For my birthday my wife bought me a bass! The cool thing is that it comes in a DIY kit, not ready built. The hardest things are done for you already like the routing of the body, the neck is already built, the holes are drilled, even the tone controls are soldered together on the scratch plate… The things left to do are to cut the headstock to shape, drill holes for the small screws for the tuners, sand and finish the body, solder the pickups and the ground wire to the tone controls, then screw everything together.
There are many options available on the net, but the one we went for was a Jazz-style kit from ML-Factory through gitarre-bestellen.de in Germany. You can check it out here. I took the option for strap-locks and the EMG pickups. You may be thinking it’s quite in-expensive, it cant be that good right? Wrong. You will find that such a large portion of expense in guitars comes from the time taken to create and prepare it. That’s why these are so much cheaper – not much human time has gone into preparing them, I guess most of these things like the cutting and routing can be automated. And this is also why I wanted to buy one – to do those things myself. Here’s a little tour of making it…
Lainey made a custom birthday wishes card for the box – sehr lieb.
Delivered is the body, neck (notice the headstock is un-shaped), standard pickups, EMG pickups (optional upgrade) , tuners, strings, bridge, scratchplate, strap pins… everything you need to put a working bass together.
This is how the body comes when you take the scratchplate off… Ready for sanding and finishing/painting.
These are the standard option J-Bass pickups. Quite basic but I haven’t heard them to know how they sound. Could be great could be good, could be rubbish – sorry don’t know.
For a little extra I ordered the EMG ‘special’ pickups because if I was going to the effort of building a bass, I wanted it to sound as good as possible. And I figured this was a good trade-off between stock pickups and searching the world for the greatest pickups I can’t afford – you know what I mean? They are definitely heavier and nicer made than the stocks. But the downside is the bridge pickup doesn’t fit into the routed cavity in the body and I don’t own a router. So with a little careful drilling and filing with rasps, it fits fine now.
I like the “unfinished” look of some instruments, so I decided not to use paint but to oil the wood instead and leave it unsealed. Over time the wood will probably wear and stain a little and hopefully it will look COOL. I sanded it back nice and smooth and coated it quite a number of times over the course of a week when I found the time.
One of the tricker but appreciated parts of this bass was that the headstock comes unshaped. So you can cut it to look like a Fender, Peavey, Ibanez, or something completely your own. I really don’t have a great bench or bansaw or anything like that, but I do have a jigsaw. So yeah the cut from a jigsaw is a bit rough, but I whipped out my trusty rasps and sandpaper again and applied some elbow grease and ended up getting some really nice results. It was this part that took me the longest and had me a little apprehensive. But I was able to get a slight curve up to the rounded end, and the end is not a perfect circle but I prefer it this way actually.
Here I have screwed the bridge on (with ground wire) then soldered the ground and pickup wires to the tone controls. Then the scratch plate went on. The pickups screw straight into the wood. Its ready for the neck to be bolted on.
So here it is… finished and ready to play. I also had to adjust the neck. Instead of the provided random strings (I am very specific about strings as part of the tone), I am using Earnie Ball 55-110 Power Slinky strings which are nice and heavy and good quality. So the action is not the lowest but over a couple of days I was able to keep making slight adjustments and the neck eventually settled in. Now I have a good trade-off between playability and fret buzz which can be a little tricker to get when using heavy gauge strings. If I used lighter strings I could have got a faster-playing, lower action, but I love the sound of thick strings. They are more brutal sounding.
And here it is post-playing. How does it sound after all? Honestly I was really hoping it would sound good, but I think it sounds awesome. This is the first guitar build I have done so I can’t compare this kit to other prices and companies for you, but the bottom line for me is that I put together my own guitar (without going to the length of growing my own timber, cutting it down, taking it into my workshop filled with tools… you get the idea), got a great sounding and looking guitar at a great price and learnt something in the process. And not having a brand on the headstock may look a little bare to some, but to me it looks pro. Oh yeah, and it feels great to play too.
Check out the soundclip below… Just some noodling on a groove. I have plugged the bass straight into my Scarlett 2i2 interface and recorded into Ardour with no processing – just the bare wave file. I also added a drum beat in for fun but mixed it low so it didn’t hide the bass tone.
The drums, if you are wondering, are a quick creation in Hydrogen drum machine (easy to use once you get used to it) which I can give you the backing track or the Hydrogen file, just ask me if you want. And of course, feel free to ask any other questions if you have them.