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bass players ---- questions for ya


snarfmaster C
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so i'm looking to learn to play bass guitar.... i'm thinkin i'll go for 4 strings.

i went to a couple stores today and played a whack of basses and at the second store i went to they had 'jazz' basses and regular(?) basses - i asked what the difference was and buddy was like 'they're just different..' i dunno - somn sketchy like that anyway. the jazz bass was really heavy - but that was the only solid difference i could figure. any ideas or experience with these?

also do you know of any makes in particular to stay away from or anything? i played a few yamahas and they seemed crappier than aahh fuck the other cheap basses i played at the other store.

i'm looking to spend no more than $600 on my bass and amp. any recommendations to check out would be much appreciated.

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hey C - there's a huge tonal difference between a jazz or 'J' style bass and a precision or 'P' style bass. I would recommend a Fender for you although a Yamaha probably wouldn't be terrible. It's all about feel, baby! Get something that feels good to the touch and sits right on your shoulder.

Anyways, the major difference between a J and P bass is the placement of the pickups. Often, a J bass will have a pickup near the bridge, as well as one about halfway between the bottom of the neck and the bridge. A P-bass will most often just have the middle one.

Pay attention to where the pickups are on the basses you try. If the pickup is halfway between neck and bridge, you're going to get more reggae fatness and less tone and snarl or bite. Closer to the bridge and you will get a more nasal, toney, funk jazz kind of sound. And if the bass has both pickups, there will be a 'pickup blend' knob that allows you to choose the tone you want.

Of course, the ideal is to have both pickups... which gives you the ultimate versatility. Other than that, it depends which sound you want!

I would recommend though trying to stay away from basses you find very heavy. If your bass is too heavy and you really like to practice, you might give yourself scoliosis or somethin' :P

-phishy

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I'm a guitarist that fools around on bass. However, if you want a fairly good bass for a cheap price, try a Squire ( Mexican made Fender ). They make cheap versions of Fender Precision basses and are owned by Fender. You should be able to buy one for $300 new.

The difficult thing will be to get yourself an amp for $300. I'd recommend a 50 watt Yorkville - because they're cheap and loud. 50 watts is good enough to learn and practice on, but if you ever jammed with a band, you'll need at least a 150-200 watt amp.

And whatever you do, don't listen to anything PEI Punk says. He's a hack on bass.

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The other main difference between the Fender Jazz Bass and the Precision Bass is the P Bass has a wider neck (ie more distance between the strings). This makes it a bit easier to slap cleanly but a bit harder to play fast runs.

I personally have been playing an Ibanez Soundgear (SDGR) for the past 7 years and have had no problems. I just recorded with it recently and it's still in perfect tune (which it remarkable because I have never had it set up since I bought it). I urge you try an SDGR before you buy a Fender, at the very least to compare sounds and feel.

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I hope this helps you out!

First off, I assume that you're talking about the Fender Jazz bass and the Fender Precision bass. The jazz bass tends to be a bit "punchier" in it's tone, due to it's extra pickup next to the bridge. Their necks are also thinner, so people with smaller hands tend to gravitate twards the Jazz bass.

If you're looking for a recomendation, I'd say go and get yourself the bass against which all others are judged, the venerable Fender Precision. Not only is it the tone that defines rock bass, they're built solidly and will last forever. Don't be afraid to hunt up a basic model that's assembled in Mexico... they're just as rugged as their American-built counterparts, and you can get one for about 400 bucks. I still own my first one and play it regularly.

A word of caution, though; try as many of them as you can before you buy. While the craftsmanship and playability are generally high for all Precisions, once in a while you will come across one that is outstanding, one that suits you and your playing style better than the rest. It's hard to quantify, but you'll know it when you feel it.

Also, don't buy your bass from someone that answers a question with, "I dunno, it's just different."

As far as amps go, if you just want to hear youself and you're not looking to play big gigs with it, take your leftover 200 bucks and get yourself a little combo practice amp. If I remember rightly, Peavey makes a 50-watt model that won't rattle the neighbour's teeth while you practice. Also, make sure that you get one with a stereo line in (usually a set of RCA plugs) and a headphone jack. This will allow you to play along to your favourite music while sparing those around you the pain of all those bad notes that you will inevitably hit as you learn. :)

Good luck, and happy bottom-ending!

Chuck

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actually, that bass is under 4 grand canadian.

if you're starting out you've got to understand that if you get a crappy bass and get good on it you'll appreciate a better instrument later. get a cheap bass and a good amp.

so i'd suggest going to a pawn shop and getting a crappy bass that feels comfy. get the cheapest, most awkward piece of wood you can and get it set up right. get new strings and get them to fix the intonation.

spend your money getting good cords, a good strap, a tuner, and a decent gig bag

as for names i suggest planet waves for smaller stuff and voyager for the case. it's the little things that make a difference for me.

you can always get an acoustic bass guitar. no amp required. try one with a pickup for open stage jams.

if you're gonna get into an instrument you won't get much for $600. the notion of a squier bass is a great one. you could even get a cheap bass and get good pickups put in. that'd be cool. i changed the pickups in my mexican fender jazz and i loved the difference.

do what gets you the most with your money. wait until you can afford to be serious about an instrument you might not like.

