It’s true that many obsessed guitarists seem to hoard an unending collection of guitars, but there’s typically a bass in the mix somewhere, as well. While a few of my cohorts over at Bass Player magazine never let me forget how much aggravation bassists can endure from guitarists coming up with their own bass parts, having an electric bass handy is beneficial for practicing, songwriting, jamming, and recording tracks (after all, out of necessity, home studios have made multi-instrumentalists of us all). For most of us—the fears of the BP staff aside—that’s probably as far as we take our bass explorations.
But if anything would actually transform me into a serious wannabe bassist—rather than a low-end dilettante—it would be the Taylor GS Mini-e Bass. The Mini-e is a lightweight, super-compact, incredibly easy-to-play, and good-sounding acoustic/electric bass, and it’s also so much fun to play that it’s hard to put down. (Now, bassists of the world may want to start worrying just a tad.) It’s a superbly made instrument to boot. The satin finish not only enhances the warmth and beauty of the woods, it also makes for a comfy feel when you’re riffing all over the neck. The frets are rounded and smooth, the bridge and pickguard are flawless, and the inner bracing and internal construction is spotless (no splinters, excess glue, or messy wiring).
In addition to playing the Mini-e in my office whenever I could—it’s that seductive—I used it to track a tribute to X-Ray Spex, also using the Carvin Steve Vai Legacy Drive and the Ernie Ball Music Man St. Vincent (you can see it at GP’s YouTube channel, GuitarPlayerEditors). I recorded the Mini-e direct to Apple GarageBand through a Focurite Scarlet 2i2 preamp, and it sounded full and transparent. The bass tone immediately sat right in the track without any effort. There was no muddiness or boominess apparent, and the Tone control of the onboard ES-B preamp offered minor adjustments if needed—even though I ended up leaving it in the flat position. The Mini-e’s piezo picked up a touch of track bleed from the studio monitors, but it wasn’t a concern, and if it was, I would have simply listened through headphones. Obviously, the Mini-e is not a solidbody electric—or a treasured vintage bass—but it can do the job in most situations where you need a bass.
What really makes the Mini-e such a gas to play is its condensed scale length—it’s ten inches shorter than a standard electric bass—and the specially designed D’Addario nylon-core with phosphor-bronze wrapped strings. The strings feel slinky, sexy, cozy, and sweet. It’s almost like eating your favorite dessert to play these things. (By the way, the Mini-e will only work with the custom D’Addario strings—you can’t experiment with different string formulations.)
I’d never think to grab a parlor-sized acoustic/electric bass for tracking song ideas or jamming with friends, but the Mini-e completely changed my mind. It’s easy to transport and store (even in a cramped bedroom studio), and it’s so easy to play that even beginners and “occasional bassists” will be beaming with joy as they lay down grooves. This mini is major marvelous.
GS MINI-E BASS
PRICE $699 street
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16", NuBone
FRETBOARD Ebony, 23.5" scale
TUNERS Chrome diecast
BODY Solid Sitka spruce top, layered sapele back and sides
BRIDGE Ebony with Micarta saddle
PREAMP Taylor ES-B
PICKUP Expression System 2 piezo
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, Tuner
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXP PBB190GS
KUDOS Awesome playability. Good sound.