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Thursday, 12 May 2011

This was the worst set up bass I have ever bought ... being honest ... whether it was as bad from the factory or just got bad through being owned by a plonker I don’t know. Well it all amounts to the same thing really: A perfectly well made Westfield Precision bass copy: nice feeling neck, adequate fret job, nice, deep, rich punchy pickup ... a match for any Squier really (except for the plywood body perhaps). However when it came to me the truss rod was slack, leaving the neck bent forward like a banana and the action six miles high. A cheap plastic nut (too narrow for the slot and broken at one end) was ruining the sustain; there was no neck set angle, so the bridge saddles rested on the bridge base –plate ... the one remaining strap button was held in with Blue-tac and the strings were actually rusty!

Okay so it was super cheap ... well it had to be really ... and sounded potentially nice, so I set about putting it right. Firstly I made and installed a new bone nut, re strung, tightened the truss rod until there was only a small amount of ‘relief,’ then shimmed the neck joint until the action came right down. I ordered new, oversized strap buttons from my old friends at Axes-r-us, and a new set of bass strings. The ripped-out strap button holes were plugged with maple dowels (after drilling out the Blue-tac gunk)

What’s this bass like now you might ask? Well pretty much like any Precision really: chunky, clunky, conservative, non – threatening yet punchy ... we’ve all played them ... they are ubiquitous. Sure the US made Fender originals are better made ... but I’ll stick my neck out and say there’s not a lot to choose between them in the sound ... through the right bass rig. A Precision is a bit of a ‘blunt instrument’ anyway.

So what am I going to use it for? Well I don’t like carrying expensive instruments to jam nights (even if I owned them these days).I am planning to sing and play bass on a few numbers at local pubs and I want a ‘beater’ I’m not too fussed about scratching. I’ve owned BC Rich basses, vintage 60s Fenders, Warwicks and Shergolds ... lord knows I owned a whole shop stocked with expensive basses I could chose from when I came to gig ... but so long as the neck is nice and the pickups good ... there is not much difference to me between a £100 bass and a £1000 one. Sure the expensive one will feel better finished, survive a bit longer perhaps, and will have snob value I suppose. But getting a cheepie to perform well has its own satisfactions.

Recipe for guitarists wanting to ‘double’ on bass: take one second hand, cheap far eastern bass ... Richwood, Westfield etc, etc, with solid hardware and a reasonably straight neck (remember, cheap bass pickups are far better than cheap guitar pickups). Put in a decent nut and have a pro setup done (or do it yourself). Enjoy!

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