Friday, September 20, 2019

Gear Review: Installing Strap Locks the Right Way

Many guitar and bass companies skimp on the strap buttons on their instruments.  

G&L, Music Man have excellent strap buttons stock.  both feature wide tops that can be a bit of a pain when initially installing your favorite strap, but that minor inconvenience is what insures your instrument will not easily free itself from said strap.

For most other companies the strap button is an afterthought; a cheap, tiny, weaker than plastic pot-metal alloy.  If you have invested more than $20 on an instrument, you should consider replacing those buttons-- and most who do choose strap locks.

Today, there are many different versions of strap locks on the market, but there are two companies that stand out, and are very popular: Schaller and Dunlop.

Schaller Vs. Dunlop
Schaller's new "S"-type locks
Both do an excellent job securing your strap to the instrument.  Which one you choose depends on personal preference.  Schaller units have a very narrow, grooved button that mounts to the instrument onto which a "U" shaped strap mounted clasp attaches to.  A great design for those who will only use that specific strap with the locking device already attached.  However, if you like to use different straps, or perhaps you forgot your's and have to borrow one without the locking device, your instrument will be far less secure.

Dunlop approaches things much differently.  While the company has offered different interpretations of its strap lock design, the most common is the "Dual Design" which functions both as a locking unit, or as a standard, wide top strap button.  The user has the ability to use any strap without or without the locking device, AND the lock can be used without even being attached to the strap, which is how I often use them.

Which One and Why?
Dunlop's "Dual-Design" locks
On occasion an instrument comes from the factory with Schallers as did my Rickenbackers.  Shortly after taking delivery of my Ric, I bought the newly released "S-model" Schaller strap locks which feature an updated version of the strap portion.  These are nice, but I still had problems with the locking portion on the strap loosening up-- even with the new design that incorporates a set screw.  After a year of using them I was going to add a dab of Locktite to keep things in place, but then I'd have to buy additional sets for my other straps... at which point I decided to replace those with Dunlops.

Having used both systems over the years, the Dunlops are my favorite.  They are simple to use and as mentioned, can be used without the locking unit when needed.  However, the two companies use different sized screws to mount to the instrument-- this can be a serious pain in one's posterior! 
(L-R) Dunlop, G&L/MusicMan, Fender

Sometimes you will get lucky and find that the stock buttons were secured with a narrow-shanked screw, smaller than that provided with your new strap locks. If so, all you have to do is remove the old and replace with the new buttons via their larger screws.

Inevitably there will be times when the hole left behind from the stock screws is too large for the new buttons.  It may also be that you find yourself with a guitar where the buttons have been yanked from the body, and you need to repair the stripped out hole.  

Two Primary Methods 

1. Toothpicks.  This is the go-to method for a lot of people who want the cheapest, easiest solution possible, or for those without woodworking experience.  The toothpicks fill the void and provide the desired screw something to bite into.  On occasion people use glue with the toothpicks.  This method works, and is a useful, temporary fix.

$0.75 four-foot long dowel 
2. Dowels.  This is the preferred method for luthiers as it is a far more secure solution, but requires the time, tools, and maybe a little nerve for non-luthiers to accomplish.  Having a bit of woodworking experience, and just enough nerve, I chose this route for my Rickenbackers.  And to be honest, the task is actually quite easy and inexpensive to accomplish.

- Step 1. Determine the size of the hole and source a corresponding sized dowel (I got mine from Lowe's for $0.75).  In some cases it may be necessary to drill out the existing hole in order to create a specific size (usually when the original hole was damaged).

- Step 2. Add a woodworking glue ("Titebond II" is my favorite) and the dowel.  Allow 30-min to dry.  Note: wood dowels tend to slightly vary in size. This required a little sanding for proper fit.

- Step 3. Trim the dowel flush to the body.  
Here you see I used a razor blade; no special tools needed.  However, if you have access to one, a Japanese pull saw will save you the trouble of sanding flush any portion of the dowel that isn't flush.  Again though, the job can be done with a simple razorblades and a measure of patience.  

-Step 4. With a steady hand, drill a pilot hole into the newly installed dowel. The hole should be slightly narrower than the diameter of the screw you will be using.  Now you simply screw in the new strap pin.  That's all there is to it!

