Hi girlfriend! what's this? a page for girls at bunnybass? yes it is! girls playing basses? wonderful! (if you came to this page looking for pictures of girls, sorry) anyway, i got an email a little while back that i'd like to share with you:
i'm a 16 year old female interested in learning how to play bass. i was wondering what would be a good bass for a beginner to learn on and if you had an estimation of price. as long as it's not outlandish =o). thanks for your help and i hope to hear back from you.
this letter made me think about how confusing it can be to choose your first bass. there are literally hundreds of models out there. i started playing bass when i was 10 - well, sort of. my mother was a guitar player, and she gave me a classical guitar. i don't really remember this to well, but my mom said that from the beginning i'd usually just play the bass lines to songs (mostly jazz standards) that i'd hear around the house - no melodies. after a few months she removed the top two strings from the guitar and taa daa! instant bass! about a year later my mommy got me my first real bass, a gibson EBO. i loved that bass - slept with it and everything! (gosh i'm such a geek) the reason why i'm telling you this story is because it's obvious to me now that i had things easy. my mom recognized that i'd be happier playing bass (she was right) and she even went out and chose me an appropriate bass for me - i really didn't have to figure things out for myself. and when i say 'an appropriate bass', i mean it was a good bass for a young girl - relatively small, with a short scale, knobs with numbers on it (stop snickering! all those knobs can be confusing when you're 10 years old!), and very light. well, i'm taller now (5'7") but i still consider myself a small person (110 pounds or thereabouts), so i still think a lot about the weight and size of a bass. i'm sure a lot of other women (or girls, or boys, or smallish men) think about these issues when looking for a bass, and i thought that i'd like to talk a bit about 'smaller basses', and choosing a 'beginner's bass' in particular.
choosing your first bass can be confusing for lots of reasons. if you were to ask 10 people what a good 'beginner's bass' would be, it's possible you might get 10 different suggestions - and the funny thing is, they could all be 'right'. if you're willing to think this through carefully though, this variety in responses can be seen as a good thing. good because there are lots of nice basses out there for you to choose from, and chances are if you look hard enough, you'll end up with a bass that will both serve you well as you begin learning on it, and also remain valuable to you as you continue to play in the future. this is important i think - don't go looking for a lame bass thinking that it won't matter because you're 'just a beginner'. it's better to find something that you'll find satisfying for a while - you'll practice more, you may play better, and it may even help you to enjoy music more.
i'm going to go about 'answering' your question by breaking it down into a couple of smaller questions that i'll try to answer in greater detail. i hope you girls out there find this helpful rather than more confusing.
as you read these 'answers', please keep in mind that practically everything that i write here is subjective and debatable. it's possible that some of the qualities that i find desirable in a bass may even be considered a 'negative characteristic' by someone else. bass guitars are sorta like people - 1) they're all different (even when they may 'look' the same), and 2) no matter how awful i think a bass is, there's almost always someone out there that will love it. here's a good resource to look at - bass gear reviews archive - this here's basically a site where people review different instruments - another person's opinions on what a good bass may be. in the end, if a bass sounds good to you and you enjoy playing it, consider yourself a bass player and see where you go with it! ~mimi ^_^
Q: Are 'smaller' basses just as good as larger basses?
A: when i think of 'smaller basses', i'm generally thinking of basses that are 'somewhat smaller' (and perhaps lighter) than the Fender Jazz and Precision. although i've seen plenty of smallish people playing these or similarly-sized basses with no problems whatsoever, i also think that these basses were designed with an average-sized adult male in mind. some bass players who are physically small prefer to play smaller-sized bass guitars. this makes sense - most bass players play the bass while standing and carrying it on a strap, and some bass guitars (my 12 pound Fender Precision comes to mind) can be a real drag to play for a long time. call me a wimp, but just thinking about playing that bass all night makes me tired. maybe this isn't quite as big a deal if you intend to play sitting down all the time (and some people do), but if you're going to play standing up, there's a lot of basses that are smaller and lighter that you might want to try out before choosing a bass, especially if you're a 'smaller' person like me. in fact, many large people choose to play small and/or light basses, simply because they find them to be more comfortable and enjoyable to play. some people may insist that a larger, heavier body makes for a bigger and more solid sound, but i tend to evaluate basses on a case by case basis. i've played so many small and/or light sounding basses that sound perfectly fine (and sometimes amazing), that i don't find myself 'wanting' larger basses just for the supposed sonic benefits. i keep on wondering why everyone's making these big fat basses when people like carl thompson can build an amazing sounding bass that weighs less than the stupid laptop computer that i'm typing on right now? anyway, eventually you'll develop a feel (and muscles, and the correct posture) for what size/weight bass is acceptable for you, but in the meantime, trust your body and what it's saying to you! correct me if i'm wrong, but pain...in general...isn't good.
