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Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Tony Walters, Mana Basso

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Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Tony Walters, Mana Basso…

How did you get your start in music?

I’ve loved the sound and feeling of the bass ever since I was a child. However, I didn’t get my first bass until I was around 18 or 19.

Are you still an active player?

Yes, I play in a Zimbabwean band, De Solution, as well as some other local gigs in my hometown.

How did you get started as a Luthier? When did you build your first bass? 

I’ve been a furniture maker for some time, and, well, I’m sure you can fill in the rest. My first few basses of course weren’t up to the caliber of what I’m building now, but the sound of even my very first one (which I still own) was tremendous, and I was hooked. I completed my first bass in 2003.

Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Tony Walters, Mana Basso - Neck Woods-Tapering2

How did you learn the art of woodworking/Luthier? Who would you consider a Mentor? 

Woodworking runs in my family, and I had a few jobs early on that helped accelerate my learning, for which I am very grateful. As for building basses, for the most part I’m self-taught. I’ve done a lot of reading and research into luthery, past and present, and consider the upright bass/violin family of instruments a large influence on my designs. I would consider Carl Thompson my biggest bass luthier influence.

How do you select the woods you choose to build with?

Very thoroughly…. especially the neck woods. I look for consistent grain along the board, I look for the proper angle of grain in relation to the surface so I can capture the greatest strength and stability from the wood. I do quite a bit of tap testing to help determine sonic properties, and incorporate what I’ve learned both from my experience and others’ as to selecting excellent tone woods. I also revel in the availability of local, non-commercially harvested hardwoods in my region; they can rival the beauty of even the most exotic of woods, without the negative environmental or humanitarian impacts. 

Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Tony Walters, Mana Basso - Body Neck-BodyBack Contour_2

How about pickups? What pickups did you use in the past? What electronics do you use right now? 

I personally prefer passive pickups, as they capture more of the distinct nuances and personality of the instrument. Active pickups tend to overpower the instrument’s sound as a whole, kind of like yelling over the top of an engaging conversation. I have come to prefer various Nordstrand and Bartolini pickups, and as for pre-amps, I most often use Aguilar three-band EQ systems in my basses.

Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Tony Walters, Mana Basso - AstonBarrettJr RastaPhiWho were some of the first well-known musicians who started playing your basses? 

Shiah David Coore, bassist for Damian Marley, and Aston Barrett Jr of the Wailers and Lauren Hill both play Mana Basso basses. I’m currently developing a bass for Nick Daniels III of Dumpstaphunk, who has been a pleasure to work with and get to know. Keep your ears peeled, Nick should be playing his Mana Basso later this year!

How do you develop a signature or custom bass for an artist?

Well, you’ve got to get to know what kind of sound and range of sounds they need, the type of set-up they like, particularly string spacing and action, and what type of neck shaping feels good to them. From there you can dial in the aesthetics, the form, wood species, and other details that suit their style. It is always amazing to get to know each bass player exclusively throughout the process.

What are a few things that you are proud about your instruments and that you would consider unique in your instruments?

The design and construction of my basses is of the highest grade; carefully thought out, planned, and executed. A few of the unique details lie in the neck transitions to both the body and headstock, and in the headstock itself. These are design considerations that increase sound transmission, ease of playability, and neck stability. It is also critical to me to be able to offer low, silky smooth action, to allow for greater finesse.

Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Tony Walters, Mana Basso - Glade Carving

Which one of the basses that you build is your favorite one?

Now, now – that’s like asking me which one of my kids is my favorite!

Can you give us a word of advice to young Luthiers who are just starting out?

It is a path full of rewards, and will test your ability for patience. The wood will throw you many surprises, and make you think about it in ways that you have never thought before. You will be nervous as hell when you are about to take that step that needs to come out right, or so much prior work will be lost.   So take your time, use your power of forethought, and by all means… sneak up on that final edge, don’t take too much wood out at a time!! Good quality tools are worth the extra cost. Most of all, be humble and listen for the whispers offering wisdom in your daily experiences. For we are the students, the instrument and its varied mediums are our teachers, our Sifu.

Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Tony Walters, Mana Basso - Glade6S_1fullFr-Alpha

What advice would you give a young musician trying to find his perfect bass?

Follow your heart, and be moved. Look for quality construction. Inspect closely the body-neck join areas, and headstocks that are glued on (typically with a scarf joint) can be problematic over time. Multi-laminate necks, when done right, are much stronger and more stable than single piece necks. Most of all, play from the heart and for the love of it, be patient, and all will fall into place.

What is biggest success for you and for your company?

Though I’ve been building basses for over a decade, I established the Mana Basso fine electric bass company only about three years ago. I am still very much on the upward trajectory, and every year is full of new growth and excitement.

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Are you preparing something new, some new model or new design? Or maybe some new gear amps, etc. 

