Gear, part 3 - Musicman Stingray
I've long been a fan of Louis Johnson, aka Thunderthumbs, ever since hearing him beating the hell out of his Stingray on those early Brothers Johnson records. So of course it was only a matter of time before I got myself a Stingray. I found mine secondhand on eBay, a 1987 vintage with rosewood fretboard, and a bargain at about €400 back in 2005. It was pretty beaten up when it came to me - felt kinda greasy and sticky, like it had been stored in a busy hotel kitchen for a couple of years. And the previous owner had put this godawful checkerboard black and white pick guard on it. So I spent a bit of time cleaning her up, replaced that migraine-inducing pick guard, and she turned out to be a fine bass underneath all that.
That said, of course I made a little alteration, and I know the Stingray aficionados will string me up for this heresy - I replaced the pickups and electronics with Basslines equivalents. Perhaps it's the way I play, or the strings I use, but I always found her to be a bit too clanky and mid-rangey for my tastes. The Basslines replacements fixed that for me, giving the bass a nice warmth in the bottom end that it lacked before, and a bit of sparkle and softness in the top, without losing any of that splashy percussiveness at the front of each note that is so unique to the Stingray.
I don't use this bass a huge amount. It's generally laying around in my studio, and I tend to just pick it up to try out new things or run a few scales and other rudiments. It's not a subtle bass - it's the kind of thing you use if you absolutely have to cut through everything else in the mix. You can hear it all over Harambé's Reboot EP, for example. I have a slight issue with the ergonomics which I guess stops me taking it out to play too often: while the placement of the pickup, way back near the bridge, is perfect for slappy stuff - nothing to get in the way of your pulling finger - I find it awkward for finger style. I like to rest my thumb on the pickup, and back near the bridge, the string tension is slightly too high, even with my extra light strings, to feel comfortable to me. And I guess something about the way I pluck the string is naturally quite toppy and I compensate for this by playing close to the neck most of the time. But there's nothing there on a Stingray for me to rest my thumb on! Meh, first world problems, I guess, but still ... Anyway, the way GAS works, this of course means that I currently have a hankering for a Sabre, the two pickup version of the Stingray ... !
Incidentally, soon after acquiring this bass, I found a great deal on a second hand 20th anniversary Stingray. This was an absolutely beautiful bass to look at - quilted maple top, burnt sienna back, in mint condition. But that bass broke my heart. I just couldn't get any proper bottom end out of it. As I said, all Stingrays sound a little mid-rangey and clanky to me, but this one was just ridiculous! I tried it once at a jam session in East London. Never again. Sadly, I had to move it on and it's now with a collector in East Anglia somewhere, I believe. It's one of the few basses that belongs in a collection - gorgeous to look at, but useless in practice!
Anyway, here are a few pictures of my Stingray. As always, any questions or comments, feel free to post them here!
Leave a Reply.
My name is Karl, and I'm a professional bass player. Here I present some of my thoughts and observations from the road and the studio.