Okay, so let’s get back to talking music, shall we? It’s tax season, which means that I had it in mind to get myself a new toy – nothing outlandish. After all, I do have some practical considerations to attend to. I wanted to put some cash aside towards a new couch, for example, and there are always bills to be paid, things to be fixed. I’ve had it in mind for a while to start shopping around for a bargain on one of those scratch tower/condo things for my very tall cats so they’ll potentially stop using aforementioned couch as a scratching post. A new litter box. Maybe a new knob for the bathroom door.
Isn’t adulting fun?
But, none of that is really a toy, at least not for me. My first attempt was for an acoustic bass, but that ended up an abysmal failure and I had to return it. Now, that’s not a statement against the bass itself. The Gold Tone acoustic bass is pretty darn nice for someone of a more average build. Most days, I don’t feel that short. Really, I don’t. I know I’m on the short side of average, but then I pick up an instrument, sit it in my lap, and the body comes up to my chin and feel like a hobbit. I think I may have talked about that bass in a previous post, so I’ll end it there.
Now, financially, another, smaller acoustic bass wasn’t practical for the moment. There are a few physically small basses, most either ukulele basses or close cousins, but the budget for those is somewhere around $500, at least for the moment. That’s a bit more than I had in mind to blow on a toy for the time being, not when I need other things.
So, I looked into my other idea which was my first “grown up” bass. A while back, when I decided I really wanted to learn the bass, I bought the Ibanez GSR100EX because it was the cheapest bass I could find at the time that was a brand I knew after a certain ebay fiasco in which those $80-90 basses you see that look like fenders…yeah, sufficed to say 98% of the weight was in the neck. The body sounded hollow when you knocked on it. It just. Ugh. No. It felt like the body was made of paper and plastic and when I say it nose-dived like a plane on fire, I’m not joking at all.
That said, I really like my Ibanez. It is barely 7 lbs, if it even hits the 7 lb mark, so you can literally play it for hours, which is absolutely a major bonus when you need to get in as much practice as you can. I’ve owned handbags that weighed more than this bass. It’s got one volume and one tone control. Really, I just wanted a bass with more than one pickup, maybe, with some luck, on that could handle Drop D tuning a bit better, and if I could find one with a less fingerprint-magnet body, that would be icing.
Originally, I was ogling the Schecter Stiletto Custom. It’s definitely out of budget – when I first started ogling it, retail was around $800, which I definitely couldn’t afford and shouldn’t be spending if I can’t play anyway. I watched the price inch down, but even now, for someone who can’t really play, it’s a bit much to blow. But I knew I wanted something just a little nicer than what I had. I guess you could say I was looking for something kind of intermediate, at a modest enough price point to not cringe over. (I really should preface by saying this was all before my recent $740 car expense, or I wouldn’t have considered buying a new toy, but the money was already spent when my car suddenly decided it wanted me to replace pretty much everything under the hood.)
In my browsing I found a good bargain on the Schecter Stiletto Extreme. This is really similar to the Custom, just a step down, so a bit more budget friendly. I looked at the two models very carefully and the only difference I saw between them was the pickups. The Custom has EMG 35s, I believe. The Extreme has Scheter Diamond pickups, which further reading tells me are basically just a copy of the EMG pickups, but not quite as good.
I knew both of these basses were considered quite lightweight, which was a major selling factor for me, given the almost nonexistent weight of my Ibanez, and with the memory of my first guitar (a knockoff strat) weighing in at over 10 lbs. I definitely wanted to aim at the lightest bass I could find. I also wanted something with a similar body shape and build to the Ibanez. It happens to be a cheap purchase I lucked out on, and that particular body style happens to be very comfortable for me. The slim neck is also a bonus, since I still can’t quite get that 4 fret stretch (someday, perhaps. My current comfortable stretch is just a hair over 3 frets, so it’s not impossible.) and I need all the help I can get. And, I know it’s completely possible to change the pickups in an instrument (though I don’t know how to do it yet), so I figured if I, at a later date, find the pickups in the extreme lacking, there’s nothing saying I can’t upgrade without buying a whole new instrument.
