There have been libraries of books written about decluttering, simplifying, and cleansing oneself of excess possessions. Companies have sprung up specifically to help people haul away their junk. Marie Kondo got famous after counseling people to keep only what sparks joy in their lives, which is a pretty clever twist on the decision-making process; most people get stuck somewhere in a corner of the basement surrounded by boxes wondering how they’re going to get them all back upstairs; they haven’t even gotten to the will-I-need-this part yet. I think the most common response to that indecision is to just say fuck it and go find a cold beer.

My problem is that I enjoy curating collections of stuff, so I tend to collect stuff faster than I cast it away. As I crawl through the basement to store things for winter or move stuff into the attic of the garage to make more space, I’m acutely aware that we’re reaching maximum density here at the Lockardugan estate. Once I’ve actually resolved to cleaning house, I’m pretty merciless when it finally comes to the go/no-go decision, so waiting around to test for joy feels more like a waste of time.

I’ve written about my oddball bass guitar here in the past. It’s one of the few things I’ve kept with me since high school. I haven’t played it much since I bought the Jazz bass. The other day, I had to move it to get something from the bookshelf, and thought about the fact that it hasn’t seen daylight in years. Then I thought about Reverb, the site I’d mentioned earlier this year, and began to seriously consider selling it. There is a music shop down the street that would buy it, but I know I’d get much less from a reseller than I’d prefer.

The bass itself is a marvel of engineering. It’s a two-piece instrument, made from a cast epoxy resin (neck) and wood (body). The neck is bolted to the body like a traditional guitar, but the composite material gives the bass a completely different feel. It’s headless, which means there’s no traditional headstock with tuning pegs. All tuning is done at the bridge (the assembly at the bottom of the bass) with screw-fed jaws that hold the ends of the strings in place. This means it needs special strings, but tuning it is very precise. It’s got a tight, fast feel and the sound has a short attack with less sustain than a big fat wood bass. When I bought the Jazz bass I was astounded at how much more I liked the full-sized instrument; the neck is thinner and (for me) faster, and I felt like I wasn’t working as hard when I was playing. The Steinberger is fast in its own way but it makes a player work a little harder.

I pulled it from the case and found that two of the jaws that hold the strings at the bridge had snapped. The bridge design is a clever one but the achilles’ heel is the relatively weak aluminum of these jaws, which the ball end of the string sets into. Over time the metal fatigues and cracks. This happened with another of the jaws years ago, and at that time I found a vendor who sold reproductions. That vendor is long gone but there’s a new one run by a luthier that worked at Steinberger in the 80’s who is producing new stock. I ordered three of these on Sunday. My plan is to set the bass back up, clean it, take some good pictures of it, and prepare it for sale.

Owning and playing it brought me hours of joy, new friendships, and great memories. I think I’ll hold on to the memories and pass the bass along to someone who will spark their own joy with it instead.

Date posted: November 18, 2020 | Filed under bass | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to Test for Joy

  1. Derek says:

    Hi Bill, I haven’t posted here before but I’ve been following your blog for a while now.

    Fellow musician – guitar player. It’s always a quandary on what to do with gear you’ve had for a while. Those Steinberg basses and guitars are cool – I immediately think back to the 80s when I see one. I have a ton of guitars and I no longer play in a band. But I do a lot of home recording which helps me justify hanging on to much of gear.

    I looked at the Reverb listing you put up. I didn’t realize those guitars were selling for that amount of cash. I think I’d def move it on if I was in your shoes.

    Anyway, cheers for now.
    Derek from Ottawa, Ontario

  2. idiotking says:

    Hey Derek, glad to have you stop by!

    Yep, I hold on to things for way too long, but I think it’s time to move on it. I read a related article today that said Fender is having the best sales year ever this year; I guess everyone will be playing guitar in 2021.

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