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Gear Impressions and Luthier Spotlight With Jake Wolf: Ritter Basses Cora 5-String

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Review by Jake Wolf
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It only takes one look at a Ritter bass to know that you’re beholding something special. Jens Ritter hand crafts his spectacular basses in his small workshop in rural Germany, and in the last couple of years, it’s become clear that Jens is at the forefront of an evolutionary quantum leap in the bass making world. His new world/old world approach fuses high tech materials and modern design with traditional, old school luthiery methods. Impressed not only by his elegant, organic designs and his outrageous wood supply, but also by the fact that almost everything in his basses is built and/or designed by him (including his pickups and preamps) I was able to persuade Jens to send me his latest creation; his new Cora model, co-designed by Josh Dunham, bassist for Prince.

Dunham approached Ritter about building a bass that combines Ritter’s signature look and features with a more straightforward jazz bass layout. Since all Ritters are made by hand to clients’ specifications and can be ordered with a myriad of options, the only thing that really differentiates the Cora from Jens’ Classic or Roya models is the body shape. The Cora still retains Ritter’s signature look, but has a shorter upper horn and slightly downsized body for aesthetic and ergonomic purposes. This particular bass sports Ritter’s own slimbucker pickups housed in Bavarian maple covers, and a preamp custom for Dunham’s specific requests (more on that later). Also, this bass has custom narrow string spacing and a 34.5” scale. To put it mildly, the Cora is visually striking. The Carrera white finish, as Jens explains, is actually white pigment suspended in lacquer, as opposed to more common white paint. Ritter feels that this creates a more stunning pure white finish and I have to say, I never knew “white” could have so much richness and depth! The light tones of the Bavarian maple fingerboard and pickup covers compliment the white finish beautifully. The tuning pegs, bridge hardware and control knobs are coated in distressed 24k gold that Jens calls “Scratchy”. I was quite impressed by the basses’ look of distinction and elegant simplicity. Underneath that lustrous white finish, the Cora features a highly flamed maple neck, and a 1 piece swamp ash body.

Ritter designs the electronics for his basses, and they typically feature extremely high quality components, with options such as “quad coil masterbucker” pickups, and on-board parametric equalizers. This Cora’s electronics however are refreshingly simple, and are laid out in a more standard format. The preamp’s 3 band equalizer offers a unique approach to tone shaping, one that came from a specific request from Dunham for this bass. Its extraordinariness lies mostly in the mid control: because it’s centered at 400 Hz, it essentially functions as a low mid control, compared to the higher mid frequency point of more common onboard preamps. Again, this bass is tailored primarily for Josh Dunham’s particular needs and specifications, and I found the mid control very helpful for wrangling the lower mids, a range that has dramatic affect on where a bass sits in a mix. Unfortunately this comes at the expense of being able to tailor the rest of the midrange very effectively, but as Jens says, ‘any of his basses can be ordered with specs that best serve the client’s needs’.

Playability-wise, when I first strapped on the Cora I was struck with how comfortable it was. I’ve played a handful of Ritters, and this one just seemed to just melt into my body more than the others, which is really saying something, considering Ritter’s knack for ergonomics. Weighing a hair over 9 pounds, it balanced perfectly both on a strap, and seated. The neck shape on the Cora is a little meaty, but in no way is it slow or bulky. It simply has a bit more meat due to its rounded C shape, with slightly thicker shoulders than I’m used to. Both tonally and ergonomically, I appreciated the solidity and heft that the extra wood in the neck added. One interesting aspect of playability that I struggled with has to do with the pickup shape. Because they are elliptical in shape, and not flat on the top edge as most jazz pickups are, I found it hard to anchor my thumb the way I normally would. It’s a small issue, but it made the bass a little tougher to adjust to when playing. Dunham custom spec’d the narrow string spacing, which is notably tighter than most any jazz bass I’ve played. This made fingerstyle playing highly economical, but felt a tad cramped and made thumbstyle playing difficult for me. Basses can be ordered from Ritter with practically any string spacing.

