7-string bass??? What the hell is that??? John told me, over a cup
1993, I was feeling pretty bored with the concept of a 4-string
bass. I was playing a Pedulla Buzz fretless, a nice, mid 70's
Jazz and a sweet Rick
4001, all three of which are beautiful instruments, and I still
own them, but I was becoming increasingly unmotivated by their format.
Now, that's not to say that I was some monster player who had completely
mastered the world of 4-strings, which is definitely not true; it's
just that I wasn't as hungry for bass anymore, or at least not 4-string,
and that bothered me. I knew I had to do something about it,
so I decided to upgrade to a 6-string.
but what about the 7-strings?
would be Conklins.
They're made by a really cool company in Springfield, Missouri.
I saw a giveaway in Bass Player [magazine] in 1993, where the
featured prize was this Conklin 7-string bass. I took
a look at it and cried out "Hot Carrots! That will definitely
not be boring." I called the company, and spoke to Bill
[Conklin, the owner and master luthier] himself. That impressed
me. We had a nice long talk about woods and pickups, and when
I hung up the phone, I felt really, really excited about bass again,
for probably the first time in eight years. One of the really
relevant and important factors for me from the start, when
dealing with Conklin, was the customer service. Bill
didn't know me from some guy on the street, but he still treated
me with respect and honor, and believe me, that is rare anywhere
in the music business, no matter who you are.
me about your 7-String basses...
7-string that I got from Bill was my fretless, (Serial # 16), which
I got in December '93. This bass has a few customizations
of my own choosing, although it's still pretty much a stock instrument,
as far as Conklins go. The string spacing at the nut more
approximates a Jazz bass, maybe even a bit closer together. The
finger board is highly figured ebony, 24-fret, and it used to have
a high-gloss urethane finish on it, which I just recently had Bill refinish,
due to wear from extensive playing, and replace with a clear epoxy.
It has a through-body, maple and purpleheart neck and a 34"
scale length. The body is ash, with a tightly flamed maple
top. Originally, I wanted a clear black or purple finish over
the maple flames, but Bill convinced me to keep it just the plain
wood because of the porous nature of this particular flamed maple
top, and I am glad he did.
7-string was my fretted, about a year later, and this had even more
customizations (Serial # TurnerII). I call it the "Blood
Bass", and there are many unique features on this instrument,
even for a Conklin. The neck is 28-fret, with the same string
spacing as the fretless, and is made of wenge, maple and purple-heart--
I think it is the first neck that Bill [Conklin] has ever done like
that. It's a [neck] through-body, like the fretless, and the
body wood is ash, again like the fretless. The design on the
top is not painted, it's actually woods of different colors-- Conklin
calls it the Melted top-- and the body design extends both into
the through-body portion of the neck and the ebony fretboard. The
bright red wood on top-- the "blood" - is purple
heart, and the dark brown, figured wood on the bottom is ziricote,
a Mexican ebony. He finished the bass with a darker, golden
lacquer-like finish that makes the instrument look really aged,
like it's a hundred years old.
electronics on the fretted are also pretty customized. The pick-ups
were Bartolinis, but I have replaced them with Lane Poor pickups with
a volume and pan knob, and Bass, Mid and Treble tone controls, the
same as my fretless. The pre-amp was a stock Bartolini, but I have
replaced that with a Demeter on-board pre-amp.
The bass is also outfitted with a Piezo bridge, with its own
special rack unit, where I can control from the rack my level and
pan for each string individually. Bill had been doing Piezo
bridges for some time, but this was the first bass he ever made that
had the pan and level control off-instrument-- usually it was controlled
by switches on the back or hardwired in some configuration. It
was a little bumpy initially-- we had a few headroom problems,
but we fixed those, and now the unit rocks.
the results so much that I went back and had the same setup put
on the fretless, so both of my workhorse basses have the Piezo bridge
setup. I use them [the piezos] in conjunction with the magnetic
pickups for recording, and every song features it somewhere, often
just for a subtle hinting of stereo-- when mixed with a little chorus
or flange it can make the bass really lush-sounding. I am now in
the process of replacing the piezo preamp with the RMC
Piezo/Synth preamp on both of my neck-through 7-strings, which
will not only get me better piezo response, but also the 13-pin
Roland standard Synthesizer/C-V output, for bass
synth control, like my 8-string Conklins
have another fretted Conklin 7-string from the New Century series.
Conklin has taken the most popular custom options and made them
into orderable packages. Mine has a melted top on a cherry wood
body, a purple heart fingerboard on a bolt on neck, Lane Poor pickups
and a Seymour-Duncan active pre-amp like the one in my doubleneck
designed a new fretless neck for it, based on the fretted neck of
the doubleneck. It has a maple fretboard with purple heart flame
tongues coming from the nut and the pickups. I originally intended
on having it fretted, and then changed my mind at the last minute,
hence the lines, which I usually don't like on fretless. Sounds
great, now I finally have a Lane Poor equipped fretless, and plays
like butter. I just have to get used to the lines now - they're
actually a bit confusing for me after 8 years of playing fretless
7 string without lines.
do you tune them?
high, B-E-A-D-G-B-E, except for my first fretted, which I tune low
to high F#-B-E-A-D-G-C. I chose the guitar tuning originally,
when I got my fretless, to help me figure out what to do with the
top two strings. The low B came naturally-- it was like "Where
have you been all my life?"-- but the two high ones were more
of a stumper. I had definite plans for them, but I needed
to learn the map, so to speak, and there weren't too many guys teaching
7-string bass, so I was on my own. I could have just practiced
scales, I guess, but that wouldn't be any fun, so my rationale for
the tuning was that I would learn guitar parts to cover tunes that
I already knew the bass lines for, from way back in my cover tune
days; then, eventually I would have a better perspective on where
to play certain types of passages in different keys. The new tuning
on my fretted, with the low F#, almost an octave lower than a regular
4-string bass, really opened up a lot of opportunities for me -
I can play passages articulately that would have normally required
a synthesizer. I love it.
never played a 5 or 6-string?
I went directly from fretted and lined fretless 4-string to
an unlined fretless 7. Do not pass Go. I remember when
I first got the bass from Bill. I opened the case and stared
down at it and started to shake [laughs]. "What
have I done?? What have I done?" I kept thinking to myself.
To top it off, right after I got it, I went to the '94 Winter Namm show, [the
yearly musical instrument trade show in Anaheim CA], which is like
the musician's equivalent to the Miss Nude Universe pageant-- a
bunch of shred- and chop-meisters vying for cock-o'-the-walk honors,
and here I am with two weeks experience on this beast. Everyone
likes to say that chops don't matter, but in a situation like that,
they are the only thing that matters. Exhibitors at the show only
take you seriously if they recognize you or you blow them away,
and neither was happening for me. I was having a hard time
talking to some people about potential new gear-- they would blow
me off. It was, quite honestly, one of the most uncomfortable
situations in my life, sort of like swim suit weather sneaking up
on you right after Thanksgiving. That show was also the first
time I met Bill Conklin, which made it even worse-- here he made
me this fabulous instrument, and I couldn't even reliably fret the
same string I was plucking! It was pretty bad. I'm over it
now, but I still cringe when I think of it.
you don't play 4-string anymore?
honest with you, not if I can help it. They seem really
boring to me now.Whenever I pickup a 4 string now, it feels like
I'm holding one of them big crayons that we used to color with when
we were little kids.
Turner on Bass
7-String Fretted &
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