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Instrument history and why

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Gaolee, Oct 12, 2016.

  1. Gaolee

    Gaolee Official leathers tester and crash dummy

    We have had threads about what we all play and what our histories are, but I don't recall a discussion about the whys of our individual histories. So, here it goes.

    Early on, I played a cheap bass, then a bass I got for free, then a bass I got with the proceeds from selling the bass I got for free. Clearly, cheapness was paramount.

    The bass I got from the proceeds of selling the free bass was a Gibson EB-2dc that I still have. It started my preference for having the neck more vertical than horizontal. So, there's a criteria other than cheapness, but it didn't really come all the way out until later.

    More recently, I had an Epiphone Thunderbird. Why? Because it was dirt cheap. It had a lasting effect, because it showed me that a Thunderbird will balance how I like a bass to balance once the upper strap pin is at the heel of the neck. It will balance like the EB-2 does.

    Then I went down a bit of a brand name thing. I bought a Road Worn Precision because I had never had a Fender. What kind of bass player never played a Fender? It's a keeper, and it's good and battered from playing a lot, so it's not entirely a poseur any more. But, it doesn't hang with the neck as vertical as I would like. I also had a Rickenbacker for a while. It was cheap for a Ric, and I made money when I sold it. But, it was a brand name thing, for lack of a better description. I wanted to know what the fuss was all about. Now I know. I liked it, but not enough to keep it. Plus, it was cheap for a Ric. That cheapness thing, more or less, again.

    Which led back to Gibson basses and Thunderbirds. That's what I play now. Not because somebody or another played one or because I'm going for some specific sound, but because I like the ergonomics and have learned how to take a Thunderbird and make it do a lot of different things. It's not all about cheapness any more, although I could probably sell the bass guitars I have for what I paid for them. None were new. Ok, there's some element of cheap skate there.

    So there you have it. Cheapness, followed by brand curiosity, followed by my quirky preferences in ergonomics.

    How did others arrive at what they play, and was there a progression, or did the first bass just hit the mark and never change?
    RedVee and FronTowardEnemy like this.
  2. FronTowardEnemy

    FronTowardEnemy It is better to go unnoticed, than to suck Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2006
    Plainfield Illinois
    When I first started playing bass I was totally into The Jesus Lizard (still am) and noticed David Wm Sims played a Jazz bass. So I bought one and never looked back.

    I only went through different Fender country origins. First a MIM, then another MIM, then MIAs, then my bass search ended.

    Fender MIJ! I came across a well used 1995 75RI with honest road wear. It was as if the neck was made for my hands. I swapped the rosewood neck for a MIJ Marcus Miller neck because I prefer maple boards.

    Then I traded an MIA for a MIJ Marcus Miller. It is and will be the best bass I ever own. I feel slightly guilty owning it because it should be in the hands of a more skilled player than I.

    Lastly I purchased a MIJ Japanese Exclisive 70s Jazz from Japan. It is my main player. Honestly I know I will never own or play another brand because this just works for me.

    So I guess influence (Sound) led to Jazz Bass, to playability (7.25" radius), followed by looks (B&B maple boards).

    For reference.
    zontar and Killed_by_Death like this.
  3. D.M.N.

    D.M.N. (O)))) Supporting Member

    Oct 6, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    As another PNWerner, I'll play along.

    A friend of my father's left a Jazz bass at our house once that he was using to practice for an audition. I ended up fooling around on it and it just felt right after trying and failing to get on with guitar. My father ended up getting me a cheap pawn shop jazz knock off with high action and flatwounds akin to high tension bridge cables.

    At some point I ended up getting a Fender catalogue at some point and loved the look of the early 50s Precisions and had my eye set on a '51 reissue. After going down to a Guitar Center in Seattle I played one and didn't really get on with it. Somewhat disappointed, I tried out a few other basses, and played a AVRI '62 Precision, which just felt right. I printed out a photo of one that I kept in my school binder and at the end of 8th grade I'd finally saved up enough money to buy it. Went down to Seattle and bought the very bass, which had been hanging there for something like a year. Still pretty much my #1, I think since getting it in...'07 (?) I may have only played one gig without it.

    A few years later I went into Hugo Helmer's in Burlington and saw a Gibson Zebrabird and loved how it looked. Didn't feel as great in my hands as the Precision, but both me and my father (he's a carpenter, loves wood) thought it looked amazing. Saved up and eventually got it. Great fun to play, though it's mostly a closet queen as I have other basses (namely the Precision), that gets more playing time due to comfort.

    In 2012 I'd been listening to a LOT of Allman Bros and Jefferson Airplane. I've always thought the Jazz bass just looked classy, much more sleek than the Precision, and thought it'd be a great platform to mod out. I especially liked the idea of being able to have the neck pickup with the tone totally rolled off and the bridge with the tone fully rolled up. Purchased an AVRI '62 Jazz, and went to town modifying it with a Daguet Guitars version of the Bi-Sonic pickup (first one in North America, I do believe). However I soon discovered the tone controls don't really isolate, and the Dagstar, being much more powerful kind of walked all over the bridge pickup. Thus I rewired it so each pickup is its own circuit with a dedicated output so I could run each to a different amp.

