Cool and classic basses

12th Dec 2011 | 11:09

Cool and classic basses
Hofner 500/1 Violin Bass
Our picture shows the most popular version from 1962

BASS EXPO Could there be any better way to celebrate the glory of the bass guitar than with a series of profiles of some of the most iconic instruments ever to grace stages and recording studios across the globe? We don't think so. Kicking off our series of bass profiles is the four-string that a certain mop-topped Liverpudlian used to take the world by storm in the early 1960s...

Hofner 500/1 Violin Bass

PRODUCED: 1956 – current

ORIGIN: Germany

TYPE: Hollow violin-shaped body, 4-string

BODY: Spruce top, flamed maple back & sides, fully bound

NECK: Maple, glued-in neck, 22 fine frets plus zero fret

SCALE LENGTH: 762mm (30-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome trapeze tailpiece, rectangular pearloid control plate and matching scratchplate (often removed), rosewood bridge has slots in the top to take four small lengths of fret wire to act as crude string saddles, small guitar-sized open gear tuners

PICKUPS: Two Hofner ‘staple’ units on this 1962 version

CONTROLS: Two volume controls and three slide switches

FEATURES: The rosewood bridge has slots in the top to take four small lengths of fretwire to act as crude string saddles, although the body and headstock are bound the fingerboard is not

FINISHES: Brown Sunburst

COMMENTS: By the time that Paul McCartney popularised the Violin Bass it had already undergone several changes. By 1961 most notably the oval control plate was replaced by a rectangular one, extra switches were added and the smooth black single coil pickups were replaced by the staple ones we see here.

Initially these two new pickups were placed close together towards the neck but by spreading them apart as here. At the outset there were 20 frets, then 21, but when it reached 22 the bass finally came of age and has remained in production ever since. Along the way it’s been called the Beatle Bass and the Cavern Bass, had gold fittings, ebony fingerboard and even active circuitry but that’s just gilding the lily in our opinion. Classic is best.

Hear it here: The Beatles - I Saw Her Standing There

Cool and classic basses
Burns Black Bison Bass
The Burns Bison circa 1963

ORIGINALLY PRODUCED: 1962-64

ORIGIN: UK

TYPE: Solidbody, Passive 4-string

BODY: Sycamore, twin cutaway

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 22 medium frets plus zero fret at nut

SCALE LENGTH: 851mm (33.5-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Ebony, bound, white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome, 4-saddle bridge, fully adjustable, Van Ghent open gear tuners with large black plastic buttons

PICKUPS: Three Burns Ultra Sonic Bass units

CONTROLS: Volume, tone, 2-way selector (A/B) & 4-way tone selector (Wild Dog, Treble, Tenor, Bass)

FEATURES: The cutaway horns curved upwards from the flat plane of the body, cover plate over bridge, string damper fitted

FINISHES: Predominantly black (hence name) but white with white scratchplate and custom colours were also available

COMMENTS: This was the first full-scale bass produced by Jim Burns and in spite of its considerable weight it became very popular with session players of the time. This was the first of many variations and was produced as a companion to the Bison guitar.

The original guitar had four pickups but the bass only ever had three, fortunately! In keeping with the theme, black flatwound strings were fitted as standard and contributed to the very powerful and big booming sound. However clear notes were never a problem thanks to the legendary Wild Dog Treble setting!

Cool and classic basses
Fender Precision Bass
1953 Fender Precision pictured with 'wide panel' Bassman amplifier

PRODUCED: 1951-1954

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solidbody, passive 4-string

BODY: Twin cutaway slab, ash

NECK: Solid maple, U-profile, skunk stripe covers truss rod, 20 fine frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: No separate board, part of the maple neck, black dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome, 2-saddle bridge, open reverse gear tuners

PICKUP: Exposed single-coil 4-pole

CONTROLS: Volume & tone on separate chromed control plate

FEATURES: Telecaster-style headstock, large single-ply black pickguard, separate chromed metal control plate, through-body stringing, chrome cover plates over bridge and pickup, finger rest with single screw in centre, edge mounted jack socket

FINISHES: Blonde

COMMENTS: This is the original design for the Precision so had the job to convince upright bass players to change allegiance! The connection to the Telecaster is obvious but the additional upper cutaway was introduced in order to give the instrument much better balance.

It had its faults however so was comparatively short-lived in this early format but it was the beginning of the most successful bass guitar ever produced. It’s been continually tweaked over the years as we shall see but remains as an iconic and magnificent instrument.

Hear it here: Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock

Cool and classic basses
Steinberger XL-2
Eccentic, futuristic desgn

PRODUCED: 1980-present

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Headless solidbody, 4-string, active electronics

BODY: Synthetic, one-piece neck/body although separate body top was bolted on

NECK: 24 jumbo frets & fretless available

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Phenolic, white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Black, fully adjustable 4-saddle bridge/tuner tailpiece

PICKUPS: Two humbucking EMG units

CONTROLS: 2 volumes & 1 tone

FEATURES: Swivel strap holder at back plus a hinged leg rest on lower body edge, uses double ball-end strings, no lighter in weight than a conventional bass

FINISHES: Predominantly black although other colours are available. The early white ones were termed albinos.

COMMENTS: For synthetic read epoxy resin reinforced with carbon graphite and glass fibre. This was the Ned Steinberger model that caused excitement throughout the industry. A tiny full-scale bass by anyone’s standards at only 38-inches overall length but with a monster sound in spite of its minimalist looks.

Initially four models were available the H1 & H2 (high impedance with one or two DiMarzio pickups) and the L1 & L2. These were low impedance, active basses with a dominating sound that literally blew the H models away! The L-2/5 five-string version was introduced in 1982 and both models were replaced by the XL-2 in 1984. And in spite of a company buyout in the late '80s it’s the XL-2 that’s still with us today.

Cool and classic basses
Warwick Thumb five string
This classic comes in a selection of wood and string choices

PRODUCED: 1985 - Current

ORIGIN: Germany

TYPE: Carved double-cutaway body, laminated neck-through, active 5-string

BODY: 2-piece bubinga

NECK: 7-piece afzelia & wenge, 26 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Wenge, no poison markers on fretboard, ebony and fretless also available

HARDWARE: Black fully adjustable bridge, Brass ‘Just-A Nut,

PICKUPS: Two MEC J-style units

CONTROLS: Stacked Volume & active mid range cut/boost, push/pull active/passive switching, stacked tone with bass & treble cut/boost, panning control

FEATURES: Bridge has separate tailpiece, Straplocks fitted, batteries housed in control cavity, distinctive angle on the tuners

FINISHES: Natural and colours

COMMENTS: Warwick are well known for their quality of build and general attention to detail and like much of their bass range the Thumb is available in several different configurations as far as woods used, pickup types and their positioning is concerned.

However the twin pickup, electronics and general neck through construction remains and although the original 4-string Thumb was something of a beast a general slimming down on proportions and the introduction of the 5-string has undoubtedly made it the flagship instrument for the company. Available in 4, 5 & 6-string versions and with bolt-on construction.

Cool and classic basses
Gibson EB-0 Bass
Original EB-0 with Les Paul body shape and banjo-style headstock and tuners

ORIGINALLY PRODUCED: 1959-61

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solid slab body, twin cutaway, 4-string

BODY: Mahogany

NECK: Mahogany, set neck, 20 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 775mm (30.5-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome bridge/tailpiece, single-saddle bridge with strings anchored on baseplate, banjo-style tuners

PICKUPS: One large double-coil humbucker with black cover

CONTROLS: Volume & tone

FEATURES: The ‘banjo’ style headstock means that the tuning keys face backwards

FINISHES: Cherry red only

COMMENTS: This was the first version of the EB-0 and modelled on the Les Paul Junior guitar. When the guitar became the SG the EB-0 was given the same facelift. With the single humbucking placed against the neck this had a big fat sound further enhanced by the significant mass of the slab mahogany body. Its weight was certainly one of its downfalls.

Although popular in America it was not so easy to find in the UK however Glen Cornick of Jethro Tull used one for a while and that certainly increased the interest level over here. Occasionally these appear with a chrome plate over the strings to support the wrist, but the earliest versions don’t have one. The EB-1 came first but this was cheaper, hence the EB-0 model number in keeping with Gibson's price-related standard.

Cool and classic basses
Fender Coronado II Bass
Rare and often-overlooked, seen here in candy apple red

PRODUCED: 1966-1971

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Hollowbody, twin cutaway, 4-string

BODY: Bound arched

NECK: Maple, bound, set neck, 21 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 775mm (30.5-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, bound, white pearloid block inlays

HARDWARE: Fancy trapeze tailpiece with Fender F, chunky bridge with individual saddles, open gear tuners with oval blades (although some sported regular ‘shamrock’ blades)

PICKUPS: Two single-coil DeArmond units with adjustable pole pieces

CONTROLS: 2 x volume, 2 x tone, selector switch

FEATURES: Bound f-holes, rounded off Fender headstock finished in black, symmetrical thumb/finger rests

FINISHES: Candy apple red, tobacco sunburst, three-tone sunburst, antigua, custom colours with matching headstocks and this was also the time of natural wildwood

COMMENTS: No prizes for guessing that this hollow body was Fender’s answer to the popular Gibson EB-2. Two models were made, the single pickup Coronado I and the tonally superior Coronado II. They were designed by Roger Rossmeisl who was known for his outlandish Rickenbacker designs from the 1950s.

Coronado basses were not overly popular at the time and prone to feedback so this lack of initial interest makes it hard to find one today. Roscoe Beck used one for a video shoot with Robben Ford and it looks very cool in action. These basses were light in weight and fitted with La Bella flat wound strings as standard. Used with modern EQ pedals or compression can sound really fat.

Cool and classic basses
Danelectro Longhorn Bass
Long in horn, unique in tone, big on value

ORIGINALLY PRODUCED: 1958-69

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Hollowbody, passive 4-string

BODY: Masonite, lyre-shaped, vinyl edging strip

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 24 fine frets

SCALE LENGTH: 749mm (29.5-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Bridge is a single rosewood saddle mounted onto a chrome plate.

PICKUPS: Two lipstick tube pickups

CONTROLS: Two dual concentric volume/on-off, original wooden ‘pointer’ knobs were soon replaced by round ones

FEATURES: Coke bottle headstock, regular guitar tuners, aluminium nut

FINISHES: Bronze & white sunburst

COMMENTS: The body construction is a laminated pinewood frame with hardboard (masonite) back and front stuck in place. Curiously the neck pocket was extended from the body further up the back of the neck for added stability.

Longhorns were very wallet friendly at the time and a significant quantity of instruments were sold in Sears Roebuck catalogues in the States under the Silvertone brand. The Lipstick pickups really were purchased lipstick cases and featured an alnico bar magnet core with the coil wound around, which was then covered in tape before inserting into the metal casing.