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Not to sound like an asshole, but I recommend you do the opposite of everything Canned Beats wrote.

1) Starting with a crappy instrument will be frustating - potential impossible to tune - potentially hard to play - potentially encouraging you to think that bass is not for you. And what's a crappy bass gonna sound like through a good amp? Shit tone really loud and clear.

2) Don't buy musical instruments from pawn shops.

3) If you skip the good cord, tuner, good strap, and case, you'll save about $150, which is money that could be spent on the bass. Grow your own tuner. Okay, I relent on the good strap part. It's important to play standing up, and it's important to be comfy when you do so.

4) Do not get an acoustic bass. Show me one bass player that uses an acoustic as their main instrument. You'll get used to a weird body shape and they're rarely loud enough.

5) You can find a damn fine starting rig for $600. No need to start changing pickups and the like until you start hating the ones you have.

6) Be serious right away. And have serious fun.

Sorry Canned Beats, nothin' personal. Good luck Ms. Freak, the bass is a cool, cool instrument, one I've always thought was the most important in any ensemble.

Plus, bass players get all the chicks. I never shoulda given it up.

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One important thing to budget for is instruction: lessons, books, videos, CDs, whatever. Remember, you want to allocate money to the things that will increase your enjoyment of playing the most.

As a beginner, the thing that limits your playing/enjoyment is mostly you, not the instrument. IMO, you're better off spending $50 or $100 less on an instrument (or by skipping buying an amp, say) and devoting the saved money to lessons; then, after you get better, move up the equipment quality ladder.

Aloha,

Brad

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alright! thanks for all the great advice.

i kinda liked the wider neck of the precision - i didn't notice it on all the ones i played - but it felt good. seeing as how that was my first ever time picking up an electric guitar of any kind i was really preoccupied with playing with all the knobbies and feeling the vibrations. fun stuff :) hokey jumpins is the bass end good :: i guess my next task is to see if i can find some fender precision and ibanez sdgr to try out... still got loads of music stores in the peterpatch to check out.

there were some 50 watt amps at the stores i went to for $100-140 so i'm thinking to start those should do me since i'll be jamming with jerry and phil or bob marley to start my career... what are the rca cables for?? ---to hook up a stereo input?? i don't actually have a stereo - i play music through my computer - is it possible to hook up an audio output from my computer (or the subwoofer i got hooked up to it?) with some other magic cable or am i outta luck?

thanks folks!

and you'd better believe i'm in it for the girls ;) ::

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If you're playing tunes from your computer, you'll need a cable with a 1/8" stereo jack on one end--that plugs into the audio out of your computer's sound card--and an RCA "Y" connector on the other--that will plug into the RCA inputs on your practice amp. The person behind the counter at your local Radio Shack will know what you need. Plug your bass into the line in, your headphones into the headphone jack, and voila!... you'll be able to jam along to your favourite tunes without bugging your neighbours!

And I too got into it for the chicks. :)

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okay...the reason i said 'go for the crap bass' is this: if you get used to playing on a tricky bass you'll get stonger, faster, and used to an instrument that makes you work a little.

if you're starting off you're not going to sound awesome off the bat and you may as well get a sad instrument to sound great rather than trying to make a great instrument live up to expectations.

plus, it's all about fun. what if in 2 months the bass isnt' for you and you want to get rid of it? you won't lose as much money on a resale.

Velevet - your words are wise but if comfort comes under pressure, when it lets off it'll be effortless to make great tunes.

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okay...the reason i said 'go for the crap bass' is this: if you get used to playing on a tricky bass you'll get stonger, faster, and used to an instrument that makes you work a little. if you're starting off you're not going to sound awesome off the bat and you may as well get a sad instrument to sound great rather than trying to make a great instrument live up to expectations.

plus, it's all about fun. what if in 2 months the bass isnt' for you and you want to get rid of it? you won't lose as much money on a resale.

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Probably the biggest part of being a good bassist is developing finger and hand strength, strong callouses, etc. A crappy bass, while tougher at the start, will ultimately help you with this.

It's kinda like musical tough love :)

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From a guy who has watched dozens of people get frustrated because they can't play shitty instruments, I gotta say you're all insane. It should be a balance between fun and work, but bad instruments are rarely fun and always work.

To play a shitty instrument just so that eventually you'll get one that will feel better is like banging your head against a wall because it feels better when you stop.

If you were teaching someone to swim for the first time, would you attach weights to their feet?

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I concur with Velvet. I know tons of people who have quit playing guitar and they have one thing in common: they all own cheapo acoustic guitars that sound terrible and play even worse.

Get something that feels and plays well. Who wants to have deal with buzzing strings and guitars that go out of tune every fucking second.

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Dammit, I agree with both points of view! This probably makes me look dumb. Oh well.

I have a very nice Warwick bass that everyone but me finds very difficult to play. But I have played it for 6 years and have molded my playing style around this bass. It's very tight and hard to the touch, and a little heavy too. But I find that this gives me the tight, funky control that I want for fingerstyle funk with lots of ghost-notes and muting, which is my forte. I guess, to each their own, Caramel.

Just pick the bass that makes your heart jump a bit. Believe in magic and believe that the bass will choose you :)

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