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December 22, 2005

Filed under: music»tools»bass

Rebuild or resell?

After spending $300 on a "new" instrument, it's hard to put it aside. The Hohner B2B bass that I acquired from eBay has some genuinely nice features: the upper fret access is really phenomenal, and the weight/portability factor is a lot better than the All-Star's relative bulk. With all that said (and even after I've done my best setup on it) the pickups are still microphonic, the intonation is still a little wonky, and nobody carries double-ball strings. Some of these problems can be solved easily. There are several vendors I could visit online for strings, and the intonation/action issues will only improve as I continue to work on it. The pickups are not a cheap fix. I'd have to find a decent pair that will drop in with a minimum of drilling/routing, and I'll probably want to replace the rest of the electronics while I'm at it. And there's a question of how much the tone can possibly improve: the headless construction of the bass is supposed to eliminate dead spots, but it also has a very strange resonance across the entire instrument when played acoustically.

So at this point, I face a dilemma: should I drop the cash to try to turn this dud into a dynamo? Or should I leave it and save my money for another instrument? It's not the first time I've had this debate with myself. When I first started playing bass, I found myself torn between the idea that I could upgrade (and bass upgrades can be very tempting) and the danger of destroying a fairly expensive piece of equipment. Now that I'm more skilled at the process, I don't think I'd hesitate with even a more expensive axe than the All-Star. Customizing an instrument is a way to make it uniquely yours, and that's important in an age of mass-production. I don't think the Hohner is worth the extra dough, but it'll be a good travel bass and might get me a trade-in discount when I finally find something I like.

Why do I even need another bass? Good question, hard to answer. Musicians call the need for better, prettier instruments G.A.S., or Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Some of it genuinely has to do with trying to find a new sound, or to get closer to the sound I hear in my head. Some is due to a need for physical improvements--better high-fret access, or easier pickup blend controls. The rest is simple lust: did you see the quilted maple top on that Fender? Or the gorgeous natural endangered rainforest woods used to make this Warwick Infinity?

On a semi-related note, I've decided I will be playing Dremo's tomorrow night. A four-song license to Rock will start around 9pm.

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