go I was very underwhelmed by that particular town -- it seemed like they rolled up the sidewalks at 6:00).

    But honestly, I can see pretty much whatever I want to if I am just willing to do some driving. I've got a little mom n pop shop called Prosound music that I frequent for strings and stuff because I like having someone right there I can go to. They've got some really nice stuff including a Lakland Jazz that nobody has picked up just yet. I also rent a lot of stuff from Doo-Wop, which is very much a working musicians' outlet. But across the street from them in the always-twisty Bardstown Road area you can find Guitar Emporium where I bought my Squier VMJ after trying out a room full of different Jazz basses, and also where I got my Rickenbacker worked on (they are the authorized dealer for Ric in town, though they never seem to have any 4003's in stock). I bought my Spector from an outfit now known as Uncle Samm's Jams, and I always love going in there. That's also where I picked up my current amp and my Zoom B2. They have a great selection of stuff.

    Ok so I digress. To the OP -- you should just go with an open mind. You never know what's going to look up at you from the depths of some wonderfully dingy old music store. I one time went into Wedgle's Music and Loan in Denver, CO, with $125 burning a hole in my pocket, and I came out about 20 minutes later with a Univox Lectra fretless, which delighted me for years and years and years. My stepson currently has the Lectra and I am having a hard time prying it out of his fingers.

    So, just go. See. Have a budget you won't exceed. Use that to guide your purchase.
  17. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    See above for details! Or see here. They specialise in the higher end of the market but still have plenty in the sub-£1000 range, which is where I'm concentrating.

    I've already played most things of interest in my two local stores - mainly Fenders (I really like the Jazz neck, and the CV Precision I tried was nice), G&L L2000/L2500 (the jury's out on the neck), a few Ibanez 4s (not crazy about the sound or feel), Spector 4s and 5s (didn't really get on well with them), Warwick Rockbass (no) and a Sterling SB14 (probably my favourite so far, marginally ahead of the Jazz).

    But I'm fairly new, developing my playing all the time and what I liked a few months ago may not be the same now. I still think though that a comfortable neck today will be a comfortable neck for a long time. I think. :confused:
  18. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    Interesting place... they sell clover basses, which is quite rare I think.
    Clovers are very nice and rather well designed.
    The basswitch is also a GREAT thing I think...I am extremely tempted!
    What I would do, in all honesty...try LOADS of stuff an then find it 2nd hand...

    The more time you give yourself the more you'l see the confusion disappear.

    Good luck
  19. groove pump

    groove pump

    Oct 24, 2006
    No arguing with the feel of a good neck. I think the good news there is that you can actually get some numbers together to reflect what gives you that good feel. Once you try some gear and compile that sort of info, you'll have a better chance of spotting a good fit in an instrument you see online.

    Certain details including the fingerboard radius, width at the nut, string spacing at the bridge, and overall weight of the bass can tell you how it might feel and fit, even when you can't sit with it in a shop. One other design aspect I also look for in a bass is an upper horn that extends up to around the twelfth fret. That's typical of a standard P or J bass and usually produces pretty good balance on a strap. Very much NOT the case (at least for me) with let's say a Corvette or Thumb by Warwick.

    Remember that if you do get to try something in the shop, don't just play it on your knee. Stand up and see how the things feels on a strap so that you don't accidentally take home a shoulder-breaker or a neck-diver.

    I've been keeping an eye out for "something" for a while and recently scored a nice bass off the classifieds here. First time I ever took the plunge and bought something like this without even trying it first, but what I could see in the pictures along with the spec's indicated a pretty good bet. It even had the combo of woods I was looking for and so far, we've been getting along just fine. When you can boil that "good fit" down to some basic measurements, that can at least help you to narrow the field.
  20. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    groove pump - that was my thinking re the neck: try lots, and at the very least find out the dimensions of the ones I liked. That will narrow my search down considerably.

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