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Some friendly advice from a non-close minded individual

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by arevolutionsend, Jun 26, 2002.

  1. Hey, i'm fairly new in the whole bass scene and therefore am not very familiar with bass amplifiers or bass guitars.

    I've been playing over 6 months now and i'd kind of like to upgrade by starter kit into something a little more comfortable to play and better sounding. However, like i just said... i don't really know what basses are good and what ones are trash. could anyone give me a few tips on picking out the absolute best amp and bass guitar there is? (cost is not a factor... just keep it reasonable. Say like... in the range of 2500 tops for the amp and guitar.)

    Thanx a lot to anyone willing to help out a beginner.
  2. Stupidnick


    Mar 22, 2002
    ...my room...
    what kinda of setup do you have now?
    Check out some spectors...
    spectors make pretty good basses.. especially the Chezch(sp) made instruments...
    American made steinbergers are great as well..
    but a tip .. just because its made in a certian country doesn't really mean much.. it can.. but sometimes it doesn't.. ive found American made fender jazz basses with worse necks and bodys than squier jazz basses.. which im not ragging on squier cause they have made some somewhat decent instruments...
    Goto a music store and check out different basses
    find one you like. dont buy online if you dont have too.. and dont listen to anybody when they say "this bass sucks so much" because
    1. bass is a sensative thing.. what may suck to someone tone wise may rule to someone else..
    2.dont knock it till you try it.

    oh yeah and welcome to talkbass.. may this site please you

    ps.. but if John Turner(JT) says a bass is cool.. or embelisher says a bass rules... ...then... it rules *grins*
  3. a couple of questions for you first

    how many strings do you want on the bass?

    what sort of style do you want to play?

    how powerful of an amp do you need?

    if you answers these questions it would make it alot easier for us to give you some idea of what you could get but in the end the decision is up to you and what feels right to you.
  4. Stu L.

    Stu L.

    Nov 27, 2001
    Corsicana, Texas
    Well, from what I've found most people here will point you towards either a Fender Jazz or a Music Man.

    If cost isn't a factor, play as many as you can. Spend a day just playing basses. Go to a store, and use the same amp for every bass. Find a neck and body that feel comfortable to you. Then, play that bass on every amp you can.

    Just because I like Fender P-Basses and Ampeg amps doesn't mean that you will. But, it doesn't mean you won't :D
  5. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Lakland/Eden are "my sound." You could get an Eden WT-400 and a D-410XLT, then either get a used American Lakland or a new 55-02, and be in your price range.
  6. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    what style are you wishing to play? what kind of instruments do the bassists who play the music you like play?
  7. superphat


    Sep 30, 2001
    i always felt that people starting out (that don't know what they want) should play a fender for awhile. i think it gives one a good reference point, especially when you consider how huge of a role the fender bass played in the history of bass and modern music.
    just my 2 cents...
  8. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    There's no doubt you should play as many different basses as possible and get a feel for what feels and sounds good to you. Maybe we can all have some fun here and help you at the same time. Go to your local store and play as many different basses as possible. Come back to this forum and tell us what you liked and didn't like and why. Here are my recommendations for basses to focus on playing. No doubt you won't find all of them. No doubt there are MANY that I'm missing.

    Fender Jazz (Mexican, Japanese & Amer.)
    Fender P-Bass (Ditto)
    Musicman Stingray
    Musicman Sterling
    Peavey Cirrus
    Lakland Skylines
    MTD Kingston
    Warwick Corvette
    Yamaha BBN
    Ibanez BTB

    How's that for a cool homework assignment?


  9. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    Play a lot of basses. And read a lot of threads in this forum, to see the diversity of opinions on the subject. In your price range you have a huge range of choices, from a top-line Fender to a less expensive custom.
  10. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    WARNING long so if you arent the original poster dont read it

    Most people will answer with the bass that they own that week. The answer is much more complex. We need to look at the history of the bass guitar.

    The electric bass is a double bass/electric guitar hybrid. Solid body electric guitars were designed around the magnetic pickup which were designed originally to amplify acoustic instruments. The properties of electric instruments are different to acoustic ones. Listen to a double bass and an electric bass.

