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Bach on the ZON Michael Manring Hyperbase?

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by fretless4string, Jan 7, 2012.

  1. Dear Michael,
    I watched a YouTube video of you playing Bach at the Sligo Jazz Festival on Earl. I just wondered why you did not use the Hyperbass, say tuned in fifths a la cello, to play Bach? I can't believe that intonation is the issue because I can't think of anyone who has better intonation on a fretless than you!

    Alastair McLean
  2. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Thanks so much, Alastair. I play a few different pieces by Bach and I can't quite recall what I played in Sligo, but I'm guessing you're referring to the prelude from the first suite for unaccompanied cello? That's a bit of a long story so I hope you'll bear with me!

    Like so many of us, I've enjoyed working with those cello suites for many years and it's been fun trying out different formats -- tunings, fretless/fretted, using the double bass transcriptions or the originals, etc. That first prelude is probably most famous in its transcription for guitar and my old friend Michael Hedges used to do a wonderful version on his harp guitar, using the bass strings to get the low C from the original. I loved hearing his hippie romantic interpretation of it and when Michael died I was really quite sad to think I'd never get a chance to hear that particular spirit again. So to make myself feel better, I decided to work on it a bit and in going through it I realized I liked the way the fretted bass allowed me to allude to the guitar version. I also realized that by tuning in fifths and using a capo I could play it in the original key, register and with many of the original fingerings. I like to play it more slowly and dramatically than most folks, because it makes me think of Michael and all the memories I have. The combination of these interpretive options make it something quite meaningful for me, and I enjoy playing it a shows once in a while.
  3. TapyTap


    Apr 26, 2005
  4. nutdog

    nutdog when I'm a good dog they sometimes throw me a bone

    Feb 19, 2009
    in the dog house
    Thanks for shaing that great story. I only saw Michael once, back in the late 80s, quite by accident. It sticks in my mind as one of the most amazing solo performances I've ever seen. The man, the instrument and the music indistinguishable from one another. Hope to catch you sometime.
  5. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Hi TapyTap. I think you've got the right tuning for that performance. Unfortunately, the note number standard is not entirely universal so it can be a bit confusing, but I tuned the low string to C, three octaves below middle C, i.e., down a major third from standard. I used a capo at the twelfth fret to duplicate the tuning of a cello.

    I use D'Addario EXL 220 strings for this.
  6. TapyTap


    Apr 26, 2005
    Thanks Michael.

    Perhaps I should have simply asked if the open strings were an octave below cello...that probably would have avoided any lack of clarity on my part. However, your answer is crystal clear.

    I must confess, that is quite the swing in string tension from low to high! You certainly make it sound wonderful.


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