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Letter: Early Electric Bass Making Experiences

Letter: Early Electric Bass Making Experiences

by William G. Snavely

Originally published in American Lutherie #69, 2002


About thirty years ago I walked into a shop in Berkeley. The fellow there made lutes. I told him I wanted to make an electric bass neck without a truss rod and was looking for fretwire. He asked me what the tension was on such a neck. Like I’d know. He showed me one of his lutes. They were nice, which is what I said. He didn’t seem to think that was enough, but I was young and thought that people valued honesty a lot more than they actually do. He didn’t really want to sell me any fretwire, but he finally said he would sell me some if I bought a pound. He wasn’t at all happy that I decided to accept his offer.

I was in love with the bass, which I played at least six hours a day. I had a jazz bass that people said was very good, but it made my left hand numb and sounded crappy. I didn’t know it was soon to be a vintage instrument from the golden period. I thought it probably sounded so bad because the neck was so thin and hollow with a metal rod in it. Plus the saddles rested on little bitsy set screws.

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