Meet Tom Lanni of Tensor Bass Guitars…
How did you get your start in music?
I started playing bass when I was 15 years old. I inherited a bass from my older brother who lost interest after trying to learn to play. It was a “beater” with terrible action but it worked.
Are you still an active player?
I still play in Church bands performing Christian contemporary music.
How did you get started as a Luthier? When did you build your first bass?
I started a few years back when I had some ideas I wanted to pursue for making a bass that would address some issues I was experiencing with the basses I was playing. The first thing I wanted to do was to come up with a way to stabilize the neck, such that I could achieve a thinner more comfortable profile. This required a bit of engineering and led to the development of our patent pending Force Balance™ system. This system redirects the force of the strings into the truss rod causing a balance between the two forces allowing for a more stable neck beam. I also worked on reducing the weight of our instruments. Our models range from between 7 to 8 pounds.
How did you learn the art of woodworking/Luthier? Who would you consider a Mentor?
Woodworking had been a hobby for many years. I started with general carpentry and graduated to cabinet making. My background is in engineering so I have quite a bit of experience with CAD and CAM. It was a natural fit since a great degree of the work in building instruments today utilize CNC routers. My background also helped in developing the processes required to construct our bass guitars. I really can’t say that I have a mentor per say but I have a great deal of admiration and respect for the many talented Luthiers that I have met.
How do you select the woods you choose to build with?
I use maple as the primary wood for our basses. It is structurally reliable and machines well. I also use rosewood and ebony for our fingerboards as well as maple. Since the body is chambered for weight considerations the species of wood has less of an effect on tone.
How about pickups? What electronics do you use?
We are presently using two types of pickups in our basses. The Ultralight Classic series use Lace Alumitone Bass Bars. The Ultralight Jazz Series use the Aguilar jazz bass HOT pickups. Our basses come standard with passive systems. We will install active systems upon the request of our customers.
How do you develop a signature or custom bass for an artist?
We have a portfolio of design options for our customers to choose from. We can personalize the design for a specific artist.
What are a few things that you are proud about your instruments and that you would consider unique in your instruments?
I think we can offer a bass that has light-weight with near perfect balance with a unique look that also plays and sounds great.
Which one of the basses that you build is your favorite one?
That is like asking which one of your children do you love best. I play the 5-string Ultralight Jazz now but I will sometimes pick up one of the Ultralight Classics now and then. It really depends on what mood I’m in.
Can you give us a word of advice to young Luthiers who are just starting out?
I think I would suggest that they not be afraid to experiment. Dare to be different. There are many skilled Luthiers that are doing clones and variations of the traditional Fender models. I think there is always room for innovation.
What advice would you give a young musician trying to find his perfect bass?
I would suggest that they try different basses in different styles and scales. Find one that is comfortable to play. The pickups will dominate the sound more than anything else. You can always replace the electronics if you want get a different sound.
Are you preparing something new, some new model or new design? Or maybe some new gear amps, etc.
We have just introduced the Ultralight Jazz series, which are lighter in weight and are more geared to the players who have a more progressive style of playing.