As one of my goals for 2016, I resolved to pick up my bass and guitar and start playing regularly again. The bass is an easier lift, because I can keep it quiet through headphones with the practice amp Santa gave me last year when the girls are in bed. As a result I’ve been playing a lot the last couple of months, and it feels great.
As I normally do with things I’m interested in, I’ve had Craigslist alerts watching used Fender basses for years now. My budget is very low, so I haven’t actively pursued anything, but I came close about four years ago when a guy in Baltimore was selling a MIJ Precision Bass for $150. He sold it before I could make it out to his house.
Last week I found out about a used Jazz Bass on Craigslist in DC and I asked my coworker to check it out for me. He went to the guy’s house on his way to band practice (ha!) and looked it over. Everything checked out (he’s pretty knowledgeable about instruments) so he picked it up for me.
It’s a 1997 made in Mexico Deluxe Series, based on the serial number, with a black body and tortoiseshell pickguard. Deluxe means it was made with active pickups, but the previous owner removed those and replaced them with a set of Fender Noiseless pickups and standard Jazz electronics. The battery plate on the back is held on with two pieces of clear tape, and the jack in the side of the body is disconnected (and held in with a wood screw). The bass has been beat up pretty good; there’s a chip out of the headstock, a good sized ding in the bottom, and a bit of buckle rash on the back side.
It’s strung with a set of roundwounds that only buzz on the E, so the action needs to be adjusted, but the neck is straight and it plays well. The neck itself is fast–it’s thinner than my Steinberger neck, actually, at the same length, but the Steinberger has two more frets. (I was always under the impression the Steinberger was short scale, but I was mistaken). It’s fast and light, which is amazing for a bass its size–I’ve been playing a headless bass for over 20 years, so it takes getting used to. The sound is rich and the tone is beautiful. In fact, there are several songs I’ve played where the tone I’m getting is almost exactly what was recorded.
The biggest issue is that it absolutely stinks of nicotine. The PO was obviously a heavy smoker, so the gig bag and the strings reek of smoke. I wiped the wood down with Murphy’s Oil Soap last night, but I’ve got to take the strings off and wipe the front of the neck down to get more of the yuck off. The bag is hanging out on the back porch, and will be, for the next week or so. Hopefully the sun and the air will pull some of the smoke out.
Now I’m trolling YouTube for instructional videos on how to set up guitars, which I’ll get to in the coming weeks. It needs a new set of strings for sure, so I’ll walk or ride down to Bill’s Music and see if they can tell me what’s on it right now, because I like them despite their stink.