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Signature basses?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Wicca, Jul 18, 2002.

  1. Wicca


    Oct 13, 2001
    There are alot of companys offering these insturments and I was just wondering if you generally get a model of the real deal or just some cheap knock off with just there name on it. For example the Ibanez Fieldy model, if I were to see him in concert, (not that I would want to), is this the bass he would be playing? I just think sometime companys go to the performer and say, " We would like to make a signature model after you. The ones we make for you will be wonderful, select wood, great pickups, perfect neck (to your specifications, of course.) A quality hand built insturment. The ones we build for the public will be what ever we can slap together and we will charge as much as we can get, and give you a part."
  2. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    It's hard to tell.

    I guess the bigger the company the more likey you're not getting the real deal.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    You can't tar them all with the same brush!!

    So - Roscoe Beck worked with Fender over a period of years to develop a new passive 5 string Jazz bass that didn't hum, but still sounded great.

    His signature bass is genuninely an adavance and worth having - as is the case with Gary Willis, John Patitucci etc.

    The difference seems to be how well the person can play and how much they know about what a bass is capable of - so, Gary Willis, John Patitucci and Roscoe Beck are great players who are very knowledgeable about everything related to bass... whereas Fieldy.......

    I rest my case!! :D
  4. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    Victor Bailey also helped design the preamp and chose the woods for his Fender sig.
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    And again a great player who is very knowledgeable - supports my argument! :)

    Victor Bailey - Yes
    Fieldy - NO !!!
  6. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Hm, you're right, but a lot of times the instrument the endorser is playing is either a prototype built in the company's design department or custom shop, or a selected production model.

    I know that Joe Satriani's chrome Ibanez guitar he plays live (see Live in SF DVD) is a prototype for example.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    But Roscoe Beck, Gary Willis and John Patitucci have made it clear that they do use the signature basses they developed.

    If you got to Gary Willis's website, for example he goes to great lengths to point out that the bass you buy will be exactly the same as his and gives tips for setting it up, playing etc.
  8. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    I don't want to attack their integrity, but I've heard that from every endorsee (what else can they say?), and then a lot of times, when they switched to a different brand things suddenly weren't so good back then.
    It's promotion talk, everybody does it, regardless if true or not.
    It's like how artists tell you their latest record is the best, most ambitious etc. ever, and then, when promoting the next one, it's "ah, nothing but problems back then, it was a nightmare, the new one is much...".

    Mind you, I'm not saying that signature instruments are bad or something. Just keep in mind that it's primarily a marketing move to offer a signature model.

    I try to dig up some interviews to back it up.
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    This from RB's website :

    "Blood, Sweat & Tuning Gears
    The Making Of A Signature Series Bass
    By Roscoe Beck, as told to Scott Malandrone

    Creating my signature instrument was an amazing process. I was actively involved in its design, because I didn't want the bass to be simply a stock model with my name on it. So I drew blueprints, made many phone calls, and took dozens of trips to the Fender Custom Shop.

    Design-wise, since I've been a Jazz Bass player forever, I wanted to make a 5-string that had the same string spacing and scale length as a Jazz, as well as the sound. Anything else was gravy. I also wanted to correct the problem of balance, because I've found that most vintage basses are too neck-heavy.

    Around 1984, I talked to Dan Smith [Vice President of Fender's Guitar R&D] about designing a 5-string. That same year, Mike Stevens [of Stevens Electrical Instruments] built me a 6-string with full string spacing and passive electronics—much like the way the 5-string turned out. Fender eventually hired Stevens to help start the Custom Shop in '87. But then all sorts of things happened; Stevens left after a few years, so all Fender and I did was talk. But we finally hooked up for the project after ten years. The first prototype was finished in 1993 and was introduced at the winter NAMM show in '94. Since that first instrument debuted, though, the pickups, the bridge, and the fret size have all changed. I wanted the bass to be passive, because in my mind, a good-sounding 5-string with passive electronics hadn't been made yet. Plus, I figure you can always add a preamp later. Making the pickups, though, turned out to be the hardest part of the process. I was looking for a passive double-coil pickup that honestly sounded like a Jazz Bass, but one you could run in single-coil, parallel, or series modes. But I couldn't find any pickups I was happy with; we went through six to eight different prototypes made by several different companies.