Initially both pickups were placed close together towards the neck but they were soon moved to bridge and neck positions for hollower sounds. They were adjusted for height from the back of the body. The bridge adjustment was equally as crude using the three screws that connected it to the body, but it worked.

Cool and classic basses
Yamaha SB-Series bass
Our picture shows the more modern SB-7A that has no bridge cover plate and the two pickups are set straight and closer together. Even if you can't find an old one this is still a great bass to own!

PRODUCED: 1966-71/72

ORIGIN: Japan, Nippon Gakki factory

TYPE: Solidbody, reversed twin cutaway, 4-string

BODY: Alder

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 20 medium frets & fretless available

SCALE LENGTH: 800mm (31.5-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, bound, white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome cover-over bridge/tailpiece, 4-saddle bridge, open gear tuners

PICKUPS: Two single-coil units with white plastic surrounds

CONTROLS: Volume, tone & balance

FEATURES: string mute fitted, headstock colour matches body, finger rest below strings for thumb playing

FINISHES: 3-tone sunburst, various sparkles

COMMENTS: The original SB-2 had a more conventional twin-cutaway body but it was the reverse body design of the revamped SB-2A that really caught the attention. In spite of the reverse body shape this is a relatively well-balanced bass thanks to the slim headstock and it was this distinctive shape that earned it the epithet of the Yamaha Samurai Bass!

Curiously, Yamaha used to stamp the serial number into the rosewood fingerboard towards the body end. With such a widespread for the positioning of the pickups this bass is capable of producing super hollow and funky sounds, but its delivery is generally full and warm as the angled neck pickup is set to favour the neck for the top strings.

Cool and classic basses
Music Man StingRay – pre Ernie Ball
The first production active bass

ORIGINALLY PRODUCED: 1976-1980

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solidbody, active 4-string

BODY: Alder for sunburst or coloured finishes, ash for naturals, twin cutaway

NECK: Maple with walnut skunk stripe, bolt-on, 21 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Maple with black dot inlays, rosewood optional and ebony on fretless versions

HARDWARE: Chrome, raised tail 4-saddle bridge, separate metal control plate

PICKUP: Trademark double-poled hum-cancelling unit with black or white cover

CONTROLS: Volume, active treble & bass

FEATURES: 3/1-tuner placement on headstock, individual adjustable string dampers

FINISHES: Natural, sunburst and custom colours

COMMENTS: This was the first production line active bass and the Leo Fender influence is unmistakable, earning it the ‘Active Precision’ nickname on its launch. This was the first time we saw the unusual tuner placement but it cleverly provides a straight pull for each string and reduces the mass of the headstock, thus giving better instrument balance.

The truss rod makes use of the bullet adjuster at the headstock end and the classic ‘elephant ear’ tuners feature a very short stem. This early active circuit was covered in a black tar-like substance to prevent copying by other manufacturers. The classic Music Man humbucking pickup was a revelation, very powerful and with eight massive alnico pole pieces, it has become an icon in its own right.

Cool and classic basses
Fender Jazz Bass
After 1962, three control knobs superseded unreliable twin dual concentric controls

ORIGINALLY PRODUCED: 1960-62

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solidbody, passive 4-string

BODY: Ash, offset-waist twin cutaway

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome, 4-saddle raised-tail bridge

PICKUPS: Two single-coil, 8-poles apiece

CONTROLS: Volume & tone for each pickup from dual concentric controls

FEATURES: Controls and jack socket on chrome-plated ‘bell’ plate, two cover plates, muting rubber block stuck underneath bridge cover plate

FINISHES: Sunburst and custom colours with matching headstock

COMMENTS: This was the first version of the amazing Jazz Bass that was advertised initially as ‘the long awaited two pickup Precision’ however it was hardly that, in fact it was something quite unique.

Fender were already experimenting with offset bodies for the Jazzmaster but as horns gave basses much better instrument balance the Jazz Bass had them, thus giving it a look all of its own.

Although the dual concentric controls gave tremendous volume and tonal blending opportunities the components of the time were not up to the task and were notoriously unreliable, so were dropped in 1962 for the three-control version.

Cool and classic basses
Wal Pro 1 & Pro 1E Bass
The first active British production bass

ORIGINALLY PRODUCED: 1978-82

ORIGIN: UK

TYPE: Solidbody, active (E) or passive 4-string

BODY: Ash three-piece, twin cutaway, other woods as ordered

NECK: Maple & mahogany laminated, bolt on, 21 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood with white pearl dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome, adjustable four-saddle bridge/tailpiece assembly

PICKUP: Wal humbucker with two rows of four pole pieces with a separate coil for each of the eight

CONTROLS: Volume, tone, active/passive slide switch

FEATURES: Modular FET active circuitry, body edge plate featured a regular jack or an alternative balanced line XLR for low impedance connection. This was popular with seventies session players but it also allowed the use of much longer leads for those stadium gigs! Schaller tuners with ‘crescent’ gear covers, large plastic scratchplate

FINISHES: Natural, black, colours to order

COMMENTS: The first British production line active bass the Pro Bass was offered with one or two pickups and a passive version was also offered, although relatively few of these were made. Mostly the bodies were ash with the best wood used for the natural finished models, as this was very much in fashion at the time.

If body wood appears unattractive then it was originally a coloured body that has been stripped by the owner! Early versions featured the ungainly ‘spade’ headstock, which was later reduced and reshaped. Passive models could be converted to the active E model if required by fitting the alternative ‘active’ scratchplate that included the battery compartment and the slide switch.

Cool and classic basses
Gibson EB-2 Bass
A bass for ES-335 lovers

ORIGINALLY PRODUCED: 1958-61

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Archtop semi-hollowbody, 4-string

BODY: Maple faced 4-ply top, twin cutaway, bound with f-holes

NECK: Mahogany, glued-in, 20 jumbo frets

SCALE LENGTH: 775mm (30.5-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood with white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome, 4-saddle bridge, Kluson rear facing ‘banjo style’ tuners with plastic keys, single saddle bridge/tailpiece

PICKUP: Single humbucker, black faced with screw type adjustable pole pieces initially to one end of the pickup then moved to the centre

CONTROLS: Volume, tone and baritone tone switch

FEATURES: Black laminated plastic floating scratchplate,

FINISHES: Natural and sunburst mostly although Gibson’s classic cherry red did appear occasionally

COMMENTS: Introduced as the bass version of Gibson’s popular ES-335 guitar the EB-2 has a narrow neck with a 38mm nut and substantial depth. Although semi-hollow the body construction features a large central core that makes it heavier than it looks and gives it a neat combination of solid and acoustic bass sounding elements.

The baritone switch appeared about 1959 and was originally a push button but soon became a regular switch. The banjo tuners disappeared during 1960 to be replaced with the more common sideways ‘elephant ears’ open gear design. The rather basic bridge/tailpiece offered little adjustment values and originally the strings were anchored over a foam strip to offer damping. Like all early basses they were supplied with tapewound strings so the bass had a plummy but substantial thud of a sound.

Cool and classic basses
Vox Phantom IV Bass
Angular Anglo-Italian four string

PRODUCED: 1962–64 (UK) 1965-69 (Italy)

ORIGIN: UK & Italy

TYPE: Solid asymmetrical pentagonal body, 4-string

BODY: Sycamore

NECK: Sycamore (very early models) or maple, bolt-on, 20 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood or ebony with white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome cover over 4-saddle raised tail bridge, open gear tuners

PICKUPS: Two single-coil units with 4 pole pieces and chrome surrounds initially then white plastic

CONTROLS: Volume, tone and three-position pickup selection lever switch

FEATURES: Capstan-style truss rod adjuster at body end of neck, most models had a pointless finger rest set near the neck, some headstocks matched body colour

FINISHES: Polyester Black or White although some other colours are known to exist

COMMENTS: It was president Tom Jennings who commissioned the London Design Centre to produce a unique body design for Vox in 1961 and the Phantom was born. Initially the bass version was built in the UK but production was soon sub contracted to EKO in Italy although, unlike today, these models sold at a higher price.

Amazingly when first introduced the Phantom sold for more than a Fender Precision in the UK! The Italian-built models also included a Gretsch style removable padded back cushion with pop-on studs.

Earliest versions had Phantom on the headstock not Vox and as much of the body was covered by a similarly shaped white scratchplate the colour was largely unimportant. The pickups were modelled on the original Fender P-Bass design and worked surprisingly well as a pair. Sadly the Phantom IV has atrocious balance but the good solid sound and unique appearance are still appealing.

Cool and classic basses
Jaydee Supernatural Classic Series 1 Bass
High quality Brit luthiery

ORIGINALLY PRODUCED: 1984-current

ORIGIN: UK

TYPE: Solidbody, active/passive 4-string

BODY: Mahogany wings, laminated centre block, twin cutaway

NECK: Maple/walnut/mahogany laminate, glued-in, 21 hard nickel alloy frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Ebony, bound, white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome, 4-saddle bridge, brass nut, Schaller M4 tuners

PICKUPS: Custom wound hum-cancelling units (SN2000’s currently) with laminated polished hardwood cases

CONTROLS: Active/passive switch, volume & tone for passive mode, 4-position rotary pickup selector and three centre notched EQ rotaries

FEATURES: Strings are anchored in a pair of dual keyhole chrome discs

FINISHES: Natural satin

COMMENTS: Jaydee stands for John Diggins, the British luthier responsible for these high quality instruments. The laminated neck wood is mirrored at the centre of the body thus presenting a neck-through-body appearance.

Having a cannon as well as a jack socket on the bass was used as a means to connect directly into the PA. Stadium bands used this idea a lot during the seventies, as being low impedance the cable could be much longer than a regular jack to jack.

Whilst some Classics had dot markers others had a set of distinctive oval inlays. This particular bass belonged to Mark King and was signed and donated by him for a charity auction in 1988. We wonder where it is now...

Cool and classic basses
Gibson EB-1 Electric Bass
Gibson's first electric bass aimed to bridge the gap

PRODUCED: 1953-58

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solid violin shaped arched body, 4-string

BODY: Mahogany

NECK: Mahogany, set neck, 20 fine frets

SCALE LENGTH: 775mm (30.5-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, pearl dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome bridge/tailpiece, single-saddle bridge, banjo style tuners with rear-facing knobs

PICKUPS: Single alnico magnetic pickup with brown Royalite cover

CONTROLS: Volume & tone

FEATURES: Telescopic endpin for upright playing

FINISHES: Natural brown lacquer with painted f-holes

COMMENTS: This was the first electric bass from Gibson hence the name. However it was rechristened the EB-1 after the introduction of the EB-0 in 1956. It was Gibson’s tradition of organising model numbers by their price that caused the EB-0 to undercut this designation because it was cheaper!

