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Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Rob Elrick

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Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Rob Elrick-1

Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Rob Elrick

Rob Shares…

I’ve always preferred to remain behind the scenes, happy to let my instruments speak for themselves, as any viable instruments must.  I don’t believe in “personality driven” products, and prefer to stand behind my products, rather than in front of them.  Until NAMM made it impossible to do so, I almost always wore badges with fake names, not only in an effort to maintain anonymity, but because it afforded me the opportunity to receive honest feedback that would have likely never been proffered to me directly.  Regrettably, those days are gone…

How did you get your start in music?

At a very early age I developed an interest in my grandmothers piano and received some rudimentary instruction on it from her until my mother was able to acquire one for our home.  Shortly after, my brother and I began receiving lessons from one of the most peculiar sociopaths either of us have likely ever encountered.  In grade school I studied cornet, eventually transitioning to trombone and playing bass trombone though my first year of undergraduate studies.  I began playing bass guitar at 14 and almost immediately began playing in bands that practiced daily after school.  That continued through graduation, after which everyone began going off in different directions.  I studied music at a state university before eventually finding my way to Berklee in Boston, where I completed a bachelors in music.

Are you still an active player?

Until about 2 years ago I was still pretty active as a player.  I don’t consider myself retired from playing as I still play regularly, but I am between “regular” gigs.  I’ve found that the older I get, the more selective I’ve become about who I want to play with, but I do have a few irons in the fire.

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

Before going to Berklee I had put together two bass guitars from parts that had become my main instruments.  They were significantly re-worked, but by no means “built” by me, simply modified and assembled.  While enrolled at Berklee, around 1988 or 89, I began playing 6-string bass, and while I had been lucky enough to obtain a very high quality instrument, which I continued to play until some time in 1992, it wasn’t long before I started searching for another bass, one that resolved some of the deficiencies present in that instrument.

In 1992 I began fabricating prototypes that would become the earliest versions of the Elrick bass.  I began playing them in 1992 and they debuted at NAMM in 1993.

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

I have never worked under another builder so have no one I’d name as a mentor.  I have been influenced primarily by my perception of what makes a practical and functional instrument.  What features are complimentary, or “needed”, from a players perspective and, just as importantly, what features are not needed.

Prior to attending Berklee I was a scholarship student at the Center for Creative Studies / College of Art and Design (CCS/CAD) in Detroit.  I was a crafts department major at CCS, which essentially amounted to being a materials major.  While there I practiced many disciplines, I worked in the foundry, welded, blew glass, worked with wood, worked in metal smithing and as a potter.  With such a diverse background in hand fabrication, I was confident in my abilities when it came time to begin prototyping my first instruments.

Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Rob Elrick-3

How do you make your wood selections? 

Primary woods for an instrument are selected for their individual tonal properties but also for how they compliment one another in particular combinations.  While figured woods used as decorative tops can influence the sound and responsiveness of an instrument, in most cases, their primary contribution is aesthetic.

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

I have a relationship with Bartolini that actually pre-dates Elrick Bass Guitars.  As a result, I’m fortunate to have been a beta tester for some of the pickups and electronics found in my instruments.   And while not all were in development for my exclusive use, I was able to exercise some influence over some of their products I use in my basses.  As such, Bartolini pickups and pre-amps are standard equipment on all of my instruments.

I also offer pickups custom made for my basses by Aero Instrument, these are most often seen in custom wood pickup covers and Master Series basses.

Who were some of the first well-known musicians to start playing your basses? 

Until recently my instruments have primarily been available only through authorized dealers.  As a result, in the past, when a notable player has acquired one of my instruments, I’ve usually been the last to know.  Because I’ve always considered it unrealistic to expect any musician to play one instrument exclusively, I’ve seldom sought to cultivate exclusive relationships with artists, since such agreements eventually find most artists in breach of contract simply out of practical necessity.

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

I have never been a great fan of signature basses, particularly since, as a custom builder, I offer every bass player the opportunity to receive their own signature bass.  This is the most valuable service I offer, the opportunity for any musician to receive an instrument that is a reflection of themselves as an artist, their own personal statement.

