Basses and Skill: Stick to One or Diversify?

Q: Is there any benefit in mastering two (or more) types of basses? I have a 5-string fretted that is my primary instrument, and that’s the one I take out of the “shed.” After finding a great deal on a fretless 4-string at a pawnshop, my thought was this bass would be perfect for playing jazz, and I started studying walking bass lines on it. Weirdly, I have a hard time playing the walking lines on the 5-string. I don’t have a lot of time each day, so I am wondering if it makes to sense to do everything on one instrument. When I see you and other bassists, you all seem to have one instrument that you always play regardless of jazz, funk, country, etc. So my thought is should I really just be doing everything on one instrument, and then just admiring my other basses on the stand.

Many bassesA: Interesting question! A lot of things come to mind when I think about it and, ultimately, they are all subjective. It’ll be different for everyone.

I think most guys you see that tend to play the same instrument do so because they have found the instrument that speaks to them. Sometimes a bass just feels right, sounds just right, and makes you want to play. You’ll tend to reach for that one every time unless you are going for something specifically different (say for a recording session).

I can relate to your example, because I picked up my first 6-string in college and loved it so much, I sold my other basses (broke college student). This was also a time when I had never even thought about soloing on the instrument and was now working on walking, soloing, chords, etc., constantly. In essence, I learned how to solo on a 6-string!

Years later, I now have an selection of 4- and 6-strings. I love my 4-string Skjold. When I decide to bring that to a jazz gig and have to solo on it all night, I find it a touch more difficult to navigate changes up high on it, because I “learned” how to play jazz on a 6. It’s a mental thing and because of the way I’m wired, I now tend to practice changes and soloing on that instrument because, when I discover something I can’t do well, I attack it.

(Worth noting: 5-strings still confuse me, because I had never owned one until a few years ago. I use my Zon 5 fretless in recording sessions and on the road with Gino Vannelli. It works for me because I’ve learned those songs on that bass, but when I get the bug and bring it to a gig, I find that I have to really pay attention to what string I’m on, which is not the case on a 6-string for me. weird feeling).

I think there’s value in really connecting with an instrument and getting to know that instrument inside and out. The information is transferable of course, but there is something special about a bass that feels like home. A comfort zone, so to speak.

Bassists will play every bass a little differently. There are exceptions too. I never understood how some guys could just buy and sell basses like crazy and never settle down with one. I did that for years, but only when I was looking for the bass that spoke to me. Once I finally learned what I really wanted from an instrument and then found that instrument, I don’t even think about buying another bass that does that thing that bass does.

Each bass will have its own voice and that means it will have a role for certain types of gigs, styles, and sounds. When you pick up a bass, you’ll know how you’re going to play and sound. And that gives you a lot of control in knowing which bass will do the right job.

I wouldn’t worry about it too much, but it may mean that you need to practice a bit more with both basses. If you’re new to bass, I would stick to one instrument for the first few years of development – or until you discover a reason why this bass isn’t quite the one you want to play – or find that bass that really speaks to you.

There is a tendency to get caught up in the collector mentality and think that we need an arsenal of instruments. It’s understandable because there are a lot of beautiful instruments out there and we want to play them but that can be a distraction, if you’re not careful. I don’t know how experienced a player you are or how much you are gigging but, if you’re a beginning or beginning/intermediate player, I’d spend your time working on the fundamentals and really honing your skills on one instrument until you find one that really speaks to you (you’ll know when that happens).

I have a lot of students who have a 4-string, 5-string, 6-string, fretless, acoustic, upright… but still have trouble playing a two-octave scale in the middle of the neck. This tells me that they are more concerned with the gear list or “being a musician” than actually being a musician.

So many people start out on sub-par instruments, and play them for a long time. While this can help build dexterity (ha!), it also provided those folks with the opportunity to play a single bass and learn it.

