Ken's Corner (Bass Forums Sponsored By KSB)

Go Back   Ken's Corner (Bass Forums Sponsored By KSB) > Welcome To SmithBassForums

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 12-22-2009, 06:21 PM
Ken Smith's Avatar
Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
Bassist, Luthier & Admin
 
Join Date: 01-18-2007
Location: Perkasie, PA
Posts: 4,977
Ken Smith is on a distinguished road
Arrow 12/09 Magazine Article on Ken Smith from the Czech Republic..

Ken Smith - Luthier Who Wrote Bass Guitar History

I'm sure that the title of this interview is not high flown. Many bass players own Ken's instruments and many bass players just dream about to own one of these great instruments one day. I can say that Ken Smith basses are cultic, very well made, Ken Smith instruments sounds great with typical flavor in sound. I had change to be in touch with Ken as a customer from the year 1995 time to time. Some people can be surprised by Ken's right ahead communications but after this interview I know that he's "our man"!
by...Zdenek "Wimpy" Tichota

(note; translated typos fixed as best as possible, KS.)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 12-22-2009, 06:21 PM
Ken Smith's Avatar
Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
Bassist, Luthier & Admin
 
Join Date: 01-18-2007
Location: Perkasie, PA
Posts: 4,977
Ken Smith is on a distinguished road
Arrow >>> Czech article continued..

1. Are you still active bass player?...do you play bands or orchestras?.. I play in 2 orchestras now. One is my main gig and the other I use for sight reading practice but if I have any other gigs, I do them instead of the second orchestra because that orchestra is just for the community. The main one is a paid regional orchestra. I play principal/1st bass in both. I also get calls to sub in other similar orchestras in the area as well. I do jazz gigs from duos to big bands and shows like those on B'way. I did B'way in NY when I worked there so I am no stranger to the pit.
2. Your company has long history with many accomplishments but what is biggest success for you and for your company? ..humm.. making the 1000th bass.. no.. 2000th.. no.. 5000th.. gee.. my fingers hurt.. Maybe seeing all the other companies copy what I do all over the world was the biggest except they don't pay me, they just steal. I have done some design consult for Brooklyn Gear KSDs, KSD Burners and Sleek Elite KSD Brooklyn and new Burner Japan basses. the Japan basses are hand made in Japan and of high quality. They use my wood for the necks and fingerboards. The BG KSDs are Chinese imports now, b4 there were from Korea. (Note; Brooklyn Gear turned over the KSD line of Basses to D'Andrea Mfg. earlier this year. They are now made in China instead of Korea, KS.)

3. We can find many different wood combinations on your instruments but I think these two are most popular (for body) : maple/mahogany core or walnut/maple core…can you tell as differences in sound of these two wood combos?.. humm.. most popular? Says who? (me Wimpy :-) ).. To be specific the most popular depends on the model. The Elite Neck thru I can say Quilt maple or tiger over mahogany. Now we use a lot of low figure quilt or western tiger (same wood) for cores. It balances the lows better I think and we don't have to buy it. We just use whats not pretty enough for the Tops.. Conservation.. Walnut or maple is another favorite for all level models.. Differences? Walnut to me has more highs or audible mids spread by the maple core. The Quilt over mahogany has more low crunch and tight sizzle highs.. Both winners..

4. Which combination of woods on your instruments is best for fat groovy sounding instruments and which combination is better for let say jazz-bassist „soloist“?.. The Walnut top basses scream out more so that for the funk and stuff.. Jazz to be smoother I love the maple.. It's the mellower of the two. Cores can color to a degree.. but 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 pc bodies.. more variables..
5. Do you prefer ebony or morado/pau ferro for fret board? …ebony is nice but maybe morado/pau ferro is better for lower frequencies delivery... Morado has a slower decay and ebony peaks faster.. Drop them both on the floor and listen. Like tone tap.. Just using the floor.. lol.. Morado is smooth and more stable from shrinkage or cracking than ebony. The ebony we have for the last 15 years is the best I have seen.. It is the king for fingerboards for high end. It is just more childish and needs attention..
6. We can see your offer old double basses from different countries (Italian, English, French, American, German & Bohemian) Which of these old instruments are your favorite?.. wow.. shhh.. my Storioni is the king.. The big Gamba is BIG but unless I get them side by side, I don't know which is better. The Storioni has Italian money so it should be the best. It has sloped shoulders so easy to play. The Gilkes is the classic of gods workmanship. Almost looks half its age till its examined close, real close.. The Hart is a rare classic but the Martini goes out more. At a lower value and a newer sturdy made bass, the Martini is a safer bass for me to bring out to orchestra rehearsals and concerts. Some times I take the Martini out and then I decide i want more bass and bring the Gilkes or Hart to the last rehearsal or concert. Many of my basses are in restoration now and these are mostly inventory. My personal ones that I play most are the Martini, Gilkes, Hart sometimes and the Storioni when it was here. After it is fixed, I will still go out with the Martini and take the Storioni for the concert or 1 rehearsal. I have the best basses of all the players in the orchestra usually so showing off by drowning everyone out is not a nice thing. In my main orchestra if I am so loud, the other players just sit back and play half.. then I end up working harder and the conductor screams at them. The Martini is a great bass but doesn't wipe out the rest of the section.. For jazz gigs, I take what is safe depending on where I play and usually but not always with a bass fitted for a pickup for the amp., More Questions? this is fun.. lol.. You didn't ask me about Bows.. (the Gilkes and Big Gamba mentioned above have since been sold. My main Basses for all my Orchestra work now is my Martini or the Hart but I also have a Jacquet I'm preparing, KS.)
7. It was pleasure for me to see over there instruments from our country how do you like these old Czech/Bohemians instruments? Czech/Bohemian basses here are manly the lower grade ones made for export on the last 50-150 years. I have seen some nice handmade basses from your area but they are usually kept locally and the players don't sell them. For orchestra basses most of the better ones are the Italian and English but I have seen some big Germans and Viennese that fit right in. The jazz players love the smaller 3/4 type commercial Czech basses. The amplify well but sound too small for the orchestra. Like student grade basses I call these for orchestra.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 12-22-2009, 09:20 PM
Ken Smith's Avatar
Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
Bassist, Luthier & Admin
 