another thing to consider when considering playing comfort is how the bass hangs (balances) on your body when you play it. some basses, when placed on a strap, naturally come to rest almost horizontally. others hang at perhaps a 45 degree angle or thereabouts. depending on your left and right hand technique, you may have a preference as to how you like your bass to 'sit' when you play it. i personally like a bass that rests more at an angle rather than horizontally. it's best to bring a strap along with you when you shop and then play the instrument. be sure to adjust the length of the strap to your favorite length after putting it on the instrument - every instrument will hang at a different 'height' on your body depending on the shape and balance of the instrument, and this also affects how comfortable it will feel on your body when you play it. this may seem obvious, but it's very important. a bass that won't balance on your body the way you want it to will most likely eventually spend most of its time sitting in the closet instead of under your fingers being practiced. for example, i ended up trading away one of the most beautiful basses i ever owned - a 6 string fretless alembic stanley clarke signature bass (a _very_ 'petite' bass as far as 6 strings go) - primarily because i found its balance so uncomfy that i just got tired of fighting with it, trying to find a pleasant way to hold it. it sounded amazing, and perhaps someone else would have had no problem with it, but it drove me to near-madness whenever i'd stand up and play it. rrrgh!! so my advice to you is to invest in a nice wide strap (a leather 3 1/2" strap works perfect for me), take it with you when you go bass shopping, and try each bass you're interested in _for a while_ (if the store people are open-minded enough to 'let you' do this). this takes time, so it helps if you adopt an attitude of patience while you shop.
Q: What are some good small basses?
A: well, there are many. of course, some are very small, and some are merely 'smaller' than a standard-sized fender jazz...so maybe i'll just list a bunch of 'smallish' basses off the top of my head...
epiphone basses - this company has a few interesting basses that are worth looking at. they tend to be relatively inexpensive even new, mostly because the wood used isn't of the highest qualitiy, the finishing is just 'ok', the electronics tend to be pretty mediocre, and the overseas labor used to build these instruments tend to be _very_ underpaid. (if this bothers you, you may also want to steer clear of, say, 80% of the comsumer items out there...) some of these basses play quite nicely. four models may be of particular interest to girls - there's a les paul model that has a small, traditionally shaped body that looks good (the leftmost bass pictured - make sure you like the feel of this hanging on a strap though). there's also an SG model (second from left) that's pretty similar (in looks, anyway) to my old, now stolen gibson EBO. there's also a semi-hollow body model called the rivoli (i like to call it the ravioli but that's only because i'm annoying) that's fairly light, although the dimensions of the body itself are kinda big and wide (see picture, second from right). then theres a viola-shaped bass called the...viola bass (clever name). it kinda looks like the hofner bass that paul mccartney played in the beatles. what?! you don't know who paul mccartney is??!! aiya... well anyway, not having a solid body, the rivoli and the viola bass do sound pretty different from a lot of other basses, so before you buy, make sure you plug them into an amplifier and compare it to other basses. if you're planning on playing death metal, you can pretty much forget about these last two.
danelectro basses these have been around since the late 50's, and for good reason - they're lightweight (semi-hollow), easy to play, and sound surprisingly good. they have a characteristic sound that i'll describe as...i dunno, 'hollow thumpy' - how's that? oh yeah, i almost forgot to say - they're real cheap too (new list is $399 - wow, great! Q: how do they do it? A: globalization!) if you're looking for a much higher quality version of this design, check out the much nicer (and slighly more expensive) jerry jonesguitars - they are absolutely terrific instruments and i love them. make sure you get the neptune bridge option - it's worth it.
