Interview with Luthiers George and Marcel Furlanetto, F Bass –
F Bass – Past, Present and Future…
KG: George, F Bass has been around for many years. How and when did you get started?
GF: A friend introduced me to guitar when I was 16; that was 1967, right in the middle of guitar-centred, rock music era. I loved it instantly, learning from the instructional Ventures records. Throw into that mix my interest in improving things, and I started tinkering with guitars. I think I have to credit my parents’ inherited genes; my dad was a very good artist and craftsperson, as well as being able to repair almost anything, and my mom had a fabulous, natural singing voice.
In 1969 I started doing guitar repairs in a well-established, local music store. By a stroke of luck (mine), their repairperson had been AWOL for two weeks. In 1976 I opened my own repair business and built my first electric guitar that year. The first electric bass build came in 1978.
KG: Marcel, when did you join your father’s business and what prompted you to do so? What would you say your role is at F Bass right now?
MF: While growing up I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by all facets of music, but it was gear itself that really drew my attention. I was fascinated with the construction of guitars & basses, their history/origin, the tonal variation between wood species, strings, hardware, and many other components. It was actually a little embarrassing how excited I got over wood…there’s a better way to put that…but I haven’t found it yet. At the age of 16 my father guided me through my first proper guitar and bass builds, it was at this point that he allowed me to get my hands dirty with F Basses. I started off on knob duty (yup, those are handmade as well) and graduated to various stages of production before delving into business studies. After snagging a couple of diplomas in Business by 2010, I turned my full attention to F Bass Artist Relations, Customer Support, Marketing, R&D, Sales, etc.
KG: Who are some of the artists you have worked with in the past and how would you they have helped to shape F Bass?
GF: It started out with a few local bassists until a mutual friend in Montreal introduced me to UZEB in 1982. I first built synth loaded guitars for Michel Cusson, the guitarist in the band, then in 1983 I convinced Alain to play a 5-string rather than the 32-fret 4-string he was playing. The relationship blossomed as he and I had similar tastes in bass and tone. He is very analytical in all aspects of his music and instrumentation, so he helped in the development of his signature fretless model as well as his fretted. As a highly respected and visible artist in the bass community, he helped immensely in the sale of basses from that time on.
The other prominent artists at that time were, Marcus Miller, Tom Hamilton of AEROSMTH, Mike Porcaro of TOTO, and Myron Dove of SANTANA
MF: We’ve worked with a handful of artists from local instructors to players touring the globe relentlessly. They’ve all contributed to the F Bass design, influenced sales, and of course shaped the overall feel of the “company”, which feels more like a massive family.
F Bass has been well known in the Jazz world for decades, though we’ve been expanding into so many genres/sub-genres/sub-sub genres with the help of several talented artists joining us in recent years. To name a few: Joe Cleveland (Rita Ora, Nick Jonas), Michael League (Snarky Puppy), Charles Spearin (Broken Social Scene, Do Make Say Think, Feist), and Ryan Stasik (Umphrey’s McGee).
KG: How has the industry changed for Luthiers over the recent years?
GF: The Internet has brought a lot of knowledge of guitar (and bass) construction to the forefront, as well as educating the buying customer, that is resulting in the proliferation of individual bass builders. So competition has stiffened, but the buyer has a wider awareness of the product and what they really want in a bass.
MF: There have always been a slew of badass Luthiers out there and it’s great to see Social Media outlets offering platforms for everyone to share their work. The community seems to be growing faster than ever and it’s fantastic to see so many pockets within our niche market being filled. Everyone is pushing each other slightly outside of their comfort zones and it’s amounting to so many fresh ideas coming to fruition.
KG: How would you guide a first-time buyer in purchasing their first F Bass or handmade bass? What questions should they ask themselves?
GF & MF: To shorten the process and turn it into a more positive one, we suggest speaking to a manufacturer/Luthier about your desired tone. They’ll be able to recommend wood and construction combos and gear you towards suitable models.
Once you’ve got a model/specs in your crosshairs, it’s recommended that you try the instrument out in person, if possible. If the bass sounds great unplugged, then you know you’re off to a great start. Make sure to test through a fairly transparent amp with the EQ set flat. Note: you’d be amazed at how much different strings and a proper set up can tweak your tone!
KG: Can you talk in general terms about the different choices in wood and how they affect tone? For body? Neck? Fingerboard?
