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What inspired you to have a completely custom bass made for you?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by MAJOR METAL, Jan 20, 2005.


    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Staff Member Supporting Member

    Please share your story of designing your custom bass with us. Thanks
  2. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder/Owner: Wing Instruments
    Do you mean from a design standpoint, or having one built to your specs (with a predetermined choice of body style)?
  3. mattwells


    Mar 19, 2003
    I am still ironing out the details of my custom bass (see: Marchlewski Thread), but I will share my reasons. I have played ALOT of basses and owned a few with all different types of tones (jazz basses, stingray, warwick, g&l, etc) and have enjoyed them for their respective tones, but they never spoke to me.

    So when I started shopping for a new bass, I tried to find handcrafted used basses with my specs (6 string, 17mm spacing, the right pickup/preamp combo). I could not afford a high-end bass all at once, but I can make payments on it as it is being built, so I am able to afford it.

    Add to that the fact that I love handmade stuff, and I control EVERY aspect of the bass being made. It is built with my exact specs, making it even more mine.

    Add it all up, and you have my reasons.

    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Staff Member Supporting Member

    What ever you want to share or feel is relevent to the topic is fine by me.

    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Staff Member Supporting Member

    Thanks for sharing and i hope you get want you want.
  6. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    The 1st bass I had built to my specs by someone other then me was a Spector NS-4. I wanted a US Spector for a LONG time and the 1st Spector I ever played was a white NS-4 that blew my socks off. I figured I'd get a trans white with a sick quilted maple body. When I was speaking to Stuart about this bass, he commented that he never did this finish so he wasen't sure how it would come out. I go the bass & it was beautiful but the quilt seemed kinda suttle. This is the only pic I have of it in white:

    I started noticing that the finish was chipping aroung the strap button & after a gig (the one pictured above) there was a chip near the bridge. I called Stu and he offered to refinish it (A+ customer service) so I picked my fav color, Trans blue. Well let me tell you, the quilt came ALIVE!!!!! I was originally torn between the blue and white & I should of stuck with the blue.


    Another bass I had built to my specs was my Sadowsky Vintage 4. After I bought my Natural 24 Fret 5 I new I wanted a 4 string. Basiclly, I went with a Trans Blue Jazz in trans Blue with a clear PG.
    I bought a Mirror pg for it after a while and the "MIRA" bass is my favorite 4 string bass I own. I still switch between the Mirror ans the Clear pg but the mirror is on the bass 90% of the time.


    Last bass I'll bore you with is the Gecko I built. SUPRIZE, it's blue. :) I wanted something alittle different in my collection and the Gecko on the fretboard was really nice. It was really fun building this bass and it was my 1st experience with BassLines ASB2-5 pickups. These are very nice sounding pickups but I prefer the EMG's over them. The only thing I would do differently is Chrome hardware.

    I've been thinking of having Carey build me a Nordstrand NJ4 but I have to get some other priorities straightened out 1st. :(
  7. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    I've had three (actually four) built to my specs.

    The first was an acoustic bass guitar. I fell in love with Jonas Hellborg's playing, but (back in the pre-Tacoma days) I couldn't find any stock ABGs that were up to snuff in terms of tone and volume. I went through a couple builders and returned one custom instrument before finding Edward V. Dick out of Denver. My EVD bass is still the best ABG I've played, though I'd love to try some of the newer ones built by archtop builders like Moll. That experience sorta convinced me of the importance of talking to previous clients and going with someone who has a experience and a clear vision of their own that meshes with what you're looking for, rather than just looking for the cheapest price.

    The other two custom basses both came about in slightly different ways, though they're both combinations of very specific ideas I had.

    The Curbow (which is still in the works) was a result of having 3 different Curbows (up to 5 now), and loving them but wishing I could change just one or two things about each one. So, to get the tone of my first one, it has an oil-finished mahogany/zebrawood body; to get the comfort and beauty of my second one, it has a carved top; to get the range and playability of my third one, it's a wide-necked 6; to fix the thinness I heard on the upper strings of the previous ones, it has a semi-hollow body and a straight (rather than angled) front pickup; and just for looks it has a single-cutaway body ( http://www.curbow.com/images/SinglecutCurbow.jpg ) and a tilt-back headstock with zebra overlay. A year or so into the construction process I wound up adding RMC piezos and 13-pin output to the specs, because I was using the Roland V-bass a lot at the time and figured the Curbow would be a great platform for that. Hopefully I'll find out soon how well it came out...

