Monday, 4 August 2014

Wal MB4 midi bass review from Guitarist magazine - February 1990

Wal MB4 midi bass review from Guitarist Feb 1990

Wal MB4 MIDI Bass

As MIDI controllers grow in type and in complexity, one instrument seems to have been overlooked - the bass guitar has always been the 6- string’s poor relation... Review by Ollie Crooke.

AS A BASS PLAYER who works a great deal in a MIDI pre-production studio, I have spent the last few years gnashing my teeth in jealousy as controllers for drummers, guitarists, saxophonists and trumpeters have come on to the market; there just didn’t seem to be much commercial interest in making MIDI accessible in any acceptable form to bass players. I contacted Yamaha, who make guitar and saxophone controllers (both of which I have bought in frustration) to ask if they had any plans to develop something to help me, and was told that although the technology was of course available, such a development was highly unlikely, as there was not a sufficient market to make it worth their while. Well, I hope this instrument proves them wrong.

I am hardly unbiased, but I believe that the potential of a MIDI bass controller is immense - even more so when coupled with a machine like the Simmons SDX and a good drummer. Whole rhythm sections can be recorded into a sequencer, edited, looped, tightened up and generally manipulated, giving whatever balance of human feel and computer precision you require. Exciting, eh? Like drums, although great bass parts can and have been programmed from a keyboard, most of them don’t sound the same as if they’d been played by a real bassist or drummer. Neither is there any of the spontaneity or interaction generated by a good rhythm section playing together. And as there just happens to be a Simmons SDX lying around in my studio, perhaps you can understand my desperation for a decent MIDI bass controller...

Monday, 28 July 2014

Photos of Ian "Wal" Waller and Pete "The Fish" Stevens

That's it really. Just an opportunity to post in one place some photos of two of the best bass builders this country has and will ever see...

Pete "The Fish" Stevens

Ian "Wal" Waller
For more shots of these fine men please continue below...

Monday, 21 July 2014

Wal Pro Series basses article from The Guitar Magazine, early 2000s

Article from the UK's The Guitar Magazine on the Wal Pro Series basses from the early 2000s

Wal Pro-1 Bass 

Review category: Basses

A great opportunity to get your hands on a genuine Wall for a fraction of the price you may have expected
Founded in the mid-'70s with a commitment to high-quality design and construction, Electric Wood (the company that made Wal basses) was responsible for some of the best machines ever to grace the woofers of your hi-fi.

The Pro range of basses, from the entry-level Pro-I, to the top-of-the-line Pro-IIE, encapsulated all the ideas and innovations that Wal was known for.

You may not be able to buy a new one, but all the Wal Pro series are excellent second-hand buys. Of the four instruments in the range, the Pro-I offers the least in the way of refinements, though you still get a handmade pro-quality bass guitar. The others in the range are the Pro-II (two pickups), The Pro-IE (active), and the Pro-IIE (two pickups, active circuitry).

In action, the Pro-I is a beast of distinction, easy and comfortable to play, with a lovely thick, woody tone. It gives a very chunky 70s sound, but with some adjustment to the pickup, a wider range of sounds can be achieved.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Wal custom built basses, rarities & oddities...

Wal custom built basses, rarities & oddities

Throughout their history, Electric Wood were known for their custom builds alongside their production models. Whether it was the iconic triple neck or a tweak to the established formula, if you could convince Ian or Pete then the world was your oyster. However, they had to be convinced it would work. They remained craftsmen, dedicated to building beautifully crafted working tools for working musicians. The weird and wonderful but frankly silly basses could be left for other builders. 

When visiting their workshops in High Wycombe it was not so unusual to see the odd Strat shaped guitar (albeit sporting the characteristic Wal laminated body) hanging from the guitar rack. Alongside might be a Jazz bass in for renovation. However, despite that their passion remained for the basses for which they had become known.

There were a few oddities, though. This page showcases a few of Wal's more unusual creations.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Wal Double Neck Basses

Double-necked Wal basses.

Over the years Electric Wood have made a number of double-necked basses.  Although not exactly common there are a good few examples out there.  
The original idea for a Wal double neck came from renowned bassist, Jonas Hellborg, who approached Wal in 1983 with the idea of building a unique bass which
combined fretted and fretless necks. Of course, Wal had some history with multi-necked basses having built the iconic Wal Triple Neck for Roger Newell in Rick Wakeman's band in the early 1970s. The triple neck was, however, somewhat "agricultural" in its lack of finesse. It predated the development of Wal's proprietary pickups, electronics and bridge using off the shelf components. Hellborg's double neck was to be a rather slicker affair.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Bassist magazine feature, January 2000 - "My bass(es) are... Four Wals"

My Basses are...   Four Wals

Steve Weston wanted a Wal. Then he wanted another. And another. Then? Well, we'll let him tell you...