MF: All wood used in our instruments is carefully selected and has to meet several criteria (size, weight, density, moisture content, overall quality, and aesthetics) before entering our shop doors. The standard 2pc Northern Ash or Swamp Ash body and 3pc quarter-sawn Maple necks offer the perfect canvas for painting varying tones. Ash lends itself well to a big/tight bottom end with clear high-end presence. Our 3-piece, quarter-sawn Hard Canadian Maple necks and fingerboards bring in rich mids that cut through a mix and offer great stability, top-end clarity, and a snappy attack. Depending on the desired outcome, the tone can then be coloured through varying construction methods and/or by substituting different wood species.
- Alder body or body wings add lows and low mids
– 1 piece body over 2 or 3 pc adds resonance
- -Rosewood fingerboard rounds off the highs with an overall darker/warmer tone
- Macassar Ebony fingerboards tighten up the low end and add compression…this paired with its quick attack bodes well for chords and quick runs
- Dense exotic wood top (like Macassar Ebony or Ziricote) adds compression and amounts to a more focused tone
…This list is quite extensive as we offer nearly 20 different species of wood. Contacting us to discuss the tone of your bass is strongly suggested…we’re always here to help.
KG: For those of us who care about aesthetics, what are some of the options we have in making our bass a better representation of who we are as artists and musicians?
MF: Wood combos aren’t only great for attaining a player’s voice, but for aesthetics as well. We have an abundance of neat fingerboard, pickup shell, and top wood options in addition to a library of finishes. The finishes range anywhere from transparent colours with enhanced grain, opaque vintage Fender pastels, both traditional and vertically faded bursts…we’ve even had an Elvis/Madonna/MJ airbrush job come through. Oh, did I mention fingerboard inlays or wooden pickguards? The list goes on and if you haven’t seen it from F Bass, chances are our production team (Chadd, Dan, George, Jon, Paul, Rich, and Sarah) can make it happen.
KG: F Bass has been a long time exhibitor at the annual NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show in California. How does it, and other trade shows, help a small bass manufacturing company like F Bass?
GF: NAMM is a very good arena to display our basses to those that have not seen them before, and to show any new developments that we’ve made. It’s also an excellent networking environment for meeting and collaborating with artists, manufacturers, and suppliers of bass components and sharing in the camaraderie of other bass Luthiers.
KG: While you’re based out of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, I was surprised to see a full page of authorized dealers and retailers on your website. How many countries are you in now?
MF: We’re proud to have over 30 dealers in 17 different countries carrying F Basses. While in depth phone calls and emails are always fun and helpful, there’s nothing like trying the real thing in person.
KG: Tell us about the BASS CAMP you’re running this year.
MF: A little blurb from our website if you will:
We’ve teamed up with our friends at Markbass, LaBella, and Long & McQuade to support the 2nd annual ‘Ultimate Bass Camp’ featuring F Bass artists Alain Caron and Hadrien Feraud.
The week-long camp will be held at the world renowned Orford Arts Centre in Mont Orford, Quebec, Canada, from August 15 to 20, 2016. A few of us from F Bass will also join in to host clinics on live sound & wood/bass construction in addition to the artist clinics.
Between lessons, evening artist performances, and impromptu kickball should the mood strike…bassists will have free rein on our jam room loaded with F Basses, Markbass amps, and oodles of our favourite pedals.
The camp is open to all ages and skill levels, and two groups will be made to ensure everyone takes away as much as possible from the clinics. Details on pricing/registry can be found on our website at www.fbass.com
KG: George, you’re still having fun and playing with your buddies. Tell us a bit about your band and how long you’ve been playing together.
GF: I happened to fall into a band where the two requirements were that you needed to be Italian and have a mortgage; the latter showed stability and longevity. I have been with them for 33 years. We all get along, including the wives. We all have gone on vacation together (eleven of us), which seems logistically impossible. It’s a fun band as we get to play a huge variety of music, from polkas and waltzes, R&B, Latin, Portuguese, Jazz standards, dance, etc. and I get to try/test my basses live. We all have become incredibly good friends
KG: Where would you like to see F Bass in the future?
GF & MF: As an ongoing strong entity in the bass community, where bassists would look to for their ultimate instrument. As a forward-looking company that constantly evolves in small, secure increments with new ideas and materials.