    2013, saw that Fender Japan had released the Bass VI in CAR, and decided to save up and get one for my 21st birthday. Thought they just looked fantastic and really wanted one to experiment with and expand my musical writing. I have a thing for oddball instruments that make you think outside the box, and between that aspect and the visual look, had to have it. Definitely a specialty instrument but a great purchase.

    2015, with some more disposable income, I decided to flesh out the collection with a few other basses I've been wanting to get. I'd been looking for a 60s EB-3 for most of the time I'd been playing bass (Jack Bruce was a very early and major influence), and I finally saw one that was within my price range if I managed to move some amps along. Sadly, it sold before I could get the money together. But around that same time, November-ish, I saw a Rickenbacker 4001v63 listed in the classifieds here. Chris Squire was another huge influence, as was Geddy, and I have a very bright and articulate playing style, and the Rick had always struck me as being a fitting compliment to my playing with its very forward voicing. So, grabbed that while I had the chance. Lovely instrument, and it does, as I suspect, work very well for what I do.

    However, I was still on the hunt for an EB-3. Scouring the internet, I eventually saw one with a broken headstock on Reverb, but otherwise in great shape, and picked it up cheap (cheaper than a Roadworn Fender). Is it a versatile bass? No, no it's not, but it is 100% awesome. Actually might be the best playing bass I own. Lovely neck. And I get to feel like Jack Bruce. Yes, that might sound lame, no I don't care.

    June/July, saw a great deal on a Precision made of Fender AVRI parts, and decided to pick it up as a project and as a backup for my #1 Precision, and again, because I liked how it looked. It's not the same thing if it's in a different color.

    Aaaaand finally, Greco Thunderbird II. Harkening back to the Zebrabird, I've always loved the look of the Thunderbird, but the Zebrabird didn't really have the tone I was after with the modern pickups, and I prefer the 60s styling with chrome and whatnot. People in the T-bird club have raved on about them having more Precision like necks and pickups, so I nabbed one. Very glad I did, it's currently my most played bass.

    I guess the main theme throughout getting all of them is largely aesthetics and uniqueness of tone. It has to look good to me, and offer up a sound I don't already have for the most part, needs to offer something new. At this point, going forward, it will probably be driven even more by looks as I start to think about getting duplicates in other colours, or by more outlandish features (strange shapes, 8-strings, 12-strings, etc). But I sort of wanted to acquire a base-line of each of the major vintage basses, a foundation if you will
    RedVee likes this.
  4. Oren Hudson

    Oren Hudson

    Dec 25, 2007
    Gastonia, NC
    My story is right out of the movie "That Thing You Do." My cousin and I started getting together on Saturday mornings when I was 12 and he was 14 playing cheap acoustics. He got a Royce and Premier from the local department store and I got a Kent and Marathon from Sears. We put a band together and a couple of years later, time to move up to a brand new 1966 Fender Precision in Olympic White and Carvin 2x15 amp. He got a Vox Phantom VI. I still have the Fender and he the Vox. :)

    PS: My avatar pic shows me with the Kent and him with the Royce. He's the guitar player not sitting.
    NealBass and Gaolee like this.
  5. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    I don't remember not wanting to play guitar--I seem to have always wanted to--but my parents sent me on a detour through the piano--which was okay--it had value.
    I then started guitar.
    After trying to teach myself I started lessons. I started with classical guitar.
    After a couple of years my teacher stopped teaching (it wasn't because of me, but I have joked it was)
    I started with a new teacher & switched to electric.
    The music school had a band program, but you also had to take bass lessons--so since I wanted to be in a band I had to learn bass.
    That's how I started--and it is about my first bass as well.
    I got the bass used through the music school.
    It was a MIJ EB 3 copy--the neck pickup was muddier than a Gibson EB3--but I loved it. (Short scale)
    It is a light bass, and not neck heavy--which surprises me.
    I still have it.

    Many years later, a new music store starts up near where I worked, so I check it out.
    They have Soundgears--which aren't new--but they were new to me--I tried a couple & loved them.
    I had never bought a second one back then--I spent my money more on guitars & guitar stuff--but still knew I wanted a Soundgear.

    Then more years later I saw a hollowbody Ibanez bass in a store & wen to try it out It was on a Dutch Auction--where the price got lower each week.
    It was a fretless too--the first one I had tried, and while someone bought it before it got low enough to what I could afford at the time, I started to think about getting a fretless, so a couple of years later I go serious about that & put aside money for one.
    A used fretless J Bass (MIM) was bought before I could do so, and another store had a new one.

    But when they had a sale & I went to check it out, it was sold.
    I asked if they had any--and a salesman checked their computer-they had an Ibanez SR500F in the back they'd never brought out--so they asked if I wanted to try it.
    Now knowing I love Soundgears I kept my best pokerface & said sure I'll try it.