- Step 5.  Optional. To provide protection between the wood body & the metal strap pin, I cut a small circle of felt to fit in-between.  This little piece of material also fills the gap, hiding the fact that the wide base of the new strap button overhangs the body slightly.  The 8x10-inch section of felt cost just over one dollar from our local craft store-- which also sells wooden dowels(!) so I could have saved myself a trip to the hardware store had I gone here first.  And being that you only need a small section of the material, you have a lot of room for trial and error.

-Step 6.  Enjoy! Spending the extra time and effort will give you a sense of accomplishment that far exceeds the toothpick method. And you have the added assurance that the button is as secure-- or more so-- than it was when the instrument first left the factory.   

Until next time...

 ....stay tuned and in tune!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Gear Review: Rickenbacker 4003; The '68 Dodge Charger of Basses...

It's been nearly a year since returning the new Stingray Special, and I've spent all that time with my dream bass, the Rickenbacker 4003.  

Actually, I ended up buying a pair; one in my favorite, now discontinued (in 2019) finish called Midnight Blue, and a second in the classic Fireglo (sunburst) finish.  Why two? Mainly because I always try having a backup to my primary instrument.  Thankfully, I found a few fantastic dealers that tend to have a good stock of Ric's, and at very reasonable prices.

What took me so long to try what I've long regarded as my dream bass?  There have been a lot of stories about the Ric bass being a fussy, high-maintenance instrument, and the recent arrival of internet bass forums served to amplify those stories.  Then, in June 2017 I actually got my hands on one for the first time and was not thrilled with the in-stock example at a local big-box-store.  

Turns out that most of those problem stories concern versions made in the 1970s and 1980s, which have different truss rods than the modern versions.  Anyway, there comes a time when you have to put things in their proper perspective, go with your gut and give it a try-- which I'm SOOOoooo glad I did!  Theses modern 4003 basses still have two truss rods, but they function like any other bass, without the quirks of the earlier versions.  

Buying Online 
Each of these instruments came from different US dealers.  First, the Midnight Blue model came from Dave's Guitar Shop in Wisconsin.  The Fireglo came from a shop in Colorado called Wildwood.  Both business have reputations for making sure their instruments are shipped in premium condition, with the customers chosen strings & gauges.  Each arrived in SBK-type plastic fitted cases, packed in stout boxes intended to protect the instrument during shipping.  

Setups on both were dead-on; far and away better than that first Ric I played back in 2017.  The only thing I had to change was the strap-buttons, as my problems with Schaller straps-locks continue-- but that's a story for another time.  A few hours with the basses in my workshop resulted in a happy upgrade to Dunlop buttons.  

Why Such A "Primitive" Bass?
So what is it about the Ric that is so appealing?  About 37 years ago I watched the Rush concert video, "Exit Stage Left" and was mesmerized by Geddy Lee's playing.  Watching Ged with his Ric is what sparked my desire to become a musician before I even knew the difference between a guitar and a bass.  Those kind of things stick with a person, as marketing departments are keenly aware. 

More recently I discovered a fantastic band that rekindled my desire for a Ric; Clatter, is a heavily groovy, two-piece melodic powerhouse featuring Amy Humphrey on bass.  Have a listen to their tunes (then buy an album or two), and tell me if you can resist wanting to sample a Rickenbacker bass for yourself(!) 

How Does It Play?
To be perfectly honest, it isn't a great deal different than any other bass; aside from it's unique tone, the differences are in the details.  The neck feels about as wide as a modern Fender P-bass, but with thick rolled shoulders and slightly shallow (flatter) in the back.  It is a very comfortable neck.  Many people hate anything that isn't as slim as possible, but what they fail to consider is this bass is different. Not better, not worse.  The neck is beautifully bound much like a Les Paul, and with its medium jumbo frets, I'm reminded of playing those old clunky guitars, which have become so popular many years after conception.  

Tuning pegs hold position well and are easy to operate.  Its dual pickups are straightforward, with simple controls and a 3-way pickup selector and a push-pull knob that removes some bass tones for a more classic sounding Ric bass.  There are two output options: the standard mono, and a very useful stereo output.  Being able to split the signal enables you to simultaneously run your one base through two independent amps, and adding effects without loosing the fundamental bass tones.  It's a fantastic idea!  A great example of this option in use is Clatter-- check out their Youtube page for more details, as Amy makes good use of that feature.

