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Thinking of a Rickenbacker? Few Thoughts.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by pringlw, Nov 5, 2010.

  1. pringlw


    Nov 22, 2008
    Seattle Area
    There are few topics on talkbass that bring up more passion and differing opinions than Rickenbacker basses. Hey, we are all different, there's nothing wrong with that. But as someone who has played Rickenbacker basses for years (along with other basses), I always get frustrated when I see them being misrepresented. So, thinking about people who are thinking about getting one, I thought I'd share some thoughts.

    1. Before getting one, make sure you've tried one and spent real time with it. Rickenbacker basses feel very different than other basses - certainly different than the typical "Fender" feel. The bridge cover has something to do with it (though it can be easily removed) but its more than that. I'm not sure if its the glossy neck & fingerboard, the shape of the neck, the shape of the body, or all of the above. But it all comes together into a bass that feels very different from other basses. That either works for you or it doesn't so you need to try it out, and give yourself enough time to get used to it - at least a bit. For example - you can find people who slap a Ric well on youtube - but it's really more of a parlor trick. Rics are not good slap basses.

    2. Rickenbacker necks come in all degrees of thickness. Sometimes you hear people say; "I couldn't stand how thick the neck was". I understand that - I don't really like thick necks myself. However Rickenbacker necks are frustratingly all over the place. The older 4001s have notoriously thin necks. The 4003s have gone from fat to medium in thickness - and I understand the newest ones are thinner again. Currently I have a 4001 with just about the thinnest neck in my collection, and a 4003 with just about the thickest neck in my collection. The point is, if you don't like the neck thickness of the one you are looking at - keep looking.

    3. Rickenbackers are in fact very versatile for a passive bass. Two pickups, each with independent volume and tone. You have a switch for quick shifting - and a stereo output if you want to use it. Add to that - the newer ones have the "push/pull" vintage/modern capacitor defeat switch. The reality is the range of sounds a Ric can produce is pretty amazing. The reason people think they don't have range is because many people who buy it are going for a particular type of sound. It is true that all those sounds have a "Ric" quality - but the range is still huge. Just think of Paul McCartney on Sgt Pepper's and early Geddy Lee. Same sound?

    4. You cannot get a classic Ric sound from a pedal, a pre-amp or an amp setting. Nothing else sounds like a Ric. Period. If you want a Ric sound, nothing else is really going to give it to you.

    5. The bridges really do suck - its true. Intonating a Ric is incredibly difficult. The good news is that you don't have to do it very often.

    6. Because they are hard to set up properly - they are almost never set up properly in a retail store. Every time I play a Ric at a retail store I want to puke. Usually the action is so high the bass is completely unplayable. Rics need very little to no relief in the neck - and that's something most guitar store techs don't understand. It's a shame, because that's what many people's experience with them is.

    7. Even if you get a Ric, you will not sound exactly like Geddy Lee. That's why he's Geddy Lee and you're not (unless of course Geddy Lee is reading this in which case.. respect).

    Just a few of my thoughts. Again, I'm targeting people who are thinking about getting one as I hate seeing these wonderful basses being misrepresented.
  2. +1 to most of this!

    The only reserve i have is about versatility! As somebody who works with a few function bands i do think that a rick isnt good at sounding like anything else than a rick and thus isnt that great for some styles!
    In my opinion i can play a full set going from the beatles to RATM to stevie wonder with a P, a J or even a thunderbird and cope the tone thats needed!
    Every time i took my rick out for a function gig i ended up regretting it because i couldnt get it to sound right for some songs. It sounds brilliant for beatles, rolling stones, even arctic monkeys stuff but is horrible for stuff like RHCP or Guns and Roses or more modern stuff...

    I do have to say that my rick is a 83 with the cap still installed so the bridge pickup is VERY thin sounding, i tried to bypass it but it kinda made it sound less like a rick!

    It does sound good whenever i use it in original projects though!

    And also, im not so fussed about the bridge, its harder to palm mute if your picking but there are ways around it....

    Here is a pic cause we all know a thread without pics is a useless thread!

  3. OPBASSMAN1994


    Jul 30, 2010
    I agree completely. And wouldn't that be something if Geddy was reading this thread. I'd probably piss my pants.
  4. OPBASSMAN1994


    Jul 30, 2010
    Hahaha! :D
  5. I personally really appreciate the way they sound, and I'm a Fender guy myself. Love that they're unique, love their look, and love the heritage behind them. I would love to own one someday, but I almost exclusively play 5er's!
  6. cassius987

    cassius987 Banned

    Apr 20, 2007
    Denver, CO
    Rics are hard to set up properly? I'm sorry but I totally disagree with that one, even related to the bridge... intonation on a Ric takes 10-15 minutes instead of five, so it's a pain but the principal of it is unchanged. The Rics I have played at various stores had "factory setups" or so I was told, I think it is in fact RIC who is setting up these new basses with mile-high action for some reason (even with the neck straight). I agree, that is not the best way to set up a Ric, although I can think of some wisdom to it and recently found a happy medium.

    Otherwise I think there is sound advice in most of your points. I don't think slapping a Ric should be called a "parlor trick", even though that's what it is for me, because I have heard people doing some pretty impressive things, and what if the next Marcus Miller just happens to pick up a Ric? It could happen. The maple is certainly well-voiced for slap no matter how easy or hard the bass is to play.

