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grayn

Gibson Grabber 3: 70's Tribute Bass

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I remember, back in the 70s, when the Grabber and it's cousin, the Ripper came out, I thought they were ugly. I hadn't given them much thought since then and so hadn't changed my view. Then, a couple of months ago, I saw this new version, with it's dark, honeyburst finish, black scratchplate and three, big single-coil pickups and I was very attracted to it. I wasn't in the shop looking for a bass and if I had been, it wouldn't have been a Gibson Grabber. But my eyes kept straying to it.

After getting my Epiphone Allen Woody Rumblekat bass, I was really getting into the whole retro thing. And my mind went back to that Grabber, I'd seen. And after checking out a number of "retro" styled basses, I decided the Grabber 3 was the next bass for me.



Now the looks of this bass are a little odd-ball. The body is wide with a lot of bevelling. Yet it's depth is relatively thin. The honeyburst finish is rather attractive and a little translucent, allowing some of the wood's grain to show through. Yet there is a large, black scratchplate, which covers alot of the body's front. Then there are the 3, large, rubbery single-coil pickups. And to top it all, literally, is a massive, triangular, Flying-V style headstock, with huge, clover shaped, Grover tuners. Yet somehow, all these attributes come together to give a very cool looking bass, IMO.

With this American made bass, Gibson have used many tried and tested features, like the aforementioned F-V head, the traditional 3-point anchored bridge, the old Grover tuners. Then they went and added 3 S/C pickups, with the wackiest wiring/switching. Most other makes would have given the bass individual switches for each pickup. Or at least a 5 or 7 way switch, to get as many combinations as possible. What did Gibson give us? One tone, one volume and a 3-way switch. What!?!



For a start, you cannot use any of the pickups on there own. There is a reverse-wound, reverse-polarity middle pickup, that is always on. Ostensibly to cancel hum. So, this is what you get from the 3-way switch: bridge+middle / all 3 / middle+neck. Now, all this may sound a bit poor to you. It certainly surprised me. Stay with me though. This Grabber is made of just one species of wood and that is maple. Maple body, maple glued in neck and even baked maple, for the fretboard. I'm not sure if the baking hardened the wood or just darkened it, to look more like rosewood. Possibly both.

Now maple is known to give a harder, attacking edge to tone. Possibly it may enhance the high-mid frequencies. Anyways, my point is the combination of wood and wierd/innovative pickup wiring does indeed come together to give the Gibson Grabber 3, a very distinctive sound. And yes, that sound could be described as reminiscent of the 70s. No, the wiring doesn't allow a huge variety in tone. But all the tones you can dial in, sound very good and in keeping with the bass's image. It is hard to describe tone but I think the reverse phase, middle pickup, always being
there, gives this bass some extra space or width to it's sound. It's a rather lovely characteristic and in conjunction with the all maple construction, that keeps the sound nice and tight, the tone is a real winner. And there's just enough variation in the 3 pickup selection, to adjust to most situations.



I don't know how many bassists out there are like me but I've had all singing and dancing basses, that had a huge variety of tones available through multi-switching, coil-taps and a variety of pickups. But almost always, I found a couple sounds I liked and just used my technique to alter things further.

So the Grabber's approach is quite appealing and it's tonal range is just great, to my ears. It's very reponsive to playing technique and although powerful, it remains a tight sound, that won't boom all over your gig's or recording's mix. I've really enjoyed playing it with fingers, thumb and plectrum. And with a little palm muting, it's amazing, too.



This Grabber is relatively cheap, for a US made bass. So what gives? Probably the cheapest thing about it, is the gigbag it comes with. It's large enough and has a Gibson logo but it's mediocre at best, with not much padding. The bass's knobs and 3-way switch are also nothing special. They work and seem reasonably solid. Only time will tell but they're not the best. Also the traditional, 3-point, Gibbo bridge is not the finest design. But it works and is a sturdy peice of kit.

On the positive side, the construction is very solid. Everything fits and works well. The overall finishing is pretty decent too. There's nothing flash here, it's actually quite a workmanlike bass.

Playing wise, the bass has a wide, comfortable neck. It does seem to stick out a ways, from your body but I soon got used to that. Mind you I had been playing my short scale bass, for a number of weeks before getting the Grabber. But I actually enjoy switching between the 2, now. Having very much it's own sound, it took me a couple of days playing to really appreciate what this bass can do and how it is very inspiring to play.



Having said that the Grabber is such an individual instrument, I can however, see it being someone's mainstay bass. OK, it doesn't cover all the tonal bases but I reckon, with some thought, it could fit rather well, in most musical situations.

This is a mid-priced bass and looking at it's parts, that's exactly what it is. But the sum of it's parts, come together to give you a little more than that. I don't know if the team that put this bass together knew exactly what they were doing, or if they just struck lucky. But if any of what I've said about this bass appeals to you, I'd strongly suggest finding one to try out. Not that easy in the UK but worth a try I reckon.

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I've been really warming to this bass recently, now that the Ripper is that much harder to find. Turned onto it after hearing the QOTSA/ Russian Circles bass sound, these guys use old Rippers/Grabbers respectively and this seems to be the closest production bass at the moment...
The only thing that's been putting me off is the V headstock shape and the rosewood fretboard, but now I know it's actually baked maple I shall think again. I'll have to try one out next time I'm at GAK. :D

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Oh come on, you've got to love that freakishly large, F-Vee head.

I prefer ebony myself but what have you got against rosewood fretboards?

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Haha, yeah I am beginning to like it if I'm honest. Always preferred the old square Gibson headstock but the more I look at it... the more there is something very... alluring about it!

Nothing against rosewood at all, I just always go for maple fretboards if I have the option. Might be in my head but like you said up there somewhere ^^ I think it brings out the high mids a bit more and that's always what I seem to come back to in my tone. I just think it adds more clarity, so when looking for a bass I [i]usually [/i]start with looking for a maple neck.

Of course it might all be in my head and I am probably going mad :blink:

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On 23/06/2013 at 15:56, grayn said:

Oh come on, you've got to love that freakishly large, F-Vee head.

I prefer ebony myself but what have you got against rosewood fretboards?

Flying vee for me , all the way....! 

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