Focus On: Epiphone Bass Guitars
Epiphone Bass Guitars
Epiphone have a small but perfectly formed collection of basses - some are inspired by their Gibson big brother models whilst others are signature models for admired and respected bass players. Now, I'll openly admit that when I think of Epiphone I don't immediately associate the name with high end range bass instruments. However, like so many other things in life it's only when you actually take the time to dig beneath the surface that you can potentially unearth a hidden gem.
At the entry level point of Epiphone's bass line are two models that have a rich history and were used extensively by some of the most celebrated rock bassists of the 1960s and 70s - the EB-0 and EB-3. The EB-0 is the more basic of the two models and has a solitary Sidewinder hum-bucking pick-up located at the base of the guitar neck.
Both of these models are famously based on the Gibson SG guitar shape with double cut away bodies that utilise the now infamous "Bat Wing" horns. The EB-0 is the shorter of the two with a 30" scale neck, mahogany body and bolt-on neck plus a single tone and additional volume control with all hardware in chrome.
The EB-3 differs slightly in that it has an additional mini-humbucker by the bridge and 34" long scale neck. It also has twice the amount of control knobs plus a rotary pick-up selector. It shares the choice of mahogany body and neck with the EB-0 and has a Rosewood fret board with 22 frets.
The popularity of the MTV series "Unplugged" a few years back provided manufacturers with the opportunity to create acoustic basses. The next bass in the Epiphone collection is the Epiphone "EL Capitan" electro-acoustic bass guitar. Essentially this is a jumbo acoustic guitar body that has a specially strengthened neck to accommodate bass strings and is furbished with an in-built electronic pre-amp that allows the bass to be connected to an amplified source such as a PA or DI box.
This jumbo acoustic bass uses a laminated Maple body and set Maple neck which adds brightness to the sound, it has a long scale (34") neck and rosewood fret board with an attractive rosette encircling the sound hole. Most bassists use this as a secondary or third bass that gets occasional live use, but is mostly used as a practice tool or in the studio.
Next up on the Epiphone list is a couple of signature models from guys who made their fortune and fame in the 1960s as we look at Epiphone Signature bass guitars from Jack Casady (Jefferson Airplane) and Allen Woody from The Allman Brothers. Let's start by examining the RumbleKat bass which was designed by Epiphone in collaboration with Allen Woody who has now sadly passed away. The design incorporates several of Woody's favourite features from 1960s bass design and is one of the first basses to have a chambered Mahogany body.
It also has a small scale 30" neck for comfort and two mini-humbuckers positioned towards the neck end of the body. There's a single cut-away at the right hand shoulder whilst all hardware is gold plated. The bass was called the RumbleKat after the trademark tone achieved by Woody and the instrument was designed to replicate his signature tone which is why the pick-ups are located towards the neck and middle position to capture the deep warm tone of the wood.
Another retro-style bass is that chosen and designed by Jack Casady - formerly of Jefferson Airplane. The basic design looks familiar to the Epiphone Casino with a double "f" hole cut-away and is finished in an attractive metallic gold with cream binding and pick-guard. The Epiphone Jack Casady Signature bass is crafted from laminated Maple with a Mahogany set neck and a single JCB-1 low impedance hum-bucker. All hardware is chrome plated and the rosewood fret board sits on a long scale 34" neck.
We now come to the Epiphone Les Paul Special bass - a bass guitar conceptually based on the Gibson Les Paul body shape. The whole instrument is finished in Pitch Black so that the guitar resembles a stealth fighter! The Mahogany body, Mahogany set-neck, hardware and pick-ups are all finished in the Satin Black coating utilising 2 Alnico 442R hum-bucking pick-ups and a 34" long scale neck.
Epiphone have also masterfully re-created the Thunderbird Pro and Thunderbird IV bass models that were originally conceived by Gibson. The Thunderbird Pro is available as a 4 or 5 string bass with Mahogany body and 7 piece Walnut & Maple neck. It uses Epiphone T-Pro Hum-buckers and has a rosewood fret board and 34" long scale neck. The IV Thunderbird Bass is a classic recreation of the Gibson model complete with reverse body shape. It has an alder body with a bolt-on maple neck, black hardware and 2 x TB Plus hum-buckers.
The reverse Thunderbird body shape is also used on the Nikki Sixx Blackbird Signature bass model. Perhaps the most noticeable differential on this signature model for the former Motley Crew bassist is its complete lack of tone and volume controls and the inclusion of a simple on/off kill-switch. This all black Thunderbird IV bass is decorated with Iron Cross Motif on the scratch plate and is used again as fret orientation markers. The body is Mahogany with a Maple neck and uses his trademark "DeepSixx" humbucking pick-ups.
The final model in Epiphone's varied range harks back to the days when Mersey beat ruled the pop world. The Epiphone Viola bass bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain German model of bass guitar that was used by Paul McCartney in his Beatle hey-day. Beautifully crafted with a laminated Maple body and set Maple neck, the authentic 60s look is completed with an attractive flamed Maple top and Vintage Sunburst finish. NYR & NYT hum-buckers provide the sound source whilst the 30.4" scale neck makes the guitar suitable for bassists with a slight build and short reach.
Reviewing the Epiphone bass range has enlightened me on how many quality bass models are available from Epiphone and has made me look upon the brand in a different light. The most popular and favourite models are undoubtedly the Thunderbird series, however for those looking for something out of the ordinary there's a few great quirky options here amongst the Signature models. Before I wrote this article I was probably guilty of dismissing the Epiphone brand far too hastily as far as bass instruments were concerned...another of life's lessons learned! Check out the Nevada Music website for further details on Epiphone Bass guitars.
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21 Jul '11