The EB-1 briefly resurfaced in 1970 with a few cosmetic changes but by 1972 it was gone again! With its violin shape and endpin it was definitely aimed at bridging the gap between an upright bass and a bass guitar. The earliest versions with a brown pickup cover had a huge single-coil unit inside that was actually mounted on its side. This gave it a cleaner and better-defined sound than the 1958 versions that were given a regular bass humbucker.

Cool and classic basses
Rickenbacker 4000 Bass
James Kirkland (far right) with a beautiful Rickenbacker 4000

PRODUCED: 1957–1984

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Flamboyant 'cresting wave' twin cutaway solidbody, 4-string

BODY: Maple wings stuck to mahogany neck-through core

NECK: Mahogany or walnut, through-neck, 20 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 851mm (33.5-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, dot markers

HARDWARE: Nickel or chrome, bridge/tailpiece included a string damper assembly, Schaller BM nickel tuners

PICKUPS: Huge horseshoe magnet pickup featuring a distinctive gap in the wrist rest section where the magnets oppose each other

CONTROLS: Volume and tone, chrome plated or black 'flying saucer' knobs

FEATURES: Clear plastic bridge borders, clear plastic finger rest, gold back-painted clear plastic pickguard with alternative white available around 1958. When the 4001 appeared the scratchplate adopted that design, gold was dropped and later black was introduced

FINISHES: Mapleglo and old-style Fireglo (2-tone brown sunburst)

COMMENTS: Like Fender’s Precision Bass, Rickenbacker almost got it right first time with their visually startling 4000 model. It was the first bass to feature through-neck construction where the bridge pickup, neck and headstock were all on the same piece of wood so effectively maximising on resonance and sustain.

This mahogany centre core had maple ‘wings’ stuck to it to form the ‘cresting wave’ body shape named after the famous Japanese painting, and also used for the headstock. Designer Roger Rossmeisl had introduced this manufacturing technique on the Combo 400 guitar the previous year.

Earliest versions had a fixed modified bridge with a standard guitar string anchor leaving two slots unused. This was soon replaced by a movable bridge with string mute. Of all the early bass guitars, the 4000 was the closest to Fender’s 34-inch scale and also benefited by the more vibrant sound this length seems to magically produce.

Although it doesn’t possess the classic Rickenbacker growling sound that we know and love today, it gives a robust delivery that is still mighty appealing. The 4000FL fretless version was also available from 1960 but only as a special order.

Cool and classic basses
Framus Star Bass 5/150
A German hollowbody loved by Brit rock 'n' rollers

PRODUCED: 1959-68

ORIGIN: Bavaria

TYPE: Semi-acoustic body, 4-string

BODY: Mahogany top and back, maple sides, white binding, single cutaway, two f-holes

NECK: Maple, set neck, 20 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 775mm (30.5-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, bound with white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome tailpiece and scratchplate, guitar sized tuners with plastic keys

PICKUPS: Two four-pole pickups mounted on metal floating scratchplate

CONTROLS: Volume & tone, plus rotary pickup selection lever switch

FEATURES: Single-saddle rosewood bridge, separate heavy duty chrome plated tailpiece, painted headstock, lever style control knobs

FINISHES: Black Rose or Shaded Blonde

COMMENTS: In the 1950s when American instruments were almost impossible to get many British groups used Framus basses and the first bass superstar, Jet Harris, used his on many of the early Drifters and Shadows tracks.

The models he used, however, had the sharper edged Florentine cutaway with two volumes and two tone controls set into the scratchplate. The more rounded Venetian cutaway seen here was championed by Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones.

He also used the smaller bodied 5/149 single pickup version too. Later versions saw the scratchplate dispensed with and the pickups fitted to the body as well as super finishes but as the bass progressed it lost much of its appeal. These days parent company Warwick do a pretty faithful reproduction of this as the Framus Vintage 5/150 Star Bass.

Cool and classic basses
Fender Mustang Bass
A 'junior' instrument with a whole lotta cool

PRODUCED: 1966-81 (Reissued by Fender Japan in 2002)

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solidbody, 4-string

BODY: Poplar (alder later)

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 19 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 762mm (30-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood with pearl dot inlays, optional maple board available from 1975

HARDWARE: Chrome bridge plate with raised and folded tail, four saddles, separate chrome control plate, open gear tuners initially with oval keys

PICKUPS: Down-sized split coil with hidden pole pieces

CONTROLS: Volume and tone with Jazz-style knobs

FEATURES: Through-body stringing and individual string dampers

FINISHES: Plain colours, optional competition colours with matching headstock and GT stripes during 1968-72 period

COMMENTS: Following hot on the heels of the Mustang guitar, being launched as a ‘junior’ instrument and ‘one for the ladies’ gave the Mustang bass a bit of a shaky start. This was Fender’s first short scale 4-string bass and was aimed at the guitarist who sometimes switched to bass.

This was the last bass designed by Leo Fender following the company buy-out by CBS and fell in line with his mix and match ethos by making use of the jigs initially designed for the Musicmaster guitar. Interestingly this bridge and damper assembly was the earliest example of the design favoured by Leo for his first Music Man StingRay basses that would appear in the seventies.

The rear body scoop is disproportionately large and the finger rest moved above the strings in the seventies to become a thumb rest and for a while some had two! This particular Mustang Bass includes the rarely seen oval tuning keys that were soon phased out for the regular shamrocks or elephant ears as they were lovingly known.

Lots of colour variations and even an Antigua finish with matching scratchplate around 1977-79. Regular users include Alan Lancaster of Status Quo, Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads, Bill Wyman had one with The Rolling Stones for a while and Roger Glover used one on Deep Purple’s Fireball album.

Cool and classic basses
Gibson Thunderbird IV Bass - Non Reverse
A distinctive 'bird that made waves

PRODUCED: 1965-69

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solid body, 4-string

BODY: Mahogany slab with curved edges

NECK: Mahogany, set neck, 20 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 876mm (34.35-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood with white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome plated tune-o-matic bridge, separate tailpiece, open gear tuners

PICKUPS: Two chrome-plated humbuckers

CONTROLS: 2 volume controls and one tone

FEATURES: Chrome covers, large white laminated scratchplate with Thunderbird motif and finger grip

FINISHES: Sunburst or Gibson custom colours with matching headstocks

COMMENTS: Introduced in 1963 as the bass version of the Firebird guitar, the original Thunderbird bass featured an outrageous ‘reverse body’ design. It was met with a degree of trepidation and its reception was at best luke warm.

In an attempt to reinvent what was actually a fine bass the non-reverse design was introduced in the 1965 Gibson catalogue although instrument production began in earnest in 1966. The neck through body construction was abandoned so the raised centre section as seen on the original Thunderbird Bass disappeared thus allowing for the big distinctive scratchplate.

Before the Thunderbirds all Gibson basses were short scale but these were full scale and were offered with one (Thunderbird II) or two (Thunderbird IV) pickups. The headstock was set back at an angle for secure string slotting into the nut.

Cool and classic basses
Alembic Stanley Clarke 'Small Standard' Bass
No small amount of punch!

PRODUCED: 1988-present

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solid body, 4-string

BODY: Mahogany wings with quilted maple top

NECK: Laminated three maple/two walnut pinstripes neck-through body, 24 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Ebony with oval pearloid inlays

HARDWARE: Bass multi-adjustable bridge, sealed gear tuners

PICKUPS: Pair of Alembic AXY4 hum-cancelling units, active circuitry and EQ

CONTROLS: Volume, two tone filters, pan/blend control, two Q switches

FEATURES: Brass nut, solid brass ‘Bird’ tailpiece

FINISHES: High gloss polyester with satin neck

COMMENTS: This was by no means the first Stanley Clarke model as it was built in 1994 but it’s certainly one of the most striking basses that Alembic have ever built. In spite of its 'Small Standard' tag it’s actually a full-scale bass whereas most of its predecessors were a keener 30.75-inch length.

The symmetrical body here holds much of its appeal, along with its relatively modest proportions. The ultimate in adjustability the Stanley Clarke comes with a tool kit and once the pickups and bridge are set as required they can be locked into place.

The active electronics give this model a mighty boost in performance and punch thus taking the muscle out of playing. With a headstock of this size poor balance is inevitable but it’s a minor annoyance and in spite of its comparatively high price, in Alembic terms this particular model was a lot cheaper than most at the time of production.

Initailly launched with this symmetrical body the later versions saw a slightly larger upper body horn with the strap button placed there for improved balance. In spite of their strict no endorsement policy, after thirty years of working together Alembic presented Stanley with a specially inlaid instrument.

Cool and classic basses
Epiphone Rivoli Bass
You will notice that our Rivoli bass is missing the iconic 'E' on the scratchplate but it spent some years without one and now sports the slightly less curvy Gibson one

PRODUCED: 1959-62, 1963-69

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Semihollow body, twin rounded cutaway, 4-string

BODY: Maple with ivoroid binding

NECK: Mahogany, glued-in, 20 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 775mm (30.5-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome cover over bridge/tailpiece, 4-saddle bridge, open gear tuners

PICKUPS: Two single-coil units with white plastic surrounds

CONTROLS: Volume, tone plus bass boost switch

FEATURES: Solid centre section to body, f-holes

FINISHES: Natural or three-tone sunburst

COMMENTS: When Gibson bought out the Epiphone Company in 1957 it allowed the company to bypass its rather foolish decision to only supply Gibson instruments to ‘vetted’ music stores in each town. Epiphone allowed them to supply many more.

The EB-2 bass was doing well so it made sense to bring out the virtually identical Epiphone Rivoli just a year later using the same parts. Like the EB-2 the first models had banjo-style tuners with plastic pegs and the pickup resided under a black plastic cover. Both were changed in due course, as was the bridge, which was upgraded to a more adjustable unit.

The boost switch varied from push-on/push-off type to single throw. It was dropped in 1962 but found favour in the UK during the British beat boom so was quickly put back into production. Limited in sound options and heavier than it looks, but a truly great instrument.

Cool and classic basses
Rickenbacker 4001 CS
The bass that likes to say 'Yes'

PRODUCED: 1991-2000

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solidbody, twin cutaway, 4-string

BODY: Eastern rock maple wings

NECK: Maple neck-through, 20 fine frets

SCALE LENGTH: 851mm (33.5-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Vermillion, white pearl dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chromed upper magnet section of pickup, bridge/tailpiece, open gear tuners

PICKUPS: Single coil horseshoe unit and smaller ‘toast rack’ unit at neck position

CONTROLS: 2 Volume & 2 tone, 3-way pickup selector switch

FEATURES: Made in the image of Chris Squire’s own bass, white scratchplate with his signature on it

FINISHES: Cream lacquer

COMMENTS: Over the course of time the Rickenbacker 4001 lost much of its appeal following what are tantamount to poor design choices. It all centres on the loss of the horseshoe magnet with its distinctive ‘split’ in the chrome ‘cover’ above, which of course is actually part of the pickup itself.

