It must be very difficult to be the manufacturer of bass guitars and to try and find something that will challenge the perceived ‘leader of the pack.’
For sixty years Fender has ruled in the world of the bass guitar. Firstly, with their Precision Bass, still widely accepted by many as the best bass guitar ever made. And then with its follow-up and soon to be competitor, the Jazz.
There have also been some non-Fender moments…
Chris Squire from Yes had a brief flirtation with the Fender Jazz but is best known for his Rickenbacker 4001 bass. Other notable Rickenbacker users have been Geddy Lee, Lemmy, Cliff Burton, Roger Glover, Mike Rutherford, and Pete Quaife. McCartney also dabbled around with one for a while.
Gibson who you might be forgiven for thinking had a big user base didn’t. Jack Bruce and Andy Fraser head the cue. Along with Chas Chandler and the bassists from Mott the Hoople and the Scorpions.
But, as you can see Fender are the ‘kings of the bass.’
Competing against them as a manufacturer is no easy job. But, there is something that gave competitors hope. Fender has gone through stages where the bass guitars they produced were shall we say, not fit for purpose.
We have a bass player in our midst here, a Precision owner and fan. And, he openly says the worst two bass guitars he ever played were both American made Precisions. Other companies also knew this and decided to take them on, and some great bass guitars arrived.
Perhaps the best known being Status Graphite who really did rock the bass playing boat.
Ibanez is another company to try their designs. Producers of fine 6-string guitars they went for the bass market producing 4, 5 and now 6 string models. And, they have made an impact.
So, let’s take one of their premium bass, the GSR 200 4 string…
…and have a closer look!
This bass guitar isn’t the high end of the Ibanez range but could be considered a premium instrument. It’s designed either for the learner or someone that doesn’t want to spend a fortune. It is, however, a nice bass as we shall see, with some quality features.
The first thing to discuss is its size. One issue that Fender was slow in addressing was the sheer physical size and weight of a Precision or Jazz bass. There were, and still are, players who find them too heavy and just too big.
Some may not be aware of this but the original size, or scale length to use the correct term, for a bass guitar was usually 31 inches from the nut to bridge. A good example of this was McCartney’s Hofner Violin Bass which arrived in the early 50s.
The introduction of the Precision increased the scale length to 34 inches, and the idea of long scale and short scale basses was born.
Many of those original basses other than the Hofner, were of poor quality and bass guitars generally had a bad name. Leo Fender came along, and the Precision was marketed as the ‘Pro’ bass guitar.
Ibanez with this model has gone down the short scale route, and for what the guitar is designed for, it is the right decision.
Short scale basses are more player-friendly. Shorter necks which allow easier playability for players with smaller hands, lighter in weight, they are a great idea for learners and experienced players alike.
The body of this bass is smaller than what might be considered usual, but it is still a full-size guitar.
It is made from Mahogany with a maple top. The body is finished off with Walnut urethane coating making it a very attractive instrument. The neck is maple and is bolt-on. The fingerboard is Rosewood and has dotted inlays and has 22 frets.
The body has rounded edges which make it comfortable to hold and play with a bevel in the top corner where your arm rests.
It is a good design with the best bits borrowed from our other instruments.
Perhaps the most important consideration for some will be the weight. The guitar weighs in at just nine pounds which is amazingly light.
The Ibanez GSR 200 4 string bass’s basic hardware is simple and effective and adds to the styling of the bass.
The bridge and tailpiece and the machine heads are all finished in black and are of Ibanez design. Purely functional they do there job with the minimum of fuss, and the bass holds its tuning well.
The controls are similarly onboard to do a job. Volume controls for each of the two pickups, and EQ and tone controls. They are not elaborate but produce some tonal range. Finished in the same color as the hardware.
Two pickups produce the sound. A Precision style single coil placed centrally and a Jazz style single coil placed at the bridge end. Pickups are by Powersound. Both are active and therefore require a 9v battery power supply which is supplied.
Active Bass Boost
Onboard is a PHAT-11 boost for the bottom end. Short scale basses are rather notorious for losing out at the bottom end at times, and this adds just a little bit.
It is a bass guitar that has been manufactured for a certain market, and it addresses a lot of the issues that players in that market experience.
It weighs a fraction of the weight of some bass guitars and with its short scale neck is easy to play.
But, short scale basses are for beginners…
If we address this last issue briefly. Some have the idea that short scale basses are for beginners and novices only and once you can play you must use a long scale but don’t tell Jack Bruce or Andy Fraser that.
Some say if you have small hands, then you must use a short scale, but that logic is defeated by one of the worlds best bass players, Mohini Dey. She is a 22-year-old girl from India who plays a bass almost as big as her, and she races around the fingerboard in a blur.
It is just about you and what you are comfortable with. It will be helpful to a learner to have a short scale, but there is nothing wrong with staying with that scale as they improve.
Likewise, if you are comfortable with a bass that weighs very little, then that is also ok.
If you are looking for a short scale bass that is lightweight, then this Ibanez GSR200 is a must to look at and try.
It will never quite achieve the thundering tones…
There are some differences sound wise; however, and small size basses will never quite achieve the thundering tones of its larger cousins, but some don’t need that.
The main difference is that there is less tension in short scale bass strings which does produce a different sound.
But, do you want to know a secret…
Short scale basses often have a fatter sound due to this lack of string tension and the sound options are often wider. You might not get those deep notes that shake the plates off the walls but the sound of a short scale bass is wider and the harmonics more pronounced.
Our in-house bass player loves his pre-CBS Precision but often remarks he wished he’d kept his Gibson EB3 short scale as it was a better studio bass guitar.
The Ibanez GS200 has this short scale pedigree, and even though Ibanez produce what some might refer to as some ‘seriously good’ bass guitars, the GS200 must rank very highly in its list of value for money instruments.