Transforming from a master furniture craftsman to a maker of artisan-crafted bass guitars was an organic move for Eugene, Oregon’s Tony Walters, owner of Mana Basso Custom Basses. During the several years Walters built custom furniture for a variety of clients throughout Oregon and Washington, he also played electric bass in a number of bands in Portland and Eugene. Around 2010, out of a search for a more perfect instrument, Walters began building basses in his spare time. Along with incorporating old-world instrument-making elements into their construction, he began researching what he terms “the physics of sound, the mechanics of wood and the dynamic relationship therein.”
“To understand how to work with wood in an intimate setting is very rewarding to me,” Walters says. “I was trying to wrap my mind around how to capture sound through the woodworking process.”
His research included determining just the right woods, design characteristics and instrument setup that would achieve the best sound and playability. And with techniques derived from furniture making, he created a unique neck design to harness the greatest strength, stability and tonal capabilities of the wood. Shortly thereafter, Mana Basso was born.
Walters’ creative efforts are paying off and bassists are excited. He is currently creating a customized bass for Aston Barrett Jr., a bassist for Lauryn Hill and Julian Marley, and Nick Daniels III, bassist for Dumpstaphunk, a band that the New York Times once christened “the best funk band from New Orleans.” Shiah Coore, bassist for Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Rick Bouvette, bassist for Joy Tribe, and Harold “Hal” Henkel, multi-platinum-selling session bassist, all play Mana Basso basses and sing their praises.
“You are officially a Master Bass Maker,” Henkel told Walters upon discovering his line of basses. “Your street credentials have been upgraded to Baller Status!”