Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Acoustic Guitar-to-Bass Conversion Test Drive: "Into the Mystic" redux

After years of heavy gauge strings and high action on my 1985 Sovereign acoustic guitar, the guitar finally became unplayable. A luthier I took it to practically gave it last rights, so I spent the past year searching for a replacement. After flirting with low-end Martins and "high-end" used Sigmas, I found an 8 year-old Blueridge. It's pretty solid and sounds pirty, but after years of playing the old Sovereign, it will take some playing to get the newer wood of the Blueridge to have the same depth I'm used. But being able to play at the 2nd fret is awfully nice.

Sovereign Acoustic Bass | Blueridge Dread
Once the Blueridge arrived I wondered what to do with the Sovereign. For a while I kept it tuned to G, but the bridge is pretty wrecked - I didn't feel like wasting another set of guitar strings on it and further stressing it. While I was searching for a new guitar I did a brief stint in a great local acoustic band, and the bass player and friend, Bob, had converted an old acoustic guitar into a short-scale acoustic bass. I have always kind of wanted an acoustic bass - they are easier to mic than a bass amp, and the woody sound is a better fit alongside resonators and acoustics instruments. I was never going to spend any serious money on one anytime soon, yet here I was with a resonant acoustic body. After some quick research online I bought a 4-string trapeze tailpiece, some new tuners, a fresh saddle, and something I never thought I'd own - a drill. In about an hour I had a brand new acoustic bass. The tailpiece kept the stressed bridge safe from further damage, but the short-scale strings caused uneven tension and thus laid at an angle from nut to tailpiece. I thought I had installed the tailpiece incorrectly. But after a quick adjustment, the strings came into alignment (and better intonation at the frets). It's not perfect, but it should have a nice second life.

I decided to test it out on one of my favorite bass lines, "Into the Mystic". I was never happy with the first recording I did, which was a massive wall of sound captured by an inferior mic. This new take is pretty much the same arrangement as before, but slowed down and minus about 7 instruments.