Boutique Basses: Are They Worth It?

Custom Bass

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

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to [email protected]. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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  1. I have a handful of good instruments including Warwick and Shcekter but still my go to basses are a 1957 “P” bass I’ve had for years and a ’92 Stingray five. The both fit me well. I played the “P” on the road for years and never got a bad sound out of it.

  2. Right now I am playing an Elrick platinum 5string neck through. It’s light, looks great, sounds great, and plays like butter! I can play for hours with no fatigue – seriously! It has a wide variety of tones.

  3. Dream bass would have to be the Ric 4003, because of cliff.
    I’ve been through 30-40 basses in 5 years, variety of brands currently I still have Warwicks, fenders, LTD, Ibanez, Epiphone, Schecter- you know the whole lot, inducing a few custom shop models.

    But still I lust for that one Ric, I could never fund one so I’m getting a custom made rickenfaker, black guard, black body and black hardware, my own personal 4003 that I already have a name for :
    The Blackenbacker.

    Then after I get it I’m going to mod the tits off it.

  4. I look at them as tools, and it’s a matter of choosing the right tool for the job. A vintage J or P or Music Man suits most recording situations fine, where (for me) tone matters most. For live applications, I go for a comfortable used bass most times and swap hardware out until I get the sound I’m after.

    The exception being my most recent one, a Carvin SB4001 – I only bought it because I knew what it felt like before I got it, and chose the hardware based on personal experience.

  5. Oh man, I am longing for that perfect bass… I know what I expect it will be, and I know who should built it… Although I have a limitation, money… So therefore I play the second best, my previously custom built bass which I love and adore!

  6. I have three basses that I love for different reasons. My Sadowsky 24fret 5 string has the best lowend of all my basses however it doesn’t bark like my Yamaha P-Bass which I also love and then I also have a Yamaha TRB 5 string which has a beautiful midrange too it. Between these three if I could I would take the best elements of all three to make one super bass :) Being that Yamaha makes two of my fave basses if they had a custom shop I would hit them up and wouldn’t wink at spending several thousand on something that would replace all my basses.

  7. 1969 Ric 4001, a mid 80’s Yamaha BB500, and a new Ibanez SR506,,, all the Boutique I need. It’s in the hands.

  8. I rock a mid nineties SDGR SR405, looks like shit, but it feels perfect and has that warm rounded sound with a bright kick that I love.

  9. Spector.
    Sound of this basses is the everything for me.

  10. Only have 2. Fender ’76 Precision, and a new Peavey BXP-5. To each his own I say.

  11. I currently play an unmarked spector, And an Ibanez GER 900, love them both, but I have always wanted a Carl Thompson. It wasn’t Les Claypool’s playing that made me want one. I happened to find his site and clicked through a few pictures was sold on the wood work alone, hearing les’ tone was a plus. Years later I met someone who owned one, and have never heard better tone from any bass I had played or seen played. Sadly, Carl himself is getting up there in the years, and has a 4 year waiting list for a new bass…. also I have owned cheaper cars… there’s that too.

  12. I currently own 7, yes 7 basses right now. I have 2 Yamaha Attitude’s. 1 is the LTD II in Seafoam Green, the other is the 10th Anniversary Attitude, #38 of 300 made. I have a Spector Euro 4LX and a Euro 5LX, I have 2 Custom made basses by, Mark Campellone, and a MIM Fender Jazz. Each one has it’s own personality, sound, feel and looks. Which one do I play the most? It depends on how I feel but, I do favor the Spector 4LX. As far as my “Dream Bass,”.
    that would be an Alembic Series I, just like Stanley Clarke’s “Brown Bass!”
    In all of my years of playing, I have owned over 35 to 40 basses! Have I found “Nirvana” yet? I’ll let you know when I own an Alembic Series I!

  13. Most producers I’ve worked with prefer the passive Fender P & J basses – and I can hear why! They always sound great – my dream bass is any instrument which serves the music!

    • i have a 85 p bass that if i can play the part well thats all she needs the tone is in the Hands its the player!!

      • Vinny Sansone

        One of the wisest answers right here. I own ten instruments myself and still believe this is the most accurate viewpoint. Put a 150.00 Squier in the hands of Nathan East and see what comes out. Lol.

  14. I recently got a Carvin LB70P and it is like no other bass I have ever owned or tried in terms of how it fits me.
    The first time |I played it |I felt like a better player. That feeling has not diminished with familiarity. My second favourite would be my old (Late 60’s ) Jazz which regrettably was stolen in 72′.

  15. I feel like the rest of you mostly. I have 7 basses, a couple of custom Carvins, a Kubicki, an F Bass, and a Marcus Miller fender jazz bass. The one I play the most? The Marcus MIller Jazz that I got from a pawn shop for $350 and put Seymour Duncan Basslines and a Bartolini NTBT 918 EQ in! The F Bass is gorgeous! But you just can’t beat the sound of that Jazz!

