I’m presently playing a Yamaha BB734 and happy with it. It has the P/J arrangement for the pick ups, nice neck, easy player. I’m just wondering about spending a couple of grand on a pro bass and if it’s really worth it? I know some say the tone wood used on the body creates a warmer sound and a hand built/finished neck will always be better than a machine grade neck, etc. At the end of the day though, can one really tell the difference in quality and sound if you’re already playing what I think is a descent mid-range bass, especially if you’re not using it in a studio and having the engineer clean it up for you. All I’m doing is playing dances on Saturday nights kinda thing. Thoughts?
Like so many things, it depends.
The Yamaha BB734 is a really nice bass. Anything you choose beyond that isn’t something anyone in the audience is ever going to notice. Above that is something you would choose because you like it.
Maybe you’ll find a bass you like the look of better.
Maybe you’ll find a pickup configuration you like better.
Maybe you’ll find a bass you think feels better to play.
None of this is guaranteed and there have been plenty of big name musicians using basses that aren’t nearly that nice.
At this point it comes down to trying things and seeing if there’s anything out there offering something you want.
I have a Ray34. It is a beast at it’s price point. I got a Stingray Special and it is on a totally different level. Fit and finish are outstanding. Tone is sublime. Both are great but the Stingray Special is a huge step up.
Thanks Eric, that’s kinda the conclusion I’m beginning to form. Never had anybody circle by me yet and tell me I’d sound better if I had a better ax!
In general, from my own experience, there isn’t a steady incline of price vs quality. It seems like there are various “checkpoints” where pretty much everything is going to be the same regardless of their price within that checkpoint range. There are always exceptions, mind you.
In my travels, the ranges seem to be about like this on average:
- sub $150
- $1200 - $2100
- over $5000
Right away you’ll notice the gaps between the ranges. These are limbo zones. There are interesting finds to be had in those gaps but in most cases, if you’re in that area you might benefit from waiting and saving up a bit of money to get to the next tier.
The point is, you’ll probably see a more significant difference moving to the next tier than you will moving up a bit within the same tier. There is a plateau as well. At a certain point the quality and such will be at a level that most mere mortals won’t ever be able to unlock its potential. It’s like giving a Ferrari to a 16 year old. Yeah, they might be able to drive it but it will likely wind up wrapped around a tree if they put the hammer down.
As I said, though, each tier will have exceptions. You might find a Tito’s Vodka guitar that, for all intents and purposes, should cost more than it does. You might also find a Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne guitar that is way overpriced and overrated and only used by people that want to waggle their bits at others.
The big secret, however, is that none of what I just said matters at all. The best guitar in the world is the one you enjoy playing. If you absolutely adore playing a Glarry then by all means hold it up proudly and rock on.
On the other hand…
If your looking for a good reason to buy another bass, it might be good idea to have a backup when you’re playing gigs.
Or, at the very least, having a choice of colors. Some days I want my blue guitar, some days it’s orange sun burst. Depends on the mood.
Tale of Widi of Voice of Baceprot. For several years I saw her sporting what I think is an ESP 34" scale bass. Jazz neck/MM bridge configuration. Could be FGN too. Nice bass.
Then VOB did a tour of Europe and next thing you know Widi is performing with a Gretsch Junior Jet which costs $299. Most folks would call it a downgrade. Her old bass on a stand on stage as a backup.
She sounded as badass as ever. The most determinative factor for bass sound is you.
I hypothesize that for Widi, grinding out a tour night after night, and she is on the small size, having a lighter short scale bass was a factor. But she sounded great and would on a Squier Bronco.
But maybe you you need the Fine Corinthian Leather. Nothing wrong with that either. You do what works for you.
A related point that Phil McKnight made a while back is “what’s the sweet spot” where you get a good instrument but spending more money gets you diminishing returns.
Example the Fender Pro series is almost 2x a Mexican bass. But is it 2x better?
As with most things, there are diminishing returns for what you get for more money.
I guess all these “value for money”, “sweet spot”, and “diminishing return” arguments are all valid points if you approach this from a very rational point of view.
Buying an instrument is often everything but. Maybe it’s a piece of art for you. Maybe it’s an investment. Maybe you just fell in love with it because it is so gorgeous. Maybe it just resonates with you…
You are in kind of a special spot here. The BB734A is widely regarded as extremely good for its price point. It is of really high quality, the pickups are awesome, and the fit and finish fantastic. It will easily stand up against MIA Fenders and MusicMan basses. You won’t be able to outclass it for less than $2000 US, probably more, and even then the differences will be esoteric. It’s just a solid platform that also has excellent components stock.
Jack Bates, touring bassist for the Smashing Pumpkins (and also the second bassist in his dad’s band, Peter Hook and the Light), exclusively uses BB734A’s, and tours with 11 of them. Yamaha started making customs for him but he still tours with the 734A.
His dad had his own signature bass made out of a modified BB734A. He uses it and also 734A’s live.
It’s just a fantastic bass.
You’ve got me thinking that I now need to find a Ricardo Montelban signature model Cordoba Bass (and hope that I can afford it.)
I think you’re right Howard. 6 bolt neck, string thru body, active and passive P/J set up and it’s all yours every day for less than $800.00.
Again, not necessarily.
Every player is different. What one or more think about a particular class or strata of basses might or might not apply to another.
Of course, there are camps of people who say, “Any bass that costs over $$$ isn’t worth it. It’s just a waste of money.”
But those players are free to buy what they like. As is everyone else who might not particularly adhere to that school of thought.
Everyone should just buy what he/she feels inspiration from, and enjoys, regardless of price point. Without fail, others will follow their own muses and buy instruments that inspire them to play. So it goes.
As a noob I bought a Fender Squier P Bass kit that came with the little amp and lead, I think it was all around $600AUD on sale. I’ve had two bass teachers try it out and say it’s actually pretty good sounding and feeling for that price.
The rule of diminishing returns still applies. Sure, if someone wants to get an expensive bass, they are absolutely free to get it (well, they still need to have the money in the first place …). But even then, I think it is healthy to halt for a moment and think about what you are getting for that money.