Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass

Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass

Year: 2004

Made In: Japan

Specs: Alder body, maple neck & fretboard

Electronics: Fender single-coil J pickups, passive circuit

Controls: Volume, volume, tone

The Geddy Lee Jazz Bass is generally highly regarded and, when offered this one in a trade, I was quite interested to try it out. Indeed, it’s a very nice take on the classic design, the slim neck is particularly noteworthy. As ever with Fender Japan, the build quality was excellent and the whole package works very well. If you were to have only one Jazz bass, then this one would be a sterling candidate for the position.

For me, the ESP is the King of Jazz Mountain and I suspect that the Geddy would be with me for a short time and that’s the way it turned out. It’s a very nice bass but just wasn’t the #1 Jazz so I eased it out the door in another trade a few months later.

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Rickenbacker 4003

Rickenbacker 4003

Year: 1992

Made In: USA

Specs: Maple body, maple neck-through, pau-ferro fretboard

Electronics: Rickenbacker single coil pickup x 2

Controls: Volume x2, Tone x 2, three-way switch

From the moment I started playing bass in the late 80’s, I always wanted to get a Rickenbacker. The iconic shape, the distinctive tone, they were really a bass to aspire to own. They were the kind of bass that you weren’t allowed touch in the few shops which stocked them, the price tag being not too dissimilar to that of a small car.

With the arrival of internet commerce in the 90’s, the prospect of owning one started to become a little more realistic and, after a lengthy period of saving, I took the plunge, buying a second-hand 4003 Fireglo model from a seller based in the USA.

It was everything I hoped it would be, devilishly nice to look at and with a ferocious, punchy tone. As time was to prove, the 4003 had a substantially more aggressive growl to it than any of the 4001 basses I’ve encountered over the years. It took some time before I arrived at a setup I was truly happy with, though. No matter how much I loosened the treble side truss rod, there was always a bit of back bow on that side of the neck, but I wasn’t a big problem.

I used it quite extensively for a few years, the best comment about it coming from a chap at a gig who told me “I couldn’t see or hear your band, but I could feel your bass“. Depending on the band I would switch between using a plectrum and finger playing. With the plec, it was fine, but the lack of a forearm contour really caused me problems when I used my fingers. The wretched treble pickup surround also made life harder than it ought to have been. For how I play fingerstyle, the pickup cover was utterly useless, it being in exactly the place the best tone and tension is found along the string.

I did love the sound out of it dearly but, after one more gig where I came away with a painful forearm bruise for a few days due to the sharp binding, I did what I thought at one point would be absolutely unthinkable and eased it on out the door.

I still really miss that tone, though.

Aria Pro II SB 600

Aria Pro II SB600

Year: 1979

Made In: Japan

Specs: Maple body, three-piece maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: MB1 humbucking pickup

Controls: Volume, Tone, series/parallel switch

This appeared on a local site with an asking price of €50 so, naturally, I instantly leapt on it. A long-term goal has been to secure a decent late 70’s or early 80’s SB, one of the great underrated bass designs, in my opinion. Being an early model, I was really rather excited about getting this home and checking it out properly. It was in poor shape but I do enjoy a challenge.

The dot inlay SB basses, I believe, indicate they were aimed at the domestic Japanese market and feature very narrow string spacing. The strings almost run parallel from bridge to nut. In the past, this would have been an issue but, as I’ve gotten older, my technique has evolved to the stage where I wasn’t too concerned. Everything except the electronics appeared to be original, at first glance, and the Aria branded tuners were present and working.

The body consisted of a heavy maple lamination which had cracked along some of the many seams. It was largely aesthetic damage, however, as it was structurally sound overall. It was incredibly heavy, but nothing which would discourage me. The pots were faulty and the series/parallel switch was entirely disconnected. Someone had tried some repairs at some point and failed, by the looks of it. Once the pickup worked I would be happy enough though.

 

The neck was in good shape and was one of the few SBs not to feature neck-through construction. The design of the bolt-on neck joint was quite interesting. I’ve never encountered another quite like it.

Two extra screws were hidden under the plate for additional stability. Possibly among the first six-bolt neck designs?

 

The neck was a chunky P style affair with a very rounded back – substantial but not uncomfortable. It was still straight and true and the truss rod was in good working order. Generally, the build quality of these Japanese SBs was excellent.

As ever, my quest in life is to find an old SB with working pickups and, sadly, this wasn’t it. I had to bypass the pots to check the pickup and, sure enough, it suffered from the now common dead coil syndrome, like every other SB I’ve owned. I didn’t fancy going through the ordeal of sourcing a replacement or having a new one made, so I decided to ease this one out the door and keep the search going. I’m an optimist. Some day, it will happen.