    The first mass produced electric bass was the Fender Precision. Unlike a double bass (and like a guitar) it had frets which enabled notes to be pitched with 'precision'. Fender's next creation was the Jazz bass. Ignoring differences in body shape the jazz had two differences; 1 the neck was slimmer and 2 it had two pickups instead of one.

    Early magnetic pickups consisted of one coil (single). These pickups 'hum' when near an amp or lights. Leo's (if I can be familiar) solution was to wire the Jazz pickups and the Precision's (split) coils as humbuckers. Both basses used a single tone control consisting of a capacitor that reduced treble to make the sound bassier or duller. This system is now known as passive electronics or passives.

    Basses now evolved in two directions and we will stick with Leo for now. The next step in bass evolution was the Musicman Stingray. It was/is basically a Fender Precision with a humbucker (two coils) and active electronics. This meant that instead of tone there is a bass and treble knob capable of boosting the frequencies. The Sabre was a two pickup variant. When Ernie Ball took over Musicman instead of making 'improvements' as CBS had done with Fender instruments, he introduced the Sterling as an alternative. The Sterling has slight changes to body/neck dimensions and a 3 coil pickup with series/single and parallel wiring options. The Sterling mid control is available as an option on the Stingray.

    The Fender Jazz was updated by a custom builder named Roger Sadowski. These instruments retained the classic Jazz construction but included exotic wood options and more importantly active electronics. Many other custom makers provide Super J's as they are known.

    Rounding up Fender influenced basses is the Lakland. These beautiful basses are a blend of Musicman and Sadowski basses producing a verstile bass in a class of its own.

    We will round up the Fender section with some hints and tips. Many of these basses are expensive and some of them are very expensive. The classic Fender construction has an ash or alder body with a bolt on maple neck. Originally Fender used an ash body with a one piece maple neck. Ash was replaced by alder in the late 50's and a rosewood board was introduced. CBS reinstated the maple neck and ash as options. Custom instruments sometimes have a figured maple top and maple or ebony board. Cheaper instruments and copies use poplar or even plywood. Poplar has its detractors. I contacted Musicman and Ken Smith both who know a bit about wood. EBMM said that popular has similar qualities to ash and KSB said that it is a paint grade wood similar to alder. Both answers make it suitable for use on solid colour Fender type basses. Fender cater to smaller budgets with the various ranges. In ascending order (of cash) these are Squier Affinity, Squier Standard, Fender Mexico (MIM) Fender Mexico Classic Fender USA (MIA) Fender Vintage and Custom Shop. Please note that there is always a state of flux with various re-issues and special models (featuring active electronics) from various sources including Japan (MIJ).

    If you want an ash/alder body, maple neck bass then you need to research what is available in your budget. As an aside I would always recommend a MIM Fender P or J purchased in the following manner. Look out for local(ish) shops that sell secondhand instruments. Check out a lot over a period of time. By the one that you like best. Check that the shop gives a limited warranty. This way you are covered for defects but pay less money and take less of a hit financially when you trade up or sell up.

    OK to summarise

    One type of bass family with various options includes the following






    That's only half the story (possibly less than half). Bass design went in another direction. To recap, we have the ash/alder/maple bolt on passive Fender bass. Enter the Alembic company who started out making active electronics and pickups to retrofit Fender type basses. Alembic developed basses using exotic woods and extensive toneshaping (lots of knobs) options. As some makers adopted the Fender take some developed the exotic path. Some makers took the concept even further using different materials typically carbon fibre. Body shapes also went mad for want of a better word. The 80's saw the headless concept and some makers still give a headless option. Before we get too bizarre lets look at some of these basses. I'll let the makers do most of the talking.

    http://www.alembic.com Take a look for yourself.

    http://www.spectorbass.com/ This maker has a complicated history having sold to Kramer, reinventing itself as SSD and then getting the Spector name back. The mega-expensive basses are made in USA with the mid range in the Czech Republic and the cost effective ones being made in Korea and China

    http://www.warwickbass.com/ Risen from the ashes of the Framus company this maker launched itself with a very familiar looking bass but made with unusual woods (Bubinga body and Wenge neck). Originally using EMG pickups the company soon changed to the in house MEC electronics that have an equal amount of fans and detractors. Recent times have seen a move towards entry level basses with the Standard and Rockline series of products.

