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Rediscovering an old friend . . .

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BartmanPDX, Sep 9, 2008.

  1. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    Back story to set the table:

    I started playing bass when I was a Freshman in college in 1986, and bought a heavily used Ric 4003 ('cause that's what Geddy played). After about two years, I decided I wanted to get another bass, and after playing a fair number of basses, I fell in love with a Steinberger XL-2 and bought it. After college, I had a tough time finding people to play with in grad school, and eventually put my basses away for the most part. Marriage, a job, and a child came along, and I rarely played bass except to once in a while noodle around.

    In mid-2004 I began to crave playing bass again. As some TB regulars here know (another long story), I ended up quitting teaching to focus on my daughter who has special needs. Her situation limited my opportunities to play in any kind of group (since we were in the hospital so often), so I compensated for the lack of playing opportunities with a desire for more gear and a better tone.

    That's when I discovered TB. And you can guess the rest of the story -- I bought basses and sold basses, much like most people here I suspect, in an eternal quest for the perfect tone. The Steinberger, not being new and exciting, got pushed to the back of the closet, but I never considered selling it, as it had been with me for too long, and it's somewhat rare/unusual.

    A little over two years ago I met a fellow TBer (arbitrary) who was gracious enough to invite me to sit in with his band. Over the next year or so I sat in with them from time to time, which gave me an opportunity to play my basses in public, without having to worry about leaving in the middle of a gig and racing to the hospital with my daughter. When he moved back East, the band asked me to join them, and since my daughter's situation has calmed down quite a bit and we have more help with our daughter, I agreed and signed up for my first-ever-regular-gig.

    Now to the point:

    I've now gotten much more comfortable with the material and with being on stage, so last Friday I decided to try something new. We were going to play our favorite place, which is small and doesn't pay well, but the crowd there loves us and we always have a blast. I decided to pull out the Steinberger and take it for a spin. Usually I bring my Sadowsky PJ and my Reverend PJ, since the Sadowsky sounds great and is the most comfortable bass I've ever played. The Reverend is also very comfortable and has a really deep, round tone that sounds great on the blues songs and such.

    I had been reluctant to to gig the Steinberger for several reasons:

    1) the aesthetics. While I think it looks cool, I also realize that I'm pretty much a dork with zero sense of style. I don't care all that much what people think about how my bass looks, but the Steiny is VERY attention-getting, and that's not my style. I do not like to draw attention to myself on stage, and don't really care for bass solos. I just like to lock in with the drummer and watch people dance. Most people are considerate enough to avoid the "Hey Dude, the '80s called and they want their bass back" kind of comments, but it does draw a lot of stares.

    2) the ergonomics. For me, the fretboard on the Steinberger is in a different location relative to my body from the fretboard on a regular bass. It also has narrow spacing. It's generally not a big deal for me since it was my main bass for so long, but I'm new enough to gigging that I'm still leery of making mistakes, so I didn't want to introduce more complexity than necessary.

    3) it's valuable. It has been with me for so long that I've developed an emotional attachment to it. Beyond that, it's in near mint condition (since I took such a long time away from bass), and it would be really difficult to find one in such great condition.

    Last week I ran through a few songs on the Steinberger and decided that I could play it for a set or two with no problems. So I packed the "boat oar" down to the bar and decided to give it a go.

    The first song we did starts with guitar and drums, and then I come in along with the vocals. When I hit my first few notes, both the guitarist and drummer whipped their heads in my direction and both were grinning. It sounded INCREDIBLE. Easily the best "in the mix" tone I've ever gotten. Every note was clear, focused, and present in the mix like it absolutely belonged there. Not zingy or trebly like the graphite or modern basses I've tried, yet more focused and clear than the passive basses I tend to favor. Tons of booty, yet not boomy or sloppy. The drummer kept saying "that thing sounds GREAT!" and I couldn't agree more. I was grinning like a madman and was bummed when the first set ended. I ended up playing it for all but one set (where I have to do some slap). Between sets I had two bassists and a drummer come up to want to look at it; all of them were blown away by the tone.

    I wasn't sure if it was just a fluke, so I brought it to a wedding gig we had on Sunday with the same result. Just a perfect sound, despite the fact that we were playing in a concrete room with horrible acoustics -- you could still hear the Steinberger as clear as a bell. The only downside is that when it's that clear in the mix, any wrong note sticks out like a sore thumb. :p

    I don't know that the Steinberger has become my new #1 yet, but it is certainly climbing the ranks at an astonishing pace. It will be brought to MANY gigs in the future.

