"Man can't have too many GOOD basses."
All of my life I have appreciated a top quality instrument. I have been fortunate to own many first-class basses.
I have always helped students and friends pick out basses. I have a keen ability to match a bass to a person's particular style and a student's potential. As I collected vintage Fender bass my students drooled over them. Some of the students could not afford the cost of these high priced basses. I began to try and figure out how to get a good vintage feeling bass into their hands at a lower cost.
I started by purchasing used parts and assembling basses. My criteria was that the parts had to be at least ten years old, and of course I wanted the good quality stuff. I did use new Nordstrand pickups on most of those basses. With used pickups you never know how they will sound, and with the Nordstrand pickups I could be assured of the sound I desired for each bass.
I built fourteen basses out of parts I purchased online. These basses sound
very much like the real vintage basses I own, but I was able to sell them to
my students at half the price of the real thing. My students loved 'em. Me too!
Those basses still sound great today. Without looking closely, most folks think
these basses are true, classic Fenders.
I decided to experiment and try newly made bodies. Many "new" Fender bodies for sale are quite cheaply made with poor quality wood and terrible quality craftsmanship. Maybe I should say, "A sincere lack of Craftsmanship."
I have known of Warmoth basses for years. I have had a few students in the past that made their own Warmoth basses. In general, I was never impressed. However, I also knew that Warmoth was the major manufacturer of Fender's wood parts for many years. I called the guys at Warmoth and wore out their ears with questions. I finally purchased a custom made body and put a Fender reissue neck on it. With over fifty years of playing basses, repairing basses, buying many basses for students, teaching at Berklee for thirty years, obvserving and playing many, many student's basses, my ears knew what I wanted to hear. I could tell immediately that this Warmoth body was good, and the Fender reissue neck was bad. I put a good, old Fender neck on the Warmoth body and "Voila!" that was the sound and feel I was looking for.
I called the same guys at Warmoth, I am sure they were excited to talk to me again (NOT), and asked a million questions about their bass necks. I can only imagine their thoughts. "This chatty guy who thinks he knows everything, but has no idea that we have made virtually all American Made Fender necks for the past twenty years, is worried that we can't make a good neck to fit his desires. Whatever."
After the guy basically told me to shut up and try one, I ordered three necks. Two of them were from their already made stock, and one was a custom build. He assured me I could return them if I didn't like them. That was three years ago and fifty-two basses later, and I haven't returned a Warmoth product yet.
Some folks have criticized my "builds." "But, you are not really building basses. You're just assembling them." Really, you mean like Fender, Gibson, Ibanze, etc. etc? My response when people ask if I carve the bodies and necks is, "No, I choose to access those parts from guys who are carving dozens of necks and bodies every week, and have been doing that for years."
Like my background taught me, I purchase the highest quality part I can find. I use exclusively Nordstrand Audio pickups in numerous models. I used Gotoh and Hipshot lollipop tuners. The controls, all passive, are from Richter. Those have worked perfectly with no noise. I like the vintage reissue Fender bridges. Everyone seems to like the "high mass" bridge today. I prefer the old school "low mass" bridge. I feel it vibrates more.
My Stinnett Custom Bass fretless basses are very popular. They sound outstanding. All of them have great sustain and mwah. They feel and play like butter in your hands. One particular combination of woods has produced very special fretless basses. I use a chambered Black Korina body with a Black Korina top. The neck is made from quarter-sawn Concalo Alves. With this body and neck combo, I have used a variety of fingerboard woods - Goncalo Alves, Ebony, Ziricote, and Wenge. Each specific fingeboard has a unique sound. This combination of body and neck produces about 80% of the sound while the 20% unique sound comes from the specific choice of fingerboard wood. Pure sweetness.
It was not my goal in building basses to become a full fledged luthier or salesman. I enjoy tremendously building for my students and friends. Every so often a bass that I build grabs my ears and won't let go. If that bass does not sell quickly, it often is absorbed into my private collection.
Each new bass I make is like the arrival of a new child, or better yet reconnecting with an old friend. I want to keep 'em all, but seeing the players in our community enjoy them is priceless.
Brooklyn Bass Contest 2019
Michael Barracato. & Asa Ammarin