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vintage basses, age and playability

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by SethD, Apr 19, 2005.

  1. There is currently a 1956 Fender Precision listed on eBay. In the description the seller states that the bass "Plays surprisingly well for its age." That statement seems to imply that age can have an adverse affect on playability. Is that the case? If so, how does the passing of time affect the playability of a bass?

    Oh, I should mention that the seller is a TB regular, and if his posts here are any indication he knows a thing or two about bass guitars.
  2. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    As with any year, there are a lot of good ones and bad ones. Late '70's basses were notorious for having really BAD playability, but I'm lucky enough to have a phenominal player. As with any used instrument, whether vintage or not, it should be played first.

    As far as age having an effect on playability, if it's properly maintained, it'll only play better over the years as your body slowly molds it to yourself. I.E. rolling the fingerboard edges, removing the finish in some areas due to constant use.
  3. pickles

    pickles Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    An old bass is much more likely to have a warped neck, underpowered truss rod, warn frets, warn nut, poorly designed bridge (does a '56 have a two-string per saddle bridge?) ... all the moreso if the owner was trying to retain vintage value by fixing nothing.
  4. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    Bingo! The longer the bass is in existance, the liklihood of a frozen trussrod, warped neck, or worn frets increase. All of the things that Pickles mentioned would be problematic with respect to playability.
  5. Isn't neck warping most likely to occur within the first few years after construction?
  6. abngourmet

    abngourmet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2004
    I don't know much about neck warping, tight truss rods, etc. on vintage instruments, but I can tell you that trying to put light gauge strings (.40-.95) on an older instrument is an adventure. I have a '73 Jazz and a '79 Musicman, and they both hated light gauge strings. In the case of the Musicman, my tech had to literally plane relief into the fingerboard (he had the truss rod, which still worked, all the way out, and the action/buzzing still sucked). He did that, and it works great now (his name is Jim Warwick, at www.jwarwickguitars.com ... Jim is awesome ... if you need work done and you're in the Northern VA or DC area, give him a call). My Jazz needed a refret anyway, but didn't need the planing. I've now got them where I want them, but only with professional help.

    I also own a '74 Gibson Ripper, a '77 Gibson RD 77 Artist, and a '76 Rick 4001. All get the same light gauge strings, and I've experienced no problems with them. I guess it depends on the instrument and the condition it's in at the time of sale. :bassist:
  7. I've got a '65 P that has two "issues." The tone pot is scratchy at about the mid-turn point, might just need some contact cleaner. The frets have been Roto-Sounded after all these years. I've been using them on this bass since '73 and some of the frets are really gouged. No buzz though. In fact the sound is killer. I don't know if the wood gets super dry or something with age but you can hear the diff with this bass. I bet it's all the sweat salt around the pups! I sweat like a mofo under lights. I wipe it down but have never taken it apart. Scared to mess up something. Oh, the knobs aren't left with much nickle plate anymore.

    I need to post a pic of it one of these days. It could win the ugly bass award I think. It's a weird brown color with a t-shell pg that looks rough when it's in the orange-lined case. Oh well, it's got THE sound. I think I'll keep it another decade or so!

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