Bacon-musicThe other day, my friend shared a meme with me on Facebook that said, “Bass is the bacon of music.” Those words were printed over a pretty hot-looking bass covered by an equally delicious-looking tray of bacon.

He knows me.

I cracked up.

Of course, those who aren’t bass players might disagree with that statement, although I say they’re just jealous.

Bass pops. Bass sizzles. Bass adds flavor to music. Works for me!

So, when The Chief asked me to find quality, mid-range bass retailers on Long Island NY, I got kind of hungry…but I mostly got excited. And when I needed a cover story, it was easy. After all, I have “a 17-year-old son” with a slight frame who wants to pick up the bass and jam with his younger cousin on drums. Not bad!

Once my list of stores was established—Cornet Music Inc. in Smithtown; Murphy’s Music in Melville; Munro Music in Northport; and Family Melody Center in Patchogue—I gleefully began my trip shopping retailers on Long Island that stock solid, reasonably priced, mid-range basses.

These visits were all with long-established, recognizable stores, which made the assignment even more intriguing. So did the fact that these stores are also successful, in their respective areas, with school-age instrument lessons, rentals and repairs.

Regardless, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would find a hidden gem. I wondered what unusual or unique brands and styles of basses they carried. Could those stores cater to very specific needs? Would I be able to fit in some time to eat bacon?

All those questions, and more, would be answered as I explored those four stores, seeking top service, sales and, of course, inventory. I started on the North Shore, on Main St., Smithtown.

Cornet Music Inc.
29 E. Main St.
Smithtown NY 11787

I stepped inside a Smithtown staple of 45 years, Cornet Music Inc., interested in a solid mid-range bass for my “17-year-old son,” who already plays the guitar and is getting interested in the bass.

(He’s actually quite good! Wink, wink.)

The store layout was very clean, with instruments hanging on the walls, plus an extended rack of sheet music and some stands for straps. It had what I would call a U-shaped layout, with glass cases encircling the store on three walls.

As I approached the salesperson, he smiled and introduced himself. I began my well-rehearsed script. I explained exactly what I was looking for and acted excited to see what they had in the way of mid-range basses.

As it is, Cornet caters to brass instrument repair and rentals, as well as some cello and violin, so I was actually genuinely curious if perhaps there would be a “diamond in the rough” collection here.

But, after I mentioned the bass, he paused a bit.

“Sure,” he said as he came out from behind the counter and led me toward the front right wall of the store, behind the sheet music.

We turned the corner of the music rack and there they were…the basses—all two of them. Yup, two.
A five-string Samick FN55 Fairlane with a double cutaway sculpted body, maple extended bolt-on neck, rosewood fingerboard and die cast tuners for $299, plus a Turser JTB-400 for $189.

By comparison, the store also had its available three guitars—all Turser models—hanging above the basses. That display featured modestly priced knockoffs of the SG and Strat, for instance.

“The big boxes buy basses by the truckload. We buy them by the caseload,” the salesperson said without any prompting. I let it go.

However, although I do not fault the salesperson (who admitted he works in repairs and, so, was not the normal salesperson), he did swear that the Fairlane had passive pickups, which, upon further review, it did not. I was also leery of the size and weight of the Fairlane, as my “son” is a string bean.

That’s when the salesperson offered to plug in the bass for me to play. Only problem? No bass amps. There were a few guitar amps, but, realistically, if I’m considering purchasing something, I’m going to play it with a bass amp.

Also, if he plugged one of the basses into one of the newer-looking guitar amps (some on display were used or discontinued), I didn’t want to chance blowing it. So, that’s when I told him that since my “son” is just learning the bass, a five-string would probably not be a good idea. He agreed.

That left the black Turser, which, for my “son’s” needs, would definitely qualify as a solid choice. At a price point of $189, the P-style bass guitar had a maple neck, adjustable truss rod, dot inlays and split P-style pickups.

Everything about it was ideal for our needs. (Too bad I couldn’t plug it in.) I took down notes like any dutiful father would, saying I wanted to research it some more online before making a decision (which was actually true). He was gracious about that and offered to price shop comparatively online. I took him up on it; after all, it did fit my “son’s” needs. I thanked him and said I would be back soon.

Clearly, the store is geared mostly to school-age brass rentals and repairs, but I did manage to salvage my start in the quest for mid-range basses.

