Bummer of bummers, the bass arrived on Monday with a broken tuning peg. It being of Chinese extraction, replacements were hard to come by, but ultimately Trade Up was able to locate a semi-compatible piece among their collection of scavenged parts, so all was well and I’ve got a shiny brass peg on my D string. A replacement should be in the mail from musiclandcentral sometime soon. Had to make a few additional purchases, but I am close to being kitted:
Jay Turser JTB3 Bass : $299
Roland Cube 30 Bass Amp : $225
Gretsch Guitar Strap : $29
ULTRA Guitar Stand : $20
10′ Cable : $6
Pick : $0.25
Not too bad. I’d like to restring it with Thomastic-Infeld Jazz Flats, but haven’t found a shop in town that carries them yet. Other than that, and a case, I’m pretty good. Buying the Cube 30 will probably save me a bit of money that I’d have otherwise been tempted to spend on pedals — it has some built in effects, like an an octaver, chorus, flanger, wah, reverb, etc., as well as some nicely modeled tube amps o’ the past. Shouldn’t be mucking with it at this juncture, I know, but it’s fun.
Right now I’m just working on familiarizing myself with the fretboard… a fretted short-scale is a definite change from a 7/8ths upright, but I think I’m getting there. Slowly rebuilding calluses on the fingers of my left hand, and playing a lot of scales. Woo hoo for arpeggios. I’ll worry about technique once I’m not overshooting third position. There seems to be a fair bit of buzz, which might well be down to my own incompetence, or to needing a bit more clearance, but I’m waiting to have it professionally set-up until I receive the replacement tuning machine and locate some Jazz Flats.
Hooray! The bass is en route to Portland as of June 30th, albeit moving rather slowly. No planes for this axe — it’s being shipped via UPS Ground — so it’s only covered about 250 miles. Just 2,600 to go. Brown estimates arrival to be on Monday, July 10, which is a bummer. Hopefully some trucker will be bucking for a bonus and it’ll arrive a few days early, but I doubt it — these things are probably fairly regimented.
The bass is currently in New Stanton, PA, cooling its heels on a Sunday afternoon. Track its progress, if you care to. I know I am.
Hrm. Still no response from Jay Turser on the email, but I’ve located a Turser dealer who sells via web and eBay — musiclandcentral.com — and who comes highly-rated by those in the harmony-central reviews who have purchased from him. Via e-mail, he tells me that though it’s not listed, he has a JTB-3/N in stock (or maybe he’ll have one drop-shipped… either way, he can get me one). Though I’ve not played one, I have tried out short-scale basses and was comfortable with them, and also enjoyed the feel of the Ibanez (q.v. earlier). That, in conjunction with a couple of fine reviews, and the fact that it just looks like a beautiful creature, has me thinking I’ll order a JTB-3 sight-unseen. What the hell… it’s $300, and I can resell it if it’s not my bag. I don’t have a playing style yet, so it’s unlikely to violate any preconceptions.
I’m waiting to hear back from the musiclandcentral peeps about a few questions I had, but that’s more just so that I know what I’m getting and won’t be surprised, I think. Don’t know yet if there’s a custom case to fit it (that’s one of the questions) — if so, I’ll buy it from him so that it can be shipped in a better-protected container than cardboard boxen. Then all I’ll be lacking will be an amp, some picks, and instructional material.
Re the amp: shall I buy a lil’ 10 or 15 watt practice amp, or ought I size-up (in a small way) to a 30 for better sound, if not louder playing? Buy it beforehand, to be prepared when the axe arrives in the mail, or wait until I can lug it around with me and try ‘em out on? I’m thinking the latter may be excessive — particularly if I don’t have a case or even gig bag — so maybe it doesn’t matter. Time to hit the amp reviews, I guess.
Checked out the Ibanez Artcore at Guitar Center last night … I was dreading the corporate megastore experience, but my particular salesguy, Eric, was quite nice and not-pushy. Point to them. Nice bass, the Artcore, though the one in stock had a crack in the top. Oh, and while Ibanez insists that the Artcore line is full-hollow, that’s just the guitars. The basses are, in fact, semi-hollow, with a huge soundblock down the middle. It has just the one pickup, too, though I’m neophyte enough not to know whether I care. I could be OK with the Artcore, though at $399 and in dark walnut, it’s not quite what I had in mind.