I was amazed by how alive and resonant the Cora felt when played unplugged. The whole bass vibrated acoustically in a clear and lively way. Plugged in, the Cora shows its “jazz bass on steroids” colors. Big and muscular, with a dry focus and some serious upper mid grind and bite, the Cora would have little trouble punching through a busy mix. The low B sounded great and matched the tone of the other strings very well. Like I mentioned earlier, the mid control is centered pretty low by onboard preamp standards. Utilizing the mid and bass control in conjunction actually produces a wide variety of tones in the “money region”. Adding treble brings out some of the basses’ aggressive nature, and is well suited for manipulating its inherently bright nature. Overall, the Cora felt incredibly responsive; it was one of those basses that I like to say “has E.S.P.”. By this I mean that notes seem to jump out of the bass practically before you play them. The Cora also has a mean slap tone; very muscular and punchy, it made slap lines sound great (despite my struggles to slap on such narrow spacing).

The Cora is the most straightforward and “conventional” Ritter bass I have encountered, and I loved its elegant simplicity. Certainly a departure from Jens’ more elaborate and extravagant exotic basses, this particular Cora represents a foray into a more standard market that working pro’s can readily appreciate. Fans of high end 5 string jazz basses now have yet another wonderful and different option to choose from, especially those that aren’t looking for a bass that visually upholds the Fender jazz template. Base price for the Cora model is about $5520 USD.

For more information on this and other Ritter basses, visit them online.

Jake Wolf welcomes your comments and questions… drop him a line

Bass Videos

String Instrument Humidifiers

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String Instrument Humidifiers

String Instrument Humidifiers

After living in some very humid parts of the country for decades, we moved to a dryer, much sunnier location. As a result, I started noticing some fret sprout on my string instruments and recently did a video on fret sprout correction.

It occurred to me that I should take a more preventative approach to string instrument humidification. Of course, I turned to my instrument maintenance experts, Music Nomad Equipment Care, for a solution and they suggested their Humitar series. (Note: They sent two press samples and I purchased the remainder online.)

Join me as I look at these useful tools for keeping my string instruments in tip-top condition.

The Humitar series is available online at Music Nomad Equipment Care, as well as Amazon.com

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Bass Videos

Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

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Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

CrystalBright Rombo Picks

PR Sample

Playing bass with a pick is still a touchy subject in our community. I believe you should be able to use whatever you need to get your sound. Even though I mostly play with my fingers, I like to check out innovative new picks that might have something new to offer, sonically speaking.

Judith and Carlos from Rombo recently contacted me about a new material called CrystalBright that they have been researching for the last 12 months and offered to send some prototype picks. After trying them out, I put together this video with my findings.

For more info check out @rombopicks

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Gear

New Joe Dart Bass From Sterling By Music Man

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Sterling by Music Man introduces the Joe Dart Artist Series Bass (“Joe Dart”), named after and designed in collaboration with the celebrated Vulfpeck bassist.

Above photo credit: JORDAN THIBEAUX

This highly-anticipated model marks the debut of the Dart bass in the Sterling by Music Man lineup, paying homage to the Ernie Ball Music Man original that all funk players know and love. The bass embodies many of the original model’s distinctive features, from its iconic minimalist design to the passive electronics.

Joe Dart Artist Series Bass

The design process prioritized reliability, playability, and accessibility at the forefront. Constructed from the timeless Sterling body, the Dart features a slightly smaller neck profile, offering a clean tone within a comfortable package. The body is crafted from soft maple wood for clarity and warmth while the natural finish emphasizes the simple yet unique look.

Engineered for straightforward performance, this passive bass features a ceramic humbucking bridge pickup and a single ‘toaster’ knob for volume control. Reliable with a classic tone, it’s perfect for playing in the pocket. The Dart is strung with the all-new Ernie Ball Stainless Steel Flatwound Electric Bass Strings for the smoothest feel and a mellow sound.

