Mark Bass: So Long for Now

“Everybody plays their own soundtrack.” 
—Mark Sandman

“Don't you wonder sometimes, ‘bout sound and vision?” 
—David Bowie, Sound and Vision

I’ve always had a feeling that the way something sounds has a look. Often times the vision gets tied to the sound of a player. These days there is a thriving industry around this. You can buy “signature” instruments, effect pedals, strings, straps, picks… but that’s not what I’m talking about. Certain sounds—music, emit textures, colors or shapes. In my case I’m not sure this is synesthesia as much as imagination.

What is style if not the external expression of your soul. And craftsmanship the nurturing of that expression.

There is “sound and vision,” but there is also form and function. The MARK II is a cool looking bass, it’s not too heavy, not too light, it’s balanced well, sounds pretty good. However it falls short in the neck. I was so excited to finally put to use this neck I built a few years ago. It’s one of those things that’s been knocking about in the garage that I’ll look at and think ‘wow, I did this?’ The wenge and the mahogany look great together and I did a pretty good job with the sculpting at the heal and headstock. 

It wouldn’t be fair to say I ignored it, more that I didn’t consider it: the neck taper. So I strung up the MARK II, put it over my shoulder and started playing and thought whoa this is so awkward. Not ideal. Basically the neck is very narrow and relatively thin up by the string nut and then pretty wide (about double the width from the string nut) as well as much thicker at about the tenth position. From there I sculpted this cool shape, but it feels odd when playing. 
In the beginning I set out to create an art bass, but then decided I wanted it to play and it fell apart (MARK I). Then I set out to create a totally functional bass, but it became an art bass (MARK II). The form took over the function. My guess is that I’ll put together a MARK III sometime soon. Likely I’ll decide to learn 2-string slide bass again in a few years and then find comfort in pressing down four strings against a fingerboard with my fingertips.

It’s like Sandman says, we’re all writing our own soundtracks. More so than an awkward-playing 2-string slide baritone/bass, the main takeaway is focus, simplify and be true to yourself. It’s important to be inspired by and not to emulate. If we can quiet all the information and noise when the task at hand arrives, we can express ourselves uniquely. With that let the exploration continue.