Just the words vintage or pre-CBS Fender bass put smiles on the faces of bass players the world over. Whenever I hear those words, I anticipate sonic nirvana. I expect a bass that plays insanely well after a proper setup and allows my muscle memory to play it without having to look at my hands. I demand CGF (cool guy factor) with any bass I own, and the old-school Fender is the champ. When it comes to practical ownership and use of these instruments, however, there are three issues facing the working musician. The first is value: some of these basses are worth five digits, and a $50 gig just doesn’t warrant using it. The second is affordability: quite frankly, even before the economy tanked the cost of these basses was getting out of reach for the first-time buyer. Third is abuse and wear: the finish on my trusty ‘58 P-Bass is wearing very thin, and it’s throwing off lacquer splinters on the neck. Because of these concerns, players are looking for affordable, world-class instruments to either emulate the look and feel of a 40- or 50-year-old bass, or an instrument that’s a little more versatile than their current vintage bass. I recently had the opportunity to speak with and visit some builders who’ve set out to meet that demand, and I got to learn about their journeys. While all share a similar passion, each is a little bit different in terms of their objectives.
For relic’d emulations—newly made basses that capture the look and vibe of a 40-year-old, well used bass—I spoke to Matt Brewster of Rust Guitars
and Bill Nash of Nash Guitars
. Rust just nails the beat-to-death hot rod vibe (listening recently to a cat playing one through a B15, I would have sworn it was a ’64 J-Bass). Bill Nash’s product line captures the vibey, old-school look of a well-used vintage bass and is very nicely priced.
We’ll also hear from builders making modern interpretations—basses that capture the old-school essence but come in a minty-new modern package. Mike Lull Custom Basses
captures the old-school essence and features, but has engineered niceties to provide more modern tone and playability. Pensa Custom basses
are vintage influenced, but modern works of art. These basses have an old-school feel in a modern package, and Rudy Pensa is one of the godfathers of modern emulation of vintage of basses. Jimmy Coppolo of Alleva-Coppolo
offers a complete array of modern vintage basses with some nicely engineered interpretations.
Start off with Jimmy Coppolo of Alleva-Coppolo...