  16. I own 13 instruments, 8 guitars, 13 basses, a string bass and a banjo. Out of all of them is a highly modified Lake Placid Blue 1964 Fender Jazz Bass that I’ve owned since 1984 and it is my main player and has been for over a 1/4 of a century. When I got it it had been repainted right before and although I didn’t realize it at the time it also had the fingerboard replace which I realized when I replace tuners on it and saw some original blue paint around the tuner ferrel holes and when it was re-painted the body was sanded incorrectly, which I was very disappointing by at the time realizing my ‘vintage investment’ wasn’t an original. Considering that fact I have since added a Sadowsky pre-amp and a Badass bridge to it. I’ve owned several 5 string basses over the years, including a Ken Smith 5 String, too heavy and didn’t seem to cut through horns and loud guitars live, but sounded great in the studio, A Music Man 5, limited sound and the neck moved a lot as I traveled with it, a Padulla 5, the neck went south on it, which was too bad as it was pretty good and also my most recent 5, a Lakland 55-94 Delux 5 that I loved for a few years, but I’m stuck with it as it now has a non-functioning truss rod which has left the neck with a huge bow in it :(. I am still looking for the perfect 5 string, very frustrating, especially now that money is tight. I own an all original 62 Jazz Bass, which is wonderful and ridiculously expensive, a 72 jazz neck I put together with an original spec body, a 74 P-bass with flatwounds and a mute, love it, 73 fretless Pbass neck on a body I built to original specs and a few others, but I always end up playing my modified 64 Jazz Bass. I always go back to that beaten old beauty that has taken me around the world. It is the one, if only they all felt, played and sounded like that that one does to me.

    • Although I have more expensive guitars, my go to is a mexican powerhouse strat. I’d hate to lose it, but it’s not that precious. Leave the good ones at home under lock and key..IMHO.

    • Mexican or not, if you love it, it’s precious. You know as well as I do John, no matter what you’re playing, as long as it’s comfortable and playable, the sound is in our hearts and hands. I think you’ll smoke any axe you put your hands on brother.

    • If you’re having issues finding a viable 5, look into the higher end ibanez series. I own an sr755, and LOVE it. The neck plays like silk, and it’s very easy to just pick up and play…..just my opinion

  17. Any bass will get you from point A to point B. you might as well enjoy the ride. Ideally you’ll meld with your bass. So you might as well be comfortable with it.

  18. I own my favorite basses. My 1st is a Traben Phoenix, and the other is a Squier Jazz. I prefer to use the Traben, but sometimes I have to have the Squier for the sound, a spare, or when I play through my schools amp, because it doesn’t work well at all with anything active.

  19. My custom Baxendale (Athens Ga.)was about 3k and it is my absolute dream come true. I call it “Sparkles” check it out on my page.

  20. The PERFECT bass is an elusive and subjective thing. I’ve only ever owned one custom guitar and the odd thing is I found a used guitar at a QUARTER the price that I ended up liking more. Since I’ve converted to bass I have played many many basses and I do have an idea what I would purchase if money was no object, but then I think back to the guitar fiasco… and I am constantly haunted by the idea of paying a boat load of money for something I will end up out growing. BUT I would still buy my dream bass if I ever had the chance any way :)

    • What? No home-made bass like the guitar I made you? ;)

    • Check out Carvin’s Brian Bromberg signature bass, passive or active, 4 or 5 string, check out the video on their site to see the cool ergonomic features like how it balances on your leg if you ever play sitting down (no strap needed).

  21. The thing many people don’t realize is that once you get into the $3000 and up range, you’re actually better off getting a boutique bass made where YOU can choose the woods, electronics, radius, number of strings etc. rather than spending big bucks dor and off the shelf model.
    Not only that, but the payment terms are often much more favorable than a music store: many builders will start work on your bass with a 10% to 30% deposit, and you have a lead time of 6-18 mos to pay the balance. Try getting that deal from GC.
    I think boutique basses are also great if you’re the type of player who has a sound in his head and is looking for an instrument to express it (as opposed to the guys who believe you should wring every bit of sound out of the given limitations of a priduction instrument-both of which are valid viewpoints).
    The downside is when people spend $1000s of dollards on “furniture basses” with gaudy inlays and laminated woods that serve no putpose other than to show they spent money; or when they spend thousands on a “Super Fender” P or J stlye boutique instrument – what is the point in that, when Fender does the same thing for a lot cheaper?

