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MM Playability? Dilemma?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ii7-V7, Aug 28, 2005.

  1. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    Have a dilemma.

    I'm a guitar player primarily who is looking for a bass. Because of this playability is a major concern for me. I just don't have the chops to play a bass with high action and a 36" scale, with monster huge strings. I've played an awful lot of basses and none of them have ever compared to a MusicMan in terms of playability. Warwick comes fairly close. What is it that makes the MM so darn playable? I mean the action is low and the notes are easy to fret, depsite there being plenty of string tension. The bass doesn't have that clicky clacky sound when its played like alot of other modern basses (Ibanez comes to mind). What is it that does this? Is it the design of the neck, the frets, what??????

    Heres the dilemma though, while the MM sounds good it isn't really the sound that I'm looking for. I like the Jazz bass sound, especially on the neck pickup. Now, I'm not a tone stickler....I'm not one of those guys who can listen to a recording and can claim to be able to tell you the string guage and make of pickup used on the track. But, I have yet to dial in a sound that seems compatible with jazz, country or R&B on a MM. Could it be that I just haven't figured out how to dial the right sound in?

    I'm thinking that I may buy a MM and just put in a Jazz Bass Neck pickup, but goodness then I'd have 7 knobs on the front of the bass. Perhaps, I could take the preamp and go passive all the way. I've never really thought much of active pickups anyway. Anyway thats a lot of money to sink into an already expensive bass.

    Anyone else ever done this? Anyone else have this dilemma?

  2. action and playability are more about how the bass is setup...I cannot see how a good MIA or MIJ Jazz bass can't be set up to be every bit as playable as an EB MM.
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    With MM basses, you really have to love their trademark sound in order to get along with them. I've found that pretty much anything you do with them results in that sound.
  4. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    I agree with PilbaraBass; any good MIA (or even an MIM) Jazz Bass with a good neck can be adjusted to have a killer action. If you absolutely prefer the sound of the Jazz Bass over every other bass sound, IMO only a Jazz Bass will do.

    Have you tried a MusicMan Sterling? It has a 3-way pickup selector switch (#1 Series, #2 Single Coil w/humcancelling dummy coil, and #3 Parallel) and a 3-band EQ standard. This gives it a bit more tonal variety compared to the standard MM Stingray w/ a 2-Band EQ. In single-coil mode (middle position) I'm able to get a *J-like* sound.

    I also prefer it's narrow Jazz-like neck; which is odd, considering I'm first and foremost a P-Bass fan. :eyebrow:

    - Art
  5. I have a Sterling - it's the most playable instrument I own and I own too many.
  6. thisSNsucks

    thisSNsucks Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2004
    Yonkers, NY
    I'm ordering my sterling this week :hyper: Definatly love the feel, slim jazz like neck, smaller body, much more tonal variety. I would say look at the Geddy Lee Jazz bass before you go spend money on the sterling though. I have a Geddy and its great. I just dig on that MM sound that the sterling offers, as well as the other great sounds it can produce. just listen to some of switchfoot, nice deep bassy tone from tim foreman, then some less than jake, a great punk/ska tone, not to mention what dave larue has done with his sterling.
  7. bovinehost

    bovinehost Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball Music Man/Sterling By Music Man
    There are so many variables, but the difference string selection makes is STUNNING.

    I string all my EBMM basses with flats and have yet to find a situation in which it doesn't work. Yes, EBMM basses have a signature sound. No, they're not "one trick ponies". Yes, you can get a variety of tones from them.

    I don't recommend flats for everyone, but they sure do the job for me. Amp & speakers also play a major part in resulting tone, of course.....

  8. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    A set up isn't the only component of playability. The design of the neck, materials, neck joint, the coupling of the neck to the body, etc. These are factors which effect playability that can't be chaged with a simple setup.

    It would seem that you could set up an MIA fender Jazz to play like a EBMM, but in practical terms I haven't seen it happen. I've played some upper end Fenders that played nice but not as nice as an EB. Could it be that they would have if they had a better setup? Could be, but I haven't seen it.

    Bovinehost, You are everywhere man! I would love to try an EBMM with flats. I put flats on all of my guitars. I'm sure that having flats on the EB would get me closer to my sounds that I'm looking for. But I think the single coil neck PU will go one step further.

    Everytime I've tried an EBMM it was in a crowded Guitar Center with tons of people playing around me and the Rock station turned up loud, through an unfamiliar rig with a salesman standing right over me. Not the best environment to really evaluate the tonal qualities of a guitar.

    Arthur U. Poon, I love the Jazz Bass sound but when I play a Jazz Bass I feel like I'm fighting it noto playing it. I've pulled a few off the shelf that played nice, but most just don't feel good. Could it be a product of poor setup? Could be, but I'm not going to pay $1400 to find out.

  9. christoph h.

    christoph h.

    Mar 26, 2001
    While I agree with you that there are factors others than neck/string setup I do think that those are not unique to MM.
    In fact - and I hope I don't offend you (English not being my native language) - I think that if you can't find lots of other bass you like playing, you are being too picky, up to the point of imagining things, just because you "expect" them to turn out a certain way. Again, no offense meant.

