M. Giant's
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011  

All My Bass Are Belong to Me

When I just now totaled up how many strings in all are in or on the various musical instruments in our house, I came up with the rather alarming figure of 278. Yes, the majority of those are in the piano, but if you subtract 216 that's still a pretty big number.

It actually just reached that total this past weekend. Trash has been after me to buy a backup bass. Given how busy the band has been lately, she thinks I should have an extra axe on hand in case I break a string or pull a Townshend or something during a gig. I've been resisting the idea, not just because I'm cheap (which I am -- very, very cheap), but also because I pretty much already have my dream instrument, a Fender Precision Bass I bought more than a decade ago when I was in my first band, as an upgrade from the used Gibson Epiphone I'd bought with my high school graduation money. Yes, these are the kind of arguments we have: Trash wants me to buy more musical instruments for myself than I want to.

But she kept at it, and when we basically got a 20%-off-$500-or-more-coupon from Guitar Center, my resistance crumbled. I headed to the store. That woman always gets her way.

Trouble was, there wasn't really another bass I wanted badly enough, at least not there, and at least not for the price I was prepared to pay (remember how I'm cheap?). I mean, I could have dropped a grand on another P-Bass, but if I wanted to do that I wouldn't have gotten the Squier model in the first place. Plus it's totally contrary to my perverse self-pride in being the opposite of a gear-snob. I could have gone the other direction and nabbed the $99 Craptone they had stashed shamefully in the corner, but that would be leaving all that coupon-cash on the table. And I was torn between a desire to get something totally different from what I have and my partiality to the classics. The latter helped me rule out the multi-pointed hot-pink ones and the seven-string beasts with graphite bodies and collapsible necks and onboard MIDI interfaces, but I confess that I tried out a big white Thunderbird, on the grounds that John Entwhistle used to play them. It was like playing a snow shovel strung with power lines. Then I remembered that I wouldn't play most of the other goofy-ass looking basses The Ox routinely carried onstage anyway. I gave up, bought some other crap (there's always plenty of other crap you need at Guitar Center – it's like Target for musicians) and headed home otherwise empty-handed.

But then the next day, the last day the coupon code was valid, I went to the other Guitar Center across town, a larger one that I thought might have a wider selection. Which is where I found my new backup bass. Behold:

Ibanez SR300M

No, that's not my actual new bass, that's from a sales website. But mine looks just like it.

I'm not going to bore you with technical specs, because they bore me too and if I did I'd be a total gear snob. But what first caught my eye -- aside from the fact that it was laid out in a plush "coffin" case -- is the extra control knobs, as opposed to my P-Bass's two knobs that only allow me to control the ranges between soft-loud and boom-pimp. I also appreciate the pickups, a pair of humbuckers (dirty!) that rise up in the middle (dirtier!) to mirror the curvature of the strings so they'll all sound equally loud. Count the frets: 24, representing two octaves per string, my personal record. And it looks different, with its 3-D front and warped-Fender outline, but not too different. It's basically as close as I'll ever get to what I call a "space bass."

But I think my favorite thing about it is how light it is. It almost makes my P-Bass feel like I'm playing a snow shovel strung with power lines.

I got home with it and showed it to Trash. She agreed that it was pretty enough, but when I handed it to her she was like, "Whoa!" Even her self-described Muppet-hands, which alone kept her from taking up guitar at all until just a few months ago, fit all the way around the instrument's slim neck. She held it in her lap for a while and played a few notes, for fun. Which, to understand what that means, if she ever actually agreed to pick up my P-Bass, she'd feel like she was playing an oil derrick strung with anchor chains.

"Why don't more girls play bass?" she suddenly asked me from behind my new backup instrument. And instead of flashing on Tina Weymouth, Johnette Napolitano, Kim Deal, Sara Lee, and Meshell Ndegeocello, I realized, "I just bought you a bass, didn't it?" Meanwhile, M. Edium was asking me, "Can I have your old bass?"

I may need to go bass-shopping again soon. Now that I've gotten good at it.

* * *

If you're going to be in Minnesota this weekend, you'll actually have a chance to see my new bass in person. The band I'm in, The Question, will be playing a Toys for Tots benefit show at Sal's Angus Grill in Withrow, Minnesota on Saturday night. We're the second band on the bill and will probably be going on sometime after 9:00 PM. If you show up and say hi I'll tell you when and where our next gig after that's going to be. Hope to see you there!

posted by M. Giant 7:08 PM 2 comments


My sister is the bass player in a blues band in Phoenix. She just started a couple of years ago (was always musically talented with wind instruments) and is happily playing gigs now. I'm so proud of her!

By Anonymous Tin-eared sister, at August 24, 2011 at 8:55 PM  

Ha—isn't there an unspoken rule that if there's a lone female in a rock band and she plays an instrument, she's almost always the bassist? Besides Tina and Johnette, I'm thinking Kim Gordon, Aimee Mann, Sean Yseult, D'arcy Wretzky...well, Christine McVie was the only woman in Fleetwood Mac for a while, but that was a generation earlier.

Oh, and let's not forget the legendary Carol Kaye.

By Anonymous Rob, at August 25, 2011 at 2:22 PM  

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