The 1972 Fender Bass VI

On Thanksgiving weekend 2004, I received a telephone call from my long-time friend Elliott Randall, who had just returned to the United States.  He asked me to stop over and see him.  It was great to see Elliott again and to finally meet his wife, who was for the longest time, "a voice on the telephone"!

At the conclusion of our terrific visit, Elliott presented me with a gift that took me totally by surprise!  I was completely speechless; yet there it was in my hands, a Fender Bass VI !!  I'd dreamed of owning one for many years, and here it was!!   Elliott told me that he knew of no one who could get the most out of it than I would!  WOW!!



NOTE - verbatim the words Electric Bass Guitar.
This is NOT a BARITONE anything!

Step #1, Finding The VI's *Voice*

Right from the output jack to the Hard Drive, witness the captured voice of the Bass VI, without any pedals, tubes, distortion, etc....   just a bare ass straight as it comes to the HD voice capture.

It's nice to know the voice of your instrument, BEFORE plugging it into an amp.  YOU should know in advance, it's voice.  After all, how will you know if the amplifier speaks the truth.


It Speaks:

Sample #1  (1.5Mb)  - With  the bridge pickup on and a thin pick, I found tons of
                                  sustain, harmonics, and tone.
Sample #2  (1.1Mb) - With the bridge pickup on and a thin pick,
                                  I went looking for some more good vibrations.
Sample #3  (1.5Mb) - Bridge pickup on and a thin pick,
                                  open strings, fretted chords and some palm muting.
Sample #4  (1.9Mb) - All combinations of pickups activated at the bridge and over
                                  each pickup.
Sample #5  (620Kb) - Finger picking with that thin pick and some palm muting.
Sample #6  (1.1Mb) - Neck pickup on, tone control set to cut high,  and notes played
                                 with the side of my thumb.


Step #2, Put It In The Music

Wasting no time, in two days, I took the Fender Bass VI up to the Wednesday night jam up at Orphan Annie's.  One of the guys had the recorder running and slapped on me a copy of me playing the Bass VI.

In the short solo clip, you can hear that the Bass VI almost sounds like a Jazz Bass.  Getting used to the strings being so close together, after a life time playing Jazz Basses, is going to take some time.  They actually are closer together than the strings on a Fender Stratocaster guitar by 3/16th of an inch.

A most difficult Bass to play with conventional thinking and technique.

My First Solo At The Jam Club (1:08) 1.1Mb
(with a case of sticky fingers)

After a few more days of playing the Bass VI in the shop, I found that the tone switch was out of balance, and required constant volume control compensating.

So, I had to modify that circuit for equal output for both positions of the tone switch.  Note - the older 1961 to 1963 Fender Bass VI did not have this tone witch.  Along with this mod, I decided to open up the low end a bit too.

Next, I went to the Improviser's Laboratory, on January 25th, at the Dancing Goat in East Orange just off South Orange Ave., to kick the tires again.

At the Improviser's Laboratory Jam, your  instructions are given by a series of vignettes, in no particular order, none of which may last more than 10 minutes, for your our own sanity, and everyone is encouraged to play together.  Key, tempos, and the like are determined *intuitively* at the LINE OF SCRIMMAGE.

At this Jam, there is truly an OPEN stage.  You can walk up on, or off the stage at any time while the playing is going on.  At the end of this clip, there were 12 people on the stage who had been playing at some point during this vignette.

The real hard-core jammers start playing while setting up the stage.

From The Improviser's Labratory (9:40) 8.9Mb
1st Time Slap Dancing The Fender VI
From that night's performance, I found a little more fine tuning the level balance of the TONE switch would make it perfect and practical for switching between the musical tones used for slap bass sounds, and the TWANG sounds the Bass VI can produce.  The bottom end was now surprisingly more than what my Jazz Basses produce.

The string spacing is still driving me crazy.  What was Fender thinking putting a neck thinner than Strat or Tele neck on a Bass VI.

My next move was to do more live stage playing, and see what more the Fender Bass VI could offer the tradition bass player.  So, I headed out to Orphan Annie's grab bag of players on their Wednesday Blues Jams, on the quest of HONK and PUNCH.

In this next clip, there was the typical throw together at the end of the night of wild card players.  There were eight players in total on the stage for the wank fest.  For me, it was a chance to play with the dials, and go exploring in the musical sonic confusion when EVERYONE is playing at the same time.

With a little stage direction on my part, this next long clip turned out to be pretty cool.  This clip is going to take some time to load up for ya.  But, there are some magic moments, and the Bass VI produced some nice tones that a traditional bass player would not object to having from a modified Bass VI.

The Voodoo and the Mojo at a Wednesday OA Jam (15:05) 13.8Mb
(I'm Starting To Really Like Playing The Bass VI)

For next few weeks there was no one recording the OA jams, so there was a little bit of a dry spell with the recordings.  These next three clips were recorded  on the OA Sunday night Jam, where things are managed much better by the guys hosting the jam.

The players on these next three clips recorded on 2/23/05  are Carl Marcantonio - guitar, Steve Pozzelanti - drums, and myself.  The close string spacing is still a bit of a problem for some styles of playing.

A Little Hide Away, At Orphan Annie's (4:34) 4.2Mb
(The Fender VI's Low End for the Blues)

Freeway Jam on the Fender Bass VI (6:42) 6.2Mb

Doing The Strut with the Fender Bass VI (8:03) 7.3Mb

The second Improviser's Laboratory  Jam was held on 2/22/05.  Adam and Charlie had set up the recording gear to catch the magic moments in the air that night.  There were some new faces in the place to check out the scene too.
It was a good night for those who came for the good food, drink, and music.