    Basses to use carbon fibre are

    www.zonguitars.com makers of the Elite and Sonus
    www.modulusguitars.com who also make a Jazz type bass
    www.status-graphite.com originally made headless basses

    Finally and please note that these lists are not exhaustive there are makers who produce predominately custom orders…

    www.conklinguitars.com will make custom orders, the 'Sidewinder' and the cheaper Groove Tools range.
    http://www.seibass.co.uk make three basic designs including a super J and the rest is up to the buyer.

    There are three elements of bass design that I have ignored up so let's deal with them. Whilst our guitar playing cousins are still using passive electronics we bass players have embraced active electronics and been open to weird and wonderful ideas. Bearing in mind that the magnetic pickup was designed to amplify acoustic instruments, some basses have options or can be converted to piezo pickups which were designed as the acoustic amplification solution. Ignoring EUB's (Electric Upright Basses) the normal use of a piezo is to blend it with magnetic pickups as a tonal option. Another leap has been the Lightwave pickup (which is available on Conklin Sei and Zon basses). This is an optical pickup that can utilise the use of non metallic strings as well as providing unique tones from conventional ones. We can also lump in the use of non standard active systems. Most active systems use passive pickups and active electronics. EMG make active pickups with passive tone controls. The J retro and U retro are extensive tone control systems designed as a replacement for various basses including the Jazz.


    Saved until last is the multi-string debate. Historically the electric bass has had 4 strings tuned bottom to top E A D G which are the bottom four strings of a (6 string) guitar. Some bass makers pioneered the use of a low B and/or a High C giving EADGC and BEADG 5 strings and a BEADGC 6 strings. Two companies of note are


    Please do not confuse these instruments with the Fender 5 and 6 string basses which were tuned EADGB and EADGBE and have the same range as a conventional bass or were designed as a baritone guitar.

    5 and 6 string basses are fairly common. Some makers (Conklin) produce basses with more strings. Some basses have 7 or 8 strings with extended ranges. An 8 string can be tuned F#BEADGCF or I have heard of a basses tuned to EADGEADG. One version is that the second set is an octave up and the other is a fretted and fretless set.

    Which leads us on to fretless bass (and yes you can get a fretless Precision). First we will deal will the mechanics then the politics. A fretless bass has not frets. The player has to put his finger on the string at the right position and not rely on the speed bumps. The main differences are that 1 the contact point is wood not metal giving a more mellow sound with less attack 2 Glissando becomes portamento and for those who don’t speak Italian this means that slides are smooth not graduated and 3 you can play out of tune. Some basses have lines where the frets should be and some don't. Players have mixed views on the use of fretless and lines.
  11. CS


    Dec 11, 1999

    There isn't a best bass but there is one out there for you in your current situation. The first limitation is budget and often ties in with being a beginner. If you don't have a lot of money or cannot justify a lot of money on a bass here's my suggestions.

    1 Buy a secondhand MIM Fender Jazz or Precision from a shop. Many shops do 'trade ins' and sell the traded bass cheaply and quickly. They often give a limited warranty. They may even take your phone number and ring you when one comes in. Don't hold your breath and go in every 3-4 weeks. The reasoning is that you are getting a lot of bass for a reasonable amount. Going secondhand from a shop means that you get (limited) support (check what it is first) and you take less of a hit trading up or selling up.

    2 If you cannot afford 1 then go for a Squier. It is not as good and it is designed to be a value for money starter bass. As such it is excellent and they are not a lot of money.

    3 If you can scrape the extra cash consider a secondhand MIA bass from a shop. See 1 but you will have a bass that is a pro level keeper. Ok tastes may change and you might want 'more'. The fact is that these basses have been solely or jointly pro choices for 50 years. It's up to you.

