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Ready to make the leap to DB....What now?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Warpeg, Apr 9, 2018.

  1. Warpeg


    Jun 20, 2005
    Long time bass guitarist and poster on TB's "electric side" here. So, I've decided that I'd like to finally go down the path of learning DB. It's been a long-running dream of mine to get into DB. However, I am totally clueless when it comes to what I should be looking for in a bass to purchase.

    • Is it possible to get a new or used DB of acceptable quality for under $2k? Under $1k?
    • What criteria should I be looking for in terms of my bass? - Country of origin? Brand name? Material and manufacturing specifications?
    • As someone proficient with bass guitar maintenance and adjustment, but not with DB, how can I know if a bass that I am considering is set up properly?
    • What else should I know?
  2. Scott Lynch

    Scott Lynch Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2002
    Delaware, USA

    Many excellent links compiled below, particularly the first major one on how to buy a DB. Aside from encouraging you to read through some of these and return with specific inquiries (for which you will find us happy to help over here), my other recommendation is to find a good teacher and take as many lessons as you can afford, especially as a beginner. DB technique differs in a number of critical aspects from BG. It is also a more physically demanding instrument than BG and learning good technique is essential for the health of your hands, arms, wrists, shoulders, etc.

    Lee Moses, bassfran and Oddly like this.
  3. Warpeg


    Jun 20, 2005
  4. Warpeg


    Jun 20, 2005
    There is a local pawn shop that has a year 2000 3/4 Shen SB 100 for under $800. I don't necessarily have an available DB expert to come with me to check it out. Can anyone suggest a list of items that I will want to go over on the bass when I go to take a look at it?
  5. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Good deal if it's solid, but without an experienced eye, still taking a chance. You'll be better off without a neck break or crack, loose neck joint, make sure all seams are solid (cheap to fix) bridge isn't warped (expensive to replace), endpin works, tuners work reasonably well, not too banged up as touchups can be expensive. Bring an experienced player with you if possible. It may need bridge/fingerboard general setup work.
  6. TwentyHz

    TwentyHz Supporting Member

    From a hack/newbie:

    Welcome :)

    I don’t regret the mistake I knowingly made when I decided to take the BG-DB leap. I was too intimidated to do it the right way. I felt weird like I wasn’t supposed to have a DB cuz I’m a hobbyist. I shrugged and decided I have the rest of my life to learn how to play the thing.

    I lucked out. My impulsive $1Kish Englehardt EM-1 from MF turned out to be a decent one. And after a year, Cinci Bass Cellar helped me bring it a big step better.

    But for real - the idea of getting in $2K deep up front (rather than trying to go lightly) makes way more sense.

    You’ll see in the TB threads some good paths, such as a Gollihur-screened/set-up Engle’, an Upton ply, or a used Shen or other ply from a bass shop —— all set-up and vetted.

    Makes way more sense than trying to sleuth it out solo and in the dark, and let’s you focus on the player stuff. There’s plenty :).

    Once you have a bass and figure out strings, you’ll likely work your way towards discovering that you want an adjustable bridge, a pickup, pre-amp, DI, and perhaps an HPF.

    There’s great help on the DB side, but it definitely pays to read-read-read.
    tonequixote likes this.
  7. Scott Lynch

    Scott Lynch Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2002
    Delaware, USA
    If it were me in your shoes - bringing somebody who knows what to look for, and who can play test it, would be a must have in this scenario.

    If you've got the coin, and are reasonably close to Cincinnati - Shen Laminated SB80, 3/4 (China) | Cincinnati Bass Cellar
    TwentyHz and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  8. ILIA


    Jan 27, 2006
    Check the bow of the neck. Sometimes the lower end imported basses will be great at first, but after a few years, the neck starts bowing (making the strings too high in the middle positions, which can be mitigated with an extreme fingerboard dressing, but eventually the neck would have to be replaced at great cost), and the top starts sinking (because they cut the top too thin to make it sound better at the cost of long-term structural sustainability). The good news is that it is an 18 year old bass. Anything that could have gone wrong with it when it was first purchased, has already happened. One of the advantages of a bass entering adolescence (in bass years) is that health flaws that it was born with due to bad design or inferior materials, have aged out, for the most part. The bad news is that it has probably hit its ceiling in terms of inherent tone. IOW, what you see is what you get.
  9. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    When I was going through this agony of deciding between ply, solid carved wood, hybrid, I eventually realized that unless I lucked into some used piece of luck, I was pretty much stuck with a plywood bass. This was because my budget was $2000. I went with the ones vetted by local music stores and got a decent quality Ametto. I would consider Englehardt, Estle Louis, Shen, Upton if I could get one under $2000. There was a Stentor that was a hybrid under $2000 but the sign unseen online purchase really bothered me.

