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Luthier Spotlight: Bjoern Kroeplin, Plankton Basses

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Luthier Spotlight: Plankton Basses

Meet Bjoern Kroeplin, Luthier and owner of Plankton Basses…

2-Luthier Spotlight- Plankton Basses

In this issue, I have the honor of interviewing Bjoern Kroeplin, Luthier and owner of Plankton Basses.

How did you find your way into music?

I am now 53 years old and come from a musical family. Even as a child I regularly received promo singles from our neighbor who worked at the WDR Radio in Cologne.

I first played the piano and then joined my first band when I was about 15. There I played percussion until the bandleader got a gig in our school. We didn’t have a bass player, so I agreed to learn bass and within a month, bought one in Lübeck and quickly taught myself everything I needed to cut a good figure in front of the 400 people in the school’s sports hall.

Later in the 80s, I discovered Stanley Clarke, Mark King, Marcus Miller, and Defunkt with Kim Clarke. But my favorite bassist is Hellmut Hattler with his virtuoso plectrum bass playing. This is not least because he has bequeathed me his two Glockenklang Boxes, with which I can put all basses through their paces after completion.

I am also self-taught and have always taught myself how to play instruments, including the entrance examination for bass studies in Cologne. I also had piano lessons as a child. What I could advise today would be in any situation: listen, listen carefully, and stay on the ball.

Are you still an active player?

I have a small studio and compose mostly with the bass and then play all the other instruments – visit TRICKYPONY. I am booked as a session bassist here in northern Germany for funk, rock, and jazz.

Tell us about building your first bass…

I’ve had many a bass, but I didn’t like any of them particularly in terms of sound and certainly not in the classical form. So after a long accident with a fractured heel, where I couldn’t walk for a long time, I decided to build my first fine bass at home on a barstool. I bought all parts and tools on the internet and they were delivered to my door.

That must have been about 10 years ago. The result was absolutely sensational in terms of sound and appearance.

This was followed by an electric double bass similar to the one made by the well-known electric double bass player Eberhardt Weber with the Jan Garbarek Group. Here I chose practically only the middle section in the extension of the neck but without the charming, massive, sweeping curves of a babushka like in the Kate Bush video.

The body is made of maple with a neck that you can unscrew. This way you can transport the huge device relatively easily. It sounds like a classic double bass, so everything as it should be.

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

Wood is a fantastic material to create sculptural objects. My talent and pleasure has always been design, so it is always easy for me to realise my initially fictitious idea. As a mentor I have the philosophy of Bauhaus and Luigi Colani in mind. The European Nordic designers have created great stylish unique pieces. But also always a bit ahead of the times, such as the case of the Braun Phonosuper SK 4, the Snow White coffin, which was sensational for its time. It was designed by Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams in 1952, when there was only phono furniture available worldwide. Carl Thompson in New York was the closest to the signature of the new design for basses that I like. How do you choose the woods you want to build with?

I have tried out many things! Just drop different pieces of different woods from a height of one meter onto the floor. Then you will get a first impression of what it means to perceive differences in the wood.

The topic of wood selection resembles a myth deliberately created by the producers called: Tonewood. I can immediately think of the following amusing anecdote that explains a lot; I quote and it was like this: “Taylor builds good guitars because we know how to do it. And to prove it, we built an acoustic guitar out of an old, rotten pallet from the rubbish. The top was made from a wasteboard whose wood type could not be determined. It was glued so artfully from 6 boards that you can hardly see it, and the nail holes … were highlighted with inserted aluminum discs. This Pallet-Guitar was a most acclaimed guitar of the Winter NAMM Show”. Taylor, ISBN 3-932275-80-2.

Let’s talk about pickups…

I have tried American pickups, like the ones in the Fender basses. I have found a great liking for the Bartolini PU’s and have used them. Currently, I work mainly with the DELANO PU’S and the NOLL Electroniks from Germany. I have no comparable electrical solutions at hand. Alembic and Bartolini would be in the USA the closest to my sound ideas; an extremely broad frequency spectrum.

Who were some of the first known musicians who started to play your basses?

None yet, because my basses have only now seen the light. I studied electric bass in Cologne in the 90s and recorded everything on my website myself. You can play the classical styles of your idol with your instrument. However, an instrument would be great, with which modern creative young musicians can start to develop their own sound and their own “handwriting”. I build such basses for you at the Baltic Sea with PLANKTON BASSES, Germany and combine tradition with modernity.

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

By having a clear idea of the sound you want to achieve. Then you look inside yourself and think about the materials you want to use to achieve the desired result. I have another company that designs and produces floating pods and rooms. In all my design and creation work I always start by looking at the state of the art and with this knowledge I put myself into my floating tank. There I let the ideas flow and usually quickly arrive at a great experience and start.

What are some things that you are proud of that you would consider unique in your instruments?

In one sentence: The joy of playing… every time I think of something new. The bass himself composes here, just let it out I think every time.

Perhaps in all modesty, the first bass I designed myself was better than any other I have ever held in my hands. Maybe it’s because I’m very open to art, beautiful things, feminine curves and culture. Therefore I know no limits to allow ideas.

Which of the basses you build is your favourite?

Always the one that is still in my head and wants to be built AND then exceeds my own expectations.

Can you give us some advice to young luthiers who are just starting out?

Yes, of course. You have to make it clear to yourself what you want. If you are looking for large quantities, the only thing you have left is industrial production. You will soon notice that you have produced dozens of soulless things that somehow produce sounds. But if you play a precisely handmade instrument, you will soon notice the difference. You feel the love of detail that has been invested. That is the dilemma because every beginner would need a good instrument from the beginning so that the joy of practicing is maintained.

We must not confuse acoustic instrument making with electric instrument making. Physics has its natural limits. Copying a Stradivarius wood by means of artificial aging is quite possible today. In guitar building, it is the symbiosis of the individual components that has a decisive influence on the sound. Generally 50% electric, plus 50% wood selection including all other hardware and construction.

Often underestimated, half of this is the neck construction that gives the sound. That is my opinion, but here everyone has his own philosophy and that is good.

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

The perfect bass does not exist. There is the perfect bass, the perfect instrument just for the musician and his or her individual ideas. There is definitely no such thing as the legendary wollmilchsau.

What is the greatest success for you and your company?

The joy. The joy of the ability to diligently create a finely crafted instrument from the talent of a log.

Are you preparing something new?

Yes, I have only just begun to put all my passion for music into my Bass Boutique Plankton Basses.

Next up is a project with a special material mix. For example, underwater woods from the jungle of the Panama Canal will be used. These timbers were cleared with the permission to widen the channel’s shipping channel for larger container ships. So a diver has to saw off the tree underwater next to alligators using a high-pressure saw. The wood is of a Fanta-layered texture with very high density. I use this in thin strips in the bass necks. An absolute novelty in terms of attack and sustain.

I would also like to contribute to the discussion about carbon in instrument making with one sentence: Carbon fibre is a natural product like wood, but many years older than wood and therefore a fantastic component for my instruments. You will be the first to hear about everything new from me.

What are your future plans?

I would like to find a balance, to introduce my instruments to many musicians, to build up a reasonable distribution network and at the same time keep enough time to experiment creatively for the good cause. The design is almost a pretty dress by itself, but it’s the ingredients that count. I would be delighted if there were a demand in the USA, the country of origin of the electric guitar, for people who want to go my way.

What else would you like to share…

Do not emulate others, find your own style. Stay curious and above all healthy. We can end the interview with Victor Wooten’s sentence: Factor number one for your good tone is always your own fingers first.

Visit online at plankton-basses.com

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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