Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Craving Some Japanese

Things are starting to perk up ever so slightly in the Trowar family.  There's talk of gigs in Atlanta, Indianapolis/Bloomington, Seattle, and, once we're feeling good about our live set, Los Angeles.  Hell, there's even talk of a possible video shoot soon.  But none of this is confirmed at this point.

What is confirmed is that Trowar HQ - the recording studio that Fred (guitarist/singer) is building for Chris (manager) -  is back on track and moving towards finished.  We should also have a CD available for purchase/download soon.  I'll definitely update this blog once I have more info.  But I'm excited at the possibility of getting Trowar back in gear.

With travel looking more and more like it's going to happen for me, I've been searching for a "travel bass" to buy.  My bass is a 1977 Music Man Sting Ray, and it has been one of my most prized possessions since I bought it in high school.  I have flown with it multiple times, but I'm pretty sure (given the case it is in) I'm flirting with disaster, esp. now that baggage searches are so much more common and invasive these days.  I'm hoping to find in the family budget $300-$700 to get a great sounding and great playing bass that won't send me into a downward spiral of depression if it arrives on the baggage carousel in pieces.  I'm thinking Japanese.

I've kept a pretty narrow search so far, looking primarily at Japanese Fender Precision and Jazz basses.  I've been looking for a Sting Signature bass in particular.  (Despite what the Fender website says, these can be had for about $700 on the open market.)  However, a casual visit to a new guitar shop in town made me realize I've been overlooking an excellent option:  vintage Yamaha basses.

There is a late -70s/early -80s Yamaha in there that is a beauty.  (Don't recall the model number.)  It has a bolt on neck, with a single Jazz bass-type pickup near the bridge as well as a split coil (Precision bass) pickup configuration.  It had volume and tone knobs and a pickup switch.  The action was amazing and it is only $300!  Here's the thing:  there are several frets that are shot - lots of buzzing even though the neck didn't appear to be warped.  I need to go back and check it out - it might be something that can be fixed with neck adjustments, but I'm not sure.

But here's the take away lesson for me:  Yamaha basses of the 1970s/early 1980s rightfully have a cult following because they sound great, play great, and look great.  The hardware is heavy duty and these basses enjoy a workhorse reputation with a discount price.  They are, in my estimation, the poor man's G&L.  I definitely need to be looking around at Yamahas.  Here are a couple I found on eBay.

Look at this amazing Yamaha BB 1200 neck through body with EMG pickups.  I especially like the 5-piece laminate neck, the fingerboard inlays and neck through body construction - this is stuff you'd have to pay a premium for with most basses.  This bass is a steal.

. . . and here is another lovely neck through body -  Yamaha BB 1000S.  It is only a three piece laminate neck, but it has more pickup options than the bass above. Otherwise, it's as stripped down and basic as you could ask for.  But if you can't get it done on this bass, you can't get it done.

Finally we have this Ibanez Musician which, incidentally, is a bass also made popular by Sting.  This is a bass I look for on a fairly regular basis on eBay; but unlike the vintage Yamahas, folks have clued in on their greatness and the market seems to be catching up to the reputation.  They're getting harder to find for cheap.  While I don't care for the white finish on this one (the natural finish Musician basses are stunning), it's got all the stuff that makes the Musician bass amazing. 

Hopefully, I'll be able to report soon that I've obtained one of these babies.  I don't see me affording a vintage Fender Precision bass anytime soon, even the Japanese Precisions.

1 comment:

  1. Get a cheap Yamaha and throw in some Seymour Duncan P bass pickups. That'll do the trick.