Kevin discusses his outlook on purchasing as bass player
Last month I discussed two sides of my buying spectrum, as a collector and as a dealer. This month we will visit Kevin the player, the side that has the strongest demands as a purchaser. I will also give you some tips on purchasing a vintage bass.
As a player in my late 40s, my instrument demands are unwavering and very focused. As a player in my younger days, I used every vintage bass for no other reason than that I could. I’d gig with every brand, every model—it really didn’t matter. Now after 35 years of solid, steady playing, my instrument demands are pinpoint. This is due to physical demands and as well as ease and consistency. Some of you younger guys have not experienced back problems, tendonitis, wrist issues, etc. For gigging and recording, 100 percent of my basses have to meet the following criteria: they must play like a vintage Fender, hang like a Fender and have the Fender neck radius; they must engage the muscle memory of either a P or a J bass. I guess I’m only using vintage Fender products!
My main bass is my trusty ‘58 P-Bass. I will also use my ‘62 J-Bass on occasion. So what exactly do I look for when buying a vintage bass? I can tell literally in 20 seconds whether or not I will buy a particular bass. I like my action on the low side, but it cannot choke when played aggressively. The neck must have a consistent relief curve. I’m not a big stickler on originality with my player gear, especially when it comes to frets and other items that wear. However, the neck must have a proper set of old-school frets perfectly installed. I also will not play a bass with a refinished neck. To me, it drastically alters the feel. I prefer original hardware, but as long as I can revert back to vintagestyle hardware, I’m ok.
When I wrote a “5 Builders” piece for PG a few months ago [“5 Pre-CBS-Inspired Bass Builders You Should Meet” Sept., 2009], the vintage builders all agreed that you must use the vintage-style tuners and bridge assemblies or it alters the instrument. I agree. A must on an old Fender bass is original pickups. If a rewind was correctly done, that doesn’t bother me in the least. I guess what I’m saying is: as a player, give me a good pre-CBS bass, have it play great and let it be somewhat original and I’m okay. I use refins all the time, as long as the neck has the original finish. This sums up what I’m going to use—but what I will hold onto is a whole ‘nother story.
What I will keep forever and use consistently is my version of the “Truth,” a beat-to-death old Fender bass that has a perfect neck, original finish and mostly original components. My forementioned ’58 P fits the bill, except that bass is 100 percent original down to the case and the covers. This ’58 P is the second best P-Bass I ever played; the best was a ‘60 that I sold to Tino Sanchez in Boston in order to buy my ‘58. I’ve begged, I’ve wallowed— Tino will never sell this bass! This sums up what I demand in a personal player bass.
Tips on Purchasing a Vintage Bass
Let’s make something perfectly clear. No one needs a vintage bass. Putting an amplified bass through a PA system… lets face it, 99 percent of the people will not hear a difference. Quite frankly, other than other musicians in the audience, no one knows the difference between a P-Bass and a peanut. The recording studio is a different story, but realistically what’s your ratio between live and studio time? Buying a vintage bass is a purely selfish act—but boy is it ever fun! I do it all the time! This is a want, not a need. With that being said, here are the questions and tips for buying your next pride and joy.
Determine your budget: How much can you actually spend on your bass? Did you include sales tax, shipping and luthier work? Can you justify your budget? Avoid buyer’s remorse at all costs. I’ve seen many deals get unraveled when the spouse finds out or the bill comes in.
Know that you can use what you want: This is not a simple issue of whether you want a Precision or a Jazz Bass. This is more of a “I really want a BC Rich Bich 8-string bass, but I play in a traditional jazz trio” sort of question.
Don’t buy something you know nothing about: We’ve all done it, but play one first! We see the great looking bass that we have to have, but when it comes in from the big brown truck or we get it home, we ask ourselves “What did I do?” I see this a lot with first-time buyers of a bass they’ve never owned. It happens especially with Rickenbackers because the muscle memory is missing playing the neck. It also happens with Thunderbirds due to the sheer size of the thing, the neck dive issue, lack of intonation above the 10th fret and the subdued highs.
The Low Down Bottom line: Indulge! Enjoy!
There’s nothing like owning a great vintage bass. About two years ago I sold a deadly ‘64 “Truth” P-Bass to a friend in New Orleans. He was gigging at a bar and another friend heard the ungodly tone of this bass while walking down the street. He went into the club and was floored. This story made quite a few forums, and that’s what it’s all about. The tone and feel cannot be emulated, as demonstrated by my Custom Shop vs. Real Deal series done a ways back [“The Four Rs,” Feb., Mar. and Apr., 2009]. Next issue, tips on how to try out and buy vintage basses. Until next time, drop the gig bag and bring the cannoli!
Kevin Borden has been a bass player since 1975 and is currently the principle and co-owner, with “Dr.” Ben Sopranzetti, of Kebo’s Bass Works: kebosbassworks.com. He can be reached at: Kebobass@yahoo.com. Feel free to call him KeBo.
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
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The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.