New 2009 Fender Road Worn Guitars

Fender’s starting the year with a new line of instruments for 2009 with their new Road Worn Guitars line-up. They’re basically your Mexican made Fenders with a beat-up look for those seeking a vintage look without the hefty price. Here’s the sneak-peak from ProGuitarShop.com:

Happy Birthday To The Precision Bass!

Today marks the 57th birthday of the Precision Bass, the brainchild of Leo Fender and the beginning of the electric bass. Happy birthday Precision Bass! You started an era that forever changed music as we know today.

Desperately Speaking

I’ve already talked about my current bass choices in my previous post. But if in case something happened that would cause me to fail to reach my choices, I would have to settle for even lower end choices. It’s always safe to have a back up plan in life even if you’re never gonna use them.

First of all, I would go for a Squier Vintage Modified ’70’s Jazz Bass as my first choice.

I’ve heard great feedback and reviews about this bass. Don’t let the Squier text in the headstock fool you, most owners of this bass have praised it to play even better than MIM Fenders. To add, because of it’s low price point, a lot players are modifying them such as replacing the tuners, bridge and pickups that in the end make it a great bass for value.

Lastly, my final choice would have to be an SX jazz bass. They’re carried by Rondo Music.

According to the populace of Talkbass, SX (or more commonly known in the community be “Essex”) bass guitars are the holy grail of low priced bass guitars. They offer the most value for any instrument out it the market today. Again according to owners, they are almost on par with MIM Fenders with exception to the neck radius and sometimes hardware. Nonetheless, they’re great instruments that are even available locally in the Philippines after contacting a JB Music representative (though I’ll have to wait till September till their shipment arrives). Because of their low price point, I’m even tempted to buy two of these; the other a Precision bass that would offer more tonal variety than one expensive bass.

Dream Theater Sightings In The Philippines

I’m a big Dream Theater fan and to my disappointment, their albums usually aren’t available locally. There was an exception when I saw Train of Thought years back when I was still struggling with the guitar at the Tower Records branch in Glorietta, and I did not buy which I truly regret right now. My family was at the Fully Booked branch located at Bonifacio High Street the other day and at the top floor, I was surprised! It was sitting on a lonely shelf at the very most corner where band DVDs were on shelf. Behold! Dream Theater’s Score in DVD available locally:

sorry for the flash, I was too excited to remove it and it was awkward if I took a retake

After going around frantically looking for actual CDs, I found two Dream Theater albums, Awake and Scenes from a Memory which are arguably essential Dream Theater albums to have:

again, sorry for the flash! I could only hold an album with a hand but you get the idea as I have proof of their existence

That took me by surprise since I lost all hope of buying these records locally since there isn’t really a strong market for progressive rock in the Philippines. Train of Thought was available, but Octavarium wasn’t carried anymore because I believe the latter didn’t sell well. Well, I’m not surprised because of the nature of Filipinos. Our country is mostly dominated by pop artists and vocalists take the center stage amongst everyone. Moreover, progressive rock is mostly appreciated by musicians only. There are some exceptions to the rule but those are very rare and isolated cases. I remember when I first heard progressive rock from a friend my reaction was “Ano iyan?” (roughly translates to “What’s that?” in English) as Acid Rain by Liquid Tension Experiment was all over the place. Also, instrumentals will easily bore non-musicians after approximately 20 seconds (just a rough estimate and I don’t have any proof to support my claim).

Anyway, I’m glad to see Dream Theater records available locally. Like Tower Records, Fully Booked might stop importing them if sales are low so please buy the original records. What I would like to see next are Rush CDs. If you’ve read through this, most chances are that you are indeed a musician that has trained ears and will easily be able to distinguish between mp3s with low bit-rate and the lossless quality found in them. Support progressive rock in the Philippines! Let the record companies know that there indeed is a market for progressive rock locally.

P.S. I didn’t buy them since I already had bought them years ago.

Realistically Speaking

I have started saving us for that big bass guitar purchase some time in the moderately distant future. My saving scheme was to set aside as much as I could; 250 Philippine Pesos (~5.95 US dollars roughly using $1 = P42) per week, without losing my sanity over starving. I still am in school and going to class with an empty stomach severely affects not only academic performance, but even simple tasks such as walking. With that set, I did a short approximation of how much money I would end up after a few years and by the time I hit graduation, I would have theoretically around 36,000+ Pesos (without possible extras) which would buy me a decent bass but not that Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass that I’ve always wanted. I’ve thought it over and it the Geddy Lee Jazz Bass won’t really suite my needs in the long run. First of all, it’s obviously a bit pricey. Secondly, it won’t offer that much variety of tone. Thirdly, it has a lot of physical limitations for me; it only has 20 frets and is a 4-stringer. Since I only have enough money for one bass guitar, it would be better if I’d buy a “Swiss-knife” bass offering a lot of features and tonal ranges than a one specialized bass guitar. Realistically, I will have no narrow down my choices.