So, on to Centaur Guitar, a friendly little shop that’s been open just over a year, whose existence I only learned of yesterday. Jason, one of the owners, was particularly helpful, and noting the absence of archtops in stock, he said he’d order-in an Italia Torino, since Centaur is an official dealer. They’re in the $500 range — really beyond what I want to spend on what may well turn out to be a passing fancy, considering the amp, case, etc. that I’ll be buying as well — but if I haven’t bought something else by the time he gets it, I suppose I could be tempted. Terribly user-unfriendly color chart they have, but Italia Green and Trans Orange are pretty sexxy :). Whatever I do, I think I’ll be making my string, setup and accessory purchases from Centaur, when possible. It struck me as a very good kind of place, and conveniently open ’til 7 every day.
Huh. OK, so Portland Music Co. seems to have nothing in hollowbodied bases. Apple Music Row carries Epiphones, including the viol-bass, starting at $399, but I’m damned uncomfortable in there, being closely scrutinized by the salesdude as though I were gonna walk out with it under my coat. Too self-conscious, perhaps, but still, it harshes my novice shopping mellow. Trade Up Music (on Alberta) has the un-branded sunburst Höfner 500/1 knockoff (sadly, with failing varnish) for $299. Their Division location had no hollowbodies. Old Town Music has a Höfner 500/1 knockoff (a Johnson, I think it was) for $299. I called Guitar Center (both Beaverton and Clackamas) and they only stock the Ibanez Artcore, at $399.
I emailed Jay Turser two days ago, to see if they could help me out by identifying a local dealer who has at least ordered a JTB-3 in the past, but haven’t heard back from them. Called them today, but somehow 4.30 EDT == not business hours, and I can but assume they’re closed on weekends. Pity, because their website is so outdated as to be no help at all — in its world, the JTB-3 isn’t even a product.
Aesthetically, I really want to get a fatty archtop like the JTB-3. At least, I think I do, but I’d want to play with it a bit first. The Höfner 500/1 viol-form basses are very comfortably small (shortnecked, yes, but I mean body width and depth)… of course, I’ve only played one sitting down, resting on a knee… might feel different strapped-up. But (and this is terrible) I really don’t want a sunburst paintjob, hate the switches on it, and even though I don’t associate the viol-form with Sir Paul, it seems that everyone else does, and I’d rather not ride that vibe and find myself perfecting the sub-hook to Day Tripper. Then again, I imagine that that’s the first task of every aspiring electric bassist, in the same way that the intro Jaws riff was de rigeur for upright bassists in the 7th grade. Meh.
So far the Höfner 500/1 knock-off is still the front-runner, but in part that’s because I’ve had a hell of a time finding any other comparably-priced hollow bodied basses to play with. $1,300 Gretsches aren’t under consideration. The Rogue VB100, ordered from Musician’s Friend, is still the best deal I’ve found, at $230, but if I’m going for a viol-shaped bass I’m tempted by the blonde spruce-topped, purfled Jay Turser version which seems to be about $80 more. I just find sunburst paintjobs kinda tacky.
I’d very much like to locate one of Turser’s JTB-3′s locally — it’s a double-cutout archtop clone of the Höfner 500/7 “Verithin” — but so far have only found it available online from Instrument Pro, about whose shipping and customer service I’ve not read nice things.
Some years ago — some many years ago — I played bass. Upright. Classical. That was in high school. My college, being rather small, didn’t have much of a music program, and I was inclined to other pursuits at the time, so it went no further. And yet, the bass has followed me. I wouldn’t liken it to an albatross, but there, in the corner of my living room, stands the dark, towering monstrosity that is my 7/8ths-sized American Standard bass (#343). It looks attractive, gathers dust, and occasionally emits strange resonances when a passing truck or a particularly gripping moment of 5.1 splendor sets it off. It deserves better.
Very occasionally — annually at best — I take a cloth to it, fiddle with the tuning (it stays surprisingly well tuned), and noodle through some dimly remembered licks. There’s a particular classical run that I must’ve once woodshedded fairly seriously, for while I’ve no recollection of the piece it belongs to, my fingers find it almost effortlessly. That, and the walking line to Miles’ “All Blues” are about all I can muster. The latter courtesy of a long-ago instructor who probably knew that if he didn’t try to get the kid playing something other than classical, he was likely to walk away from the old nagybögö for good (it’s
Czech Hungarian for bass, I think… strange, the things one [almost] remembers). And so it came to pass.