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Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 3878
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 3:46 pm:   Edit Post

I have a friend who I have been showing how to play the bass. Recently she has been talking about getting a better bass than the one she has which I think is a peavey millennium 5 AC BXP Bass Guitar. it's been fine for the reggae gigs she has been doing but not flexible enough for what she wants to do moving forward.

Anyway, she has been watching some on-line bass tutors on you tube today and one guy was talking about equipment and said that it's better to have a cheap bass and have a really good bass rig than the other way round.

I said to her that I didn't think that was particularly good advice and that my view is that if you intend to take playing music seriously regardless of instrument you should buy the best quality instrument you can comfortably afford and justify as a sub standard instrument can hinder your progress more than a bad bass rig. Plus if you can't afford a decent amp yet you can get decent DI box and go direct into the PA use stage monitors and still get a good sound.

Any views I can pass on as we may be going to check out some new gear at a guitar show at the weekend.

ps: this was the person I posted a message on here recently looking for advice on a decent lightweight bass rig.


(Message edited by jazzyvee on February 25, 2014)
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 11296
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 4:28 pm:   Edit Post

A long long time ago I was told that, with regard to stereo equipment, you want the best quality at the start of the signal chain. Back then, that was the turntable, then the receiver, and then the speakers; the idea being that a lower quality signal at the beginning of the chain doesn't get better. Another way of saying it is that if you have great speakers but a poor turntable, then your speakers are doing a great job of reproducing a poor signal.

So I guess the same could be said of instruments and rigs; that it's probably a good idea to have good quality at the beginning of the chain - the instrument.
Intermediate Member
Username: dlbydgtl

Post Number: 149
Registered: 7-2008
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 5:29 pm:   Edit Post

Great bass first. My weekly gig is through a D.I. And I look forward to making the p.a. Subwoofers pound. In the theater a D.I. To the house and an amp for my backstage monitor. I just love picking up a great bass and playing, something you always look forward too. My playing just went to a new level when I finally got a great bass in my hands. BTW Carvin always has combo amps on ebay for really reasonable prices once the bass has been bought.

(Message edited by dlbydgtl on February 25, 2014)
Advanced Member
Username: tncaveman

Post Number: 225
Registered: 2-2011
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 5:50 pm:   Edit Post

A well setup $300 to $400 used bass, like a MIM Jazz or P bass, sounds good and plays well. But a cheap amp really kills the deal. There are some great not too expensive amps out there. I personally love the GK stuff. I'd get a separate head and speaker cab though. That way, you can always add more speakers. For church, I use a 12-inch cabinet. For more sound, I have a 15 and a 4-10. Also, get a amp with a good direct output to run into a PA board. My GK is very clean and quiet. I can also use the amp, rated at 150 watts, to run a stereo power amp (300 per channel) that really kicks it up a notch. About $600 will get a killer head and cab combo used.

So - I would put more $$ into the amp / speakers than the bass at first. Just help your friend get it set up right with some fresh good strings.

Senior Member
Username: keith_h

Post Number: 1969
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 9:08 pm:   Edit Post

I think the problem is the term "cheap". To me cheap implies Sears catalog. I'm more or less with Stephen on this. There are some good quality inexpensive basses out there that would work well when paired with a good quality amp. A Squire Jazz Bass can be had in the states for around $300. Fender, G&L and Warwick have decent basses in the $500-$600 range. A number of suitable basses are mentioned in Greg's beater bass thread. DI's are fine if you have the PA however many gigs are just speakers on sticks and you need to be able to drive all instruments from the backline.

What type of situations will she be playing in? What type of a budget are we looking at for the full setup? By determining the amplifier needs you can then figure how much to spend on it and a bass.

Another thing to keep in mind is a good playing bass can always be upgraded in the electronics area at a later date for a reasonable cost. Deciding you need to upgrade the amp on the other hand usually means replacing it at a higher cost.

Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 2121
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 10:03 pm:   Edit Post

As I look back, I always spent money on axes, inevitably shorting myself on amps, which, then would leave me less than thrilled on gigs (or even at home) as my tone was not what it should have been.

I would second that advice. Someone starting out is not going to do a lot of gigs with PA support, and if they do, it will hardly be anything to write home about. And even when I've done gigs with professional sound contractors, often the bass, just as in a recording situation, was given a quick brush-by after hours spent chasing monitors, drum sounds, etc. Most of us just aren't fortunate to work with backlines like you Jazzy or like Jimmy J.

I'd counsel some better five-string that would accept aftermarket pickups / electronics if required, but a serious bass rig as budget permits.

I'd think along the lines of some of the Ibanez basses, already loaded with Barts or Norstrands. There are aftermarket upgrades for Squier or the lower-priced Fenders. There's lots of choices out there, but I've learned the hard way to stick with common pickup shapes: How often have you seen BB Yamahas carved up to wedge in standard P or J pickups?

