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One full year as a pro Barker player

Discussion in 'Barker Bass Forum' started by modeshapes, Feb 27, 2006.

  1. modeshapes


    Oct 17, 2005
    NYC Area
    Hello fellow BVB enthusiasts and curious onlookers!

    I wanted to take a couple of moments to look back on my first full year taking a Barker fretless 4 to work with me. In that year it's been on a variety of jobs, including the CBS-2 Nueva Estrella Awards, the wedding of Regis Philbin's daughter (where the BVB backed up Neil Sedaka), and recording sessions for singer-songwriter Ari Benjamin. The BVB has been to the Waldorf Astoria, The Pierre Hotel, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the Rainbow Room atop the GE Building in Rockefeller Center several times. It's also been in a wide variety of synagogues, catering halls and hotels all around the Metro NYC area.

    The BVB has also accompanied my students at the high school where I teach -- most recently the beginning guitar class recital. Nine kids on acoustic guitars and me on the Barker.

    The sound and the look have turned heads everywhere I go. I get raves from my colleagues on the bandstand. My students are fascinated and their parents are impressed too. Total strangers come up to me when I'm playing a cocktail hour to compliment this beautiful new instrument. Recording engineers thank me for making their job easier. The sound company for my main band loves it when I bring my Barker to the gig.

    By contrast, my plywood upright bass (a Merson from the '50s or early '60s) has been in its case in my basement the entire time, gathering dust and taking up space.

    My Barker fretless has not only usurped the former role of my double bass, but I find opportunities to work it in on jobs where I am not even hired to play upright. This is a really fun, great sounding, great looking, easy-to-play instrument which has made me look forward to my upright calls rather than silently dread them.

    Thanks Lee, for making life on the bandstand a lot more fun and rewarding. I look forward to many more years of happily plunking away on a BVB.
  2. Lee Barker

    Lee Barker Labor of evident value satisfies the soul.

    Oct 25, 2005
    Redmond, Oregon
    owner, Barker Musical Instruments, maker of the Barker Bass, No Longer In Production.
    It's a grey day in Central Oregon; Winter is watching the clock and seeing it is definitely losing the game but it's still on the court and willing to try to block a few shots as Spring comes dribbling down, looking young and rested and eager.

    Today I came to the shop under these lowering skies and went through the ritual of turning on lights, the compressor, a little heat; checking yesterday's work (two custom basses in process); and making mocha #1. Nothing remarkable here.

    And then I check the forum, and suddenly the room is brightened by this intense bouquet of never-wilting flowers, sent by Andrew Pfaff. Wow.

    The words "family" and "team" are way overused in the business world and I never intended they be part of what we're doing except to say we're a small, family business.

    Now there is a larger family, and that word has come from others.

    To read these kind words from Andy is not just trying to absorb a compliment, it is acknowledging that all the owners of this instrument have taken it way beyond what I imagined. To sit in a corner and listen to Andy play his Barker with his high school students and in all the other contexts that he lists--those would all be mountaintop experiences for me.

    I have been privileged to hear Hussain Jiffry play a Barker in the Yanni orchestra; Mick Doherty in the Trail Band; Simon Watkins with Craicmore; Todd Johnson and Tom Szell jamming with Jay and Jill Roberts. I can recall each of these occasions vividly. I will admit to some pride, but it is outweighed by a sense of being part of something much larger. And there are many others playing and smiling, and in a perfect world I could go listen to all of them.

    When we'd go out to dinner after a day in the booth at NAMM, I took great joy in just listening to the conversations going on around me--Eric Owens, Doug Mancini, Will Witt, Tom Szell, Scott Welch, Jack Jobes--and again I had the sense that I was a member of something larger, and in this case "family" is the right word. We enjoyed the same feelings with Dwayne Dixon over dinner after a long day in the booth at the CMS in Seattle last year.

    Linda and I try each day to be grateful for what we have. Always on that list, right after our children, our moms and our grandchildren, are the friends we have made since we hung the "Barker Musical Instruments" sign outside our door.

    Thank you Andrew, and thank you reader. It is profound, it is astonishing, it is humbling, it is prideful, it is goodness to be part of a group of people who are doing something a little different and making a big difference in the world of bass playing. I offer you a bouquet as bright and wiltless as that given me today by Andrew Pfaff.


  3. Andy -

    After Lee's eloquent comments, there is nothing substantial that I can add except that we glad you're part of the family and we look forward to many more years working with you! :)
  4. Tom7

    Tom7 I'm so bright, my mom called me son! ;-)

    Jan 31, 2000
    Eagle River, Alaska
    Thanks a bunch for this post, Andrew.

    I was seriously a phone call with a credit card number away from buying an F Bass (AC6), when I got jittery and decided to research Barker a little more. Your post helped me convince my wife that a Barker would be a solid decision as well.

    In your case though, the Barker is a substitute for an upright. In my case, it would be instead of a six-string Alain Caron F Bass. That matters. For you, the Barker is easier to transport than your alternative, for me its harder. Your Barker has the same number of strings as your upright (presumably). If I got a Barker, I'd be adjusting my playing style to do without a string.

    To approximate the acoustic upright, what strings do you use?

    I would either use roundwounds or half wounds depending on how they worked to do harmonics chords. I'd dial up Jaco-esque tones, but it would be WAY cool if I could turn around and approximate an upright, especially given the vertical visual aspect of its playing.

    At any rate, your post was very well written and exciting actually.
  5. modeshapes


    Oct 17, 2005
    NYC Area
    Thank you for the kind words, Tom7.
    For the upright sound (specifically the more focussed, "pitch-oriented" upright sound I have always preferred) I use tapewounds. My Barker fretless bass came with LaBella tapewounds as original equipment.
    As a typical society gig/dinner dance wears on and we move out of Cole Porter and into r&b and disco, I simply move my right hand closer to the bridge and use more fingertip, bringing out the mid-peak and note attack more reminiscent of Jaco.
    Jaco's recorded sound is sometimes brighter, sometimes darker. I liken the "jaco-esque" sound I can get on a tapewound-strung BVB to the kind of tone on his first record as a leader, which to me is a darker sound than heard on some other records.
    Of course string windings have something to do with it, but you can still get the presence and midrange cutting through using the tapewounds.
    I think a nice, low setup helps as well. The neck can be almost totally straight. Notes higher up the neck sing better that way.
    I would go with whatever string gets the best results for what I want to do most. As for the rest, Jaco said it best: "The sound is in my hands."

    Hope this helps.
    Best Regards,
    Andrew Pfaff