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Old 10-01-2013, 12:10 PM   #1
E.Vern
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Getting a first bass?

I've been playing an electric guitar for a while now, and I'm thinking of trying something new. I've only played a bass once in my life and I found its sound quite interesting. I thought trying a new instrument would be better than investing in my guitar/amp which are both still in playable condition.

So, I need some advice on what to look out for when I'm bass hunting. I know I want a 5-string but that's all I really know. There are some strange brands around so could you advise on what aspects of a bass I should be looking for instead of specific brands or models? I was thinking of a starter pack but I'm not sure of the quality, durability, etc.

Thanks
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Old 10-01-2013, 02:34 PM   #2
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Hi - I can make some suggestions but keep in mind they are based on my own preferences and bias. I've been playing bass for about 35 years. Sorry if this is long-winded.

First, to address starter packs: since you are already a guitar player you understand the basics, and you may quickly become unhappy with the quality, sound and feel of beginner level basses. My first bass was a starter - a cheap Fender copy and I quickly outgrew it. When I purchased my next one, a Rickenbacker, I was amazed at the difference.

Two most important things I personally look for: feel and sound.

Feel: I'm will not say that playing 6 string guitar is easy, but it is easier than the bass. Bass requires more finger strength for both hands. I prefer basses with a thin neck - e.g. Ibanez SoundGear and Fender Jazz. The type of wood and the finish of both the neck and fingerboard contribute to the overall feel. I have played basses with a satin and gloss finish on the neck - satin feels smoother to me (easier to move around). I have played basses with Rosewood, Ebony and Maple fingerboards - I prefer Maple again for the smoothness - Maple fingerboards are usually gloss coated. Let me give an example: for years I have seen, heard and read about Spector basses. I convinced myself that I wanted one - until I actually played one. It felt like I was trying to wrap my fretting hand around a tree trunk - too big for me, and even though everything else about it was great, I would never buy one because I don't like the feel.

Sound: The first thing I do is play a bass unplugged - this is important because if it doesn't have good "acoustic" tone, then it won't sound good when plugged into an amp. You can spend hours reading about the sound quality of different woods for the body, but the best thing for me is to play several of them unplugged and listen. I then look at things that can affect tone, such as the bridge. IMHO, a bigger, heavier bridge gives better tone and sustain.

I have owned several basses over the years but I currently have only one - a Fender Jazz, Geddy Lee Signature model. I will admit that I am a huge fan of Geddy, but that is not why I bought this bass. I bought it because of the very thin neck, the Maple neck and fingerboard, the big/solid Badass II bridge, etc. To me it sounds great unplugged and plugged.
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Old 10-01-2013, 02:49 PM   #3
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The unplugged aspect I find debatable. You're completely cutting out a HUGE part of the overall sound- the electronics and pickups, hand position in relation to pickups... and let's be fair, when do you ever play bass unplugged outside of noodling around in your bedroom?
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Old 10-01-2013, 05:54 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Deliriumbassist
The unplugged aspect I find debatable. You're completely cutting out a HUGE part of the overall sound- the electronics and pickups, hand position in relation to pickups... and let's be fair, when do you ever play bass unplugged outside of noodling around in your bedroom?

I agree with this, but i also understand where the "play the bass unplugged" comment comes from.

To help us help you:
1) a price range or budget you are expecting to spend on this.
2) Location. It's important because it lets us know the availability of some stuff that depends on where you live.
3) are you willing to go used?
4) Are you going to buy an amp with your budget, or you have a separate budget for that?
5) Important thing when talking about amps: Do you have at least a remote idea of playing live, or doing some rehearsals with friends? If so, do you imagine what type of music? I ask this so that we have an idea of the power of the amp that will suit your needs. You'll come to face the fact that lower frecquencies, (like the ones you will be producing with your brand new bass) requires more power than a guitar. Normally, we are going to recommend nothing lower than 100 watts for rehearsals, probably more if you're expecting to play live, and somewhat around 300 watts at least if you're playing metal with two guitar full stacks.
Mmmmh, that's all i can think for now. Provide us with the information listed above and we will be able to provide a more accurate advise for you.




