A while ago during a sale I played every bass on the rack at Sam Ash in NYC. Some nice stuff, plenty of acceptable instruments, but nothing at all inspiring. Why doesn't anybody make my kind of bass?
So I thought about building a bass out of off-the-shelf parts. Then I got stuck on the idea of getting the body carved and finished to my taste, which isn't much in line with current fashion. Sure I could go with your basic P-bass shape but... ho-hum. I really like the look of chunky, curvy instruments like the old Gibson Thunderbirds and Fender Jazzmaster guitars, so I'm starting from there.
Still gathering parts and ruminating.
I'll update stuff below as I make decisions and acquire more parts.
The basic shape idea is to do something a bit like an old "non-reverse" Gibson Thunderbird, but a bit curvier, taking some ideas from the Fender Jazzmaster / Jaguar shape.
Sketch from 10/26/03, basically a modified non-reverse T-bird, with reshaped bouts and the neck & bridge shifted back a bit for better balance (I hope). This still isn't quite right. I'm also thinking of going with a classic Gibson color scheme, pelham blue with a white-on-black pickguard rather than the translucent blue and pearly pickguard shown here. I also have a Gibson EB4 pickup that might find its way in to the neck position (yes, 3 pickups, why not?).
Let's see how it looks with a jaguar guitar body. Eh, I'm not really inspired by this one.
Color concept 2 - a bit toned down, just a translucent finish:
Specifications (rough, in-progress)
Must be lightweight. Not sure of wood yet - Ash? But I do really like the mahogany T-bird tone. Not sure whether controls will be rear-mounted or on a control plate. I might do the latter just to avoid having to hack up the wood every time I decide to fiddle with the control arrangement. Don't want to end up with something as mangled as my poor old Ibanez. Or I could just have the builder drill too many holes in it and leave some of 'em empty ;-)
34-inch scale. Must be lightweight and easier to play than my Ibanez (which is too chunky). I've always been fine with bolt-on necks, I'm a bit paranoid about breaking a nice set neck since it's so much harder to replace - but then, I've never broken a neck yet (knock wood). And I'm really getting fond of the set-neck resonance of my mahogany Greco T-bird. I might have to do set-neck after all.
I want a bright-sounding attack, but still a lot of resonance. Either ebony fingerboard or maple.
Undecided. Possibly angled with tuners 2-on-a-side rather than 4-in-line. But the body sketch seems to like that giant old-style thunderbird headstock... maybe just slim it down a bit?
All chrome or nickel. I hate black, and only like gold or brass on certain finishes.
I have a Gotoh heavy chrome bridge that looks quite usable and adjustable.
I got some Hipshot Ultralights (the chrome reversible kind) for $63 total on Ebay.
Blue? Pelham blue? Almost certainly painted rather than natural.
White. Shape based on the non-reverse T-bird pickguard shape which I've realized is a lot of what I like about those birds.
Still deciding. Current concept is a triple-pickup bass.
Neck: Thunderbucker (vintage t-bird repro).
Middle: P-bass ... possibly EMG Geezer Butler model
For a while I had a single 1976 thunderbird (neck) pickup that I got off ebay. These are the weird "sidewinder" design.
I experimented with getting sound out of it and it was an interesting tone - I even managed to record a bit of it (neck postion, with a pick) ... it was rattling a lot because it wasn't properly installed during this).
Eventually though, one of the leads came loose and I decided I didn't like it enough to get it fixed, so instead I sold it to someone who did.
Construction of this pickup was rather odd. I have since learned this is called a "sidewinder" and is based on a patented design that Bill Lawrence did for Gibson. The polepieces run sideways through the coils, and the magnet runs vertically between them. The polepiece is thus magnetically neutral and is just an inductor. I don't understand how this works :-) But it sounds cool.
Unsure. I am currently leaning toward some active balance controls so I can use mismatched pickups, feeding into passive volume and tone controls.