  22. The thing many people don’t realize is that once you get into the $3000 and up range, you’re actually better off getting a boutique bass made where YOU can choose the woods, electronics, radius, number of strings etc. rather than spending big bucks on anoff the shelf model.
    Not only that, but the payment terms are often much more favorable than a music store: many builders will start work on your bass with a 10% to 30% deposit, and you have a lead time of 6-18 mos to pay the balance. Try getting that deal from GC.
    I think boutique basses are also great if you’re the type of player who has a sound in his head and is looking for an instrument to express it (as opposed to the guys who believe you should wring every bit of sound out of the given limitations of a production instrument-both of which are valid viewpoints).
    The downside is when people spend $1000s of dollards on “furniture basses” with gaudy inlays and laminated woods that serve no purpose other than to show they spent money; or when they spend thousands on a “Super Fender” P or J stlye boutique instrument – what is the point in that, when Fender does the same thing for a lot cheaper?

  23. Any hand made instrument with proper wood selection and knowledgable hands is way better sounding than a mass produced instrument IMHO. It’s a lottery these days to find a brand name bass that works well. Some do, most don’t. People get caught up in the name brand and must have it etc, but our of the 11 basses I own, I always go back to the three handmade ones because of feel, tone and even volume across the fret board.
    Just my 2 cents worth!

  24. I don’t think a Bass it truly “Boutique” unless it’s made especially for you and to your specifications and needs, as Damian’s was. You can spend a lot on a high end bass and it still may not be right for you. “My Bass” is a Lakland 4401 which I bought off the rack. It just works for me.

  25. Ken Smith 1998 6 String (BSG?) I can’t remember. That and my Eden rig have served me wonderfully for 15 years now. I just recently got an American Jazz 5 which is also a great bass. Over the years I have had a 1974 Fender Music Master (guitar length junk bass which I miss to this day), a Peavey (can’t remember the model either), a Carvin LB 70, a Music Man 5, a Victor Bailey Jazz 5 and a 1975 Jazz Reissue. The Smith is by far my favorite and its why I still have it.

  26. Boutique exotic basses might be soo beautiful, but Fender’s renowned beautifulness is one different thing. The J-bass sounding, playability, and handsomeness, is totally matched with me. Legend!

  27. My dream bass is a Ken Smith BSR6. I have the BSR 5
    And I just can’t put it down. My Fender Deluxe
    Is getting jealous and I only play my Schecter 6 string
    Diamond Series when I’m practicing lol. KEN SMITH
    RULES !!!!!! PEACE

  28. yeah ive been using a yamaha for about 4 years and it was great, but last month I got a bass made by a luthier in puerto Rico, and that bass rocks! its the bass with that sound I wanted! really great! you can check him out, Ricardo Lugo!

  29. I currently play a custom Benavente SCD6 Bass. When I had it built, I threw everything and the kitchen sink into it. My reasoning behind that was so I could reproduce any classic tones (p bass, jazz bass, music man…) all from 1 bass. I would never go back to playing anything else! Chris is a killer builder and Brian from Low End really helped me get everything I wanted from my instrument! That being said, find what works for you and run with it. Don’t judge anyone else on their choices. They have their own opinions on their sound!

    • Chris can LITERALLY build you the world in a bass. He really is a visionary in that way. What makes him even cooler is that he’s wicked down to earth and won’t beat you over the head with the price tag, as well.

  30. Didnt think i needed a custom baboon before i tried the mayones basses. I just got my mayo prestige custom two months ago and cant stop playing. It’s incredibly versatile and adapts perfectly to the dynamics of my style. Now i can no longer blame the intstrument

  31. Once again a good article with balanced views. I’ve been messing around for years trying out various basses building a sense of confusion and knowledge about myself. The thrill og aquiring a new cool instrument gives an inspirational boost, which however can be shallow because hunting that feeling will get you through a lot of basses and demand too much of your finances, I’ve ended up with an agreement of sticking to the passive J-ish german manufactured bass that has communicated best with me so far in order to get to know it well and to have it broken in properly. I know people who enjoy ordering many instruments from Mörch, a very good danish lutiher, they get loads of amazing instruments suited for their needs at the time they are built, but often that changes in time. He is known to be great at pinpointing peoples whishes though.

  32. A 6 stringer on a 5-string neck, something like John Myung’s Bongo bass, would be my dream bass.

  33. I must say -i have had many basses over the years -I still have and play as my main Bass a guild pilot bass -it was built in 1983 or 1984-everything is still original it IS my nirvana-I paired it through a SWR 350 with 2 Goliath iii cabinets great tone -Iwould not trade it for anything-However I did have a Pedulla fretless which Is the best fretless I have ever played(Buzz Bass)-TONE and Feel-Very individual.