Chris Squire’s 4001S bass was originally Fireglo finish but he stripped it on more than one occasion, so much so that the body ended up with very unique dimensions. But it always sounded fantastic on Yes albums and shows so the Signature CS model was much anticipated.

It is a stunning bass indeed and offers an opportunity to own something newer that is a faithful reproduction of the original but with the Squire dimensions. Chris’ comment: "We did everything to duplicate my bass from the size, wood, finish, neck profile and even the windings and the mass of the metal on the pickup. It sounds really great but mine still has that certain something extra."

Cool and classic basses
Fender Transition P-Bass
The in-betweener that became a favourite

Fender transition p-bass

PRODUCED: 1954-1957

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solidbody, twin cutaway, 4-string

BODY: Ash mainly but alder also used

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 20 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Maple, black dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome covers over bridge/tailpiece and pickup, twin brass-saddle bridge, reverse action open gear tuners

PICKUP: One singlecoil

CONTROLS: Volume & Tone on separate plate

FEATURES: Large scratchplate, through-body stringing, Telecaster styled headstock

FINISHES: 2-tone Sunburst, Blonde & Custom Colours

COMMENTS: The Fender Transition P-Bass earned its name as it represented the first round of updates but didn’t get quite as far as the major overhaul in 1957.

Here the slab body was given contouring in line with the newly released Stratocaster and Sunburst became an option to the regular blonde finish with custom colour choices added in 1956. An alternative white scratchplate was also introduced that still covered most of the body and that all-important Telecaster styled headstock remained.

Sting has a couple of these from 1955 and 1957 although apparently fitted with Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Basslines Stacked single-coil pickups that help overcome some of the original pickups’ shortcomings. The later model has an alder body.

Cool and classic basses
Ampeg AEB-1
A quirky character with an f'ing mad design

Ampeg aeb-1 bass guitar

PRODUCED: 1966 - 1969

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solid body, smooth cutaway, 4-string

BODY: Maple sections glued to plywood with through-cut f-holes

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 20 medium plus zero fret

SCALE LENGTH: 876mm (34.5-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood or Ebony with white dot inlays (Also rare non-specified blonde fretboard with black dots)

HARDWARE: Chrome tailpiece, open gear tuners, 4-saddle bridge under chrome cover

PICKUPS: Hidden ‘mysterious’ pickup under bridge

CONTROLS: Volume & Tone (Volume has ‘pull to kill’ switch)

FEATURES: Aluminium nut, Scrolled open slot headstock with side mounted/rear facing tuners, Sunburst finish to back of neck

FINISHES: Cherry Red, Burnished Tones (Sunburst) or White

COMMENTS: The AEB-1 bass guitar is a curious design indeed with hardly any body visible as it had two large f-holes cut right through and a huge scratchplate that covered most of the rest.

The scrolled headstock with side-mounted tuners was similar to their upright Baby Bass and the AEB-1 also made use of the same ‘mysterious’ pickup design. This was effectively a contact mic using a Silectron Steel diaphragm to transfer the string vibrations to the two magnetic coils set beneath. Actually it’s a neat idea as it allows the use of non-magnetic (nylon or gut) strings.

The bridge has individual saddles and players often exposed it by removing the chrome bridge cover. Just Volume and Tone controls are fitted however the Volume had a switch incorporated that you could ‘Pull to Kill’ and knock out the Volume instantly.

It has a deep thud of a sound but is very penetrating. It’s a bit unwieldy to play as the scroll makes it rather top heavy and the tailpiece extends beyond the body edge.

The serial number is stamped into the back of this tailpiece. Some instruments were shipped with a bound fingerboard and the AUB-1 Fretless version was also available and notably used by Boz Burrell with King Crimson and Bad Company.

Cool and classic basses
Squier Katana Bass
A Precision blade for rock samurai

Squier katana bass guitar

PRODUCED: 1985 - 1986

ORIGIN: Japan

TYPE: Solid body, Asymmetrical V-shape, 4-string

BODY: Alder

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 20 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 813mm (32-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome plated raised-tail bridge, regular open gear bass tuners

PICKUPS: Classic split-coil unit

CONTROLS: Volume and tone

FEATURES: The pointed headstock features an angular Squier logo atop a golden sword with ‘Made In Japan’ printed on it. Underneath is a minute ‘by Fender’ decal. Jack socket on body edge, strap button on neckplate.

FINISHES: Black and Olympic White, plus custom colours

COMMENTS: Although originally conceived as the ‘affordable’ line product of Fender, there have still been a few cool Squier ‘originals’ that have adapted regular parts to produce something quite special.

The Katana is a case in point and although essentially a P-Bass in a stunted V-shaped design, it’s still a striking instrument. Named after Japan’s traditional Samurai sword, the headstock is obviously a sliced-down Precision but works well for this supersonic design essentially aimed at the metal-heads of the time.

The chamfering and the upper step to the body added much visual appeal, as do the amplifier style control knobs. Balance is not great but the sound from these basses is generally good, although the lack of headstock mass does affect sustain.

The Katana was incredibly cheap at the time so you got a lot of bang for your buck. Very short-lived indeed, but quite collectable now.

Cool and classic basses
Gibson Grabber G-1 Bass
A chunky beast with a unique sliding pickup design

Gibson grabber g-1 bass

PRODUCED: 1973 - 1982

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solid body, offset double cutaway, 4-string

BODY: Solid maple on earliest models then Alder

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 20 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 876mm (34½ -inch)

FINGERBOARD: Maple, pearl dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome Tune-O-Matic Bridge with cover, regular open gear bass tuners

PICKUP: Gibson movable unit

CONTROLS: Volume & Tone

FEATURES: A Flying-V styled headstock in natural or black finish, Gibson Made In USA stamped on the neckplate, Black or Tortoiseshell scratchplate

FINISHES: Natural, Natural Satin, Natural Maple Gloss, Ebony, Wine Red, Black, White, Walnut and candy Apple Red

COMMENTS: The Grabber was the first bolt-on neck bass design by Gibson and quite a heavy bass to use.

The sliding pickup was seen as a step forward and it did offer some extra tonal qualities. It was fairly limited in movement and even in the extreme positions it was still essentially a centre location, although there was a discernable difference in the attack.

It had a good solid sound though and soon became Gibson’s entry-level bass. Natural Satin and Black were the most popular finishes with White and Walnut being the most rare. Candy Apple Red appeared briefly in the 1980s.

Cool and classic basses
Ibanez ATK 300 Bass
A worthy work horse that was put out to pasture

Ibanez atk 300 bass

PRODUCED: 1995 - 1999

ORIGIN: Japan

TYPE: Solid body, twin cutaway, Active 4-string

BODY: Light Ash

NECK: Maple 3-piece, bolt-on, 22 jumbo frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Maple, black dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome ATK Custom Surround fixed raised tail bridge, open gear ‘Elephant Ears’ tuners

PICKUPS: Ibanez Triple Coil featuring dummy hum-cancelling coil

CONTROLS: Volume, Treble, Middle & Bass (all cut/boost), Pickup Character Switch

FEATURES: Two aside tuners, back plate in two parts for easier battery replacement

FINISHES: Solid Black, Natural & Sunburst

COMMENTS: Although sadly short lived the ATK was a fine workmanlike bass trying to muscle in on the Music Man action. It employs a relatively traditional look but the Custom bridge/pickup surround gives it an air of individuality.

With a 3-band active EQ the sounds generated are pretty expansive but even more so thanks to the Character mini switch that offers Attack, Bright and Traditional settings. This gives it something rather special, particularly when turned up to produce great growl and barking deliveries.

It was also available as the ATK305, which is the 5-string version, or as a regular 4-string with passive circuitry at a lower price. Although this may have been tempting at the time the active version is the one to get as it offers much greater tonal range and attack.

Cool and classic basses
Modulus Graphite Flea Bass (FB4)
A bass with a bug for jumpin' funk licks

Modulus graphite flea bass (fb4)

PRODUCED: 1997 – Present

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solidbody, twin cutaway, 4-string

BODY: Alder

NECK: Carbon Graphite, bolt-on, 22 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34 inches)

FINGERBOARD: Phenolic, small white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome plated Gotoh raised-tail bridge, Modulus sealed gear tuners

PICKUPS: Lane Poor MMG, Bartolini NTBT active EQ

CONTROLS: Volume, Treble cut/boost & Bass cut/boost

FEATURES: Headstock colour matches the body, white or black three-ply pearloid scratchplate

FINISHES: Semi-gloss in Red, White, Black or Grey. Metalflake in Purple, Blue, Silver and Gold

COMMENTS: This was one of the earliest basses to be connected to Flea but there have been many since including those bearing his own name.

Our example is fitted with a Lane Poor pickup but other units and corresponding circuitry were also offered including Bartolini and the Basslines MM. The neck is one of the smoothest ever, thanks to the carbon content and the nut was made from this too.

The Flea is appropriately fast and funky and a true slappers delight, with more than enough output to shred your clothes.

Cool and classic basses
Fender Bass V
A V good idea? Perhaps not...

Fender bass v

PRODUCED: 1965 - 1970

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Twin cutaway solid body, 4-string

BODY: Ash, elongated shape

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 15 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood or maple with pearl dots (blocks later)

HARDWARE: Chrome raised tail bridge, bell plate and two cover plates with ‘F’ on bridge plate

PICKUPS: Single split coil with smooth top, unequal halves

CONTROLS: Volume & Tone with Fender ‘amp-style’ skirted control knobs

FEATURES: White or Tortoiseshell scratchplate, thumb rest, 5-saddle bridge with through-body stringing

FINISHES: 3-tone Sunburst and solid custom colours

COMMENTS: Whether it was due to the acceptance of the Bass VI by the bass playing community we can’t say but the reasoning behind Fender’s Bass V is still something of a mystery. It’s considered by many to be the worst Fender bass design ever and adding a high C string, rather than extending the bass range below, is hard to understand but obviously the performance restrictions of bass amplification of that time must have played a significant part.

Although it had a slim elongated body and a downsized neck with fewer frets, it still achieved a full 34-inch scale length. Initially the neck was unbound but around 1966 it became bound with block markers. A year later a maple fingerboard option was introduced. The extended headstock makes it ungainly so its visual appeal is virtually zero, it’s neither attractive nor sexy and both are essential elements of any instrument.

However, it did allow easy high note access across the board rather than up the neck and it actually sounds like a Fender bass so no complaints there. But even with John Paul Jones championing the instrument during his Led Zeppelin days the Fender V failed to gain popularity.

Nowadays it has become highly collectable and is certainly a classic instrument so justly deserves its moment of glory in our cool and classic gallery.