The 4003 body is slim, light and well balanced with no neck-dive in either of the two I have.  It's bridge is a bit of a pain to set, but works great once it's dialed in.  There is a cover over the bridge pickup which I am thankful for, however, most people remove it because... well I really have no idea; they are likely just following orders from the internet.  That cover provides a comfortable place to rest my hand, and provides a string reference-- perfect!  

Ric changed its finishing method some years ago to comply with California's strict environmental codes, which has created some slight problems.  Some claim that the finish is very delicate, which I agree with when compared to a thick polyurethane finish.  The Ric finish is easily chipped when bumping into a drummers cymbals, a music stand, or the tip of a misdirected output cable.  While in production, the hardware can be over tightened which on occasion creates a bubble in the finish around the overtightened bit.  My blue 4003 has this problem along a small section of the bridge.  However, it has not created any problems, and has not chipped away, or gotten worse.  Again, internet warriors have made much noise about the finish on bass forums.  Strangely, I've not heard of the guitars having this problem-- only basses.  It is something to be aware of, but has absolutely no affect on the instrument, or my playing.  

In short, the Ric 4003 is an excellent classic instrument.  It is a unique design, and not intended to be like anything else.  "Classic" is an appropriate descriptor as that is what you are getting; an old design that's been very lightly updated and tweaked since its inception.  There are other basses available that play easier, sound louder, weigh less, and cost less to buy.  However, you won't easily find a bass that is more fun to play, or one that looks as cool as a Ric 4003.  As for cost, a little research will save the prospective buyer A LOT of money on both the new and used market.

Why A '68 Dodge Charger?
In the previous post, I used an analogy to equate a Music Man Stingray Special with a new Lincoln Town Car, and the replacement instrument to a 1968 Dodge Charger.  Having driven both cars, the comparison seems appropriate; the Dodge takes more effort than the Lincoln to drive well, as it is with the basses.  

The Music Man is very modern, with its 18v battery power, stainless steel frets, roasted neck, etc.  By comparison, the Rickenbacker requires more effort to play as well, with its larger neck, clunky dimensions, limited range passive pickups and less comfortable body shape.  Just as the Dodge is far more rewarding to drive, so is the Rickenbacker bass to play.  The two also produce similar sounds: deep, low, and rumble with authority.  It truly is a special instrument, quirks and all...

Now about those strap buttons....

...Stay tuned & in tune!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Review: Music Man StingRay Special

While downsizing my collection and focusing on finding my "dream" bass, I had the pleasure of temporarily owning one of the new, 2018 StingRay Special's from Music Man.

What makes this new version of the Stingray "Special?" 

The folks at Music Man took their classic bass to the next level by tweaking a few things that essentially equate to working out the bugs of the design.  Here are a few of the new standout features:
   - Roasted maple neck
   - Stainless steel frets
   - Rounded body sides
   - Better balance via lighter weight body & parts
   - Newly designed 18v preamp

Each of those changes combine to make one heck of a great instrument!  

These changes are more about improvements to the model, rather than being a remodel.  Put another way, if you were to close your eyes and have someone had you the older model to play, then the new model, you wouldn't notice a difference.  However, you would certainly notice that the new one is lighter, with little to no neck-dive, and more control over its tone.

Now we are getting down to the nitty gritty, best part of this bass.  One of the downsides to the older model is the treble harshness where no matter how I would tweak the control knobs, I was always fighting that characteristic.  The Special addresses this problem with a newly designed 2-battery, 18v preamp.  The amount of control over the tone using this new preamp is a huge leap forward.  While the instruments default is the classic Stingray tone, the harshness is now controllable, and easily so.  Combine the new preamp with the two humbucker model StingRay and you have a bass easily capable of tackling any genre you can think of.  

Normally, I don't care for active basses as I find the tones to be cold compared to passive versions.  Surprisingly this new 18v StingRay captures the note qualities of passive basses, with the advantage of being an active bass-- primarily the dead-quiet sound when not playing.  The tones on this new Special are sweet and warm, with a bloom to sustained notes; I was completely won over by an active bass-- something I never thought possible.  Together with all the other improvements, this new Special model is sure to be a hit with Music Man fans.

