Bassimer STD - BassPlayer.com

Bassimer STD

IMAGINE A SCENARIO WHERE A dulcimer and bass guitar hook up after a gig, head off to a bar for a few drinks, and nine months later, the result of their romantic interlude is an instrument that embodies the best
Author:
Publish date:

bp0710_gearbassamirgrid

Imagine a scenario where a dulcimer and bass guitar hook up after a gig, head off to a bar for a few drinks, and nine months later, the result of their romantic interlude is an instrument that embodies the best attributes of both. That’s what John Shelton of Wisconsin must have imagined when he came up with the Bassimer. (Actually, he got the idea after visiting a Kentucky dulcimer shop.) I was first introduced to this instrument by Victor Wooten, who played a beautiful melody on it. While it’s true that Vic could strum a tree branch and make it sound beautiful (something he’s probably done at one of his Bass/Nature camps), the unique sound of the Bassimer is what caught my ear. The Bassimer offers a rich and resonant open tuning, with one A offsetting the instrument’s plethora of D strings. Its tone and voicing immediately brought to mind Michael Manring, a bass player famous for his use of odd tunings and unorthodox string types.

Our test Bassimer STD sported a poplar body covered in industrial hammered paint. The medium frets dive into the rosewood fingerboard just below the D2 string, making the bass a fretted/fretless hybrid. While I dug this aspect of the instrument, I found that chords were difficult to play as a result, since barring across the neck made the fretless string ring flat. A single Mighty Mite soapbar pickup sits closer to the bridge than the neck, allowing room for the upside-down-mounted EBow, located below the octave-spaced double-course top strings.

bp0710_gear_0980

Speaking of that, the EBow feature is way cool. In the 3-position switch’s down position it functions normally, accentuating the first-order harmonic sound, and in the “up” position it adds more high-harmonic texture. We bassists have few calls to use anything like an EBow, so getting to experiment with one was an absolute blast, especially when I combined it with a loop pedal.

The STD model is basic in many respects, with inexpensive electronics and construction materials; higher-end models can be customized to one’s own specifications (although all Bassimers are short-scale basses, usually 30"–32"). If painted poplar is not your thing, you can upgrade to mahogany, maple, etc.; pickups and electronics can vary as well. The heel/neck joint on our tester was not as tight as I would like, perhaps due to the fact that Shelton uses existing short-scale necks rather than constructing them in connection with a particular body. Also, the electronics cavity was unshielded. However, these aspects seemed to have little or no effect on the instrument’s sound.

bp0710_gear_0978

The key to easy playing involves thinking of the bass as a reverse dulcimer to some degree, utilizing the outer strings for droning and the middle strings for chording and/or melody creation. After just a few minutes with the Bassimer, I was able to compose a short piece that was both fun to play and (according to my wife) not unpleasant to hear. The inexpensive soapbar pickup proved ample in providing clear and vibrant tones, and the tone control worked well, especially in relationship to the EBow control; rolling off the tone when utilizing the EBow yielded softer, more flute-like tones. On his website, Shelton provides several videos of him playing original compositions on the dulcimer, which will give you some idea of how one might approach the instrument, but the fun of this bass is really trying to figure it out for yourself.

All of us here enjoyed exploring the Bassimer, and each tended to approach it from a different musical perspective. I found the instrument inspiring and delightfully friendly in terms of the learning curve, so we’ll likely be seeing more of these little bass/dulcimer ankle-biters running around in the future. —Rod Taylor

BASSIMER STD

Street $850
Pros Innovative sounds, easy to play, huge fun factor
Cons Some minor construction issues

TECH SPECS

Weight 6.9 lbs
Made in U.S.A.
Warranty One year limited
Contact www.bassimer.com

Related

bp0610_geardanogrid

Danelectro Dead On ’58 Longhorn

THE PAST DECADE HAS SEEN THE popularity of reissue basses continue to grow. While some of the most noticeable have come from Fender (such as the ’51 and ’57 Precision Bass reissues), in the ’50s and early ’60s Fender wasn’t the only game in town—a fact I remembered when listening to some early Who recordings. In the past few years, Danelectro has reintroduced its most successful basses (see April ’08 for our review of the long- and short-scale Dano ’63 reissue), and with its Dead On ’58 Longhorn, Danelectro offers its third reissue of the bass made famous by John Entwistle.

Image placeholder title

Review: Aquilina Bertone & Shelby 5-Strings

Whether it’s the two enormous oceans separating us from most of the rest of the world, our national DNA, or the understandable result of having enough resources (at least historically) to sustain every imaginable industry, Americans can be a bit self-centered when they spend money.

bp0310_peavey

Peavey Cirrus Bolt-On

IT’S NEVER A BAD THING TO HAVE SOME staying power in the music industry, especially when it’s bolstered by a historically solid reputation. Consider Peavey, which has been on the scene for over 40 years and has maintained a respectable reputation for the duration. Peavey’s newest instrument is the Cirrus Bolt-on, and from the first glance, it has a clearly established personality. As musical genres cross-breed and evolve, so too do the desires of the average musician—and Peavey’s designers seem quite aware of this natural progression. The Bolt-On has an interesting blend of sensibilities: It’s definitely a rocker, but refined, intelligent, and pretty in a goth sort of way.