Cool and classic basses
Yamaha Attitude Limited II Bass
A Sea Foam Green stereo machine

Yamaha attitude limited ii bass guitar

PRODUCED: 1994 - Present

ORIGIN: Japan

TYPE: Twin cutaway solid body, Stereo 4-string

BODY: Alder

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 21 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inches)

FINGERBOARD: Maple with a gloss finish, offset black slot inlays

HARDWARE: Black Anodised tuners and raised tail bridge

PICKUPS: Camouflaged Woofer & Split Coil

CONTROLS: DiMarzzio Woofer Volume, Woofer Tone with switch, singlecoil Volume with switch to activate mono circuit.

FEATURES: Stereo circuit, but can be switched to mono; fingerboard half scalloped for top five frets, Hipshot D-Tuner

FINISHES: Sea Foam Green with Crushed Ice scratchplate or Black

COMMENTS: The Attitude Limited and this Attitude Limited II Bass were both developed for, and with the help of, bassmeister Billy Sheehan. Obviously it was based on a Fender, but with very specific design changes such as the slab body and the stereo circuitry. To operate this in true stereo required two separate amplifiers, but used in this way the bass is simply awesome in sound.

The electronics are consequently a bit strange and incorporates switching on the controls, but at least this also allows for mono operation. The two jack sockets set into a slanted recess in the body surface and curiously the Woofer pickup (Yamaha’s word) is semi-hidden beneath a cover of the same material as the scratchplate.

In addition, the five uppermost frets are scalloped to assist in the bending of the top two strings, something that Billy was fond of doing. To give this more general appeal Yamaha also made it available as the Attitude Special Bass with regular mono circuitry.

Cool and classic basses
Warwick Corvette FNA Bass
A short-lived alternative to the Altus

Warwick corvette fna bass guitar

PRODUCED: 1999 only

ORIGIN: Germany

TYPE: Twin cutaway solid body, 4-string

BODY: Ash with a flame maple top over a walnut veneer

NECK: Wenge, bolt-on, 24 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Wenge

HARDWARE: Gold-plated fully adjustable bridge and separate tailpiece

PICKUPS: Single MEC Humbucker

CONTROLS: Volume/Slap Contour Switch, Treble, Middle, Bass

FEATURES: The body has an extra contoured ‘slice’ at the heel for improved top fret access,

FINISHES: Honey Violin High Gloss, Natural and Coloured Oil Finishes

COMMENTS: This was a short-lived revamp of Warwick’s Altus bass and actually the FNA stands for ‘Formally Known as Altus’, albeit with a slight spelling mistake!

It was the first Warwick bass to make use of a Music Man styled MEC humbucking pickup and it worked extremely well. The lack of scratchplate allows this beautiful Honey Violin finish and the gold hardware to positively glow with sophistication.

The distinctive Warwick multi adjustable bridge and separate tailpiece are set below the body surface for a minimalistic presentation and the walnut veneer beneath the maple top gives a ‘coach line’ effect on the body.

The sound, although similar to an Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay, still retains that distinctive Warwick quality and feel. It was dropped in favour of the FNA Jazzman with two pickups but remains a beautiful bass, light in weight and with a great range of sounds.

Cool and classic basses
Ernie Ball Music Man Piezo StingRay Bass
Putting extra sting in the tail

Ernie ball music man piezo stingray bass

PRODUCED: 2000 - Current

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Twin cutaway solid body, 4-string, active

BODY: Selected hardwoods

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 21 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Maple

HARDWARE: Chrome Music Man raised tail bridge, crescent moon control plate and short shank ‘shamrock’ open gear tuners

PICKUPS: Music Man eight-pole humbucker & Piezo-loaded bridge

CONTROLS: Volume, Blend, Treble, Middle & Bass

FEATURES: Classic StingRay looks with additional electronics, Schaller BM tuners with tapered string posts

FINISHES: Pearl Lavender high gloss polyester (as pictured) and all standard colours at same price, Vintage and Natural finishes cost extra

COMMENTS: The original StingRay design is definitely a thing of beauty so how do you install a second pickup to increase the tonal range without compromising that simplicity - fit Piezo transducers under the bridge saddles!

An additional cover on the back of the body reveals a cavity beneath the bridge where the Piezo circuitry and trimming pots can be accessed. The bridge is the shorter based design that was introduced when the individual string dampers were dropped. The control plate handles the five controls rather neatly but although the additional pickup gives this an increased range of sounds the two sound sources are too close together to produce any real ‘hollow’ sounds.

However, there is something of a sweet spot here thanks to the surprisingly warm element coming from the Piezo circuitry. Left handed and fretless models sold at the same price and the sheer range of colours available is quite frankly amazing with some having matching headstock finishes too.

Cool and classic basses
Gibson EB-3 Bass
Defining the Gibson bass sound

Gibson eb-3 bass

PRODUCED: Initially 1961 - 1979

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: SG shaped twin cutaway solid body with bevelled edge, 4-string

BODY: Mahogany

NECK: Mahogany set neck, 20 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 775mm (30.5-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, pearl dot inlays

HARDWARE: Nickel-plated, single bar-bridge initially, Kluson open gear tuners

PICKUPS: Large humbucker and mini humbucker

CONTROLS: Two Volume and two Tone plus a four-position rotary control

FEATURES: Laminated black scratchplate, finger rest, chromed metal wrist rest, Crown inlay on black-faced headstock

FINISHES: Cherry Red, Ebony (rare), Natural (introduced in 1971), White (introduced in 1976)

COMMENTS: When the Gibson EB-0 was revamped with the new SG styling, the EB-3 was also introduced sporting an additional pickup, another volume and tone control plus a four-position rotary switch that offered instant tonal variation.

This gave the bass far more sound definition than any other Gibson at the time and it soon became their most popular model. As a consequence it also became their most modified and remodelled bass ever and it’s still going on today.

The initial plastic cover on the neck pickup was changed to metal in 1962. The single saddle bridge/tailpiece was soon upgraded to individual saddles and the earliest versions included a pull lever damper. Many different bridges have actually been used, metal wrist rests have come and gone, the neck pickup was relocated more centrally for a while during the seventies, 19 and 21 frets came and went, as did the inbuilt Fuzztone option.

During the period 1969 - 1972 bound rosewood fingerboards and a slotted (classical style) headstock were introduced. The EB-3L (1971-1973) offered a longer (34.5-inch) scale length and was available in standard cherry finish or white.

Cool and classic basses
Guild B-301 Bass
A collectors' favourite and a must-try

Guild b-301 bass

PRODUCED: 1977 - 1981

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Twin cutaway offset solid body, 4-string

BODY: Mahogany

NECK: Mahogany set-neck with maple stringer at back, 20 heavy frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, white pearl dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome, brass bridge, two-a-side Schaller open gear tuners

PICKUP: Single-coil DiMarzio

CONTROLS: Volume & Tone

FEATURES: Multi-adjustable bridge, fretted or fretless

FINISHES: Natural, Black, Red and White

COMMENTS: One of the most collectable Guild basses ever and consequently quite often found today with different pickups fitted. The uniquely shaped body is well proportioned and the bass is relatively light in weight in spite of having both the body and neck made in mahogany. The black-faced headstock features an inlaid pearl Chesterfield (crown and pillar) logo and is tilted back for good string anchorage through the nut.

The DiMarzio pickup sits slightly off-centre towards the bridge and this gives it a good solid sound. The Fender like black-skirted knobs have dimpled silver tops with ‘G shield’ embossed logo and along with the jack socket all sit upon the black laminated scratchplate. The chrome plated solid brass bridge is adjustable so allows for altering string spacing and the B-301 is well known for its excellent sustain, as is the twin pickup version the B-302.

It was also available as a fretless and is definitely a bass to try if you get the opportunity.

Cool and classic basses
Fender Telecaster Bass Series 1
Technically, the very first Fender reissue

Fender telecaster bass series 1

PRODUCED: Second Version 1968-1972

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Twin cutaway solid slab body, 4-string

BODY: Ash

NECK: Single piece hard rock Maple, bolt-on, 20 medium nickel-silver frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Maple, black dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome pickup and bridge cover plates, separate control plate, two saddle bridge, open gear tuners

PICKUPS: Fender single-coil

CONTROLS: Volume & Tone

FEATURES: Telecaster shaped headstock, finger rest, through body stringing

FINISHES: Translucent Blonde, Sunburst & Custom Colours

COMMENTS: In 1968 Fender acknowledged an increase in demand and released the Telecaster Bass (so called because of the distinctive Tele-Style headstock). It was pretty much a replica of the original Precision Bass of 1951 using existing ‘left over’ stock so what is particularly significant is that these instruments were essentially the very first reissues from the company.

Curiously many of these also sported the distinctive oval (paddle) tuners that were previously only ever seen on a few Jazz basses and usually those with custom finishes. The scratchplate had extra securing screws as the original plates were inclined to warp over a period of time and the finger rest was fixed with two screws to prevent the annoying twirling of the single screwed original. The very first of these used a Telecaster guitar decal on the headstock with ‘BASS’ added and some had a maple capped neck so there was no skunk stripe at the back.

Cool and classic basses
Wal Custom Mach II – Gold Plated Fretless 5-string
Customised to perfection


PRODUCED: 1986 - Current


ORIGIN: UK


TYPE: Twin cutaway solid body, 4-string


BODY: Varies with exotic wood facings


NECK: Varies, bolt-on, 24 medium frets


SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)


FINGERBOARD: Ebony with short fret-lines beneath the bottom B string only


HARDWARE: Gold plated or chrome if requested


PICKUPS: Hand made humbuckers with two pickups per string that are wound in opposite directions


CONTROLS: Volume (with pick attack), Balance, & individual Tone controls for each pickup with boost activation


FEATURES: Active electronics from an internal preamp, 9-volt power pack, jack and balance XLR sockets, special design string tree


FINISHES: Natural satin, polished wood


COMMENTS: The Custom Mach II was the first deviation from the Wal production line. It features a slightly larger body than the Pro with an elongated upper horn for improved balance specifically designed for this, their first, five-string model. It has a pair of custom designed Wal humbucking pickups, new bridge and headstock designs and a two-octave fingerboard. The on board active electronics were sophisticated for the time and, more importantly, highly reliable. The tone controls are actually low pass filters and when the controls are pulled up you get a boost to the harmonic frequencies. The Volume control also has a pull switch function to introduce a high frequency element termed pick attack. The battery is housed within the control cavity along with the circuit boards and there are trim pots for all but the balance control. There’s enough adjustment available here to significantly alter the sound of the bass giving many Wal basses their own distinctive qualities. Session players love the DI socket but a jack plug still needs to be inserted in order to switch on the preamp. As with many relatively small manufacturers dates and material spec is hard to verify as records are sparse and many Wal basses were made to customer’s requirements hence Custom in the title. Paduak and hornbeam necks were often requested and quilted maple or American Black Walnut facings were very popular in the eighties. Fretless versions usually had ebony boards. The Mach II has also become known as the Mark II and this new design proved so popular that a four-string version soon followed.