    I would advise you not to rush. If you are saving for a bass then try to hang out for a MIM instead of a Squier or a MIA instead of a MIM or MIJ. Also mass produced basses vary in tolerance. This means that some basses are actually better than others. Some basses are subjectively better ie the neck may be slightly different when comparing two basses from the same range. You may prefer one over the other. Don't mail order unless you know the return policy and your postman has a lot of patience. If you want to upgrade consider saving for longer and keeping your original bass.

    You may not want a Fender or have had a few basses and are looking for the best one. Good luck. Typing the solution is simple. Play a lot of basses. In practice this means that you will have to do a lot of work in tracking down basses and comparing them. You may even have to upgrade an existing bass. Sticking a J or U retro in a bass with cheap electronics may be the answer. However it's going to be difficult to try it out before purchase. Make a short list of requirements.

    Finally, use your ears and fingers to choose a bass not your eyes. We can all go gooey eyed over gold hardware, flame tops or even the name on the headstock. Sometimes we are so pig-headed that we have to make some mistakes. What we want is a bass or basses that make us play well, that inspire us. Some basses look nice and have devotees but when we try one it don’t 'feel' right. Warwicks are a typical example. As a Warwick owner this is not a prelude to a slagging. Warwicks have unusally shaped bodies with minimal finish that can feel strange. The necks are unfinished and grainy. Those used to satin maple or glass like lacquer may hate these necks. Although I have advocated customising basses, if you buy a quality bass and want to change the pickups it may be an indication that the bass is not for you.

    Finally (honest) the bass is only half the equation. It's important to get a 'good' bass that 'feels right', but it is you that plays the thing. Giving your bass to a unfairly gifted individual may make it sound a lot better. Work with your bass. Get lessons now and again throughout your whole musical journey. Listen to a lot of varied music. Play your bass a lot. Try to buy basses for long term use and make it part of you.

    That's all

    All the above is the subjective opinion of a happy amateur. Get your own.
  12. Alright, sounds good. Thanx a lot to everyone who pointed me on the right track and all... i appreciate it. Especially for the lack of off the cuff insulting comments. A lot of advanced musicians these days like to put beginners down. Seems they forget that they too once began playing and lacked a lot of skill.

    As for my setup, it IS in my member profile... but for convenience reasons... : 4-string squier P-bass.. mid gauge strings.. 15 watt BP*15 Squier amp. Nothing too fancy. I've learned a lot in the time i've been playing... but it's got to a point where i feel my skill would advance a lot quicker if i were to play with a bass i feel more comfortable playing and that has a better sound to it.

    I mainly play punk rock, and i have absolutely no idea what set-ups my fav. bands have... but i'll look into that asap.

    I'd still like to continue playing on a four string bass for a little bit. I think at this point, jumping to a 5 or 6 string would be a little too much. Want to solidify and complete my skills on the 4-string first.

    The amp: I was thinking something much more professional than the amp i have right now. Something that's actually capable of playing shows. Something that i can't talk louder than(lol). I don't know what that would be... but just taking a wild guess... say... 60-80 or more watts?

    But anyway, thanx again for the pointers.. i appreciate it. I'll try to get to my local music store on saturday to try out some of the above mentioned basses...

    later ;)
  13. jasonbraatz


    Oct 18, 2000
    Oakland, CA
    holy ish CS!!! that's the best "what bass should i buy" response EVER!!!

    someone needs to put that in the FAQ!!!

    as for the original question - lots of punky type guys play P basses - but if you're unhappy with the sound then maybe you should try something different. i'd look for a bass that both rocker-types and studio/jazz type people use. maybe a musicman or G&l would do you well. you don't know until you try stuff.

    as for the amp - for rock it's all about the oldschool all-tube ampeg SVT.
  14. Yeah, if you want to sound like everyone else and have a 90-pound box to carry around. I don't think I've ever been to a live show where the bassist had an SVT rig and I could actually tell what notes were being played, but that probably owes more to moronic EQing than anything else.

