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Tell your Barker Vertical Bass Story

Discussion in 'Barker Bass Forum' started by IotaNet, Oct 31, 2005.

  1. We all have a story about how we discovered the Barker Vertical Bass and how much we enjoy it. :hyper:

    Here's a place to share yours with the world!
  2. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    I met Mr. Barker through Mark of AccuGroove - he suggested that Lee and I ought to be able to have an interesting conversation. Low and behold Mark was right!

    It took until winter NAMM of '05 to meet these basses (and Lee) in person and it was an absolute joy on both fronts.

    I look forward to a repeat perormance this January!

  3. Scwwitt


    Nov 2, 2005
    Santa Cruz
    I met first discovered the barker bass at BassQuake '05. It caught my eye first with its stunning looks (the bass kind of reminds me of a womans body....is that wierd?) anyway.....I got to talk and converse with Lee he told me the background and how Barker Bass got started. I must say the story is truly inspirational. I was immediately sucked into Barker, I have been looking and saveing to hopefully buy one of these amazing basses in the near future.
  4. 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.
    Scwwitt--(I think I misspelled your name last post. My apologies):

    Here's the story on the shape of the bass body. After I built the very first one bass, I decided it had an ugliness factor off the charts. I mean, this instrument made a wart hog look like a cuddly teddy bear. So I set out to redesign the shape.

    I chose the outside dimensions and cut a flat rectangle to those numbers.

    Center line down the middle. I started at the top and ended at the bottom, one pencil line, no sketching (and I'm a sketcher from way back). I liked it so much I just cut that line and then flopped the pattern over and replicated the first curve. (The cutaway shape came later).

    Only after I'd built a few, and reveled in the sound I was getting, did I realize I had unconsciously copied a terra cotta plaque that is in my wife Linda's garden: It shows a woman, from the back, kneeling down. So no, you're not seeing weird. The resemblance is there. I admit it.


  5. brutuscheezcake

    brutuscheezcake Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2003
    Bodega Bay
    hey guys!

    have i got a Barker story for you guys!

    last week my band and i ( http://www.craicmore.com ) were finishing up a NW tour and had a stop in redmond, oregon to do two community shows on a sunday and an educational the next morning. i actually love doing the educationals, but that digression is for another thread. kids make the best audiences for live recordings, no doubt.

    anywhooo, my band leader had made an appointment for me with a local luthier to talk basses as we were coming to town and i had expressed a serious interest in his product. i had actually played Barker Basses at NAMM last January, and was very impressed by their bass tone and portability.

    me? i am a traveling musician, doing celtic music and sneaking some jazz on the side when i can. thats when i have my upright thing going of course. i play sadowsky basses and i am on rogers artist page. oh yeah, i play a new standard cleveland upright as well. every bass i have is a tonal monster. i play the heaviest strings i can (spiro starks, of course) to get the absolute best sustain.

    i have never considered playing an upright on celtic music. celtic music is generally quite fast, basically country music played at donna summer speeds. many changes, many parts. not really a place for an upright, but the Barker bass changes that equation.

    so, back to redmond. the band pulled in on a sunday morning and after our back line was set, Lee showed up with two basses and we were introduced. Lee and i spent the next hour or so going thru both his fretless (my fave, of course) and his fretted bass. i asked Lee if i could borrow a bass for the upcoming shows. he lent me his personal 4 string fretted (better for celtic, especially on short notice). after clearing with my band leader (no probs, because he loved the look and the tone) i proceeded to use the bass that night during the show. the bass looked and performed fantastically. we got standing ovations at both shows.

    boy, it sure was nice to have the Barker for the day. everytime i had a few "extra" minutes, i would find myself playing a little jazz thru the monster FOH PA we were using. the tone and sustain just slay me especially when you have a PA to yourself. it sure was easy to play.

    after the shows were over, every person i asked commented on how great the Barker bass sounded. he got it back in case you were wondering.

    the Barker bass makes doubling on the road easy.

    the local paper ran a picture of me and a picture of the band with the Barker bass prominently featured. those guys even forwarded me a copy of the paper!

    the best part of the story is the fact that it is not over.

    i will see Lee and Linda (Hi Linda!) at the NAMM show and continue this conversation. they are the nicest and most gracious couple.

    now, (fumble, fumble) lets see if i can post a pic, or two


    Attached Files:

  6. JCB

    JCB Owner, Groove DNA

    Nov 1, 2005
    BassQuake 05... I was there as an exhibitor. Across from me were the nicest people you can meet Lee, his lovely wife Linda and a bunch of shapely ladies: the Barker instruments. After a little hesitation I decided to make a move on the fretless I had been looking at for a while. Oh boy! The tone was just sweet. Needless to say that I spent quite a bit of time "Trying out" the instrument instead of minding my business. They really sound as good as they look. My wife who complains I have too many instruments at home even told me I should consider getting one. Had I not just ordered a new Bass a couple of days before, I might have gone the Barker route. Who knows? Since I have the Boss's approval, the next Bass I purchase could very well be a Barker... If I don't win the giveaway that is ;)
  7. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I have no Barker story since I have yet to play one or even see one live. Anywhere in central Florida (Orlando area) where I can try one out?