That said, a new (and better) instrument can help to spark more interest and make you want to play more so, if you’re inspired, go for it! You’re learning though that a bass is not a bass is not a bass. Losing the frets, adding a string – it all forces you to have to take a few steps back and learn some new stuff, which can take away from the time spent making forward progress but can also inspire new ideas.

Do what you think is best in your development, and follow the feel, the sound and how it impacts your desire to play. If you are digging that fretless, dig into that bad boy and learn how to make it speak! A fretless is always a good idea because it forces you to clean up your technique (if you want to play in tune anyway) because you have to be so intentional with note placement. It’s also a huge bonus skill for potential studio work, makes you more valuable to band leaders and it just sounds cool.

Readers, what’s your take? How many instruments do you have? How many are your go-to basses? How do you handle switching? Tell us about it in the comments.

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to askdamian@notreble.com. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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  1. I have been playing bass for 4 and a half years..ive had a total of 34 basses( buy, sell, and trade(mostly trade)..i still haven’t found the one that speaks to me..its very frustrating because it feels something is missing..i have had a dozen of 6 strings..i loved 6 string until something clicked and I just LOVED 4 strings..so even though my string count is under control..the “right”bass is still out there and not with me..that will be the hardest thing is finding that bass..because bass comes natural to me..i have a lifetime to learn this instrument..but I will never master it..it can’t be done in 2 lifetimes.

  2. I only have three basses: a Precision in flats; a Jazz in rounds, and a 5-string Yamaha in rounds. I only play the 5 when I need the lower notes ( all five of them!). 6-string basses are especially foreign to me.

  3. Funny you should mention. Following Damian’s lead, I settled solid on a Skjold six 1.5 years ago, finally overcoming chronic G.A.S. The yield was impressive, my six becoming ever more an extension of my heart and mind. Then recently I slapped a music man four and was impressed by how much more tailored to slapping it was. And yes, at least for now I get lost in the 4’s high range when soloing.

    There’s one multiplier effect from playing different numbers of strings. A four’s B on the E string is like the low B on a six and the fluency I gained on the six becomes useful for navigating the four’s middle register.

    And this about G.A.S.: Like any addiction it takes a while to subside. I bought a new four last week and the excitement of getting it has had me exited about getting more. Knowing that addictions are momentum driven, I can compensate by resisting the temptation to keep buying. A couple of weeks from now I won’t think about it any more. Recently dietitians have noticed the equivalent about eating rich foods and I’ve applied the same logic there. If I’ve had a pizza recently I want more pizza. If I haven’t had a pizza for a while then soon I forget about it which by my metabolism’s age is a good thing.

    I wrote this article about G.A.S. a few years back. It still holds true for me:

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ambigamy/201110/gear-acquisition-syndrome-lustily-buying-more-tools-you-need

    Jeremy

  4. I had the chance to meet with Chuck Rainey last may, at Victor Wooten bass nature camp. He told us about his view on playing with one single bass and knowing it all around. He said, ‘ playing more than one bass is like having to many girlfriends ‘ His quote…note mine! But I stick to it!

  5. I’ve got my Musicman StingRay 4 since about 3 years (my previous bass was a cheap chinese bass, quite similar to Jazz Bass style bass). I don’t know a lot of basses and I still don’t know if that’s my favourite instrument but I notice that 4 strings are not enough and sometimes B string would be very useful in my playing style.

  6. well the fretted fretless dichotomy is pretty necessary for the differences in sound and style. I have 15 basses, and most get used at least once a year on some kind of gig. I have basses that are great for rock (Rickenbacker, Fender Performer, etc) and basses that are great for funk (Fender Jazz, Kubicki, Warwick, Ibanez 5 string). I look at it as the right tool for the job. Of course I play in a variety of bands and thus need a variety of sounds. Years ago when I was writing and playing originals I had one fretted and one fretless that went to every gig and session. They were my sound. So for me it depends on the gig.

  7. Choosing a bass is akin to buying a good suit: start with a classic, then accessorize depending on the occasion! Leo’s finest – Fender and Music Man, are suitable for just about every playing situation.