    As soon as I held it--before I even played it--I knew I was leaving with the bass--and so I bought it.
  6. I don't really have a progression of basses for a particular reason, it's quite random. In the beginning it was what I could afford. My first was a free violin bass that my brother owned but I learned to play on for about two years. I've owned Gibsons, Fenders, Rickenbackers, Danelectros, Jerry Jones, Epiphone, plus a Chapman NS Stick as well as others. My favorite ended up being Rickenbackers and Pbasses, and Longhorn style for short scales. But I like playing all kinds of basses from cheap beaters to more expensive classics, it doesn't matter to me as long as they play decent. I'm not fussy about neck profiles, bridges, scale length. Heck I play a fretless Kala Ubass with 18" scale and it feels fine to me! But the Ricks and Pbasses feel like the most normal and comfortable for me anyway.
  7. twinjet

    twinjet GE90-equipped Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    Cool thread. The two basses I own now are the products of listening to youse guys on teebee.

    I started on a generic J-clone, sold it and progressed to a Schecter, Ibanez and eventually a Fender. It took me about four years of playing to get into Fender, but totally fell for a lovely Mexican Jazz Bass I had bought in 2010/11. All those were of my own volition, no research done on them whatsoever.

    After years of playing the same basses, I opted to switch it up. I sold my three for an American Fender P, and kept the Ibanez. Everyone on TB was raving about flats and P basses. Not a bad sound, but it really made the P bass even more of a one-trick pony than before.

    Eventually, I had to try G&L. No dealers in my state sell these wonderful instruments, so when the chance to buy an '87 L-2000 came about, I jumped on it. Been a G&L man ever since.

    Got tired of keeping an unused bass around, so I struck a deal and scored a Squier Jazz. This now serves as honorary beater/mod bass, while the L-2000 is my primary weapon of choice.

    My fleet is a result of exploration. I made it a point to frequently visit pawn shops and music stores. If there was a bass I hadn't tried, I did. I've played many great and not-so-great basses. I played a lovely US Jazz Bass and a dreamy US Peavey Cirrus. I'd played Chinese Squiers that hurt to touch. It was all to see if I could find what I liked, and I did.
    Killed_by_Death likes this.
  8. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    I've played Fender basses, but I've never owned one.
    But I have a Fender guitar.
  9. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    OK, I'll play. Back when I was a teenager I bought a bass. I don't remember too much about it other than that it had four strings and was black - probably a P clone or something. I dabbled a bit, lost interest, it got stolen when I was about 22 and I didn't bother replacing it.

    15 years or so later I got the bug to play again (had mostly tinkered on mandolin in the intervening years), and discovered the joys of CL. Bought an Ibanez Gio starter.
    Pretty quickly, thanks to the influence of the internet and TB, I started thinking about finding the Ultimate Bass and wanted to try everything out. I wanted five strings and neck through, and the most affordable option was the Washburn Taurus T25. My parents got it for me for Christmas.
    Then I wanted something for a backup to the Washburn and I also wanted to try P-bass tone, but firmly felt I was a five-string player. The result - the other bass I got as a Christmas present - was a Yamaha BB415. Years later I got some decals for her and she became Batgirl.
    After getting the Yamaha, but before it became Batgirl, I started to get tired of the Washburn. I was in my first gigging band by then (this was 2010 or so) and something just wasn't clicking live. It may have been fretboard radius, or string spacing, or something, I don't know. But I was working out in Kansas City for a week and ran across the weirdest bass in a music shop, fell in love with its balance and lightness and... well, weirdness. I wasn't able to afford it that summer. Next year I went back and visited the shop again. It was gone, but I found out it had been there on consignment and the luthier had taken it back. It was John Toon, they gave me his contact info and we wound up meeting and I bought the bass off him. "Looney Toon" became my main player after that and I sold the Washburn.

    The other thing that happened was that I started being curious about four-strings. I had been playing mainly fivers, but something in me just wanted to try the simplicity of a four. I went through a couple of SXs. The big even that made a change was that I was on Jeopardy in the summer of 2013. I came in a very distant second, but the consolation prize money enabled me to fulfill my curiosity about Carvin and their custom basses.
    About that time I also got into the band that, so far, has been my heaviest-gigging outfit, a classic rock trio, so the green bass ("Def Cats," named for a particularly boneheaded answer on the show) became my new #1. The fivers just weren't needed on that band's set list and were mostly just played at home.

    I like having a backup bass for gigs. So for the trio's gigs, I would mainly bring Def Cats and Batgirl. But, GAS being what it is, I wanted a backup 4, and I didn't have a Fender, and the P-bass thing was itching again even though I don't like P necks. So I bought some used parts and cobbled together a Frankenfender.
    CAM00477 (768x1024).

    And the one other thing I should mention is that, all through this time (between about 2011 and now) I also got interested in ABGs, and was also curious about fretless. I had a fretless Michael Kelly Dragonfly first, then sold it and got a fretted Washburn AB10, later sold that and picked up a Godin fretless A4. When I started playing in church, that rapidly became my main bass for worship team.

    And that's pretty much the tale of my main basses. There have been a handful of others that passed through without ever really become part of the main story.

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