In any event, it has to adjust into a proper feel for technique, must play/stay in tune, and must be quiet electronically. Those three things are not negotiable.

For an amp, I'd suggest at least a tube front end over SS power: All-tube rigs can be confusing for a relative beginner, but that may not be a problem. Skip anything in the 100-200 watt range: You're playing five-string, and those low C's and D's will suck something that size dry THAT fast. Whose amp and what cabs are up to you, but I wouldn't entertain anything below 400 watts, and bigger is better: As the old rule goes, I'd rather turn a 1000 watt amp up to three than a 300 watt amp up to ten.

J o e y
Intermediate Member
Username: murray

Post Number: 155
Registered: 7-2007
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 2:27 am:   Edit Post

My advice would be to pick your budget and go a little higher to get a 'name'bass and amplifier. Be prepared to spend about £500 in total. This will buy a perfectly adequate Fender/Squire bass at around £300 and then the amp is dependent on purpose - look at Genz/EBS/Fender/Peavey/Laney and nothing less than a 12" speaker which I now favour over a lifetime of 15" and 10". If it all goes wrong then there is a re-sale value. In the UK look at Bass Direct and Express Music and go and try. I don't go with the buying a bass and then 'doctoring' it later - but I am useless at practical tech. stuff. Leave the 5 string option alone for a while as it only puts up the cost and we all managed on 4 strings for many a decade before 5s and 6s came out. I only ever bought 2nd hand once when starting out with a £20 bass from a shop in Wolverhampton when my Dad (a bass player in the Army) paid for it. It was, I think, a Top Twenty and red and got me going. I borrowed (I worked in a Bank at the time) to buy future stuff starting with a Fender Jazz new 1968 and Fender Bassman 50 from Modern Music in Dudley. Sorry - rambling. Moral from me - don't stint if you are serious or even semi-serious. Glynn
Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 3879
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 2:47 am:   Edit Post

The bass she is very keen on at the moment is the Ibanez sound gear SR705 . It does feel good to play and has a good sound. Her concerns with other basses tried were that they were too heavy, neck to wide or deep neck profile, string spacing, body was too large or didn't like the look of it. This one has Bartolini's and 3 band EQ and because she wants a lightweight rig I have been thinking about the TC Electronics range having a separate head and a 2x10 or 2x12 cab to start with.
This bass runs at around £600 here in the UK. There is a guitar show on at the weekend so there may be scope for some haggling on price.

Advanced Member
Username: jcdlc72

Post Number: 310
Registered: 11-2009
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 10:19 am:   Edit Post

IMHO, you can always rent or hire a backline amp, specially if there is a bigger gig. You can always find your way around monitoring and putting your sound on (DI boxes, preamps, backline or rental amps, even miked or DI´d smaller amps), but there is no way you can feel RIGHT if playing on a bass that is not yours, or which is below your expectations, or one you´re just not comfortable with. Can she keep the bass she currently has as a backup, just in case? Then I´d say go for the nicest bass around, the one she feels most comfortable with, the one that "talks" to her the most, and which gives the best sound for her needs and plans, and make it produce the bucks to buy a nice amp rig afterwards. :-) I´ve spent years playing without a proper, decent bass amp rig, and once I had what I felt comfortable with, found out that for most gigs, either there was no need for big or "top notch", or either the promoters had already the backline option. Nowadays I end up bringing my bass, and either a GT6-B (1/4" plug and XLR outs ready) OR a 4-spc rack with my preamp, tuner, a compressor and a DDL -set up for some Chorus effect-), and that´s it.
Username: jhamby

Post Number: 5
Registered: 9-2011
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 - 1:42 am:   Edit Post

Source first, within reasonable balance. Running a Series II through a tin can amp is not reasonable, but generally I'd rather have the best available instrument and a minimally acceptable rig than the reverse.
Senior Member
Username: hydrargyrum

Post Number: 1211
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 - 2:20 pm:   Edit Post

The instrument may be like the brains, but the speakers are like the vocal chords (in my analogy). I'd say it's impossible to separate the two. But my first choice would be a nicer instrument. It's harder to learn on a low end instrument. On the other hand, you can't always rely on someone having an amp for you to use.
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 3242
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 - 2:47 pm:   Edit Post

A studio analogy ;____ When the lady with the beautiful voice sings I will use my finest large capsule condenser microphone or perhaps a ribbon microphone . To play back her track I will listen on my finest control monitor ___
Senior Member
Username: mike1762

Post Number: 1023
Registered: 1-2008
Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 - 4:43 am:   Edit Post

