Hi all, just got back from the NAMM show, and checking out all the high-end basses and bass gear (mmm... yummy, my favorite would still be the one killer 5-string that "does it all"). So, the question I've been going around asking, to the likes of George F, Keith R, Michael T, and so on, is "what happened to the lost art of making basses"? Of course, I'm asking this question with tongue very much in cheek. I feel kinda funny going up to a George and saying "so how come the old basses were so much better"? Not that I even really believe that really. It just seems to me that after all these years (what, fixty or sixty now), someone could have finally perfected the art of making a killer bass, so they could "get it right" every time. I'm sure that those of you with a stable of high end basses will agree, that this is really a "quality problem", but frankly, I'm getting really sick and tired of having to try like two hundred high end basses before I find one that actually works. No, I exaggerate. Well, maybe a little. My ratio lately seems to be around ten to one. For every one amazing high end bass, there are ten duds. Or, let's say, ten that "aren't quite perfect" - in other words, any other day and for anyone else, they might be okay basses, but compared to my Series 1 or even my loaner '65 J, they don't cut the mustard. Not even close. Stupid little things like D strings that don't sound quite the same as the rest of the world, or G saddles that won't go down quite low enough, or - god forbid - even nuts that aren't cut quite right. (I assume that a high end manufacturer would have done that "deliberately", yes?) Now, mind you, if I had a gazillion bucks and all the garage space in the world, I'd love to buy one of each different kind of bass, just to say I can create "any sound in the world". But, reality lately has been that I've seen a lot of basses without the "mandatory" features, little things like string balance, low frequency stability, something more than a "plink" in the low B... well, I exaggerate (again), but you get the picture. The essential elements in a bass (and specifically in my case, a 5 string bass), which would be fatness, sustain, a little bit of that desirable growl, a nice solid solo sound in the high registers, just basic stuff like that. I'm sitting here with my arms crossed, folks, in one of those "make my day" kind of moods. I was bummed at this last NAMM show, I didn't hear anything (bass-wise) that really made me . I'm not knockin' the guys like George and Keith and Michael, lord knows I own dozens of all their basses, but I'm lookin' for one of those guys to take the next step. Into the next generation, of quality, and tonal amazingness. Quality control would be a good first step (I know that's asking for a lot in a handmade instrument, but jeez guys, there's stuff out there these days with fewer side effects than even Valium). But really the goal would be the consistency of precision that allows a "line" of basses to be manufactured so that each unit sounds just as amazing as the next. Something that when you hear it, makes you sit up and take notice. "What was that?" When was the last time I said that? I don't remember. Maybe it was the first Series 1. Or maybe it was the latest Roscoe. I don't remember. I wonder how many of the Georges and Keiths and Michaels of the world have had to succumb to market pressures, and how much that's really affected the quality of their instruments. Just to draw an analogy, I remember back in the day, when you could walk into any electronics store anywhere in the country, and buy a piece of HP gear sight-unseen (like maybe a scope or something), and be 100% confident and completely certain that you were getting a working instrument, and that it was going to do what you needed it to do, the first time out of the box, with no gimmickry and no tune-up needed. There was never any question of whether the "B" probe would behave quite the same as the "A" probe. That only started happening in the mid-80's (when HP was having to succumb to market pressures, just as I suspect all of our up-and-coming and talented luthiers will have to do at some point in their careers - unless they're just making basses for a hobby - and there's a lot to be said for that). I mean, let's face it folks, 99% of the so-called "high end basses" aren't even set up correctly when they reach the marketplace. Wait, did I say "correctly"? I meant, "nowhere near correctly", I meant like, way out in left field somewhere, where only a field mouse or the jolly green giant would feel comfortable playing it. And that's just basic stuff - when I spend two or three thousand bucks on an instrument, you know darn well it's gonna piss me off when I have to spend another few hundred bucks and another few weeks just to set the darn thing up. Ah well, I suppose "reasonable expectations" are germane in this context. But heck, even Alembic makes a dud every now and then. There's gotta be a way to stop those instruments from reaching the marketplace. Wait, I have an idea - an annual Alembic bonfire (or insert "F bass", "Roscoe", "MTD", whatever your luthier of choice is - maybe they could all get together and chip in - that could definitely be a mystical experience for some of our TB membership). Anyway, I'm ready to be amazed folks. Anyone with a high end bass they think will perkify my ag'ed and cynical ears, let it be known you have a potential customer here. Still looking for the one. (and that probably makes me a good customer) /rant!