Most ALL of the vignettes ran over time, and were much longer than the allotted ten minutes.  There was no way I could edit them down without loosing the VIBE they had.  Here are two of the more interesting ones.

SORRY for the large file size.

Vignette #1 (10:10) 9.3Mb  2/2205
Vignette #2 (12:54) 11.8Mb  2/22/05

More fun stuff from the Improviser's Laboratory with the Fender Bass VI.

Girlznight-SayMyName-Sneakers&Boyz (12:22) 11.0Mb
3/22/05 Lyrics: © 2005, Sybil Moore

That's me with the Bass VI and a 5 string Fretless player in & out during the piece.  We stepped on each others toes in spots.  But that's the way jamming goes sometimes.  It ain't perfect.

Trippy In "A" (3:24) 4.6Mb  3/22/05
(Here, Ian does the trippy, while the Bass VI hummed 3 A's with the synth player)

Call To Arms (7:32) 6.8Mb  4/26/05

Shout Underwater (6:34) 6.0Mb  4/26/05

BBC Sound Track (7:41) 6.9Mb  4/26/05

Skajun (5:09) 4.6Mb 4/26/05  Words: © 2005, SK Duff
( I sat this one out, to let a really GREAT string bass player have it. )

  The Gank Bass Project Is Done

The finalized form has arrived.  I took it to the Goat Cafe for see how it sounded.

What The Hal 8:55 8.2Mb  11/22/05

After playing the Bass VI for almost a year, my fingers fell through the spaces between the strings of a four string bass.  At this point, there was no doubt in my mind, a middle ground has to be found in wider string spacing for my version of the Bass VI to come.

Notice how close both basses sound to each other.  A nice thing.

Sheik Shriek 8:12 7.5Mb  11/22/05

You Can Count Me Out 7:45 7.1Mb  10/24/06

From the lost archives of the Saturday night Jams with the Bob Lanza Blues Band using the four string Gank bass.
Sort A Funky 8:00 11.0Mb  6/6/06

  The New Platform Bass Guitar Project

 I have just finished building the first proto type last week.  I had taken it out and played it on stage to check out what it could do in the music.  The guys on the stage got a case of bug eyes when they saw it.  It sure is one ugly stick at the moment.

However, the tones it creates are not what you expect to hear, when you judge the appearance of the instrument.  It sure got attention when I first put it in the music along with the bass player.

For the first time, I was well received by all camps on the stage.

On April 25, 2006 at the Goat Cafe one of the guys recorded that open jam session.  I just mastered the track, and here it is as well as a mini mic hanging on a curtain can produce.

There were three guitar players, one bass player, two sax players, a drummer, and me with my new ugly stick having fun looking for my musical space.

Can ya spot the Ugly Stick in the music.

Disco Goat 8:35 7.9Mb  4/25/06

NOTE - In the break-back build, before the ending, starting at 5:50, you will hear the normal bass player in there with me playing quarter notes.  Then, we double up.  He then adds a fill, to which I later respond.  The two work well together.

Fug Goat 6:25 5.9Mb  4/25/06

NOTE - There are three bass players on this tune.  The four string bass guitar starts it out.  Then, along the way I come in with the Ugly Stick.  There are two guitars that later join in the fun.  That thing that sounds like a violin lead, is actually the string bass player using a bow, and an octave box.

Then, with a different string set on the Ugly Stick for the "low end", this was recorded on one of the Saturday night mad house blues jams at Orphan Annie's last month.

Reefer Man 15:42 14.5Mb  April 06

Well, it's been more than a year since I last updated the advances made on the Ugly Stick.  I've been playing with different pickups, switching arrangements, and tone circuits.  Trying to find the practical switching arrangement has been a problem for fast switching while playing a composition.

There is also the problem of maximizing the tone circuits for the differently tuned string sets that can be used on the instrument to give it an even frequency response, and a unique sonic identity in LIVE music.  This is no easy task for what I have in mind for the instrument.

Here are some clips of a long over due test flight.  With a different string set finally completed, it was nice to find better response without any unevenness.

The dropped notes you will hear was from a bad contact connection from the plastic jacks used in today's amplifiers.  LOL, It's a typical intermittent Peavey Data Bass amp problem.  Looks like there is a PCB modification I have to perform on it this week.

This was Rob's first time out with Carl and myself.  I think it's time for Carl and I to put a more formal band together with some kind of regular practice sessions.  This would be a lot better than rolling the dice with who ever shows up at the jam clubs.

Oh, by the way... the amp that Carl is using is my old black Deluxe Reverb with the JBL D-120 and NOS GE-6L6GC's pictured on this page.  He played bare foot with a basic stock Strat through the Deluxe in these clips.

Cissy Strut  (7:33)  6.9Mb  11/8/07
Pork Pie  (8:07)  7.4Mb  11/8/07
Voodoo Child  (6:45)  6.2Mb  11/08/07
Freeway Jam  (8:57)  8.2Mb  11/08/07

As you can hear in the sound clips, the tones of the instrument are coming along.  But, there are tones that you hear in the instrument acoustically, which the current pickups I'm using is not sending to the amp.  So, I made a few changes to the pickups, and on 11/27/07 got a chance to make a fast run up to Orphan Annie's for a fast test flight without Rod.  It was a real crap shoot with who we'd find as a drummer to hit the stage with.  Open Jams are always that way.  LOL, only got a shot at two songs.

Anyway, here is a short clip with a change in the pickup arrangement.

Hey Ka Pi Pi  (1:16)  1.8Mb  11/27/07

Your comments are always invited.

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