Joe Dart Artist Series Bass

The Sterling by Music Man Joe Dart Bass is a special “Timed Edition” release, exclusively available for order on the Sterling by Music Man website for just one month. Each bass is made to order, with the window closing on May 31st and shipping starting in November. A dedicated countdown timer will indicate the remaining time for purchase on the product page. Additionally, the back of the headstock will be marked with a “2024 Crop” stamp to commemorate the harvest year for this special, one-of-a-kind release. 

The Joe Dart Bass is priced at $399.99 (MAP) and can be ordered globally at https://sterlingbymusicman.com/products/joe-dart. 

To learn more about Joe Dart, visit the official Vulfpeck artist site here https://www.vulfpeck.com/.


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Gear Reviews

The Frank Brocklehurst 6-String Fretless Bass Build

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The Frank Brocklehurst 6 String Fretless Bass Build

A few months ago, my Ken Bebensee 6-string fretted bass needed some TLC. You know, the one rocking those Pink Neon strings! I scoured my Connecticut neighborhood for a top-notch luthier and got pointed to Frank Brocklehurst, F Brock Music. He swung by my place, scooped up the bass, and boom, returned it the next day, good as new. Not only that, he showed up with a custom 5-string fretted bass that blew me away. I couldn’t resist asking if he could whip up a 6-string fretless for me. 

Alright, let’s break down the process here. We’ve got our raw materials: Mahogany, Maple, and Holly. Fun fact – the Mahogany and Maple have been chilling in the wood vault for a solid 13 years. Frank is serious about his wood; they buy it, stash it away, and keep an eye on it to make sure it’s stable.  

First up, they’re tackling the Mahogany. Frank glues it together, then lets it sit for a few days to let everything settle and the glue to fully dry. After that, it’s onto the thickness planer and sander to get it nice and flat for the CNC machine. The CNC machine’s the real star here – it’s gonna carve out the body chambers and volume control cavity like a pro.

While the Mahogany’s doing its thing, Frank goes onto the neck core. Three pieces of quartersawn maple are coming together for this bad boy. Quartersawn means the grain’s going vertical. He is also sneaking in some graphite rods under the fingerboard for stability and to avoid any dead spots. The truss rod is going to be two-way adjustable, and the CNC machine’s doing its magic to make sure everything’s just right.

Screenshot

Now, onto the design phase. Frank uses CAD software to plan out the body shape, neck pocket, chambering, and those cool f-holes. I had this idea for trapezoid F-holes, just to do something different. The CAD software also helps us map out the neck shape, graphite channels, and truss-rod channel with pinpoint accuracy.

Once everything’s planned out, it’s CNC time again. Frank cuts out the body outline, neck pocket, and the trapezoid F-holes. Then it’s a mix of hand sanding and power tools to get that neck just how we like it. Oh, and those f holes? We’re going for trapezoids of different sizes – gotta keep things interesting.

Next step: gluing that neck into the pocket with some old-school hide glue. It’s got great tonal transfer and can be taken apart later if needed. Then it’s onto hand-carving that neck-body transition.

For the custom-made bridge, Frank uses brass for definition and Ebony for tonal transfer and that warm, woody sound.

BTW, for tunes, Frank went with Hipshot Ultralights with a D Tuner on the low B. This way I can drop to a low A which is a wonderful tone particularly if you are doing any demolition around your house! 

Now it’s time for the side dots. Typically, on most basses, these dots sit right in the middle of the frets. But with this bass, they’re placed around the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 12th frets.

Frank’s got his pickup hookup. Since the pickup he was building wasn’t ready, he popped in a Nordstrand blade to give it a whirl.

It sounded good, but I was itching for that single-coil vibe! And speaking of pickups, Frank showed me the Holly cover he was cutting to match, along with all the pink wire – talk about attention to detail!