Murphy’s Music
447 Walt Whitman Rd.
Melville NY 11747

At first glance, Murphy’s Music feels hidden in plain sight.

That is, Murphy’s is part of a small row of stores on the west side of a busy road that requires a quick and nimble turnaround at the closest light if you are driving north. Combine traffic and a small lot that quickly fills, and it equaled parking back across the street. But I was there.

The store itself was somewhat small, but it was loaded. Before I even spoke to anyone, I saw it was neatly organized and offered tons of capos and strings, as well as pedals, gig bags, cables and other accessories. Further down the length of the store were a large variety of chord books with many contemporary artists featured, as well as lesson rooms and a comfy-looking waiting area (with a couch) for parents to wait while their child had lessons.

But, most importantly, I saw lots of basses. Bonus.
Despite being busy with other customers, the three salespeople all stopped to greet me when I walked in. Lucky for me, the Owner was one of the salespeople, and he’s also a bassist. Double bonus.

He met me in the bass section: a wall complete with Dean and Peavey basses, such as the Dean Edge 10 bass guitar with active EQ, in Classic Black, for $179. It also featured a basswood body, mahogany neck, rosewood inlays and an EMG 35 P4 active pickup.

I launched into the script and he was instantly receptive.

In fact, based on price alone, he eliminated certain choices; and, due to my “son’s” beginner status and frame, we eliminated others.

“If he is just starting, this bass is too heavy. He’ll hurt his back,” the Owner said as he hung one initial choice back.

He also noted that it was probably preferable to get a bass with a small neck to accommodate my “son’s” small hands. We focused on a Peavey Millennium Series model for $219 and a Peavey Millennium AC in Tiger Eye for $299. There were nine color options, and Murphy’s had Red, Blue, Black, Tiger Eye and Sunburst available.

According to the Peavey Web site, onboard electronics include volume, pickup blend, and bass, mid and treble controls, with your choice of quilted veneer or solid-color finish. The Millennium Series also comes in four- and five-string options, which Murphy’s had displayed.

Also, brand new arrivals are posted to Murphy’s Facebook page often; this includes the recently announced arrival of an Emerald Green Metallic G&L Jazz Bass with Alnico V pickups. Unfortunately, it was outside my budget for this purchase.

Murphy’s had a large selection of new and used amps, so I was spoilt for choice there, especially since the store is an exclusive Orange dealer. For instance, I plugged into the Orange Crush PiX CR100BXT 15-inch 100-watt Bass Combo from Orange, which is capable of pushing 100 watts through a 15-inch speaker. The amp, which featured a four-band EQ, plus Contour and Presence Controls, was just outside my price range, but it definitely allowed me to hear the tone of the Peavey and Dean models I played, ranging from clean to overdrive.

The Owner also took time to inform me of ensemble groups that the store offers, and appeared very active in representing the Long Island music scene, including attending street fairs, guitar shows and the opening of the Musicology Performance Center in Smithtown.

He offered to work with me on the price if I bought an amp and case. I was impressed.

I left Murphy’s feeling that my buying needs were met; that I was shown, and educated on, different bass options; and that, overall, it was a very positive experience.

Munro Music
416 Larkfield Rd.
East Northport NY 11731

Another longtime Long Island music retailer is Munro Music, in East Northport, about 10 miles away from Murphy’s.

The small storefront belies how many different instruments the store has available for rental or purchase; they include clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, percussion instruments, guitars and basses. Munro Music also offers two-month guitar, amplifier, keyboard and keyboard stand rentals.

In fact, I was in luck because the store—which has been around for 43 years—is also an authorized dealer for Ibanez, Fender by Roland, Charvel, Hamer XT Series, Takamine G Series and Pro Series, Yamaha, Sierra, J. Reynolds and Hohner.

I entered and, immediately, I was impressed by the layout. There were extensive racks of sheet music and music books, with more than 10,000 individual titles available, including a large New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) collection. There was also a large variety of straps on display, as well as capos and strings from D’Addario, Dean Markley, Elixir, Ernie Ball, Fender, GHS Boomers, La Bella, Martin Strings and Savarez.