    Actually, I do have a Barker story. My middle school principal was named Mr. Barker. And he had a daughter who was a royal pain in the ass spoiled you know what. But she was hot.
  8. Mudfuzz


    Apr 3, 2004
    I find this a very odd statement. I have nothing against the Barker Vertical Bass and I do think they are quite cool, but to say a DB can't be played at fast speeds over many changes is silly; maybe right now you can't but that doesn't mean others can't. For instance Francois Rabbat:


    I think the sound that you want to hear is what is important, if the barker gets you that then great, and the playability aspect makes sense. But it is a BG and it sounds like a "BIG" BG not a DB or even a EUB, you see.
  9. brutuscheezcake

    brutuscheezcake Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2003
    Bodega Bay
    hey aaron,

    an upright can be played furiously, thats a given. no bout a doubt it.

    and rabbath certainly is an easy example of such.

    the barker bass does add a nice cross of functions as well as great tone that might make it a good fit.

  10. EduardoK


    Jun 28, 2004
    Got my Barker bass at winter NAMM '06
    This bass is alive. Plays like butter and it simply sounds wooooooonderful ! Such sweet sounds, I am amazed it is a fretted bass, it certainly projects a true upright vibe that the player can feel all through his bones... and the tone is so delicious.
    The neck plays wonderful, smooth as silk, so comfortable. This bass encourages me to play better, invites me to try new things and go different places with my playing where I haven´t been before, explore new horizons, work on new nuances. And I believe that is no small feat for an instrument.
    You just can´t help looking at the bass in sheer amazement. It is so beautiful and well crafted... makes you want to stare at it for hours. As a matter of fact I placed my Barker at the middle of our living room as I would have done with the finest of sculptures, because it is a work of art.. and of love for sure.
    My wife complains I did put an amp in our living room (until now I had amps and guitars all around the house BUT the living room) but then she sees the bass and smiles.
    Now everyone who enters the living room looks at the Barker with the same amazement (both musicians and non musicians). They all want to hear it, touch it, play it... and get convinced it is so much more than "mere looks".
    As for me, having played mostly rock music all my life, I did put for the first time I can remember and by my own free will (ha ha) one of my wife´s Tony Bennet´s CDs in the CD player to play along with my Barker bass. (not that I have anything against Tony, he is a fantastic singer, just that it had never crossed my narrow mind to play along his music up until now).
    NOW: How cool is that !!??
    Can´t wait for my fretless Barker bass !!!
  11. bobbyr


    May 30, 2006
    After a long and sustained courtship, I finally had a chance to play a Barker Vertical Bass at Bass Northwest in Seattle. The first time I played Barker fretless four number 84, I knew it was the bass for me. The notes blossomed blissfully and sustained suspended-like as a result of the convergence of outstanding design, selection of the highest quality materials, lots and lots of wonderful wood, and the craftsmanship of an artisan who clearly takes pride in his work. It was like falling in love.

    There was absolutely zero adjustment to the vertical playing position for this self-taught electric bass guitar player. I immediately found the vertical playing position more natural and more comfortable than playing an overgrown guitar with a 35 inch scale. I also found that it just feels right to be playing straight-ahead jazz vertically as opposed to walking an electric bass guitar. So, to anyone who’s wondering about making the transition, I say: jump in -- the water’s fine.

    One phrase sums up my Barker fretless four (with apologies to Carmen McRae in “My Handy Man Ain’t Handy No More” from “Live at Birdland West”): I knew it was gonna be good, but I didn’t know it was gonna be THIS kind of good.

    Thank you, Lee. You have made a beautiful instrument, and you have made me a very happy owner.
  12. 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.
    Monday June 5, 2006 Steve Jeffrey received his Barker Bass. (note: per his request, the custom instrument was fitted with Bartolini pickups.) The following three emails, edited for length, were received at Barker Instruments starting, I suspect, while the wrapping trappings were still scattered about the living room floor:

    The bass just arrived, and once I got it set up, I was ready to go.

    All I can say, is my tone is here, but BIGGER... MUCH BIGGER!

