Comprehensive Guide to Gibson Bass Guitars


Let’s take a journey through the history of Gibson’s bass guitars. It’s a story of superb craftsmanship, innovation, and a passion for music that still captivates musicians today.

Gibson has a long and renowned history of making high-quality instruments that have transformed the music industry. They’ve always been committed to improving the sound and look of their bass guitars, which is truly inspiring.

This article will take us through the annals of Gibson’s fascinating evolution, the intricate details of their distinctive designs, salient models that have sculpted the music scene, and essential upkeep advice to ensure your Gibson bass guitar sounds as magnificent as the day it was crafted.

Our objective is not only about appreciating these musical marvels but also guiding potential Gibson owners to find the perfect match to their melodic pulse.

History of Gibson’s Bass Guitars

Beginnings of Gibson Bass Guitars

The story of Gibson’s bass guitars begins in 1953 with the introduction of the company’s first electric bass, the Gibson Electric Bass. This solid-body model was unique for its time, as it differed significantly from Fender’s Precision Bass, which had been introduced two years earlier. It was shorter and more compact, and it had a violin-like shape.

The EB Series Emerges

By the late 1950s, Gibson revisited its bass design and introduced a new line in 1958: the EB series. The first in the series, the EB-1, retained the violin shape of its predecessor but with improved electronics and the addition of a telescoping endpin, allowing it to be played upright. However, this model didn’t gain much popularity and was quickly followed by the EB-2 in 1958. Unlike the EB-1, the EB-2 had a semi-hollow body reminiscent of the ES series of guitars.

The Iconic SG Design

Over time, Gibson began to stray from the violin-type design and move towards what would become an iconic shape for its bass guitars. In the early 1960s, Gibson replaced the original EB design with the EBO and EB3 models, featuring the new, more aggressive SG body style. This design change marked a significant turning point in Gibson’s bass guitar history, making the SG shape synonymous with Gibson basses.

The Thunderbird Bass

In 1963, Gibson Architects, under the leadership of the renowned American automotive designer Ray Dietrich, unleashed a unique and innovative design – The Thunderbird Bass. The Thunderbird series was Gibson’s first full-scale venture into the bass guitar market, and the design was nothing less than revolutionary.

With a neck-through construction and reverse body shape, the Thunderbird Bass set a new standard for Gibson, and it is still in production today, beloved by many for its distinctive look and sound.

Gibson’s Production Shifts

In the late 70s and early 80s, Gibson faced challenges as competition in the music industry increased. This era marked a shift in Gibson’s production strategy as they experimented with different models and designs, some of which didn’t resonate well with their users. Models like the RD Artist and the Victory Bass, while unique, didn’t hold Gibson’s signature attractiveness in the eyes of many players.

Return to the Roots

With consumer demand returning to traditional models, Gibson bounced back in the late 1980s and 90s by reissuing classic models like the Thunderbird and reintroducing the semi-hollow body style in their basses. The Gibson Les Paul Triumph Bass represents this period, featuring a semi-hollow body and a complex control system; it was a clear nod to the golden era of Gibson basses.

Contemporary Gibson Basses

In the 21st century, Gibson’s bass guitar production combines classic and modern elements. They continue to manufacture reissues of their iconic models, such as the Thunderbird, SG Standard, and Les Paul Junior Tribute. Alongside these, Gibson now incorporates more innovative designs, adding a modern touch to their traditional lineup and ensuring the brand continues to appeal to newer generations of musicians.

A Journey in Innovation

Gibson’s story in the world of bass guitars is an impressive saga of evolution and innovation. Returning to their earliest violin-shaped models and the classic SG and Thunderbird designs, Gibson’s bass guitars have aesthetically adapted while simultaneously shaping musical trends. An enduring testament to their exceptional craftsmanship and bold innovation, it is intriguing to anticipate what the following chapters in Gibson’s bass guitar history will unveil.

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Design and Specifications of Gibson’s Bass Guitars

Exploring the Gibson SG Standard Bass Guitar

Renowned for its double-cutaway, beveled design, slim structure, and lightness, the Gibson SG Standard Bass Guitar has become a symbol of the brand. The body and neck, carved from mahogany and a rosewood fingerboard, contribute to a well-rounded tonal output with a clear mid-range punch and balanced highs and lows. It boasts a 30.5-inch scale, enhancing playability in the lower frets and delivering a quicker response – a distinguishing trait of short-scale basses.

Though having 20 frets may seem atypical, it doesn’t limit the model’s varied melodic capabilities. The Gibson SG Standard Bass Guitar also harbors two pickups: a Sidewinder humbucker at the neck and a mini-humbucker at the bridge. The result? A signature Gibson growl that is steeped in tonal versatility.

Gibson Les Paul Junior Tribute Bass

The Gibson Les Paul Junior Tribute Bass captures the character and charm of its predecessor, the EB-0, the company’s first short-scale bass. This bass guitar is designed with a mahogany body and a maple neck, which gives it a warm and resonant tone.

