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Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Sheldon Dingwall

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Z 3x 5 bleached dyed Natural to Indigo burlburst body

Z 3x 5 bleached dyed Natural to Indigo burlburst body

Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Sheldon Dingwall…

How did you get your start in music?

I came from a musical household. I started baritone ukulele at 4, piano lessons at 5, drum lessons at 9, guitar lessons at 12 and bass lessons at about 16. I taught drums and guitar from 16 to 20.

Are you still an active player?

No time right now but when my kids get older, I may look for a local gig.

ABI 3x Charcoal burst over Maple Burl body

ABI 3x Charcoal burst over Maple Burl body

How did you get started as a Luthier?

My uncle Alfred Wilson built acoustic guitars as a hobby. I coaxed him into teaching me. I started by designing and building a locking tremolo bridge then moved on to necks and bodies.

When did you build your first bass? 

I’d built custom bass necks and bodies for local musicians in the late 80s and early 90s. The first complete bass I built was the prototype for the original Voodoo Bass that evolved into our current Z-series. That was completed at 7:30 AM on January 13th 1993.

Sheldon Dingwall - ABII 5 Camphor burl top e

How did you learn the art of woodworking/Luthier?

My uncle taught me the basics of woodworking, metalworking and finishing. I don’t know why but several of the local woodworking elite took me under their wing and guided me in the early days. I did a ton of reading and was thoroughly obsessed with the subject.

Woodworking is something that comes pretty naturally to me so I caught on fast. I started a repair business to create a job and to learn from the mistakes of other manufacturers. The repair business took off and I learned a lot about building and built up a customer base.

Who would you consider a Mentor? 

My uncle for sure, Glenn McDougall from Fury Guitar has been my most important mentor. He’s shared a ton of his knowledge and even had a hand in helping me rebuild after the fire that wiped out my shop. Tom Anderson’s been a good friend and mentor too.

Sheldon Dingwall - NG2 FR tail view e

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

I have a guy on staff to takes care of all that now. His name is Joey Lorer. He’s a brilliant guy and a real wood nerd. We have trusted suppliers that we’ve worked with for over 20 years. They know what we want and we always get the top quality.

How about pickups?

We’ve been making our own pickups since 2000. We used to supply other builders but we pretty much handed that business over to Nordstrand. I’m the type that needs to focus on one thing at a time. Running a bass business and a pickup business stretched our resources too thin.

What pickups did you use in the past?

We worked with Bartolini from 1993 to 2000. They’ve always made great pickups and electronics. It was not an easy decision to go out on our own but it was something I felt we needed to do to grow.

What electronics do you use right now? 

We use custom modified pre-amps from Glockenklang and also work closely with Darkglass with their Tone Capsule.

Who were some of the first well-known musicians who started playing your basses? 

Lee Sklar was the first big name endorser. He’s as well known as you can get in the bass world. Other A-list players in the early days were Mike Brignardello, Michael Rhodes and Jason Newstead.

Sheldon Dingwall - Lee Sklar Dark Candy Green e

Lee Sklar Dark Candy Green

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

We only have two signature models. The Lee Sklar model and the Adam Nolly Getgood NG2. With Lee, we sent him the latest version of the bass he was playing at the time. We asked him for his input and added the features he wanted like mandolin frets, easier access to the control cavity and a specially wired switch.

Adam owned 3 of our basses and wanted to create something new by combining a hot rodded version of our Combustion bass and a custom pre-amp from Darkglass. Adam, Doug from Darkglass and I sat around the breakfast and supper table and pounded out ideas until the concept of the Tone Capsule evolved. Adam liked the race car inspired finishes we were doing and wanted to take his sig model in a more European exotic direction with a carbon fibre pick guard.

SP5 pj Faded Bluejean Matte Black PG maple wenge black hardware

SP5 pj Faded Bluejean Matte Black PG maple wenge black hardware

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

I like companies and designers that innovate so I’m most proud of the innovations and in-house designed parts. We didn’t invent Fanned-frets, that was Ralph Novak. But we were the first company other than Ralph to base our entire company on them. We were pioneers in using Neodymium magnets in pickups, we innovated the magnetic battery compartment and innovated the dual-density body construction. We designed our bridges, pickups and control knobs.

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

They are all like children. They are all favourites for different reasons.

Sheldon Dingwall - Super J slide photo

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

Be patient, any career in the arts will take a long time to make a living at and a longer time to master. Be fearless.