    Nice job with the Bartolinis, everything works perfectly... feels and sounds so familiar, just BIGGER... right now I've pretty much left the tone settings mostly flat, and it sounds great!......

    Very nice bass, can't wait to spend some time playing it... can't wait.


    (7 hours later)


    Spent many hours playing the new bass today, and I can't tell you enough how much I'm enjoying playing this bass... It took a little adjusting (mostly on my technique), and now I'm ripping the finger board up... didn't realize my left forearm was in such bad shape... not any more.

    I am running it through an Eden Wt550, with a couple twelves and a two ten cab... everything is set flat (including the bass), and the perfect bass tone I've always wanted is all around the room... as you know, I love the Bartolini sound, and at least for me, they are the perfect match for this bass.

    As for the B string, well, I will be selling my Modulus, this bass has just as much low end as that one, but without the annoying 35" scale.

    As you can tell, I'm very very happy with the bass, and just wanted to thank you for making such a wonderful bass... I hope you sell thousands more of these basses, because I think you make a great sounding unique instrument, that is a blast to play.

    Enough writing, I'm going back to play it some more.

    Take care,

    (next day)


    I now know for sure that the next CD will be recorded with a Barker Bass... it's the perfect tone for the music I write.

    Anyway, I'm still playing the bass... I have found a sweet-spot for very rapid percussive right-hand stuff by picking around the 15 fret... no lack of definition like most standard-type basses... this bass rules!

    I use to be a bridge pickup player, and never much cared for the tone when picking around the neck pickup, but now I have found that my right hand picks just above the neck pickup, with my thumb resting on the north edge of that pickup... my right arm is pretty much at a right angle, with no arch in the wrist... what comfort, and TONE!

    One other observation... when playing notes on the G string... around F#, G, A, (11, 12, 14 fret), I've noticed that with this bass, you can actually feel them... they are Huge! I have never played a bass with such a pronounced G string... it sings with authority all the way up... and has such clarity on the lower G string notes too.

    I haven't been this excited about playing in a long time... thanks again for the bass, it really is great, and you know I'm very picky *smile*

    Steve Jeffrey
    Rutland, MA

  13. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    All I can say, is my tone is here, but BIGGER... MUCH BIGGER!

    I've got nothing against the Barker bass but I've seen and heard it played and it sounds, IMHO, exactly like a bass guitar. It's got the same sustain and same sound (no surprise there since it's a 34 scale). I've never heard anyone get a bigger tone out of it than you would from any well built bass guitar with an active preamp. Tone on upright comes from larger string scale, larger strings and physically pulling the sound out of the instrument. Though not identical, the same approach works for EUB. I you get a good, strong, focused sound on upright, you'll pull a decent sound out of an EUB.

    Guys who hire me to play upright want to hear an upright sound, even if I bring an EUB, they want the sound. The Barker comes nowhere near that sound. You can't dig in the same way. So my question, and I'm not being facetious, what's the point of the Barker? Is it just so you can play a bass guitar in an upright position.

    Caveat: I've asked the same question on Youtube, and I'm sincere about the question.
  14. pointbass

    pointbass Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    Probably a question better suited for Lee to answer, but I'll give you my thoughts from the viewpoint of a player .....

    IIRC, the Barker was originally conceived to be just what you suggest, a slab bass to be played in a vertical position. Hence, the 34" scale and other typical slab bass features. The primary difference, orientation aside, is the chambered body which provides a much different level of sustain and tonality than a slab bass (IMO, or course ;)).

    I have never expected my Barker to be a substitute for a DB or an EUB. It can't be bowed (obviously) and the 34" scale clearly does not equate to the standard DB scale. The Barker has no acoustic resonance and doesn't have the same tonal characteristics of a DB (again, IMO). But I would disagree that, as a general statement, it sounds like a slab bass.

    It CAN sound like a typical bass guitar, if you choose to have it do so. It also tonally mimics many fine acoustic bass guitars, primarily due to the chambering. It does not sound like a DB, but has a somewhat unique sound that is quite different from any other bass I've ever owned. Once I learned to control the sustain on the Barker I was able to get a wide range of tonal options that are simply not possible on any slab bass I've ever owned.

    I would agree that the Barker may not be viewed in a positive light for gigs that are expecting a DB, be it classical or jazz or bluegrass or any other setting. That said, I have repeatedly used my B1 on numerous jazz dates and have yet to have a problem .... there are certain cases where the players have requested the Barker rather than other bass options.

