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Traditionalists?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by SSSBass, Mar 25, 2002.


  1. SSSBass

    SSSBass

    Apr 5, 2001
    Goodyear, AZ
    Do you think that the majority of the bass playing/manufacturing community are more or less traditionalists? I'm beginning to lean toward this assumption for one simple reason. All of the musical instrument manufacturers I have contacted over the years seem to not be interested in 'state of the art' technology incorporated into electric interments. I will not mention company names, but can say that responses, if there is a response, is something like "Oh, great design, unfortunately this does not fit into our current marketing plan". This says to me that as long as there are signature instruments, using traditional configurations, and that's what "sells", then there is no real need to bring electric instruments to newer levels.
    For those of us who are engineers and designers during our day time hours, and use this knowledge to try and enhance a players versatility and uniqueness in our spare time, it's disheartening that only a small group of individuals will ever know the vast capabilities of tonal generation that is achievable through micro-processor control.
    Your thoughts?
     
  2. dhuffguitars

    dhuffguitars Luthier/Bass Wanker depending on your opinion

    Sep 18, 2001
    SPOKANE WA
    I am all for new ideas in the building of better instruments. But I would agree that "most" people want it as basic and user friendly as possible. Alembic Series basses are a good example, they are a little time consuming finding the sound that is in your head. For a musician who is touring clubs it takes too long to dial in your sound at each venue. Even on different songs you might have a different tone and dialing it in can be frusterating. For studio musicians have all the controls at your hands is great.

    I would love to hear your ideas!
    Darrin Huff
    dhuffguitars@mindspring.com
     
  3. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    In general the bass community is more open to new ideas than the guitar community IME.
    But as a rule of thumb, the bigger a company is, the more conservative its model policy will be. Since you're talking about a marketing plan, I guess you talked to a bigger company.

    Usually the small companies are more likely to try out new ideas, if they can afford the R&D. If you try to directly compete with Fender for example, you'll loose, so being different is almost a necessity to be able to stay in the market.

    Take Jens Ritter or Basslab for example, you can hardly get more progressive than that.

    But it's still necessary to find a compromise between avantgarde design and market acceptability. Anyway, it's probably too small a niche for the big companies.
     
  4. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Most of the "established" manufacturers are established because they have developed a product that sells. It takes something that is clearly going to bring in new sales and also fits within their design to get them to change. The piezo bridge is a good example. These things came out, were refined, crammed into production bridges, and eventually made their way into Stingrays and Ibanez basses. But before everyone got on board, the piezo had to evolve to the point where the sound would draw people in and the design was refined to the point where the Stingray with the piezo looked like the Stingray without the piezo.

    Bottom line, the bass playing community is a bit tranditionalist. There are limits as to how far you can diverge, just in terms of what the bass looks like, from existing designs before you lose enough of your market to make it not worth the chance.
     
  5. dhuffguitars

    dhuffguitars Luthier/Bass Wanker depending on your opinion

    Sep 18, 2001
    SPOKANE WA
    Here is SSSBass' concept
    http://members.aol.com/midnitrodo/

    or it can be found under his profile, homepage.

    I would like to hear what people think of the idea.

    Darrin Huff
     
  6. DP Custom

    DP Custom DP Custom Basses

    Feb 7, 2001
    NC, USA

    Ah, but that's the whole point fo a market driven economy. What sells defines what's produced en-masse, leaving specialty items for niche markets and smaller producers. Marketing 101. I'm afraid the old adage "build a better mousetrap and people will buy it" doesn't necessarily hold true for the mass market, if people are content and satisfied with the old mousetraps.

    You bemoan the fact that many players will never get to experience your image of the wonder microprocessor manipulated sounds. But speaking also as a former development engineer, I have to tell you that that's a common trap engineers fall into. The fact that it may be "neat" or interesting in it's capabilities doesn't translate into being desireable for the majority of users. They have other agendas in mind when desiring an instrument, and included in these may be simplicity, tonal "purity
    ", and "old fashioned" sound, and other things.

    So don't be discouraged...just realize that however great your idea maybe, it can't be all things to all people. Maybe it's just good enough if it puts a smile on the faces of a select few.

    DP
     
    comingxcurse likes this.
  7. Heiko

    Heiko BassLab

    Apr 24, 2001
    Kassel, Germany
    Hi, SSSBass!

