Music Man StingRay

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An Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay
ManufacturerErnie Ball Music Man
Period1976 — present
Body typeSolid
Neck jointBolt-on, Neck-through (as of 2015)
BodyAsh, alder, basswood
FretboardFretted: Maple, Rosewood, Ebony
Fretless: Pao Ferro (lined and unlined options available)
Pickup(s)Options include:
  • Single AlNiCo or ceramic humbucking pickup (H) with preamp options including 2 band EQ and 3 band EQ.
  • Two humbucking pickups (HH) with 3 band EQ preamp.
  • Humbucking pickup (bridge position) and single coil pickup (neck position) (HS) with 3 band EQ preamp.

StingRay Special, as of 2018

Colors available
(Four-string, as of 2006) Black, white, Egyptian smoke, sapphire black, rolls burgundy, graphite pearl, blue pearl, Blue Pearl, teal pearl, carbon blue pearl, off-white, candy red, desert gold, burnt apple, butter cream, teal green transparent, natural, lava pearl, radiance red, medallion gold, several variations of translucent, and sunburst finishes.

Music Man StingRay is an electric bass by Music Man, introduced in 1976.


In 1971, Fender employees Forrest White and Tom Walker, unhappy with the way CBS was managing the company, left their positions with Fender to start their own venture. First known as Tri-Sonix, Inc (often incorrectly referred to as "Tri-Sonic") and then later Musitek, Inc., the new company eventually settled on the name of MusicMan, Inc. by 1974. The company began producing a hybrid tube-solid state amplifier co-designed by Tom Walker and Leo Fender, who was participating as a silent partner to the firm due to a "no compete" clause in the sales contract Fender had signed when he sold his original company to CBS in 1965. After the clause expired in 1975, he was made president of MusicMan, Inc., and by 1976 his consulting firm CLF Research had begun producing instruments bearing the MusicMan name.

Designed by Fender, Walker and Sterling Ball (Ball was a beta tester for the instrument), the StingRay bass appeared in 1976 and, though physically similar to a Fender Precision Bass, was a highly innovative instrument. It employed a Humbucking pickup (the shape and configuration of which has become known as an "'MM'-style pickup", the "MM" meaning "Music Man") and an active pre-amp powered by a 9-volt battery. The early iterations of this preamp came with a 2-band EQ (bass and treble); this range was later augmented by the optional addition of a third band (bass, midrange, and treble) model. Piezo pickups located in the bridge saddles became an option with the 3-band version. The StingRay's 3-band equalization system made it possible to boost midrange, as well as low and high, frequencies. Along with its electronic improvements, the StingRay had physical attributes that set it apart from other Fender-inspired designs, such as a heavy satin finish on the back of the neck to allow players' hands to slide effortlessly up and down during play, an oval pickguard and separate chromed control plate, and its distinctive "3+1" headstock (on which three tuning machines are situated on the top and one on the bottom) made it an instantly recognizable and distinguishable instrument.

Early models have through-body stringing at the bridge, which is fitted with adjustable string mutes. Later models omit both features, except for the 30th Anniversary model of 2006, which uses the string-through-body design and features a solid mahogany body finished in a Crimson Red Transparent finish.

Later advancements on the StingRay included a 5-string version (the StingRay 5), which has a 3-way blade switch that allows the player to split the humbucking pickup's coils, and a unique truss-rod neck adjustment system that incorporated a Teflon washer which made it highly resistant to rust and corrosion and made adjusting the neck of a StingRay relatively easy.

In the early 2000s a budget version of the StingRay known as the S.U.B. was produced, featuring a textured body finish and diamond plate pickguard. This model was discontinued in 2007 due to rising production costs.

In 2005, two-pickup versions of the StingRay (known as "HH" and "HS") were introduced, following the success of the Bongo Bass, one of Ernie Ball's latest bass designs, designed by Sterling Ball, Ernie's son and now CEO of Ernie Ball. This dual-pickup version includes a 5-way switch, allowing the user to select different combinations of pickup coils and thus greatly increasing the diversity of available tones. The dual-pickup configuration was also adopted on the StingRay 5 and the Sterling that same year.