So, given the deal, I decided to go for it in spite of my jaded relationship with FedEx (mostly due to the fact they tend to show up on totally different days than they say they will on deliveries you have to sign for, so suddenly you come home and there’s a ‘Fedex was here and you weren’t, haha, sucker’ note on your door. And, because it costs more to get them to ship to my work address, which is closer to their distribution center than my home, than it does to get them to deliver on a Saturday. More than 100% more. Which is idiotic. Ahem. Moving on).
Well, today, my new toy arrived.
…so I definitely must learn how to play now.
And because my new toy arrived, I learned how to measure the scale length on a bass. Why? Because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why Schecter chose to string it with extra long strings. It’s advertised as 34″ scale. It’s not a through body construction. In fact, in terms of size and shape, it’s actually almost identical to my Ibanez (heavier, but not heavy by any means. Remember, my Ibanez is a featherweight; my guitar weighs more than that Ibanez bass.). So what possible motivation can they have for putting super long strings on it by default? My Ibanez definitely takes normal 34″ scale strings, and the scale definitely the same. I held them up side by side to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me.
My best guess is that they just have one type of bass string that they put on everything, because I haven’t come across any other logic that makes sense. Up side I now know a little more; I learned two different ways to measure scale based on skimming a forum post with two guys on the internet arguing about which was was the right way. Thanks, argumentative guys (though I’m glad to not have been directly involved in that conversation!).
All that was left was to take it for a test drive. Feels good. Plays well. I should probably invest in another strap, but mostly only because the only “spare” I have is a material that just…bugs me. (I have weird preferences when it comes to material, okay? I’m using it for now, but I’ll be picking out a replacement by short sleeve weather, I’m sure. As long as I’m wearing a sweatshirt, I don’t have to touch it, though, so I can wait a bit.)
That’s when I ran into my issue. For some godawful reason, the 1st to 3rd fret were buzzing. I wondered if maybe the strings were quite old. It’s a lefty, so it’s entirely possible that it’s been sitting in a warehouse with those strings for quite a long time, I figured. But I didn’t see any evidence of wear, and on the higher frets they sounded good. Was it just certain strings? No. all four. Close inspection produced no real results. The action looked pretty good, certainly not so low to cause buzzing, at least. And as much as I looked, I couldn’t see or feel any evidence that the strings were duds, which only left the neck, which looked straight to the naked eye. That fret buzz was really annoying, but I didn’t want to chuck a perfectly good set of strings if I wasn’t sure, so it was off to google.
Aaand, I now know how to adjust a truss rod. The bass didn’t come with an alan wrench, but I was lucky enough to just happen to have one the right size that looks about 20 years old. I read up on how to adjust it. Unscrewed the little cover, read the warning to not do more than a tiny bit a day, because the neck has to adjust. So, I gave it a teeny little turn, put everything back together, and tuned up. No more fret buzz. Sweet! They should have made ‘Troubleshooting’ my middle name. Alas, they gave me my grandma’s name instead.
With everything squared away, I spent a nice little chunk of time in Rocksmith today, though mostly just in score attack/learn a song. I started off thinking I was going to do some finger exercises in the guitarcade to get used to the feel of the new bass, but that darn String Skipping Saloon was lagging on me again and I wasn’t feeling patient, so gave up on that idea quickly. I could tell already that I just lacked the attention span for lessons this afternoon, which only left picking songs to play along with. Overall, I’m so far very happy with it. I haven’t plugged it into my amp yet, mostly because I’ve been dragging all day and didn’t feel like disengaging my Peavey from the corner, but I tested it with my vox headphone amp and everything seems to be fully functional. Maybe tomorrow I’ll cue up some lessons on youtube and practice like a grown up instead of like a gamer. 🙂 We shall see.
Until Next Time: Okay, so maybe this is the worst possible time for me to have invested in a new bass, but it was a hell of a deal, and it’s all mine now, so there.