    I note that you are a Jersey guy. I gig regularly in the Jersey Shore area and I invite you to check out the bass in person. Perhaps spending a few moments playing it will give you a slightly different opinion as to its versatility .... :cool:
  15. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    gotcha. Thanks pointbass that was an excellent and enlightening review.

    so the instrument has it's own sound. On the occasions I heard it it really did sound exactly like a bass guitar with, to my ears, no difference at all. But that was in a trio setting and the cat playing it had never played double bass. In a music store heard someone slapping on it just like a bass guitar. Didn't sound like slapping on an upright where the string actually slaps back against the fingerboard. It sounded just like someone slapping a fender jazz. I also had a prospective upright student come in and bring it up as an option to owning a doublebass, I think he saw one secondhand thinking it was an EUB. I shot down the prospect immediately since you can't play arco on it and it had frets:)

    While it looks to be a wonderfully crafted instrument and the reviews say it's extremely well built and has a nice sound that pretty much everyone who plays it really likes, I doubt I could use one. I bought my first eub back in 91-92 (knutson messenger), then much later got an emminence because flying to europe with an upright after 911 became a trip through the looking glass. Both my Eubs seem to be more portable than the Barker and both have chambered bodies, the eminence also has a soundpost and I bet the Knutson sustains just as long or close to the Barker. The eminence with high action and velvet garbos comes closer to sounding like an amplified gut string acoustic (with good string decay and some woodiness) than anything I've tried. Both were also cheaper than the Barker and are not bass guitars. Both can be played arco or pizz. I'm sure you get my point.

    I think what intrigued me the most about the Barker is that straight ahead jazz cats really like it and request it again and again as opposed to uprights or EUBs (quite a few Barker users in this thread have stated that once played at a jazz gig, the bandleaders request it's presence). I really can't see walking into Smalls or Arturo's and that being the case. Also I know every bandleader who has me play upright or EUB does NOT want and instrument that sustains forever. They want an upright like decay on pizz that propels the music forward. What I think the Barker would sound good on is more modern sounding jazz gigs (ECM type stuff) where long sustain and a light touch are better suited.

    Anyway, thanks for the very informative reply and glad to see it's working for you guys. Well done.
  16. 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.
    Thanks, abaguer and Ed, for the interesting discussion. I almost always have an opinion when there's a question, but it's never as galvanizing as the thoughts from the guys in the trenches.

    Perhaps one takeaway from this is that preamps aren't for everybody. Nor fanned frets, nor 30" scale or a 35, nor a 3/4 size double bass, nor an EUB instead of the "real thing," nor peizo pickups, nor a Barker Bass, and on. What we're all looking for is what works, and when we find that, the energy that went into Diogenese-like seeking can go into mastery of the instrument, whatever it may be. That shouldn't, however, squelch curiosity about whatever appears that's different or new or ignites the quizzical look.

    My compliments again, abaguer, for taking the time to think about this, ask the question, and engage in delightful and enlightening gentlemanly discourse on the subject. It tells me you are truly open to examine the qualities of something that may be shifting a paradigm or two and, after due diligence, come to an honest and personal conclusion.

    You are the one to be congratulated for your efforts here.

    In the end, we all are starting out with E, A, D and G and applying hands and heart to make the music sound better.
  17. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    Thanks Lee and Pointbass. I get the vibe. Very well rounded and practical views from all you folks. It's interesting about the wrist pain issue. I knew a guy 15-20 years ago that played a really heavy guild type bass (can't remember the exact model) upright style on a drum stool. He played this with rock bands and country bands and I remember asking him why he played it that way. He said it was heavy as **** and much easier on his left hand which he said he could relax a lot more in that position.
  18. pointbass

    pointbass Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    BTW, in the interest of full disclosure, abaguer, there are certain jazz dates I do where I wouldn't dare walk in with anything other than a DB :help:

    The Barker is used for a lot of duo/trio work in a piano/drums/bass setting, usually on the lighter side of things. The guys love the smaller physical size, too, in addition to the tone. I also use it with one of two big bands I occassionally work with .... the leader prefers the presence of the Barker over the DB (that may say more about my lack of skills than the bass, though :bag:)
  19. JKT


    Apr 30, 2007
    Buffalo NY
    Endorsing Artist: Barker Basses
    Mine came from the factory strung with half rounds and sounded fantastic.
    Since putting a set of LaBella flats on it, the tone is just flat-out off the hook.
    I agree that it is not, nor is it intended to be a substitute for a DB or really even an EUB. BUT, since using the flatwounds and choosing the instrument for a lot of the swing and roots music that I regularly play, I have to say that it begins to move clearly in that direction. The same rule applies to a Barker that applies to all other basses and that is it is often how you play that makes the difference.

    I honestly get as many compliments for how my Barker sounds as much as how it looks. And this feedback comes from laypeople in audiences of all sizes right on up to musicians at all levels of the business.