rickenbacker basses - the 4001 and 4003 are true classics, and have that distinctive ric sound that no other bass has. i've seen these played in practically all genres of music, and because there's so many of them around, the chances of finding a nice used one that's been taken good care of is pretty good. the 'famous' rics are neck-through and seem to be going for about $500-800, although there are also bolt-on models out there (and these tend to be cheaper). i really like rics, it's what i borrow when i'm gonna play a lot of punk covers!
fender short scale basses - ah, these are quite fun to play. they sort of look cool too, like mustangs and jazzmasters. unfortunately they're becoming a bit overpriced nowdays, with all this collecting stuff going on. i used to think about them as, like, almost a toy bass that can double as a doorstop. i mean, how serious can you take a bass that's got _racing stripes_ painted on it? but they often play okay, and they sound...err...'okay'. if you want to have a tiny fender, this is it. if you want a bigger sounding fender, then just go for a 'big' fender (a full sized jazz or precision). i'm getting lost here.
tune bass technologies - does anybody remember these? i had a model called the bass maniac and it was a great bass for someone my size. long scale (34") instrument but with a tiny body, slender neck, tiny headstock. and light! why'd i'd sell it? i traded it for a multitrack recorder and a drum machine...bleh. that was a really bad mistake. anyway, these had good sounding active electronics and top quality machined brass bridges - just an all around nice bass and they're not very collectable now, so...if you can find one - good deal on a nice bass! this picture is not actually a tune bass, it's a bass collection one (see below), but they look almost exactly the same to me...
bass collection basses - basically a cheaper, not-quite-as-nice version of the tune basses. they look pretty much the same from a distance, but from close up you'll notice the construction isn't quite as nice, the hardware is more 'generic', and the electronics leave something to be desired insofar as tone goes. but, the ones with the precision/jazz pickup configuration can be souped up with better electronics. my girlfriend karen has one - she popped in some EMGs and her bass sounds great! so if you can find one for cheap, this can turn out to be a good bass that's pretty cool looking (my opinion) and they're very small.
ibanez soundgear basses - there's like, what seems to be a million different variations of the basic design. the body shape is pleasant enough to look at, somewhat smallish, balances nicely, and is usually quite light. the neck on these basses are famous for being flat and easy to play (if you like small necks). some of them are really _really_ small - i have fairly small hands and the last time i picked up a 4 string i was like 'wow this is SMALL!!...' some of these are made in japan, some are made in korea..or was it taiwan? i've played some that were just kinda...boring and mediocre feeling...but i've also played some that are genuinely excellent players. at any rate, they can usually be had for quite reasonable prices - if you see a used one make sure you check it out.
carvin basses - i think these basses occupy a unique position in the bass market - in my opinion they play very nicely, sound good, and are very well made (i especially like their neck-through ones). they also tend to be fairly lightweight, which i think is good. some people also tend make fun of em a lot, like there's something yucky about carvin products. actually, i don't think there's anything yucky about them at all, and think instead that the impusle to bag on these things come from the fact that carvin sells direct to the public, avoiding retail stores. it's kind of like a 'can a mail order bass really be any good?' mentality. carvin's prices tend to much less than what other manufacturers are able to swing for similar products - selling direct does cut many costs that translate into good deals for consumers. try these things out if you can find one (they tend to be _real_ cheap used). my favorite bass model that carvin makes is the bunny brunel model (no, i'm not just saying that because of the name) - i like the extended upper horn that makes for nice balance and the wide body makes it 'sit up' in my lap nicely when i'm playing sitting down (since i'm doing more and more these days). i still wish carvin would consider redesigning their bass line though - i know lots of people think they look just fine, but personally i find them kinda clumsy and bland looking. *shrug* my opinion. still great deals though.
