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Please help me understand the multiple bass thing

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Jarrett, Apr 23, 2010.

  1. Jarrett


    Jan 19, 2004
    Waxahachie, Tx
    About me, I've been playing bass for 20 years now. Played in a touring pro band for about 8 years, played in some jazz ensembles in college, five years playing in worship bands, many sit in gigs throughout the years, recorded on a dozen albums or so. Nothing major, but I've played my fair share I think.

    Through that time I've had usually two basses at any given time. Always my main 5-string and usually another 4 or 5-string for backup. Nothing too drastically different really. In all those years, the basses I've had at the time have worked for the gig I had. I never really felt the need to have a specialized bass for a specific gig.

    That said, I see lots of players saying things like:

    For this gig, I have a '65 P-bass with flat wounds and for this gig I have a J-bass with nickels and this other gig I have a 5-string Singlecut strung E to C and this other gig I have a 7-string with stainless and piezo pickups, etc.

    I've never fully understood this. Can you help me understand the reasoning, need, desire, even requirement for having multiple specialized instruments like that? Are there literally times where a band will dictate your gear? Or is this generally a preference issue?
  2. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    I agree completely. I think the more you play out, the less gear you really need.

    That said, I like to keep 3 basses: a good 4, a good fretted 5 and a good fretless 5. Everything else is just for fun. Right now, since I'm between bands, I'm fighting GAS to buy another 5 string (one that slaps more easily than my Zon) - - I know that if I was in a band, actually gigging, I'd be more worried about learning the tunes and maybe getting a specialized pedal for a certain song or two... but a new bass? Hardly.
  3. I guess it's just a really personal thing-- some folks really want a bunch of different tones for different situations, or different songs, even. I own a bunch of basses but only really use two of them, and they're both P basses. One or the other gets used every week, on every gig, any style of music.
  4. Yerf Dog

    Yerf Dog

    Jun 29, 2009
    Carol Stream, IL
    Whoever dies with the most toys wins.
  5. I don't understand *I don't understand* threads.
  6. I only have 2 basses, but I truly feel i should have lots more!

    In the band I play I need to use alternate tunings for a couple of songs, and changing tunings on stage though it might not take too much time, is a hazard. so i do need another bass to switch to for alternate tunings.
    And then, if you think about it, I really need 2 backups, one for standard tuning and then another one for alternate tuning.
    so there you go. I need at least 4 basses to gig.
    And I also need a couple of fretless basses... their sound works great in some songs, while in others i need fretted. so that makes 6 basses.
    Then, on some other songs, I need a low B. Still don't have a fiver, but when I get one, I'll need to get 2 of them, one for backup.
    So there, Ideally I'd need at least 8 basses for gigging!
  7. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    I've only been playing for 10 years. The first 7 I did not gig. I went through dozens of basses mostly just to see what was out there, and to try different basses. Now that I'm gigging regularly, I have 2 go-to basses, and am quite happy with them. Not really gassing, as they meet my needs just fine.
  8. Jarrett


    Jan 19, 2004
    Waxahachie, Tx
    I totally get the fretless thing. That's something I really haven't delved into as much since college. I usually borrow one if I need it to record or something. Might be worth an investment at this point though.
  9. It's called, "Rationalizing a fetish." Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    I stopped at five: an active five with soaps (goes to every gig), a P that I built from parts, a J that was an awesome CL score, a P/J that was my first (and I just can't let her go), and a fretless. And I'm done.

    Um... except for that white Yamaha five that would be sooo perfect for my new '80s project...

  10. Thor

    Thor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Had a band leader call me today for a second rehearsal.
    I had brought my Casady to the first one.

    His comment was 'The Epiphone is nice, but I am not really
    into the P bass sound, can you bring a jazz type bass?'.