My band's regular gig is at a place with a very peculiar lay-out. We all took our amps the first few times, but you couldn't hear everyone from everywhere in the bar. You couldn't get the FOH loud enough the overcome the stage volume, so the mix was always crappy. The past few times we've left our amps at home and just run EVERYone direct (the drummer uses electronic drums)... it sounds GREAT!!! I'm using my amp this WE, but the club holds about 1000 people. I guess my point is that you don't really NEED an amp for most applications (If you have monitors)... spend you money on a great bass and a decent DI/Amp modeler.
Advanced Member
Username: flpete1uw

Post Number: 268
Registered: 11-2011
Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 - 5:12 am:   Edit Post

For whatever my .5 cents are worth, I found when I picked up my 1st Alembic my conception of what a Bass is and what it could do radically changed. The bottom line is the entire chain is hard to separate. But the tactile effect of Musician and instrument cannot be overlooked. If? There has to be a choice I’d go with the better instrument the rest will follow.
That's all for the bargain price of .5 cents :-)
Advanced Member
Username: musashi

Post Number: 204
Registered: 5-2004
Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 - 11:46 am:   Edit Post

Some years ago I read an interview with Jonas Hellborg in Guitar Player magazine. (Before there was Bass Player magazine, this was one of the few places where one could find articles on interesting bass players). In the interview, Jonas remarked that a bass player had a responsibility to him or her self to obtain an instrument of quality.

This rang true with me. I was in the process of transitioning from being a drummer to being a bass player. And, as a drummer, I could FEEL the rhythmic possibilities that could release me from pure rhythm—and propel me into rhythm mixed with harmony, i.e., slap bass.

Up to that point, the bass of the highest quality I had managed to acquire was a Travis Bean TB2000--- probably the worst candidate ever for bottom-b*tch pop ‘n slap axe of the year. I spent months, at a minimum of 60 hours a week trying to learn how to play slap bass on the Travis.... But it was like running in quicksand. A friend of mine, a drummer, would remark from time-to-time, that if Marcus Miller had that bass he’d slap the sh*t out of it....

Eventually I did manage to get some sound out of TB--- and my Peavey 100 watt combo. But again, it was like running while wearing a weighted vest.

Flash forward. I read the interview with Jonas. I tried to acquire an Alembic. No matter how the numbers got crunched, with a wife and child, I was $200 short of an Alembic. Every sacrifice that could possibly be made was contemplated. And in that reality, I could not make an Alembic happen.

Alembic was my choice—nothing else was an option.
And yet, I HAD to consider other options.

At a NAMM show, I was fortunate enough to parlay $500 into deposits on a Status Series II fretless, and a Jaydee Supernatural GA24 bass. And the game truly changed.

I was still playing the instruments through the Peavey combo. But more and more soundmen starting taking their feeds from a direct box.

Not too much later, I found a deal on a Trace Elliot “refrigerator” bass rig. My sonic world once again changed for the better.

Shoot forward to another universe. I had my dream axes: a 1975 Alembic long-scale Series I; a 1986 Alembic Series I/II medium-scale; a 1976 Alembic Series I short-scale; a 1980 Rick Turner (2 pick-up Model 1); a Wal Doubleneck; a 1986 pre-Ernie Ball Musicman Stingray fretless; a 1986 Pedulla Buzz; a Warwick Thumb bass (Jack Bruce fretless); and I eventually endorsed Steinberger and Status basses....

I played these brilliant instruments through:
Trace Elliot 500w stereo power amp over (2) 4x10 Trace cabs
Crest Amplification over (2) SWR Big Foot cabs
Hafler P7000 Transnova Diablo amp over... Everything
A 600 watt Hughes and Kettner supercool combo....
Sunn 1200S with an Alembic SF-2 into Bergantinos (1 X 15) OVER (2 x 10) Amazing.

But. Not as Amazing as through an old Trace AH 600 (7 band EQ) into an Accugroove El Whappo. This is like playback through a real-deal studio’s monitors, only WAAAY louder.

So. The point to be had: Do find the best playable axe you can. It could be an ESP Ltd (I found a multi-lam neck-through zebra-topped, slim-necked beauty that has amazing potential.) Or an Ibanez.... Or a.... And let the rig situation sort itself out.

I once had the opportunity to run into an Alembic Superfilter at a bass specialty store. I asked the owner what was the lowest quality instrument he had on hand. He brought it over and we plugged it into the Superfilter. The crappy bass was actually transformed. It sounded like an Alembic... So. Let the sound man take a hit off the Superfilter. The bass rig, at the end of the day (unless you are playing a tiny space), is just a glorified monitor for the bass player. Many, many times there is no bass rig on stage. Side fills (given the art and craft of a good sound person) are wonderful. Or you may find yourself using in-ear monitors.

So. Get a good axe first. As they used to say in the Steinberger world, “When you play, you are really playing the neck.” If you are really fortunate, that neck will be a multi-lam and made by Alembic.

