Sunday, February 26, 2012

B.Y.O.B. (Build Your Own Bass)

I saw "It Might Get Loud" a few months ago.  The movie was a great look at different philosophical approaches to making music from three very accomplished yet very different guitarists.  Its an excellent flick.  If you haven't seen it, get on netflix or amazon and check it out.  But the one thing that kind of got lodged in my brain was the very opening scene that I have above, where Jack White makes a guitar out of crap and a pick-up.  I guess I never thought about what is really necessary to generate sound from an electric instrument, but the answer is: not much.

So like I said, this little thing was stuck in the back of my mind all these weeks.  I was at he local library with my daughter, and this book was on the new release counter right by the front door:

Handmade Music Factory.  Needless to say I picked it up and perused it over the next couple weeks.  I always knew about the existence of so-called "cigar-box banjos" and the like, but this coffee table book really took it to the next level.  From the aesthetics of incorporating found objects to wiring diagrams and fretboard layouts, this book covers a lot of ground.  If you are in to musical instruments or building stuff (or both) definitely try and get your hands on a copy to check out.  I found it very inspirational, though I'm not sure how I intend to focus that inspiration.  As a bass player, an obvious route might be this:

The whamola.  I don't know if Les Claypool invented it exactly, but he gets a shout out in the book in the section about the washtub bass and its electric offspring.  I always loved the songs he does with upright bass and whamola, just because they have such a unique timbre - even compared to his normally unorthodox bass playing. Perhaps I will start by looking for cheap guitars to cannibalize. Spring is near, and that means yard sales and flea markets to scour for parts.  Stay tuned.

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