Fit & finish:
Finish quality is fantastic.  The look of the roasted maple complements the deep body finish, and the feel of the neck is smooth and silky.  One note to consider when playing the maple fingerboard model, is the contrast between the dark colored neck and black position markers; the black side dots are difficult to see on a dark stage.  On models with the rosewood fingerboard, the white side dots are nicely contrasted on the dark rosewood sides.  

Overall, the quality of this bass can honestly be compared with any boutique maker.  However, as with any instrument where human hands are involved in its creation, this particular example did have one "flaw" which bugged me, but had zero negative effect on the tone/function of the bass-- a slightly over shaped neck pocket.  Again, these things happen with all builders to one degree or another.

Because my intention was to keep the bass, I decided the minor flaw was not enough to send it back.  The rosewood fingerboard was beautiful, and playing the thing was a joy.  On stage, its light weight was very welcome, as my previous StingRay would cause me to keep fighting with my strap to distribute the pain in my neck & shoulder.  

Buying tips:
Any time I think about buying an instrument, my preference is to try it out before buying.  Of course that's not always possible and thankfully we have the internet to fill the gap.  Price is also a concern.  In my state a 10% sales tax adds quite a bit to the price of the instrument (never mind my displeasure with the way my tax dollars are spent...) so buying online becomes even more attractive through dealers who don't charge sales tax.  Thankfully, I purchased my StingRay from an online shop which has a 45-day return policy; a benefit I previously discounted as a marketing ploy.  

If it was such a great bass, why didn't I keep it?
During that 45-day trial period I was still in the process of thinning the herd, and trying to envision what my ideal, core collection looks like.  Since the very beginning of my musical journey some 35-years ago, there was one particular instrument that captured my imagination and became my "dream bass."  Assuming that I would never be able to afford one of my own, I never gave it much serious thought-- until now.  Searching the internet I discovered two shops that had several versions of my dream bass in stock-- AND at an attainable price!  So my decision whether or not to keep the StingRay Special can best be described with this analogy:  "Do I want my primary instrument to be a luxurious, top of the line Lincoln Town Car (i.e. the StingRay Special), or a 1968 Dodge Charger...?"  Wow-- how blessed I am to have that choice!!   If you are curious what new bass I could possibly equate to an old Dodge... 

... Stay tuned & in tune!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Review: Music Man Caprice & Cutlass Basses

Fender's Precision Bass is a well-loved platform that has seen many different modifications over the years.  Various interpretations have also been successful, from nearly every company that builds bass guitars. Ernie Ball Music Man is the latest, but perhaps the most interesting.

Music Man basses are known for active preamps, and its instruments are highly regarded.  The 2016 Cutlass and Caprice are Music Man's first venture into passive basses which is a very odd thing for fans of Music Man.  Many people have embraced the new addition, while expectedly the die-hard "traditionalists" have given the new line a cold shoulder.  

Luckily I had the good fortune to spend a few weeks with each of the two basses, which also began a new chapter in my bass-playing life.

- Cutlass vs Precision
As a huge fan of Fender's Precision Bass, I was eager to do an A/B with the Cutlass.  Long story short, the Cutlass is a somewhat more refined classic bass, with it's own flavor of Precision tone.  However, it is important to note:

**The Caprice is NOT a Fender bass**

Visuals aside, it has it's own sound.  Meaning, if you want that classic Fender Precision tone, buy a Fender Precision-- the company offers so many versions that you are sure to find one you like and can afford.  What the Caprice excels at is offering a classic-type bass that's more comfortable and unique.  

Tones from the Cutlass are rounder, and slightly darker than a Precision bass.  My baseline when comparing instruments is the Fender Precision, so when playing the Cutlass through my Mesa Subway 800, I kept wanting to turn the tone knob up-- but it was already maxed.  If these basses were whisky, the Precision would be freshly brewed, where the Cutlass would be aged 25 years.  The Cutlass sounds familiar, but it's smoother and lacks the clanky-mids of the age-old Precision; this could be a good thing... could be a bad thing.  Personally, I like the Precision and it's ability to dial back via the tone knob.

Feel, Fit & Finish:
Everything about the Music Man feels tight, and solid, while the finish is flawless.  It's neck feels comfortable with rolled edges, the frets are perfectly finished and plays as effortlessly as anything from small boutique builders.  The bridge is a little different from the standard version but you would probably have to look twice to catch it.  The body is VERY comfortable, with nicely rounded sides all around, and the weight is right about 9-lbs; enough to mostly offset neck dive.

