Yes! After years about writing about them… I’ve finally seen one in the wild.
Saturday is a pretty fun day for me. My little son has his baby swimming lesson at midday, and then for lunch afterwards I grab a Grill’d burger for me and my wife while he sleeps. Afterwards I relax at home and destress from the week… playing guitar if I get the chance. This week all that got interrupted when I received this text from Tim at Tym Guitars.
Before you could say ‘Guitarnerd emergency!’ I was in the car, speeding towards Tym Guitars. I wasn’t sure if this bass was for sale or what…. I just had to see it in real life.
It turns out, a Melbourne band called The Spinning Rooms were having an instore at Tyms and when Tim saw the bass players bass, he knew I’d want to know. I walked in just as they started playing, and that 50 year old bass through an 8×10 Ampeg bass rig sound monstrous. The band have a kind of early 80′s St. Kilda sound… think Birthday Party etc. The sax player ran his sax through guitar pedals and a guitar amp and it sounded epic. The bass had a mean, gritty sound which fitted the music perfectly. I was really impressed.
After the set I introduced myself to Noah the bass player and asked if I could snap some photos of his bass for this blog. He said sure, go ahead. This was literally the first time I’d ever seen a Big Ben in the flesh. First thing I noticed… they’re tiny. I guess they’re sort of like a Fender Mustang in size and sale, but without the Fender body ‘horns’ they feel more petite.
The neck is quite thick, but the short scale makes it really easy to play. The nut width is wider than a Mustang… more P-Bass I guess. It’s certainly got that thick 60′s vibe. I love the Fyrbyrd headstocks on these basses. From the looks of it, I think the tuners have been replaced as the other Big Bens I’ve seen have white plastic tuner knobs.
One feature I found funny were the fret notes all over the fretboard. I’m not sure these came with the bass when Noah got it… (his girlfriend found it at a garage sale!) but it’d be handy.
Another feature I found interesting was the Maton truss rod cover. I hadn’t seen this particular version before… it was a lot larger than the ones on my Matons.
The original pickup looked to be the same on my Maton Apollo, but it had four pole piece screws. I’d always suspected they used guitar pickups in these, but from the look of the screws, they’re made for bass. In any case… it sounded great!
Overall the bass was in good nick. There was some buckle rash on the back but apart from that there were no cracks or anything.
The bridge had been replaced by Bad Ass. I totally understand why… after months of struggling with my ’72 P-Bass, I fitted a Bad Ass and instantly I had more sustain, clearer tone and better tuning. The original Fender saddles kept sliding, which was a nightmare. So, for a bass that is being used regularly, this is a sensible upgrade.
I strapped on the bass and had a quick play. The body balance is great and it felt really comfortable. For a little guy like me, these short scale basses feel very playable… unlike full scale basses which are sometimes a bit of a struggle. It’s still my mission to track one of these down one day (at a decent price!)…. one because of the Maton guitar nerd factor and also after seeing Spinning Rooms, I know these basses are able to rock hard.