Yamaha Attitude 3 review

Round three for Billy Sheehan’s wondrous signature Yamaha

  • £4068
  • $4600
(Image: © Future)

MusicRadar Verdict

The Attitude 3 is irresistibly playable. Sheehan fans will love it, but don’t be put off if that’s not you – this is a versatile instrument that has clearly benefited from Billy’s many years of gigging experience.


  • +

    Sounds great, plays like a dream


  • -

    Control set can be confusing to begin with

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What is it?

The Attitude 3 is the most recent update to Billy Sheehan’s signature axe, which he’s wielded since 1990. 

Its features are based on the ‘Frankenstein’ bass that Sheehan developed during his formative years: a Precision body paired with a Telecaster neck, a dual pickup system with separate outputs for each, a Hipshot D-tuner and scalloped upper frets. 

The Attitude has had its share of modifications over the years, but these have been under-the-hood improvements. 

This latest iteration also stays true to the bass’s core concept, and retains the premium price tag too, retailing at over £4000. It’s a dream instrument for Sheehan fans, but does it cut the mustard as a regular gigging bass?

Fresh out of the Yamaha hard case, the bass looks fantastic. The Sonic Blue finish perfectly complements the maple fingerboard, black position markers, white pearl three-ply pickguard and black chrome hardware. Finishing and fret work are exemplary, and the factory-set action is immediately playable. 

Many of the latest developments in this instrument relate to its construction. The body/neck join is accomplished with three bolts screwed vertically into the neck in the usual manner, combined with two more inserted at a 45-degree angle further back. 

These angled bolts pull at the grain of the body wood, increasing strength and resonance. The neck extends deep into the body, reaching as far as the middle pickup. This super-tight neck-to-body connection makes for a very resonant instrument, and no doubt helps with the aggressive neck-bending that Sheehan is fond of. 

Three concealed pieces of wood are connected with spline joints, again to improve resonance. This wood has been subjected to Yamaha’s A.R.E. (Acoustic Resonance Enhancement) treatment, which manipulates wood at the molecular level through the precise control of temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure. 

This process aims to make the resulting instrument feel as though it’s been played for years, rather than being brand new. 

Further refinements include a slim, double-action truss rod, countersunk bridge and specially designed neck pickup. Billy’s original bass had a Gibson EB-0 in this position, which was replicated with a DiMarzio humbucker on the first Attitude basses. This time, a new Yamaha-designed DiMarzio pickup does the job.

Performance and verdict

The Attitude’s control set is a little more complex than it initially seems; from front to back, there is a volume for the woofer pickup (neck position), a woofer tone control, and a volume for the middle pickup. The tone control also acts as a push/pull switch, offering a high-end cut in the up position. 

The middle pickup volume control also has push/pull functionality, this time allowing the user to switch between mono and stereo. With this control in the up position, the bass is in mono mode, with both pickups routed to a single output. In the down position, the instrument is in stereo mode, with the middle pickup routed to the top-most output and the woofer pickup routed to the lower output.

In mono mode, the bass functions as you’d expect: the woofer pickup has a warm, woody tone that’s perfect for old-school rock, while the middle pickup yields a Precision-like tone. 

Combining them gives you a powerful sound that works well in most situations, although we found that the woofer needed dialling back a little to balance the two. Overall, mono mode essentially offers a slightly more aggressive – and tweakable – P-bass tone.

The bass shines in stereo mode as well, although you’ll need two amplifiers to hear the full benefits. In simple terms, Billy’s signature tone is achieved by adding distortion to the middle pickup, allowing the woofer pickup to supply bottom end. Doing this gets you very close indeed to Sheehan’s sound, which is a lot of fun.

The bass is extremely playable; the chunky neck is quick to get around thanks to the satin finish, and upper fret excess was excellent. The instrument’s large headstock creates significant neck-dive while seated, but this is far less noticeable when standing.

MusicRadar verdict: The Attitude 3 is irresistibly playable. The stereo mode can take some getting used to if you want to get the most out of it, but regular old mono mode is already a blast! Sheehan fans will love it, but don’t be put off if that’s not you – this is a versatile instrument that has clearly benefited from Billy’s many years of gigging experience.

Hands-on demos

Yamaha/Billy Sheehan

Chicago Music Exchange

Erik Arkö


Made In | Japan
Colour | Sonic Blue
Body | Three-piece alder with spline joint
Body Finish | Gloss polyurethane
Neck | Joint Mitre bolt-on
Fretboard | Maple, 21 frets (17-21 scalloped)
Pickups | Yamaha Designed DiMarzio Woofer and DiMarzio Will Power
Controls | Woofer pickup volume, middle pickup volume with mono/stereo switch, woofer tone with high-cut switch
Hardware | Gotoh GB2 tuners with Hipshot D-tuner, solid brass bridge
Weight | 3.9kg / 8.5lbs
Case/gig bag included
Hardshell case
Left-hand option available | Yes