Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Dream Came True!

Ever since I first heard an 8-string bass, I wanted one.
We're talking late '70s, and probably an aluminum necked Kramer that I played in a guitar store in New York back when it was a brand new idea.

Not much later Cheap Trick took the world by storm but I had already seen them live a few times by then as an opening act and knew all about the 8's and their bigger and sicker brother, the 12 string bass played by Tom Petersson.
He used custom-made instruments by Hamer, who've pretty much owned the market since then.
Years later I fell in love with Texas band King's X, and their bassist also used several left-handed 8's and 12's from Hamer. I clearly remember the time I supervised their sound at Rock Island on Wurzbach and nearly swooned when their bass tech played some of Doug Pinnick's basses during soundcheck.

The magic of their sound comes from the extra strings being closely paired with the normal bass note strings (played as a group for each note) but they are thinner and tuned an octave (or 2) higher.
Think of the difference between a 12-string acoustic guitar's sound compared to a regular one, only in the lower bass register. Same exact concept and results.
It really fills out the sound of 3-piece bands (like Loud Nine) so I have been dreaming about getting an eight someday a lot lately, but it always seemed like an impossible dream due to their high complexity and low sales.
When an instrument doesn't use off-the-shelf hardware and normal construction techniques MSRP goes through the roof because it's hard to recover an investment in tooling that's barely used.

On Sunday morning I was trolling Craig's List looking for steals on camera and band equipment while trying to get enough caffeine into my system and saw an ad that probably gave me the classic happy chimp face.

I have never bought anything from an individual on craigslist or eBay, and possibly never will, but this pretty 8-string was in a brand-new ad from a pawnshop that's not too far away.
The beauty of pawnshops is that you can make intimate hands-on inspections of any item for as long as you please, whenever it's convenient for you.
Much better than meeting some random dude in a parking lot on his schedule and feeling pressure to make a decision quickly.
I've already gotten a few sweet deals at pawnshops for items I really wanted, and this was no exception.

Rogue is a company that imports instruments from Korean factories that doesn't have a great reputation among professional musicians, but amateurs appreciate the quality received per dollar.

I gave it a lengthy fondle and noticed that she had barely been played (= pretty much new) and was functioning as promised electrically, but might need some professional adjustment of the steel truss-rod inside the neck, plus a few other minor tweaks.
The kind of TLC that might have lead the previous owner to keep her, had he been willing to pay for a pro set-up job.
Luckily I have been doing these adjustments for over 30 years and have always been able to make any instrument perform to it's maximum capabilities, so I confess to giggling like a schoolgirl when my inspection was finished.
The final deal was well-worth being late for home-cooked pot roast!

Another reason 8 and 12-string basses are rare is that you really need to be skilled at using a pick to make them work, but the majority of bassists prefer their fingers instead.
Not me.
I'm 86% pick and about to go higher.

My goal is to pay off the interest-free layaway plan's balance before Loud Nine's next show a few days after Thanksgiving.
The wait is killing me right now, but should ease with time.
Donations are already coming in, which is really cool.
Thank You Lisa and Aileen!!!


Albatross said...

Rock on!

I used to have a cheapo bass that I messed around on (I don't even remember the brand, to tell you the truth). When all you're doing is playing for yourself and you're not looking to break out in the biz, cheap is all you need.

I hope you get many years of of enjoyment from your new toy!

KeithAlanK said...

Thanks, man.
It may not be an expensive brand, but after checking her out carefully I knew she was solid piece of equipment. Both the original owner and the pawn shop didn't know what they had, so screw 'em.
Hell, the hard case that comes with is worth 85% of what I'm paying, so I could look at the deal in terms of the bass itself costing the same as one of Dave and Eva's dinners out if he orders a beer.
And the SOUND of it.....OMG!

KeithAlanK said...

Recent research leads me to believe that a mere 4.82% of people in the music business have any idea what an 8-string bass sounds like, let alone the general public.

I'm gonna have to school them.