23 Nov Top 5 Bass Guitars by Reed Mathis
For the price, I wouldn’t think twice about telling anyone I know to feel comfortable buying this...
If you want a beautiful Hofner Bass at a fraction of the cost of the vintage models, this...
The fact that Bakithi Kumalo (Paul Simon Bassist) can make this thing sing is all we need to...
The Fender P Bass is one of the finest musician instruments ever made. If you can afford a...
The Rickenbacker 4001 or The Rickenbacker 4003 model bass guitars would be excellent additions to...
Reed Mathis is an accomplished bass guitar player that has toured around the world collaborating with Electric Beethoven, Golden Gate Wingmen, and regularly collaborating with members of The Grateful Dead. Reed was kind enough to talk bass and share his thoughts about the best bass guitar.
The list of bass guitars includes 5 string bass, 4 string bass, electric bass, acoustic bass, even a bass ukulele. This is a list that we think any bass player would be able to agree with and it’s just 5 bass guitars. Obviously, there are a bunch of other amazing bass guitars that could make a best bass guitars list, but we told Reed he could only pick 5 bass guitars.
Top 5 Bass Guitars by Bassist, Reed Mathis
#1 Fender Jazz American Standard
I bought my 1995 Fender Jazz American Standard in Tulsa OK in 1995. I remember it like it was yesterday – it called to me from where it hung on the wall like Excalibur calling to Arthur. I sat in the store and played it for an hour without ever plugging it in – the tone of it was loud & full even unamplified. And the wood under my fingers, the roundness and depth of the neck as I gripped it – everything about it just felt like a match. Since that day 25 years ago I have played this bass at every live show, and every recording session, never once feeling the need to play something else. It can sound like almost any style or era, depending on how and where it’s touched. It is nothing short of magic perfection.
In those 25 years it has been dropped, kicked, fallen off of guitar stands & tables, fallen out of vans and trailers, sat in the direct sun, had drinks spilled on it, been tossed 10 feet by baggage handlers, gone to 35,000 ft and back a thousand times at least, all without so much as going out of tune. The last time it needed maintenance was in 2002 when it received a fret job. In the meantime it has done over 200 shows a year. I’d say that’s pretty dang durable.
When I pick it up, a part of me revels in the tradition of J-bass players that I admire – John Paul Jones, Aston “Family Man” Barrett, Billy Cox, & Jaco Pastorius, to name just a few.
#2 Hofner Violin Bass
The Hofner Violin Bass Guitar comes in a range with different features at different costs, but they all have that thing.
Obviously, we all immediately think Paul McCartney. And for good reason – the bass playing on the Beatles tracks is remarkable in the way the tone meshes with the other instruments and supports the overall sonics, no matter what kind of song it is. The sound is hard to describe – “woody” “hollow” “thumpy” “dark” – these come close, but it is truly a sound like no other.
For me, though, my love of this instrument really started when I first heard Chris Wood using it with Medeski Martin and Wood on the Combustication album & tour. He still uses it with the Wood Brothers, and it is the perfect compliment to his incredible upright playing.
- Tone is supportive of other instruments
- Lots of different features at different prices
#3 Kala U-bass
These bizarre instruments look almost comically small & toy-like, but good LORD they sound enormous when amplified. I first heard Bakithi Kumalo using one with Paul Simon, and I literally did not believe my eyes/ears. Later I sought one out, and sure enough, this tiny little chihuahua of a bass does indeed make that enormous upright-like sound. Astonishing. It weighs like -10 ounces, fits in a backpack, sounds great unplugged, and when amplified has subs that have to be experienced to be believed. Amazing.
- Enormous Sound
- Size is small
#4 Fender P-Bass
These absolutely deserve their reputation as the King of Basses. My first bass was a 70’s Precision that I got from my Uncle John – a beautiful instrument. But, probably because I was eleven years old, I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer size of the neck. Now of course, I wish I’d held on to it.
You simply cannot go wrong with a Fender P-Bass. Old ones are sought after, but the American Standard series is just as good in my experience. And you can take satisfaction from knowing that James Jamerson smiles down from heaven every time you thump around.
- The sound of the Fender P Bass is as signature of it comes
- Its a big bulky guitar
#5 Rickenbaker 4001/4003
These basses are, in a word, SPECIFIC. The look specific, and they sound even more specific.
My love affair with the Rick started the moment I heard Cliff Burton howling at the moon in “Anesthesia.” Later, those classic Yes albums had an undeniably unique bass sound to me. And then when I discovered that McCartney used a Rick on “Revolver” & “Sgt. Pepper” & “Magical Mystery Tour” I was even more amazed. And guess what kind of bass Rick James played.
I love the way they sound & look, and I love the weird skinny neck that seems to lend itself to a different approach & fresh ideas. Downside: unlike a Fender which seems to be able to fit into any sonic ensemble, the Rick sticks out & can’t really be disguised. So, if you’re ok with being freaky 100% of the time, the Rick is a really fun & exotic way to go.
- Unique sound
- Unique sound can be ineffective if used wrong