Join Date: 01-18-2007
Location: Perkasie, PA
Posts: 4,977
Ken Smith is on a distinguished road
Arrow >>> Czech article continued..

8. Your instruments are very popular in many different music styles. But they are also very frequently used by gospel players…how it happened? Was it your intention or those great black gospel players just found themselves your superb instruments for their sound? Gospel? I was once told from a guy in Greece.. "YOUR BASS IS THE BEST FOR GREEK MUSIC".. The a Latin guy tells me .. "YOUR BASSES ARE THE BEST FOR LATIN MUSIC".. Now I hear "YOUR BASSES ARE THE BEST FOR GOSPEL MUSIC"... Hey, isn't gospel more like just R&B with different words? Greek, Latin, Gospel, Jazz,, Isn't Bb a Bb regardless of what you are singing about?
I just go for making basses that work, ALL of the notes.. Or, why bother if all of them don't work? All or.. get a different job.. right?
9. Time to time some Luithers come with some new ideas or new constructions. Do you think that these innovations have radical effect for sound? I mean extended B stock, single cut body, semi-hollow body,etc. Do you plan or did you ever try to made instruments with these constructions?.. .. OK.. this is 3 different subjects..
1- Single Cut.. This is old with Guitars.. like 19th to early 20th century. Didn't they stop that for better playability or something?.. Some jazz guitars still use it..
2- Semi hollow.. why if its electric? You cant play it without the amp. Wanna cut out the bad overtones? Then don't look for trouble.. Also, can you see or fix the glue drips inside.. what if u get a buzz in there? how will you fix it? Too heavy so you hollow it out? NO, redesign the shape and use lighter wood.. its not that hard.. after some one buys each model, make a new one to sell more guitars.. better? no.. maybe never.. business? the more colors you make the more you can shove down the dealers throats.. not my game.. sorry
3- Extended B.. I save this for last. This is to some.. hokus pokus or witch doctor thoughts.. to me.. no.. any change has an effect. The B is so thick and the steep angle at the head is sometimes not best. I changed this awhile ago on my 5s but the 6s, the same.. 34" scale, standard stringing and unless you hear with your eyes and read bull pucky ads, its just fine. Tension problems can result from many many things.. the head is only one very minor place. The bridge, neck/fb angle to the body, the wood vibration of the body vs the neck, materials, species and finish.. finish can kill the sound.. bad gunked up bar top finish? then extend the B.. lol
Playing and working with Double Basses has taught me more than I think exists in the theories of solid body making. The Double Bass, the Violin, the Viol d'Gamba, the Violone, the Lute, etc are all the grandfathers of the electric bass and guitar solid bodies.. Want to be a better maker? Learn to respect your elders! If you don't know who they are, then you have one HUGE hole in your instrument making education.. just my opinion.. smiles
10. Some years ago was big „boom“ with instruments neck through body instruments, neck and body laminations. Than years later some Luithers goes back and they make bolt on instruments or they do less layers lamination. Even some of them do one piece of wood for neck, no sandwich style body, just back and top…is that because it’s less work for them and less expenses or it’s just another style in bass guitar design? Also somebody says more glue less sound.. Glue? How about the finishes they use? Those have no tone either. The glue is a mist at best and most squeeze out. Cross grains and wood species affect the tone, not the glue. Why makers go here and then there? Will they tell you the truth if you ask them? Do they even know why they did what the did? I don't know what others do or why they do. I am too busy doing what I think I need to do. What will sell and provide a good working tool is what I want to make but with the quality that I worked decades for to deliver. When the economy is as bad as a few lifetimes like now, we do what we need to get by. Cheapening things is bad. I prefer though to put my labor and the work of my smaller staff now towards our best basses. Time is time so if we make bolt-ons with a smaller crew, they will cost more. Once the rent is paid and the other fixed overhead expenses, it doesn't matter how many people work in the building. The more people the less each hour costs per man. Right now we don't have that luxury so we are making over 90% neck-thrus.