I am currently working on a flagship model that I plan to unveil later this year. It will have predetermined woods, hardware, and electronics to embody all of the trademark Mana Basso characteristics, maintaining the high level quality that my basses are known for, yet also allow for shorter build times. This will be the model that is targeted for music stores, while I continue to build customs as well.

What are your future plans?

To grow. Mana Basso basses are just beginning to become known, and they speak for themselves. I think as long as I keep up my dedication, thoughtfulness, and integrity, and with good help, Mana Basso will surely grow. I’m currently scouting for a new apprentice since business has noticeably picked up after the recent NAMM show.

Is there anything else you would like to share that we have not included?

Mana Basso basses can currently be found at The Amp Shop / LA Bass Exchange in North Hollywood CA, and I am eagerly trying to build new stock for McKenzie River Music in Eugene OR, so look for them soon there as well.

Woo Hoo Bass Players!

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Bass CDs

New Album: Ben Mortiz, MORENO

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New Album: Ben Mortiz, MORENO

The Chilean bassist, producer and sociologist, Ben Mortiz, celebrates the launch of his latest studio work, “MORENO” an album that mixes jazz, soul, and funk following the characteristic Latin style of  Mortiz. The artist completely produced the album under the label “Fallen Lab Records” in the south of Chile.

“MORENO” brings deep and smooth sounds, expressing a sophisticated and elegant Latin vibe. You will find meditative harmonies and joyful melodic voices. The record’s core is the human vibration that Mortiz feels from the Latin American music. The Caribbean rhythms and strong Latin percussions are the musical glue in every song that emerges with the force of the electric bass.

“MORENO” creates a real connection between corporal reactions and mind sensations, always in reference to the originality of Mortiz to fuse modern and classic Latin sounds.

For more information, visit online at danielbenmortiz.com/

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Gear News

New Gear: Phil Jones Bass X2C Dual Compressor/Effects Loop

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New Gear: Phil Jones Bass X2C Duel Compressor/Effects Loop

Step Into X2C With Phil Jones Bass Dual Compressor/Effects Loop…

Phil Jones Bass latest pedal innovation is the X2C Dual Compressor with Dual Effects Loop for performance and recording. The X2C incorporates advanced compressor circuit technology and provides comprehensive tone control with a dual crossover feature which divides the signal into frequency bands ranging from 100Hz to 500Hz, ensuring exceptional clarity and dynamics in tone refinement. 

With insert jacks on each band, the X2C unlocks limitless creativity, enabling players to use various FX pedals for custom tone sculpting. Additionally, it functions as an electronic crossover, ideal for driving high-performance, 2-way bass rigs.

PJB’s Dual-Band compression design is more flexible than standard single-band compressors and provides a more natural and transparent sound. It also provides greater control over shaping and managing dynamics where standard compressors affect the entire frequency spectrum of an audio signal.  

PJB’s dual compressor enables the player to shape specific frequency ranges of an audio signal which allows for compressing the low frequencies while preserving the high frequencies, or vice-versa. Treating the low-end with a dedicated band also allows for heavy compression without affecting the midrange frequencies, which carry the attack of the sound. 

Effects can be plugged into the insert jacks on the X2C and controlled separately. As an example, the lows can be adjusted separately for an overdrive pedal while the highs can be controlled for a chorus. 

Dividing the audio spectrum into fundamental frequencies and harmonics is also effective in the enrichment of slapping techniques. The low frequencies can be compressed without changing the dynamics of the “slap”. By controlling the low frequencies and focusing the attack on the slap the amplifier will sound louder while avoiding overloading of the amp or speakers. The low band can be compressed without the harmonics being affected. In addition, the send jacks can go to different amplifiers/speakers for a bi-amplification set up.

Compact and potent, the X2C embodies studio-grade excellence, setting a new standard for dynamic processing in an uncompromising, portable pedal. The street price is $359.99.

Visit online at www.pjbworld.com

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Bass CDs

New Album: CATTANEO, Tim Lefebvre, Andrea Lombardini, Hypersphere

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New Album: CATTANEO, Tim Lefebvre, Andrea Lombardini, Hypersphere

CATTANEO, TIM LEFEBVRE AND ANDREA LOMBARDINI PRESENT ‘HYPERSPHERE’ EP
The members of Buñuel, David Bowie’s band and a prominent electronic artist are united and have releases their first collaborative release via Freecom Hub.

Hypersphere is an EP created by CATTANEOTim Lefebvre and Andrea Lombardini. Following their conceptual milestone, a dream team of bass players and multi-instrumentalists created fragments of music, coexisting and complementing each other individually and altogether. Having been playing with CATTANEO since 2016, Andrea Lombardini describes the process of their work as “strong musical connection”. Starting with the fully improvised set featuring drum-machine and pedal effects. “Some of Paolo’s keyboards are homemade and he has very unique sounds” – explains Andrea. Getting Tim Lefebvre to produce the EP, the duo simultaneously started another vehicle of their collaboration.