    Did you also contact me? ;>)

    I think, that most players are very conservative (even more the guitarists...).

    From an engineers point of view, the complete instrument scene looks very boring and antique. On the other hand, engineers tend to forget, that these are just tools for musicians and not for a "sci-fi high-tech show"!
    I think you can easily find a (small) manufacturer, that will build your design, but just as a custom model for you.

    There are a lot of interestings things, that could be used in modern basses, but not all at a time. In this business, things are moving very slowly! I saw a lot of manufacturers with great new ideas, but I don´t think, it´s their fault, they didn´t make it in the market. Ask your colleagues, if they would buy your instrument?!

    Can you give us an idea, what exactly you would like to see in our instruments?

    Heiko
     
  8. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
    Gentlemen



    A maker going by the name of Wilkes produced a range of guitars and basses. Two of the more radical ideas were pickups mounted on rails to allow positioning by the player and a fretless with 'slap plates'. These were metal plates on the end of the fingerboard with piezo's underneath. Wilkes went out of business.

    Having just tried a slap plate equipped bass I was talking to my then 'tech'. He did all the set ups and electronics work for Reeve guitars (a small local maker). His reaction was that the piezo should be in the bridge. As this was 1985 and all I wanted was to get my Precision back, I humoured him. He made a piezo driven EUB that year as a custom order.

    The bass you need to make is one that a player walks out the shop with having specifically gone in there to buy a Stingray/Soundgear/Jazz/whatever. If I knew how to do that I would be the MD of CS basses incorporated. The thing is would that bass be the one you would want to make? Players are fickle, take the Mark King Signature bass. Alembic, Fender or Status? How many of you know that the first Mark King sig bass was made by JD? I have played a few of John Diggin's basses and they are superb but next to nobody plays em anymore.

    Do you follow fashion or follow your heart? I say follow your heart and get a wife with a well paid job :)

    Thanks for taking time to contribute to this forum and I hope that it goes someway to raise the profile of the low volume, high quality maker.
     
  9. pedalpointer

    pedalpointer

    Mar 25, 2002
    SSSBass,
    I like the idea of movable pickups. I played around for a while with where I pick the strings, and found one certain spot I liked better than any other. Turns out it is the spot where the harmonics are (above the 24th fret, between the end of the neck and the edge of the neck pickup). I think this is the ideal spot, but most basses I have tried only line up the edge of the pickup and do not center it beneath the spot. The closest I have found to this is my Dean Rhapsody 8 string, which has the pickup almost centered but not quite beneath the spot.

    While I would settle for a bass with pickups centered beneath the harmonics, I think a bass with movable pickups would be pretty cool, and would probably have more potential than most if not all other basses out there.
     
    comingxcurse likes this.
  10. SSSBass

    SSSBass

    Apr 5, 2001
    Goodyear, AZ
    To all.. Thank you for your most informed and unique opinions on the subject of traditionalism. As a musician for over forty years and a bass player since '64, I have found myself in that same 'trap' from time to time. That is, mainstream instruments that were 'good for dad should be good for me' (replace dad with whom ever) Yet, with the advancements in technology, one would think that the larger companies would be investing some of their R&D budget into the future. I guess that's what you get when company decisions are dictated by the bean counters, and not the folks with the visions.
    For me, I'm at a point that I know I have quite possibly the most versatile tonal instrument on the planet. A pretty bold statement, but I have seen nothing in the industry that has taken the next logical step forward. Yes, fiber optic pickups for individual strings are here and this IS the correct direction. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it's hard to beat a magnetic pickup for full sonic reproducibility. Optics are much to directional. Hmmm, maybe I'm being a bit of a traditionalist myself…..
    :)
     
  11. Another point is that a lot of people do not want something new and in some cases unknown in their equipment for fear of:

    - Adding complication to their gear
    - Having "another thing that can go wrong"
    - Having to deal with proprietary gear

    I like new technology such as the Lightwave system and applaud any and all that are looking into such things for musicians.

    I have a couple of ideas myself that I hope to bring to light someday but it will take time to try and minimize the effects of the three points above...

    ...that could be one reason that new tech. is sometimes slow to come. It takes a lot of development to make something work like you want it to without hindering other aspects of the bass, amp. or whatever you are designing it to work with.