  34. While you can find a production instrument that is outstanding, it’s probably one unit out of a thousand where all the components work together to create awesome tone. Small luthiers on the other hand, pay so much attention to detail, it’s rare to even find a partial dud. I’ve never picked up an Alembic or Spector (USA) that sounded bad. In the end it’s all about tone and what tone turns the player on.

  35. I have certain brands I really like and have owned. However, 8 years ago I got my first Mike Lull, and it´s just right. I will never part with this instrument! Other basses will come and go, Need a fretless, need a five-string etc. I´m just really happy that I foundt my stringed unicorn.

  36. It is in the hands and the ear, first and foremost. The remarkable ability of us humans to imagine a sound and produce that sound with touch and experience is worthy of close study. I use Alleva-Coppolo 4 and 5 string P basses and a Hofner Contemporary series Beatle bass for the short scale stuff. For the record, the Hofner is better built and better sounding than any vintage one I have ever had the chance to play. I play upright, also, and have an Upton Standard. 4 basses, that’s it. The A-C P basses (KBP4 and 5) in my experience are a better spending of money than vintage Fenders, they have better pitch focus and superior fretwork. Practice well. Learn to read music notation.

  37. Dream bass? maybe when I can finally afford a custom Mørch bass… Or when I build one myself :P

  38. My first Conklin custom bass is now 20 years old. My second one is 19 years. Both look and play like the day they were built– absolute perfection, and there are simply no equals in tone and playability. They fit ME like a glove and are MY dream basses because they were painstakingly hand built and tailored just for me and never reproduced. Oh, and my Conklin Guitars custom electric upright is now 12 years old! There’s nothing like the experience of having an instrument hand made for you by an expert. Also, there’s a reason why people are willing to shell out $$$ and wait for up to 2 years for a custom instrument. Fender didn’t ‘invent’ the bass. Bass as an instrument (I’m talking all kinds of basses) has been around for centuries and there are still artists who make it their lifetime’s work to build the best that can be made.

  39. I find people use the P bass, J bass or Stingray because they want ‘that’ sound. I find I can get it myself by adjusting my right hand and a subtle pickup pan and careful EQ. It’s fooled people in the past. One thing you can’t really emulate are flatwounds or old strings.

  40. A Squier P was my player for a long time. I recently played an American J and felt an instant connection with it. So much that I was compelled to shell out for it. It’s beautiful and I love playing it.

  41. I söld a few of my guns to fund my my 6-string Warwick that sounds like something god made in his custom shop… never been more happy :)

  42. This is a question I have frequently wondered about. But one question still remains… if you are not a soloist, but one who prefers the low end groove, does a boutique bass make any difference? I tend to rely on my strings, amps (internal and external) and my BassEFX Enabler pedal to achieve the right tone. What am I missing… besides several thousand dollars?

  43. I have been playing a warwick Flaming Blond thumb bass for quite a while and I have yet to find a sweeter sounding bass, I supposed there are a lot of great basses out there but I think there comes a time when you become satisfied with what youve got.

  44. William Voight.
    I am fortunate to own three six string basses. My first call instrument is an Alembic Series one six string.
    this bass is mostly hand made and has a very even tone and accuracy over all the neck, with out having to step all the dead spots that occurred on many of the basses I had previously owned. My other two basses are Yamaha TRB6 models which I have retrofitted with Bartolini quad coil pickups.the difference is quite spectacular.Lovely warm mids with lots of punch. I have converted one to a lined fretless and have fitted a Yamaha midi pick up to the second for recording sampled sounds.
    I realize that there are as many opinions on bass preferences as there are bass players, but as a 70 year old musician I wanted an instrument that took away all the excuses and put the onus on me to produce the goods.
    Also I tell myself that after all these years I have almost paid my dues and deserve a first class instrument.
    It is not such a silly idea to take the importunity to try out a top of the line instrument, you could save yourself thousands of dollars in the long run. I have has at least 15 basses during my years of playing and feel that if I had bought the Alembic first I wouldn’t have looked any further.

  45. It can be a lot harder to get a well setup fretless bass out of a shop too, whereas with a hand built bass it’s likely to come with minimal setup needed (mine just needed a slight truss rod adjustment, going from hot and humid to cold and dry). Also for people with certain preferences it can be hard to find what you want in the configuration you desire. It’s pretty hard to find a 6 string 16.5mm spacing fretless with a thin neck that’ll balance on a strap just right.

  46. Dream bass: Dingwall Combustion. Perfect weight, balance, and a B-string to die for. I discovered “my” tone with very little tweaking. Dream rig for Combustion: Phil Jones and/or Greenboy/Tech 21/QSC set-up…..LOUD and DEEP elegantly covered in a fairly lightweight setup!

