The Tanglewood RVB-2 Violin Bass, or in fact any violin-shaped bass, is always going to invite the inevitable comparisons with the most famous of basses played by that most famous of bass players. The RVB-2 makes no attempt whatsoever to disguise the fact that it is – and I’m afraid I’m going to have to use a taboo word – a copy of the Hofner bass, which was used by Paul McCartney in the early days of the Beatles. Often referred to as the ‘Beatle bass’, the humble Hofner that Macca bought in 1961 is so closely associated with him that it’s nigh on impossible to look at any violin bass without picturing the Fab one. Okay, this one isn’t left-handed, but let’s not get hung up on details.
Tanglewood’s RVB-2 is a hollow body, set-neck bass with a short 770 mm scale length. The body and neck are both constructed from flamed maple and this review model has an attractive bound rosewood fingerboard. The pearloid pickguard and control plate all add to the authentic vintage look of the RVB-2, as do the three slider switches and old-fashioned knobs. As well as a volume control for each pickup, there’s an on/off switch and a rhythm/solo switch, so tonally the RVB-2 is quite limited. The floating rosewood bridge, with its non-adjustable saddles, makes no concession to modernity in its design and is actually stuck to the body with double-sided tape. After checking the intonation, I concluded that the bridge was not quite in the correct position, and I estimate it would need to be moved back about 5 mm for the intonation to be correct. Two humbucking pickup are installed in the (now) accepted position at the bridge and neck, just like the later Hofners – the first ones had both pickups up near the neck, probably resulting in a rather woolly tone. Thankfully, the machine heads are large and modern, and have a very smooth action. The nut is cut correctly too, and I was most impressed by the quality of the fret job. The bass includes a hardshell shaped case.
Playing a short-scale bass offers a slightly different experience from a long-scale instrument and it does therefore demand a period of adjustment, which is odd really, as technically it’s easier to play because the frets are closer together and the string tension is less. This bass is slightly neck-heavy but, like the scale length, it’s something that potential owners will have to get used to. Sound-wise, the RVB-2 has a surprising amount of top-end, but it’s really at home producing a nicely rounded ‘thump’ that will sit well in a sixties band or with any bass player who wants to keep it simple and never feels the urge to start slapping the thing.
You’re probably not going to see Sir Paul with a Tanglewood violin bass anytime soon, even if there is a left-handed one available, I suspect he’s happy with what he’s used to. However, if you’re in line for a bass with that unique hollow body tone and iconic looks, check out the Tanglewood RVB-2 Violin Bass.