Initially developed to attraction to each acoustic and electrical gamers, the Hofner 500/1 turned to extra aggressive tones in its 1967 iteration.
Paul McCartney has appeared unstoppable since he returned to touring in 2009 after a four-year break. However then … COVID. Which stopped all people. Though not completely. Like many others, McCartney spent his 2020 “rockdown,” as he calls it, writing the songs and enjoying all of the devices for his new album, McCartney III.
I’m guessing that amongst these devices was his beloved 1963 Hofner 500/1 violin bass—his predominant axe with the Beatles, and all of his work, together with excursions, since he took it out of mothballs for his 1989 album Flowers within the Filth.
“The fret saddle inserts have been eliminated to emulate the mod supposedly made by McCartney to get a extra thuddy and muted sound.”
Simply as McCartney III was popping out in December, this column’s 1967 Hofner 500/1 violin bass got here into the store. And to amplify the kismet, the Beatles had been enjoying on the sound system when the bass’ now-former proprietor introduced it in to promote.
This mannequin wouldn’t be so iconic if McCartney may’ve afforded a Fender again in 1961, when the Beatles had been actually getting their act collectively enjoying golf equipment in Hamburg. However his first Hofner was solely $45. That one was stolen, and in ’63 Hofner gave him a alternative, which is the bass everyone knows and love to listen to.
Pardon my grunge: The management panel—three EQ sliders and two quantity dials—exhibits some grit and filth, well-earned from years in smoky golf equipment.
The Hofner violin bass dates again to 1955, when Walter Hofner designed the prototype. The small, hole physique and violin form made it straightforward to hold and play—particularly compared to Fender’s Precision. The tone aimed for qualities that will attraction to each acoustic upright bass gamers and the increasing electrical bass market—and with flatwound strings, it did simply that, making a fats, thumpy voice the amplified the sound so acquainted on pop and jazz information of the ’40s, ’50s, and early ’60s.
Most of what’s modified concerning the Hofner 500/1 over the many years is the electronics, whereas the maple physique, spruce high, rosewood fretboard, and dot inlays have remained a staple. The neck and bridge pickups had many iterations within the ’50s and ’60s. Initially, Hofner referred to as them wide-spaced pickups, as a result of they had been situated far aside, as near the neck and bridge as workable. By ’57, the bridge pickup was moved nearer to the neck, to about mid-top. And in 1960, the black bar pickups Hofner used had been changed with toaster-style examples. A 12 months later—and on McCartney’s ’61—the so-called twin-coil Cavern pickups arrived, together with the alternative of the tortoiseshell pickguard with a cream pearloid model. However ’62 introduced one other shift, to diamond emblem pickups, referred to as that due to the diamond engraved on their covers. And a 12 months later these had been gone—nudged apart by staple pickups. In 1963, two-piece necks had been additionally used on some 500/1s, and the two-on-a-strip tuners started to get replaced by standalone variations.
Right here’s a close-up have a look at the ’67s neck-slot blade-style single-coil pickup—the seventh pickup variation for the five hundred/1 mannequin.
However wait! There’s extra! The 12 months of our Hofner, 1967, marked the introduction of single-coil blade pickups within the 500/1. Till this level, the entire aforementioned modifications did little to change the sound of the instrument. However the blades are completely different—hotter and extra gainy. These pickups have two magnets on either side of a middle blade, and they’re ceramic, not alnico like earlier Hofner pickups. Their louder, more-forward tone is ideal for recording, and takes to digital monitoring and mixing very nicely. The management set had slight variations over time, however in 1967 was a glossy array of two quantity dials and three responsive tone switches marked rhythm, bass, and treble.
Our 500/1 has an ebony two-piece floating bridge, and the fret saddle inserts have been eliminated to emulate the mod supposedly made by McCartney to get a extra thuddy and muted sound. (A reissue model of the unique bridge meeting is on the market.) The tuners on this bass had been changed with closed-back Grovers, that are loads simpler to show than the small-button variations that got here normal in ’67.
Beneath its elegant, curved high, our 500/1’s headstock has Grover replacements for the small-button OEM tuners, which went from two-to-a-strip to standalones in 1967.
This bass has been performed loads, and it exhibits within the end put on and checking on its physique. Plugging in made me need to begin banging out some McCartney-style bass melodies and discover these loping, wealthy tones that had been such an necessary aspect of the Beatles’ sound. Within the 1967 Hofner catalog, the five hundred/1 was listed at $345. Our instance is tagged at $2,500. I hope this very collectable bass finally ends up with a musician who loves the Beatles as a lot as I do and places it to work for at the very least one other half-century.