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In Praise of the Plywood Bass

In Praise of the Plywood Bass

by Frederick C. Lyman, Jr.

Originally published in American Lutherie #4, 1985 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000

see also,
Building a Plywood Bass by Richard Ennis

It has been said that in order to produce fine wines, one must have had generations of alcoholics in one’s family. Only then can one approach the problem with the necessary patience, devotion, and understanding that will result in superior, classic vintages. Mere cleverness or mere industry will not suffice; one has to be locked into the project by the merciless and irreversible forces of destiny.

Similarly, those who are involved in the production of bass sounds seem to require a kind of demonic motivation. They must be attuned, in a special way, to the pulsations of the subaudible register, the tone-feelings that seem to arise from the nether regions. From this unholy obsession with the depths of auditory sensibility comes a fundamental understanding which will forever elude the fiddlers and flautists.

What we mean is that bassists have a deep need to make those sounds, and they will find a way to do it. It’s not a question of what is practical or expedient or wise: Bassists are driven. They have a pathological fascination with deep sounds; they are not well without them.

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