    The neck thickness thing... yeah... I wish it was easier to tell people what vintage = what thickness, it's sort of pinned down by various people but not entirely. We do know anything made after April 2009 to the present is quite thin.
  7. jgroh


    Sep 14, 2007
    I do agree about it being much more versatile than people give it credit for. I just got another 4003 (had one a couple of years ago but sold it)...its a 2009 and this thing is awesome. The neck is perfect, for me, and much thinner than the 1988 4003 I had previously. I have slapped with it and it works for me just fine, however I am only slapping in one song (we are a cover band) and to be honest if I had time between songs I would probably swap it for my G&L L2000 for that.

    The bridge is a pain but again, how often do you need to intonate? I read a post from John Hall that said that if they upgraded the bridge design the "purists" would freak. That seems to be a large percentage of their customers.

    I can use it for pretty much every song in our setlist, mostly classic rock, and it works well. I mostly switch basses a time or two for when I need a 5 string. And like you said, just because you have one doesnt mean you will immediately sound like Geddy. I learned that lesson when I got my first Ric. There is alot more going on to his 70's sound than just the bass.
  8. aztomr


    Oct 5, 2010
    I recently bought a Rickenbacker(1999 4003) and could not be happier. I find the neck to be very comfortable, more than my P bass. I understand that not everybody likes the same thing, but I can find no fault. It is the best bass I've ever played.:bassist:
  9. kcole4001


    Oct 7, 2009
    Nova Scotia
    Misrepresentation is an inherent part of the Rick mystery.
    It seems impossible to dispel, some folks listen or figure it out on their own, but most people don't 'get it'.
    that's fine, we don't all need to get it. RIC can't keep up with current orders anyway.

    Some facts I've picked up over the last few years:
    Necks: 4001 and early 4003 are the same, late 1990s to early 2000s are thick, and new necks are thin again.
    Mine Jan. 2010 4003) is slightly wider, but nice and thin.

    Versatility: any two pickup bass is going to be pretty versatile if you know how to take advantage of what's available on the bass without even taking strings and EQ into the equation.
    Use the tone and volume controls, attack, playing position to change flavors mid song.

    The bridge/tailpiece, while not ideal, isn't a user friendly design. I wouldn't say it sucks, it does work, it's just a pain to adjust.
    Unless you change you setup a lot, you really only have to deal with intonation occasionally, not a big issue to me.
    The Hipshot is better in most ways, but not perfect either. It works very well, though.

    Most basses in stores or new aren't set up for me, tweaking is part of the honeymoon period: getting to really know that particular bass and what serves it's own character best is just part of buying any new (to you) bass, Ricks are not more so than any other.
    They are designed differently than a Fender, once you realize that and treat it accordingly, it's pretty easy to get it where you like it.

    Setups: learn to do it yourself. It really is best to be able to tweak your own instruments rather than rely on others, and that's not brand specific.
    If I can do it, it's not that hard!

    Trying one out before buying is ideal, but often difficult. If you do like the feel and tone, then you're good to go. It'll still take time to get used to it, but the initial impression should be enough to let you know whether it's really for you or not.
    If it isn't, move on, it seems most people can't 'learn to like' them and end up selling them off. Lots of comments to that effect surface every day it seems.

    Again, a Rick is NOT a Fender, and you shouldn't expect it to feel or sound like one.
    Spending more time fiddling with it isn't going to change it's basic character.

    Regardless of the positive info readily available and the willingness of many owners to help out those unfamiliar with Ricks, there are still many very wrong myths circulating, I suppose because many people will believe whatever they want without troubling themselves with facts.
    A lot of people don't like the attitude of the company's CEO.
    I don't have to play in a band or hang around with him, so I have no interest in his particular views. He's as entitled to them as you or I.
    I'm just playing instruments made by his company. Period.
  10. AltGrendel

    AltGrendel Squire Jag SS fan.

    May 21, 2009
    Mid-Atlantic USA.
    I'd like to hear some thoughts from folks that own fretless Ricks. What do you think of them? Pros and cons please.
  11. hdracer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
    I disagree with you on the bridge. I have worked with other bridges that are much more a PITA. Ever try and get a Gibson 3-point right? How about some of the single rails?

    I love my Ric, but why would anyone want a frettless Ric? Fender has that covered.
  12. AltGrendel

    AltGrendel Squire Jag SS fan.

    May 21, 2009
    Mid-Atlantic USA.
    Yea, that's kinda why I'm asking.
  13. This is a nice informative post. well done.
  14. just like the fretted counterpart the fretless Ric is a different beast than a Fender,which IMO has a more upright like tone than Fender..Its just another flavor....check out that Brubek(sp?) guy on youtube and you'll see what I mean.
  15. jackcheez


    Sep 13, 2010
    Long Beach, CA
    Just because there are worse doesn't mean it's not bad. It is more work than it should be.

    Of course a guy could get a 4004 and not have to worry about it at all. :cool:
  16. pringlw


    Nov 22, 2008
    Seattle Area

    Yeah I have one. Its the favorite bass in my stable. With flats its the most upright sounding bass I've heard. Here is me playing it on youtube:

  17. pringlw


    Nov 22, 2008
    Seattle Area
    A shot with my two Rics

  18. cassius987

    cassius987 Banned

    Apr 20, 2007
    Denver, CO
    Are you serious? Pringlw and I have shared clips of ours before and I seem to remember people responded very positively. I'll post clips later if you want.

    I think a fretless Ric can do at least one thing way better than a fretless Fender, and that is mimic an upright. Just ask Chris Brubeck.

    Fretless 4001:

    No good pics of the fretless 4003 atm.
  19. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    Agree with most of the OP, but yeah the bridge is an INITIAL pain to set but once it's done you don't need to mess with it again unless you change to a drastically different set of strings. Here's my Rics.
  20. Serek_Basses

    Serek_Basses Supporting Member

    Mar 26, 2009
    Chicago, IL
    I <3 Rickenbackers

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