  47. A Wal MK2 is a dream bass but I get on well witn my jbs :)

  48. I play two Cort GB-35A 5string basses (one sunburst, the other cherry-wine), made in Indonesia. Bought the sunburst in a shop for 500 swissfrancs, wich was replaced by the cherry-wine in the shop window. Bought it ’bout two years later at a pawnshop for 270 swissfrancs. So I got two identical basses to choose from. Both sound good and are very relieable. IMO a perfect bargain. It’s not always the money that counts. i.e. its always the player and never the instrument that makes the tone. I also own a 84 Fender P-Bass and a 71 Aria / Diamond 4 Stringbass. They are all cool, but since I exclusively play fivestrings the’re more or less dust traps. Beside I own a 5 string acoustic Bass made by Harley Benton. This ones a real cheapo, but it suits to go out in the summer to play at the shore of the lake. I think as long as your pleased with your bass everything’s just fine.

  49. I’ve been playing bass a long time and gone through a lot of them. If the bass is well constructed and can be setup properly, then tone is in the hands. One thing I always go back to is how loud is the bass unamplified. If it sound without amplification, it can be made to sound great through an amp. The other thing is really the setup. I’ve gone through a lot of repairman over the years. Many will only set a bass up to factory specs and nearly nothing else, which is why I learned to do basic setups myself from the few repairmen I trust. I have a couple of vintage pre-CBS jazzes that I bought well before the vintage craze hit, so they were quite reasonably priced. The other thing with lower end instruments like Fender mexican made is that you may have try lots of them to find the right one. I’ve got a 2002 MIM Jazz that is like my go to bass for anything. I also have a Dean Hillsboro J that is sounds great but it took some time to get the setup right. It all boils down like Damian said, does it have the sound you want and does it make you want to play.

  50. I used to be an Alembic fan; still like them but these days I play a Peavey Grind 5 and a fretless Lace Helix 5. The Peavey is a neck thru lie the Alembic and shares the extended upper bout that prevents neck dive. Unlike the Alembic it’s cheap enough that I have no problem modifying it to suit my needs, something I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing on my Alembics. The Lace is cheap and sounds great. I don’t wonder why I spent kilobucks for a fretless that only gets played 10% of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE boutique instruments. My acoustic guitars are all handmade to my spec. It’d take 5 figures and a few years of waiting to replace them and I still take them on gigs. Bass-wise I could just fine with just a 5 string P-Bass.

    • You ever played a Stingray or Bongo bass?

    • Yeah, they’re good. I just want one pickup and 2 knobs on my basses anymore. My Pod X3 Live takes care of the rest.

    • I love Alembic basses, I have an Essence 5 which I had some problems with but the tone and feel of this beauty more than makes up for them!

      I think it’s good to have a good quality “classic” sounding instrument, like a P or a J (or both) – I have a Geddy Lee Jazz myself and I think it’s great – and if it’s your tone just stick to it but if it’s not, try to add something different to your arsenal. Just check out as many basses as you can and get whatever speaks to you tone and comfort-wise. But don’t get rid of the “classic” bass(es) because the traditional sound will come in handy now and then.

      @ Chris Callahan – I like a good Stingray (not all are good) for some applications but every Bongo I’ve tried sounded just like it looked: like a toilet seat.

  51. My good friend Alex Watson ( was able to combine all my favorite aspects of the J-Bass feel and mojo with the tone woods and growl of my 1997 Warwick Corvette. It was more than I would ever normally pay for a bass. But it was totally worth it. The first time i plucked that low B, i was in loove.

  52. Mine Squier Standard Made in Indonesia, is defreted, and almost destroyed (I slap hard and don’t have another bass nor money for it), pickups work strange and have almost none lows, it hisses like an angry bee, my friend got me into putting smiley faces on headstock, so it look’s stupid now, it’s pot’s don’t work like they should. I don’t know if I like the tone, I know, that I need to work on my ear (cover as many songs as possible), and earn some bucks, before I ever invest in bass eq. Right now, I’m disappointed by almost all bass equipment.

  53. Over the years there have been many basses, well into double figures and out of them all there are only three that I love.The first was a Hagstrom Swede bass, a short scale mahogany body beauty that played like a charm and sounded great, it was traded in on a Gibson Les Paul recording bass that turned out to be a pig, well we where all young once.The second was a Squire fretless, great neck and tone for a cheap bass, I used it for about a year till a pal of mine made me an offer to good to refuse, so I thought, and a swap was done for a Yamaha BB2000.The last is my pride and joy and I will not be parting with it not for love or money, it is a Status custom made for me after a visit to the Status booth at the London Bass show in 2012, I was able to talk to Rob Green and later went to his factory and a design was put in place, it is a very simple bass built around the layout of the Musicman I owned at the time, single humbucker, volume, bass.and treble controls and for a bit of bling LED’s up the side of the neck in blue, the bass is built from carbon fibre and is very light and has the best neck I have ever played, lets say if the house was on fire this is the thing I would grab first.The.
    Status will do me nicely for the rest of my life.