  8. Very interesting question… To me, it was always a thing of picking one instrument and do everything with it. In the beginning because I could not afford to have more than one :-). Nowadays I own 3 great electric basses, but there is one which is the main bass I do everything with. The other 2 I use sometimes in studio sessions for a slightly different sound. Apart from that I have two U-basses which offer a sound I would never get from an electric and work well for me in a lot of settings which usually would require a double bass or a fretless bass. I think the more you play an instrument, the more you will be able to make it sound like you wish too. In a way, you put your soul into the bass. Doing everything with one bass makes you learn to use your hands to get certain sounds…

  9. I’ve got a few basses, all of them are different and serve a purpose:
    I have a crappy Yamaha BB100 set up as a fretless piccolo bass at the moment. Occasionally it gets to be 1/2 piccolo (D and G) and half normal (E and A) – the mismatched tension is bad for the neck, so this is the only bass I’ll abuse in that manner. I’ve got a 6 for when I need that extended range but it is too heavy for my not so good back, I’ll use it when I need it and then switch to my NS4 for everything that doesn’t require extended range or fretless. The latter calls for yet another bass (4 string).

    Then we get into acoustics. I’ve got an acoustic bass guitar for quiet settings and used to accompany my ex with it. I have one upright for most upright situations (metal strings) and one for slap (fake gut).

    Yeah, that’s too many. If I could get way with it, I’d pull the frets from the NS and play everything on it but I’d lose work if I did.

  10. Thanks for the great article Damian. You know that guy you described who has a 4 string, 5 string, and six string bass and has trouble playing them all? That was me, not too long ago. that was an expensive journey but at least I figured out what I like to play, I’m back to 4 strings and am spending my extra scratch on lessons these days. I have a Fender style P/J that I built, which is my #1, and a Jag copy with the exact same neck profile as the P/J as a backup. I can easily switch between the two and they each have their own voice. It only took me 30 years to settle down and decide to learn how to play….. ;-)

  11. I got good advice from a teacher early on who said whatever bass you play, make sure you spend the time to understand everything about that bass – what’s it best suited for, all the nuances of the tone controls, etc. That has turned out to be great advice for me. I was surprised how much I learned taking this approach even with the most basic instrument, the P Bass. With 8 basses in my collection I recently decided to only keep the ones I really liked and played. I sold off 5 and keep 2 P’s and a Jazz. Much as I like the idea of finding “the one” I think it’s unrealistic. I like different basses for different playing situations so it’s more like I’m looking for the best “one” as it relates to that type of bass rather than best overall. I recently added a Stingray 5 as part of the ongoing quest to find a 5er I really like. One of the nicest ones I’ve ever played. My new rule is to only keep basses that I’ll play and think I’ll use and they must weigh less than. 9.5 lbs.

  12. ive been playing for about 30yrs and just bought my second bass;1st main used bass 79 musicman.bought the second bass[fender jazz]just so id have something to play while the musicman was getting a new fret job.Have to agree with Damienyou need to just keep playing and playing to get comfy with your bass.YOU have TO MAKE THE TIME TO PRATICE.When your watching T.V PLAY UNPLUGED TURN ON DURING COMMERCIALS, AND ALWAYS HAVE YOUR BASS ON A STAND IN FRONT OF YOU..p.s sorry for yelling…lol.

    • They are tools…each has a different situation it shines in…the more DIFFERENT tools the better. so the need for 4,5, frettless, acoustic and upright basses. Having the RIGHT tool for the job helps! When to use a framers hammer verses a finishing hammer…yes they are both hammers but that’s where the similarity ends. I LOVE my basses… thank you

  13. Sometimes you need a flat bladed screwdriver, and sometimes you need a Philips head. A 2 string bass made out of a cardboard box is a heck of a lot of fun too!

