bluegrass bass

I Now Own an Upright Bass!

Well, last weekend, I bought myself an upright bass. I have wanted one deep down for over 20 years, but always figured that I did not have the room in either house for one, and I could not find even a used one that I could afford. Add to that for the past 20 years, I have been driving around in subcompact cars, so I wouldn’t know how to transport it anyway.

That is why I always stuck to the electric and acoustic basses. It has limited me to who I could jam with as a bassist, so I usually went to jams with a guitar instead (along with a dozen other jammers). Knowing the cost of an upright bass, I have always promoted the use of an electric bass in bluegrass music. Go to my YouTube channel for a few lessons on playing bluegrass with an electric bass.

Then last week, everything seemed to fall into place. On the local Craigslist, there has been a seller of a 1/2-size upright bass for the past year or so, but every time I was tempted to contact him, the ad was pulled, so I figured that he sold it. This time, it was up, and for a fair price that I could afford! With my car in the shop for bumper/fender repair, I was using my brother’s pickup truck while he was on vacation. I contacted the seller, and last Sunday, I became the owner of a doghouse bass!

Now, most uprights in the bluegrass, folk, and rockabilly are of the 3/4-size variety. The 1/2-size upright is about 6 inches shorter overall, as well as about 4 inches narrower and 2 inches thinner. I haven’t tried yet, but after measuring the bass, it should be able to fit in my Chevy Spark with the passenger seat pulled back and folded down.

The doghouse bass does take some getting used to as far as switching over from electric bass. I’ll be putting tape on the side of the neck for fret reference, and building up the callouses on my fingers. But I have fallen in love with it, and will pretty much be only playing that instrument for the next few weeks, then switching around after that. I’ve already been scouring YouTube for upright bass lessons. I hope that by the end of summer I’ll be able to have enough practice to take it to jam sessions.

Wish me luck! Chew on it and comment.

bluegrass bass Musical Instruments

The $47.01 Bass Guitar

As many people know, I am always looking for a good bargain with musical instrument equipment. Bass guitars are probably top on my list, mainly because I have always loved playing the bass, and I love teaching bass to young students. I have posted a few blogs about using the electric bass in a bluegrass setting, so I really am conscious of finding inexpensive bass guitars for those interested in bluegrass bass.

About a month ago, I found a listing on eBay for a Glarry Burning Fire electric bass that a third party was selling overstock for about $40.00. Tax and all made it closer to $49.00, but I took a shot. About a week later, a small package arrived with the same USPS tracking number that was provided upon payment. The package turned out to be a pair of ladies underwear! I contacted eBay and PayPal, and fortunately, I got a full refund (and am stuck with some underwear !).

I knew that it was too good to be true. At least I got my money back, and all that it cost me was a little frustration. About two weeks ago, I was surfing the website for bass guitars. You can usually pick up a Chinese no-name P-bass for about $65.00, coming out to about $80.00 with shipping and tax. However, I did come across one ad that had a P-bass for $32.35! I wondered if I should take a chance. I have had decent luck with, the only problem being a long delivery time. With tax and shipping, the total cost was $47.01. I rolled the dice and took a chance.

A week later (a lot faster than usual shipments), the package was at the post office for me to pick up. And yes, it was a full-sized P-bass! I shook the box a little to hear if there were any broken parts (my previous experience with Glarry was that it was shipped with no packing material to cushion). OK, no noise, so let’s get it home!

To my surprise, it was packed really well, inside molded styrofoam and wrapped in semi-bubble wrap. Pulling it out of the package, I found it to be typical of the Chinese no-name basses – lightweight body (so the headstock tends to drop down if you are not holding the neck), mediocre tuning gears, fret ends needing some smoothing, and the neck feeling a bit rough on the back. I haven’t yet plugged it in to see if the pickup and controls work fine, and I’m figuring that the pickup will need to be adjusted for height. A good set up will make this a decent playable bass. For $47.01, it is well worth it!

