"Project Basses" - An Epiphany

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by IotaNet, Nov 22, 2005.

  1. IotaNet

    IotaNet Supporting Member

    To the Group -

    This isn't a rant nor is it a position statement. I just had an experience that I wanted to share and see if others have had a similar one.

    Like you, I've read all of the threads about buying a cheap bass and modding it. Sometimes, those degenerate into "Why buy cheap when you can buy quality from the start?" This really isn't that thread and it isn't the discussion I hope to spark.

    I bought an inexpensive, used bass yesterday, brought it home, did some specific mods and am now very satisfied with the end product. I expected that. (Well, I was hoping for the best!) What I did not expect was the very cool feeling that the project gave me. :cool:

    Don't laugh but I feel some intense satisfaction here -- not just the "I love it when a plan comes together" feeling. It's more like, "I have officially made this bass MINE. It plays like I want it to play -- it sounds like I want it to sound." That is very cool, indeed! :hyper:

    I've been playing bass for about a year and I have a number of basses. Some very expensive ones (2 Barkers), some "Middle-of-the-Road" ones (Standard Jazz, Washburn ABG), some oddballs (Aria Sinsonido, Optek Fretlight) but this was the first one that I bought with the specific objective to open it up and replace parts in order to change its character to suit me.

    I know some folks think that buying a bass just to upgrade seems like a waste of time. They say, "Save your money and buy a higher quality instrument from jumpstreet." That's one approach and under some circumstances, it's the correct one. In other cases however, there is tremendous intangible, intrinsic value in the process of modifying an instrument to suit your personal preferences.

    I am not an electrician, nor am I an electronics wiz. On the other hand, between all of the knowledge on Talkbass, the good folks at Seymour Duncan (who answered my questions pleasantly and professionally), and a little patience, I was able to get done what I wanted done. And I am more than a little self-satisfied about it. :smug:

    I'll close by saying this: If you know what you're looking for (sound/feel-wise), and you're willing to do your homework (knowing what's available, how it works, and what it costs), and are willing to take your time and be patient, buying a used/inexpensive instrument and upgrading it can have some tremendous benefits -- don't knock it 'til you've tried it! :bassist:
  2. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Dead right, IME. It's real nice to have a bass that you've had a considerable influence on, if you know what I mean. The satisfaction of getting it how YOU want it and knowing that it's a bit different to stock is all part of the deal, as well as actually getting a good bass (if, as you say, you take the trouble to get it right).

    I don't think you can make a good instrument out of a bad start, but lower price basses can be bettered by the personal touch. It's fun as well. Congrats!
  3. the other way to achieve a similar feeling is to go custom.

    i'm glad you've achieved your goals for this project. i had a J i modified once. cosmetically it looked incredible. sonically, it ended up not being what i wanted. so i sold it. it's good your results were much better.

  4. IotaNet

    IotaNet Supporting Member


    The only problem there is the cost factor. Cost aside, that's one of the neat things about working with folks like Nino Valenti or Carvin -- you get to specify exactly what you (think you) want. And you don't have to worry about screwing it up. Trust me -- when I finished my project, I was holding my breath when I plugged it in for the first time. ("Uh-oh ... am I SURE I did this right?")

    On the other hand, when you do it yourself, there is (IMHO) the personal satisfaction of having used your own brain and guile to bring your vision to life.
  5. IotaNet

    IotaNet Supporting Member

    The Project:

    What I needed:
    A 5-string to get comfortable on. I started playing bass with a Standard Jazz early this year and for better or worse, that's what I am most comfortable playing. I have recently started shedding on Gospel music and for that idiom, you really need a 5-string.

    I'd been seriously considering a Fender Jazz 5-string but for the money, I wasn't impressed with what I'd been seeing and I didn't really want to buy one off of Ebay.

    The constraints:
    1) Cost: It's close to Christmas and I don't have a lot of extra cash floating around to buy a new bass.

    2) Configuration: I don't care for a 35" scale. Call it preference, call it inexperience, but I have played several of them and it's not comfortable for me.

    I also wanted something with 19mm string spacing (Identical to my Standard J-bass.) Again, this may be inexperience speaking but I needed to stay as close to what I've been learning on as possible.

    3) Weight: I have a bad back and anything over 10 pounds simply is too heavy for me.

    What I bought:
    A used Squire P-Bass Special V. I had seen these in a few music stores and played them. I was impressed with the feel and weight. I love neck and the scale. Excellent stock bridge and tuners. Pickups and pots varied by instrument. I did some research and found generally favorable reviews on it with the usual caveats (electronics & setup.)

    This one was located at a local music store (Brickhouse Music in River Falls, WI -- this is spitting distance from my home Minneapolis/St. Paul.) Brickhouse is an excellent store with knowledgeable, honest folks. The bass had been sitting on the shelves for quite a while and nobody was really paying it any attention. I called the store specifically looking for this model and initially, they didn't even know they had it.

    When I got there, I played it and was pretty pleased. The setup/action was good. The neck was excellent, and the electronics were clean but the pickups were a bit noisy and the B-string sound was "so-so." (I found out later that this bass comes stock with 4-string pickups!) The strings were also tired.

    I did some horse-trading and got an excellent price. As an added bonus, the Bass tech (Clark - who is a great guy!)checked out the connections/pots and worked with me to set it up to my preferences.