  14. I played a precision bass my first 6 years, then a jazz for about the same length of time.I then started to change basses for two reasons.One being that I could never find the sound I wanted.It took a while to realize that it was not the bass but the amplification I was using.I was used to Marshall amps with 4 x10 and when I came to the US for some reason or another, I started using 1×15.So started the gear parade.Demeter, Walter Woods, TC electronics, on and on.The gigs in the late 70’s and 80’s required doubling synth bass lines, that started playing a 5 string.First off was a classic 5 Tobias Sadowsky modern 5, A ZON BB5.Fender 50th anniversary 5 etc.In essence I was starting to collect basses. This then became a hobby as I could write it off my taxes each year.Money spent on good basses is never lost.Today with a collection of 13 one of two basses go out to the gig.My Zon BB5 or my Lackland 55 94.Those are my working basses they have the right sound for shows which is what I normally do.I started out with a Fender sounded locked in my ears and I still think its the best sound for those kinds of gigs.Recently I bought a six which was a return to 1990 when I played a Tobias 6.The difference is I payed $1250 for it and its a smoking axe to say the least.So that’s my fun solo axe which I also practice reading on because its hard.Picking up the 5 I have no trouble reading stuff that I stumble threw on the 6.In essence its all about what you want to do, and what you want to do it on.A lot of cats say they can get a Fender sound on there 6 strings so why not just play a Fender.I believe the road you will take is defined by the bass you want to play.All you need is one but some gigs may require a different sound and style which is something that different basses will bring out in you.

  15. I’ve narrowed it down to a P-bass with flatwounds and a Jazz bass with roundwounds to cover just about everything.

  16. Thank you for such an awesome answer to this question. I was just at a Victor Wooten clinic and someone asked a similar question. They asked him why he does not push the limits with something other than a 4-string. He explained that it was his comfort with that instrument, and it allowed him to play music instead of having to think about the playing the bass. Between the your article, Victor’s clinic and the many comments, my fretless bass might start collecting some dusk (at least for the intermediate time) and my 5-string will get plenty play.

  17. I own a truckload of high end basses but you only really need one. But I love my basses so much I can’t sell them let alone at least make back what I paid for them. It’s actually nice having a number of girlfriends. When you get bored with one you go see the other… I’m such a slut. :-i

  18. In my 18 years of professional playing, I’ve been through periods of discontent with basses I bought fulfilling wants instead of needs. I found that my comfort zone and unique voice is on a short-scale 4-string bass. I also own a short-scale 5-string for certain gigs that call for it, as well as a short-scale fretless 4-string. I can’t foresee wanting to own any other basses.

  19. I think if your aim is virtuosity then the 1 bass approach makes a lot of sense. You get to know and instrument inside out, find it’s quirks and limitations, and can use them to your advantage.

    However, I find that when writing non-improvised music having a couple of different sounding instruments, or instruments that make you play differently, can really open things up for you. Sometimes the right bassline will jump out at me on my upright when I can’t find it at all on my electric bass, or playing the guitar will open up my ears to a new way to approach the harmony on a bass.

    At the end of the day it depends what works for you, and what you want out of your playing, but if you stick with instruments that inspire you every time you pick them up, that’s always going to be a pretty good starting point.

  20. I’ve gone back and forth with this one for years. For most of the 90s and early 2000s, I had 3 basses – a 63 jazz fretless, a 60 precision and a fretted 64 jazz. Fast forward to today and I still have the 2 jazzes, with a Dean hillsboro J. I’m a little paranoid about taking the jazzes on some gigs and that’s when the Dean comes along. Bottom line is that I agree with those who keep to the same instrument forever. You get to know it very well and it responds the same way under most conditions. To me that is more important in a studio session than anything else.

    • I have had my alembic distillate bass since I bought it new in 1983 .. I have other basses and sold them then 2000 I met a fellah who is a luthier and while working in the shop saw a fretless in the corner .. I knew it would be mine .. It is now my main bass the only thing I might add would be a custom short scale 5 string fretless with a high c instead of low b … since I play fretless more I have developed techniques that don’t work as well on a fretted bass ..even though some of those old late 60’s and 70’s tunes sure benefit from the alembic sound the thing weighs 30lbs and I have to sit to play it for any length of time due to a back injury …still won’t sell it .. it is family …lol there are definite benefits from playing fretted and fretless but I don’t know how much it matters how many fretted basses you use .. to me the main differences are presence or lack of frets and number of strings … thats the only reason ya need more than one at least to me .. but fuck lets face it we all want a collection …lol :)

  21. I’ve been playing for about 10 years now and I own 6 Basses. I’m currently trying to sell some because I found “the one” – a Warwick Thumb BO 4 String.
    Before that I played a Warwick Corvette for about 6 years. I also own one Fivestring which I nearly never use… I tend to play droptunings instead of simply using the B-string as I’m just more comfortable with 4 strings. I can just really dig into the strings and lose myself in the music instead of having to worry about hitting the wrong string ;).

  22. It’s always good to have more than one tool in your tool box.

  23. Really interesting post, and obviously interesting to readers since its generated so many comments. Damian, I think it’s also really interesting that you feel comfortable on the 4 and 6, but that a 5 forces you to “think about what string I’m on”. I have been playing exclusively 4’s for a number of years, but recently bought a 5. I have the same issue. I’m more a fan of the “1 Bass” approach, but I’ve tried to keep all of my instruments as close in sound and feel as possible (Lakland 4401, 5501). That seems to help.

  24. When I started out I bought a POS EKO violin hollowbody. I graduated to a Peavey T40, Rickenbacker 4001 (I owned at least two or three in my career), Fender P (which I held onto) Ibanez Musician, Gibson T Bird, Steinberger, an Ibanez 5 string, and an Aria ProII. I finally bought (and stayed with) for the last 15 years a Squier P bass Special.

    I have tried or borrowed other instruments such as the Sting Ray, or Epiphone, even an actual Fender P, but have always gone back to the Squire due to it having the sound that I (& those I was playing with) needed for everything I do. The only other instrument that I own is the upright that I actually learned to play the basics on back in the late seventies. I am a member of a local songwriters group, a hard rock cover band, an Stax/Motown R&B/Blues cover group & the P&W group at church. The Squier covers all my electric gigs exceptionally.

  25. It’s interesting that several people have mentioned Victor Wooten, implying he only plays 4 string bass. Actually, he also plays 5 string fretless (he’s absolutely MEAN on it!), 6 string, tenor 4 string (ADGC, I believe), a 4 string with octaves (he plays the root with his left hand and the octaves with his right…), upright bass and cello– tuned in 5ths! Not to mention banjo, etc. I asked him about once about the number of strings on a bass (I play 7 string basses: fretted, fretless and a 7 string electric upright which he totally digs). He told me if the number of strings were an excuse, we’d all be playing one string basses! Actually, Victor, Patitucci and a slew of other monster bassists have all played my instruments and love them. Some, like Bill Dickens actually made the switch and now play 7’s too.
    As for me, I have to approach each bass almost as a completely different instrument which can be stressful when trying to allocate practice time, keeping up with callouses, etc. But I believe it’s worth the effort and I get called for different gigs specifically for each particular instrument! I would by no means try to say it’s right for everybody, but would certainly recommend it wholeheartedly.

  26. It’s funny I was telling a friend who was wowed by my collection that bass player don’t just love the music, the sound and feel – we actually love the look of the instruments. The curves, long neck, smooth bridge, throuhg body, exotic woods – it all art… we are her inner beauty…

    • Have you ever had a bass made from scratch by a luthier? It’s an amazing experience! All of mine were hand made, one-of-a-kind, and I got to watch the entire process– even helped pick out the wood.