    Here's an idea: try out as many amps as possible--with the EQ set flat with the same speaker cabinet and bass, and select the one you like best. Then, try as many speaker cabinets out as possible with the amp that you like. With the speaker cabinets, it might be beneficial to try them out with your band.

    If you end up getting an SVT and an Ampeg 8x10 out of that, that's cool--but don't go on blind recommendations from people who don't know what sound is inside your head. These words we toss around--"punchy," "aggressive," "growly," etc.--can mean vastly different things for different people.
  15. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    You won't find much of that attitude here, a-rev (had to shorten your moniker a bit ;) )...and welcome to TB and the bass playing world! You'll soon be well on your way to developing the GAS (G-ear Acquisition S-yndrome) we all "suffer" from.

    If you feel you want to stick with a 4 string for a while, I would recommend you alter your amp-to-bass spending ratio in favor of your amp. You can find a very playable and decent-toned bass for $600-700 or even less...and that'll leave enough jing for a great sounding pro-caliber rig.

    On the subject of wattage...you can't have too much power, but you surely can have too little. With your budget you can afford to be in the 600 watt or higher range, so go for it! My personal rule of thumb for a modern rig that will cut any gig you're likely to do locally (pro or not) is 600 watts minimum solid state power and 300 watts minimum tube power. Some will argue, I'm sure, this is way more than you'll need as a beginner...true. But again, who says having more than you need is a bad thing?
  16. Hey CS, we should stick your answer in the FAQ!!!

    BTW, arevolutionsend, did you check the FAQ first? I still say new people won't notice it at all - not a big enough profile...
  17. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    :oops: got a bit carried away
  18. jasonbraatz


    Oct 18, 2000
    Oakland, CA
    ok howabout i say it this way - were I a rock player in a band that played enough to warrant the weight for gigs instead of a funk/jazz/hiphop player i would want one of those all tube beasts - and i'd go with either an older SVT or a Mesa 400+. and i've heard plenty of SVT's that sounded incredible - so i'm guessing it's just bad EQ or room acoustics. anyways - he was wondering what punk bassists played and they normally play SVTs, right?

    but then again - even if i were only a rock bassist i'd probably keep my SWR rig just cos it sounds so awesome, so you can consider me talking out of my ass as of........NOW. :D
  19. I just spent about what you are talking about spending. Heres what I got.

    Musicman Sterling. Fender like feel only much better sound and playability. ~1100 bux

    Hughes & Kettner Bass Base 400. A good modern hybrid amp. Nice balance of features and power ~700 bux

    Avatar Stack of 410 and 115 Great price for the performance ~500 bux

    What did I get?

    A very easy to play bass with a sound I like. An amp with plenty of power and just enough features. And one bad ass tower of speakers.

    I am a happy camper.
  20. CS... that was long and enlightening. You certainly know a hell of a lot about the bass playing world and the history of the electric bass guitar. But (sorry) i fail to see how that has anything to do with what bass i should buy.
    warwick - I had heard from a friend that p-basses were pretty good for punk... the bass i currently own isn't bad at all. But i'm quite sure there is better out there... More suited for punk also. And since money isn't really too much of a factor for me (i work my ass off to get something i really want... doesn't matter what the cost is. And since i want the absolute best...) i figure i could get something more suitable to my personal playing style.
    Craig - Thanks a lot for the welcome, bud ;). Damn good thing if i don't find much of those people here... That's a refreshing concept. In the first 3-4 months i was playing people were putting me down more than they should have. It was mostly people that don't know a single damn thing about music playing of any sort, but the simple ordasity of it all still annoyed me. I've been into chat rooms and such, met people i don't know at all and told them how long i've been playing and got an extremely snotty "i'm superior to you; lick my shoe, *******." attitude from them.
    So 600 watts, huh? That'll piss the rents off. hahaha. Sounds like an incredibly nice amp... My amp is my biggest problem right now. I mean, the bass is alright for now i suppose, but the amp is just lacking extremem amounts of power. I like to play loud man (what musician doesn't?). Wake the dead!
    Rabid - No man, i didn't even know the site had one... Of course i wasn't really looking. But still...

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