I will never forget the first time I heard a Wal, it was in 1983 and being very ably played by Colin Bass of Camel. I'd had a number of basses over the years, Rickenbacker, Fender, Ibanez etc, but had never quite managed to capture that elusive sound that I wanted from any of them. Anyway there I was watching Camel and I was suddenly being blown away by this amazing bass, loud in the mix without being overpowering, driving, clear and very tight. I decided then and there that I had to have one.
Anyway as it turned out, deciding I had to have one was the easy bit. It actually took me two years of saving, gigging on reduced curry and beer intake (slightly) before I had enough cash to realise my dream, a 1984 Custom 4 string purchased from a reluctant seller in London.

The bass as it was then had a Mahogany body, Electric Wood standard, with Walnut facings and an ebony fretless fingerboard, great looks, and yes, it had that great fretless Wal sound which suited me exactly at the time due to the material we were playing. I later had luthier Pete the Fish at Electric Wood make me a fretted neck so I had some opportunity to change style from time to time. In one form or the other it was my only bass for the next 6/7 years and it never let me down once.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Wal MB4 midi bass

The Wal MB4 MIDI Bass.

The Wal MB4 midi-bass was a relatively short lived collaboration between Electric Wood and Australian bass player/designer Steve Chick.  The system allowed a bass player to control a midi synthesizer directly from the bass with both accurate note tracking with immediate sounding notes.  A common problem for early guitar and bass to midi converters was the so-called "midi-delay" the almost imperceptible (but still noticeable and distracting) delay between hitting a note and the note sounding. This was down to the physics of the leading technology used at the time for sensing the notes.

The main sensor on most synth controllers at the time was the so called "hex pickup". These thin pickups could usually be seen squeezed in between the bridge pickup and the bridge itself - indeed, kits were available allowing you to stick a hex pickup on your own favourite guitar. The triggering delay was caused by the time taken for the midi hex pick-up to sense the note being played. All the information about that note was conveyed to the midi converter by the hex pickup and therein lay its weakness. To sense the pitch of the note, the pickup needed to listen to a few full vibrations of the string. This wasn't such a problem when shredding away at the top of a guitar neck. The time taken for the string to vibrate a couple of times was minimal and imperceptible. 

Monday, 16 June 2014

Video Demos

Just what do all those knobs do?

We Wal fans all know just how versatile the Wal bass is - largely down to the visionary design of the active electronics. There are so few other basses that have ever used the type of filters which a Wal Custom bass uses. So if there is a downside to the versatility upside of the Wal tone circuit then it is that the way in which they work may not be familiar. They aren't immediately intuitive to all.

The Wal Custom tone controls are described in more detail in the page on this blog that covers those models. But the drafting of those instructions aren't exactly user friendly. However, the beauty of the internet is that there is a wealth of info out there, particularly on YouTube. 

Here are a few videos of Wals in action. Enjoy.

First up is a video by Jaymi Millard, a serial Wal user and serial groovy bass reviewer on his YouTube channel. Here he is reviewing a 1985 Mk I four string...

Monday, 9 June 2014

My basses: non-Wal basses...

Not all my basses are Wals (or even British) but they all have a story to tell. Featured here on this post are my Frankenjazz project bass which was based on a Signature Jazz Bass I bought off eBay, my Tony Revell hand build acoustic bass and my first ever bass, an Aria SB700 from 1981.

Signature Jazz Bass copy: my Frankenjazz...

Monday, 2 June 2014

My basses: 1978 Wal Pro series bass - PB1291

1978 Wal Pro series bass - PB1291: 

My Pro bass is a "Pro IIE" which was, according to records at Electric Wood, completed on 24 September 1979.  The Pro Series was Wal's first production bass line (hence "Pro") and the IIE signifies twin pickups and active circuitry. Like my Mark I Custom Series Wal this is another beautifully built bass. It has a translucent (strawberry) red finish over a solid ash body that the photos simply do not do justice to.  It is so rich! The body shape and size is similar to the "Custom Series" basses although the forearm chamfer is much more angular than on the Custom Bass. The neck is much the same construction as the newer Wall basses, although with a larger "paddle" style headstock.  However, the neck profiles are quite different - the "Pro" has a comfortable and fast C shaped neck while the "Custom" is rather more "V shaped".  In addition, the neck features carbon fibre stiffening rods within the construction of the neck.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

My basses: 1985 Wal Custom 4-string bass - W2601

I am lucky enough to have what I consider to be a small but perfectly formed collection of bass guitars. First of all I'm the owner of two bass guitars from one of Britain's most respected builders... Wal Basses by Electric Wood.  These are a beautiful red "Pro series" bass from 1979 and a schedua topped  "Custom series" bass from 1985.  I also have another British-built bass, a custom built acoustic bass made by the luthier, Tony Revell, from the south of Wales. Alongside that I've got a couple of other lovely basses, an old Aria SB700 (my first ever bass - awww!) and a customised Jazz bass copy with an interesting story to tell. First up is my main bass for over twenty years, my 1985 Mk I Custom series bass.


1985 Wal Custom 4-string bass - W2601: