It seems the best way to cause a shitstorm on the average internet bass guitarists’ forum is to start a thread in which you declare your love or hatred for Fender Precision basses. Not that I’m guilty of this myself, of course. But the Fender Precision itself, generally agreed to be the first widely-produced electric bass guitar, is a particularly iconic instrument. Widely copied, hated by some bassists and lusted after by others. Or deemed to be “a bit overrated” by others.
I fall firmly in the “lusted after” category, just so we’re clear where my biases lie. I’ve always liked their appearance, and my desires were more firmly cemented after I discovered that some of my favourite recorded bass sounds were produced by them. (Namely, John Entwistle’s playing on The Who Live at Leeds and The Who Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970.)
Trouble is, the American-built ones are expensive. In my quest to eventually work up to owning one, I was offered a step halfway between my little cluster of “budget” basses and a genuine US Fender when some nice chap in a guitar shop asked me if I’d ever tried a Schecter.
I hadn’t. Shecter have always been one of those companies who I associate with the type of modern-looking and often “pointy” guitars and basses favoured by players of modern rock and metal. Indeed, on one wall was an impressive array of not-all-that-pointy-but-definitely-modern-looking basses – small bodies, active pickups and ergonomic curves. I’m a bit old-fashioned in my tastes: I prefer passive pickups and large, slab bodies on my basses. So I was pleasantly surprised to see the basses hanging on the opposite wall.
The bass I eventually settled on (it took a while; they make quite a pretty Thunderbird-style bass as well…) was a Model T, in butterscotch blonde, with a rosewood fingerboard. The design has quite obviously been based on one of Fender’s early Telecaster-esque Precisions from the 1950s, but has a couple of modern twists: the belly cutaway for starters, but also the use of the split-coil humbucking pickup in the “standard” position, plus an additional Jazz bass-style bridge pickup. The headstock is larger as well, like a more angular version of the modern Fender design. It reminds me a lot of Fender’s 60th Anniversary Precision in terms of its interesting blend of old and new.
The next big surprise is the neck profile. It’s wide but flat: a very slender, tapered neck with a rather wide fingerboard. It threw me, I must admit, but perhaps that’s my own fault for expecting it to handle like a Precision. The low action makes it a delight to play, and the string spacing poses no problems – in theory, it makes the bass better for slapping…if you’re into that kind of thing.
Plug in, and the real beauty of the instrument comes through. The tone is bright and articulate, but still produces enough body to rupture the front row of the audience. Both pickups are from the Seymour Duncan Basslines series, so you’d expect them to be up to the task. Depending on the amp, the freshness of the strings, or even just the mood I’m in, I sometimes find the tone a little too bright: I frequently wind the tone control down to about 3 or 4 to get the right balance of “thump” and “clank.” Nonetheless, it’s invaluable to have that much extra headroom for the nights I’m lumbered with a “woolly-sounding” amp.
The one feature I’ve only really toyed with is the bridge pickup. My earlier comments may have suggested I tend not to play slap bass; I’m also not a fan of the “scooped mids” tone that many funk players favour and tend not to use the bridge pickups on bass guitars. It makes the sounds that a lot of modern-sounding bassists seem to go for: bright, springy and trebly. The same sound I tend to avoid, unfortunately, but it does them well. And I can turn the thing off easily enough, so I needn’t complain.
In short, it’s a wonderful bass. Speaking as somebody who only really used the split-coil pickup, it offers all the versatility you’d expect from a good P-bass. Obviously prices will vary, but it seems to be only a bit more costly than a Mexican-built Fender, and I’d hazard a guess that it’s a better instrument. The bridge pickup is likely to be an additional attraction for a lot of people; on the other hand, some may prefer the neck profile on the Fender. I know I’m very happy with this one. Of course, if you wanted to hear how it sits in a full-band setting, I can, in a brazen display of shameless self-promotion, offer you this clip.
Update: I now have a solo demo of the Model T as well. Only fifteen months after the original review…