When (beginner, intermediate, advanced, ...) can one truly appreciate a high-end bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by JPK_DK, Sep 5, 2020.

  1. The boa

    The boa

    Nov 12, 2016
    I personally don’t like the idea that high end means better or more playable. I have played some “high end” stuff that just felt sterile to me, and played some “beginner” or “low end” basses that made me say “wow, this is a nice playing bass!” I will say the fit and finish tends to be better on higher end stuff, and if you are in to specific woods with really nice grain then you will have to dig through the pile of mass manufactured ones to find the really good looking woods. I also think a lot of the basses people really laid as being superior are weird looking seem over engineered or over thought on the shapes and contours.

    price doesn’t equate to being the best bass for anyone. You just have to go play a bunch. To each their own, if a sadowsy floats your boat then play it. If a squier bronco is your go to, well then play that sucker. I won’t judge you for it either way.
    JPK_DK and chadds like this.
  2. I always say to get a good introductory bass, not too expensive, since you won't appreciate the benefits of an amazing bass until you've exceeded the limitations of an average bass.

    Honestly, I believe it does work like that. You can appreciate a great instrument, but you don't TRULY make the most of it until you find you are unable to accomplish something on a lesser instrument, or you are doing very professional level stuff on a lesser instrument and then find it's all much easier on a great axe.

    That was my experience, it is what the music teachers/coaches I grew up around found and therefore recommended, and it's what I personally experienced and recommended to my own students.

    By no means is it saying you should not get a great bass up front or limit yourself.

    But at least I find a passive Precision, a good sounding one with good action and fretwork to be the base-line (pun intended) to grow from in the future.

    And, not surprisingly, many always find years later that they still love going back to a good precision bass, for some things, at some times.
    JPK_DK likes this.
  3. Ruknrole

    Ruknrole Professional Amateur Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2018
    Appreciating an instrument and buying the wrong instrument are 2 different things. I’m sure GAS has a lot to do with it too.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2020
    JPK_DK and equill like this.
  4. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    You don't even have to play bass to appreciate how high end bass might look or sound, and you only have to be able to play a few notes to appreciate the feel of it. That said, when shopping for a bass the game is to play as many as possible and find the one you enjoy the best - almost regardless of price. It's as likely as not that the one that works for you will be in the middle range.

    My only concern with a beginner dropping a lot of coin on a bass is that their playing preferences may change a lot in a short period of time.
    JPK_DK likes this.
  5. True - but it all depends on how you use your brain. If you continue to learn throughout your life span you will continue to keep the plasticity of your brain healthy by keeping your mind active.

    I worked at a large company during their switch over to SAP - and the retention rate of the "old-timers" was about 30% as the switchover progressed. Most of the people in their mid 50s or older just didn't have the patience to relearn the processes they had been doing for 20-30 years. What the route cause of that was - I don't know for sure - but lifestyle may have been one, as anecdotally a few of the people who quit did have a penchant for alcohol.

    So while I do think it is possible to keep mind agile as you age - it is something that I think has to be personally worked towards as a sort of life long goal.

    I personally would hate to quit working my mind and just sit back and rely on entertainment to pass the time fully and completely. I am in my mid-thirties now and I can see the horizon line a lot clearer now than I could 15 years ago, time is finite and I'd hate to lose my mind as I get older. So I am doing my best to keep reading, devouring art and smart entertainment, keeping healthy best as I can, etc.

    Because I wish to keep making interesting art as I get older - and I know it is possible, as you can take a look at someone like Paul Simon and look at the last music he has released in his 70s and it is just as if not more interesting than the music he was working on 20 or 30 years prior. But I imagine it is a hard fought battle to get to that stage, especially if you are in a life class that doesn't afford you much time outside of work.
    equill and alaskaleftybass like this.
  6. Orion1985

    Orion1985 Supporting Member

    May 4, 2010
    Grass Valley, CA
    In the beginning of my bass journey I started on an entry level Ibanez. It was playable and I wouldn’t start again anywhere else. I think the first time to upgrade is once you have developed enough technique that you can feel the difference in playability between an entry level bass and one of higher quality. I’ve not played any boutique basses but I now have a few high quality basses, two USA G&Ls and a German Warwick, and I think there is utility in investing in an instrument that makes playing easier and more enjoyable. If you focus on technique you will be able to discern the qualities that you appreciate in a bass.

    So to start, if you can’t tell the difference, pick whichever is cheaper. Then after trying basses that you can tell make a difference, think about upgrading.

    Seriously though, for my first bass, I would have had no way of knowing if it was good or bad. Turns out, it was fine and I learned a lot with it.
    JPK_DK likes this.
  7. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    My advice, although rarely taken, would be to pick up a used American Fender P or J and you have a bass that will not get in your way and you can take it all the way to touring. Now that's if you're certain that you're serious about playing bass. If you decide that it's not for you, sell it for what you paid for it. Higher initial cost, but almost no loss if you decide lacrosse is your life's passion.
    roycroft_88, LowWay, JPK_DK and 4 others like this.
  8. Well, again this is just my opinion but, I equate it to a beginner learning scales to saying he wants to learn a Bach cello suite. To me that's just getting ahead of yourself. A beginner might not even know they like the instrument let alone put in the time. But again it's you money to do what you want!
  9. perfect, yes, good recommendations
  10. Ruknrole

    Ruknrole Professional Amateur Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2018
    Sorry I’m not following you. Are you saying that a beginner can’t appreciate build quality, craftsmanship, good sound, premium woods, etc. Perhaps you are thinking of a small child? Many beginners are adults.

