Bass guitars can be expensive! I was shocked to learn what Guitar Center was willing to offer for replacement value when they were working on my 1973 Fender Jazz. I didn’t pay a lot of money for it when I bought it back in the 70’s, but it has appreciated as a vintage instrument over the decades.
But it made me think that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to be schlepping that instrument around to nightclubs and gigs, opening up the possibility for accidents and theft.
Originally, I considered buying a DIY bass guitar kit. Many of them get great reviews. They’re far less expensive than a finished instrument and they can be a great platform for custom colors, finishes, and hardware modifications. However, as I stumbled upon a European music instrument retailer, I discovered they sold a completely finished instrument at an even lower price! With flat rate shipping and no sales tax, this seemed like a perfect modding platform and an instrument that could save me from having to haul my vintage Fender Jazz to risky venues. Plus, for a very inexpensive instrument, it gets fantastic reviews!
The neck & body were shockingly nice. But out of the box the pickups had a loud hum. It was almost unlistenable. It also came with a tort-colored pickguard that I wasn’t overly excited about.
I took off the pickguard and discovered there was absolutely no electrical shielding. I removed the pickups and covered the interior cavity with copper shielding tape. Then I replaced the stock pickups & knobs with a set of EMG GZR-P solderless pickups and pots. The hum completely disappeared!
I also replaced the stock bridge with a Hipshot KickAss bridge for added body mass, intonation, and sustain.
Then, I covered the tort pickguard with a black carbon fiber vinyl covering. I hand cut the vinyl sticker. It’s not perfect, but I think it looks pretty cool.
Finally, I added a set of DR NEON White bass strings just for looks. The black/white contrast is pretty eye-catching. Besides the striking contrast, the strings actually sound really good.
UPDATE (11/2022): I replaced the tuning machines with HipShot Ultralites.
I also removed the pickguard and replaced it with a solid matte black finished pickguard. The fit wasn’t perfect. I had to dremel the neck pocket a bit, and I didn’t do a real pro job on it, if you look closely. But black on black is a pretty forgiving color combination.
It’s a great instrument, especially for the price and certainly after the upgrades. Very fun to play. I’m looking forward to taking it to rehearsals and gigs. Even with all of these modifications, the instrument was a surprisingly inexpensive investment.