Cool and classic basses
Zemaitis M/F Custom Bass
Metal guru, is it you?

PRODUCED: Circa 1972 - Current

ORIGIN: UK

TYPE: Single cutaway body, 4-string

BODY: Mahogany

NECK: Mahogany, glued-in, 22 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Ebony with pearl block inlays

HARDWARE: Hand carved duralumin bridge and separate tailpiece, Gotoh tuners

PICKUPS: Zemaitis made original P-Bass style.

CONTROLS: Volume, Tone & Pickup Select switch, plus two 3-way micro switches for phase and tone
FEATURES: Slab body with metal top plate

FINISHES: Black Satin with brushed and engraved alloy front

By its very name the Zemaitis Custom Bass varies according to the wants of the purchaser, as do many of the guitars bearing his name.

Tony McPhee of the Groundhogs bought the first M/F (metal front) solid guitar as the metal plate proved extra shielding to reduce unwanted stage interference. When Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood of the Faces originally called into the Zemaitis workshop Tony had no idea who they were but they returned regularly and bought guitars and basses and helped to popularise the model.

Mostly the designs are based on the Les Paul shape, but tops are usually either like this highly patterned aluminium (a striking look achieved using a gun engraver) or featuring a multi-pearl mosaic.

Heavy in weight and heavy on the pocket, Zemaitis basses tend to make use of Seymour Duncan split coil and J-type units. Tony Zemaitis Jr continues the company since his father sadly passed away in 2002.

Our picture shows a fabulous 1992 Custom with original straight P-Bass style single coil pickups as commissioned by Bob Daisley, and our thanks go to him for allowing us to share this rare example.

Cool and classic basses
Hofner Senator
German made, British played and lusted after to this day


PRODUCED: 1959 – Early Seventies

ORIGIN: Germany

TYPE: Single cutaway semi hollow archtop, 4-string

BODY: Maple Bound body and f holes, German spruce top

NECK: 3-piece maple ‘Slenda-nek’, glued in, 22 jumbo frets plus zero fret

SCALE LENGTH: 813mm (32-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood with pearl dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome trapeze tailpiece, guitar sized tuners

PICKUP: Nova-Sonic double pole, double coil unit (Staple)

CONTROLS: Volume & Tone

FEATURES: floating scratchplate, adjustable rosewood bridge with fret wire saddles, distinctive Hofner three-ply nut

FINISHES: Brunette Sunburst, Cherryburst,

COMMENTS:Originally produced as the 500/3 in the late fifties, it took Hofner's London-based distributor, Selmer's of Charing Cross Road, to introduce model names and thus baptise this f-holed beauty.

When the standard control plate was dropped in favour of surface mounted controls and thebody depth was reduced, it was given the name Senator, bringing it in line with the guitar. Most of Hofner's instruments were subjected to many design tweaks in order to keep them as up to date as possible.

Although similar in design to the Club Bass it had a bigger body, and the Nova-Sonic pickup offers the screw and staple design that in hindsight was one of the best pickups Hofner ever produced.

It gave a well-balanced and rich tone, plus plenty of that famous Hofner bass thump that could really shake the room. After constant use, the scratchplate tended to get loose due to the constant vibrations, so many players removed them.

The treble clef on the headstock dates our example as pre-1964, as then the dagger like shape replaced it. Additionally, if you wanted to buy a plush-lined case, it would set you back more than a third of the price of the bass. Nice.

Cool and classic basses
Gibson Les Paul Triumph
A familiar shape in an unfamiliar set up


PRODUCED: 1972 – 1979/80

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Single cutaway solid body, 4-string, passive

BODY: Bound 2-piece Honduras Mahogany, carved top

NECK: 3-piece mahogany, set neck, 24 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 775mm (30.5-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Bound Rosewood with pearl block inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome, adjustable 4-saddle bridge/tailpiece, bridge cover plate, pickup surrounds

PICKUPS: Pair of Gibson black covered low impedance humbucking units

CONTROLS: Volume, Bass, Treble, 3-way pickup selector switch, 3-way Tone Lever switch, Output Hi/Lo switch & Phase In/Out switch

FEATURES: Very sophisticated low impedance passive electronics for the time,

FINISHES: Natural Mahogany or White

COMMENTS: Following directly on from the Les Paul Professional Bass (Circa 1970-72) the Triumph was introduced as the bass equivalent of the Les Paul Recording model guitar with similar low impedance pickups but without being set at an angle.

The body is slightly larger than a standard Les Paul and features a heavily carved top and a read body scoop. The extra mass makes this a very heavy instrument indeed and the low impedance feature meant you could use much longer leads on stage.

However it needed a special lead provided by Gibson with a transformer built in at the amp end. Without this you were unable to function correctly hence the inclusion of the Hi/Lo Output switch so a standard lead could be used.

In spite of this slight complication the fact that the Triumph was so much more versatile on sound than other Gibson basses of the time made it a worthwhile venture. Earliest versions had the typical all-metal three-bolt adjustable bridge/tailpiece but a slimmer unit with nylon saddles superseded this.

In spite of its sound potential it proved too complicated for most players so was never a real commercial success. Gibson’s Les Paul Triumph bass is a pretty rare and exotic animal so well worth tracking down.

Cool and classic basses
Fender Slab Body Precision
More than simply your average Precision...


PRODUCED: 1965 - 1967

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Twin cutaway solid body, 4-string

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 20 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Maple although at least one Rosewood board is known to exist

HARDWARE: Chrome raised tail bridge, tuners and cover plates

PICKUPS: Single Split Coil

CONTROLS: Volume & Tone

FEATURES: Slab body

FINISHES: Butterscotch Blonde and White

COMMENTS: You would be forgiven in thinking that this is just another Precision from a not particularly interesting time in its production history, but you'd be wrong.

For a start this model didn't initially appear on sale on American soil - it was a purely British phenomenon. Essentially it's an original slab body Precision from the early fifties but with the later, larger sized headstock as ordered by Arbiter in London.

Exactly what inspired the order is hard to discover but they caused interest as soon as they appeared, tickling the fancy of bassists like John Entwistle, Chip Hawkes (Tremeloes), Bob Daisley (Gary Moore, Ozzy Osbourne, Rainbow) and Eric Haydock (Hollies). Even Marc Bolan's bass player used one on Top Of The Pops in 1971 for Get It On.

It created enough interest and sales for a second batch to be made and some of these remained in the States. This is one of the most researched and coveted production Precisions ever, and it helped rekindle the interest in the original P-Bass and subsequently lead to the Telecaster Bass.

Fender Custom Shop recently introduced their Masterbuilt '66 Slab Precision Closet Classic Bass and a book called 'Fender Bass For Britain' by Barry Matthews gives the fullest possible account of this curious instrument.

Cool and classic basses
Music Man StingRay 5
When four strings aren't enough, you need a StringRay 5


PRODUCED: 1987 - Current

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Twin offset cutaway solid body, Active, 5-string

BODY: Ash

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 22 high profile wide frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Maple or Rosewood, pearl dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome 4/1 Schaller open gear tuners, hardened steel bridge plate

PICKUPS: Ernie Ball Ceramic Humbucker with phantom coil

CONTROLS: Volume, Treble, Mid & Bass, 3-way selector switch, edge mounted jack socket

FEATURES: Extended scratchplate, smaller bridge plate, surface stringing, 6-bolt neck plate

FINISHES: Sunburst, Trans Teal, Trans Red, Black, White, Custom Colours with matching headstock

COMMENTS: With a much more contoured body and a larger scratchplate taking care of pickups and controls, the StingRay 5 is instantly distinguishable from the classic 4-string version.

With a shorter bridge plate that finally dispensed with the string mutes, it was the first newly designed Music Man bass to be manufactured by the Ernie Ball Company and took its inspiration from their Silhouette guitar.

The 3-way selector offered a choice of series and parallel pick up combinations, and in 1991 the StingRay 5 was given a ceramic pickup with a phantom coil to reduce noise. The dual pickup model was introduced in 2005.

This has either two humbuckers or a humbucker and a single coil in the neck position, plus a 5-way selector switch. In 2006 a limited run had through-body stringing, an ebony fingerboard and a 5-bolt neck plate. A return to alnico pickups in 2008 gave the 5-string a new boost as it sounded much closer to the original 4-string Ray.

Also like the StingRay 4, the latest versions offer a piezo-loaded bridge for an expanded tonal range plus a fretless version with a pau ferro board and optional fret markers. Our picture shows a Trans Teal StingRay 5 alongside a natural finish classic fretless StingRay 4.

Cool and classic basses
Burns Shadows Bass
A hunk of Hank's burning love

Burns shadows bass

PRODUCED: Original run 1964 - 1965

ORIGIN: UK

TYPE: Solid body, offset double cutaway, 4-string

BODY: American Alder

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 22 medium frets plus zero fret

SCALE LENGTH: 851mm (33½-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood with small white dot markers

HARDWARE: Chrome, Rezo-tube bridge/tailpiece, Van Gent black button open gear tuners

PICKUPS: Three Nu-Sonic type initially then changed to three Rez-o-Matic Bass versions

CONTROLS: Volume & two Tone, 3-way Selector Switch

FEATURES: Offset ‘toast rack’ wrist rest, large scrolled headstock, brown or grey tortoiseshell scratchplate

FINISHES: Polyester White, Greenburst

COMMENTS: When Hank Marvin of The Shadows asked Burns to make him a signature guitar a matching bass was also required to keep the uniformed look associated with the band.

The Shadows Bass was duly designed and built for John Rostill and such was the interest it created a small production run was begun. Rostill’s bass was actually slightly different to the production models with ‘Marvin’ on the headstock and both the pickups and the toast rack palm rest were not set at an angle.

The Rezo-tube bridge/tailpiece featured four individual aluminium tubes for added resonance so the strings are loaded through the body. Unusually the upper strap button was located behind the upper body horn rather than on the end.

Following the initial run the Shadows Bass was continued by the new parent company Baldwin from 1965 - 1970. It developed an elongated scroll headstock and staggered Schaller tuners but these are less sought after today.

With the relaunch of the Burns name it reappeared during the nineties as a very favourable edition with Rez-o-Matic pickups and even a fretless version then in 2005 Burns of London acquired Rostill’s original bass and produced a limited run of The Shadows Bass 1964 which was modelled as close as possible to this lovely instrument. However it also benefited from an improved bridge and enhanced electronics with push/pull tone pot for two extra pickup combinations plus a 5-way selector switch.

