Bass Musician Magazine’s Year of the Luthier – Hannah Mayne, Mayne Basses
Meet Hannah Mayne of Mayne Basses…
How did you get started as a Luthier?
It was in1993 while attending college in San Francisco, and studying the bass. I remember going into a Luthier’s workshop to purchase a bass. It was very intriguing to see all the various parts and pieces of basses in various stages of restoration and construction. I went away knowing inside that I would again feel this desire to learn more about the intricacies and work of the Luthier. And in fact it was only a short year or so after that that I was apprenticing full time. It was the early years that gave me the foundation for a dedicated profession as a Luthier.
When did you build your first bass?
It was almost 5 years just on repair and restoration work before I finished my first bass. My plan was to build it between other work and see how it came out and whether I should attempt to build another one. When it was finished in 2001, it didn’t stay with me more than a few weeks, and ended up in the hands of bassist Jon Burr in New York. That was the exciting experience of my early career, because I had no idea that was even a possibility. My first bass was my dream and then it became real. I’ve been inspired ever since.
How did you learn the art of woodworking/Luthier?
A lot of my foundation for wood working techniques as it relates to Luthiery work, primarily came from Luthier Boyd Poulsen. I’ve also learned a lot of other wood working techniques from other wood workers. The work is involved and always evolving in some form. Staying centered and focused creates good results in the work, and keeps me injury free. I’ve worked alone for at least the last ten years or so. This solitude suits me, and I find that when I’m forced to figure things out by myself I learn about my weaknesses and make them my strengths.
Whom would you consider a Mentor?
My parents I consider my first teachers, my first mentors. They were both able to build things out of wood, make music, and make art that was very personal. I also consider anyone who has really influenced my thinking and my way of working to be a mentor for my work and for my life. And the two can’t be separated from each other. One’s work is who they are in part and the other layers are just somewhere in there too as part of what makes us create.
How do you select the woods you choose to build with?
I select based on what either the client wants or what I have on hand in the shop. I use traditional woods: maple, poplar, spruce.
Who were some of the first well-known musicians who started playing your basses?
Jon Burr is the first noted player that started playing one of my basses; in fact he has the first bass I ever made. Daryl Johns also plays on the same model Jon Burr plays on. Both players are really inspirational bass players and have recorded a lot with my basses. I’ve been very fortunate to have all my basses played by players I consider excellent people and great musicians.
How do you develop a signature or custom bass for an artist?
The most important consideration is what does the player want and how can I create it or at least come very close to it. Other considerations are aesthetics not just in sound but everything else to do with individual taste and preferences. A players relationship to an instrument reflects a part of who they are and how they feel their identity reflects well and is matched to an instrument is elemental to the whole process of creating an instrument for a particular person. How an instrument will feel under their fingers is also critical. How they create their tone and their musical voice are important aspects to building an instrument for a player.
What are a few things that you are proud about your instruments and that you would consider unique in your instruments?
I like the idea when I build an instrument that it will out live me. This is unique, to create something that will be a legacy. It’s like this story, like recording music is a story or any other artistic work. It’s about the process and what is left for posterity and what can be remembered by it. Going beyond the initial creation of one’s work and into history is something I can say makes me proud.
Which one of the basses that you build is your favorite one?
I used to think it was my first model but then I’ve come around to all of them as my favorites, and for different reasons. The first model I made is life as a Ferrari and the second is like a BMW, and the last model is a Rolls Royce. Surely I enjoy the three models I make because it’s what I make, and each one is unique and has a story I can tell about it.
Can you give us a word of advice to young Luthiers who are just starting out?
Especially in the beginning it is important to study and work alongside some one you like and respect. It’s always good to develop working relationships with others that encourage your growth and help you strengthen your skills and understanding. Avoid staying under someone who discourages you in any way or who is competitive or that you hear talk negative about others. This kind of person hurts the spirit. The work is very humbling and wood is always telling its own story. Finding the way is finding the true nature of your material.
What advice would you give a young musician trying to find his/her perfect bass?
It’s individual. It’s about knowing yourself and what works for your ideas and concepts for creating your sound — knowing what you want is the first step to finding the instrument that can serve you well for creating music. It’s always a good idea to try a lot of different basses because you can discover what works for you in the process.
What is biggest success for you and for your company?
My basses have been recorded a lot and that is something that helps me feel a sense of success. A lot of times I never hear my basses played live, so hearing recordings is a great way to know what’s happening out there with my basses.
Are you preparing something new, some new model or new design?
I’m currently working on several custom basses. Whether it’s new building or restoration or repair work, there’s always a lot going on in the shop. Work keeps me busy and focused in the day-to-day. Then I can dream and imagine something new, like a new model or just a unique sound hole or detail I want to incorporate on my next bass.
What are your future plans?
I plan to continue my focus on building basses. I’m also dreaming to travel to places I’ve never been. I want to learn about other places and discover something new and different. Sometimes different emotions and feelings inform the process of creativity and without even realizing it we’ve changed and broadened our minds. This always encourages creativity and inspiration for work. Like getting a refueling.
Visit online at maynebass.com