    How ironic that the tone I was always looking for was to be found in a bass I've had around here all this time. Obviously, all of this is IMHO, YMMV, for my style and situation, and all the other disclaimers, but for me, even my Sadowsky didn't sit in the mix as well as the XL-2 does. :eek:

    So how about you guys -- any of you rediscover the joys of a bass you've had all along?

    In the spirit of the "no pics, no bass" rule, here's my rediscovered gem:

  2. Heh, thats a pretty cool story.
  3. jgsbass


    May 28, 2003
    Floral Park, NY
    I have a Fernandez Jazzbass copy that has lived most of its life in a public school. I took it home over the summer and tweaked the action and voila, its a great player. Painted the pickguard and its like a new bass. Even sounds good. Very powerful pickups.
  4. Great story! And a cool bass. With the collection you've got, for an old friend to make its way back to the head of the class is really saying something.
  5. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    I remember when those were the shizzle;)
    The bassist for J Giels (sp?) band sported those for a while.

    I'm such a traditionalist (pretty much everything I have is Fender-esque) I couldn't get past the very non-traditional front the Steins wear...but I played a few and they've got a nice and unique sound and feel.

    Rawk it brutha!
  6. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    I always knew it had a unique sound, which is one of the reasons I held on to it for so long, but it wasn't until I heard it in the mix while gigging that I truly understood how great (for me) the tone is.

    I'm a traditionalist too (mostly passive/old-school), which is a big reason why it took me so long to bring it out to a gig. I'm still on the fence about the whole aesthetic thing, but it's getting tough to deny the tone. Now I know why some engineers really love the old 'bergers.

    I wonder what other gems I might have lying around? Some day I'll have to bring the Brad Houser out to a gig and see what it sounds like in the mix . . .
  7. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    Nah. Don't do that.
    Housers bite.

  8. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon.

    Mike Rutherford of Genesis, Wyman of the Stones and even Geddy Lee played Steinbergers back in the '80's. They were REALLY popular. Curuis as to why they rarely come up on eBay or elsewhere as they really aren't that rare.

    Anyways, I recently rediscovered my Fender P basses. I played P basses almost exclusively (also had Gibsons and Stingrays) from the 80's to a few years ago. I love my Sadowskys and Stingrays, but a P bass does almost all music (definately not slap IMO) extremely well and just feel right to me.
  9. Well, I don't think you could call this a long time, but recently I've started enjoying playing my 2007 Carvin LB75AP Anniversary. I bought it back in Feb. '08' and struggled with getting a good sound for 4 mths. Finally, I got tired of the sound and went out a bought a brand new '08' MIA Fender Jazz V, fell in love with it immediately. The Carvin went back into it's case.

    Recently I decided to play the Carvin in passive mode, and guess what -- I like it!!:) So now I play both the Carvin and the Jazz V and am having a blast, rediscovering a bass that I thought turned out to be a bad decision when I bought it.

    BTW, I've got a Steinberger L2 serial #340.
  10. DaveDeVille

    DaveDeVille ... you talkin' to me ?? Supporting Member

    i had the opportunity to use one of these in a local studio , and it sounded great .

    after talking to the engineer , he claimed it was a gift from his wife , and wouldn't sell it to me ...
    { ... even though he didn't play bass , and didn't really dig the looks of it .:ninja: }
  11. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Robbie Shakespeare rocked one of those bad boys, too...
    Cool story.
  12. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    It seems like a fair number of people own them but don't use them much -- I've seen them in the profiles of quite a few bassists who use other basses as their primary axes. Some of them are owned by engineers who don't play much but dig the tone, I'd guess. It seems like some of the ones I've seen on the 'bay come up that way.

    My guess is that some people are holding on to them as they have a truly unique tone and record well. You never know when you might want that tone, and nothing else really gets it. I've tried Moduluses (Modulii?), a Zon, and a Status, and none of them really sounded quite like the XL-2.

    And yes, it KILLS for dub and reggae. Always has. Roll back the tone knob and it's thump city, but with tremendous definition to each note. I wish our band played some reggae.
  13. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    When I started playing rock & roll again, the Bongo had just come out. I seriously considered selling my Ric to get one. I played the Ric on a few gigs and wondered why I ever thought of such a stupid idea.
  14. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    LOL. I can't count how many times I considered selling my Ric because I had GAS for something here on TB. Then I would go and play it and wonder "what the heck was I thinking?"

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