Kevin answers the question, “What do you look for when you buy a vintage bass?” from a collector''s perspective
A subscriber recently submitted a great question: “What do you look for when you buy a vintage bass?” It’s a simple question, and I never really gave it that much thought. The funny thing is that it has a very complex answer. In reality, I have to view myself as three different buyers: the collector, the player and the dealer. Granted, there is common ground between all three hats, but all have very different objectives. Let’s explore.
ears ago, I had quite an extensive collection. At the time, my purchase criteria was that it had to play and sound great, and have the “it” factor. In fact, at one time I may have had the largest collection of custom-color Thunderbirds on the planet, plus a major sweet tooth for dot neck Jazz basses, older Precision basses, checkerboard Rickenbackers and B00 Stingrays. There was no separation between the player and the collector at this point; I played all my basses. Keep in mind, however, that this was in the day when these basses were within financial reach. I was not all that critical with my purchases, other than originality. If I didn’t like the bass, I could sell it the next day.
Well, a few things happened. First, basses became brutally expensive. All of a sudden you needed $5000 to buy a nice sunburst ’65 P-bass. And because they became so expensive, I was less inclined to play my premium pieces. The biggest impact on my collection, however, was my decision to buy a home. I needed to sell 80 percent of my collection to come up with a down payment, closing and move-in costs. Two dealer friends bought my custom-color T-birds, and a few parties bought my Ricks, Music Mans and my secondary Fenders. About a week before closing I still needed to raise another $5000, so my good friend Greg Calvert bought my mint 1962 Jazz bass. That was 12 years ago. He still owns it. I’m glad it went to a good home.
Ok, so why the history lesson? Of my 10 existing collector basses, all of them are Fender. So, if I’m going to pick up an additional collector piece, something from the existing stash needs to go, and it’s hard to sell a piece that you’re attached to.
That said, today’s price range between a nice bass and a great bass is very close. And I want the most for my money. For me, the bottom line is that the bass has to be 100 percent original, right down to the case and solder joints. She also has to play absolutely fantastic, and have that “look.” The patina has to be “right,” and the wear has to be minimal. The bass needs to speak to me. And to be honest, I’ve seen dead-mint, perfect basses that were priced right that I did not purchase for the collection—because they didn’t speak to me. Personally, I’m in a bit of a flux with collection buying right now. All of a sudden buying collection pieces has become like stocking a portfolio. The bottom line? Kevin the collector wants a pure pedigree that’s highly functional and properly priced.
As a dealer, I want to buy a bass and have the ability to sell it for more. But while that is the ultimate objective, it is not the equation. Eighty-five percent of my inventory is sold sight unseen though my website. So when I purchase a bass for retail I have to keep in mind that if I can’t describe it in 30 seconds over the phone, I’ll never sell it. I need the ability to say, “She plays great, sounds wonderful and looks fabulous.” If I can’t say that, I can’t sell the bass.
My clients are players or collectors who want the same thing I do in a bass. I have major star-level clients who will ask me to send a bass directly to a stage 10,000 miles away overnight. There can be no excuses. Pedigree issues don’t concern me when I buy a bass. My concern is, “Does the dollar value match the pedigree?” I try to spend every dollar wisely so I can offer value. I also hope to turn my gear over every x amount of days. So, I may pass on a great deal because my inventory will be out of balance, or because of shelf-life concerns. I also changed my philosophy on projects or basses that need work, because by the time I’m done with the cost and bench time of a major repair I’m usually soured on the bass. I try to avoid these all together, unless the deal is too good to pass up. Since I primarily sell vintage basses, I need to stay in a price point that people are buying in. The bottom line? I need to buy great playing and sounding basses while keeping a somewhat balanced inventory and retaining a proper retail margin.
The Low Down It’s not as easy as it looks. I’ve probably purchased over 10,000 instruments, and I can tell before the bass is out of the case if I’m going to buy it or not. Next month we are going to visit Kevin the player—which is really what it’s all about. I am also going to share some tips on how to buy a vintage bass. So, 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.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.