    I drove my friend’s Porsche the other day. I’m not a race car driver, never driven a sports car before, but I surely appreciated it.
    LowWay likes this.
  11. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    Whatever the price the instrument should not get in your way. Between any basses, the one you’re holding and the rest in the world, the day you feel the truth of “it’s out of your way” then you have made it.

    So to me it’s you first. The basses are waiting to be held.
    JPK_DK likes this.
  12. No, I'm coming from a standpoint of someone who wants to seriously wants to learn an instrument. Yeah, if i can afford it, top of the line, for most get something modest to see if it's something you want to pursue. More times than not GAS just gets you something that collects dust.
  13. packhowitzer

    packhowitzer 155mm of pure destruction

    Apr 20, 2011
    I started playing when I was 12. I got serious about playing when I was 14. I bought myself a new Stingray when I was 19. It felt like the right time then and looking back it still feels right. That Stingray purchase coincided with a time in my life where I was able to support myself solely by playing music. I felt like I was stepping up to a proper tool to help me ply my trade. That bass let me focus on playing in a way that some of my previous lower end basses didn't really seem to do - i guess in a way it felt like I wasn't ever fighting against the instrument. That bass paid for itself many, many times over and helped me make a living doing something that I loved.

    Since then, most of my basses have been in the $1K range until after 25 years of playing I bought two NS Design CR5s. That was the first time I felt like i was buying a boutique level bass. My 'ray and fenders still fit like a glove and get lots of recording and jamming time at home, but my CR5s are those next level basses that will take me from now until I'm riding the midnight train to slab city. :bassist:
    JPK_DK likes this.
  14. alaskaleftybass

    alaskaleftybass Will Hanbury, Jr. Supporting Member

    Mar 21, 2012
    Sitka, Alaska
    People involved with any kind of substance abuse are going to have problems transitioning from many walks of work life. It could also happen to 30 year olds. In my 20 years at my job we've gone from Windows XP to now Win10 Enterprise with a lot of remote workers using various remote programs. At 68 I still have my mind intact because I'm very curious and love to learn, and I'm young minded. You'll be surprised that there are more sharp minded boomers out there, as you noted with Paul Simon. They're just working jobs that aren't seen publicly. Age is a state of mind and I keep mine young.There are plenty boomers still working and contributing to the economy.
    31HZ, SimonSays32 and ToneMonkey like this.
  15. tb-player

    tb-player Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2019
    I wouldn’t advise a beginner to buy an expensive bass because he/she doesn’t know anything yet. It takes a significant amount of experience to discover your preferences, tone and style. But once you do, go for it. Once you know what you like (that could be a year or ten years), go get it. It will inspire you to play.
    JPK_DK and alaskaleftybass like this.
  16. ToneMonkey


    Sep 27, 2003
    Newberg, OR
    When parents give a kid a Corvette for their 16th birthday, there’s no way to go but down.

    I think in order to truly appreciate a fine instrument, you need to pay some dues by playing lesser instruments. And perhaps to find out (as I have) that insanely expensive instruments don’t make me any happier than a nice functional one. Embrace the journey.
    JPK_DK and alaskaleftybass like this.
  17. darkinners


    Oct 4, 2006
    Well, my most expensive bass is cheaper than my wife's violin bow.
    QweziRider, LowWay and equill like this.
  18. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    I think it takes some time for a bass player to know what "good tone" sounds like. Even more than that, what good tone FEELS like. And then to play the instrument consistently in a way that it makes it FEEL the way it does when it's producing a beautiful tone. And then when you've reached that "I Am An Advanced Bass Player" rank on Call Of Duty: The Rhythm Section, the FOH engineer tells you "crank the tone, I want the whole spectrum going into the mains!" while you think "but my monitor mix is pre-EQ, and we can't change that, so all I'm gonna hear is clack-clack-clack-sqeakyfret-clack in my ears woe is me . . . . ."

    I started on a MIM P back in the late 90's. Rode that into music school. Dabbled with some "nicer" but attainable basses through high school/early music college (Conklin GT, Carvin Bolt), bought and sold a couple boutique basses through college (one ~$4000 at the time, the other fully custom was about $2200 at the time, swapped around with a nice Musicman around then too). Then after college I got a Carvin SB5000 (basically a cheaper and weirder looking alternative to Sadowsky) to fill that "modern J" niche. And now that's been my setup through the last almost 10 years. That Carvin, my original MIM P, and a fretless jazz.

    Instruments are so personal. There are some revered brands in the world of bass that command new Toyota Corolla prices that I picked up, put down, shrugged my shoulders, and said, "Meh." I couldn't understand the appeal. The best sounding and playing bass that I've ever played was a cream-colored Guild B301 from the late 70's in a music store in western MA. I deeply regret not buying it.

    Wow this got long. Guess that's what no gig on a Saturday will do to me. I think the only time you really HAVE to upgrade an instrument is if you're playing some neck-warped Ibanez Mikro or a Hello Kitty Bass-Banjo-FirstAct-contraption. Anything with real, construction-related problems. Otherwise, if you spend $400 or more on your instrument, chances are that it's YOU that needs to get better, NOT the instrument. *

    *I will offer a caveat: A poor amp can make a good bass sound bad. Before a student upgrades any gear, I tell them go for an amp first. A 8" speaker in a budget Fender enclosure will sound awful 100% of the time. :::this is me glaring at the Rumble series:::
    Roger W, JPK_DK and alaskaleftybass like this.
  19. alaskaleftybass

    alaskaleftybass Will Hanbury, Jr. Supporting Member

    Mar 21, 2012
    Sitka, Alaska
    About the best answer on this post! :thumbsup:
  20. 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.

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