The rosewood fingerboard adds smoothness to the playing experience. It has a 30.5-inch scale length and 20 medium jumbo frets, making it highly accessible for beginners and players with smaller hands. The lone BassBucker pickup offers a wide tonal range, from punchy, aggressive growls to soft, mellow murmurs.

Gibson Thunderbird Bass

With its distinctive looks, the Gibson Thunderbird Bass remains popular among bassists seeking statement style and sound. It features a nine-ply mahogany and walnut neck-through-body design and a rosewood fingerboard, providing immense sustain. The scale length and the number of frets are higher, with the Thunderbird boasting a 34-inch scale length and 20 frets. Dual humbucking pickups provide the robust, full-bodied tone many attribute to the Thunderbird’s distinctive growl.

Gibson EB Bass 5 String

The EB Bass 5 String is Gibson’s foray into the market for extended-range basses. It is a striking mix of tradition and innovation, with the firm, punchy response of swamp ash body material and a maple neck. The pickup configuration includes a pair of full-sized EB Bass Humbuckers. Full coil-tapping via push-pull volume knobs allows for precision tonal shaping. The 34-inch scale length and 24 frets make this Gibson’s most expansive bass model.

Note: With a long-standing reputation for quality and precision, Gibson’s use of hand-finished materials and high-caliber hardware components are at the heart of its bass guitars’ unique sounds. The combination of these elements, their meticulous craftsmanship, and unwavering attention to detail have established Gibson bass guitars as a note-worthy player in the music industry for many years.

Gibson Bass Tone characteristics

Gibson Bass Tone characteristics

Notable Gibson’s Bass Guitar Models

Gibson Thunderbird

Launched in 1963, the Gibson Thunderbird has subsequently carved its identity as a fundamental member of the musical world. It boasts a standout design called “reverse body” with striking wings that situate at the lower and upper body, making it instantly memorable. The neck-through-body construction is a significant departure from Gibson’s custom set neck assembly and instrumental to the Thunderbird’s tonality. The mahogany material used for its construction wraps the Thunderbird’s tone in a warm, deep resonance. At the same time, its double humbucking pickups ensure a brighter, louder output – perfect for those seeking to produce a rock or metal sound.

This model has two commonly recognized variants: the Thunderbird IV and Thunderbird Non-Reverse. The Thunderbird IV, the inaugural design, is known for its notable reverse body setup. Introduced later in 1965, the Thunderbird Non-Reverse features a non-reverse body and applies the set neck assembly.

Famed bassists such as Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx, Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, and Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic have all played Thunderbird basses, carving their influence into music history with them.

Gibson SG Style Basses

First introduced in 1961 as the Gibson Les Paul/SG bass – a solid body bass to replace the semi-acoustic EB-2 –the Gibson SG bass quickly gained popularity for its ergonomic design, affordable price, and distinctive tone. The neck of the SG bass is slender, allowing for fast and fluid hand movements along the fretboard, making it perfect for playing complex runs and chords.

There are two main pickup configurations: one (EB-0) and two (EB-3). The EB-0 has a single sidewinder humbucker in the neck position that gives it a warm, punchy sound. Conversely, the EB-3 consists of a mini-humbucker at the bridge and a mud bucket at the neck. This combination offers a variety of tones suitable for different genres of music.

Famous players like Jack Bruce of Cream, Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones, and Mike Watt of Minutemen have extensively used the Gibson SG bass and have significantly contributed to its worldwide reputation.

Introducing Gibson EB Basses

The Gibson EB (Electric Bass) series began in the early 1950s, and since then, it has continually evolved to cater to the requirements of various bassists. The models, notorious for their solid bodies, feature an impressive range of pickup layouts – from single-coil to split humbucker to dual humbucker designs.

Noteworthy among the array is the EB-3 model, birthed in the 1960s. Its distinguishing features include a mahogany body and neck and a rosewood fingerboard with a pair of Humbucker pickups. The unique combination of a “mudbucker” neck pickup and a mini-humbucker bridge pickup produces tones that span from punchy and assertive to resonant and robust.

The Gibson EB series is universally applauded for the ease of play it facilitates, its wide-ranging tonal options, and its solid base that accommodates custom modifications. It has become the go-to instrument for a lineup of the music industry’s heavyweights, including Rush’s Geddy Lee and Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl.

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How to Maintain Gibson’s Bass Guitars

Delving Deeper into Gibson’s Bass Guitars

Gibson’s collection of bass guitars sets a high standard in quality artistry and phenomenal tonal features. Over the years, Gibson has launched myriad models, each with its distinct blend of features and specifications. The SG Standard Bass, the Thunderbird, and the Les Paul Junior Tribute are just a few among the widely admired Gibson models.

Every Gibson bass guitar is meticulously constructed with superior tonewoods and equipped with rugged, durable hardware, delivering unparalleled longevity and unwavering performance.

Maintenance for Gibson Bass Guitars

Maintaining Gibson’s bass guitars involves cleaning and regular inspection. The process starts with wiping the guitar after every use to safeguard the gloss finish. No excess sweat or dirt should linger on the surface as they could deteriorate the life span and functionality of the bass guitars. A clean, dry cloth is recommended to avoid watermarks or scratches on the surface.

