The pickups are powerful, quiet and - unsurprisingly - have a
tone which is perfectly suited to old school rhythm and blues.
particularly the back pickup. Although it doesn't have the vintage
looks of the front unit, with the bridge pickup volume and the tone
turned up full, the sound is authentically Stones.
If you listen to the two-beat feel and tone of Wyman's bass-
line on the track 'The Last Time' you'll get a good idea of how this
sounds. It's punchy with a thick, rich lo-mid bias, and has more
than enough presence to be used on its own. Adding in some of the
neck pickup fills out the sound considerably and now you have a
great Fender-ish vintage rock'n'roll tone - a bass sound that will
sit perfectly in any blues trio alongside an old distorted archtop or
battered Tele.
There's plenty of scope for adjusting your sound using the simple
passive tone control and pickup volumes, but the way you play this
bass will also have a big effect on the tone. I had some great results
playing right over the end of the neck and even tried playing it
with an old felt pick. Like this, you can get the perfect 50s and 60s
bass sound, minus of course the hum and crackle that was such a
common part of any bass guitar's sound back then.
n y
u e s
The tiny size of this bass is a bit of a mixed blessing. It's a little too
small to play comfortably with it on your lap, but standing up with
it strapped on, the tiny body makes much more sense and the light
design means that it's effortless to play, even for long periods of time.
For me, a little more thought could have been put into the neck
joint. It may well be of the same form and dimensions as Wyman's
Tuxedo bass, but with quite a thick body and very shallow neck
socket, there's a lot of the body protruding at the point where the
neck joins the body at the 16th fret. However, the chunky short-scale
neck is super-comfortable to play and the Elites flatwound strings it
comes fitted with are a perfect match for the feel of this bass.
I guess you'll either love or loathe the look of this instrument.
Personally I think it looks cool in a kitsch, early-60s sort of way:
rather like a Vox Phantom or one of those old 60s basses that were
made in Italy by electronic organ manufacturers. £600 is not a lot
for a bass these days, and although you could argue that there's not
a lot of it, what there is in the Bass Centre Bill Wyman Signature
is very good quality. Like any instrument at this price, there are
limitations: this won't be a bass for everyone. However, my guess is
that most potential buyers will either be dyed-in-the-wool Wyman
fans or will have started their careers on the kind of bass that this
instrument takes its cue from. Features like the chunky neck join
and short scale will be of less importance to them than its accurate
and authentic appearance and sound.
Bass Centre and their distribution partners House Music have
brought us some cracking instruments over the years - from the
Bass Collection range to their signature models in the British Bass
Masters series. They've always represented great value for money
too, and although the Bill Wyman signature is a bit of an oddity and
a deviation from the Fender-inspired instruments that form the
bulk of Bass Centre's catalogue, it continues the company's tradition
for quality basses at affordable prices.
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