The Caprice Twist:
Along side the single pickup Cutlass, the dual, P/J pickup Caprice adds those midrange tones lost on the Cutlass though its bridge pickup.  The particular example only weighed about 8.5-lbs, but had significant neck dive.  Everything else about the instrument was fantastic.  The Caprice also offers a slightly offset body, with a narrower sized neck.  If I had to choose between the two, that Caprice would be the one-- hands down.  

Cost & The Recent Price Increase:
Early this year and following suit with most of its California based competitors, Music Man increased it's prices.  Perhaps the increase can be attributed to the cost of doing business in California these days?

Comparatively, Fender basses increased about $500 more than they were last year as well; American Standards were about $1k, while the 2017 "Professional" models are approx $1,500. G&L had a somewhat modest price bump in 2016/17. Kiesel prices have slowly risen over the last few years as well. Rickenbacker has been consistently around $2K for some time now, and Taylor guitars have seen a consistent price increase over the last several years also.
Prior to the price increase early this year, the Cutlass was going for around $1,600. Now these are listed for $2200!  When compared to Fender's offering, the increase puts a lot of pressure on the Cutlass to be a better instrument.

Is It Worth It?
If I didn't already have a small collection of basses and was looking for a primary go-to instrument-- yes. This bass is worth that kind of investment. However, having multiple quality instruments makes it more difficult to justify the expense; is it that much better than those I already have? 

2018's "Special" Introduction:
While I was exploring these new Music Man basses, I began to reconsider my small collection of mostly P-type basses.  "Why have so many of the same type... especially while there are so many other equally enjoyable instruments?"  

As I was exploring that question, something Special was begging to arrive in our local music stores-- the StingRay Special.  AND the new Special is priced within a few dollars of the Cutlass & Caprice!  Test driving one for myself completely changed my perspective! But more on that later.

Not only do these basses have to compete with Fender's lower priced alternatives, but now the new passive basses must compete within the Music Man family; "why buy a Caprice when you can get a Stingray Special HH for the same price?!"   

Only time will tell what happens to the new passive line at Music Man.  These are fantastic instruments regardless of price.  However, with the newly redesigned StingRay Special hitting the streets, a whole new world of possibilities has opened up; an example of which I will review here very, very soon...

...Stay tuned & in tune!


Monday, October 1, 2018

Thinning The Herd. But Why?

It's a term many use to describe a major change in their collection of instruments.   But what causes people to take an otherwise great collection and totally change things up?   

In my case, the reasoning is two-fold:  
Different, but the same

First, I was beginning to feel overwhelmed trying to keep each of my many basses in top working order; bass strings are expensive, especially when multiplied over a collection.  Then I asked myself why so many of the same kind of bass?  It's nice having a bunch of P-basses, but I really only play one or two while the others simply serve as wall art.

Second, While I had was exploring basses other than Fender, Music Man released their updated version of the venerable StingRay Bass; the "StingRay Special".  So the logical question becomes, "why not sell those which I don't play often, to fund a new StingRay Special?"  That line of thinking resulted in a total re-evaluation of my collection, and the selling off of any redundancy.  Not only did I have enough money to fund the new Ray, but also to finally buy my dream bass... but that's a story for a different post...

While there's nothing wrong with having half a dozen versions of the same bass, I like to keep things simple.  For me, if something is not being used, why keep it around?  

With simplification in mind, I selected two of my favorite P-basses; a Steve Harris signature which has a maple neck & maple body, and a "parts" P-bass that features an alder body & rosewood fingerboard.  All others were sold, with the exception of two sentimental favorites-- both of which see a lot of use.

Trying something new
Firmly anchored in the world of passive Fender tones, I wanted to try something different.  The second bass I ever bought was a standard Music Man Stingray-- an active bass.  Having lived with the instrument for many years, it didn't get played much as the tone was pretty harsh, but I really loved the look and feel of the neck.  

Thankfully, as I was reevaluating my collection, the newly revised Stingray "Special" was beginning to hit the stores.  Excited by the possibilities of a different style of bass (active vs passive), the new Stingray really grabbed my attention.  Exploring options beyond my old passive bass perspective was inspiring!  It fueled a new excitement for getting back in the shed to practice, while exploring the new tones and enjoying the noise-free pickups; something that always bugged me with the old basses.  

