Tap it and Tune it
By David Freeman
Originally published in American Lutherie #12
The day after I first strung and set the action on my first flattop base, my issue of American Lutherie #9 arrived with the article and plan by Tim Olsen. I waited about a week before reading it so I could assess my prototype on its own. The article reinforced a lot of the ideas I had incorporated into my own instrument.
The first flattop base I saw was at the Winnipeg Folk Festival from the back of the crowd. The Washington Squares bassist had a Guild. The next day the lead guitarist and the singer stropped at my booth and I questioned them on it, but I was never able to track down the bassist. My design is drawn from my own resources as a prototype for future models.
As for the name, I would agree with Mr. Olsen that uniformity avoids confusion. Flattop bass is fine with me, though prior to reading his article I called it an acoustic base. However, a flattop acoustic bass will avoid confusion with a standup acoustic bass. So a flattop base it is if the public will catch on!
I built this base with the idea in mind to play it myself to assess its strengths and weaknesses, so I decided to make the neck the same as my electric bass. This way I could switch between the two without needing to adjust to a new scale length or a new neck profile. My electric is an Aria with 32 1/2" scale length. The thin necks on electric basses hold up to the string tension. Anyone who plays a bass knows how easily the strings pull sideways, so the string tension is not too great. The longer scale lengths will have a little more tension, but a good truss rod compensates for the long thin neck.