Cool and classic basses
Vaccaro X-Ray Bass
Power forged and ready to rock


PRODUCED: 1998 - 2002

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solid body, offset double cutaway, 4-string

BODY: Alder

NECK: Aluminium/Maple, bolt-on, 20 medium frets plus zero fret

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Ebanol, pearl diamond inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome, Vaccaro V200 Fully Adjustable Bass Bridge, regular open gear bass tuners

PICKUPS: Vaccaro V2 P and J Style Set (Basslines)

CONTROLS: Volume, Tone & Balance

FEATURES: Aluminium neck core, Tuning Fork Headstock

COMMENTS: Henry Vaccaro Senior was one of the founding members of Kramer Music Products who introduced the amazing power-forged aluminium T-neck in 1976.

He was the company chairman from 1982-1988 but dissolved the company when testing began on the new aluminium V-neck, and the Vaccaro brand was launched. Unlike the Kramer T-Neck, which was troubled by temperature change, cold to the touch and extremely heavy, the V-Neck used an aluminium core surrounded by wood, and so was considerably lighter, resistant to temperature changes and also employed a truss rod.

Whist many other basses also opt for a P/J pickup configuration the X-Ray has a distinctive edginess to its overall sound plus excellent sustain thanks to this unusual construction. Combined with that striking headstock it was a winner but sadly not enough to prevent the company closing in 2002. Orange Sparkle was the signature colour but came in several other sparkling finishes as well as black.

Cool and classic basses
Fender Telecaster Bass Series 2
The first Fender resissue?


PRODUCED: Second Version 1972-1979

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Twin cutaway solid body, 4-string

BODY: Ash

NECK: Single piece hard rock Maple, bolt-on, 20 medium nickel-silver frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Maple, black dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome Pickup cover, 2 saddle bridge, tuners and bridge cover plate

PICKUPS: Fender Humbucker

CONTROLS: Volume & Tone

FEATURES: Telecaster shaped headstock, finger rest, Tilt neck micro adjustment, Bullet truss rod adjuster

FINISHES: High-gloss Blonde, Sunburst & Custom Colours

COMMENTS: When Fender released the first series of the Telecaster Bass in 1968 very few actually left the States. This model was essentially the first reissue Fender, as it was fashioned after the original Precision design. Ever the tastemaker, John Entwistle of The Who bought one.

However, in the UK we became far more familiar with the Telecaster Bass Series 2 that was introduced in 1972. This is a much-modified version, and is fitted with a humbucking pickup rather than the standard single coil unit. This fully adjustable pickup was actually designed by Seth Lover, who had been hired by Fender in 1967 - a job that ended his long association with Gibson.

It gave the bass an entirely new voice for Fender, as unsurprisingly its tonal qualities were much more Gibson like. The scratchplate was a new design too and incorporated the controls, however the jack socket remained on the lower body edge. It was also given the newly designed 3-bolt neck plate with tilt adjustment and a bullet style truss rod adjuster.

Cool and classic basses
Stuart Spector Design SSD NS-4 Bass
Handmade, ergonomically designed stunner


PRODUCED: 1990 - 1998

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Twin cutaway solid body, active 4-string

BODY: Quilted Soft maple

NECK: 3-piece laminated Maple, neck through body, 24 medium frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Pau Ferro, nipped oval-shaped mother of pearl inlays

HARDWARE: Gold plated brass bridge and M4-type tuners, brass nut

PICKUPS: Pair of active EMG Soapbars

CONTROLS: Volume, Pan & Dual Concentric active EQ of Bass and Treble

FEATURES: 18-volt on board electronic circuit, Graphite reinforced single truss rod, black-faced headstock,

FINISHES: Translucents including Red Wine (as here), orange, burgundy and natural

COMMENTS: For the uninitiated, the NS stands for Ned Steinberger who came up with the ergonomically designed concave body that was a total revelation to players when it was first introduced, as it simply melded into the player’s own body.

The first NS-Bass appeared in 1977 and was acknowledged not only for its design but also the dynamic sound. These handmade instruments soon became part of the Kramer Guitar Company in 1985, until that company’s demise in 1990. At that point Stuart started Stuart Spector Designs, and it’s from this SSD period (1995 in fact) that our example comes from.

Finally in 1998 Stuart regained the Spector name and trades as such, with the NS-4 still very much in demand. This particular colour combination of red body and gold hardware is a true delight to the eyes and really smacks of class.

The headstock joins the deep profile neck with a gentle volute-like bump, which gives extra strength to this vulnerable area, and the substantial bridge and pickups are neatly routed well into the body so as not to visually dominate this succulent presentation. With both a brass nut and a brass bridge mass the strings are exceptionally resonant and backed by the powerful on board circuitry - it’s no wonder this bass sounds simply fantastic.

Cool and classic basses
Dobro D Deluxe
A resonator bass that will catch your eyes and your ears

PRODUCED: 1995 - 2000

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Acoustic body with single cone resonator, 4-string, fretted or fretless

BODY: Bound laminated maple top, back & sides

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 24 fine frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, pearl dot inlays

HARDWARE: Aluminium resonator, spider bridge/trapeze tailpiece

FEATURES: Two screened sound holes with three uncovered smaller ones evenly spaced between, regular shaped Dobro headstock with two a side tuners

FINISHES: Natural high gloss & Darkburst

COMMENTS: Sometimes the unexpected leaves a lasting impression and that certainly is the case with this fully acoustic instrument from Dobro.

True to the legendary status that goes with the name this is fitted with a resonator, but it just happens to be a bass guitar. The original resonator idea stems from the thirties as a way to make an acoustic guitar sound louder.

The same could be said of the Dobro Bass but these days it's more a question of the distinctive sound that appeals rather than the added volume although, as this has no electronics at all, perhaps that is a distinct advantage.

Twenty-four frets is all very well but few of us could comfortably handle the uppermost, although the double dots on the fingerboard up here certainly stand out. Being full scale it does look rather over long, but fitted with a brand new set of phosphor bronze bass stings it has a deliciously brash but fruity sound. Sadly it was just a phase and all Dobro bass resonators ceased production at the turn of the century.

Cool and classic basses
Rickenbacker 4003
They don't come much cooler than this...


PRODUCED: 1979 - Current

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Twin cutaway solid body, 4-string passive

BODY: Bound, Maple wings aside the neck block

NECK: Maple, through neck, 20 jumbo frets

SCALE LENGTH: 844.6mm (33¼ -inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, lacquered with pearloid triangle inlays sometimes called Sailfins

HARDWARE: Chrome, Rickenbacker solid bridge/tailpiece, Schaller open gear ‘shamrock’ tuners, string damper

PICKUPS: 2 Rickenbacker Singlecoils

CONTROLS: Volume & Tone for each pickup plus 3-way selector switch

FEATURES: Bound body, Mono and Rick-O-Sound stereo outputs, distinctive white scratchplate

FINISHES: Fireglo, Jetglo, Mapleglo, Midnight Blue, White

COMMENTS:When Rickenbacker introduced the 4003 bass the 4001 was still in production, in fact it lasted until 1985 and with relatively little between the two visually and general sound characteristics, its very existence may seem curious.

The truth is, the 4001 had a few design problems - particularly with the truss rod adjustment cavity at the headstock. As the neck was very slim there was actually very little wood around this cavity, headstock breaks were always a danger (personal experience here) and neck bowing could be a problem.

The 4003 was designed to take care of that by adding extra meat to the whole neck. Of course this gave it a rather more substantial feel, so the new designation was justified. Rickenbacker also improved the dual truss rod system and altered the electronics by removing the bridge pickup capacitor and improved 'hotter' pickups, which are much better balanced than on the 4001.

Later versions of the 4003 would include a push/pull pot to engage this replaced capacitor. This bass masters the iconic looks and sound that Rickenbacker basses are known for, particularly when engaging Rick-O-Sound, which provided a stereo output jack so that you can run each pickup into a designated amplifier.

But whether mono or stereo this will grunt and growl like no other, although as McCartney proved it can also sound very sweet. Also available as the 4003S unbound mono version, 4003FL fretless, 4003S/5 unbound 5-string and 4003S/8 unbound 8-string, with all S-versions having dotted inlays.

Cool and classic basses
Fender Precision 1957
1957 was the year the Precision cemented its reputation


PRODUCED: 1957-1981

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solidbody, Passive 4-string

BODY: Twin cutaway, Ash

NECK: Solid Maple, skunk stripe covers truss rod, 20 fine frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Originally no separate board, part of the maple neck with black dot inlays. On Rosewood board models the dots were white clay type

HARDWARE: Chrome, 4-saddle bridge, open reverse gear tuners

PICKUPS: Fender split-coil 8-pole

CONTROLS: Volume & Tone

FEATURES: Gold anodised metal scratchplate incorporating pickup, controls and jack socket, surface stringing, chrome cover plates over bridge and pickup, finger rest with two screws

FINISHES: Sunbust, Black, Antique White and Custom Colours

COMMENTS: This was the third re-modelling of the Precision Bass in just six years of being in existence, but this is the defining moment as it’s essentially the same production line bass sold by Fender today.

Some of what we see here was introduced on the transitional P-Bass, the first round of modifications, that introduced body contouring. Here the headstock shape has adopted the Strat styling to overcome the dead spot on the upper string that was a problem with the initial design.

Along with the fantastic split-coil pickup which allowed for more adjustment and a well balanced sound, came a four-saddle bridge and anodised scratchplate, which helped in screening the electronics. In 1959 white and tortoiseshell laminated scratchplates were introduced, and these had a metal screening plate fitted beneath.

The solid maple neck was phased out around 1959 in favour of a rosewood board, although a maple board was an option again around 1967. Fretless was also introduced in 1970 with either board. There were special editions too like the Slab Body, which can be found in this collection, and the Antigua Precision with its distinctive finish. Whatever your personal P-Bass choice this was truly the defining moment.

Cool and classic basses
Hofner President Bass 500/5
As played by Stu Sutcliffe in Hamburg


PRODUCED: 1957 - 1979

ORIGIN: Germany

TYPE: Single cutaway acoustic archtop body, 4-string

BODY: Fully Bound Flamed Maple including f-holes

NECK: Maple, set neck, 22 medium frets + zero fret

SCALE LENGTH: 760mm (30-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, white dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome Lyre tailpiece, wooden adjustable bridge, guitar sized open-gear tuners with plastic blades

PICKUPS: Two Hofner ‘Toaster’ pickups

CONTROLS: Two Volume controls and switches for Rhythm/Solo, Bass On/Off & Treble On/Off all located on separate on Mother-Of-Pearl plate

FEATURES: F-holes, mother of pearl Lilies logo on headstock, Tortoiseshell floating scratchplate

FINISHES: Natural Blonde, Tobacco Sunburst

COMMENTS: The earliest examples of these basses were imported into the UK by Selmer Music in London's Charing Cross Road, and were sold simply as the Hofner Bass Guitar.