spector NS basses - these can be bought used for as little as perhaps $400 (made in japan or korea) or go up into the multiple thousands ('fancier', more meticulously crafted u.s.a.-made ones). i personally find these basses to be a really comfortable shape to play, and even a lot of the un-fabulous foreign-made ones can often be improved quite a bit by swapping the pickups and electronics (and even these 'cheaper' ones tend to have nice solid bridges and good quality hardware). they're not always light though, you kinda have to just pick em up and play em and see. i dunno about the 2000 series ones or the BOB ones, i've never played them. this picture is of a 5 string model with quilt maple - you won't find one like this for $400, but the body shape'll be the same though.
tobias basses - these are getting pretty easy to find used. ever since gibson started cranking these things out - expensive models with fancy woods and construction, and also cheaper, plainer models too - i've seen some of these things go real cheap (the cheaper models i mean, the higher end stuff remains pretty darned expensive). the cheaper models can be pretty good too. i've yet to play one of the cheaper, 'newer' models that just knocked me out, but they're often 'good for the price', and more than adequate as a solid working bass. i think it's quite a challenge to live up to the standards set by michael tobias at his 'pre-gibson' LA shop. the bolt-on ones with a swamp ash body can be quite lightweight, and that long upper horn keeps these basses hanging on you nicely.
warwick basses - now that warwick is aggressively going after the mid-priced bass market, there seem to be a ton of these things floating around used, with some models available for often very reasonable prices (especially the bolt-on models). all their models - FNA (pictured at left), thumb (pictured to the right), altus, dolphin, streamers, whatevers - have quite petite bodies, and some of them with the maple or ash bodies can be fairly light too. the thumb basses in particular hang somewhat 'horizontally' - maybe a good thing or maybe not, just depends on how you like it. the necks vary quite a bit too - some of them are very thin (which i like), some are downright chunky (some people like this too).
pedulla basses - once in a while i'll run across a great deal on one of these, especially the older, used bolt-on ones. they're often very light, and the MVP and Buzz body shaped ones are quite small next to a jazz bass. they also tend to have top quality construction, electronics (almost always bartolini active sets), and hardware - nice if you can find em! the one pictured here is a 5 string fretless.
steinberger basses - this is about as small as you're going to get. super-portable, great sounding and nearly indestructible, i still have my all graphite XL-2 and don't plan on selling it, ever. if you don't mind its non-traditional feel and looks, you may like them a lot. these usually go in the $800-1000 range, but if you're lucky, i know people who have scored a used steinberger for half that. there are also ones with wood bodies and a bolt on graphite neck too, often for less. and if you can find one of those string adapter thingies, you don't have to limit yourself to using double ball end strings either.
kubicki factor basses - whoa, i'm having a major 80s flashback just looking at this little picture. i still think these little things are pretty cool. mr. kubicki is a smart guy. there's lots of nice design touches that some people can really get into - 32" scale length, headless design for nice balance, a very rigid multi-multi-multi-laminate neck (is that a real word?), a weird but clever bridge that handles tuning duties _and_ facilitates the use of standard (non-double ball end) strings, very good electronics, and on the X-factor model, a neat little flipping gizmo at the top of the E string that allows you to instantly have access to another whole step of fingerboard (down to low D). fun to flip that thing. you can find these used, and if you're willing to live with a few dings and paint chips, i've seen these go for real cheap - not bad for a pro-level (albiet weird) instrument.
curbow basses - now i like these - these are small! well, i know mr.curbow prefers to call them 'petite'. i guess i like any bass where the builder has the nerve to refer to em in the same lingo as women's clothing. in fact, i remember when i first started seeing the adverts for these things a few years ago - there were women bassists playing...err...posing with these basses in the ads and i thought 'wow, someone's actually bold enough to market to women bassists, good good'. well, the ads were also kinda dumb too, like there'd be these stylized, curvy graphics superimposed on the image to draw a relationship between the curviness of the woman's (bassist) body and the curviness of the body of the bass - sexy-sexy! bleh...well, i digress. anyway, these basses come in two 'levels' - somewhat pricey ones and 'cheap' ones made by cort. of course the more expensive ones feature higher quality materials, better crafting, etc. so hopefully you can check out both kinds before you decide which one is best for you. i've only played the 'fancy' ones myself, and each time i've been very impressed with them. just don't poke anyone's eye out with that headstock - you goth girls out there may like the headstock...it's very...um...goth.