Most importantly, there was a nice selection from the Ibanez SR Bass Series, with prices starting at $179.95. The basses featured Bartolini pickups and Nordstrand pickups.
The salesperson, who was very friendly and knowledgeable, was attentive to my story and even offered to look in the back for affordable used basses. She thought there was a used Yamaha available, but, alas, it had sold the day before.

Other basses available included options from Takamine and Ibanez acoustic basses.

As far as bass amps, the salesperson pointed out a display from the Kustom KXB Electric Bass Amp Series. It included the KXB100, a 100-watt bass combo amplifier with a 15-inch Kustom speaker and bass, lo-mid, hi-mid and treble controls; the KXB20, a 20-watt bass combo amplifier with a 12-inch Kustom speaker and bass, lo-mid, hi-mid and treble controls; and the KXB10, a 10-watt bass combo amplifier with a 10-inch Kustom speaker and bass, mid and treble controls.

Also, Munro Music is an authorized Boss effects dealer, so it carries quite a few guitar and bass pedals, including bass FX, delay, chorus, EQ, multi-FX, reverb and pitch shifters, among others.

Ironically, the conversation with the salesperson was wrapping up near the strap display, which she used to point out the differences in straps: which ones would dig into my “son’s” neck and which would be good for him. She also recommended other styles of basses that I might want to consider, and gave me the names of other retailers that might carry those brands if she could not order them for me.

Overall, Munro Music was a low-pressure sales environment with excellent service and a strong line-up of mid-range basses. It was well worth the trip.

Family Melody Center
77 S. Ocean Ave.
Patchogue NY 11772

I arrived at my last location, Family Melody Center in Patchogue, determined to keep the positive momentum going in my mid-range bass search.

The store, which was established in 1956, keeps a proud tradition of staff retention, which makes the environment feel sort of like, well, family. It also promotes itself as an authorized dealer for Selmer, Bach, Gemeinhardt, Glaesel, Schumann, Yamaha, William-Lewis and Eastman Strings.

So, I was not surprised when two salespeople cheerfully welcomed me and immediately showed me the basses as soon as they heard about my “son.”

We arrived at the display and a salesperson explained the store only carried two brands of basses—Fender and Ibanez—with price points ranging up to $289 in the mid-range area. Plus, the store was holding a sale, so any yellow-stickered items were marked down up to 40 percent.

The price was right! It was encouraging.

Plus, each purchase came not only with the bass, but also with a DVD, gig bag, cable, tuner, strap, headphones and amp.

When I was ready to plug in a standard Fender Jazz Bass, though, I was told—much like my earlier experience—that they did not have any bass amps. Huh? Whether it was the sale or a typical rotation of inventory, I was not able to ascertain. However, it was a little disappointing, regardless.

I also had to remember that the store mostly focuses on school-age rentals, lessons and repairs, specializing in band and orchestra instruments such as trombone, trumpet, alto saxophone and tenor saxophone, flute and clarinet, among others.

That said, the store had a solid assortment of Boss pedals, although my “son” would probably have his hands full and not need a pedal since he was just learning.
For the prices alone, I would certainly try Family Melody Center, but I would also suggest trying to research Fender and Ibanez basses before your visit.

The Sale

Overall, quality mid-range basses are available on Long Island, as long as you know where to look. I hope my covert operation demonstrated this.
That said, I do have some important takeaways from my visits.

Although all the stores shared success with school-age rentals and repairs, it felt as though they treated basses with varying degrees of priority. And, they appeared to have close to the same square footage in space to display products. It was interesting to see how they treated that space. So, why did Cornet, for instance, only have two basses displayed, whereas Murphy’s and Munro had much more extensive selections?

Combining that with my disappointment at not being able to plug in the Turser leads me to my second point. Call it being turned off by not being able to turn on. Why would a store not even have a used bass amp available to try to sell one of the two basses it was showing? It seems like common sense. This oversight is like selling saxophones and not having reeds, or selling drums and not selling sticks.

I do agree with the salesperson: it’s hard to compete with big boxes, but the advantage comes in personal service the big boxes don’t—and probably can’t—provide.

The same holds true for Family Melody Center, which, surprisingly, had no available bass amps, either. This makes it very hard for anyone to make the decision to buy. If they cannot play the instrument or hear how it sounds, wouldn’t that dissuade them?


[maxbutton id=”15″]



No more articles