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

I think that when many people order a custom instrument from a company like mine, they imagine the service they are contracting is for an individual craftsmen to hand-carve their instrument from start to finish.  In most instances, this is not the reality.  In the case of Elrick Bass Guitars, I am the only person doing fabrication.  I select and process all of the raw lumber used in my instruments (sometimes starting with a chainsaw), I fabricate all the component parts, I hand-carve all necks and body contours, I hand sand and hand finish every instrument, I do all of the fret jobs and set-ups, and I personally wire all of the electronics.

While I’m proud of the balance, playability, and aesthetic of my instruments, I’m most proud to be able to say that, since 1992, I have personally built every single US Series instrument.

Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Rob Elrick-5

Which of the basses you build is your favorite?

The favorite bass I build will always the next one, and then, more likely than not, the one after that…

Can you give us a word of advice for young Luthiers just starting out?

Do you like ramen?  Good…

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

Again, ramen?

Compared to 25 years ago, todays market is awash with options and flooded with both new and used gear that is easily obtained from the four corners of the earth.  Before taking the leap into a custom instrument, do your research.

Does the brand you’re considering have a good reputation in the market?

Do they have a history of dependable product support?

Do they make an instrument that suits your specific needs?

What are your specific needs?

If you’re unsure, determine what your needs are before making any significant investments.

And when you’re asking around for advice, rely on people you know and trust, not anonymous internet forum chatter.

Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Rob Elrick-6

What is the biggest success for you and for your company?

My greatest success has been my brands persistence in the marketplace.  As a small business established in the days before the internet, with no advertising budget and a credit card in lieu of start-up capital, Elrick Bass Guitars has always depended on positive word of mouth to propagate.  That is no less true today than it was 24 years ago, I still tell Elrick players who contact me, “tell your friends…”

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

For me, it could be argued that every next bass is something new, but aside from known existing models, I do have some things in development, including an instrument prototyped about 20 years ago and shelved until maybe 5 years ago, then shelved again until 2 years ago when one leaked out to a top-secret recipient.  There’s still a chance that it will make it into general circulation one day soon, but as is so often the case, I have been distracted by another product in development that should be ready for the world before the 2016 summer olympics.  Upon it’s completion I will begin ironing out the details of a limited edition 25th anniversary bass for 2017.

What are your future plans?

If everything goes according to plan, hopefully I will find time for a nap.

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

I don’t object to sharing , only oversharing…

Visit online:

www.elrick.com

www.facebook.com/elrickbassguitars

Instagram – elrickbasses

Twitter – ElrickBasses

Gear News

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)…

Flemish Master Pieter Bruegel the Elder probably had many things in mind when painting his Hunters in the Snow in oil on oak wood in 1565. This masterpiece tells plenty of little stories about winterly pastimes and precarious livelihoods in the Early Modern Age. What Bruegel presumably did not have in mind was that this painting would, several centuries later, become one of the most popular ones in fine arts globally, displayed in a permanent exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) Vienna. The painting’s popularity was lately taken to a different level as it was replicated by hand to design an exclusive BITE bass.

An international art collector and bass player who regularly visits Vienna to immerse himself in the wonderworld of Kunsthistorisches’ Bruegel Hall asked BITE to replicate the painting on a bass body. BITE Guitars, an Austrian premium manufacturer exporting most of their basses to the US, has become renowned for colorful artwork basses, offering a range of manual and digital techniques. The firm’s art director Peter, a trained scenic painter of Oscar and Palme d’Or rank, specializes in photo-realistic reproductions. He also painted the bass for Robbie Williams’ 2023 world tour by faithfully replicating Robbie’s own stage design onto the tour bass.

Peter copied the Bruegel motif onto the bass body in minute detail, little twigs even by one-hair-brush. Positioning the rectangular image section on the body shape proved to be a special challege that he met by repositioning little elements, a bird here, a horse and cart there.

It all came together in a memorable video shooting in front of the original painting in the Museum’s Bruegel Hall: venerable fine arts, premium handicraft and groovy jazz tunes.

View video at the museum: www.youtube.com/shorts/2evdqfR6gUE

What’s the conclusion of BITE’s client, our Vienna, art and bass lover? “It’s a magical bass! When I touch the strings, I feel warm inside.”

