GEAR
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BASS CENTRE
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Kev Sanders sees a red scratchplate, and he w ants it painted black.
.. w hen he tries the
new Bill W ym an Signature from Bass Centre
Manufacturer: Bass Centre
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Tested at: The Great British Bass Lounge
w w w .g re a tb ritish b a sslo u n g e .co m
C
onsidering his legendary status as bass player with the self-
proclaimed 'greatest rock'n'roll band in the world' (at least
until 1992) it's a little surprising that there hasn't been a Bill
Wyman signature bass available now for years. In fact, back in
the late 60s Vox made a 'Teardrop' bass with Wyman's name
on it, although he had no input into the design and has since
said that he actually didn't like the bass very much, despite using it
for some time. If you look at old pictures and film from the early days
of the Stones, Wyman is more likely to be seen playing either a Dan
Armstrong or a Framus 'Star' bass. But there's a bass that pre-dates
either of these and, like the story of Brian May and his guitar, it was
one that Wyman made (or at least modified) himself.
In 1961 Wyman took an old short-scale bass of dubious lineage
and cut down the body to a smaller size that he found light and
comfortable. Next, in a prophetic move - and to deal with the buzzing
and rattling from the strings - he removed the frets, in effect creating
a fretless bass years before Jaco did the same, and long before one was
commercially available. He called it his 'Tuxedo' bass and he used it on
and off for most of his career. Now it's the inspiration for the new Bill
Wyman Signature Bass from the Bass Centre.
b u il d
d u a l it y
Let's start with the obvious; this is a simple instrument made with
simple construction methods and materials. Of course there's nothing
wrong with that - after all, so is a Fender Precision. In fact there
seems to be a growing trend among the bass-building community
to move towards simpler construction techniques and electronics.
Manufacturers seem to be increasingly focused on using high quality
tonewoods and hardware, and this Bass Centre instrument is a good
example of what I mean. It is very well put together: details like the
accurate neck join and perfect fretting point to a quality build with
tight tolerances and careful quality control at the Korean workshop,
where they also build the Brian May signature guitars.
Everything is finished in a smooth glossy black so there's no way of
checking the quality of the alder wood used for the body, but it's light
and resonant and sounds good when played acoustically. What you
can see is the tightly grained rich, dark rosewood fingerboard: unusual
"LIG H T ,
r e s o n a n t
a n d
s o u n d s
g o o d
w h e n
p l a y e d
a c o u s t i c a l l y
"
at this price point, as are the large white pearl dot markers which, like
the jumbo nickel frets, are flawlessly fitted and smoothed.
The pickups and preamp are all authentically 60s, both in terms
of looks and design. It's a simple format, but again, this is in no way
a negative observation and anyway, less is most definitely more
when it comes to this kind of instrument. The two-a-side tuners are
quality lightweight Hipshots. These look good in the black chrome
finish but personally I think a set of traditional chrome cloverleaf
Schallers would be more in keeping with the retro vibe of the bass
and a better match for the rest of the hardware. The chunky bridge
is chrome and looks as dependable as it is functional, but perhaps the
most striking aspect of this bass is the thick red perspex scratchplate. It
looks fantastic, and elevates the instrument to something much more
visually interesting.
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