    What I did:
    * Took it home and cleaned it up.
    * Replaced the stock pickups with some Seymour Duncan SJB-5 stack® for Jazz bass®. (I already had these in my possession and they needed a home.)
    * Had to Dremel the pickguard opening a tiny bit to allow the new pups to fit.
    * Replaced the strings with Labella BNT's

    The Outcome:
    An excellent sounding bass! I didn't expect it to sound like a P-Bass because these are Jazz pickups in a (modified) Jazz configuration. On the other hand, the strings round out the Jazz tone and take a bit of the edge off. The Basslines have absolutely NO NOISE (they're unbelievable!) Played singly or in tandem, they give a nice, growly tone with virtually no hum. Because I'm not limited to playing them both at the same volume, I get a lot of flexibility of tones.

    What's Next:
    * A tort pickguard (just because I like that look.)
    * When I replace the pg, I may have it re-wired from "vol/vol/tone" to "master vol/blend/tone."
    * I may even get funky and add a series/parallel switch. (Doubtful that I can do this myself -- I DO know my limits!)

    Bottom line:
    I got what I needed without breaking the bank. (I paid a LOT less than I would have for a used Jazz 5-string.)

    I am pleased. :D
  6. fookgub


    Jun 5, 2005
    Houston, TX
    I've been down this road a number of times, and I have mixed feelings. Sometimes you get great results. Sometimes, despite all your careful planning and expensive parts, the results just aren't very good.

    I spent a while trying to convince myself I loved my old modded Cort. It was a fine bass, and I gigged it a few times. But it was always just.... lacking. I spent forever tweaking the setup, replaced the pickup, tried a couple bridges, but it was never "right". Everytime I picked up another of my basses, the quality difference was like night and day.

    On the other hand, my defretted Epiphone P-bass turned out great. I couldn't have hoped for better results.

    I think the key is recognizing the underlying quality of an instrument, and knowing in advance which mods are worthwhile and what the outcome might be. A good instrument with shoddy hardware is a fixer-upper, and shoddy instrument with shoddy hardware is just a money pit.
  7. Quadzilla

    Quadzilla Supporting Member

    I bought a bunch of items off of Ebay and internet retailers (guitarelectronics.com, etc. I spent a total of $350 and did it myself and am VERY happy with the end result!

    Link to thread on my project---> Click Me!


  8. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    I had one of those in Shoreline Gold...it used to be my main axe. When I got my B2-5, it didn't get much stage time, so I sold it to a fellow TB'er in Australia. They do play nice, and I got a great sound out of it from day one, so I never modded it.
  9. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    good job, but don't sell yourself short with the series parallel mod. I asked the same question and got a very easy to follow response here....


    I think every jazz should have a series paralell switch, it's like having a whole new instrument inside your bass for about 11 bucks (the price of a push/pull pot)

    I also agree with your assessment on building/modding. It usually saves alot of cash, but even if you don't save a ton of money, many people find it extremely satisfying. I have built 2.5 basses and modded a couple of others, and I enjoy the process almost as much as the final result. It also gives you valuable experience in instrument repair.

    There is a very good paralell between basses and cars. You can buy a brand spanking new sports car, or a totally restored one, but alot of folks buy an old car in poor to fair condition and rebuild and restore it themself, likewise, many people buy a cheapo honda and mod it into a racer. Many of these people enjoy the process of building and customizing as much or more than the final product.
  10. pointbass

    pointbass Semi-Retired Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    Just finished a rehab on a '68 Goya J MIJ that came out beautifully ...... normally I sell these basses off, but this one is a keeper


    Details about the project can be found here. The rehab was worth every penny ....... :cool:
  11. Personally, I would never buy a bass specifically to modify it. I have, however, bought basses that I ended up modifying. An example is my P-Bass clone. It cost me $230 brand new and that included a Fender "Original 62" pickup. It has a nice 2 piece solid mahogany body (Candy Apple Red w/mint green pickguard) and it came with a maple/maple neck. I levelled and polished the frets and the bass played and sounded great. After playing the bass for about 2 years, I decided that ashtrays ($24) would look good, so I bought and installed them. Then I decided the neck that came on the bass was a little narrower ( 1 5/8" at the nut) than I wanted, so I found one with a 1 3/4" width at the nut ($30 on eBay) and installed it. I had to shim the neck so I could adjust the string height, but it has been on the bass for about a year and a half now and I haven't had to make any adjustments at all; it is extremely stable. The bass looks, sounds and plays great. My total expenditure was $284.00 and this bass sees more stage time than any of my other basses except my Hamer 2TEK CruiseBass.
  12. Greg Johnsen

    Greg Johnsen

    May 1, 2005
    Hickory NC
    It looks great! I plan on making a jazz out of an SX and it'll be a stealth bass whne it's done. I'm going to get most of my parts from guitarpartsresource.com It's a great place and they have a great selection.

    I hope I'll be starting it sometime in January or February, so I'll have enough money to make it. I'm going to need about $450, which is a good deal seeing that I'm doing alot of stuff to it.

  13. even something as simple as doing a decent setup yourself can give similar results- as you say, since it plays like YOU want it to. i think this is part of the reason i'm so happy with my "starter" peavey- its not quite a signature instrument, but it works for me :)

    nice job on the 5er too :bassist:
  14. abngourmet

    abngourmet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2004
    Dude, if it works for you, that's all that really matters. Tinkering with things is what I think makes Fenders so popular ... you can add and subtract certain things to make them "yours." Think I'm kidding? Look at Marcus Miller ... or Jaco. They both modified their Fenders to give them what they were looking for. Or Geddy. Same thing.

    Me? My '73 Jazz has a Badass and two Seymour Duncan Stacks. It works for me. And I don't care if others don't like it!

    Glad you found something you like. Enjoy it!