Music Man Stingray 1
Colin Hodgkinson on gauge selection and a Music Man Stingray.
Music Man guitars and amps are produced by Forrest White and his partner Tom Walker. Forrest White is a close friend of Leo Fender and was Fender's vice-president and general manager from 1953 to 1965. During that period Fender wanted to produce a second line of amps and steel guitars purely for teaching purposes and a student model guitar and amp did go out under the name of White Musical Instruments. Due to the enormous demand for the regular Fender range very few of these products were actually issued.
Leo Fender sold out to CBS in 1965, mainly due to health reasons, but he's now involved with the Music Man company as a guitar designer; an American friend told me that the first few Stingray basses produced actually included his signature on the neck plate - it's great to see you back Leo!
This is the second Stingray bass I have tried. A couple of months back I had a quick look at Boz Burrell's and then, as now, I was very impressed with the whole instrument and its "handmade" feel. It also incorporates a few simple, but long overdue, improvements and it's certainly the best production bass I have played or heard for a long, long time.
The head has a very striking design with three machine heads on one side and the fourth (G) on the other. This makes for a smaller, more compact head and also allows the strings to pull straight across the nut rather than fanning out against the sides of the nut grooves. As well as this the string-posts are tapered, thereby forcing the strings to lie flat against the head.
The one-piece maple neck is a beauty. It was the first time that I couldn't find any "dead spots" - the bane of every bassplayer — which seem to occur on just about every bass. The fretwork is superb (there is an extra 21st fret which takes the range of the bass up to E instead of the more usual E flat) and the neck was totally free from any fret buzz, even though the action was right down.
The single humbucking type pickup is fitted close to the bridge assembly and can be adjusted to a certain extent by way of the mounting which can be tilted or moved up or down. It has four pairs of ⅜" magnets which I found to be very sensitive and because of the pickup design the instrument will accommodate a large range of string gauges.
There are three separate control knobs: bass, treble and volume. This in itself is an innovation as almost all basses seem to incorporate the overall treble and bass control in one knob. The three controls on the Music Man bass were beautifully smooth in operation and between them gave an incredible range of sounds - all of them good! The tone control system centres around a pre-amp powered by a battery which is easily accessible at the back of the instrument. Unlike most preamp systems, this one was very quiet indeed. Music Man claim a battery life of three years. The low impedance output prevents loss of the upper harmonics due to lead capacitance and also increases the output level giving the player better sustain. It also means that the guitar tone does not change when the volume is reduced, a tremendous plus for recording purposes.
The bridge itself is held in place by two large cap screws and is mounted in brass inserts within the body, which increase the tone and sustain qualities even further. Just in front of the bridge sections (which are made from stainless steel and won't rust) there are four individually adjustable string mutes, which means that one can achieve just the right degree of damping on each string, or, of course, none at all. These mutes are adjustable by way of four small thumb screws and I found them easy to operate. The height adjustment screws are located inside the individual bridge sections, which again prevents corrosion and wear, and because the strings are pulled through the body it forces the bridge sections firmly against the base plate.
The body itself was beautifully finished and had the added advantage of an extra deep cutaway which gives much easier access to the highest frets on the finger board. The truss rod was easy to get at, through the head, with an Allen key. The guitar on the whole was quite heavy but because it was so perfectly balanced this wasn't a real problem.
It really is a pleasure to try a new bass and be unable to find any fault with it. I have a certain fondness for a 1962 Fender Precision which I bought brand new (insisting to the local dealer that it had to be a red one exactly the same as Jet Harris played!). I've used this bass constantly for all that time and I can honestly say that playing this Stringray is the first time I have really got carried away over another bass.
Sadly, for me, being an incurable lefthander, Music Man do not at this time make a left-handed model. This seems a little odd as most of the major guitar manufacturers these days make them as standard. I live in hope! Perhaps when Music Man read this they'll turn one out just for me, who knows?!
Review by Colin Hodgkinson
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