Q: I see so many people spending thousands of dollars on handmade basses, but so many of the recordings I listen to are recorded using a standard P or J bass. What is it about these high end basses that is so “worth it” to so many?
A: There are so many possible answers to this question!
For some, it is simply a matter of beauty, individualism or even simply ego. For many others, however, it is a part of the quest to find that one instrument that really speaks to them. (I’m in the latter group.)
While a bass that could pass as a beautiful work of art or craftsmanship is a wonderful thing, I don’t honestly care what it looks like as long as it makes me want to play and helps me sound good.
My initial plunge into the handmade bass market began because I simply couldn’t find the instrument that I really felt 110% content with. Even to this day, of the half dozen basses I own, and the two or three I use regularly, I actually only love one on them.
It doesn’t need to be handmade for me to love it, either. I have fallen head over heals for a vintage bass before (’67 Fender Jazz), but it would’ve cost me about $7,000 to buy that one and I just didn’t have it.
For me, the amount of money I’d spend on the perfect instrument is only limited by what will clear in my bank account. I’d honestly pay a million dollars for the bass and rig that knocked me off my feet, if I had the money to do it.
You can’t put a price tag on tone, and especially that perfect combination of tone and feel.
I would assume that most bassists (collectors don’t count) are simply looking for the bass that gets them excited to play and the bass that gives you that smile when you hit the first note. For many, that means having something built to spec and having someone who (you hope) understands what you are going for in your sound and in your hands.
There are always the guys that will buy a Fodera just because Victor plays one. Many of them will find happiness in it too. There’s nothing wrong with that! I had a Fodera and it was fantastic… but it didn’t fit my hands and body the way I wanted it to, so I sold it within a year. I’m sure that if I had bought two or three more, they would’ve nailed it, but that would’ve cost me a small fortune. I was lucky enough to find a small luthier who could take the time to really understand what I wanted (he even came to a gig to hear my sound and played my basses to feel how I had them set-up) and wound up delivering a bass that was very close, right off of the bat. He then took that bass back and built an entirely new bass, altering some things based on my feedback. He nailed it. I lucked out and found the guy ho understands me musically. Now, any new bass is the result of a specific musical need.
The vintage market is actually more inflated than the custom build market, in many ways. Some stout competition keeps the custom jobs from getting too far out of a realistic price range.
There are as many reasons to buy one bass over another as there are reasons to own more than one pair of shoes. Some of us will make one or two pairs work for everything, and some of us need a pair for every occasion (and some just because they’re cool).
I don’t begrudge anyone’s reasons for buying gear. I’m just glad that people are passionate about music and especially love when they support independent companies.
All in all, if a Squier revs you up more than your buddy’s $13,000 custom bass, rock that Squier for the rest of your life and love every second you spend with it. It doesn’t matter as long as you feel good about your music and the gear you use to make it.
How about you guys? What is your dream bass? What are you playing now? Have you found nirvana yet? Tell us about it in the comments.
Photo by LyndieH