The Missing Spec!
This week I was browsing around some bass guitar websites and something started to really bug me. Click on the details to any bass guitar model and you’ll see a bunch of specifications. You’ll see what wood the bass is made of, the neck shape, the fingerboard material, the fingerboard radius, the nut width, you’ll even see what type of knobs you’ll be getting. All kinds of details that a lot of people don’t even understand, but there’s one particular specification that really does make a difference to us when we’re playing an instrument and it’s often the first thing we notice when we pick up a bass. The Weight!
Bass Weight – The Extra Dimension
Now this isn’t a new gripe for me. I’ve always been frustrated by a lack of weight in the specs list. You do see the weight in there every now and then but it’s very rare and weight is one of those factors that can add an extra dimension to your online browsing. If you see a picture of a Fender Precision, it might look OK but you can’t really visualize holding it or wearing it on your shoulder without some kind of weight reference.
I recently looked to buy a Squier Classic Vibe Precision for a budget bass shootout and every time I saw it online I imagined it being really heavy. There’s just something about that 70’s P bass look that sends out “Warning Heavy Bass Incoming!” signalsn. Of course, there was no weight specified on the website so when I actually bought it I was so surprised to find it was really light.
Shops Vs Online
I know that buying a bass should ideally be done within a proper music shop. You really roll the dice when you buy blindly online. There’s no substitute for holding a bass in the showroom, playing it through an amp and getting a real feel for it and, when you do that, any weight specs become irrelevant. But there’s no getting away from the fact that, in these days of music shops closing down left right and center, online stores are really popular and I buy basses online all the time.
Why Do They Do It?
So why do you think this would be? Well I have my own theories about it. I could be completely wrong but I would have thought that it’s purposely done. I have a feeling that, from a marketing standpoint, people may be more likely to buy a bass because it’s light but they won’t really think to buy a bass because it’s heavy.
I know some sado masochists out there think the heavier the better, for a bunch of different reasons, but that’s going to be less of an incentive in general. Conversely, a heavier bass might be an incentive not to buy. There are plenty of people looking to avoid massively heavy instruments, especially those that gig 6 or 7 nights a week. A company isn’t going to want to unnecessarily advertise aspects of a product that could provide an incentive for purchasing products at a lower price point even if the bass at the higher price is the better all rounder.
Of course, this is just speculation. I don’t work for a bass company so I have no real idea why weight is deemed so unimportant. If you have any ideas le me know in the comments below. I’m really keen to know what you all think about it.
Weigh Your Bass!
So with all of this weight in mind, One thing I would recommend is learning the weight of the basses you already own. It can help with online discussions on forums like Talkbass or Basschat where people will often talk much more freely about the weight of various instruments. Also, there are threads on Talkbass where players have clubbed together to create a listing of bass weights by brand and year. If you have no reference to work with in terms of your own instruments then it can be tough to know what’s heavy and what’s light for YOU.
So how do you go about weighing your bass. Well, you could use regular bathroom scales but I always find them a little inaccurate because you have to hold them on there. Personally, I like to use a digital luggage scale.
These scales have various methods for holding the luggage but usually either have a strap or a hook. These hooks are often used for weighing fish and I prefer this method because I can just hook it under one of the tuning pegs.
A Few Examples
So using the digital luggage scale we find the following weights for a variety of my basses:
- Ibanez SR1000: 9.3lbs
- 1982 Fender Precision: 9.46lbs
- Squier Classic Vibe Precision: 8.84lbs
- Squier Jazz 5 V: 10.86lbs
By weighing my own basses I can feel that 8 to 9lbs is pretty light. Anything between 9lbs and 10lbs is fairly average and anything over 10lbs is moving into the heavy zone.
Get A Feel For Your Bass
So grab yourself a digital luggage scale and try weighing your basses. You’ll get a much better idea of where your instruments sit in the big scheme of things even if it only helps within the general bass community. I suspect the bass companies are going to be withholding that information for the foreseeable future.