Well, I think this means I’ve finally gone overboard. Ever since I’ve been playing ‘seriously’ with the band and actually going out and -gigging-, I’ve had to knuckle under and come to the realization that yes. I am a musician. In fact, I’m a bass player. I play a lovely Fender J-bass electric guitar I got on eBay 2 years ago, with hardshell case, for $190. I can’t complain, really. The guitar has been wonderful. I’m on my second amp with it (my original practice amp went missing after a weekend long retreat. Long story there). I’m happy with the Boehringer amp I have now, but there’s been one nagging problem.
I like folk music. Though much of my music collection is ‘classic’ rock with blues for the underpinnings, the stuff I really enjoy playing is folk acoustic, including older folk arrangements such as irish dance music. Though I’ve had a few occasions to try it, my big black electric bass just doesn’t meld into that scenario well, and its awfully hard to haul an 80lb amp out into the middle of a field or next to a campfire to play tunes.
I’ve looked at acoustic bass guitars for quite a while. The quality and price ranges all over the board. There’s a series that runs about $200 or so, but every review I’ve seen has been in the “Yeah, it’s a $200 bass acoustic. Sound is iffy, action is bleah, it’s a cheap acoustic bass. You get what you pay for.” I can’t bring myself to pay real money for one of these. There’s not a lot of demand for these instruments, so I don’t see them come across eBay or Craigslist very often.
Tonight I decided to stop into Guitar Center again to noodle on their acoustics. Dragging a recalcitrant Zach along with me, we wandered into their quiet ‘acoustic’ room, and there I saw something odd. A used decent quality acoustic bass right there on the stand, and marked at a reasonable price even. I took the instrument down and started playing on it. It had a good feel, good size, decent strings and action on it. It was an acoustic/electric – meaning it has pickups on the inside, and a small EQ and pre-amp built into the side. The cable patch is in the strap-mount on the bottom of the body.
But, was I ready to spend $300? That, was the real question. I checked in with Cat, and she said “Well, if you REALLY want it…”, which is always good to make me stop and think about things before impulse-buying. I knew however this was a good price for the guitar, and I wasn’t likely to get another opportunity like this for a while. It’s not like bass guitars are dropping in price like other technologies.
Finally I called up the salesdroid, and said “So, this Fender bass. Come with a gig bag?” “Nope, just what you see.” – he picked it up and noodled around – he had some chops on it, but I didn’t let that distract me. “Hmm, well, this is at the top of what I was thinking of spending, though I like it.” I sort of let it dangle there, and he got the hint. “Well, maybe I can get you a discount on a gig bag, lets go see.”
So we looked at gig bags. Now, acoustic basses are BIG. This was ‘shallow body’, but it was still the size of a normal ‘large’ guitar. Plus, bass guitars have long necks. None of hte ‘soft’ gig bags would work. He said something like “Let me check in the back. If we have one, I can let you have it for half price.” “Well, lets look at it.” Gig bags were listed right there for $40. $20? $320 for guitar and soft gigbag? Eh, I’m tempted, but still not satisfied.
After 10 minutes of waiting for him to reappear, I almost gave up. I started to write a note with my name and phone number, when he reappeared. “Couldn’t find it, but we found a hardshell case that should fit it. How bout that? They’re only $120.” “Umm.” “It’s right around the corner, lemme get it, you can check it out.” “Uh, okay.”
The case is unremarkable, but it fit the guitar, with a little wiggle room. It was a standard acoustic ‘cardboard-y’ case, with padding and stowage inside. It was definately not worth $120. “I’ll let you have it for $50.” Okay, this is sounding better. “Tell you what. Throw in an el cheapo nylon guitar strap, and we’ll call it a deal.” He turned around, pulled one off the rack (standard black with ties for the guitar head), tossed it in, and we were all set.
So, I got an awesome condition Fender BG29 Acoustic/Electric bass guitar, strap, and hard case for $350. I consider it a win all around. Naturally, when I got home, I started looking around the net for prices on these guitars. They seem to go for between $480 and $700 new, without cases, so I think I’ve done okay. The reviews I’m seeing are positive, noting things like a non-full length neck, and decent pricing. I feel fairly vindicated in the price I paid for it, and what I’m going to be using it for.
I spent a bit playing on it tonight, and I’m happy with the sound and feel. I’ll let ya’ll know how things go this weekend at NEFFA. Next I hae to learn how to accompany irish folk music! I’ll be bringing it to band practice tomorrow night to get more comfortable with it (and to test out the internal pickups). Wheee!