11. Can you introduce to us your KSD Jazz Bass style instruments? These instruments are also very popular for price and quality. Are KSD instruments made only in Korea or you make some of these also in your workshop in USA? maybe just for your company artists?.. KSD is NOT a Ken Smith product. Another company approached me some years ago and I gave my input on the designs. I tested a few of them the first 2 years and that was it. We never made them, never advertised them other than web support and never distributed them to stores. We did BUY a few from Brooklyn Gear to sell locally LIKE a store so they would be available here in town or for visitors. That's all.. NOT my product,, sorry.. A bit like Les Paul and Gibson.. Designer and maker. (The former Koren made KSD's sold by Brooklyn Gear have been replaced with Basses from a new factory in China now sold by D'Andrea Mfg., KS.)
12. Do you think that there is or can exist bass guitar which looks way different than Fender Jazz Bass but it has Fender Jazz Bass sound? .. Looks? yes.. materials? maybe now. Reshape a piece of wood and the sound shifts as well. Change the type of wood and parts and its a different bass, different sound. I think!
13. Is possible to make instrument which will cover both worlds?...I mean instrument with vintage jazz bass sound and modern sound?.. No.. maybe., i don't know.. Depends on what you want to hear. Some people own and use 6 different Fenders. Even all fender, they need a different bass in rain or sunshine, night and day.. lol
14. Do you prepare something new?... some new model or new design? Or maybe some new gear amps etc... The PAPA Preamp is a new product. I also produced a few hundred Bows of my design a few years ago and were made in China. I have some left but the market is slow now so I might not reorder anytime soon. The PAPA Preamp works for Guitar, bass, electric, acoustic/elec, Double Bass.,.. anything with a pickup or mic. I even tested it with my old AKG e160 mic on my DB and it was fantastic.. Headphone control, batteries, ac, dc... active, passive, DIP switch inside.. and. the Color is beautiful.. Maybe the Color is the best.. lol.. This is my new product.. the Smith PAPA..
15. They say life is not just about bass guitars J have you got any other hobbies except them?.. NO?.. You sure?? ahh.. I was never told that.. bummer... LOL... Hey, I have a wife, 2 great kids.. I did play golf when I had the time and was a good fisherman as well.. Golf can tire you out and you stink after fishing.. I rather play bass in an orchestra or go to a cool movie and eat popcorn.. Sundays if they let me.. I sleep in all day and rest my bones.. That's my favorite.. When they ask me Dad, what do you wanna do on your birthday or fathers day? I say.. my day? lol.. NOTHING with any of you.. lol.. Rather do what I like.. Kidding.. Days off with family around can be more work than work itself..
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Since this article is mainly about my various 'Bass related involvements' and not just about Smith Basses, I have posted it here in the main 'Welcome' Forum for all to read.

Comments and discussions are welcome here..
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 12-26-2009, 05:23 PM
Michael Wilson Michael Wilson is offline
Posting Member
 
Join Date: 03-26-2008
Location: ny
Posts: 65
Michael Wilson is on a distinguished road
Default Nice interview

Ken,

Really like how you mix facts with the funny stuff. Makes great reading. Keep it up and maybe you will write a book.

Mike
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 12-26-2009, 10:12 PM
Ken Smith's Avatar
Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
Bassist, Luthier & Admin
 
Join Date: 01-18-2007
Location: Perkasie, PA
Posts: 4,977
Ken Smith is on a distinguished road
Wink write a book?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Wilson View Post
Ken,

Really like how you mix facts with the funny stuff. Makes great reading. Keep it up and maybe you will write a book.

Mike
This Forum IS a book. On going.. and on and on and on.......
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 12-27-2009, 09:29 AM
Eric Swanson's Avatar
Eric Swanson Eric Swanson is offline
Posting Member
 
Join Date: 11-12-2007
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 196
Eric Swanson is on a distinguished road
Default Nicely done

Congratulations, Ken, on yet another of your many noteworthy accomplishments. Nice to see you getting recognition and appreciation for a lifetime of talent, skill, and dedication.
__________________

Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 12-27-2009, 12:17 PM
Ken Smith's Avatar
Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
Bassist, Luthier & Admin
 
Join Date: 01-18-2007
Location: Perkasie, PA
Posts: 4,977
Ken Smith is on a distinguished road
Thumbs up recognition...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Swanson View Post
Congratulations, Ken, on yet another of your many noteworthy accomplishments. Nice to see you getting recognition and appreciation for a lifetime of talent, skill, and dedication.
Yes, but apart from this Forum, no one I know can understand the original article or read Czech. Still, it's better than nothing..
Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 06:27 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright 2007 - Ken Smith Basses, LTD. (All Rights Reserved)