Thursday, October 23, 2008

Relentless Innovation vs. Let It Be

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

If that bromide had been extant when Leo Fender's Precision Bass had been accepted by the world, how little we'd have now. For sure, we wouldn't have the Jazz Bass. The idea of not one, but two pickups! Wow!

The initial decision at Barker Musical Instruments to use the traditional, single coil Jazz Bass electronic array was a conscious one: It represents a known, it is versatile enough to respond to an array of tonal demands from players of many different schools, and it just looks, well, right.

The later decision to add the Precision Bass configuration in the lower cost (well, we like to say, "more accessible" but this time I'm not going to) Brio model was partly to honor Leo's groundbreaking instrument and partly to offer a choice. Both layouts have their passionate adherents.

Will you see more of this movement toward complexity from Barker Musical Instruments? Well, on my watch, you probably won't see anything approaching the image above on the right. (The gentle pejorative is "knob farm" but in fact there are wonderful bassists, especially the extended range players like Stew McKinsey ( and Gregory Bruce Campbell (, whose breadth of musical ability and imagination respond to options way beyond what we mere mortals can grasp.)

Still I attempt to remain open to subtle improvements that can combine with the inherent and unique sonic virtues of the Barker Bass--tone and sustain, mainly--to lead the player's hands to discover something new, exciting and useful.

The image on the left is the underbelly of an exciting option to the Barker Bass. I have mentioned with some anticipation the Stellartone Tonestyler. Now, thanks to Don Campbell from that company, I have combined it with a slightly different wiring scheme that changes the Jazz configuration from volume, volume, tone to volume, pickup blend (with center detent), Stellartone. The first one off the bench, tuned and plugged in, gave me goose bumples from note 1.

It is an outstanding improvement. In time, the parts and schematic will be available on the Barker site ( for retrofit and it will also be possible to order this configuration on an otherwise stock B1 four or five string.

The Stellartone Tonestyler also brings new shades and sweep of tone to the Brio, in a simple replacement of the tone pot.

Like your Barker as it is? Let it be.

Want a little more? We can do that.

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