Change in perspective
Changing things around can be fun and inspirational.  If something is always done with the same tool, in the same way, day after day... it's easy to become bored and disillusioned.  Changing your perspective can be achieved in may different ways-- either with a different instrument, a different location, a different method of playing (i.e. pick vs. finger style), etc.  Changing your perspective can inject new life into an old routine.  Simplifying and diversifying the basses on hand by thinning the herd is another great way of changing your perspective-- and having fun!

If you're not having fun,
you're doing it wrong!
Naturally, thinning the herd can be a means of simply generating income, but it can also be a way to bring fun back into your bass playing adventure.  Having fewer basses makes a collection easier to maintain, while diversifying a collection provides more tonal options and stimulates inspiration.  Always remember that the goal of this adventure we are on is not only to make music and a joyous noise, but to have fun along the way.  Thinning the herd is simply one part of the larger adventure. 

...Stay tuned, and in tune!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Review: Steve Harris Signature Precision Bass

Longtime readers of the blog know that I am a huge fan of the Fender Precision bass.  Fender, G&L, Lull, Music Man, you name it-- if it's a P-bass, you already have my attention! 

However, I've never been a big fan of signature basses; I can appreciate them for what they are, but none appeal enough to me to spend the money one one-- until this one.  

There are two bassists that really grabbed me from early on: Geddy Lee, and Steve Harris.  Seeing Geddy playing his Rickenbacker on, "Exit... Stage Left" was what inspired me to play guitar.  Steve Harris was the stand out sound to me when I first listened to Iron Maiden after buying "Maiden Japan" at our local MusicPlus record store.  Rush and Maiden were huge influences in my musical life.  

When evaluating my collection recently and deciding which basses to sell, which to keep, the less expensive Steve Harris Precision survived where other, much more expensive basses did not.  How did that happen?  While some of the reasons are personal preferences, there are some objective points as well:
Fender released this new version of Steve's signature in early 2015.  What makes this version different than the others is the white color (vs. blue), the pinstriping with West Ham football club sticker, Seymour Duncan pickup, and Fender's BadAssII bridge.  Detailed spec's are available on Fender's website, so no need to repeat those here.  What appealed most to me was the nod to it's 70's roots with the big headstock, bold lettering, and the fatter neck.  The other details are nice too-- especially for the price.  

Fit & Finish:
Neck pocket: Left, Steve Harris/ Right, American Standard
Compared to my Fender American Standard Precision, the made in Mexico Harris model actually has some advantages.  The Harris neck pocket is nearly air-tight compared to the significant gap on the US version.  Weight on the Harris model is quite a bit heavier, which is attributable to the different body woods: maple body on the Harris, and alder on the US.  Action was fantastic on the Harris, while I had to spend a few hours dialing in the US model.  Fretwoork was great on the Harris, but slightly better on the US with the fret ends being more rounded on the US.  This November will mark 1-year living with the bass, and I haven't had to adjust a thing on it-- just plug & play!

Feel & Sound:
Even though I'm a huge fan of Steve Harris and Iron Maiden, I'm not interested in replicating Steve's sound.  The bass is supposed to come strung with rounds, with a set of flats in the case.  Mine was missing the flats, but I didn't pursue the issue with the seller-- why make a fuss about something I will never use?  As you might guess, the bass sounds like what it is; a big, aggressive Fender P.  However, roll off the volume just a bit and you can get all the classic tones your heart desires.  Comparing the Duncan pickup with the MFD in my G&L SB-1, I discovered the two sound very similar.  That just made my SB-1 redundant!

A lot of press and advertisement call the neck a "U" shape.  How Fender comes up with that stuff is beyond me.  It is not a large neck on it's own; compared to the typical Fender bass, this neck is better thought of as a chunky "C" shape.  There is a little more depth front to back, hence calling it chunky.  Make no mistake, this is not a large neck-- it's simply larger than the modern Fender necks.  Should someone only have experience with a skinny-necked Ibanez, then pick up this bass... perhaps that person would be surprised by the size difference.  Otherwise, the neck is nicely rounded and feels really comfortable.  

The weight is about 11 pounds, but using a wide padded strap really zeros out the  feel of having such a large instrument.  Again, part of the appeal of this bass is it's nod to the 1970s, a time when the P-bass was considered a "man's bass."  Fender nails it with this one.  