    Based on feedback here, there is a risk you might not make it out of the woodshed given the strength and determination it takes to learn the instrument and get competent and move around on it. Unless you adopt other strategies some find controversial that I won't go into. So I wanted to keep it under $2000 -- which in my case, meant $1600 on sale after I was done.

    I consider my Ametto VB-100 a decent quality bass within its price range. Although I wish I'd have gotten the VB-150, which has an ebony fingberboard rather than a painted maple fingerboard. That's my only regret. The luthier said the blackened fingerboard would last 20 years though.

    Ametto VB100 Bass

    I give the Ametto a good rating so far. Had mine for about 1.25 years with no problems. It sure helps to be able to go to a music store and play a good quality brand. They tend to vary widely in their tone even within the same brand and model I found -- even though they use the same materials etcetera. The place I went to upgraded a lot of the parts too --quartersawn bridge, carbon fiber end pin, adjustable bridge. They gave me Hellicore Hybrid strings and a professional set up to my liking while waited at the store. The upright has stood up with a reasonably busy gigging schedule in professional situations and decent reviews from the clients and musicians I perform with, and my own tastes.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
  10. $2k is a reasonable metric if you insist on buying new. There’s no real reason to do that.

    My first bass was a plywood German Hofner I got for $250 because I was in the right place at the right time. $100 later I’d had it set up, gained some knowledge of the instrument and acquired a mentor and friend.

    ****, my carved Solano cost $2k and I got a friend out of that deal too.

    Educate yourself, look around every day, and be patient.
  11. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Personally, I think that buying a bass is not the first or even the tenth step.

    I would recommend renting a bass and bow and getting started with a qualified teacher using one of the several standard bass methods.

    I am a self-taught saxophonist (40 years experience) and when I decided 5 or 6 years ago to take up DB I decided to do it the right way. What I discovered (which wasn't really a surprise) was that my progress was much faster by following the standard path than it would have been by trying to do it myself.

    If you want to stop sounding like poo and start sounding good and enjoying what you're doing, as quickly as possible, I believe the path described above is the fastest. Once you have some significant hours of practice under your belt with the rented bass you will also know a lot more about what works and doesn't and will be better qualified to decide which bass to buy.

    You can do it the other way, lots of people have, but I think you really ought to consider just going down the straight and narrow standardized path for a while.
    Seanto likes this.
  12. lurk


    Dec 2, 2009
    I've had several students come in with plys and hybrids they bought from String Emporium (Thompson - Chinese) that I thought were terrific value. They talked to someone there that set up the instruments with good strings and pickups and shipped them. If they had asked me for advice before purchasing I would have told them never to buy something they hadn't played, but I gotta admit they did great and have instruments you could have a career on (if you're a jazz guy - the hybrid) or would want to keep the rest of your life as a 2nd bass - the ply.
    Eric Hochberg likes this.
  13. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    I also recommend renting at first. Once you are comfortable and addicted to the instrument, you will not have a problem dropping the money on a decent bass. You will also be a little more informed at that point as to what you want in your bass.
  14. Bigbassguy


    Jun 5, 2017
    Find a good teacher
    Work hard on your lesson
    Listen to great players you like
    Learn to use a bow
    Ply bass is fine
    Play everyday!

    Good luck and enjoy a great instrument
    geoffbassist likes this.
  15. Jon Mush

    Jon Mush

    Jun 3, 2015
    Winnipeg, MB
    IMHO there ain’t nothing wrong with the SB-100. Shen is a reputable company, and not in the BSO category. That’s a serviceable bass, especially if you’re going to be plugged in and clubbing it.

    I second the notion that it’s most important to know what your looking at and having a good setup. An experienced player or local luthier could help you out in a big way. Damage is expensive to repair, and a major setup pushes the financial commitment way up. Strings aren’t cheap either.

    If the potential end result pushes you into a financial commitment that rivals a bass from a good shop, buying there will gain you years of knowledgeable service. That’s a relationship worth it’s weight in gold.

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