 

Mayones BE4 Africa

Mayones BE4 Africa

Year: 1996

Made In: Poland

Specs: Amazaque body, bete & black oak five-piece neck, wenge fretboard

Electronics: MEC J pickups, MEC 2-band preamp

Controls: Volume, blend, bass and treble cut & boost

Mayones have established themselves as a high-end builder of some repute, though this one dates from a good stretch before that when they were still establishing themselves post-Communism. The Warwick influences are instantly visible and, as it turned out, were more than just aesthetic. The hardware was all Schaller, using Warwick’s designs and the pickups and electronics were all MEC. As a result, it had the Warwick growl down to a tee. It was well put together, if not quite up to the level of the big W, with a very playable neck. It was a fine bass but, ultimately, it was just too close to the Warwick sound to be of real use. I rarely found myself picking it up when the real thing was right beside it, so I eased it on out the door in a trade for the Mustaine V.

Schecter C7 Blackjack

Schecter C7 Blackjack

Year: 2005

Made In: Korea

Specs: Mahogany body, mahogany set neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Seymour Duncan JB & 59 humbucking pickups, passive circuit

Controls: Volume, tone, 5-way switch

Bought while I was flirting with seven strings, this was a really nice guitar.  Compared to the LTD I had, it had a much fatter neck, but it was just as playable. It needed a little bit of fretwork when it arrived and the nut needed a little attention too, but the build quality was otherwise really good. The set neck joint was very nicely sculpted like a neck-through. For the money, they’re really good value. All the hardware is good quality, thoroughly reliable and the slightly longer scale made for a good, solid low B. I can’t say anything bad about it but my time with sevens was limited so it eventually got eased on out the door.

 

Ibanez SR3006E

Ibanez SR3006E

Year: 2002

Made In: Japan

Specs: Mahogany body, five-piece wenge & bubinga neck, wenge fretboard

Electronics: Bassculture stacked humbucker pickups, Vari-mid preamp

Controls: Volume, blend, bass cut & boost, treble cut & boost, Mid cut & boost, sweepable mid frequency selector

Shortly after the the turn of the century, I was playing in a fairly progressive rock band. At the time, I had just the ESP Jazz and a Ric 4003 to play with and I fancied trying a more extended range bass with the group. I was thinking about getting a five string and, having long wanted an Ibanez SR, was drawn to their Prestige five-string model but, at the last minute, decided to go all-in and get the six-string version. It was also my first experience buying over the internet – it went horrendously, Music123 shipping my bass to Alabama after my order had been altered, for some reason, and doing sod-all to remedy the situation but, after many irate phone calls to the USA, it eventually got resolved and this fine instrument was finally delivered.

Prior to getting this bass, I hadn’t even played a five-string for more than a few minutes in a shop, so the six was a big departure for me and took a bit of getting used to. I think I made a good choice though, the build quality was superb and it set up exceptionally well with very low action. The 16mm string spacing was a bit tighter than I would have liked but it was nothing which couldn’t be overcome. The neck was substantial, but not uncomfortably so, and perfectly stable. As with all SRs, the body was light and perfectly balanced and snug.

The stock Bartolini pickups, custom made for this model, were fairly anaemic – very clean, very polite, low on character. I worked with them for a while but I could never really warm to them so I had a pair of more aggressive sounding stacked humbuckers made by Bassculture in Germany. They proved to be a huge improvement and the rosewood covers also proved to be an aesthetic upgrade too. The Vari-mid preamp was very useful and worked well with the new pickups.

For the duration of that band, it became my main bass but, after the band broke up, I instinctively went back to playing four strings the majority of the time and found it hard to play the six again after periods away. If I played it regularly it was fine but over time I played it less and less. I struggled with going from four to six and back again and, for this reason, eased it on out the door. Great bass, just too many strings for me.

 

Ibanez S2120X

Ibanez S2120X

Year: 2002

Made In: Japan

Specs: Mahogany body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Ibanez QM1 & QM2 humbuckers, L.R. Baggs piezo

Controls: Volume, tone, five-way switch for magnetic pckups – Volume, bass & treble cut & boost for piezo pickup – three way switch for magnetic/piezo selection

I had such grand plans when I bought this. I much prefer the S shape to the RG and it had a more conventional sized Ultra neck. The possibilities offered by the piezo and magnetic combination were inspiring. It was also, and remains, one of the prettiest guitars I can think of.

As you’d expect from Ibanez Japan, the build was superb. Everything felt solid and high quality. The way the S gets really thin at the edges is really comfortable and the action could be set nicely low. The chunkier Ultra neck really worked for me too, it had a really thick slab of rosewood for a fretboard.

The piezo sounded really good, especially when run into a P.A. or direct input. The switching allowed you to send the piezo and magnetic pickups out through separate jacks or use the mini-switch to blend or select individually through one output. If anything, the guitar exceeded my level of talent by some margin.

My only gripe was that I couldn’t get a tone out of the bridge humbucker which I was truly happy with. I tried several different pickups as the QMs weren’t that good, to be honest. Nothing I tried in the bridge position worked for me, not even a trusty JB and, as a result, I eased it on out the door.

I do think of it from time to time, wondering if I would get along better with it now. It was a guitar which offered almost limitless possibilities but I never felt truly at home on it at the time.