Classic StingRay 4
ERniE Ball MuSiC Man
By DAN BERkowITz
I’ve always had a soft spot for Leo Fender’s
bass designs. His early basses set the standard
for functional simplicity. His later models added
some beef, sparkle, and versatility. And with
the Classic StingRay 4, Ernie Ball Music Man
has gone back to the StingRay’s original 1976
roots, while retaining a few touches of the
body to be uncomfortable, but it felt fine.
Same goes for playing while seated.
So What’s It Made Of?
The Classic StingRay is built from, er…classic
materials. No exotic tropical hardwoods here.
Ash body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard.
Pulling the bass out of its case, the glossy,
amber-finished, flame-grained headstock
jumped right out at me. It even had the old
Hardware and Such
A few nice touches brought the whole thing
together, especially the six-bolt neck joint on a
tried-and-true rectangular plate. The truss rod
has the easiest-to-use, most fool-proof design
of any I’ve run across—a little slotted wheel
recessed into the body on the neck-heel end.
That choice avoids problems with rounded
Allen wrenches, stripped corners on a bullet, or
a nut recessed deep in the headstock.
Flipping the classic over revealed a deep,
3-D flame along the back of the neck. The
fingerboard has a 7. 5" radius, with a solid
yet comfortable profile. Many contemporary
instruments have a larger radius and a flatter profile, but those often feel a little alien
after having played old-school basses for
most of my years. With a neck width of 1 5/8"
at the nut, the Classic StingRay felt right at
home as soon as the neck hit my palm. Most
basses today have big, beefy frets, but not
the Classic. The choice here was high-profile,
narrow frets. They were nicely crowned and
polished, with no hint of protruding ends to
ding up your fingers.
The big, sturdy bridge on the Classic
was a real treat, with vintage, hollow-
barrel string saddles and foam string
mutes that rest on folded spring
metal and are individually adjust-
able using a thumb screw. Music
Man brought this bridge style back
because they’ve been receiving lots of
customer requests for it since switching
to top-loading bridges in the ‘90s.
The battery cavity features a surface-
mounted chrome plate rather than
a plastic popup box, so on-the-fly
changes will be a challenge. I
commend Music Man for using
machine screws and threaded
brass inserts rather than wood
The ash body had an artful, two-tone tobacco
burst finish with dark edges that blend
smoothly into the lighter stain. It’s slab cut,
with edges that are rounded but not tapered
back to flow into your arm or your belly.
Music Man says it weighs 10 lbs, 4 oz—nearly
a pound heavier than the contemporary version—but this one felt lighter. On a strap, the
Classic balanced nicely. I expected the slab
Getting to the Guts
Look at a contemporary
StingRay in a shop or on a
gig, and you’ll more than like-
ly see a three-band preamp,
a pair of humbucking pickups,
and a selector switch. The Classic
version shuns all those trappings
in favor of its throwback roots: one