    The Nordstrand (see http://www.nordstrandguitars.com/assets/images/gallery/MikeZ/mzfront1.jpg ) was a combination of two very specific things I'd had in the back of my head. On one hand, I've always loved the look of many archtop jazz guitars with bound blank "neo-classical" ebony fretboards and headstocks, and really wanted to see that on a bass, especially a single-cut. On the other, I had a wenge-necked MTD that I really liked the feel and tone of, but wanted something with a deeper voice. Carey was building a single-cut design that I really liked--especially emjazz's 28-fret SC6--and was doing wenge necks as well. He was willing to give the neck and headstock binding a shot, too, and it came out beautifully, though I think I'm the only one that's ever ordered that particular option. I wound up with a 28-fret board that came right up to the neck pickup too, just because it sorta followed the "jazz guitar" look I was going for and not because I play that high very often! The end result didn't sound as much like my MTD as I'd anticipated, but it definately has a very rich voice of its own, and the playability and attention to detail are exceptional, as well as being hands down one of the most beautiful instruments I've ever seen.

  8. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    I've had two customs built, for two different reasons.

    Alembic 5 string Mark King / Series II
    I had started playing 5 string for a church gig that I had. I picked up a Ken Smith Burner 5. Nice enough bass, but I also had sitting around the house THREE Alembic basses that just didn't work out at my church gig. I really needed the B string. I had acquired all three Alembics used for ridiculously low prices, but I could not find a used 5 string Series II. It had to be a Series II, because my best playing / sounding bass of the bunch was a '79 Series II with red LEDs. I even offered to do a two 4 string for one 5 string trade. No bites, so I ordered the 5 string and it's been my main bass since I got it in June 2000. I sold the '79 Series II to Brian Barrett.

    Marchlewski 5 String
    I saw an Amboyna burl bass that Adrian was having built. Most beautiful top I had ever seen. I can't even remember what brand it was. Roscoe or F Bass I think. Then I saw Wolfehollow's first Marchlewski bass and absolutely fell in love with the design. I have two Hanewinckels with Bartolini pre-amp and soap bars and wonderful neck profiles. I also have an Alembic Series I with mandolin frets. Even though they are thin frets, as opposed to the jumbo frets most slappers swear by, the Series I slaps like a champ. So, even though I didn't really need another 5 string fretted bass, I contacted Jake and ordered the Wolfehollow shape with the Adrian inspired Amboyna burl top and the Hanewinckel inspired flattened D contoured neck and Bartolini circuitry and mandolin frets like the Series I.


  9. bubingaboy


    Oct 18, 2004
    Rhode Island
    The only "custom" bass (I guess in this case is custom options) was a four string Warwick Thumb NT. I had the LED's put in.

    They were great..... the first time.... and then got really obnoxious. We would shut the lights off in the chapel before a bass solo and the LED's would light up the whole room. I really thought I was just getting subtle side markers for dimly light rooms but this thing just blinded you.

    I'm currently having Chris Stambaugh build me a custom bass. I'm only a month into the process. I'll fill more in on this when it arrives (sometime in mid to late March).
  10. I've had a few customs over the years, only one of which I still own. I guess, through my adventures as a bassist, I've wanted different things out of a bass and it's taken me this long to get to a place where I actually think I know what I want from a custom bass.

    I've always been one for customising or upgrading things on everything I own, not just basses - cars, computers, even my body with tattoos, piercings, etc! :) So I guess I've just got that thing going where I have to personalise everything! So my first couple of crap basses got upgraded with better pickups (I had a nice Bass Collection 4-string that ended up wearing a Kahler trem and those old Seymour Duncan pickups with the little preamp switches on them).

    My first "semi-custom" bass was in fact a heavily modified bass - I bought a through-body bass body and neck "in white" for £100 from Brandoni in Wembley and had the guys at The Gallery (makers of the lovely Sei Bass - more about those later) completely change it into something else! It went from a conservatively-styled, 21-fret body with a P pickup rout into a sleek, black, 26-fret monster with an Bartolini MM pickup, Kahler trem, ebony fingerboard and various other custom appointments. I loved that bass, but ended up having to sell it for money reasons... I still want it back, but have no idea what became of it!

