Early in 2011, I started working on an idea of a semi-acoustic/electric bass that would produce a sound that would rival the sound of the upright bass without having to be as big and cumbersome to play or travel with. With my years of experience in repair, building and R&D, the concept became a working reality that produced an instrument that is stunning everyone that hears or plays it. “An incredible small package, with an incredible Big Sound.”
With that idea, I began with sketches & drawings of practical shapes and dimensions that would possibly work. I had no intentions to try and start something new or re-invent the wheel, sort of speak, but I remembered years back seeing my first ABG (acoustic bass guitar) by Kay (late 50s?) then Ernie Ball’s Earthwood acoustic bass guitar that came out (early 70s?) and then Fender’s semi-acoustic PBAC-100 that came out (early 90s), that I tried once and thought they were all on to something, but with the magnetic & peizo pickups they still really were nowhere near the upright sound. I even had an ABG for awhile, but I was never really happy with it or any of all the other makers models...it had very little sustain, dead notes and still nothing like the sound of the upright bass.
I thought of trying to employ a spectrum analysis to more clearly define the sounds of the deep woody upright and some trial and error work, using well known tonewoods and techniques I used through out the years. A spectrum analysis of the upright bass shows that the key differences are the way that the upright bass has of dampening the higher harmonics while producing very deep lows acoustically. So with that in mind, I started looking for materials & design techniques that would lead to that also. I thought I would try a chambered solid body approach with a vibrating soundboard (top) as like an acoustic guitar with an acoustic guitar style bridge, hence more like a hybrid or the best of both worlds (acoustic & electric).
I experimented with a number of chamber configurations, but what I was after was more like a triple chamber that would handle the lows, mids, & highs separately, for a more defined and articulate sound from each. I remember when I first started working at Dobro Guitars (O.M.I.) in the early 70s, asking Ed Dopera “was there a purpose of design of the Sound Well other than support”? Well I took that idea and incorporated it into the design of the Bassic Bass mid-chamber. That now patent pending three chamber design also incorporates a solid center block that adds strength, sustain & just enough anti-feedback control, without sacrificing weight and acoustical properties. The center block is also designed to incorporate magnetic pickups to be added & installed (during or after build) if so desired.
For the Bridge I debated over & over which style to use, so I contacted my friend, Master Luthier Ren Ferguson at Gibson Guitars and discussed bridge design with him. We were convinced that neither the floating bridge nor the through-the body style would work, due to that they would not produce enough vibration for the top, with this kind of design. It was going to have to be a pin style bridge or a rear-load style that would cause the bridge and in turn the top, to vibrate enough. So from there I gathered ideas & designs from other builders, both from the acoustic & electric worlds and schools of thought. On the first prototype I made a pin style bridge (w/rosewood bridge pins and all). That bridge sounded great, so from there I wanted to test what a rear-load bridge would sound like. So I removed the pin bridge & installed a rear-load bridge and found that it virtually made no difference in sound…they both sounded great. So from a production stand point the rear-load bridge won me over due to its less time to produce.
For the Neck, I had in mind a 30” scale because of how unique they sound due to the lower string tension which gives it a fuller fatter low end with a tight sweet woody upper register. I also wanted to use a bolt-on style neck, fashioned Fender style, which I incorporated some of the techniques that I had learned while working there. However. the first prototype had a 5 piece laminated neck (3/4” maple center, outlined with 1/6” ebony & mahogany outer halves) with a fretless rosewood fingerboard. It sounded real deep and dark. Compared to the second Bassic Bass, that had a solid rock maple neck with a fretless rosewood fingerboard, which sounded very defined and articulate. A Rosewood fingerboard was a natural choice for its a little warmer, lighter & less dense (than ebony, which has a tighter brighter sound). I later went back, to test and see how much a difference in sound it would make if I installed frets on the fingerboard. I knew that it was going to dampen the sound a little bit…but I couldn’t believe how much. It dampened the full rich acoustic bass sound by about 20%, but gave it more attack (good for a more rock or pop sound) along with a warmer more articulate sound, than the solid body electric bass.
For Top & Body materials I experimented with using the standard musical instrument tonewoods. And again from experience chose tonewoods that would help deliver a warm well defined and articulate sound (see our Tonewoods page).
For the Electronics, I knew that any kind of acoustic bass instrument would have to be amplified in order to be played amongst others. So with that I knew I would have to employ an acoustic instrument pickup system. Plus I knew that neither magnetic pickups nor under the saddle piezo pickups would deliver that deep warm sound I was after. So I contacted Dieter Kaudel at K&K Sound to see if he had any ideas, hence I been installing K&K acoustic pickups for a number of years in guitars, resonators, fiddles, etc. for customers. I have always loved the warm acoustic sound they reproduce from the actual sound of the instrument they are installed in. So Dieter at K&K helped me and came up with an electronic system both (passive & active) that would deliver that full warm acoustic sound I was after. Our internal acoustic passive pickups deliver a very full and fat low-end with a sweet articulate woody high in the upper register (see our Preamps page for more info).
All our instruments are Handmade here in the USA. And we employ no CNC machines. I have always been drawn to the early artist and craftsmen that continued a tradition of a true artistry form of building, using old world techniques that was not only consistent but uniquely beautiful both musically and functionally. Those are the instruments that are most sought after and most valued even by today’s standards. When I was younger I had the great opportunity to work side by side with some of the world’s Master Builders including the Dopera Bros, (Dobro Resonator Guitars), Ren Ferguson (Ren Ferguson Guitars & Banjos) and Mr. Leo Fender (Fender Musical Instruments, Music Man and G&L Guitars). I picked up a lot of ideas and construction techniques from them that I use today. I remember while working for Mr. Leo Fender at Music Man, asking him, “Do you think we will start using CNC machines like all the others are now doing?” He said “Never…will we continue to build a handmade instrument as always, with consistent care and quality vs. production numbers.”
So here I am today, carrying out that same consistent care and quality tradition.
Blue Note Woodworks LLC
About the Bassic Bass
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Blue Note Woodworks
Gold Hill, OR USA
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