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Thunderbird questions

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Sparkdog, Mar 13, 2010.

  1. Sparkdog

    Sparkdog Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2006
    Burbank, CA
    Lifetime Fender guy here, but always had a thing for Thunderbirds. Played lots and always concluded the balance and feel was not for me. But today I walked into a funky little shop in LA and they have a 2009 Gibson T-Bird on the wall. It's a burst, has some love bites, but plays pretty well and sounds awesome.

    AND, the owner will give me a smokin' deal because he has no case for it and I would pay cash.

    So I have some questions for you experts:

    1. Is it hard/expensive to find a hardshell case for these? Will they fit in an SKB Deluxe Universal case which I already have?

    2. What could I sell this bass for if it doesn't work out for me? (I'm a picky SOB)

    3. The Gibson bridge is alien technology to me, can it be dialed in for decent action?

  2. Johnny Crab

    Johnny Crab HELIX user & BOSE Abuser

    Feb 11, 2004
    1. Check ebay for a case OR get an Epi case if you like. The last Epi T-Bird case I got was better than the Gibson case. Both are made by TKL.

    2. You most likely could sell it esp. if you're getting "a deal" and will also sell it at a reasonable price. With the economy as it is, it is a buyer's market with selling prices of most all basses going down. A lot of folks are dumping Gibson T-birds on ebay(more than I've EVER seen in the past 10 years and at lower prices).

    3. The 3 point bridge is something they should dump and put on someone else's bridge like this one(it can be used normally or string-thru-body).
    It is possible to get decent action out of the 3 point but you don't have fine adjustment for individual strings. ONLY trust it to someone else to setup IF they know these bridges. It is very easy to set up wrong. If you want to learn yourself:
  3. gaffster787


    Aug 22, 2009
    1. probably not. t-birds are not included in the term "universal bass". Epi-bird cases are pretty good cases for 90 bucks.
    2. A used late model gibson t-bird in good shape will always bring at least 1K on the bay, usually about $1200 or more. Any special birds like mint 60's or 70's are a small fortune. Everyone love the white ones too.
    3. The three point bridge is a piece of cake to adjust after a few hours of messing around. Just keep the front screw relatively even with the back screws to avoid too much torque. The saddles are not captive and will fall out if not carefull when changing strings.
    All five of my birds have super low action.

    The mahog. epiphone "goth" bass does a pretty good impersonation (even w/ the bolted neck) IMHO, if you keep the pick-ups low and away from the strings and use flats.
  4. stiles72


    Mar 20, 2009
    Albany IL
    If balance has been an issue in the past - it can be corrected or tailored to suit your needs by relocating the strap buttons. Modern Birds have the button at the neck heal verses the top horn like the old ones - but I moved mine about 2 inches closer to the bottom horn on the back. I also moved the tail end button about an inch or two to the left. Makes the bass balance more "upright" with no neck dive at all.
  5. Sparkdog

    Sparkdog Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2006
    Burbank, CA
    Great info! Thanks guys.

    The shop owner is a really nice guy, I offered to give him a deposit while I thought it over but he said he would hold it till Tuesday at no charge.

    I can get this one for $850 out the door, which seems like a real deal to me. He'll throw in a Coffin case for that price, it's this huge ridiculous looking thing but will keep the bird safe till I find something better.

    I played this bass for over 30 minutes in the store. I'm a stranger to birds so I don't really know what to look for, but the tone of this thing was just huge...massive low end and rather dark sinister character, not a lot of high end like a Jazz, but round and seems like it was made for pick playing.

    Neck looked pretty straight, but the action was very high. Condition is pretty good, it has a couple of substantial dings on the body, but nothing that goes through the finish.

    I'm on the fence because money has been tight, and I don't know exactly what I would use this for. I play mostly blues, R&B, and roots rock music and I don't know if the bird would fit in real well in those environments.

    Sure would shake up my Strat and Tele playing guitarists though :)
  6. Ilikejazzbass

    Ilikejazzbass Inactive

    Feb 20, 2010
    I've read from numerous sources that the epiphone t bird is ergonomically the same as a 60's t bird. I owned one and I loved it, but like the idiot I am I sold it. Now I'm stuck with a bronco.
  7. TBird1958

    TBird1958 As a matter of fact....I am your Queen! Staff Member

    Mar 13, 2008
    Seattle Washington
    Endorsing Artist Mike Lull T Bass pickups
    Factory set ups on Gibson basses are not so good......
    Take the bass to a luthier that actually knows how to properly set up a three point, it can give you nice action and honestly plenty of sustain. I think you'll have a great time playing out too, trust me a Thunderbird gets you noticed ;)
  8. Sparkdog

    Sparkdog Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2006
    Burbank, CA
    It's looking like this might happen, I posted a nice acoustic guitar I have that's been gathering dust for years and have several buyers interested...it's going to get me very close to the asking price of this bird.

    One more question for you bird afficianados - Do you have a recommendation for strings that will bring out all the tonal goodness/badness of this beast?

    I'm a D'Addario user, I have 50-105 roundwounds on my P/J and Jazz basses, 50-105 Chromes on my 57 RI P, so I'm comfortable with those, but not married to them.

    Seems like stainless steels might be nice on the bird, but flats are also intriguing.

    Thanks for all the input guys, really appreciate it.
  9. Nocturnal

    Nocturnal Abuser of Thunderbird Shaped Objects. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2002
    Chandler, Arizona
    I use DR Black Beauties on mine, but also regular DR High beams if I don't want the black coating. I think they work well with a Tbird.
  10. TBird1958

    TBird1958 As a matter of fact....I am your Queen! Staff Member

    Mar 13, 2008
    Seattle Washington
    Endorsing Artist Mike Lull T Bass pickups
    If you bright tone and a bit of clank DR45-105s
    A little more subdued and less highs Ken Smith Rock Masters 45-105, which will fit the nut.
  11. Showdown


    Jan 21, 2002
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    It can be dialed in for decent action, but if you want more adjustability get one of these:


    I put one on one of my Tbirds and it is excellent.
  12. loendmaestro


    Jan 15, 2004
    Vienna VA
    All the guys I play with say my T-Bird is their favorite sounding bass.

    Cases are tricky....T-birds are l-o-o-n-n-g.

    Good luck & enjoy!
  13. Nocturnal

    Nocturnal Abuser of Thunderbird Shaped Objects. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2002
    Chandler, Arizona
    I installed a Hipshot bridge on my Tbird. It's a great upgrade and you can dial in really low action with it. I like it a lot!
  14. Sparkdog

    Sparkdog Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2006
    Burbank, CA
    Hey, how do you bird owners have yours set up to balance on a strap? I'm still struggling with this.

    After talking to someone with bird experience, I mounted a straplok button on the top edge of the body above the rear pickup. I'm using the factory button in front (back of body at the neck heel)

    This works pretty well and the bass hangs at the 45 degree angle I like, but the weird thing is I can't get a straplok button mounted at the neck heel. I tried and ran into some sort of metal plate there...***?

    I'm afraid it will come off the strap on stage and hit the deck.

    Any suggestions for this bird virgin? :)
  15. Sparkdog

    Sparkdog Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2006
    Burbank, CA
    A couple of folks here have mentioned the replacement bridge Hipshot makes. I understand you are able to widen the string spacing with that bridge...have you tried it and is it significant?

    My bird has really nice action so I don't need the bridge for that, but I find the string spacing to be pretty tight for my right hand, if I could spread it out a bit that might make the Hipshot worthwhile for me.

  16. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Dec 4, 2020

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