Handcrafted basses

DESIGN

You can really use your imagination designing your guitar. Anything goes for a solid body guitar as long as you keep a few practical things in mind.

Give the hardware the right place on the guitar. By hardware I mean the pickups, bridge, tailpiece, tuningheads. Determine in advance what hardware you're going to buy, what scale you are going to use and what kind of sound you're looking for. This may sound a little stupid, but you can come across some unpleasant surprises when the bridge turns out be a lttle higher then expected, or the tuner need more space as expected. If possible, buy the hardware before starting on your woodwork. It is annoying if a wanted part is no longer available, and it is preferred to have the parts at hand during the building to measure and fit in between.

What are the factors wich have influence on the sound of your bass(guitar)?

1. material of body and neck. Generally speaking: softer wood - warm sound, less sustain, harder wood, brighter sound, more sustain.

2. material of frets. Here goes the same as for the wood. Softer material - warm sound less sustain. Soft frets are often used on semi-acoustic jazz-guitars.

3. Placement of the pickups. Near the neck: greater stringamplitude, more volume, more of the lower frequenties. Near the bridge: Less volume, lots of high frequenties, even lack of low frequencies, sharp bright sound.

4. type of pickups. Together with the placement of the pickups is this the most important factor wich determines your sound. The well-known pickup brands (Seymour Duncan, DiMarzio, etc.) got a lot of flavours available, escpecially for guitars. Again, generally speaking: single coil pickups give a thin, bright sound with great detail in the high frequencies. The humbuckers or dual-coil pickups produce a fat, warm sound with usually higher volume then the single-coils. More info on the "PICKUPS" page.

5. type, material and attachment of bridge and nut. Bridges with lots of small, adjustable parts tend to kill your sustain (instead of "pliiiiiinnngggg", you only hear "plingg", so to speak), especially the cheaper ones, wich aren't even made of real brass. Unfortunately, you can't get around adjustable parts, but it's always best to pick a solid brass bridge instead of the well-known L-shaped bridges on most cheaper basses. Also the nut is best made of brass. Especially when a zero-fret is not used. I never understood why a lot of guitars and basses are fitted with good hard frets and a brass bridge, and a PLASTIC nut!


Now let's go on to some practical hints and tips about designing your (bass)guitar:

Ladies and gentlemen: Let me introduce you: "The Klingon Starship"!

Cool design eh? (well...) This six-string bass has a number of significant flaws though. The Klingon Starship is a fine example of how NOT to build a guitar. I use this design to show you what you should consider designing a REAL guitar or bass.

- Notice that the strings go around the corner at the nut (A). Make sure the strings don't make too sharp angles on the bridge, tailpiece or nut. Strings get weak on those spots, and obviously break at the climax of your solo. Aarghhh!

- Be careful where you place the strapholders (B). The guitar has to be in balance while playng it. If the head tends to drop down you have to hold up the neck while playing. This can be very annoying. You can see that the Klingon Starship has a big head, with six basstuners. Heavy. The strapholder (B) is way too far backwards. On this bass, it should be at least somewhere above the 12th fret. Sometimes the strapholder is placed at the back of the neck, depending on your design. Remember Paul McCartney's violin-shaped bass.

- Long extensions not parallel to the woodgrain (C) are very weak and likely to break off. You might decide not to make the body out of a single piece of wood, but rather glue some parts together. Sooner or later, the Klingon Starship WILL lose one of it's "wings". Most likely, the one with the strapholder.

- Make sure that there is enough wood left around the pickups (D). making a hole for a pickup weakens your bass or guitar a bit, and although the wood might not break, there is a chance the body will bend, especially on a bass. Notice that is propably the case on the Klingon Starship. When I Gene Simmonsstart tuning the strings, the bass will change into some kind of crossbow.

- Do you want to play your guitar sitting down? The guitar sliding off your leg every time: sucks. I bet Gene Simmons couldn't sit down with his axe-shaped bassguitar. He would cut his own leg off.. Question: can you play the Klingon Starship comfortably while sitting down? (answer: don't be stupid, of course not)

- Does your guitar have to fit in a normal flightcase or are you going to build this yourself as well?

- When you're not playing, are you placing the guitar in a holder of some kind, and will this fit?

- Watch out for sharp edges that can cause injuries (E). Sharp edges also tend to damage easily, pieces braking off, scratched paint, etc.


The possible injuries are no joke by the way, somebody could hold you responsible being he maker of the guitar or bass. Manufacturer Beck builds stainless steel guitars with bizarre shapes.(picture below). Because of the very sharp edges, the buyer has to sign a release form to protect Beck from law suits. There you have it.

I better hang the design for the Klingon Starship on the wall for decoration and let it stay there. It's certainly not a good idea to build it or to play it.


Some more extravaganza:

Bootsy Collins, extravagant bass for extravagant people.

John Entwhistle, one of my inspirators.

Some never-built designs of my own:


Figured out what your guitar's going to look like? Let's move on and see what TOOLS we need...