PS: I was eventually able to slap the sh*t out of that Travis Bean, and I found some very useful tones available on no other bass I’ve ever played. But, I believe, that only became a reality after I was able to experience what it was like to really play on a properly set up instrument.

number 1 baby
Jammin' with my Number 1 baby on the Travis Bean TB 2000

Accugroove El Whappo and "Frank"

What a Whole Lotta Couch

(Message edited by musashi on February 28, 2014)

(Message edited by musashi on February 28, 2014)

(Message edited by musashi on February 28, 2014)
Advanced Member
Username: hankster

Post Number: 350
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 - 2:35 pm:   Edit Post

Get the good bass first. Once you learn to play on a good instrument, you can play on anything. You can't learn where your music comes from on a bad instrument. As for amps, you can rent, buy, borrow, etc. as needed. I totally get Musashi's "running in quicksand" metaphor.
Advanced Member
Username: hankster

Post Number: 351
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 - 2:47 pm:   Edit Post

On a further note, the Ibanez with Barts is hardly a bad bass - some of those play pretty well. The TC electronics rig would be good - i use one all the time now, and use the amp even when there is serious backline as a preamp.

When we talk about bad basses - those of us who grew up in the sixties and seventies really know how bad a musical instrument can be. Today's low-end instruments are like a Stradivarius compared to some of those from my teen years.

Senior Member
Username: cozmik_cowboy

Post Number: 1669
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 - 8:52 pm:   Edit Post

"When we talk about bad basses - those of us who grew up in the sixties and seventies really know how bad a musical instrument can be. Today's low-end instruments are like a Stradivarius compared to some of those from my teen years."

If that's the case for basses - and it truly is - it still pales next to what's happened with lower-line acoustic guitars! Last year a friend & I were hanging out at Chicago Music Exchange playing everything in sight, and I picked up a new Epiphone 12-string; first I noticed that it played really well. Then I noticed that it had a pretty nice tone. Then I noticed that the price tag said $169..........

We are living in a Golden Age, my friends!

And get the instrument first; A good guitar may not sound as good through the Silvertone 1448 currently gracing my office as through the Victoria or Vero or Riviera I hope to have there someday, but a lesser instrument won't either - and wouldn't sound good through the good amp, as well - not to mention playability.

Senior Member
Username: pace

Post Number: 982
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Saturday, March 01, 2014 - 1:24 pm:   Edit Post

Cheap bass, cheap rig... Golden fingers, golden ears...

....after all, that's the alpha/omega of the signal chain....

.... My only other recommendation would be a filter like an SF-2.... That'll bring out the best of whatever bass or amp she's using....
Senior Member
Username: briant

Post Number: 677
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Tuesday, March 04, 2014 - 9:51 pm:   Edit Post

Fingers/hands aside...

A good instrument will always compensate for a cheap rig. If you're fighting with the instrument to make good things happen you're already losing the battle.

Several years ago I took a $100 Johnson P-bass and replaced everything but the body/neck of the instrument. This was an experiment in "just because". I put Bartolini pickups in it, an Aguilar preamp, Hipshop tuners, a nice brass nut, and a Badass II bridge. It sounded insanely better than the original off the shelf bass but it still played like a $100 Johnson bass. That is to say that after a 3 hour gig that I did with it my hands actually hurt from fighting with the poor quality of the instrument. I can't quantify this in any other way but the cheap quality of the construction/wood/whatever. Sonically it was vastly superior but from a feel standpoint it was awful.

Conversely I had a practice rig sitting at a rehearsal space that consisted of an Acoustic B300H and some 4x10 cab that I had sitting around (don't recall what it was). All together the entire thing cost me ~$500 and when I played any bass I owned through it the resulting sound was good to great.

Start with something good and you can only get better from there.
Senior Member
Username: gtrguy

Post Number: 710
Registered: 9-2004
Posted on Thursday, March 06, 2014 - 12:10 pm:   Edit Post

80's small body Ibanez Musician active bass - $150 - 250, add SWR Workingmans 12 combo - $150 = great playing and sounding rig for $300 - 350.
Senior Member
Username: terryc

Post Number: 2178
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 6:39 am:   Edit Post

Chicken or the egg eh??
Personally get the best instrument you can afford as it will stay with you for life especially if it is an Alembic, I only own two basses, my 83 Squier which is retro fitted with a PJ Alembic activator set and Badass bridge..the neck is superb and my MK Signature which is used constantly.
Even if you stop playing you can sell the amps but still practice and noodle around on your bass when you feel like it.
Amps..I am not precious about as technology progresses there is always something better out there year in and year out and there are always people who change there amps are regular as there underwear so to keep up with trends so as long as they have been looked after(and they usually have in those cases) buying second hand can give some bargain gear. As previously mentioned at large venues you are at the mercy of the sound man, in fact most times I don't bother taking an amp just tell the soundman to give me a decent mix in the monitors.
Again...instrument first and foremost.

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