i’ve been on a crazy bass guitar mission lately. it is as follows.
years ago, i had a piece of shit peavey axcelerator 5-string bass. it sounded like shit but i was younger and inexperienced, and i didn’t realize a bass could actually sound any better without investing thousands of dollars into it. then one day i was jamming with a few pals, and one them had brought a hideous, almost baby blue 4-string. here it is.
i wondered who in their right mind would buy such an ugly thing. then for some reason, one of the guys suggested i try it instead of my peavey. i was annoyed and skeptical but acquiesced, and the second i started playing it, i was dumbfounded. for the first time in my life, what i was playing on bass sounded good. after years of playing shitty basses that sounded like shit but feeling helpless to do anything about, i suddenly felt like i was wielding excalibur.
i was so impressed that within a week or so, i went to the music store and bought the same bass. it’s a yamaha, affectionately dubbed the BBG4SII. i thought the gold hardware looked a little less offensive with the white body so i went for that colour. it was only about $350 — peanuts, as far as new instruments go. that was about 15 years ago, and i still own and love that bass.
but in the last year, i’ve started getting serious about playing bass in the traditional finger and slap styles, and my excitement from these new musical adventures got me wanting a 5-string again. my first thought was to find the 5-string version of the BBG4SII — the BBG5S — but after many months, i had zero luck finding one. they were cheap, entry level instruments, most likely bought by kids joining punk bands, so i doubt many of them survived.
in light of this, i opened my search up to a few more recent models that seemed decent. i tried a few LTD and higher end ibanez 5-strings and thought they were good. i particularly fell in love with the look of the LTD D5, and found one on ebay for a good price, so i bought it.
i like it. i think it has a versatile look: traditional yet modern, elegant yet powerful.
i got it home aaaaand…it’s not great. it feels really nice to play but i’m not happy with the tone at all. playing with fingers lacks definition, and slapping makes a grating ‘crack’ sound every time i use my thumb. plus the controls are too extreme, so if you turn up the treble, it’s ear-piercing. turn it down, it’s mud. same with the bass tone knob.
then i found a black 5-string squire jazz bass for sale locally. i was excited about this because eerie von played a black fender jazz with a red pickguard in the danzig video for how the gods kill, and i always thought that bass had a classy, satanic look.
this pic doesn’t do the bass justice but that’s the best image i can find of it. ha, look at danzig. what a guy.
so i bought the squire. i like the tone when playing mellow jazzy shit with fingers, and i like the slap tone, but playing aggressively with fingers gets both muddy AND clicky. plus the neck is way too wide, and way too heavy. i don’t know how anyone can design a guitar that is weighted so poorly that the neck falls down every time you let go of it. that’s an automatic fail for any guitar. it’s such a basic, fundamental detail that ruins the instrument even if everything else is great. squire, you fucked up here, big time.
so i now have these three basses and recently spent an entire evening playing and comparing the hell out of them. as you might guess from what you’ve read so far, the lowly, cheap old yamaha is far superior in every way possible. it’s a fucking amazing bass. it feels great to play, it sounds great for whatever style i’m doing, and it’s weighted perfectly.
so after all my testing, disappointment, and rediscovery of the powers of the BBG4SII, my desire to find a BBG5S was renewed. i looked on ebay this week, and guess what i finally found.
the mythical beast
it will be here in a few weeks. i’m being cautiously optimistic — i hope it’s as good as the 4 string version, and if it’s not, i’m giving up on this quest for a 5-string. i’ve come to appreciate just how great my BBG4SII is so if that’s the only bass i can ever afford that i am happy with, so be it. nothing wrong with four strings when it excels in every other way.