Posted by Scott Bassett on September 17, 2000 at 08:25:30:
In Reply to: utterlycompletenewbie question posted by utterlycompletenewbie on September 16, 2000 at 01:44:39:
I started playing bass a year ago at age 43. I have a family and a very busy career, but I love music, so that was my motivation. I was able to put together a group of professional colleagues (we are all divorce lawyers) to form a jazz quartet (piano, tenor sax, drums, and me on bass). The other three are experience musicians, so I have been playing catch-up, but it is worth it. We play mostly jazz standards. If you want to see what some old farts are up to, go to our web site at www.lawyersplayjazz.com It is important to find someone to play with. It makes practicing so much easier. Sometimes I can even practice with my kids (10 year old twins who play piano). If that is not possible, there are play-along CD's, computer software, and even the rhythm looping feature built into some bass effects pedals, like the Zoom 708 I have.
I was also a complete washout on musical instruments as a kid. I did play rhythm guitar in a "garage band" in high school and managed to learn the basic barre chord forms, but I was never sufficiently motivated to keep up with it, and by age 19 stopped playing completely, so I had a nearly 25 year gap in my exposure to any kind of instrument. Trust me, I have no special musicial talent.
Like you, I have small hands. So I started on a cheap violin-style short-scale bass. Shortly I traded that in on a '68 vintage Gibson EBO (SG-style) short-scale bass (30") that is very easy to play and has a very deep tone. If you can't find one of these basses, Epiphone makes an inexpensive reissue that should approximate the playability of the original Gibson.
Some more experienced players may try to steer you away from starting on a short-scale bass. I'm not convinced. Since starting on a short-scale, I have acquired a long-scale Ibanez 5-string. Other than having an additional string to contend with (a low B below the standard low E), I have not had a particularly hard time moving from one to the other. When we gig, I have used a very short-scale (26") Supro Pocket Bass from the early 60's in the first set and then the Ibanez in the second set without a problem. Personally, the short-scale still feels more comfortable to me, especially the EBO.
Several weeks ago, in a newsgroup post, I summarized the available short-scale basses (new and used). Below is a quote from that post in case you find it useful:
It may depend on what kind of sound you are after. I have several short
scale basses, most of which are common on the used market.
1. If you want a very deep growl for classic rock (like Cream), look for a
used Gibson EBO or EB3. I have one that was refinished by the prior owner,
so it went for less than a premium price, but the sound is still vintage
EBO. You could also (almost) duplicate the sound with one of the 70's
Ibanez "lawsuit" copies of the EB3. Another possibility in a new bass would
be the Epiphone re-issue of the EBO at about $250 new.
2. If you are looking for a brighter sound (like a Rickenbacker, for
example), you may want to seek out a used Aluminum-neck Kramer "The Duke"
bass. They look like a Steinberger, but use standard strings (the tuners
are standard tuners, but located at the base of the body). There seems to
be at least one at most large used instrument shops. They are so rugged
that they will likely be dug out of the earth 10,000 years from now in
nearly playable condition.
3. A Fender Mustang or Musicmaster would be a good choice for a classic
single-coil sound. Mustangs are the pricier or the two, but I have seen
decent Musicmasters in the $350 range. You will never lose money on one of
these if you decide to sell it later. On the very low end, there is a
Squier Bronco Bass that sells new for as low as $130 on the web, choice of
red or black. I've played a few in stores. Tone is OK and workmanship is
nothing to write home about, but the examples I played were very
comfortable. A variation on this theme (tone wise) might be the early 70's
Italian-made Vox Panther Bass with a short-scale and very thin "toothpick"
neck which makes long reaches even easier.
4. The Danelectro Longhorn is a 30" scale inexpensive bass. It does now
come in an upgraded version with an adjustable bridge and upgraded tuners
and hardware for a bit more, but probably worth it. It appears to be a
solid body, but has a large hollow cavity that gives it a "woody" sound that
some like for vintage rock and blues. If you play oldies, this may be the
sound you want. A caution is that if you like to tweak the setup, you can't
adjust the truss rod without removing the neck.
5. Both Sam Ash and Musicians Friend sell their privately branded versions
(Carlo Robelli and Rogue) versions of a Korean-made violin style bass with a
30" scale. Probably decent instruments (and very attractive in appearance,
if you like that style), but with little or no resale value.
6. Gretsch has their budget Electromatic brand (like Guild has DeArmond)
and they offer a short-scale solid-body that sells for about $250 in the
large chains like Guitar Center. It has a single humbucker. I played one,
and its tone seems similar to the Epiphone EBO re-issue, perhaps a bit
7. In a very short scale, National Guitars of Chicago made in the early to
mid-60's and distributed under the Supro and Airline (Ward's) labels what is
called a "Pocket Bass." It has a guitar-like scale (about 26") and a very
woody, almost upright sound from its combination of neck dual coil and
bridge piezo pickups. A few are available on-line if you search at
www.gbase.com. I have one and enjoy playing it. A bonus is that its retro
look sparks a great deal of interest.
8. Even shorter (and a whole different animal) is the fretless 18" scale
DeArmond Ashbory bass. It used silicone rubber strings. I tried playing
one. The sound was huge, deep, and even more upright-like than the pocket
bass. But it requires major changes in technique. I would think it would
be great for a swing band.
9. As was suggested by someone else, I did verify that DeArmond offers two
short-scale basses: The semi-hollow Starfire and the solid body Jet Star.
Both have 30.75" scale necks.
Sorry for the length of this post, but there was so much to say. Go for it.
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