  27. I don`t even have a 4 string! I really should get one.I play mostly 5s, but when some gigs require it{Aka a trio Jazz gig or smaller bands} I tend to play my 6! I like being able to tap chords when the guitar player or keyboardist is soloing.Also it`s just great to have that extra range in a solo setting.I tend to slit my practice time between 5 and 6 string instruments.Making sure I spend equal time with both! As far as gigs go.I try to take the two basses that are best suited for the type of gig! If it`s a blues gig I`ll take two fives, same goes for most pop, top 40 cover gigs.When I have a jazz gig or trio gig then I tend to take two sixes or a six and a five! As for choices.I pick my Basses mostly by how they feel! When you get to a certain price point just about everything will sound good.Especially if you`ve got great great to plug into! So once again it comes down to how it feels in my hands!

  28. Long story short, I have 2 basses that I’m comfortable with. My main bass is the 5 string, because I go into the lower range pretty often and I don’t have to switch positions as much. I still love my four string. I’m also currently renting an upright (bow and piz.). That’s also a fun bass since I got the action lowered quite a bit.

    I would suggest getting one that you love and then if it’s expensive, buy a slightly cheaper one that’s easy to play as a spare, then play on both to get familiar with them so it won’t be a problem to switch.

  29. I first thought this would look at the horizontal/electric vs vertical/upright basses…… Now there we’d find differences in basses…… That said, for playing dates, my main el bass for 30-year has been a fretless 4-jazz, d’tuner. At home I play my other basses for creative inspiration. But for live I need to know exactly ‘where it is’, not ‘how it might’.

  30. I don’t have a lot of basses and they are all 4 strings. I have 2 fretless washburns a Jaguar and El stunt bass a cheepo Carlo Robelli that is strung with piccolo strings and an alternate tuning (EAEB).
    I picked up the fretless for the first time a few years ago after playing fretted for 40 years, It was an adjustment but I found the freedom revitalizing and noticed that when I picked up the fretted Jag some of the expressiveness of the fretless came over with it. I’m sure it’s different for every player but I find that occasionally changing around my basses adds to my overall ability.

  31. I started on the Upright for quite a few years before I picked up my first bass guitar, and that switch really pushed me. To this day, I’m still a lot better being simple on the Upright, but as soon as I pick up the Bass Guitar I just have to have some fun with the lines. And now, I’ve moved up to my Schecter Stiletto Custom-6. I’ve stuck with this bass for almost a year now, and I love the sound of it. I got myself some Fodera strings, and they’re just killer.

    But the biggest thing for me, is as soon as I had a bass with 24 frets, I couldn’t bare to have any less. Every time I picked up a bass with less than 24, I became wholly uninterested in the Music and much more interested in searching for anyone who would be willing to let me borrow their bass for a rehearsal/gig. I would say, sticking to one bass is definitely the way to virtuosity though.

  32. I’ve been playing bass for 17 years and it is my career. I have only owned two basses, (1996 Ibanez SR300BK and early 2000s Carvin LB75) and never played both. Now I’m getting the collection itch. I plan on building/buying a few basses over the next couple years. I think I benefited from focusing on one bass at a time for a many years at a time. I say stick with one for a while and then branch out!

  33. This was an awesome article. Really well-loaded with information. I have multiple instruments, but I only use 3 basses, I would say my Fibenare 60%, my Fender jazz 35% and my Höfner 5%.

  34. I’ve been playing 2 ( ’66 and ’80) different 4 string P-Basses for 45 years and feel so @ home on them it’s effortless to play. Even when I quit for a few years when I started playing again it was all still there. they just fit me like a glove.

  35. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yglAuOceEPo
    Billy Sheehan chimes in on this during his clinic. One of the best answers, but if everyone listened, 80% of the posts on Talkbass would disappear.