Specs highlights:
Bass model: BITE Evening Star, the proprietary BITE premium model with inward curved horns
Pickups: 2 x BITE 1000 millivolt passive split-coils (PP)
Neck: roasted maple neck and roasted flamed maple fretboard

Price tag incl. insured door-to-door express shipping:
New York: 4726 USD
London: 3645 GBP
Berlin: 4965 EUR

Full specs available at bite.guitars/old-master-bass/

Bruegel Hall at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna: 
khm.at/en/visit/collections/picture-gallery/the-best-of-bruegel-only-in-vienna/

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

Bassist Ciara Moser…

Ciara and I sat down for this interview a few months after the launch of her debut album, “Blind. So what?”

Blind since birth, she is a powerhouse of talent; she is not only a professional bassist, but also composes music, and is a producer and educator. I am just blown away by her talent and perseverance.

Join me as we hear about Ciara’s musical journey, the details of her album, how she gets her sound, and her plans for the future.

Visit online:

www.ciara-moser.com 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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Gear News

New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar…

Black Ice Enterprises introduces Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort, small, battery-free devices that can be easily installed in a bass or guitar.

Black Ice Boost offers two selectable stages of up to 7 dB of boost, broadly concentrated in the midrange frequencies to add humbucker-like qualities to Strat®, Tele® and other types of single-coil pickups. Black Ice Distort is an overdrive module that can be configured to offer anything from slight overdrive to distortion. Both models are compatible with all passive guitar pickups and electronics (they’re not compatible with battery-powered active pickups).

Black Ice Boost (SRP: $119.95; MAP, $79.95) can be installed using several wiring options, including a simple “stealth” install that utilizes a single push-pull pot, and a dual-switch option that allows users to select between two different levels of boost. For those using the boost along with Black Ice Distort, a second push-pull pot or switch can be used to select a clean or distorted boost.

The Black Ice Boost module is approximately 2/3 the size of a 9-volt battery, and can be easily installed in most instruments with no routing or permanent modifications required. The tone of the instrument remains completely unaffected when the boost is bypassed.

In addition to use with popular single-coil pickups, Black Ice Boost can also be used with other pickup types. Use it to fatten up a P-90 style pickup, or add girth to a low-wind humbucker. Jazz Bass® players can use the additional midrange content provided by Black Ice Boost to produce a sound that’s reminiscent of a P-Bass® or soapbar-type pickup. Black Ice Boost is not recommended for use with high-output humbuckers and other dark-sounding pickups.

Black Ice Distort (SRP: $27.95; MAP, $21.95) is an overdrive module that can be configured for just a touch of grit, or a more aggressive grind, all the way to a 1960’s-flavored fuzz. While its battery-free circuit will never replace the more refined sound of a well-designed pedal, it provides handy, there-when-you-need-it access to a variety of fun old-school flavors, and is a great way to add additional textures to an already overdriven amp or pedal. Bass players will especially dig its raw dirty grind.

Like Black Ice Boost, the sugar-cube-sized Black Ice Distort provides a lifetime of tone with no maintenance or power source required. A variety of wiring options are included that let you activate the Distort via a switch or push-pull pot, or by easily converting your guitar’s tone control into a control for the Black Ice Distort circuit. It can be used in conjunction with the Black Ice Boost for a wide variety of useful tones.

Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort are now shipping.

Visit online at www.blackiceoverdrive.com

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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

FEATURED @loritabassworks @meridian_guitars @alpherinstruments @phdbassguitars @mgbassguitars @mauriziouberbasses @utreraguitars @sugi_guitars @branco_luthier @blasiusguitars

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

D’Addario’s New Humidipak Absorb Protects Instruments Against Excess Moisture…

Utilizing two-way humidity control technology, D’Addario’s new Humidipak Absorb protects against damage to wooden instruments in environments with too much humidity. 

Humidipak Absorb allows players to safely return an instrument and case to the ideal relative humidity level. Using Boveda’s patented two-way humidity control technology, Absorb automatically soaks up excess moisture at a safe rate, re-establishing the right humidity level and eliminating the guesswork of revitalizing your instrument. 

Like all the Humidipaks before, using Humidipak Absorb is easy—there’s no dripping sponges or manual adjustments. All players need to do is put the humidification packets in the included pouches and place them in the instrument case, close the lid, and relax. The instrument and case will remain at the optimal 45-50% relative humidity level for 2-6 months. 

D’Addario’s other Humidipaks, Restore and Maintain, are still available for those who need to increase and sustain the humidity around their instrument. 

To learn more about Humidipak Absorb, visit ddar.io/absorb-pr 

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