    The first prototypes were merely copies of J-Bass pickups, but five strings wide. I thought it would be as simple as that, but it wasn't. What I discovered is that a Jazz Bass barely works; it's a freak of nature. You know how the E string on a Jazz gets wobbly-sounding past the 15th fret? That's caused by the strong pull of the alnico magnets on the string. On a J-Bass, each pickup has two alnico rods underneath the strings—and with a .105 E, the string mass in relation to the pull of those four magnets just barely allows sound to happen. If you lengthen the coil to accommodate five strings, it no longer sounds the same.

    I took the prototype to Austin to do a session with Eric Johnson, but I couldn't get a sound I liked. I'll admit, I was nit-picking, but rightfully so—this was the shot I had waited ten years for. It had to be right.

    The pickups we ended up using are handmade by Bill Lawrence. I have to give Bill full credit, because without him, I think the project would have died. After my first phone conversation with him, he told me the problem with making a passive 5-string pickup: it had to do with the magnetic field. So Bill not only corrected the "warble" problem on the B string but all across the instrument, because the strength of the magnets varies according to the mass of the string. There are smaller magnets you don't see; there's a stronger magnet underneath the G string than the B. It was all a matter of mathematics. Although a lot of people who see the bass think it has an active circuit, it doesn't. I wanted quick, usable sounds with simple controls; I chose the 3-way switch instead of a blend pot, because it allows you to make pickup switches really fast. The only problem, though, is that you can't switch to any of those "sweet spots." I very often use the sound on a J where both volume controls are cranked, but I roll back the neck pickup a bit so the sound opens up. So that's what the push/pull tone pot does: if you pull it up, a 27k resistor goes across the neck pickup to slightly reduce its output. Constantly during the design process, I compared the sound of the bass to my '66 Jazz until it was right.

    About 95% of the time I use the pickups in single-coil mode—but if I'm playing in a room that has a bad 60-cycle-hum problem and I still want a single-coil sound, I switch to parallel. That mode sounds a lot like single-coil, but since there are four coils operating instead of two, the hum is canceled. Series humbucking mode is something else entirely; sometimes I use that on the bridge pickup if I'm going for a strong, rock kind of punch.

    I played the new bass on Eric Johnson's Venus Isle [Capitol]; "When the Sun Meets the Sky" was recorded with both pickups in single-coil mode and the tone pot circuit engaged. In fact, when I'm playing with Eric, I usually select the center pickup-blend position with the pot pulled up, or the bridge pickup soloed in single-coil. Occasionally, though, I'll go to the neck pickup if I want a big tone; for example, we've been playing [Jimi Hendrix's] "The Wind Cries Mary" in concert, so the neck pickup in series is perfect for that Noel Redding vibe. I also used the bridge pickup in series for the solo on "Zap," which can be heard on G3—Live in Concert [Epic]. With Robben Ford, though, I usually use both pickups in single-coil mode with the tone pot in the "down" position.

    We tried a few different bridges. At first I wanted a vintage-style bridge, but then I saw this Gotoh bridge on [Custom Shop Luthier] Mark Kendrick's bench, and we discovered it cleaned up the sound. The instrument got a little heavier, but I think it was worth it.

    In the end, I thought designing a signature bass would be a lot easier than it turned out to be. Fortunately, Fender stuck with me until I got what I was after. "

  10. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    A nice text, but it still doesn't tell you whether he's playing a "prototype" from the Custom Shop or a production model right off the shelf...
  11. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    As with Victor Bailey, what you get in the store, is what he plays. Outside of the LED's, the Jack Bruce Thumb fretless is also the same as the others.
  12. rustyshakelford


    Jul 9, 2002
  13. Well I can see why an artist would want to sell a bass exactly like his, but I can also why an artist would want to make an instrument affordable to all of his fans.

