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Theory of Natural Selection of Vintage Instruments

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by PaulYeah, Apr 14, 2006.


  1. PaulYeah

    PaulYeah

    Mar 1, 2004
    Dallas, TX
    I was wondering why vintage instruments are considered to be of such high quality and then it occurred to me: most of the instruments that have survived for 30 years or more probably did so *because* they were high quality. Eventually, a good instrument will find its way into the hands of a collector or pro who takes good care of it. A dog instrument will eventually wind up in a pawn shop only to be smashed on a stage somewhere. Eventually, the few remaining vintage instruments will be the ones of superior quality, which end up being cared for. There would be exceptions, of course.

    This idea is probably obvious to most but it was the first time it had occurred to me.

    TheSak
     
  2. Just to look at things from the opposite viewpoint, what if only the dog basses survive 20 or so years as most of the good ones have been picked up by serious musos early on and gigged and gigged to the point where the paint is so worn and checked, the neck so yellow and the frets so worn that these instruments are now though of as 'dogs' where as the ones that were bad were not played as much, spent a lot of time sitting around in cases and on shelves in store because they were lacking that mojo. Since they have been over looked for so many years these dog basses are now in better condition then the good ones.

    Sorry to play the devils advocate but itÂ’s late down here and I am feeling a little philosophical tonight.

    Btw I judge each bass on its merits, not its vintage or price tag. Ultimatly not by its brand either although when I walk into a shop I do tend to look at anything Leo had a hand in before checking out what else is available.
     
  3. Groundloop

    Groundloop

    Jun 21, 2005
    Toronto
    On the subject of "quality", lets look at Fender instruments for a bit. For the last 15-20 years a lot of vintage experts have been saying some variation of "CBS ruined Fender!!", which drove the prices of pre-CBS Fenders above $10,000, which excluded a lot of people that were interested in buying a vintage Fender, but couldn't justify the cost. Then, one day, somebody probably said something like "You know...the early CBS Fenders are actually pretty good.". Driving up prices on instruments that just a few years before were considered crap. The craze for vintage is even driving up prices on instruments and amps from companies like Silvertone, Danelectro and Mosrite. It's a true expression of the law of supply and demand. Limited supply+high demand=high prices. Which makes the people looking for some vintage vibe or mojo or whatever look to other sources. Repeat.

    Maybe in 30 years people will be waxing poetic about the wonders and mysterys of early 2000's SX basses. But, you know, the solid Alder ones. Not the filmtops. They're crap.
     
  4. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    Well not really. Dog instruments really weren't left alone to sit and collect dust. If something sounded like absolute crap, then it was usually modifed or even parted out. That's why I generally stay away from modded basses.

    For years I used to think the '82 Precision my uncle owned was the worst bass I ever played. The tone was dead as a doornail, but he always had a poor setup, bad pickup adjustment, a weird neck shim that killed resonance and used crappy strings. After I gave it a good going-through, the bass sang, sustained, and had tone for days. So sometimes what's a dog to some, can actually turn out good for others.
     
  5. There's lots of old junk in attics, basements and garages all over the world...just check eBay. There's not necessarily a correlation between quality and longevity.
     
  6. As an expert on the theory of natural selection...i must agree with the threadstarter
     
  7. morebass!

    morebass! I'm all ears Supporting Member

    May 31, 2002
    Madison WI
    I'd have to agree with this. I don't think the "survival of the fittest" applies. Good instruments get played and eventually get pretty beat up. There are at least three reasons so many of the early fenders are better instruments than the more recent models: 1) Fender used better wood back then; 2) Fender had better quality control in the old days; and 3) Old wood sounds better than new wood because it is drier.
     
  8. PaulYeah

    PaulYeah

    Mar 1, 2004
    Dallas, TX
    For the sake of the argument, I assumed a correlation between the two, but I'm interested in hearing different points of view on that matter.

    PaulYeah
     
  9. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    Collectors like pristine instruments. Instruments that are many years old are pristine because they are lacking somehow in playability or sound: they never tempted anyone to pull them out of the case to use them on a gig. This is the basic oxymoron of collecting: collectors tend to collect the ones that aren't really very good as instruments.

    Players are less picky about looks, and more concerned about function. Which means that the good ones wear, fall off of trucks (literally and figuratively) and after a fret job or two or a broken headstock repair are neither original nor pristine.

    Thus, even though their virtues make them desirable, at least by people who want to emulate the Claptons and Pages and so on, the instruments that are most desired are those that are least used, which, if I'm leaving enough drift here, are those that are not as good as the ones that have worn out. [An aside: a few years ago I was reading in Vintage G**tar mag and looking at the ads. There were a few sprinkled here and there with hefty price tags because they had the **original hang tags**! Guess what? A couple of months later, you could hardly find one WITHOUT **original hang tags**.]

