Friday, April 15, 2011

One string too many

click photo to enlarge
I've played the guitar for about forty years. I'm not great, but I'm not awful either, and I get a lot of pleasure from the activity. A good few years ago, at the time that I bought my oldest son - a better guitarist than me - a Gibson, I splashed out on a bass guitar, thinking that learning the instrument would be fun. However, I never got very far with it because my son asked if he could borrow the bass when he went off to university, and in a moment of weakness I said yes. The rest, as they say, is history. My bass guitar went out of my ownership, my son became as expert on it as he was on a six-string, and the bands he played in were good enough to feature at a blues festival and to perform elsewhere for hire - an entertaining side-line to the day job.

In time my bass was pensioned off, rather the worse for wear, as it was replaced by better instruments. For the past few years it has languished in our spare room, awaiting a bit of essential surgery, and I've spent my time playing six-strings. So, you can imagine my reaction when my son asked me if I'd like to "look after" his rather fine Fender 5-string Jazz Bass and bass amplifier that, having been replaced by 4-string and 5-string Warwicks and a new amp, resulted in his needed to de-clutter. I said "Yes".

When I got the instrument home I tried it out, and fairly soon, and very sadly, concluded it wasn't for me. It isn't that it's not a good bass, nor is it a lack of will-power on my part. No, the simple fact is that it has one string too many. How is that? Well, as anyone familiar with the 6-string guitar and the much more usual 4-string bass will know, the bottom four strings on each instrument are (lowest to highest) E, A, D, G. Those on the bass are lower in pitch, but the familiarity with these four strings that a lead or rhythm guitarist brings to the bass makes learning it so much easier. However, the 5-string has a low B below the usual four strings. The consequence of this - at least for me - is that you forget where you are on the strings when you're playing: it's hard to remember, by feel, which string is which. So, the 5-string bass in my study has become something of an ornament. All is not lost, however, because the presence of the bass amplifier has motivated me to dig out my old and battered bass and coax it into life. Maybe over the next year or two I'll get somewhere with it.

This morning the "ornamental" bass was illuminated by the low sun shining on my vertical blinds. The slanting light produced rich colours in the wood and metal of the headstock and prompted me to take this photograph. The smaller image is one I took a while ago but never posted.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Main Photo
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On