    My next custom was a fully-fledged Sei Bass 4-string - maple and wenge through-neck, wenge body wings with ziricote facings, ebony fingerboard, all mod cons, basically. I got a little caught up in the furore about Lane Poor pickups and got a pair of those fitted with a Schack 3-band EQ. Unfortunately, the bass wasn't quite everything I thought it would be (sounded good, but not for the type of music I was playing) so it ended up going back to The Gallery for them to sell on.

    Fast-forward a couple of years, and I approached Bernie Goodfellow of GB Guitars to make me a custom bass as I'd always admired his stuff. Bit of a different approach this time, 5-string, ash body with quilt maple top, maple fingerboard and the custom GB active circuit and pickups, and a custom headstock to accomodate two Hipshots. 8 months later, I had the bass, and it was very nice. I kept it for about a year. But, I guess the same thing happened as with the Sei - it didn't sound right with the band, and was a bit on the thin side when recorded. So on Ebay it went. Shame, it was a nice bass. But again, not right for me or the music I play.

    Armed with all this knowledge of what didn't work for me, I tried to come up with some ideas for what would work for me. So I went down to chat to Martin at Sei Bass again, and we came up with some ideas . I was basically after something with extra fatness and guts compared with what I had been going for, which were a little too hi-fi. So the idea for my Sei singlecut 5 were coming together - wenge body, buckeye burl facings, bubinga and wenge neck, ebony fingerboard, and custom electronics consisting of overwound P and MM-style pickups by Aaron Armstrong mated to a tweaked U-Retro preamp by John East. And this time it all worked beautifully... the thing sounds huge, plays great and actually fits the band's sound properly! :)

    Having said that, it's going back to The Gallery tomorrow to have its electronics changed out for an EMG/Aguilar combo... since I got the bass, I've developed a love for the EMG sound! :cool: I think it'll end up sounding even better!

    Russ :bassist:
  11. BassFelt


    Mar 26, 2002
    I'm having a 6-string J built. I would have bought a Fender if they made one.
  12. Dave Siff

    Dave Siff Supporting Member

    My custom bass came about because of my desire for a Jazz-style instrument with a nice top and a super-stable neck. I had tried the Modulus Vintage J and Genesis Vintage J, as well as the Zon Sonus, but didn't really like them. Sadowsky and Lull were out of my price range. Then, I met bassmonkeee, who had known Greg Curbow for many years. I had read all about rockwood, so I knew this could be a great opportunity to get my dream bass built. We went up to Curbow's shop, I explained what I had in mind, put a deposit down, and he built it. It's a pretty simple bass, but everything I ever wanted -- killer birds-eye/quilt top, and the all-important rockwood neck. The custom-building experience for me was pretty simple, because it was just a passive J-bass. The body came from a supplier, and Greg picked the top-wood out of his private stash. The most "custom" detail was the neck shape. I took my Reverend Rumblefish up to the shop so Greg could take exact measurements of the neck, and later, I went back to the shop and watched him do the actual shaping, which was cool.
    Pics here: http://www.curbow.com/store/gallerypages/SiffBass/index.htm
  13. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder/Owner: Wing Instruments
    The first bass I had built was a Zon Vinny VB4 (Headless). I wanted a small travel bass that I'd have no problem fitting in an overhead. I was turned onto it by seeing Michael Manring perform in Bass Day '98 with one. I was (and still am) impressed with the tone. Not the best looker out there, but it's plays incredibly. If you can't find these used, you have to spec them out, so I had no choice. I'm glad I did it.


    I ordered my Valenti out of the need for a Jazz 5-er. Nino's rep preceeds him, and from the basses I've seen, he's got a great sense for detail, fit, and finish ...just look at his control cavities! I've only heard praise and not one complaint.

    I ordered my Nordstrand because I just couldn't take it anymore. After awhile of drooling over almost every creation he's unveiled, I had to take that shot. I'm going with an NX6 (his new body style).