A bit of learned information about this purchase was a lucky shot. Occasionally, the site will have sale prices, but you have to be in the right place at the right time. When checking on this same P-bass a few days ago, the price was back up to $68.00. They will also have items like cords, tuners, foot pedals, and practice amps sold at decent prices as well as the occasional deep-discount sale. But you have to be scanning every day. Again, the only real concern is shipping time, so if you were buying a Christmas present for someone, you would have to order it in early November to get a guarantee pre-holiday arrival.

Now getting a gig bag for this bass is another thing. Trying to find one less than $20.00 is near impossible, even on Which leads me to what I want to do with the bass. I already have four other basses, including a Chinese no-name P-bass. I will probably just get this new one set up, then sell it on Craigslist in the same packaging that it was shipped in.

I’m not sure how next weekend looks, as it is Christmas. Hopefully I will find the time to post some short note.

Chew on it and comment.

bluegrass bass Bluegrass Music

My Charlie Daniels Memory /Bluegrass Bass Part 4.1

Last week, the music world lost a legend when Charlie Daniels passed away from complication of a stroke on July 6. There have been hundreds of blogs and tributes on Charlie, so I hope that you don’t mind if I throw in my thoughts and history.

I can still remember hearing “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” on just about EVERY radio station in Detroit! Country stations, rock stations, and Top-40 stations were all playing it. You could not help but love the song. It was a great storyline, the fiddle playing was plain crazy, and that gravelish voice was one that cut through skin. Charlie was the true connection between country and rock music, more than Hank Jr or Skynyrd. You knew that there was a good time when a Charlie Daniels show was scheduled. I went to one and was drained afterwards. I still remember the baseball caps and T-shirts that were in every truck stop during the 70s: “I party with the Daniels – Jack and Charlie!”

My sort-of connection with Charlie came in the mid 90s. I was sending out some demos of my band at the time to various record companies. Back in the day, you sent out a query letter, included a return postcard that they could reply with a yes or no on your stamp, and if they said yes, you sent off a cassette. I sent off probably a hundred or so, and one of the few that wrote back with interest was Blue Hat Records, Charlie Daniels’ private label. They were interested in hearing us, so I sent off a tape. A few weeks went by, and I got back a letter saying that they were not interested, signed by Charlie. I wish that I could find that letter, I know that I kept it.

Charlie was a true gentleman, and he will be missed. His first love was bluegrass music (his first band as a kid), but his long-time love was the USA. I hope that he knows that there are still people out there playing the fiddle breaks from “Devil.” He will never be forgotten.

I was looking over my bluegrass bass blogs a few days ago, and I forgot to mention what can be used for an amplifier until you secure a proper one.

Since most of us listen to music through our iPhones or computer, we have most likely relegated the old home stereo system to storage in the basement or garage (if it wasn’t thrown out in the garbage). If you still have it, then put it to use again! Check the back of the receiver/amplifier to see if there is an input marked AUX, TAPE IN, or PHONO. If so, you can plug your guitar cord into one of these inputs by using an adapter that converts a 1/4-inch plug to an RCA phono plug. You can probably get one of these from an audio store, I’m sure you can order one off of the internet (I do miss the old Radio Shack stores). Check which channel you plug into, Left or Right, and that should coincide with that channel’s speaker output.

NOTE: Turn the volume all of the way down before plugging in or turning the stereo on. The speakers for home stereos are not designed for musical instruments, and you could blow the speaker. Also, you will notice that the overall volume is quite low unless you are using a PHONO input that has a built-in preamp. You may also need to cut back on the bass tone control so as not to distort the speaker. You can also use the headphone jack to listen without disturbing others.

This setup should suffice for a while until you secure a decent portable amp. BTW, if you have the proper cords and adapters, you may be able to run the bass through one channel and plug your iPod/iPhone or even a CD player through the other channel and play along with songs.

Chew on it and comment.