    Sure man, I can play bass, tell me what you want for the sound and I am good with it. My telepathy skills OTOH suck.
  11. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    I just like all the different basses available to us. It's kind of like a dividing line between people who see a bass as a tool for a job, and people who see it as an exotic and fun object to interact with.
  12. People like spending money.
  13. Spinal Tapper

    Spinal Tapper

    Nov 15, 2007
    It's called GAS. welcome the forums!
  14. Plus, there's also the question of matching the player's outfits... My basses are black, which works for almost any clothes I might be wearing, but a white bass would be good as well.
  15. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    Let me see if I have this right: You brought a Epi JC, and he tells you he's not into the "P-bass" sound?


    What's wrong with this picture...
  16. Like you, I have played for a long time, about 35 years. I have at times had basses that I played for specific occasions, although not for any practical reason. Mostly they were emotional, such as the Gibson SB400 that I used mostly for gospel, although sometimes country. And the Steinberger that was great for long gigs, or difficult to load into places, etc. About two years ago I sold most of my bass gear, mostly because at 54 I didn't want to handle some of it (Genz Benz 1X18 and 4X10, with the Carvin PB-500 head I used with it), It was outdated (Ampeg B-15 fliptop and 1973 Fender Bassman with the 2X15 cabinet), I didn't need so much (three Bag End 1X15 cabinets, Yorkville 1X15 an 4X10, Old Yamaha 2X15, Kustom head vfrom the 60's, Ampeg BA-115, Labseries L-6, Gibson GB-440 with two cabinets), etc. I kept one bass (it can do anything anyone else's can do; Gibson RD Artist), sold the Steinberger, the Kawai, the RD Standard, the SB400. I kept the Labseries L-2 and the Thunderfunk head, and the Labseries may go yet. Some I got decent prices for, some went cheap, and some went more than I would have thought. All of these were hard to sell for different reasons, some I regret for personal reasons, but to get back to your question, it's all in their head. The player chooses as he feels like it, and there is no practical reason other than to satisfy yourself.

    Just my 2 cents...now you have me waxing nostalgic. It makes me think of certain gigs or bands or bandmates when I think of each of these, and where I was at the time. Also when I hear recordings of then, I get that way. I used to record a lot of stuff, to critically evaluate, and have been listening to some of them lately.

    Time for a beer...Peace!
  17. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    Having a fretless makes complete sense. I do understand where you're coming from on having a plethora of basses though.

    I think some people buy multiple basses just for bragging rights so to speak or because they feel for whatever reason they just have to have this bass, then rationalize it by saying they want a different tone for this song, gig, etc, When realistically, they hardly ever use more than 2 or 3 of them in their collection.
  18. meursault42


    Jun 21, 2006
    I'll weigh in on this, I guess. A little background about me...up until Nov. 2007, I was a working bassist in the Detroit area. I played a variety of styles, ranging from rock, r&b, dance-club covers, lounge music and latin jazz. Over the course of those gigs, I only ever played one bass. And I can say, that I never really had a burning desire to diversify. That one bass provided all the variety that I needed in those live working situations.

    Since '07, I've landed a job playing saxophone (my other instrument) with a military band in DC. As a result of this and other factors, I find myself not gigging on bass anymore, but rather doing a lot of playing at home, with headphones, really focusing on the subtler aspects of my sound. And, well, now I find myself really craving the more subtle variety that you can achieve with other basses. In fact, I just picked up my first P-bass a couple of weeks ago.

    So, the obvious conclusion that I draw from this is that for guys (and gals) that spend the majority of their time slugging it out in live situations, just battling to get a decent sound that works in the room, it doesn't make much sense to fiddle around with different basses. However, for someone who is more accustomed to having their sound put under the microscope (namely studio cats), having that arsenal of different basses and different subtle tone qualities can make a big difference.

    My two cents....
  19. becker4567


    Jul 26, 2008
    At least for me, I see a bass and think "if only I had that, I would play better, sound better, and just be mo better!". It never works out, so I just use my trusty frankenbass.
  20. krafty


    Mar 22, 2010
    Holland, MI
    I had the same problem for a while when it came to paintball guns. "Is 15 too few? Is 16 too many?"

    For most people it really just seems to be a case of "I want that bass for whatever reason, I can afford it, so I'll buy it". For performing bands with songs in different tunings I can understand the need, but for the rest of us I think it's just want.

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