    I guess having a bass to my specs apeals a lot more to me than buying used (with the exception of the Stambaugh I picked up on a great deal) or new from stock. The bottom line it's very satisfying to know exactly what you're getting.
  14. DougP


    Sep 4, 2001
    i have always been attracted to the uniqueness of having a bass built to your specs. i have never been impressed with the quality of most of the assembly line type basses. So in 1996 i had Carvin build me my first custom (as much as you can call it custom) 6 string bass. it has been my one and only bass for the longest time. When i decided i needed a beater and a low cost fretless, i bought Essex brand and have since customized them slightly, i have tinkering in my soul i guess.
    i do have a custom order in with Carey right now, and i can honestly see more customs in my future.
  15. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I was in the market for a new high-end six-string fretless. There's a limited amount of pre-made six-string fretlessesses, and the price for them was about the same for most (it was about $2600+ for every one of the ones I was interested in), I figured I might as well go custom and get exactly what I want for the same price. I also had some weird requests that only custom-building would accomplish, like a polyester fingerboard coating, maple and purpleheart fretlines, and LED sidedots placed directly below the lines rather than in-between them.

    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Staff Member Supporting Member

    Cool thanks for sharing. Thats the great thing about finding someone that will build right to your specs.

    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Staff Member Supporting Member

  18. Hi!

    It's all about Adrian Garcia! (I hate you Adrian! ;) )
    I didn't know what was a Topped bass! (ignorant yes! naive perhaps....)
    I saw that buckeye top F Bass BN5, seeing many others on the F Bass website.
    I started discovering Fodera, MTD, later nordstrand and the valuable shops of the USA...
    After what, I decided myself to get one, It will be my F Bass BN5 with burl maple top and many other specs!
    I will receive it within 3-4 weeks I think, Because George have to finish it, (finish is done I think!) As he's actually at NAMM, so I'll wait a bit.
    If you want a pre idea....

    I'll post finished pics as soon as I can...
  19. I had my first custom made solely because I knew of nobody who made what I wanted on a production basis. I had no particular investment in the custom aspect of it; if there'd been a good manufacturer who did one of these, I'd probably have bought it and not worried about it further. I don't enjoy dropping a lot of money on instruments, and I try never to spend more than I have to. But in surfing around, I stumbled across Jon Shuker, who, with his then partner Antonio Lamaq, were willing to make exactly what I wanted at a very manageable price.

    This is what I got:
    I was and am pretty happy with it.

    The next year, I got a surprisingly good tax refund. I had kept a sort of contact with Jon and remembered that he did solidbodies too. So I got back in touch with him. Having had great dealings with him before, I wasn't at all hesitant to order again. This time I got a matched pair of 6s (fretted and fretless). In my case, experience with the builder definitely made a difference: having had a good experience the first time, I was happy to repeat it.

    And I still know of no manufacturer who makes a fretless 6 string ABG on a production basis.... (Actually, Jon doesn't either any more--his partner was the guy who was more into that end, and I have no idea where he is now).
  20. willgroove2


    Aug 16, 2003
    chicago IL
    Endorsing Artist;Essential sound products,Dunlop, Ergo Instruments
    my custom bass story is this,in '96 i was playing a moon five string as my main bass,the one that's sort of like a ken smith,it was a cool bass,still is actually,but the narrow spacing on the neck just wasn't what i wanted.so i went to new york to do a gig (i live in chicago)and because it was one of those rare road gig's when you get to be in a city more than a day i called up fodera and went over to the shop.after quite a journy getting there(i had never took the subway to brooklyn by myself)i spent the afternoon playing a bunch of great bass's.i must say that joey and vinnie are very very cool people who taught me alot about wood combos that day.so we sat down and speced out a bass for me,nothing crazy, swamp ash,maple neck dual coils ect then vinnie hit me with the price $5,800 us.i was like "wow" vinnie asked me what are you playing now and i told him a moon and a few other's,he then said think about getting rid of all but one and get this bass.i told him i'd think about it and get back to them.i went home and told my tech,jerry loy of player guitar's in worth IL(right outside chicago)what happened and he asked me what i liked and disliked about fodera's and at the end of our talk he said "i can make you what you want"and he did and it's been my main bass ever since.maple/purpleheart/birdseye maple neck thru with mahogany/flame maple body wings.lane poor pu and a bart pre,but i think im going to update the pu/pre soon