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Old 10-01-2013, 06:10 PM   #5
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@Deliriumbassist - I see your point, and I'm not suggesting to ignore the electronics. I have owned several basses, and the ones that I like most - the ones that have the tone I prefer, all sound great both unplugged and plugged, and I don't have to apply a lot of electronics to coax a good sound out of them.

To use an analogy: Have you ever heard a singer who sounds great on an album, but not so good live? The reason being that in the studio, they can enhance and alter the singer's voice to make it sound good, but without a solid foundation the singer sounds bad once you remove the fancy electronics? This is what I'm referring to.
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Old 10-01-2013, 09:14 PM   #6
damienbass
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These cats got some great concepts for you to use. I'll add that I would find something that fits your hands pretty well but wont break the budget. Find a reasonable amp that suits the style you want with reasonable wattage but also is not as cumbersome. We all would all want to start out with a Fender American Deluxe Jazz and an SVT-7 Pro 8x10 stack but I really dont think that this is plausible. The bass does not make the person, the person makes the bass. I would suggest the deep tone of an Ibanez SR 305 (400 USD) and or a GIO 205 (205 USD). If you like Fender, Check out the Mexican made Fenders. Cheapest one is about 600 USD. As for amps, a good Hartke Class D combo amp is a good start. If you are going for a head and cabinet. I have heard (but never tested) TC Electronics heads are good.
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Old 10-01-2013, 09:42 PM   #7
E.Vern
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Thanks for all the advice so far. @smtp4me, what do you mean by an acoustic sound? Its sustain or something else?

1)~$300 (I'm not too sure how accurate this figure is as I'm in a far away place with high import taxes and a different currency)
2)Far away that sells brands that I've never heard of. That's why I was hoping I could get advice on how to choose a bass based on its wood/finish/electronics etc.
3)Used is fine
4)Shared budget
5)It'll mostly just be a bedroom gig. I might play with friends but not in a band or anything. Shows seem quite unlikely. And I doubt I'd be playing anything else besides rock/metal in the foreseeable future.

Another question, what is the difference in pickup styles? Like in guitar there's humbuckers and single coils, what are the different types of pickups in a bass and what effect does it bring?
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Old 10-01-2013, 11:14 PM   #8
smtp4me
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Hi - When I say acoustic tone, I don't mean that it sounds like an acoustic bass - I mean that it simply sounds good when it's not plugged into an amp. The tone qualities that are specific to that bass are heard both unplugged and with an amp. See the analogy I used above about a singer - with studio technology even a bad singer can be made to sound good, but ask that same bad singer to perform live with nothing to enhance their voice and you suddenly realize that the electronics are what sounded good - not the singer.

With regard to pickups, the technology is the same as guitar: single coil, dual coil, humbucker, etc. You also have the choice of active vs. passive electronics. Active simply means that there is an active pre-amp built into the bass that runs on battery(s), which allows you to adjust the lows, mids and highs before the signal is sent to the amp.

Based on my personal experience, Ibanez makes basses that have good value - you get a lot for your money. As Damienbass suggested, an Ibanez SR400 is a great bass even for an advanced player. I sold my Ibanez RB850 (Roadstar II) when I bought the Fender, and I had owned it for almost 28 years. I don't think you would be unhappy with an Ibanez and it won't cost a fortune.
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Old 10-02-2013, 05:22 AM   #9
E.Vern
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I see, thanks! Not sure if this is going off topic, but would it be better to invest more in a better amp or bass? Does the amp have a bigger contribution to the overall sound than the bass or vice versa?

I thought I saw one more type of pickup (think it was at the neck) where one pickup is for the upper strings while the other is for the lower strings. It's kinda like two short pickups at the same position but not placed in line.