  36. I’ve got three 4 strings (Fender Jaguar, Gibson Thunderbird, and a Takamine acoustic, four 5 strings (Spector, Musicman Stingray, fretless Warwick Corvette, and one NXT5 EUB), and a 6 string Ibanez. If you play in standard tuning like an adult, each string you add only gives you 5 more notes, I don’t usually benefit from the high C string even though I played a 6 before I ever played a 5. I read once that old kung fu masters would favor a certain bo staff because the more you hold a piece of wood, the more the oil in your hands conditions the wood naturally, and there’s a sort of compromise that happens where the person and the instrument/tool change and grow accustomed to eachother. I always liked applying that idea to music. I like what Chris Thile had to say when someone asked how to switch from guitar to mandolin or vice vers, “Don’t play guitar, play music.” A great bassist could make even a low end/poorly setup bass sound amazing, the idea is to get an instrument that doesn’t get in the way of expressing yourself. I remember when I saw Victor at a clinic when someone asked him what his bass sounds like, he took it off, set it on the stool, and walked off the stage and said “That’s what that bass sounds like, the music isn’t in the bass, it’s in you, the bass is just a tool.” Here’s a link to a clinic where Hal Galpert talks about how there is no instrument, that you are the intsrument: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_7DgCrziI8.

    Finally, here’s an interview where our favorite uncle, Stefan Lessard, offers some great advice for when to trade up for a new bass in this interview: http://www.bassfrontiersmag.com/video-interview-stefan-lessard.

  37. I have a Warwick 5 string, which I’ve had for 10 years and adore.. It’s definitely my go-to bass and feels really comfortable – I love that extra bottom end I can get! But I do have a fretless Shergold I’ve had since my teens and love to play occasionally. Recently I got not one, but two upright basses – having never played that before! A Stagg electric – and (an out of the blue gift from a friend’s father – 80 years old and an ex jazz band bassist, who wanted his blonde upright to go to a good home!) a “proper” double bass. I am lucky enough to have a good friend who is a very experienced upright player and is prepared to teach me. So far, I’m having a lot of fun with them – and think I have a feel for them – but don’t want to start any bad habits!

  38. You need to find something that not only speaks to you, but something that you can use to speak with. Jumping from bass to bass doesn’t give you time to make that connection with it. Only playing a bass for a couple months before trading it in for a “better one” doesn’t give you enough time to find every little detail that instrument has to offer. When you find all of those details (good and bad) you’re finally making that bass an extension of yourself rather than just another instrument that you have no connection to. I’ve seen some killer players on some basses that most people would cringe at the thought of playing, but those players make their instruments sing because they know that bass in and out.

    In addition to knowing every little nuance of a particular bass, holding on to a bass for a while gives you a chance to experiment with string choice, bridge adjustments, etc. All of these things could change the entire feel, and even sound, of a bass.

    When most people buy a house, they don’t move out a couple months later because they don’t like the way the bathroom looks. They make adjustments to that room, clean it up, and spend time on it.

  39. I’ve got unlimited access to two Alembics, both older than me. A Spoiler 4 String and Exploiter 8 String. Both are interesting to play! The Exploiter in particular has so many different sounds and really comes alive with a pick. Yet, when I strap on my used ’94 USA Peavey Fury I just go, “Ahh!”

  40. OK, my 2 cents. I prefer to play improvisational music, i.e., jazz and the like. however, country music has been paying my bills. recently, I decided I would no longer take my ’66 jazz bass to gigs for a myriad of reasons. So, now I take my heavily autographed fretless MM sterling everywhere. Yes, I’m playing fretless bass in a country band. I don’t think I’m the first. my prize bass is a 35″ fretless roscoe 6 string with a built in midi controller which is sadly, rarely used and leads me to my question regarding the current question. what do you think about muscle memory and switching back and back and forth and forth from 34″ to 35″ scale basses. especially on fretless! I don’t seem to have much trouble because the roscoe is such a well set up instrument, however, there are moments.

  41. I had a custom made “IbanezMusician” from the 80’s fretless. It was really nice and I want to be a Jaco. After2 years I turned it back for a fretting job. That helped me to develop slapping technique and play more loose lines without paying attention to “in tune” due to hand position. I used this only bass for 30 years till I finally got a Sting Ray MusicMan. Great bass. This is the one.
    I went back to the luthier who removed the frt of my old boy. I am really enjoying both. No 5 or 6 strings. – don’t want to add more strings to my playing.