The “Next Big Thing” in the Evolution of the Bass

What will the new generation of bass makers come up with?

By Jon Liebman
Week of February 10, 2020

I’ve always admired the great bass builders. Over the years, some incredibly innovative people have introduced the bass-playing community to their unique approaches to instrument making, often injecting creativity and ingenuity never before seen, or even imagined. This week’s interview with my longtime friend, master luthier Michael Tobias, provided a stark reminder of just how far the art of bass creation has come, and, more importantly, where it’s going.

After having built an estimated 4,000 guitars and basses, Mike has announced he’ll be stepping down from the day-to-day operation of MTD (Michael Tobias Design), turning the reins of the company over to his son Daniel, who’s been apprenticing with his dad since 2009.

This is big news.

Looking back to the earliest days of the electric bass and the metamorphoses that ensued, one can only wonder what basses will look like with the next generation of builders in charge.

Considering it’s been barely 65 years since the advent of the electric bass, it’s quite remarkable how far the instrument has come. From the earliest days, with Monk Montgomery and other bass pioneers, followed by the introduction of active electronics, humbucking pickups, headless designs, roundwound strings, fanned-fretted fingerboards, and other amazing innovations, the electric bass has matured meteorically in a relatively short time. 

In the meantime, constant tinkering with electronics, various combinations of woods, weight and balance considerations, refined shapes, and so much more, all abound. Surely this incessant experimentation will continue driving the development of the bass. But to what end? 

What’s “the next big thing” in the evolution of the bass?

We can only wait and see. These days, Daniel Tobias, his innovative spirit notwithstanding, is staying true to his roots and his heritage. As he moves forward with new designs – the headless MTD, for one – he’s determined to make sure all his basses still look like MTDs.

How about you? What do you think the next generation of basses will look like? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Michael here.

Comments on The “Next Big Thing” in the Evolution of the Bass

  1. David Pinto says:

    I’m not sure the bass guitar needs to keep evolving in terms of new-fangled designs and/or technology. Rather, subtle improvements in what we already have would be more appropriate. At the end of the day, it’s just a musical instrument, like the saxophone or the upright bass, both of which have been around for a long time in their current states. These are just tools for artists to express what they hear; that’s why we refer to it as an “instrument”. The beauty in instruments of the boutique MTD ilk, is in the subtle differences between builders giving we musicians interesting options.

  2. Tomm Stanley says:

    At Stonefield, I’d like to think our M Series and C Series are the most innovative basses since Steinberger and Kubicki shook things up in the 1980’s.

  3. N C says:

    Hope it looks like a Jazz Bass.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *