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The Case for One More Bass

Saturday January 6, 2018. 12:00 PM , from Sweetwater inSync
As bassists, we want to have the right sound and gear for every gig. Unfortunately, the “right sound” is a moving target — one that changes from gig to gig.
The perfect bass sound for an old-school R&B tune probably won’t work well with a punk band, and what sounds great on a praise-and-worship track might not translate well to a roots-music gig.
So what’s the answer? For me, the answer is that I want (and need) enough basses to cover whatever musical situations I find myself in. Here are some of the things I keep in mind when shopping:
One Basic Bass

For me, if I were to own only one bass, it would be a Fender Precision Bass. The Precision, a 4-string bass with a passive pickup, works in a huge range of musical styles. Your choice of a primary bass may be different, depending on your style and requirements.
How Many Strings?

Some musical styles require notes lower than those available on a standard 4-string bass. If you find yourself needing low D, C, and even a low B, then you’ll need a 5-string bass. The Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay 5 HH fills that slot for me.
Flatwound or Roundwound Strings?
What’s the difference between flatwound and roundwound strings? Well, flats generally have a mellower, deeper sound than roundwounds. They are easier on the frets (and the fingers) and have less finger noise. Roundwounds are brighter and have a more aggressive tone, with greater sustain. My Music Man is strung with roundwounds, and my main Precision is strung with flats.
Active or Passive?

If there’s a single definition of the difference between active and passive electronics, then it’s that active electronics offer more possibilities for sculpting the sound of the bass. Passive basses generally have a single tone control that cuts high frequencies, while most active basses have the ability to both cut and boost bass, treble, and sometimes specific midrange frequencies. My bass locker has an active Fodera Emperor 5 Standard with roundwound strings and amazing tone-sculpting capability.
Solidbody or Hollowbody?
While most basses are solidbody instruments, there are a number of hollowbody basses around, from the classic Hofner bass made famous by Paul McCartney to offerings by Lakland, Gretsch, Ibanez, and others. These instruments tend to sound a bit different than their solidbody counterparts: less sustain, a bit more of a “woody” sound, and often a darker tone. When I need that sound on a session, the Gretsch G5440LS is lots of fun.
Enough Is Not Enough
This is not a complete list of all the basses I have (or that I need). While the Precision with flats is a great bass, a Precision with roundwounds has a different sound — one that I often need. My Fender Jazz Bass has its own sound, and the Jaco Pastorius Fretless Jazz Bass is also unique. For prog-rock gigs, it’s great to have a Rickenbacker 4003, and the Hofner bass defined the early Beatles sound. I could go on and on.
How many basses do I need? Just one more…

If you too need just one more bass, give your Sweetwater Sales Engineer a call at (800) 222-4700.
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