    Me, I have a bunch of instruments, but I favor road warriors that have earned their keep. I'm planning to buy one of those ugly '51P RIs soon, but what I'd really love would be one that looks the way the REAL '51s do: worn finish, black sweat stains on the fingerboard, warped pickguard, and all the rest. Then I'd feel more like a musician.;)
     
  10. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY

    The lack of rigid QC and build proceedure is what makes some vintage instruments great, and others not so good.

    When the people at Fender were winding pickups, they were sort of eyeballing the windings. Maybe some got a bit more or less if they weren't paying that much attention, thus some pickups were hotter or some had less output, depending on what happened to show up. Leo wasn't so picky about the wood for his instruments either. Whoever could supply the right quantity for the right price got the gig.

    Same with the neck shapes and sizes. they were all done by hand. If you check out some of the books that list neck dimmensions for vintage Fenders, you'll see that the measurements are ALL over the map. So maybe you find one that you LOVE and maybe you spend years looking for the right thickness. Don't forget about neck profile too. C, U, Sharp V, Soft V, they are ALL completely different depending upon what Tadeo G. or whoever else was doing necks those days...and what they were thinkin (or not thinking) on that day.
     
  11. I think there are some other factors involved. Many perfectly good and some bad instruments were purchased by people who intened to learn to play but didn't. Stuff happens. I had a friend who purchased a beautiful Les Paul brand new as his first g****r and right after he purchased it, met a woman, got married, bought a house, had a child etc. Fifteen years down the line I am at his house and he asks me to grab something out of a closet, and there in the back is the Gibson case. The guitar is as new except for a little oxidation on the fittings. Is the guitar a bad one just because it it didn't find it's way into the hands of a gigging player?

    At (more than) one point I didn't touch my instruments for a decade. First I was unable to play because of a very painful arthritic condition. Then for a period of time after that I was too busy attending to loved ones who were dying. The instruments I kept during that period of time have a decades less wear for reasons that have nothing to do with the instruments themselves.

    Every instrument has its own story as does every owner of an instrument. I think that trying to generalize about these things is risky.

    Also the theory of natural selection hinges on many generations/genetics and a significantly large and genetically varied populations. It is not meant to be applied to individuals. A more fit individual may still die due to accident and not pass their genes on but there is a general tendency among the population for more advantageous traits to be passed down. Oops, I used to work in research so I get carried away about this stuff ;)

    Peace,
    S
     
  12. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    ...we're expressing opinions, dagnabit, and mine are as treasured for their cantakerousness and unlikelihood as they are for being measurably accurate assessments of the real world!

    You're spoiling my fun.
     
  13. chill dude, we can't all be taking the exact same type of drugz at the same time...some of us be going up, down, or sideways at the same temporal displacement - dig? I would have added more smile-oids but I hate the smiles today, want shatter them with hammerz

    peacelikeness,
    S
    "We are all satires of our parents."
     
  14. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    Just don't use your vintage bass.

    As for me, I recently replaced the pickups in my '81 Global (made in Korea, sold by Montgomery Ward) JB copy and for now it's my main axe.
     
  15. For vintage basses, I can only vouch for my Rickenbacker 4001. It was made in 1974, I have owned it since 1978 and it has been doing the work with all original parts up to this very day.

    That said, I'm all about function, so if for some reason I lost my beloved Rickenbacker, I'd probably buy a brand new one to replace it.

    Speaking of things in attics, I have a friend who bought a brand new Rickenbacker 4001 in the late 1980s as her first bass. She gave up about three months later and the thing has just sat in the case since then. She doesn't want to part with it for sentimental reasons, but also has not played it in a long, long time. I can only imagine what the value will be when this thing hits Ebay long from now...
     
  16. It's possible that the survival of the fittest theory proposed by this thread is also influenced by the perception becomes reality theory. A bass that is believed to have value in the vintage market only does because of that belief. The value is based on what an individual is willing to pay, not on the tangible value of the bass. Pre CBS Fenders are believed to be superior in quality to the ones that followed, so the market says that people will pay more for them. This price is not based on craftsmanship or materials, but by the perception of quality and a nostalgic desire for the good old days. Bassist X sings the praises of a certain bass and it's resale value is doubled, once again not because of any concrete reason other than the power of suggestion. How else can one explain the resale values of Fodera vs Ken Smith, Alembic, Warrior, or other similarly crafted basses. In another example; I had an 83 jazz bass, 83 Yamaha BB1200S, and a mid 80's Zon Legacy. No question what the lamest of these basses is in build quality (15 lb Fender) but commanded the highest resale value. No consideration of reality, only perception.
    Of course I could be wrong.....

    Peace
     

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