The release of Rocksmith in October 2012 started me playing the guitar on a daily basis and began my guitar obsession. After a few months, and a bit of playing simulated bass in Rocksmith (guitar shifted down an octave), I thought it would be fun to try playing a proper bass guitar. I looked around at cheap basses, and decided that a low-end Yamaha bass looked like a good solution. Yamaha has a good reputation for building solid instruments of all sorts – their Pacifica guitars have a great reputation and I love the look of the new Revstars – and so I thought that would be a good place to start.
The RBX170 has a single coil and a split coil pickups, and individual volumes for the pickups rather than a selector switch so you can blend them as you like. Otherwise, it’s a rather standard 4-string bass guitar, with a 34″ scale length and no frills. I chose the red finish, which is like a metallic paint and coincidentally was very similar to the car that I had when I bought it (an Alfa Romeo Giulietta).
I found that I enjoyed playing bass, and it’s been a regular part of my Rocksmith playing ever since. I probably spend about 20% of my playing time on bass, and I find that it’s useful for me as a guitar player in a number of ways. Playing the bass gives you a greater appreciation of the roles of the different instruments in a song, which I think helps you to understand how you fit in. Due to the longer scale length and thicker strings, I think that the bass is physically a more difficult instrument to play, and so I think it’s good training for guitar playing, which feels easier coming off a bass! In particular, it’s good for practising your finger stretches and also for getting your little finger working on the fretting hand – because of the longer stretches, I find that I need to use it more when I’m playing bass, whereas you can often get away without it on guitar (there are professional players who never use their little fingers).
That’s been my experience, anyway. The experiment of buying a bass has been a success for me, and later on I bought a Chapman bass. I don’t feel the same urge to buy multiple basses as I do with guitars, perhaps because the bass market is smaller and perhaps because the range of tunings on a four-string bass is less than on guitars. Moreover, it’s easier to tune a bass guitar into a different tuning than a guitar, because they have fewer strings to retune and they seem to be far more stable – plus they don’t usually have floating bridges.
My RBX170 cost me just under £170 (possibly not a coincidence), but they have been discontinued. There are plenty of other good beginner’s basses around, though, and I would certainly encourage anybody who is thinking of trying a bass guitar to take the plunge – there’s lots of fun to be had!
See the Yamaha website
UPDATE: I sold this bass in late 2018 because I was in the process of making myself a bass, and I didn’t really need more than two regular bass guitars. At the time of writing, that hasn’t really worked out yet – but that’s another story!