I've seen quite a few Ibanez basses around, will check it out. I'm using a GioIbanez for my guitar so I'm quite satisfied with that brand. Thanks for all the advice again!
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Old 10-02-2013, 06:49 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E.Vern
I see, thanks! Not sure if this is going off topic, but would it be better to invest more in a better amp or bass? Does the amp have a bigger contribution to the overall sound than the bass or vice versa?

Both are important. But I would say a bad bass sounds better through a better amp than a good bass sounds through a bad amp. For example a bad amp could sound too thin and lack the bottom end and clarity. No bass will sound good through it.

But you need both, a good bass and a good amp.

Some basses have really characteristic tones (P Bass, Jazz Bass, Music Man, Rickenbacker) and it's the same as on guitars - a Stratocaster isn't going to give you a Les Paul tone, no matter what amp you are playing it through. Here's a good video that shows how the most common bass types sound like:

Quote:
I thought I saw one more type of pickup (think it was at the neck) where one pickup is for the upper strings while the other is for the lower strings. It's kinda like two short pickups at the same position but not placed in line.

That's the "Precision Bass" pickup.
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Old 10-02-2013, 08:38 AM   #11
Sudaka
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Watch the above video to hear the differences on the most common basses, and that should also give you an idea of what electronics you like the most:
Precision sound comes from (but not only) it's split single coil pick up.
Jazz Bass sound comes from its two single coil pickups.
Musicman Stingray's tone comes from that massive pickup and it's in built preamp (it's what you call an active bass, which requires 9v batteries to work)
And Rickenbacker tone is really not important since you'd have to pay at least $2.000 to get one.

As far as what models are good, check the FAQ on this very forum, it also covers small practice amps.

Avoid starter packages, and try to go used. I'd recomend something like a Squier from the Affinity series, or a GSR Ibanez, or a Yamaha (those are the durable ones). And for the amp, try to get something with a 12" speaker, and +50 watts and you should be okay.
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When you break a bass string, that snapping sound is the sound of six dollars going down the crapper.



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Old 10-02-2013, 03:55 PM   #12
A.Keffler
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Any bass made by fender. go with reliable brands and the comfort, tone build quality
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Old 10-02-2013, 06:54 PM   #13
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I got a Yamaha BB425x for my first 5 string. It is cool. They were on sale through American Musical Supply for $350 as factory re-certified.
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Old 10-02-2013, 07:14 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A.Keffler
Any bass made by fender. go with reliable brands and the comfort, tone build quality




This post merits no other response.
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Old 10-02-2013, 07:32 PM   #15
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Old 10-02-2013, 08:27 PM   #16
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I couldn't agree more with a Fender product, including Squire. I have owned a few Squire Affinity P's and a Fender American Deluxe Active V. I've never had a bad Fender Product... Minus the Fender FM 100 guitar amp.
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Old 10-02-2013, 11:19 PM   #17
E.Vern
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Thanks for all the advice again. A music shop nearby is selling Fender Jazz and Precision for a reasonable price. But he's bringing in a Ibanez GSR205 in a while. I've read somewhere that the Fenders don't hold intonation very well and require continuous tuning. Is that true? I've never been a big fan of Fender but since it's a different instrument, I guess it's a different thing altogether.

Btw, is there anything important I should know about getting a bass amp? Any models to look out for or avoid? What kind of wattage necessary for personal or very small performances? I read somewhere that the wattage of a bass amp should be twice that of a guitar amp, is that true?
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Old 10-03-2013, 03:20 PM   #18
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Avoid Behringer.
Wattage required is at least 100 watts, IMHO.
Normally you would need 3x the guitar's wattage, but also bear in mind the guitar amp's cab: you also need good speakers, and if the guitars have full marshall stacks, and they push it, you'lll need at least 300 watts and a good cab, probably 4X10 raised at your head's level. Still, bands should be as loud as the drummer. I suggest big amps when you have to play with big guitar amps, because guitarist tend to push their amps in order to get that hot valve tone...
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Originally Posted by FatalGear41
When you break a bass string, that snapping sound is the sound of six dollars going down the crapper.



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Tech 21 VT Bass
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