After the discontinuation of the S.U.B, more marketing emphasis was placed on licensed OLP budget versions of the StingRay 4, StingRay 5, StingRay 4 HH, and StingRay 5 HH. However, as of 2009 the entire OLP brand has been retired.[1] Since then, the Ernie Ball produced Sterling by Music Man range of mid-priced basses and guitars have been introduced (not to be confused with the Music Man Sterling bass guitar). The Ray 34 (four string), and Ray 35 (five string), are offered at nearly half the price of their Music Man counterparts.

StingRays are generally known for their punchy sound, making them very suitable for rock/funk applications and excellent for slapping, and for being of extremely high build quality. The 6-bolt neckplate is an example of this. The neck is also quite wide, especially compared to that of Fender Jazz Bass-type models (although a neck with a narrower nut was optional in the 70s and is again as of 2010 called the StingRay SLO Special), as well as having the above-mentioned truss-rod adjustment mechanism that allows players to adjust the truss-rod without removing the neck. Some users have also noticed an audible difference in volume between the lower three strings (E, A, D) and the highest G string, with the G string suffering from a lack of volume - conversely many users do not experience this, and recordings demonstrate an even volume across the strings, suggesting EQ choice in a live setting may be responsible. This problem has not been observed in 5-string StingRays. The Music Man StingRay comes in 4 & 5 string versions with the choice of bolt-on and neck-through construction (as of 2015).[2] In July 2018 the StingRay Special was introduced with an 18-volt three band EQ, five- bolt neckplate, "roasted" maple neck, sculpted heel, lightweight hardware and a neodymium pickup.[3]

Notable users[edit]

Tony Levin has been a long time user of both four- and five-string StingRays during his time with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson, playing the StingRay with particular prevalence on So and on tracks such as Sledgehammer, and also commissioned Music Man to build him a custom 3-string version.

The StingRay has been a favorite of several influential bassists, some of them renowned for their slapping technique, such as Louis Johnson, Flea, Bernard Edwards and Guy Pratt.

In its fretless form the StingRay helped define Pino Palladino's sound with Gary Numan from 1982 onwards and subsequently as session bassist. The pre-Ernie Ball MusicMan StingRay is the main instrument of Paul S. Denman of the Sade band and it has been featured on all of their albums and live recordings.

Benjamin Orr, bassist, co-vocalist and founding member of The Cars, is well known amongst fans to have played a circa 1977 Inca Silver Music Man StingRay with maple neck/fretboard and black pickguard. This bass was lost in a fire that swept through Orr's Boston apartment in the early 1980s, along with a cherry red 1967 Vox Constellation bass with an unusual black headstock.

Mark Evans and Cliff Williams, both of AC/DC, have commonly used the StingRay.

Rex Brown of Pantera used the StingRay mostly in the Vulgar Display of Power era.

Steve "Fuzz" Kmak, former bassist of Disturbed primarily used 5-string StingRay models.

Queen's John Deacon was often seen playing a StingRay (his is on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Cleveland, Ohio.[4]), as was Rick Wills of Foreigner. Tim Commerford (AKA Timmy C) of Rage Against the Machine played the StingRay almost exclusively until around 1995. Ross Valory of Journey has used a StingRay in recent years, while Randy Jackson used a custom purple/white polka dot StingRay on Journey's Raised on Radio tour. Bernard Edwards of Chic used the StingRay bass almost exclusively. After his death in 1996, his bass was inherited by John Taylor of Duran Duran. John Bentley of Squeeze uses early 2 EQ StingRays. Eric Wilson of Sublime played a StingRay on most of the band's early recordings.

Other StingRay players include:

Dougie Poynter of McFly, having played a variety of basses throughout his career, currently plays a StingRay HH 4 string. Gail Ann Dorsey, top session bassist and vocalist (bassist for David Bowie, Lenny Kravitz, and Bryan Ferry, among others), Steve McKinley [bassist for Led Zeppelified, Joel Kosche (Collective Soul)].

The StingRay also found itself especially popular with shoegazing artists of the early 90s, likely because its tone was so effective at cutting through the multilayered distortion characteristic of the genre. Steve Queralt of Ride, Nick Chaplin of Slowdive, Russell Barrett of Chapterhouse, and Dean Garcia of Curve, among others, all found their sound in the StingRay.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "OLP Guitars".
  2. ^ "StingRay Neck Through". Archived from the original on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  3. ^ "StingRay Special". Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 September 2008. Retrieved 19 April 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)