    How many Blink 182 fans do you think could afford a bass just like Mark Hoppus's? Regardless of whether you like them or not (I don't), you guys are comparing some very different musicians. You have Korn, who has tons of fans who probably can't afford an expensive bass, and then you have people like Roscoe Beck and Victor Bailey, who have an audience thats not as big as Korn's, but an older one, and therefore they're able to buy more expensive instruments.

    hmmm, that didn't come out quite how I wanted it to, but whatever. :)
  14. Then there are the basses that were developed based on the artists instruments. For example, the Victor Wooten signature bass, (not the Yin Yang one) was built based on the instrument that Victor already owned. He didn't help desighn it. Obviously he doesn't play a "Victor Wooten signature bass". He just plays the original instrument which he's had since 1983, (I think it's '83.)
  15. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Much the same as the Geddy Lee Jazz, and to a lesser extent, the Marcus Miller Jazz.

    Geddy and Marcus didn't design the basses, the basses were modeled after Fenders that they had both played for years. In the case of the Geddy Lee, Fender took measurements of the neck so that the dimensions of the neck on the signature model would be the same as Geddy's actual Jazz, which had the neck shaved down years ago.
  16. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    You have every right to be skeptical. I take kind of a different view. I think most of this stuff gets started because people buy the signature model and then don't sound like the artist;). It's a sour grapes kind of thing and I'd bet it's usually wrong.

    Take Gary Willis for example. He plays an off the shelf Ibanez Willis model (I think the tuners are different). How do I know that? Because I've played his bass and a/b'd it with an off the shelf model. There is nothing magical about Gary's bass, no special woods or pickups that differentiate it from the same thing you can buy. The only real difference I could see... is Gary. Gary played both basses and sounded the same. I played his and a store model and sounded the same, not like Gary... like me. Maybe it's the strings;)

    So if you're wondering why the sigs don't sound as good in your (collectively speaking) hands, don't blame the bass;)

    As far as the primary purpose of a sig, sure marketing is involved but show me something in the manufacturers' catalogs that does the same as a Willis model or Patitucci or Roscoe Beck or any of a host of basses made to a player's specs. I'm not so cynical as to think that every sig is pure hype.

    PS this is the kind of stuff that keeps retailers in business, chasing a tone based strictly on hardware.

    JAUQO III-X Banned

    Jan 4, 2002
    Endorsing artist:see profile.
    Brad pretty much seem to have a keen understanding of the big issue with sig Basses.yes for the most part one can go to the store and play the Bass flavor of the month and become disapointed that they may not sound like their hero,well your not that player that the Bass is based off of.and theres the issue of neck feel.body shape,body size weight,woods,etc.a good friend of mine whom most of you have heard of that shall remain namelss,and I have experienced a situation were the co.that we were dealing with because of the colabaration between us and our respected co.wanted to put the bass out sooner than we felt.I dealt with the co.accordingly and it was taken care of and me and the co. are both happy.as far as my friends situation the first run was awfull and he went back to the co.and said you guys have got to get it right or I can't put my name with your co.they agreed and went forth to straiten things out.as of this writing my friend decided not to go with the co.because they tryed the same BS again.somtimes when the artist sig comes out they are not happy with it at all.but because of big cash advances, contracts etc.they do the photo shoots play it a couple of times in concert or even less on a whole tour.some artist have sig basses and they dont have their name on it and or don't acknowledge to the public that the Bass that your playing is their sig model.the issue of a true sig Bass is much deeper that the discussion here at TB.
  18. JAUQO, speaking of the companies you work with, could you get me a free Surine Quest Series II?;) :D

    JAUQO III-X Banned

    Jan 4, 2002
    Endorsing artist:see profile.
  20. *snaps finger and stomps foot* Darn!


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