bossa basses - these basses are way cool. i like them a lot, especially the fretless ones. i'm a sucker for little design touches, and the ones with matching wood pickup covers sure are pretty to look at. but most importantly, every one that i've played had a really good strong sound to em. they also tend to be on the light side with good quality ash bodies (sometimes with a quilt maple top), and they've got nice comfy necks that play very easily. you might have a difficult time finding one used though, as they're not particularly widely known yet in this country (they're built in japan), but i'm hoping to see more of em. they always seem to have one or two at few at LA Bass Exchange (nice store!). not cheap, but if you want quality...
zon basses - i love these things. they're not particularly small, but they're still smaller than a jazz bass and tend to be quite light.. all zon basses feature a graphite neck - some are bolt-ons and others are set in. this makes them very stable - they uniformly play very nicely and sound excellent. the one downside to these things is that they tend to be quite expensive (usually over $1000), even used. personally i think zon basses are wonderful and therefore often worth it, but of course you'll have to decide whether or not you're really ready to commit yourself to playing bass if you're going to spend this kind of money...this particular one is a zon sonus model 6 string.
alembic basses - how about a small 'standard body' stanley clarke model with a 30 1/2" scale? (pictured on left) beautiful looking, beautiful sounding and expensive expensive new!!! if you can afford one...*sigh* some people don't care too much for the way these symmetrically shaped/short upper-horn basses like these hang on your body (somewhat horizontally, becuase the strap button tends to be fastened on the heel of the neck much farther back towards the bridge) - this is something you'll just have to try out for yourself to see if it bothers you. other alembic models, like the essence model pictured on the right, has a more asymmetrical design that locates the strap button in the 12-14th fret area. some people, including me, tend to like the way this makes the bass balance better. the essence model also tends to be less expensive - i've seen these go for less than $1000 used, and they're nice basses, if not quite as 'cute' looking. of course, if you're super rich and money is no object, give vinnie fodera, carl thompson, or bob mick a call. they can build you a work of art that's custom designed and 'perfect' for you - but they may end up costing more than some kinds of used cars...(but then again, who keeps their used car for their whole life?) anyway, if you choose to do this, please send me a picture of your bass when it's completed so i can drool on it.
washburns and arias - here's a couple of recommendations from our friend brian: "...for those of smaller stature, I must pass along the word about Washburn's Bantam series and the Aria Avante Steve Bailey models. Though tall, my hands are relatively small, and anything heavier than 10 lbs gives me a backache (unless I have a padded strap). I picked up a Washburn XB-600 6-string, less than a year old, at a pawnshop for $400 as a backup for my Carvin LB76 6-string. Its easy to play, even for those with shorter arms and smaller hands. A drummer I play with a lot likes to fiddle around on my basses, and he's a little guy, and he had trouble getting down to the lower ranges of my Carvin, but not the Washburn. After seeing and listening to Steve in a NGSW workshop a few years ago, he's pretty small, but he can more than handle the 6-string basses Aria makes for him. And both basses can be had for less than $1200, so not a bad deal..." thanks brian! the one on the left is a washburn, though i couldn't find a picture of a 6 string model. the one on the right is the aria steve bailey model.
jackson jj basses - oooh, flames. this jackson bass has a medium scale (32") and a lot of nice goodies - Duncan Basslines SMB4A Musicman style pickup, STCMM4 pre-amp, Hipshot bridge, Hipshot Ultralight tuners, and an interference paint-job that changes colors with the viewing angle. you can get em in solid colors too, but why would you if you could get em like this? i haven't played one myself but i got an email from bassgrrrl corrine who has one of these and she says they sound and play great. looks promising...
this is by no means all the good smallish basses out there. if anyone has a great smallish bass that i haven't mentioned, let me know what it is, include a short description, and i'll post it here for others to look at.
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