Moving their work organically, three extraordinary musicians managed to reach an almost-perfect balance between sounds of guitar and bass with electronic instruments. Morphing together, numerous guitar riffs, loops of synthesizers. Dominating electronic sounds get united with a rock take, depicting dark moods and ethereal landscapes. All these elements work in tandem to create something new each time.

Order Hypersprehere here.

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Bass Events

Milt Hinton Institute for Bass Summer Camp in New Jersey

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Milt Hinton Institute for Bass sSummer Camp in New Jersey

Milt Hinton Institute for Bass Summer Camp in New Jersey…

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) will host the Milt Hinton Institute for Studio Bass, an exceptional summer music education program for teens, in residence at Montclair State University, in July 2024. Unique among music camps, the Hinton Institute is designed to support intermediate and advanced bass players ages 14 through 18, for a week of expert classes, performances, ensemble work, studio sessions, lectures, workshops and more. The camp will run from July 14 through July 20, 2024Registration is open December 16, 2023, through  June 7, 2024for more information on applying to the Milt Hinton Institute, please visit njpac.org/hinton. Student musicians will be required to submit a video of themselves playing two performance pieces during the application process. Need-based tuition scholarships are available.

Peter Dominguez, acclaimed bassist and Professor of Double Bass and Jazz Studies at University of Wisconsin–Madison, will serve as the Institute’s Artistic Director.  An extraordinary faculty of professionals from the music world — including Rufus Reid, Ben Williams, Luis Perdomo, Jeremy Smith, Sam Suggs, Martin Wind, Marcus McLaurine, Bill Moring, Mimi Jones, Emma Dayhuff, Diana Gannett, and Bill Crow — will  focus camp instruction on bass performance techniques and ensemble playing in a range of musical genres including classical, Latin and jazz. 

The camp is named for Milt Hinton (1910-2000) a prolific jazz bassist, studio musician and photographer whose career intersected with many of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. The Institute has been held biennially since 2014. It joined forces with the Arts Center this season in part to draw a larger faculty of professional bass players from among the many musicians living and working in the New York City area. Notable guest artists from the region are expected to visit with campers as well.    

“We’re very pleased to have this program be part of the larger vision of NJPAC and its extensive Arts Education offerings. The work being done by the Arts Center has a significant social impact” said David G. Berger, a lifelong friend of Hinton’s, whose Berger Family Foundation helped support the camp.  “That would have been extremely attractive to Milt. He wanted everybody to be involved with music — old and young, men and women, all colors, all creeds. Long before it was popular, that’s the way he lived his life — he welcomed everyone.”

“I grew up in the jazz festival business, and there was no one whose artistry matched his heart  better than Milt Hinton,” said John Schreiber, President and CEO of NJPAC. “He was a brilliant bassist and he also was a brilliant human being. He was the heartbeat of any band he played in and he exuded a kindness that to me exemplified the spirit of jazz.”

Known as “the dean of jazz bassists,” Hinton played with jazz greats from the early 1930s on, performing with Jabbo Smith, Eddie South, Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Erroll Garner, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and many others. Hinton also recorded with pop superstars including Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Bette Midler and Willie Nelson. Hinton also toured extensively, and in 1993, he was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Fellowship. He was also well known for his photography, through which he documented seven decades of jazz history. Hinton was renowned for his willingness to mentor young players; a scholarship program in his name was established by his friends and admirers on his 70th birthday. After Hinton’s passing, the Institute was conceived as a way to continue his work in supporting younger bass players. “Two of Milt’s favorite words — ‘cohesiveness’ and ‘sharing’ — are at the core of this week-long Institute that brings together emerging bassists who often are the singular players in their own community and school ensembles,” said Artistic Director Dominguez, (whose own career was advanced when he became one of the first winners of a Hinton Scholarship Competition  in 1981).  “To be a bass player is often to focus not on being a soloist, but on musical collaboration — making other musicians in an ensemble sound better. Bass players are the soul of ensemble playing, and to develop these young souls through arts education programming at NJPAC is both an honor for us and an important responsibility,” said David Rodriguez, NJPAC’s Executive Producer and Executive Vice President — and himself a well-known professional bass player.

The camp will be housed on the campus of Montclair State University in Montclair, where students will live, study and have the opportunity to take part in multiple performances. “Bringing the prestigious Milt Hinton Institute for Studio Bass to the campus of Montclair State University marks an exciting chapter for the College of the Arts, reinforcing our commitment to providing exceptional opportunities for young musicians,” said Daniel Gurskis, Dean of the College of the Arts. “With NJPAC as our partner, we look forward to creating an environment where passion meets skill, fostering a new generation of accomplished and versatile bassists. We are confident that the Institute will become a beacon, attracting talent from diverse backgrounds who are the future of bass music.”

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

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