    You could try a Lakland, which has a MM and a SC neck PU and try out (regardless of playability) whether the available tonal options of such a PU configuration satisfy you.

    I'm not from the US, but one thing I see on this forum a lot is the complaint that the "off the wall" setup of instruments in Guitar Centers sucks so much that you definitely can't judge the playability.

    You should be able to convince the staff to adjust the setup (or allow them dto do it yourself). Lots of people seem to recommend that when (seriously) trying out things in Guitar Center, see above.

    Hope some of this helped.

  10. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    Christoph H.

    No offense taken. As for not being able to find other basses that I like thats not really the issue. There just seems to be somthing special about EBMM's that I can't quanitfy. Perhaps it is just a perception thing, or maybe it really is that they take better care to set them up at the factory. I'm not sure. But I'm not drawn to the bass for its looks or its sound necessarily so I think there has to be something there. And, by the way, its not that i don't like the sound of the MM its just that I'd like to also be able to dial in a traditional jazz sound, or at least an approximation of that.

    As for trying out a Lakland, I'd like to do that but haven't found a shop around here that sells them.

    I could ask the guys at the store to set up the guitars but I would end up asking them to set u all the basses on the wall most likely. I'll wait until I actually have the money before I go and do that. Though I've thought about going into the store and asking them to change the setup, and put some flatwounds on the bass, and set me up in a quiet room, etc. only to not buy the bass at all. But if I ever want to go back thier I think I'll avoid that.

    Why would a store who intends to sell insturments blare the local rock station, and keep poorly setup guitars on the wall? But thats another topic all together.

  11. bovinehost

    bovinehost Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball Music Man/Sterling By Music Man
    Well, first, I agree that there is something different and special about EBMM basses. To quantify is sometimes difficult, but maybe what draws you to them is not so much the setup, which is generally outstanding from the factory, but rather more basic things such as neck size, radius and the more difficult to describe overall feel.

    The neck radius difference, for instance, between a "vintage" style Fender and modern EBMM bass is significant. Fender = 7.25" versus 11" for EBMM basses. I like both, but there is quite a signficant difference in feel.

    Think that could be part of it?
  12. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    MM basses have a broad, flat neck. In guitar language, it would be more Gibson-ish and less Fender-like.

    I agree that MM basses have a comfortable neck. My Modulus Q5 has a neck very similar in geometry to a EBMM. I love it.

    If you like a jazz tone, but want the EBMM feel, look into a Modulus Genesis. Not exactly a jazz, but close. You may even like a Quantum.

    They are more expensive, but they can be set up with stupid low action and sound HUGE with a light touch.
  13. stretch80


    Jan 31, 2005

    MM is coming out with a new line of double pickup Stingrays, Sterlings, and SR5s....2 humbuckers or humbucker plus single coil. I think the 2 hummer has a setting where you get one coil from each pickup, which may have some j-bass to it...

    ....but of course, this would involve waiting until those new ones are out.
  14. Larzito


    Aug 1, 2000
    Dallas, Texas
    I don't think it is unreasonable at all to ask a store to set up a bass to your specs so you can see if you want to buy it. Its called customer service. Find a small shop with real people instead of GC...a customer shouldn't be afraid to ask for something. Find a MM that plays to your liking, then find a jazz you're interested in and see if they can set it up similar, then take it into the "vintage room" or someplace quiet. Oh, and the blaring music at GC can serve to your advantage...play along with it...you can get an idea of how the bass might sit in the mix with other instruments.

    When you play the jazz, if your right hand position is on the pickup closest to the neck, the string tension is going to be way more floppy than playing the MM at its pickup...the MM pickup is closer to the bridge. Having said that, try playing the MM plucking closer to the neck...you get a lot warmer fatter sound, closer to the roundness of the jazz. And don't be aftaid to turn the bass knob up on a MM...because of its pickup placement, it doesn't get as boomy as many other two pickup basses. Give a G & L a try if someone sells them locally...also a Leo bass concept...incorperates elements of MM and Fender.
  15. Jeb


    Jul 22, 2001
    I have a SR5 and a ASe Fender Jazz. I agree that there is a certain feel to the MM bass, it plays very well, very slick. The Jazz bass plays very well also, but a different feel. But I do think that the "one-trick-pony" description as applied to the MM is not without some merit. My bass is extremely bright with amazing clarity. Some might even say gritty to the point of "harsh." I've had sound techs croon about the piano-like ring, it can be very prevalent in a mix. Even budget roundwound strings would seem to keep the "new string sound" for months. I put TIJF345s on this bass and that was the ticket! Much more control over my tone, I can still get plenty of bite without my personally perceived harshness.
  16. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    Chaddukes, my Jazz and Precision basses play everywhere as nicely as my Sterling does, so I believe it's certainly possible to setup a Jazz bass to play as easily as a MusicMan.

    Bovinehost and Chasarms brought up a great point: EB/MM basses have a flatter neck radius compared to a Fender bass. Perhaps you prefer the feel of a flatter radiused neck. (?)

    If you decide the MusicMan's sound works for you, IMO you've made a great choice.

    - Art