Classic Basses, part 5: The Gibson SG-bass (EB-0/EB-3)

I don’t quite know why, but the Gibson EB-3 has long seemed very exciting to me.

Probably, this is because it was the first electric bass I ever played.

I was only 14 years old, and played with architecture students – all the guys were much older than me. But I had two trump cards, which were my door into this band: a) I could play the piano and b) I was rather good at transcribing songs off records (or tape machines). The bassist was the band’s leader, and he played a genuine Gibson EB-3, which I was allowed to play a few times – wow!  🙂

In its day the Gibson EB-3 was the company’s most popular bass by far. The now legendary Thunderbird, for example, was a complete and utter flop, and only in production for six years (1963-1969). The EB-3, on the other hand, was in continuous production from 1961 all the way to 1979.

The EB-3 shared the same mahogany body, as its SG-cousins, and because it was a short-scale bass, the whole package was comfortably compact and light.

The neck pickup is a huge mother of a humbucker, with a much smaller companion mounted close to the bridge. The very first instruments had a black plastic cover on the front pickup, which was painted silver-metallic, but soon Gibson introduced a proper metal cover on the neck humbucker. The four-way rotary selector gives you each pickup on its own, both pickups together, as well as the rather strangled-sounding baritone-variant.

At the start of the Seventies the neck material was changed to maple for added strength, with the neck humbucker’s position moved to halfway between the end of the fingerboard and the bridge pickup.

During the years 1969-74 Gibson also offered a long-scale version – the EB-3L – most of which featured a spanish-style headstock (see below). Because of its longer neck the EB-3L was noticeably neck-heavy, though.

The EB-3’s kid brother is actually the model’s predecessor: the EB-0 was first introduced in 1959 with a double-cutaway Les Paul Junior -style body (see above).

In 1961 the EB-0 was changed to conform to the SG-look. In the mid-Seventies the EB-0’s single pickup was also moved closer to the bridge. From 1962 to ’65 a fuzz-equipped version was also available (the EB-0F).


At the moment Gibson offers two USA-made SG-basses: The SG Standard Bass Faded comes in Gibson’s faded finish and sports dot inlays in the fretboard.  The SG Standard Bass is gloss-finished and features crown-style inlays. Both basses use a Jazz Bass -style volume-volume-tone-setup in place of the original four controls plus rotary switch.


Epiphone’s cost-conscious EB-3 is only offered as in a long-scale version.

The Epiphone EB-0 is an even more affordable, bolt-on short-scale bass.


The fat and flexible tone of the EB-3 (as well as the EB-0) was well received by many Blues and Rock bassists in the late-Sixties and early-Seventies.

The best-known EB-3-users have been The Cream’s Jack Bruce and Free’s bassist Andy Fraser.

Here are Gibson’s own sound examples for the SG Standard Bass:

bridge pickup


neck pickup


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