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

Play as many as you can. Ask a seasoned repair tech to check them over. Make sure you’re buying something that’s solid and reliable.

What is biggest success for you and for your company? 

Almost every day we get an email or are tagged in a Facebook post from a happy customer that is thrilled with their new bass. That’s our biggest success. Being able to affect people with our work. That’s what every artist strives for.

Sheldon Dingwall - PA5 quilt body side view 2 e

PA5 quilt body

Are you preparing something new, some new model or new design?

We recently released a prototype of a Thunderbird. We took a different approach and it seems to have struck a nerve. The response has been incredible. We’ll be brining out a 6-string version of the NG2 next year. The rest of our developments are too far out in the future to discuss at this point.

Or maybe some new gear amps, etc.

We’re working on new pickups and new models. Other than the D-bird and NG2 6-string though, I can’t release any details.

What are your future plans?

Continue growing the company. Continue bringing out innovative designs and refining the existing ones.

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Bass Videos

Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

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Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

I am sure many of you are very familiar with Mark Egan as we have been following him and his music for many years now. The last time we chatted was in 2020.

Mark teamed up with drummer Shawn Pelton and guitarist Shane Theriot to produce a new album, “Cross Currents” released on March 8th, 2024. I have been listening to this album in its entirety and it is simply superb (See my review).

Now, I am excited to hear about this project from Mark himself and share this conversation with our bass community in Bass Musician Magazine.

Photo courtesy of Mark Egan

Visit Online:

markegan.com
markegan.bandcamp.com
Apple Music
Amazon Music

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Bass Videos

Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

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Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB…

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB – Hearing protection has always been front and center on my mind because I love music so much, I cannot imagine my life if I were unable to hear.

You might remember back in 2021, we had a good look at the Minuendo Lossless Earplugs featuring adjustable protection. This system has a lot of very good features but there was always the question of how much sound attenuation to choose.

Now, the great folks at Minuendo have come up with a new version of their earplugs that has a set 17dB noise reduction. You still get a lot of the great features of the adjustables but you just don’t have to think about the specific sound level. In addition, this new version of earplugs comes at a very attractive price point.

For more information, visit online at Minuendo.com

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Bass Books

Review: The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass by Brian F Wright 

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Review: The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass by Brian F Wright 

I was intrigued when The Bastard Instrument showed up on my desk… let’s dig in!

When we dive into the history of our beloved instrument, the bass, we find roots that go back as far as the 15th century. This instrument was a member of the violin family and was for the longest time, an acoustic instrument. As the years passed and music changed, there was a need for the instrument to evolve and the electric bass was born.

Comparatively, the electric bass is a relatively new instrument with its earliest appearances dating back to the 1930s and it is exciting to be an electric bass player while this history unfolds around us. Fortunately for us and future generations to come, Professor Brian F. Wright has taken on the herculean task of documenting the trajectory of the electric bass with this excellent book.

The Bastard Instrument presents an extraordinary amount of fine details about the instrument itself, the development of the amplification to handle its output, the pioneers that dared play it, the rapidly evolving music that flourished because of its presence and so much more. 

When I first started reading this book, I noticed that it felt a tad academic, like a textbook (it might be one someday) or a doctoral thesis, but to present all this information accurately, this approach is more than appropriate. Another detail that might be a bit of a spoiler is that the book only gets us up to the late ’60s. I was left wanting more as we know that so much has happened in the bass world since that time frame; I hope there is another volume in the works to get us up to the present!

All in all, “The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass” is a must-read for all of us who play electric bass and understand its essential place in music.

I found that there was a lot that I already knew but also quite a bit that I was unaware of. I believe that to know and understand where you are, you must know the history of exactly how you got here.

Highly recommended.

The Bastard Instrument is available at Amazon.com (beginning July 2024)

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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 @meridian_guitars @adamovicbasses @anacondabasses @mgbassguitars @xylembassguitar @officialspector @edwinpaanakker @alesvychodilbasses @boyarskycg @dmarkguitars

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Bass Videos

Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

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Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

Bassist Adam Sullivan…

Hailing from Minnesota since 2012, By the Thousands has produced some serious Technical Metal/Deathcore music. Following their recent EP “The Decent”s release, I have the great opportunity to chat with bassist Adam Sullivan.

Join me as we hear about Adam’s musical Journey, his Influences, how he gets his sound, and the band’s plans for the future

Photo, Laura Baker

Follow On Social

IG &FB @bythethousands
YTB @BytheThousands

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