Selmer soon gave the different models names rather than using their designated numbers. The President or 500/5 originally had Hofner Black Bar pickups. Over the course of time this model has become known as the Stu Sutcliffe as that's what the artist/bass player used during his time with the Beatles in Hamburg.

The earliest models had an elliptical control plate and featured a hollow body with no centre block, making it extremely light in weight. The body depth was reduced by the mid sixties, and thanks to a trim short scale neck it was an easy bass to master.

The Toaster style pickups appeared around 1960 but by the end of the decade these were replaced by the Type 512B pickups. Also a larger control plate was introduced for some whilst on others the controls were set into the body surface. The bridge is Hofner's usual wooden design with fret wire saddles, and sounds like most of their hollow bodied models, full and fat, with good thump and a nicely balanced output across the strings. The President is still very popular in the new Contemporary Series made in the Far East.

Cool and classic basses
Burns 5-string Bass
It's a beast of a bass from Burns of London


PRODUCED: 2001 – Custom Order

ORIGIN: UK

TYPE: Twin cutaway solid body, 5-string

BODY: Alder

NECK: Beech, bolt-on, 22 medium frets plus zero fret, white dot inlays (these are smaller after 12th fret)

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood

HARDWARE: Gold plated Burns Transducer T/R Bridge System, Schaller open gear tuners with ebony buttons

PICKUPS: 3 Burns Bar-O-Matik bass pickups, the middle one being a humbucker

CONTROLS: Volume, Tone, Transducer Blend control & 5-way blade selector switch

FEATURES: Deep scrolled headstock, bridge incorporates an active Transducer system that allows the volume and tone of each sting to be adjusted individually

FINISHES: Black

COMMENTS:This has to be one of the most unexpected models to be produced by Burns London, not simply because it’s a 5-string bass but more that it has advanced electronics incorporating an active transducer with a battery powered preamp.

Development began in 1998 when Shadows’ bassist Alan Jones wanted active electronics in his P-bass, which Burns duly provided. However, he also fancied a 5-string, so the company went ahead with this prototype. Due to other commitments, it was shelved before it could be completed.

Fortunately, an acquaintance of Jones commissioned the bass to be finished. The active transducer system helped the bass to achieve a simulated acoustic sound as well as offering a much wider range of tones overall.

The scrolled headstock had seen a few changes since its initial introduction on the Shadows Bass in 1964, but here it is back in all its glory, looking even better thanks to the longer and narrower dimensions of the headstock required to make way for the extra tuner. Sadly it never went into production although we do know of a different Burns 5-string model. Watch this space!

Cool and classic basses
Music Man Cutlass Bass
When Music Man went graphite

PRODUCED: 1982 - 1987

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Twin cutaway solid body, active 4-string

BODY: Alder or Ash

NECK: Graphite (made by Modulus for Music Man), bolt on, 20 jumbo frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood with pearl block inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome

PICKUPS: Regular Music Man Humbucker on the Cutlass I & a pair of smooth surface humbuckers on the Cutlass II

CONTROLS: Volume, Active Treble & Bass - Cutlass I; Volume, Active Treble & Bass & Pickup selector switch - Cutlass II

FEATURES: Cutlass I: through body or top-load stringing; Cutlass II top-load only; vastly different shaped scratch plate, control plate and bridge units

FINISHES: Mainly all black, Natural, White, Red

COMMENTS: The Cutlass I and II were Music Man’s attempt to join in the graphite neck revolution by teaming up with Modulus Graphite to produce two short-lived models.

Earliest examples used existing body stock (some going back to 1979) and three-bolt neck plates, although these were soon changed to rectangular 4-bolt plates. The 3-bolt version also had through-body stringing whereas the 4-bolt was fitted with a top load bridge unit.

The Cutlass I was essentially a Stingray and the Cutlass II a Sabre, each using those distinctive body shapes and hardware, although the Cutlass II did not retain the exposed pole pieces as seen on the Sabre’s twin pickups and also offered a simplified circuit too.

The Cutlass may have been all about the graphite neck but it was obviously not that popular at the time as very few units were actually built. They are pretty special, however, as Dave Swift (owner of these two basses) explains,

“I had a Cutlass I that I bought from a shop in Birmingham back in the 80s. I believe it was one of the first Cutlass basses to turn up in England, if not the first, and most of them were all black, but mine had a beautiful natural ash body. Unfortunately I sold it! I now have a Cutlass I and II, both black, and even though these are also very rare and collectible, I wish I still had my original natural one.”

Our sincere thanks go to Dave Swift for his input and to Lars Mullen for the pictures.

Cool and classic basses
Fender Jazz Bass Pre-CBS Custom Colour
Just a beautiful Jazz


ORIGINALLY PRODUCED: 1962-1965

ORIGIN: USA

TYPE: Solid body, Passive 4-string

BODY: Ash, Offset-waist twin cutaway

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 20 fine frets

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, clay dot inlays

HARDWARE: Chrome, 4-saddle raised tail bridge, two cover plates – the bridge cover featuring the stylised ‘Fender ‘F’, open reverse gear tuners

PICKUPS: Two 8-pole single coils

CONTROLS: 2 Volume Controls & Master Tone

FEATURES: Controls and jack socket on chrome plated ‘bell’ plate, ultra slim neck, sweet spot sounds

FINISHES: Custom Colours with matching headstock, Candy Apple Red (as here), Teal Green, Lake Placid Blue, Fiesta Red and Burgundy Mist were just some of the known colours

COMMENTS: This was the second version of the magnificent Jazz Bass and is displayed here in its full Custom Colour with matching headstock glory. The standard colours were available too of course, but they had the natural finished headstock.

The sometimes troublesome dual concentric controls were dumped for this simpler circuit of individual volumes with a master tone (smaller knob) on the bell plate. This also helped to create the sweet-spots where the blending of the two pickups seems to turn ‘hollow’ for a really pleasing and funky sound.

This Jazz bass has standard ‘elephant ears’ or ‘shamrock’ open gear tuners that operate backwards compared to modern day Fenders. Also some models are known to exist with cool oval blades, something that Fender used a little later but never caught on. We think Fender should bring them back as an alternative again. A truly gorgeous bass that’s still as good as anything on the market today.

Cool and classic basses
Vigier Excess Bass
French fancy


PRODUCED: 1996 - Current

ORIGIN: France

TYPE: Twin cutaway solid body, active 4-string

BODY: Alder

NECK: 90/10 Maple/Carbon Fibre, bolt-on, 24 medium frets plus zero

SCALE LENGTH: 864mm (34-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Maple

HARDWARE: Chrome offset bridge, Schaller sealed gear tuners,

PICKUPS: Two Benedetti single coils – manufactured for Vigier

CONTROLS: Volume, Pan, Bass & Treble

FEATURES: Carbon fibre rod inserts in neck and no truss rod, choice of high or low impedance, hum-cancelling trim pot, edge mounted upward slanted jack socket,

FINISHES: Natural Matt (as here), Clear Black, Clear Red, Antique Violin, Ash & Ocean Blue

COMMENTS: Although by no means the first bass guitar from designer Patrice Vigier, the Excess was the first to offer a more conventional stance, and as such was a breakthrough for the company. The idea of a carbon fibre reinforced neck without a truss rod may sound ambitious but it actually works beautifully. Endorsee Roger Glover famously supported the bass on two blocks then stood on the bass without any ill effect to the bass whatsoever!

The offset, fully adjustable bridge is a particularly well designed unit that fully accepts the string ends. The active electronics are pretty serious too, as the EQ controls offer a cut/boost of +/-20dB so the bass certainly lives up to its name, and the on-board circuitry also allows the choice of high or low impedance and a trim pot for hum-cancelling. This effectively allows the use of extra long leads on stage without any power loss and higher quality DI in the studio.

Cool and classic basses
Supersound SCB Bass
A British original


PRODUCED: 1958

ORIGIN: UK

TYPE: Solid body, single cutaway, 4-string

BODY: Mahogany

NECK: Non specific, glued-in, V-profile, 20 heavy frets plus zero

SCALE LENGTH: 775mm (30½-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Bound rosewood, white plastic block inlays

HARDWARE: chrome, single bar bridge, Framus guitar tuners with fancy buttons and bone posts, block-type tailpiece with metal cover

PICKUPS: Supersound Hi-Fi single-coil. Equipped with a bar-magnet and suitably branded black plastic cover

CONTROLS: Volume and Tone

FEATURES: Front & rear contouring, long smooth and chamfered heel

FINISHES: Originally white as requested, resprayed black later on

COMMENTS: Back in 1958 Supersound added guitars and basses to their amplifier range, and enlisted the help of Jim Burns who was experimenting with instruments at that time. It was a short lived association but it did produce this, the first solid bass guitar built in Britain, commissioned by Teddy Wadmore who was the bassist with the Ted Taylor Four.

He’d managed to borrow a Fender Precision Bass from a US serviceman and was totally blown away with it, so showed it to Alan Wootton and Jim Burns at Supersound. The SCB (Single Cutaway Bass) is obviously far from being a clone but it does have the badged pickup in the same position as the Fender. It’s a shorter scaled instrument too with guitar sized tuners, and in order to produce enough clearance for the posts they are fitted into a recess at the rear of this substantial headstock.

Not only was this the first British solid bass guitar, it’s currently the only known example in near-original, fully playable condition and indeed it still feels and sounds amazingly good. Our thanks go to Guy MacKenzie for the picture and for allowing us to play this historically significant bass and to the legendary Paul Day for the historic details.

Cool and classic basses
Burns Marquee 5-String Bass
Burns, baby, Burns


PRODUCED: 2001 – One Off

ORIGIN: UK

TYPE: Twin cutaway solid body, 5-string

BODY: Alder

NECK: Maple, bolt-on, 20 medium frets,

SCALE LENGTH: 8mm (33½-inch)

FINGERBOARD: Rosewood

HARDWARE: Bright Black anodised raised tail bridge & Schaller sealed gear tuners in a 1 over 4 configuration

PICKUPS: One Burns split humbucker

CONTROLS: Master Volume, Master Tone & Mini Coil Switch

FEATURES: Reversed Bat-Wing headstock,

FINISHES: Black with matching headstock

COMMENTS: This is a second one-off from Burns built in 2001 and it’s another very distinctive 5-String bass, loosely modelled on the Burns Jazz Bass design from 1964 that was later revamped as the Marquee Bass in 2000.

The reversed headstock is a Burns first, the dot inlays seem rather too small on such a wide fretboard and the two piece scratchplate is an unusual shape. The MM styled humbucker is the real surprise here though, and is neatly linked to the switch between the controls allowing the unit to be used either as a pair of single coil or with both coils together.

Jim Burns was notorious for producing custom ordered one-offs, prototypes and ‘bitsas’ and it’s great to know that Burns London will do the same if the opportunity presents itself. Our sincere thanks go to Barry Gibson of Burns for providing the picture and this information.

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