  54. Good discussion. Im currently playing a custom shuker 6 string. The reason I had her made was simply because there was nothing like the spec I needed on the market. Anything close to the spec I required would of needed customisation in some way. So in the end it worked out cheaper to have a custom built for me. And its perfect for my needs. I just need to upgrade my rig to do it justice now. But the instruments the main thing. And I love it!

  55. I’d love a MTD 5 string or Lakland, for now I have a MM fender with Sadowsky preamp and pickups, great slap tone but I’ve always wanted a MTD

  56. I actually traded a Musicman (it’s not boutique I know..) bass for a Squire Active Deluxe 5 and the result surprisingly, is that I love the cheaper well made Squire more than the Musicman. I will not spend a fortune to buy a bass worth more than 2 grand just for the sake of the status that I owned a boutique bass. There are a lot of well made and good sounding bass with surpisingly good playability out there. I’m in for functionality and purpose.

    • i think ill keep my travis bean!! had an alembic series 1(1976) and sold it ,lost in the mix drummer hated the sound as he couldnt hear it!neck heavy as they all are,good for solo but for rock just didnt cut it! then got a lakland,nice,but just made my hands sore,but loved the sound ,my old 65 gibson eb0 was a killer,i was silly to sell!the rd artist wasnt too bad just big,so now i just have my old faithfull ,and a real old tokai jazz ,that has been hotted up with old barts,got that 64 sound all the way,and i also have a godin z1 just for a change,wish i didnt sell the eb-o,
      botiques are fine but not in front of 500 beer drinking rock n roll fans!

  57. If you look in the toolbox of any carpenter you’ll find different wrenches, different hammers etc. I’ll echo Brandon. You have different tools for different jobs. You can make do with one “hammer” and create beautiful art. I’m a fender guy and I love each of my basses. Two P’s, a J and a Jaguar. They all have found their way into different bands I play in. I’ve never walked into a recording gig with my Deluxe P and have the producer or engineer say “could you try another bass, your isn’t fitting into the mix.” Love the discussion guys. Oh BTW I have boutique bass too. I love it.
    “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

  58. If I have the budget, I’d like to have a custom fodera and fbass. The one who can do it all. Still dreaming about it :)

  59. Another good question might be “factory basses, are they worth it?” Once the price tag climbs up a couple of grand, why not get something made for you? Once a mass produced bass gets over $700 bucks or so there just isn’t much difference between it and a $2000 bass. My personal approach is to but a solid, well made factory bass as a jump off point then have my local luthier trick it out and make it special.

  60. Would love to have a Modulas 5 string, until then I’ll keep playing my Musicman Stingray, Japanese Fender Jazz, and ESP D-5…:)

    • If you need to make some room for that new Bass, i would be GLAD To babysit that Fender Jazz for a while;-) I love that Bass. I watched some Marcus Miler videos on YouTube during lunch today. It was a Tutorial at Berkeley school of Music. That is a Bad Man on Bass right there!!

  61. Here’s where I get to put in my two cents. I was using a Fender split pickup Precision for the longest time and while doing so, I played a few J basses along the way, but for some reason it didn’t click. Then, I heard Marcus Miller play his and loved the sound but also knew a lot of it was coming from him. Still, I liked it, so I went to Guitar Center and tried one. Loved it and really loved the neck and the Sadowsky PreAmp. I played it for a bit through a GenzBenz at the store and saw I could get the same sound Marcus got and could develop my own also. I bought it. $1,300 and I walked out of there happy as a little clam. That was last November of 2012 and it’s my goto bass for everything. I could afford a boutique, but I love the MM and it suits me and my approach. I’m happy and that’s really what it’s all about. Hey, I saw a kid with a Squier Jazz who coulda smoked my ass playingwise and that Squier sounded damn good.

  62. A great instrument can be a $99 special. or a $7000 special.. It has to be special to that person. Right, Its personal! On a session a player might use both depending on the setting. I know as I change, my ears and hands fall out of favor with some sounds, its a constant search for tone and feel. There a lot of great luthiers out there producing fine instrument! All said, I play fender basses with different pickup, vintage tube amps, calrec micpre/eq and Gyraf tube channel.. Good Luck!

  63. I have a 77 grabber modded with a seymour duncan quarter pounder p pickup and a bad ass bridge. Played with a picture and run w a bit of a sansamp and into a ampeg rig it’s rock tone nirvana.

