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 toMatt Brewster of Rust GuitarsandBill 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 Bassescaptures the old-school essence and features, but has engineered niceties to provide more modern tone and playability.Pensa Custom bassesare 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-Coppolooffers a complete array of modern vintage basses with some nicely engineered interpretations.

Start off with Jimmy Coppolo of Alleva-Coppolo...