Ibanez Mikro GSRM20 Bass
Finish: Starlight Blue
Price Paid: $180
Mods: Schaller straplocks, Gotoh tuners, speed knobs
Still owned: Yes (Kat)
I don’t like to be that guy in the music store that tries everything and buys nothing, so while I love going into a guitar store and looking, I usually don’t even ask to play anything. But a swing by Gelb one day to see what they had on the walls revealed a tiny little Ibanez Mikro GSRM20 bass. And even though it was shiny metalflake blue, it didn’t grab my eye — it grabbed Kat’s.
Now, we have a deal: I don’t get new guitars unless I sell an existing one. I understand the necessity behind that very fair rule, and I have now gotten the guitar and bass count in the house to under 20. So for something to grab her eye, well, I do get to invoke the same one-in-one-out rule. “Do you like this more than your Fernandes Nomad Bass?” I asked. She said yes. Her face just lit up when she saw it, and again when she held it, and again when she played it. So she said “I can’t put this through its paces, tell me if it’s good.” So I played it. Um, wow. A bass for $180 should not be this good. Full-size pickups, a solid bridge, even the setup was pretty damned good out of the box. Great neck feel.
It’s clearly a bass aimed at kids (the other colors in the store were black and metallic pink/purple). Regular basses feature a 34″ scale, and “short scale” bases (like Paul McCartney’s Hofner) are 30″. This one’s 28.6″ which is almost guitar-like (a Stratocaster is 25.5″) and in the shop, it feels great in my tiny hands. Kat’s hands are similarly small. The silver knobs were embarrassingly plastic, and I figured the thing is probably made of agathis or some other horrible wood, but I trusted my instincts — it felt good to me, and if she liked this more than her other bass and would play it more often, it had my endorsement. So, we jumped, and decided to sell the Nomad.
We got home and found it had not only gotten some good user reviews, but it’s made of mahogany. Mahogany! And P-J pickups! In a kiddie bass for $180? This is now officially a ridiculously good deal and a guilty pleasure. It’s just a fun bass to play, and I get a sense of daring and adventure when I play it — I’ll take more risks because it’s not serious. And that’s turned into some really satisfying playing.
The tuners were what you’d expect on a Chinese import, so we had Greg install some Gotohs in short order, and we ditched the tacky cheap silver plastic knobs for some better-looking black cheap plastic knobs. It lives in a standard-sized guitar gig bag, too!