  64. My life as a bass player has covered 41 years. My instrument is acoustic bass; however, life in the lower registers is universal. We are the peace makers of the band. Specifically, I feel one of our main functions is to keep the drummer from killing the piano player. Surprisingly, over 41 years I have not owned that many instruments. The bass I play now is a French bass circa 1825. It is an amazing bass and after looking for a bass for over 4 years, when the bass was first in my hands, I played a one octave C major scale and knew I had found my bass. Having that bass has had a profound effect on the growth of my playing. Apparently this is a phenomenon that is common amongst musicians. Ask a concert pianist if they feel that playing on a high quality piano was an important part of their growth. I guarantee they will say yes. Ask any violinist, guitarist, drummer… any truly great musician and I am sure you will get the same answer 90% of the time. (I am not saying that I fall into that category “truly great” but I shared that experience) There was an amazing article I read recently that goes into this in more detail.
    The truly amazing thing is: once you develop that sound it comes with you regardless of what you are playing on. I was playing at the Blue Note in Tokyo once and Ray Brown sat in with the band. I was using my road bass which was a low end German carved bass. It was a nice bass but nothing to write home about. He sounded like Ray Brown. Huge sound with a clear pulse you could feel in your chest. The bottom line to me is: beg, borrow or steal the money to buy a really fine instrument. It is important to the growth of an individual player. Don’t be discouraged if it takes years. The journey is as important as the final destination.

  65. My handmade 1989 Warwick neck-through Thumb 6 string is my dream bass. It always draws me back even though others tempt me. From the range of great tones and play-ability it is the one. Only issue is Bubinga wood is downright heavy!

  66. I ended up selling all my MIM Fenders and Yamahas. I completely rely on my 5 custom modified beaters, because of the wood cut and weight. They are custom named, unique and quirky but sound great through my rigs and that works for me. There’s only two basses I want, A full on custom luthier made 5 string and a Vintage USA Fender J bass 75-77.

  67. I’ve access to two Alembics. I can honestly say I like my “P”eavey USA Fury more. The weight, smaller neck with my small hands, even the simple tone and volume for the single pickup. I LOVE my “P” Bass!

  68. Yeah.. its a tricky thing.. I have two basses, the first is a 1987 SDGR 1000, maple neck and alder body.. My second is a 2012 Fender Precision MIM, same wood as the SDGR.. maple neck and alder body… The thing is.. the Fender sounds to me so much better.. don’t know how to describe it other than its sings more… I’ve been wondering how it can be that way… Someone maybe got an reasonable theory? /Cheers from Northern Sweden.

  69. I play a $350 squier P-Bass, and every time I go to the shop to try new inventory I go home saying, “yeah those Foderas are good, but I like my Squier better.” the thing just FEELS right.

  70. my favorite bass of all 43 years playing is my 1981 Kramer pioneer bass a p bass copy, I have tried many Kramer P basses and none are quite the same as mine ;.I think bottom line is in the hands of the beholder;.;.;. my second fav basses are jazz neck with p pickups ;.;.also I like the squire quality of builds these days , with a little work set up an pickup changes they are great basses for the money;.;.

  71. I once tried out a Geddy Lee signature Fender Jazz next to a $300 Squire vintage modified jazz. I actually liked the feel of the Squire better. Maybe do an electronics upgrade and you have a sweet bass.

  72. Boutique instruments are the next natural step after modded production basses. Are they worth it? Well they’re not for everyone. What they fill is the need for a bass with specs you can’t buy off the wall in a shop. But they can be hit and miss, I’ve played a very expensive boutique bass that was pretty awful. Heavy, uncomfortable and badly finished I thought. A real dog.
    I build boutique basses for myself and friends. I did this coz I realized (like Jens Ritter) I couldn’t afford to have one built for me. I also love making things. My dream bass is a headless, fretless 6 string from Aussie timbers with Bartolini PUs. It’ll be started later this year. Here’s a link to my first build…
    It’s become my main bass.

  73. got a Ray Gerold, Detroit 4, NYC 3,…best basses ever..

  74. I don’t think you have to go out and buy an expensive bass to get a good tone and one that fits your hand. What is bad is the fact that you cant buy a good American made bass for less than a grand. I was playing around with a Darryl Jones Lakland bass. It was nice, not as nice as a Fender Jazz or a Music Man, it was ok. Price tag was $1,400. This thing was made in China. That is an awful lot of money for a China made bass. In my opinion anyways. I have been thinking the next bass I buy I will either build with parts from Warmoth or order a custom built Carvin. G&L will custom build you a bass as well.

  75. I’ve got an American Standard Jazz Bass…and it is probably my most prized possession of all time.

  76. My go to bass right now is a lakland skyline 44-64 custom. It is a j style neck with a p bass body. It has that classic look and incredible feel but with a sound the f brand cannot duplicate.

