Manring Star Licks VHS leaves me confused

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by jvbjr, Mar 25, 2005.

  1. jvbjr


    Jan 8, 2005
    I picked up Michael's Star Licks video off ebay to check it out.

    I am confused after watching the video. Using a low E of .052 on the Hyperbass means that he is really playing 34" scale fretless guitar, more than playing bass. Do we say it is still a bass because of the scale length, or do we consider the hertz relationship of the tuning and use that as the basis of deciding if we are playing guitar or bass?

    The playing two and three basses at the same time left me asking why not get a Warr 14 string bass instead of using a box on a table and hanging two basses from your neck?

    Also all the flipping of the levers on the Hyperbass to play in 14 tunings? I just don't get it, I guess it is necessary for the harmonics?

    It just seemed like Michael has left traditional bass playing all together and is moving toward being a touch tone player like users of the Chapman stick or Warr guitars, so why not evolve the instrument choice to better reflect this direction? Seems like a 14 string Warr with 14 D-tuners would do the same thing and it would put all the notes in one location. It just seemed like hooking three Honda Civics together to pull a 60ft yacht instead of buying a dullie.
  2. jetforcex


    Sep 23, 2003
    How 'bout we say "electric bass guitar" and leave it at that. :D Actually I think you are referring to the piccolo bass strings with the low E at .052, whereas I was under the impression that Mike's "normal" strings on the Hyperbass were the D'addario EXL220s, running .095 .075 .06 .04 low to high. Hopefully someone will correct me if I'm wrong.

    I guess if you can do it with the basses you already have handy, no need to invest in (and then lug around) a huge 14-stringer. Plus wouldn't you have more tonal variety playing multiple basses instead of one big'un? Plus it's more fun for the audience the way MM does it. Not like it's a huge, critical aspect of the performance repertoire.

    Here's a good interview quote:

    The Hyperbass is a unique instrument in that it lets you switch tunings on the fly. What attracts you to that idea?

    That aspect came about because I've been into altered tunings for years and years. I got to the point that when I would play a solo concert and every piece would be in a different tuning. So, it occurred to me that the next step would be to change tunings within a piece. Each piece then has its whole own little world—its own little reality. When you change the tuning of the bass, it really changes the whole sonority of the instrument—it gives it a whole different character. That's always nice in a solo show especially, because people are worried about it all sounding the same. When you tell someone you're going to play a bass solo concert, they think it's gonna be the same sound from beginning to end, so changing the tuning changes the sound of the bass. So, if I'm gonna change after every piece, why not change within the piece? So, I started by cranking the tuning keys while I was playing, and got pretty good at that. I wrote a couple of pieces that involve that. It's real hard, but I got to the point where I could do it. I had to have the bass set up just right and everything. But then I realized that most of the situations where I'm playing live—in a lot of these little clubs—the monitoring situations are so bad that you can't hear well enough to tell if you have another quarter turn to go. So, I realized I really needed an instrument that was designed for that—something that would make that a lot easier. Plus, I wanted to do a lot more with it. Obviously, I could only change the tuning one string at a time and had to keep one hand on the bass and turn the key with the other. So, that's how the Hyperbass came up in that regard. I still do some cranking of the keys to change the tuning but most of the tuning changes are done with the levers and switches.

    What is "traditional bass playing"? Is that where some guy goes thud thud thud way down in the muddy bottom of a mix and you can't hear him? Thank god Michael left that altogether!

    For some reason the thought of 3 honda civics tugging a yacht is more compelling to my imagination than the traditional "truck" method. Also I am intrigued by the analogy of a Zon bass to a Civic. :D
  3. TaySte_2000


    Jun 23, 2001
    Manchester, UK
    Endorsing Artist: Mojohand, Subdecay, Overwater, Matamp
    Hmmmm seems more like three ferrari's stuck together to form one super ferrari that is sleak, fast, aerodynamic and you can fit 8 people in and all your shopping (ie perfect)

    Listen to songs like Enormous Room here you can hear the detuners being used really well harmonics being changed by shifting pitches.

    BTW can you imagine the size and weight of a warr headstock with 14 detuners on it.

    People play what ever instruments they play, this is what Micheal plays and he does it so well but don't fool your self into thinking he's more of a touch guitar player than bassist, listen to some of his work with McGill Manring Stevens in this you can hear him groove and rock out with alot more finger style.

    Hope this helps
  4. DaveBeny


    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    Actually, the 2 and 3 bass tunes only form a very small part of Michael's deep and varied repertoire.

    Check out Michael's playing on any of the recent Yo Miles! albums - he is as remarkable a group player as he is a solo performer. :bassist:
  5. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    I’ll do my best to answer your questions jvbjr, but it sounds like maybe my music just isn’t your cup of tea. That’s totally fine -- it’s different points-of-view that make this an interesting world to live in!

    You are absolutely right that the solo pieces on the video you have are a long, long way from conventional bass playing. I’ve spent the last 25 years of my life making a living as a bassist, mostly in the conventional role, and while I love playing bass in that context, what most intrigues me about the instrument is that it has such a fantastically broad expressive range in addition to that very cool voice.

    My approach to bass playing comes from a desire to make music that I find beautiful and meaningful. I do sometimes use unusual methods, but I feel that we live in extraordinary times, so conventional methodologies aren’t always relevant. I don’t set out to write a piece that uses 14 tunings, for example, but I find the resonances of the different tunings to be beautiful and the sound of the tunings changing to be intriguing and uncommon, so I feel aesthetically compelled to try to use these sounds in a way that’s meaningful to me. As regards what to call my instruments, please feel free to use any name you wish. I think of them as basses because that’s the background I’m coming from, but I have no problem other nomenclature.

    Regarding the piece “My Three Moons,” I’ve composed music for instruments with lots of strings and I do feel there is a significant difference between this and writing a piece for multiple instruments. In a multiple instrument composition, the individual instruments retain their identities, as jetforcex mentioned each has its own unique tonal characteristics and they have separate outputs which can be processed separately. In the case of “My Three Moons” one of the instruments is fretted and two are fretless, they are all tuned differently, in an interlocking instead of sequential pattern. All of these things cause me to write and play a very different kind of music than I would on a single instrument with lots of strings. However, for the most part I’m perfectly happy playing just four-string bass as I feel it has such a vast array of tonal possibilities.

    Again I want to state that I very much respect your point-of-view and thank you for the opportunity to explain mine.