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To Buy, or Not to Buy… That is the Question!

Reasons why to buy a new bass, and reasons NOT to buy a new bass. Where do you fit in?

In keeping with the Christmas spirit, I’ve been bass shopping. OK, maybe that’s not really the Christmas spirit, but since I’ve been buying presents for everyone else, I thought maybe I should buy myself one, too. After all, a new bass would fit very nicely under my tree. And, I’ve worked hard this year, so I deserve it, right?

So, I was shopping online and I came across this really great bass. At the same time, (because I am a multi-tasker) I was also evaluating a few stock market picks (hopefully to help pay for the bass!), and I thought I’d struck gold when I saw an article that gave me several reasons why I should buy a particular stock. The funny thing is that when I clicked on the next article, it promptly gave me reasons NOT to buy the same stock. That’s when the light bulb in my head came on, and a new On Bass column idea was born!

At some point we all buy new gear. And for as many reasons as there are to purchase that new bass, there are just as many reasons not to. So, if you are looking to buy a new bass in the coming year, here are a few pointers that may—or may not—make your decision a little easier.

Three reasons to buy a bass next year:

1. You need more weapons in the arsenal. As a musician, you strive for new horizons. So why not explore a little? Maybe your favorite bass has a more edgy and modern tone, and you just got a session call for a mellow, vintage sound. Perhaps you want to go from a 4-string to a 5-string. Whatever the reason, if you broaden your range you will almost surely become a better player.

2. New gear – new direction. If I needed a favorite reason to buy a new instrument, this would be it. For me, the sign of a truly wonderful bass is one that inspires new licks that I wouldn’t have played otherwise. When a piece of wood with some paint and bass strings moves your brain in a whole new direction, owning it is a treasure that rewards you every time you play.

3. Time to grow up. At some point you’ve got to stop sleeping with Star Wars sheets. In other words, if you’re going to play in a big boy’s world, you’re going to have to upgrade your gear. The simple truth is this: buying a new bass will help you grow as both a player and a professional.

Now, here are three reasons NOT to buy a new bass in the coming year:

1. You have enough toys. The words of my mother reverberated in my head as I typed this. For some unknown reason, some of us are just never satisfied with one or two good toys (or bass guitars). So don’t clutter up the house with gear you don’t use and, more importantly, don’t need. And remember, many bass players have left their mark in history by playing just one bass over their entire careers.

2. Money is tight. To put it simply, if you can’t afford it then don’t buy it! And buying gear on credit is crazy. I learned a valuable lesson when I was 15: mow yards in the summer and save up to buy that bass. The irrational rationale of “I’ll have enough gigs to pay for it,” will come back and bite you in the ass every time. (Of course, Flea you can skip this reason!)

3. Everything old is new again. Maybe you’re like me and you have a bass sitting around that you don’t use. And for whatever reason—tone, set up, too many years of whiskey shots filling the pickup cavity— that bass just sits there collecting dust. Why not put it back into service? A little rehab can go a long way. If you don’t like the sound then drop in new pickups. At some point, that bass spoke to you, and there’s no reason why you can’t make it speak to you once again.

Frankly, I hope your new year is a wonderfully successful one, and that none of this advice needs to be followed. I hope your band gets signed, you go multi-platinum, and you can just stroll into a music store and buy anything your heart desires. If not, take a few minutes and think before you make that next big investment. I can make suggestions that help or hurt all day long, but the decision is ultimately all yours.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

Steve Cook
Steve Cook has performed and recorded with a diverse range of artists, from Edwin McCain to Randy Brecker to Course of Nature. He also performed at Woodstock ’99 with his band King Konga. His current projects include extensive touring and video production with Bucky Covington (Lyric Street), and writing a weekly tour journal on his website:

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