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Meet Bass Tech, Chris Brandt

Chris Brandt has been my bass tech for well over a decade. His knowledge
and skills as a tech are second to none, but he also has limitless insight into
the continued development of this instrument, and I believe his concepts will
provide great food for thought for any player.

Jake Kot, Editor

Meet Bass Tech, Chris Brandt

Back in 1963, when I was in the 7th grade, my love affair with the guitar was already in full bloom and I increasingly found myself drawn to the electric guitar. I was attracted to its mysterious power but I had never actually played one and for me at the time, the electric guitar seemed to have a sort of taboo around it. I’d been loyally reading Sing Out magazine because I dug the folk scene and back then there seemed to be a prejudice against the electric guitar. Back then the electric guitar was not as universally accepted as it is to day as Bob Dylan had a chance to when he first played his Strat at the Newport folk festival in19?? And so many people got upset. Well, I didn’t have money to buy one so when I was in the eighth grade, I made one . I copied a Mostrite because I liked the heavily sculpted body. A local music store had a real one and I went back over and over again so I could study every detail. It was the only way I could figure out how to make one. There was no teaching material at that time and there was no one to answer my questions. It came out very well and a few years later in spite of my age it helped me get a job as a repairman. I’ve been working on guitars and basses ever since. Now I’m in my mid 50s and I’ve been lucky enough to see the incredible evolution of the electric bass, which has arguably gone through more reinvention then the electric guitar.

The bass player today is now in an unprecedented environment of choices. The efforts and creativity of so many people have shaped the bass world light years beyond its early beginnings. Wood, graphite fiber, plastics, metals, finish materials, passive pickups, active pickups, even pizzo, synth, and photo optical systems, not to mention different bridges, gears, and control systems are all part of the scene and it can make your head swim. So many tantalizing possibilities.

The Twelfth Fret is the shop I own devoted entirely to craftsmanship and I love it when I can help someone get to where they are trying to go. Whether a job is little or large it almost always involves collaboration. Even for a straight forward set up I want to know about the person’s playing style, goals for their action and of course the kind of strings they will use. Collaboration is a core part of my work, and collaboration between players and builder/designers has always been where the rubber meets the road. The totally remarkable evolution of electric instruments always resulted from this and still does. I’ve watched many, many musicians first come into my shop and soon discover to what a great extent luthiery can add to their own quest to be better players. And I’ve also seen over and over again that figuring out how to help a player is what helps a luthier become a better luthier. I’ve spent years collaborating with many players. It is all worthy of a great deal of observation and thought, from designs, use of materials, the effects of stress and wear, adjustment issues, repair issues, and customizing. It is a world unto itself, and grows larger and more interesting the more one learns.

This is my first venture writing a column and I hope to do so in the same spirit of collaboration which so often seems to bring out the very best. I plan to explore what makes the electric bass the truly remarkable instrument that it is. As a part of this exploration, I would like to throw open a question to you, the reader. I am eager to see what comes back from this question and I look forward to incorporating it into the next article. So here goes…….

A magnetic pickup on an electric bass (or guitar) can not hear wood resonance yet if you plug it in and stand back and listen you CAN hear wood resonance. How does the pickup do it?

Send me your best answer and until the next article….SAY TUNED!

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