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Why aren't bassists addicted to vintage instruments like guitarists?

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  • Why aren't bassists addicted to vintage instruments like guitarists?

    After watching a few bassists in an instrument shop drool over some shiny new Spectors and Warwicks recently, I started wondering why we bassists aren't addicted to "vintage" instruments the way that our guitarist brethren are. I mean, most of us have some love for those old Fenders (stack-knob Jazz, anyone?), but few bassists seem to have the vintage instrument "bug" to the degree that a huge number of guitarists do. We do not lust after fifty year-old relics that look like they have been dragged down a gravel road for miles, whereas we all know plenty of guitarists who would sell their firstborn child for such an instrument. Many of us love our active pickups, active electronics, and on-board preamps, while a lot of guitarists seem to think that state-of-the-art 1950's tech is the only way to go. Why is this so? Is it because the modern versions of the old basses aren't much different from their vintage counterparts? Or are we just more willing to embrace new technologies? Is it the booze? Or is it something else? Your thoughts on this matter, please. And by all means, keep it civil.
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    Last edited by blackcats; 11-23-2017, 01:10 AM.

  • #2
    I think part of it is the types of tones bassists tend to like - usually clean and clear, with great note definition. At lower frequencies, you kind of need that for audibility, and more modern designs (active pickups, preamps, etc.) tend to help in that quest.

    But there are still a lot of bassists who love vintage instruments.


    "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."
    - George Carlin

    "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."
    - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

    "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."
    - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter


    • #3
      You have to remember, a big part of the reason certain vintage guitars and amps are so collectible is because they're associated with a particular artist and their tone. Eric Clapton is a big reason that late 50s Les Paul guitars and vintage Marshall amps are so collectible and valuable. Another late 50s Gibson hollowbody is not worth nearly as much, even though it may be equal in quality to the Les Paul.

      Although the bass guitar itself was a 'groundbreaking' instrument, most early bassists just played bass. No disrespect to bassists, it's usually a background instrument that supports the rhythm section, and for that it's great. But it's usually not a solo or 'spotlight' instrument for most players.
      It wasn't until Jaco Pastorious came along that the bass world had a "hero", and believe me, there are plenty of people still trying to emulate Jaco's tones.


      • isaac42
        isaac42 commented
        Editing a comment
        Fans of James Jamerson might disagree.

    • #4
      Spectors and Warwicks are not my bag. I even ripped the preamps out of the two Fender basses I own that came with them. I prefer instruments with pick guards, as opposed to exotic woods.
      HCBF Mesa Brigade Member #2


      • #5
        Think you need to be specific and not just dump everything into one bag.

        I don't go with the assumption bassists don't like vintage over new but there are the differences in value to be considered.

        Just because something's old, doesn't mean its good. Bass necks especially don't tend to age well because of the string torque. Left in a closet for long periods of time is likely to warp them up badly so the ones that survive are much fewer, and the ones that did often had chunky necks which are tough to play compared to newer sleeker models being sold today.

        Good used basses still sell for decent prices but they had to be decent to start with.
        That holds true for guitarists gear as well as bassists.

        Back in the day there simply weren't allot of choices in bass guitar. You had a few Fender's, Gibson's and Ricks, etc which were built to last. Then you had a bunch of cheaper basses which warped up like a pretzel because of the heavy bass strings.

        Add to that bass isn't an instrument allot of players aspire to playing so its popularity is much lower then guitar. Guitars easily sold 20:1 as Christmas presents so fewer were around to survive the test of time.

        Then how many bass players are in a band at the same time compared to guitarists? You usually only have one compared to multiple guitarists.

        Then add this. How many bassists have you played with who have multiple instruments? Most I've played with over the years would be lucky to own one bass. Heck my Bass player from back in high school in the 70's still has his same precision bass he's owned since then? He even owns his original Casino Bass amp too. He owns an SVT too but he wouldn't own that if I didn't sell him the cab dirt cheap for $150.

        Bass effects were practically non existent so you can forget about those. Amps? They get passed from player to player allot. They are heavy and do tend to get beat up. Again, Unless you are a bassist, its unlikely you'd be seeking out big SVT amps to play through. Not with all the light weight gear available now.

        The question is, how much vintage gear is really out there. I know I own quite a bit. I bought it cheap because it doesn't have the insane over valuations much of the guitar stuff bass. I do own more then one rig and bass isn't even my first instrument. I own 4 basses and 3 full sized amps, most of which could be considered vintage.

        That doesn't compare to my guitar collection however. I own about 25 guitars and around 10 amps. Guitarists have a much wider pallet of tones they need to cover. Bass frequencies are hard to hear to begin with. You usually feel them more then hear them so its less likely you'll need more then one bass live or recordings.

        Because older bass gear doesn't have allot of resale value I hold onto them like many artists do. It decreases the number of vintage instruments on the market for sale and this is what drives prices up. With guitars, even toy quality instruments like Teisco and Silvertone have gone up in value because of people have an obsession with owning a piece of history.

        Many people get into buying vintage gear for purely monetary purposes too. I know several who do nothing buy buy and sell vintage gear from major artists and make a nice profit in the process. People are much more likely to know the guitarists of hit bands compared to bassists too.

        Then add to the fact many new basses can be a hell of a lot easier to play, a whole lot lighter to wear, and often sound allot better then some old beat up Junkers so there's good reason why a bassist may prefer to own a new bass over something old.

        This isn't anything new either. John Entwistle used to buy new Dan Electro basses for each gigs. Main reason being is they had round wound strings he couldn't buy any place else besides buying a new bass. Second the basses were so dirt cheap back then it was less expensive to buy the entire bass then buy decent strings. When he broke a string he simply bought a new bass with them on there.

        As far as amps, Many bassists tended to endorse solid state amps because of the weight reduction. It didn't affect their tone much either because most didn't need driven tones like guitarists did. Some of the higher wattage tube bass amps were incredibly heavy as well as their cabs. I think many bassists embrace new gear not only for the tone but all the ergonomics light weight gear provides.

        Lastly you probably don't see as much bass gear sold on line because of the shipping costs. Gear would much more likely be sold locally at lower prices. You don't have the over inflated values on bass gear like you do on guitar gear.
        Last edited by WRGKMC; 11-27-2017, 09:09 AM.