Bass Project #2: Squier Bass VI (part 1)

I’m sorry for the long absence between the last couple of blogs. I have been busy with quite a few things besides guitars and making music. I’m trying to organize a lot of my unfinished projects, getting the parts necessary and finally getting around to finishing them. It doesn’t help that I also suffer from GAS-syndrome, which is why this current bass entered my life.

Being a fan of weird guitars and basses I am always looking out for the next instrument to tickle my fancy. The Fender Bass VI has been on my watch list for quite some time. Being a fan of both the Cure and Cream I always wanted to own one. Also the allure of a 6 string bass with a tremolo ticked all the right boxes in my head. A few years back the only way of getting one was finding an original VI from the 60s/70s or ordering one from the Custom Shop. This was even before Fender Japan started making reissues I believe, although I am not an expert on Japan’s domestic guitar catalog. Needless to say that was way above anything I could afford at the time and even now I wouldn’t want to shill out that kind money. There were alternatives like the Fender Bottom Master and Baritone Custom, but these were also quite expensive and not even really reissues of the original VI’s.

Besides the Japanese reissues, which weren’t really available in Europe at the time, Fender introduced the Mexican-made Pawn Shop Bass VI and the Squier VM Bass VI (made in Indonesia) a few years back. Although I really liked the Candy Apple Red Pawn Shop version it was missing the crucial switching system like the originals, replacing it with a 5-way Strat switch. I tried out 2 sunburst Squiers at different shops but both were quite disappointing. I might have bought a Pawn Shop one but most shops didn’t stock them at the time and when I finally wanted to really try one they were discontinued.

Fast-forward to the present and I developed a serious itch from that infectious GAS-syndrome. Most shops here seemed to have stopped stocking the Squier version, at least the black VI was nowhere to be found and the stores that had VI’s were all in sunburst finishes. My guess is the recent CITES concerning rosewood-use on guitars means Fender is replacing the entire Squier line, Mexican- and part of their USA-built instruments with different fretboard materials and the last rosewood models are being sold off before final replacement. Anyway, I preferred Olympic White over sunburst and I was able to find a shop which had a few left in stock. Luckily it also played better than the previous two I had tried out, so I happily bought it. I am really impressed by the build quality for the price, even though there are definitely significant flaws warranting a fix. After a few days I was adjusted to the smaller string spacing and using the bass with fingerstyle is no problem. It makes a fine bass on its own without the chordal options. The pickup options are also really nice, so far I’m glad I chose this over a Pawn Shop VI.

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It’s not a project without any mods, so what am I going to be changing out on bass? First and foremost; the strings. Not a mod of course, but words can not describe how much I hate these stock strings. I really don’t know why Fender/Squier ever opted for a string set with such a thin low E string. The instrument is completely unplayable in my opinion. The rest of strings are fine, the A string maybe a bit to thin as well. Fretting anywhere on the E is almost impossible without bending it out of tune or hitting it hard without a lot of fret buzz. I haven’t settled on flats or rounds, I’ll be buying La Bella’s either way.

The real ‘mods’ are replacing the cheaper parts with higher quality ones to make it a better instrument overall, such as an AVRI tailpiece (for the locking function mostly) and a Staytrem bridge as well as CTS pots. I might also change the pickguard. I am a stickler for nice tortoise-shell pickguards but a Spitfire guard isn’t cheap and I don’t want to be spending more on this bass than the actual price I bought it for. We’ll see!

This project won’t take as long as it is just ordering the different parts and replacing them. I’m not in a hurry anyway although I would like to record and play with this bass when it is all done and setup properly. I still have 2 projects I also want to finish soon. The Billy Corgan Stratocaster is almost done. I know, I said the same thing the last time… Besides some minor polishing of the lacquer, it is only a matter of soldering the electronics and screwing everything together. Fingers crossed. 🙂 The Ibanez bass is on the back burner for now. I have found a mudbucker from a 70s Japanese EB-0 copy with its pots and wiring. All I need is second pickup and a custom pickguard to fit this weird bass.

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