The acronym GAS, standing for Gear Acquisition Syndrome, will be familiar to anybody who’s ever tried reading a thread on a guitar or bass forum. It’s that feeling that you get once you’re familiar with your new guitar, bass, amp, pedal, cable, strap – any part of your setup, really – that makes you think it would be nice to own a slightly better one. It’s not so different from a violinist wanting a Strad, a pianist salivating over a Steinway or a drummer wanting additional drums or cymbals, it’s just that electric guitars offer so many more interchangeable and upgradeable links in the chain between your fingers and your ears. (I’m sure a lot of guitarists would upgrade their ears if it were possible.)
Couple it with a “collector’s syndrome,” and you have a problem on your hands. Or rather, I have a problem on my hands. Sometimes even in my hands, briefly, before my self-restraint takes over and I hang it back up on its display stand with a sigh. If I had the money (and the space at home) there are basses I’d buy this afternoon. But I tell myself not to, because I don’t need another bass. The two I currently own, Brenda and Christina, are perfectly adequate for my current needs.
Then, of course, I find myself finding loopholes in my own self-imposed rules. I don’t need to buy another bass…but if I build one, that’s not the same as buying one, is it?
It was this chain of thought that led me to eBay a couple of years ago, looking at bass guitar bodies. I had an idea, and I wanted to test it. You see, Brenda, my Precision copy, has a good, strong tone, with plenty of mid-range growl, but I felt she could do with a bit more depth and warmth. Christina, my SG bass, has a wonderfully warm, thick, bass-heavy tone, but lacks that snarl in the lower register. Ignoring their differing hardware, one of the differences is the body wood: Christina has a mahogany body, Brenda’s is something lighter (ash, I think). Another is their different neck joints: Brenda’s neck is bolted, Christina’s set. So what if I were to combine a mahogany body with a bolted neck joint?
It was this rather ropey justification that led me to buy a mahogany bass body. I wasn’t buying a new bass, I was just buying the parts to start an experiment. Admittedly this experiment would involve me building another bass, which I don’t really need, but at least it will provide some challenges along the way, and maybe get me a little bit closer to that elusive “perfect sound.” (Every guitarist or bassist has one. They may not know what it is, but they have one. It usually begins as “that guy you want to sound like,” plus or minus certain features they think should be emphasised or removed.)
Unfortunately, when the body arrived, I soon realised there was a problem with the dimensions. The neck pocket was too small to accommodate a standard Precision bass-style neck…if I was going to complete this using other parts from eBay, I’d either need to adjust the neck or the body to fit one another. Was this even a bass body? I began to wonder. From what the seller told me when I asked, I gathered it was left over from an unassembled bass he had acquired years ago, and the whereabouts of the neck were a mystery.
So there was a dilemma: should I look into getting the body adjusted, or sell it on? A mahogany body could have fetched a tidy sum from any more experienced luthier happy to take on such a project. In the end, I dithered, and the body ended up in my cupboard for a couple of years. Aradia, as she would later be known, was almost never born.
Coming up in Part II: how I eventually got my act together and bought the rest of the parts.