When evaluating my collection and deciding which basses to keep/sell, one of the reasons the Steve Harris model survived the purge is that big, bold, beautiful headstock!  That was the style I grew up with and when someone mentions "Fender Bass" the 70s style is the image that comes to mind; it's what it should look like.  Then consider the Harris fit & finish, bridge, pickup, neck feel, sound... it represents the quintessential Fender Precision bass.  
Richly colored decal & stripes are under the clearcoat
Ultimately, I chose it over the G&L LB-100, SB-1, Fender American Standard, AND the new Music Man Cutlass Bass.  The fact this one is a Steve Harris signature model is just a bonus; the pinstriping & castle/hammers sticker simply make it more fun to look at than the typical bass.  It should be mentioned that those finish details are actually part of the bass-- under the clearcoat so there is no option to remove them.  At the same time, for those who like the unique finish details, being under the clearcoat makes it even more resistant to wear.  For those who don't follow football and have no idea who or what Wes Ham United is, the decal looks great on its own-- again, a fun detail.

If the Steve Harris P-bass looks like your kind of instrument, either as a collector item for Maiden fans, or simply as a fun solid bass guitar, you might want to consider buying one sooner than later.  Many of the signature basses have specific production time frames as did the previous Harris models, and considering that this version has been on the market for several years, it's likely nearing the end of its production.  These are great instruments and are a great value within the Fender catalog.

If you aren't a fan of Fender basses, perhaps you would like Music Man's take on the Precision and P/J platform; I've got a review of both coming soon-- till then...

...Stay tuned & in tune!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Quick Tips: How To Sell My Bass?

Most of us eventually decide to sell a bass either to upgrade to a better one, or to thin a herd that became a collection now requiring its own room in the house(!)

Once the decision is made to sell, you have a lot of options; sell online, to a friend, or even a music store-- just to name a few.  

Popular places include eBay, Reverb, or your favorite instrument/maker specific forums.  Be ready to pay additional fees for selling via eBay or Reverb.  Shipping charges have to be factored into the sale price as well.  In this case, photos are your friend.  Don't be stingy with the photos, and include enough that detail the condition so the new buyer knows exactly what to expect.  DO NOT attempt to hide flaws, or something that might raise concern.  Doing so will not slip a flaw past someone -- a lot of folks expect perfection, so being up front about the life your instrument has lived will weed out those who will likely return it to you.  Be honest, take pride in your time as the instruments custodian, and be willing to have it return if need be.

Selling locally:
Either to a friend or through CraigsList will save you having to pay fees or shipping.  However, there is an old, wise maxim that teaches selling anything to a friend is never a good idea.  Again, photos are a great way to provide a visual description of the instruments condition and will flush out some of those CraigsList Flakes.

CraigsList (LetGo, OfferUp, etc.) exposes you to a whole list of unsavory characters along with a few actual prospective buyers.  The frustration with using CraigsList may be worth the effort to find the right buyer, just be sure to set specific boundaries for prospective buyers and don't let yourself become a sheep among wolves.  A few basics:

- Don't hesitate to turn away a buyer that makes your Spidey Sense tingle

- Arrange to meet at a public location of your choosing, but NEVER at your house.

- Be clear on the type of payment you will accept, and only meet when you agree on a specific price

- Take a friend with you; there is safety in numbers

- Always be aware of your surrounding, handling cash as discreetly as possible

Selling to a store:
Don't expect to get full price; it is buying from you in order to make a profit selling to someone else.  Selling to a shop is convenient and frees you of having to sift through all the flakes and tire-kickers to find the right buyer.  The downside is that most places will give you about 60% of what they will sell it for.  

Do your homework before selling to a shop; check various online retailers yourself to get an idea what your shop will sell it for.  Stepping into the shop with a clear, realistic expectation will make the process go much smoother for both you and the shop employee; doing so may also result in receiving a little more for your item in appreciation for your pleasant disposition.  

Always try to keep things in the proper perspective; you are selling a musical instrument, and the process more often than not will require a good deal of patience.  Thinking of the process as an adventure will position your mindset in a way that elevates much of the stress associated with selling an instrument.  Have fun and look forward to meeting the next person who will be caring for your beloved instrument~

Stay tuned, and in tune!