A couple of things, while it is important for me to go passive, it is equally important for me to just go with a volume knob. Tone knobs are really just low-pass filters and the less in the way of a pure sound for me, the better. 

Finally, it’s string time! As usual, I went for the DR Pink Neon strings. Hey, I even have matching pink Cons…Both low tops and high!

Screenshot

Once we’ve got everything tuned up and settled, we’ll give it a day or two and then tweak that truss rod as needed. And voila, we’ve got ourselves a custom-made bass ready to rock and roll.

I want to thank Frank Brocklehurst for creating this 6 string beast for me. 

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Gear Reviews

Review Transcript: BITE Custom Bass – The Black Knight PP Bass

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Review - BITE Custom Bass - The Black Knight PP Bass

This is a written transcript of our video review of the BITE Custom Bass Black Knight PP Bass originally published on March 4, 2024

BITE Custom Bass – The Black Knight PP Bass Review…

Bass Musician Magazine did a review on a Steampunk bass from BITE Guitars about three years ago, it was an amazing instrument, and we were very impressed. Now we’re happy to bring you another BITE bass, the Black Knight PP.

Everybody needs a P-type bass, it’s the standard of bass. If you’re recording, they want you to have a P bass. So why not have something that gives you a little more by having two instead of one P pickup. That’s the idea of this bass, it’s the first thing that leaps out: the double P pickup configuration.

Installing two of their 1000 millivolt split-coil pickups, BITE then went one step further and wired them up in a 4-way parallel/series circuit, a look at the controls reveal a 4-way rotary selector:

The first position, marked “B”, gives you the bridge pickup by itself.

The second position, marked “P”, gives you the bridge and neck pickups in parallel mode, that’s the traditional J-type circuit, it reduces output due to the physical law of parallel circuits.

Position number 3 is marked “N”, it gives you the neck pickup by itself.

And finally, number 4, marked “S”, gives your bridge and neck in a series (humbucking) mode which adds up resistances and thus boosts output. The other two controls are master volume and master tone.

What’s more, like every BITE bass, this one also has a reinforced headstock heel designed to give it extra output and sustain. The BITE website features a graph and explanation of what they have done to the heel, as compared to traditional headstocks.

A look at the body reveals a beautiful Black Blast body finish and underneath that we have alder wood. The bass has a matching headstock with a 4-in-line tuner setup and the traditional bite out of it, so everybody will know what kind of bass you’re playing. The pickguard is 3-ply black, the neck is vintage tinted hard maple and it has a satin speed finish at the back which keeps your thumb from sticking.

On top of that, there’s a clear-coated roasted black locust fretboard with black blocks marking the frets. The nut is a black Graph Tec nut, we’ve got diamond dome control knobs, and the tuners are lightweight compacts with cloverleaf buttons and a 1:17 ratio precision gear. The bridge is a Gotoh brass bridge with 19-millimeter string spacing.

Overall measurements: we’ve got a standard 34″ scale, a 1.65″ width nut and a C neck profile. This bass weighs 8.2 pounds, or 3,7 kilograms for our metric friends, and it uses standard 18% nickel silver frets.

Taking a closer look at the sound, this bass is a joy to play. The BITE proprietary 1000 millivolt pickups deliver an extraordinary amount of output which is surprising considering this is a passive instrument. You may even want to set your amp to active mode because of all of the juice you’re getting out of this guy.

The tonal possibilities are very versatile, it’s a straight P if you want but also much more with those different arrangements of the circuitry. So why have multiple basses when you’ve got one that can give you your basic P plus a lot more?

To sum it up, the Black Knight PP is an amazing instrument. The attention to detail that BITE puts into their basses is second to none. This bass is also amazingly balanced and gorgeous to hold and feel with the satin neck finish.

For more information, visit online at bite.guitars/product/black-knight-pp

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