    I just think of the problems people have with computers and shudder at what an influx of tech. could do to the instrument world if/when not applied or developed properly.

    "I have to sit this set out... my bass crashed."
     
  12. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    Basses with movable pickups have been done. I might buy a bass in spite of that feature but I doubt that I'd buy one because of it, it's just not that important to me. I'd look for a total package kind of bass over one "neat" feature.
     
  13. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    California
    A few Years ago, I read a column by Rick Turner in which he said that few manufacturers used zero frets because they had becaome associated with 'cheap' instruments. He went on to say this was unfortunate because a zero fret is actually a good idea. I think Movable pickups have the same stigma.

    For what it's worth, I think that I'd much rather have an instrument with a good, usable sound right off the bat than one that required even thirty seconds of fiddling around. I think there's enough options for tonal shaping between the bass and the amp to satisfy most people's ears.

    That's just me, though.
     
  14. bill spangler

    bill spangler

    Mar 4, 2001
    Albany GA
    As a long time pro and semi-pro player I am somewhat of a traditionalist. I have found, over many years of experience, that in practice (meaning gigs) that I can only get a one or two useable tones (really timbres) that works at a gig. The other "options" tend to be too muddy, boomy, trebly or whatever. When I gig with a guitar player for instance, I tend to use less mid-range. When there is not a guitar player, I tend to prefer a slightly midrangy tone. Remember that we, our fellow musicians, and our audiences have been conditioned to hear Fender P-bass or J-bass timbres and that most basses (hand built or otherwise) are derivatives (dFender/dt for you calculus types) of Fenders. I have an early DP Custom 5 string with generic PUPs and passive electronics. In most situations, it has two very useable timbres---both of which are great. When I've tried to use basses with more bells and whistles, I've found that many tones don't "cut" through, irritate others or occupy another instrument's sonic space. :)
     
  15. There's certainly some truth to the notion that bass players are somewhat traditionalists, though I think this is as much a cultural byproduct of "retro" being fashionable in general rather than a trait of bass players in particular.

    With regard to SSSBass's specific idea, though, I think the problem is not so much the notion that bass players are unwilling to deal with technology or complexity, but that they're unwilling to deal with what they see as "needless" complexity. ("Needless", of course being defined by what it is you want to do with a bass, the Alembic being a good case in point...)

    As Brad said, movable pickups have been done before. What significant benefit does turning the whole concept into a microprocessor-controlled electro-mechanical operation really get you over having a simple sliding mechanism that you move with a thumbscrew or something? Are the pickup locations really so precise and difficult to remember that it requires a computer to do it?

    And if one supposes that bass players are discerning enough to be picky about the tonal difference of moving the bridge pickup by a fraction of an inch, won't they be discerning enough to recognize the difference in tone caused by routing out a big chunk of wood from the body and mounting the pickup on metal rails?

    Conversely, I suspect that as it's developing, many bass players will embrace digital modelling more and more. To me, that approach makes much more sense--why rely on an awkward, elaborate electro-mechanical contraption that only controls one small facet of the instrument's tone (the pickup placement), when you could preset different pickup types, placements, EQ settings, body resonaces, etc. in a straightforward electronic package with no mechanical parts to break?

    Mike
     
  16. http://members.aol.com/midnitrodo/

    Yes, John Agapetus' Sweet Spot Select demo bass is pretty well known around here in the Phoenix metro area. It's true that sometimes you have to "gamble" on a concept to have a product that is innovative. Perhaps somebody will step up to the plate.
     
  17. It seems to me that guitarists are more traditionalist. You're more likely to see some crazy desighn, or an instrument with some sort of exotic wood in a bass than you would in a guitar. Even though Fenders are by far the most popular, there are so many great and interesting basses out there. A guitarist will almost always bve using a Strat or a Les Paul.
     
  18. SSSBass

    SSSBass

    Apr 5, 2001
    Goodyear, AZ
    I would like to respond to Mr. Zimmerman's comments, if I may, and then move on.

