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luthiers interested in simplicity ?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by mnemonix, May 1, 2004.

  1. mnemonix


    Apr 27, 2004
    With so much attention given to fancy woods and hardware, I was wondering how many luthiers might be excited by a project where a client asks for a "simple" bass ? 4 strings, no exotic/multiple woods, laminates, tops or finishes, one pickup, passive electronics, all be it the best one can source for the job.

    I'm not suggesting a cheap, boring or characterless bass, but one of the highest quality in terms of playability, tone AND aesthetics.

    It appeals to me as i'm a minimalist at heart, but are there any fundamental reasons why this isn't a good thing in luthiery?

  2. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    I'm building a bass right now with one pickup and no electronics at all. The bass is a 33" scale 5 string with a 3 piece canary wood neck, kiaat/wenge semi-hollow wings with f-hole, and a morado fingerboard. I'm excited (this will end up in my stable). Lately, I've been getting into simpler basses - one piece necks, solid wings, one pickup basses.

    I built a similar bass not long ago - a six string fretless with one pickup and no electronics. It sounded great, but it was up to you and your right hand or your amp if you needed to do any significant tone shaping.

    Most of the time, I find that when people order a bass, they like to customize as much as we let them. People find all sorts of things they like in different basses (like woods, pickups, EQ settings, etc) and it is more cost effective to try and get them all in on one bass if they can. So I end up building basses with lots of laminations, fancy EQ setups, etc.
  3. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    I think Matt's got it right. Why order a bass that can do one thing really well, when you can get a bass that can do a bunch of things pretty well?

    I used to be in the latter camp, but now I've really boiled down what I look for in a bass. If I ordered a custom bass today, it'd dirt simple.
  4. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Reading your post I immediately thought of Matt Pulcinella (mpguitars.com).
  5. mnemonix


    Apr 27, 2004
    His website certainly contains some humorous gems even if a lot of his basses don't entirely do it for me !

    "I prefer the name of my company to be Matt Pulcinella Guitars or MPG, not Pulcinella Guitars. In other words, in an aphabetical list, it should fall under M. If I see anyone on e-bay selling their MPG as a "Pulcinella Guitar" I'll make sure I'm the highest bidder and then not pay for it."

    I didn't mean this thread to be about my personal taste or anything but I think JP has made some lovely Plumes, XUSHs fretless for example, and I also have a thing for Rob Allen's Mouse.

  6. There's plenty of room to do donuts on ol' man Simplicity's lawn.

  7. tonrutoo


    Apr 18, 2003
    I ran silly looking for a simple bass,and have concluded to order a Warwick Thumb B.O. 30" scale lefty.
    Still I plan to dump the active electronics,and may ask a luthier about placing a proper back panel on the thing.
    Like the poster I'm simply looking for a"player".
    I looked at the Corvette because they offer a passive model,but it lacked the ergonomic body of the Thumb.My advice to Warwick is to offer passive as an option on all models.
    1-I like the finish in that it lets me feel the wood.Cigar smokers may understand this...
    2-I like the shape;small and homely,but endearing.The Corvette body has that tele' shape I just never fell for.Thumb feels right around my 37 year old gut,and small curved top gave me rest options.
    3-They offer a short scale neck FOR LEFTY!Yes McCartney is an influence,but I feel you only honor legends by moving forward.
    -I see the Thumb shorty as a Hofner'62 and Jazz had a baby.
    I understand my antiquated taste in tone,but desire for durable ergonomic features puts me in a minority.I just never thought my options would be so few.
    To feel this bass,I ran back and forth between Ibanez GAX,various Warwicks,Musicmans as a neck comparative...all flipped over,so I also had to estimate my thumb rest by playing unnaturally right handed.
    My current(and only)bass is a Ric 4003 I chose purely for distinctive tone.The fact is,I'd love to buy a bass from a small manufacturer who shared my vision.I see alot of basses built on the premise of exploration.
    Let me say that a one man gun grip manufacturer by the name of Craig Spegel makes a small exceptional grip I found to result in my best shot to shot accuracy.It's quick in the hand,solid in purchase,and fit the gun like it was factory installed.He understands that the job he has is to make a life and death situation as instinctive as possible.
    My hope is that more luthiers embrace feel;when I'm old and going blind,sitting and picking,I want that more than anything.
  8. mnemonix


    Apr 27, 2004
    Interestingly I also ordered a short scale thumb, though 32" in the hope of an improvment in tone over 30".

    My current project however, is a 30" 'simple' bass which bears an uncanny resemblance to your description ! (full body contouring not shown due to the limitations of my CAD package) :

  9. Mnemo, I really dig that shape!
  10. mnemonix


    Apr 27, 2004
    Cheers Hambone ! I wanted to develop a signature shape without resorting to extremes or deviating too far from classic forms.

    We'll see how it looks in the wood in a couple of weeks but I'm prepared to have to make refinements until it feels naturally *right* !
  11. tonrutoo


    Apr 18, 2003
  12. tonrutoo


    Apr 18, 2003
    I have two ideas that may already be in use,but since it's hard to get the details of every maker I figure this is the best place to post and find out.
    Here's one I'd like to see luthiers introduce to the control cavity.While I'm no fan of active electronics,I think a better more durable system could be used.
    Please forgive my constant firearm references if your not of the ilk.
    I am sensitive to those who disagree with ownership,but it has yeilded some ideas I'd like to share.
    How about a recessed control plate release like that of a bolt action rifle? It's a proven design that has withstood the test of over 100 years both in war and in the hunting feild.You could line the inside of the aluminum with G-10,or make the plate out of polycarbonate.I think it's Lakland that uses metal to metal machine screws,but I'd imagine this is slow for those who use batteries.
    One more..
    I'm not sure how usefull,but has anyone experimented with fluting the neck for thumb rest and reference? It may result in less sweat buildup since it would double as a venting channel.I'd imagine a soft V shape has some of these characteristics,but fluting wouldn't be a total shape commitment like the V.I'd imagine it to be most applicable to carbon fiber,or multi-laminates.A mild cork-screw effect might prevent chaiffing or what I'd call'thumb guide in'.
  13. Ton, you've got a friend here - my father's retired career was as a gunsmith. I got yer Brownells right here!:)

    Draw up your idea of the bolt-action cavity cover and maybe we can offer suggestions.

    Relating to the rifle subject, I've embedded necks in bodies using the same process that longarms builders use to stabilize barrels in stocks. Works great and it creates nearly 100% neck to body contact.
  14. tonrutoo


    Apr 18, 2003
    very cool.
    I certainly see a lot of parallels in the world of musical instruments and firearms.I kind of equate sight systems with fretboards,speaker size with bore diameter,barrel length with scale,etc...
    Here's one idea.
    A circular plate with about a centimeter lip.In the center of the plate would be a recessed toggle with a fold down winding key attached to a pair of leaf springs.the springs attached to a pair of locking clasps.
    I think the design requires at least a cavity lined with a GLOCK type polymer,aluminum,or zinc screwed into place.
    The other would be a slide back spring loaded release similar to a revolvers cylinder release.I'd prefer the plate being hinged in some sturdy fashion.
  15. adolganov


    Jan 15, 2004
    Interesting! Could we see some pictures, please?