Because of this, I had to resort to window shopping again over the some music instrument websites such as Musician’s Friend, Music123 (which recently have known to have been bought by Musician’s Friend) and Guitar Center that I could possibly drop by when I travel sometime next year. I had a lot in mind while viewing all their catalogs.

The first bass guitar the caught me was an Ibanez SR506. Yes, it’s a 6-string bass guitar which I have always wanted because of it’s extended bass range. I’ve already seen it and played with it at my last brick-and-mortar window shopping. Decent and light on the pockets with a lot of features. Most importantly, it has a 34 inch scale which I can quickly adapt to and find very comfortable than 35 inch scales. If I had the money right now, I’d purchase it right away but unfortunately, I don’t so I had to leave it. After a few days, it sank to me that 6-string basses could be more than bite I could chew. If you think about it literally, that 2 more strings to mute and deal with while playing. Also, I a huge drawback is that bass strings for 6-string basses are not locally available. This means that every time I’d want to replace my strings, I’ll have to specially import them just for me or that I’d have to reply on chance that some unknown local retailer would carry them when I needed them. In the long run, this would not be pleasant to deal with.

Naturally, it would point out that a 5-string bass or a standard 4-string bass would fit me better. I also remembered than I might not need than C string if I would get a 24 fret bass. One setback for me with my current bass it that it goes up to 20 frets only limiting my playing ability especially with chords on the upper range. A 5-string bass would be the way to go then so I could finally play most Dream Theater songs that I’ve always wanted to play.

The cheapest 5-string bass I liked were the Schecter Stilettos. They offer fine looking instruments at good prices and even have different ranges depending on what your looking for. My only gripe here is that is has a 35 inch scale which I have found are not that easy to play at times. One inch does make a lot of difference for me and can severely affect playing difficult lines such as the ones found in prog rock. Nonetheless, I went on searching. Again, Ibanez offers variety of good basses than are closely priced. I couldn’t pick a specific model as they all looked good. Over what I heard, the TRB Yamahas are exceptional instruments. They have very positive feedback and rise above all that I have mentioned so far. Again, it has a 35 inch scale but 34 inch scales are rare in 5-string basses. If my savings would reach this price range, I would be very satisfied to buying a Yamaha TRB.

If a miracle occurred and I won the lottery, my choice would be likely be a Music Man Bongo. I know it’s a far cry but that is one of the best mass produced bass guitars available. Modern (and arguably acquired) looks, a 4-band eq and on top of it all, a 34 inch scale win my heart. I’d love to own one someday.

At this point, all I can do now is save and hope that I’d end up with a Yamaha TRB or even better, that Music Man Bongo.

Intonation

I never thought about checking intonation on my bass guitar (Stella, my Washburn Bantam Series XB120) before after all this time. For those of you who don’t understand intonation, let’s take a look at the Wikipedia entry shall we:

Fret intonation

Instruments with straight frets such as guitars require special compensation on the saddle and nut. Every time a string is fretted, it is also stretched. As the string is stretched, every note will rise in pitch. Therefore, all fretted tones would sound sharp. However, with the right position of the saddle and precise placements of the frets, all fretted notes will sound sharp by the same amount. With the right nut compensation, the pitch of the unfretted (i.e., open) strings will rise the same amount that the fretted notes do (because of the proper saddle position). Thus, these adjustments combined with lowering the tension of the string from that required by an unfretted instrument will allow all tones to be exact.

So after all this time, I finally checked intonation on my bass guitar. I discovered that only my D string had the correct intonation which invoked me to adjust it properly. After close to an hour, I got all strings except the A string correctly. I don’t really mind the A string being not perfect since I’m not really a professional musician nor do I have the adequate tools and knowledge to fully adjust and fine-tine my instrument. As a result, I was also able to lower my action that significantly helps during hard to play parts. I suggest that anyone playing string instruments check their intonation if they haven’t done so. You don’t have to do it that often like tuning but it affects your tone which you want to be perfect every time you play.

Window Shopping

After school, I went window shopping for a new bass guitar at Cubao. I didn’t want to travel too far as I was just window shopping anyway and I knew that I won’t find anything that would suite me for both price and sound. There were two major retailers that I was planning to go to, Perfect Pitch and Audiophile that are conveniently located in Ali Mall. To my disappointment, Ali Mall’s renovation was still on-going after months now and had temporarily removed Perfect Pitch. Because of this, Audiophile was the only shop I went to today. The second floor, which housed the guitars and basses, was vacant as usual. More interesting was that every single bass guitar I picked up to examine was literally covered with dust. There were a few basses that could my eye. All of them were Ibanez since that was what the shop carried. I finally was able to sit down and properly examine a 6-string bass for the first time. As an initial impression, the fretboard was way too chunky for me. It was nice playing the bass though since the action was low and tight, but not too much for tapping. And that was it for basses. They didn’t carry that much basses as their inventory’s about to change soon. What I did discover though was they did carry GHS Boomer bass strings. and that they had a branch here around Marikina that does repairs on guitars. I got the address and phone number after a prolonged wait since the guard of the store didn’t have the address and telephone number of the branch. Waiting was fine with me, especially since some of the staff in the shop was listening to Dream Theater.