    "With regard to SSSBass's specific idea, though, I think the problem is not so much the notion that bass players are unwilling to deal with technology or complexity, but that they're unwilling to deal with what they see as "needless" complexity. ("Needless", of course being defined by what it is you want to do with a bass, the Alembic being a good case in point...) "

    As I have said, and a point alluded to in an earlier response, we as engineers and designers provide users (or players in this case) the tools with which to be as versatile and unique as possible. What you describe as "Needless complexity" may be just what another personality might have been waiting for. Like the need to 'not' have three or four basses on stage, only because they all have different voices for different set situations. Wouldn't it be good to have one bass with a variety of voices, and retain the playability that you are used to, with that one bass?

    "As Brad said, movable pickups have been done before. What significant benefit does turning the whole concept into a microprocessor-controlled electro-mechanical operation really get you over having a simple sliding mechanism that you move with thumbscrew or something? Are the pickup locations really so precise and difficult to remember that it requires a computer to do it?"

    Of course sliding pickups have been done before. I talk about this within my product description. Gibson had an excellent idea and understood the benefits of having this tool for players. Unfortunately, being on a slide meant that the player 'would' have to effect a manual intervention everytime a change of voice was required. Furthermore, there would be no changing of this voice on the fly and no tone blending between a fixed and a variable pickup. The computer you site is only a 20 pin skinny dip device. One chip.

    "And if one supposes that bass players are discerning enough to be picky about the tonal difference of moving the bridge pickup by a fraction of an inch, won't they be discerning enough to recognize the difference in tone caused by routing out a big chunk of wood from the body and mounting the pickup on metal rails? "

    True enough.. There is a substantial amount of material removed to accommodate the linear motion device. All of the players that have demo'd the concept and who have participated in a survey following playing these basses have been totally amazed at the tonal difference a ¼ inch of movement makes.

    "Conversely, I suspect that as it's developing, many bass players will embrace digital modelling more and more. To me, that approach makes much more sense--why rely on an awkward, elaborate electro-mechanical contraption that only controls one small facet of the instrument's tone (the pickup placement), when you could preset different pickup types, placements, EQ settings, body resonaces, etc in a straightforward electronic package with no mechanical parts to break?"

    Hmmmmm, "an awkward, elaborate electro-mechanical contraption that only controls one small facet of ,the instrument's tone". Come on Mike, in solid body instruments the majority of tone is the electronics. This along with the players style and ability. The use of tone woods in solid body electric instruments is negligible. Of course this is just my opinion and may be another subject for this forum to ponder. Acoustically speaking, I would agree that tone woods have an impact on tone.
    "a straightforward electronic package with no mechanical parts to break"
    This is good… you are now thinking outside the box. Put this in a block diagram form and lets see if we can stuff it all into an FPGA and make it all fit into the control cavity.

    Best regards,

    John
     
  19. Sorry John--my post came out as a criticism of your idea rather than a response to the original question. Sometimes my mind gets stuck on one track and won't let go...

    That said, I do have a few comments:

    1) Pushing a button is still "manual intervention", in terms of effecting tonal change in the middle of a song, especially when you have to chose from multiple buttons. If I'm going to be messing with presets, I'm going to want to "preset" something a lot more comprehensive than simply the pickup location.

    2) Nothing in the notion of a manual rather than servo-controlled pickup slider prevents you from combining fixed and movable pickups.

    3) "All of the players that have demo'd the concept and who have participated in a survey following playing these
    basses have been totally amazed at the tonal difference a ¼ inch of movement makes." I have no reason to doubt your experiences there. But the question is, how many of them wanted to use the pickup location as a "tone control", and how many simply found one position they really liked and left it there?

    4) "This is good… you are now thinking outside the box." There is no box. I applaud your efforts to try and apply technology to instrument design, but I'd like to see _you_ step beyond this one idea and look at more comprehensive ways of modifying the tonal response of the instrument. As I said, it seems to me that this particular device simply involves too much effort focused on one small facet of that response. If the majority of the electric instrument's tone is in the electronics, why limit yourself to a single standard pickup with fixed magnetic pattern, impedence, dynamic response, etc. and settle for simply moving that pickup around?

    Of course, once we start into modeling different pickup resonses, pickup locations, etc., we're on to the VG-8 pretty quickly. :)

    Mike
     
  20. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    I still haven't heard an Alder Jazz sound like an Ash one.

    Anyway, what I said wasn't meant as a criticism, I personally have no need for a such a device but knowing how some bassists are there may certainly be a market for it. IME the right electronics can bring out the best in a bass but not to the point where it's more important than construction and materials.

    Good luck.