String Maintenance

The strings of Gibson’s bass guitars need special care. Over time, dirt and sweat can build upon the strings, causing them to rust and affecting playability. It’s suggested to clean them after each play session using a string cleaner or a simple cloth. Replacing the strings might be necessary in case of significant wear or tear.

Hardware Inspection

Regularly examining your Gibson bass guitar’s hardware is paramount in ensuring it stays in proper working condition. It involves assessing the neck and body, tuning machines, pickups, and control knobs to detect any loose screws or damages. If any issues are detected, a professional should handle significant repairs.

Customizing Your Gibson Bass Guitar

Gibson’s bass guitars are renowned for their versatility and adaptability to various genres. However, some bassists may want to customize their musical instruments to enhance playability and sound or to fulfill their personal preferences. This can involve changing the strings to match their style, adjusting the action or pickup position, or installing new hardware like a different bridge or tuner. Any actions should be meticulously contemplated and preferably done by a trained professional to avoid damaging the instrument.

Storage and Transportation

When not used, the bass guitar should be safely stored in a hard case away from direct sunlight, dust, or moisture. The case should have a sturdy exterior and soft interior lining to protect the guitar from bumps and scratches. In addition to this, it’s crucial to keep the instrument in an environment with controlled humidity ranging between 45-55% and room temperature around 70-75 degrees.

Gibson’s bass guitars are a prime example of excellent craftsmanship and superior sound, and to ensure that they continue to sustain their qualitative appeal over the years, regular and careful maintenance is vital. Should there be any striking issues, seeking assistance from a professional at a certified Gibson service center is always recommended.

SG Standard Bass Heritage Cherry
SG Standard Bass Heritage Cherry

Choosing the Right Gibson’s Bass Guitar

Exploring the Different Gibson Bass Guitar Series

With over 60 years of prolific history, Gibson has truly made a mark in the world of bass guitars. Standout models like the Gibson Thunderbird and Gibson EB-3 showcase Gibson’s commitment to high-quality sound and craftsmanship.

Their range includes a variety of model series designed to suit diverse musical needs and player preferences. Amongst these are the distinctive Les Paul Junior Tribute series, the EB Bass series, and the SG Standard series – each being unique in tonal variation and aesthetic appeal and designed to cater to a wide range of bass enthusiasts.

Choosing the Ideal Gibson’s Bass Guitar

Selecting a Gibson bass guitar that corresponds to your skill level and playing style is ideal. Beginners might find the relatively affordable and user-friendly Gibson Les Paul Junior Tribute DC Bass an excellent choice.

The Gibson EB Bass series – known for its versatility and robust tone – would suit intermediate players. Professionals might steer towards the legendary Thunderbird Bass, known for its unique body shape and rich, growling tone.

Other considerations include the type of music you intend to play. For example, the SG Standard Bass’s punchy mids and bright highs lean towards rock, punk, and metal, while the thick, warm tone of the ES-335 Bass finds its home in jazz or blues.

Factor in Your Budget

Gibson’s bass guitars aren’t typically budget options. They are quality instruments commanding premium prices. The Les Paul Junior Tribute DC Bass can start at around $999, while the high-end Thunderbird costs approximately $2,300. These prices reflect the quality, materials, and craftsmanship of these instruments. For budget-conscious individuals, used versions of these models can provide more affordable alternatives.

Assessing the Authenticity of a Gibson’s Bass Guitar

Genuine Gibson’s Bass guitars come with sure telltale signs of authenticity. Always check for serial numbers on the back of the guitar’s headstock. Each Gibson guitar has a unique serial number, which can be verified on Gibson’s official website or with a trusted dealer.

Also, pay close attention to the logo. Authentic Gibsons have the logo either embossed in golden ink, or mother of pearl inlaid on the headstock. Cheap imitations often have painted or stickered logos.

The quality of the hardware, such as tuning keys, knobs, and pickup selectors, should align with the high-quality hardware expected from a genuine Gibson. Imitations may use cheaper materials, which result in subpar performance.

Last but not least, examine the craftsmanship. Gibson’s bass guitars should possess exquisite finishing with no rough edges or sloppy paint jobs. The body of the guitar, usually made from high-quality mahogany or maple, should feel solid and heavy.

Purchasing Gibson’s bass guitars from authorized dealers or trusted music stores is always advisable to avoid being scammed with counterfeit products.

Image depicting a variety of Gibson's bass guitars.

Whether you’re a burgeoning musician looking for your first bass guitar, an established player keen to broaden your sound palette, or an avid collector with a penchant for Gibson instruments, finding the right Gibson Bass Guitar requires careful consideration.

No one model fits all, but understanding their lineage, unique specifications, and upkeep necessitates can significantly help make that crucial choice. Gibson’s Bass Guitars are treasures of the music world, each having left their distinct mark on countless songs and performances.

After all, the essence of music is the unison of passion, skill, and the right instrument. Therefore, choose your Gibson bass guitar wisely – a partner that perfectly resonates with your musical journey, ambitions, and the unique sound you hope to create.

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