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Barker Bass:
Electric Upright Comfort

Article appeared in DownBeat magazine

Lee Barker

Bass guitarists looking to start playing electric upright bass face the challenge of simultaneously adapting to a fretless neck while using new fingerings due to the scale length differences between most bass guitars (34") and electric upright basses (42"). Although many bassists do double on uprights and electrics, those bass guitarists who might not wish to relearn fingerings on a fretless upright but still yearn to play an upright are in luck with the Barker bass.

Built by Redmond, Ore.-based bassist and woodworker Lee Barker, the handcrafted Barker bass incorporates the fretted neck of an electric bass guitar on a flat, 2-inch-thick, upright body. Barker developed the idea for a fretted upright after experiencing wrist problems while playing bass guitar, and subsequently has designed the Barker bass for playing comfort. The bass has a free-standing design, so players don't have to hold it up-that's taken care of by a heavy duty stand with an attachment that locks in to a socket on the back of the bass. This helps to keep a player's physical contact with the bass to a minimum; arms, hands and wrists are held in natural positions and are only focused on playing the bass, not holding it. The minimal physical contact also keeps the bass's resonance from being dampened; the sound rings clear.

As a bass guitarist who doesn't play upright, I found the Barker bass easy to adapt to and comfortable to play on a big band gig. Normally, with the bass guitar, I prefer to use a pick because I have yet to find a comfortable position for my hands and wrists to pluck the bass. With the Barker bass, I was able to find a relaxed hand position within moments via the two thumb supports on its top, so there was no tension in my hands when plucking the strings. This helped to deliver a warm finger-on-string sound that swelled and sustained, supporting the big band sound with a rich bottom end. Many fellow band members commented positively on the bass's tone (it features Seymour Duncan pickups) and individual look.

The Barker bass features a 34-inch select hard rock maple neck with rosewood, maple or ebony fingerboards. It's also available in fretless or lined fretless versions. The body, available in such woods as cherry, alder, maple and walnut, is 2 inches thick and made with a solid wood chambered core. The bass also has an adjustable endpin that accomodates players to 6'6".

-Dave Zaworski  

Ordering Info: www.barkerbass.com

The Barker Vertical Bass - Patent Pending

copyright Barker Bass, 2003

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