Eastwood Sidejack Bass VI Bass Guitar
Trust me - it is a bass guitar! "But it has six strings?" "And is that a tremolo?" "Aren't those P90 pickups?!?!?" "Aaaaahhhhhh!!!!"
The Eastwood Sidejack BassVI does have all of those features, but it's still a bass - and, a pretty darned awesome bass at that!
The Sidejack is part of Eastwood's line of 60's Mosrite-inspired designs. They also offer an electric guitar as well as a baritone guitar. But what's the difference between this instrument and a baritone guitar? The tuning! A baritone guitar is typically tuned a 4th below standard tuning from B to b. Thie Sidejack is tuned a full octave below guitar tuning E-e (the bottom 4 strings are the same as a standard bass guitar). Eastwood has successfully married the cool aesthetic of the popular 60's surf guitar with the unique utility of the iconic Fender Bass VI!
I acquired this instrument with the specific intent of using it with my new side project, Crazy Aces, an instrumental band marrying elements of 60's twang/surf music with rock, punk and Japanese eleki. The Eastwood has delivered the goods far beyond my expectations!
Eastwood imports instruments from overseas to Canada for final fitting and setup. This is an increasingly popular business scheme with many instrument companies & fortunately Eastwood is doing a great job with it! My Sidejack arrived in-tune, set up well and with nearly flawless finish!
The carved and bound basswood body has a beautiful vintage cream finish that you really need to see in person to appreciate! It's a subtle shade of off-white that gives the instrument an appealing depth. The black 'binding' is painted-on, but still looks sharp! The only finish issue I could nit-pick is a tiny amount of black overspray on the headstock edges. Still, the finish is smooth and far better than the price point would suggest!
The body carving is a nice touch on the top of the guitar & there is a belly contour on the back. Overall, the instrument is on the heavy side but the neck shape is comfortable. The scale length is 30" from nut to bridge and is glued to the body with a traditional neck heel transistion. The truss rod is accessible from the neck & is covered by a black plastic cover which I wish was contoured the same as the headstock, but functions just fine.
The hardware is of remarkable quality considering the budget price! The sealed tuning machines work flawlessly & with consistent tension. Note the cool 'wavy' tuning buttons! They are also sturdy & accept the heavier bass strings with ease. The tremolo unit is very similar to the Fender BassVI version, but without the position-lock feature. Still, it works surprisingly well & returns to pitch admirably. I don't honestly use the tremolo much, but it's up to the job if needed. The bridge is intonation and height adjustable and is solid. It comes complete with saddle rollers. Where the Sidejack really shines is those pickups! P90's on a bass are a novel thing - but man-o-man do these pickups sound good! Punchy, present and with average output compared to a passive jazz bass. The Sidejack sounds like a bass, not just a reedy guitar! Standard 3-way toggle selection and passive tone & volume round out the electronics.
How does a 30" instrument stack up to other guitars in terms of size? Well, right down the middle!
Right off the bat, the Eastwood sounds like a solid bass guitar. The bottom 4 strings are close to 'normal' bass gauges and provide familiar fundamental and power. The pickups are full, clear and clean. They are single coil, so thay can pick up some noise when solo'ed, but when both pickups are on - it's as quiet as a church mouse!
The playing experience is a little different due to the short scale and tight, guitar-like string spacing. You can still dig your fingers in for fingerstyle playing, but using a pick feels more natural on the Sidejack BassVI. The string gauges have been well chosen & are a little stiffer than you might expect from a 30" scale. There's plenty of snap & resistance!
The treble strings extend well out of traditional bass guitar range, so expect different tones and textures from them. Chording is actually quite effective, especially in upper registers.
As expected, the two pickups yield different but complimentary tones. The neck pickup has a nice girth, but with plenty of brightness. The bridge has more snarl and a throaty punch. Either pickup is useful on its' own playing traditional musical styles.
I've recorded a clip to demo the raw sound of the instrument, along with a couple of in-context samples that show how effective the Sidejack Bass VI is in traditional bass roles.
First, the bass plugged directly into a di (Groove Tubes 'The Brick' tube di) and recorded in ProTools. No eq, compression or processing was applied to this clip (other than mp3 conversion). There are 3 ascending/descending major scales starting with the neck pickup, then both pickups together and lastly just the bridge pickup. Played with a pick, all controls on full:
Second, the sound of the neck pickup played fingerstyle in a 'traditional jazz' setting. Again, no eq or compression, tone control at about 85%:
Last, an example of how I use the Sidejack as a "tic-tac" instrument. "Tic-Tac" bass was developed in the late 50's in both country and surf music. 'Spaghetti Western' music also used the technique to great effect. 'Tic-tac' refers to the use of a BassVI or Baritone guitar to double a recorded upright or muddy-sounding bass part. The effect gives a 3-d type tone and helps to make a bass line really 'stick out' in a pleasant way! In recent years, this technique shows up in songs by Gorillaz, Gnarls Barkley and many others! Here's a clip that gives you an idea how it works. The music starts with drums, adds the "muddy" bass (in this example an old Yamaha hollowbody with flatwound strings) and then the Eastwood is used to add the 'tic-tac' attack! Some eq and amp simulation was used in this recording:
Style, tone and flexibility! And all for about $649.00 U.S.!
Available direct from Eastwood Guitars, or at dealers across the U.S.A. and Canada!
Here's a performance of me using the Eastwood Sidejack BassVI live with Crazy Aces! Recorded on a crappy cell-phone camera, but it still sounds great!
Eastwood Sidejack BassVI
Strung up with a custom set of D'Addario XL nickel roundwounds
gauges: .025, .035, .045, .055, .075, .095
full disclosure: I did receive this instrument direct from Eastwood at a slight discount as I have an informal relationship with them.