  77. I just bought my first handmade custom built bass and have made a few mods. It sounds and plays incredibly well. It is a redwood burl neck thru fretted 6 string Warrior Isabella made by J. Dran. I added Bartolini classic dual coils and the Mike Pope Flex core 4 band preamp. It as close to perfect as I have ever come but it is $7000 to buy it. My favorite mass produced basses by far are BTB premium Ibanez 6 strings. I have the BTB 1606E as well as the BTB 1406E. My 1406E has been defretted and it sings like no other. Both of my BTB basses have upgraded Bartolini pickups as well.

  78. herb

    I play a 1981 Gibson Victory Artist Bass..dual pickups..and will do both active and passive..and has a midrange notch filter..this is the best playing and SOUNDING bass I have ever is of the heaviest made..but that doesnt bother me..the sustain is forever..I guess the amp is important too..the head is an Ampeg SVT pro 4..1250 watts thru (2) 4×10 SVT cabs (4 ohms)..I have a rack mounted system..bass plugs into a tech 21 RPM Sans Amp (preamp)..and the output goes into the Ampeg head..also use a Korg rack mounted tuner and a surge suppressor that everything is plugged into..Gibson is the BEST..also have an American Fender Jazz bass..replaced the pickups with Seymour Duncan quarter pounders..replaced the bridge with a Babicz bridge..and put on a mother of pearl pick guard..this fender sounds awesome..I play both..but the gibson will go to the grave with plays and sounds like a $10,000 bass..

  79. Richard Nunez

    I have owned soooooo many boutique bass guitars. I always base my judgement of them on consistency and feel. Some produce instruments as art and in my opinion are wayyyy over priced. My Carl Thompson basses are always the most fun to play. They speak to me and call me to play them. My Dingwall basses are probably the most versatile sounding basses I’ve ever played and gods gift to recording studios. They are very well built and can TAKE A BEATING. Fodera basses for me some models really seem as addictive as crack and others don’t, but that is just in my hands. Most of all I think I’ve had the best playing experience in live situations and recording situations with Pete Hilton’s basses. They are consistent and he puts a lot of love into his instruments. Pete worked with Carl Thompson for about 10 years and is just as much of a perfectionist as Carl. So as an all around great bass for me HILTON is at the very top BUT that’s not to say the others I mentioned aren’t far behind.
    As far as the initial question though….. In my opinion my boutique basses are purchased because of the tone and feel I get. Attention to detail is a huge factor in buying an instrument and these builders do just that. An ibanez bass is a great bass but the necks don’t really work with my hands and the fret work is inconsistent. I hate spending days leveling a fretboard and getting it just right. Then if the neck wood used is not to quality dealing with that is another nightmare in itself. Overall though these companies that mass produce instruments would not be as successful as they are if they did not put out a great product! I’ve never found a bass I couldn’t love for one reason or another.

  80. Cavan

    I’ve been planning a hifi modern spin on the classic passive bass strung with flats combo. This might sound counter intuitive, and I can see the comments of just use rounds already, but it isn’t that simple, so bear with me. Flats have a punch, girth, and percussive quality that no amount of eq will approximate, and a focus in the low mids that defines any mix, and which no round comes close to. None of the gigs I’ve been to have made me say, man those rounds are really helping that bassist cut through. Quite the opposite actually, the focus and definition is in the wrong place, the high mids and overtones,and it just gets lost once the band kicks in. The low end ends up sounding mushy and soft, and just doesn’t have the force in the mix that it should. Every time. So yeah, going passive, building the brightest sustainiest bass I can, and balancing that with flatwounds, and passive operation. Maruszczyk frog, maple neck through, ash wings, 35 inch scale for bead tuning, and a passive Delano sbc-s4 in the bridge position. Current bass is an Ltd B-10 4 string, upgraded with Gotoh hardware, an EMG PAX and btc control preamp. Boomier and muddier then I would like on the low end owing to the neck position and basswood construction, but the reverse p rout sounds even, and it’s pretty clear on the low b for what it is.

  81. Dave

    68 tele bass with emg p and hb bridge pickup. $600 total invested. Awesome rock bass. 1989 Yamaha be5000a bought new for $950. Better than most $3000 basses with lots of great tones. Now sells @ around $750 us dollars. 1996 Roscoe 6 string fretless. Awesome bass. Now worth more than I paid for it. One more thought. Warmth makes great parts.

  82. Dave

    It helps to play a lot (hours per day) to know what you like and done like. I reached a point where I could walk down a row of basses at a store feeling the necks and maybe pick up one I wanted to play. And if it didn’t and sound good unplugged then I wouldn’t plug it in and just put it back. Good wood that brings good tone and playability isn’t always expensive. If needed, find one that plays great, has great tone and sustain unplugged, buy it cheap and buy new pickups.

  83. Vinny

    Great answer to a question at times that can be extremely puzzling.