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Gear Talk

MTD 535 Fretted 5-String

MTD 5-StringMany of you have inquired about the blueish/brown bass I played in the "Grooving for Heaven" videos. It is an MTD 535 (#252), built by Mike Tobias of Michael Tobias Design (MTD). If you are interested in detailed specs, I will defer to the master luthier himself at www.mtdbass.com. Another good resource is "The Ultimate 5-Sting" review printed in Bass Player magazine (Jan '97).

However, let me expound for a moment , from the player's perspective.

MTD 5-StringI've been blessed to have had the opportunity, at one time or another, to play almost all of the exotic makes of bass available...and I can say unequivocally that this is the best fretted bass I've ever played or owned. The playability is amazing, but the tone is insane. It is extremely punchy, and bright like no other bass I've heard. To a significant degree, this is attributable to the center frequency of the treble tone control, which is set substantially higher than most other basses. The slap tone is simply off-the-chart.

My MTD has a tulipwood body with a top of myrtle-burl. The neck and 21-fret fingerboard (plus a zero-fret: very cool for action) are wenge, an African hardwood that has nearly the stiffness of graphite. The body & neck are finished with an oil stain (yes, that "tie-dye paint job" look of the top is a normal blue-burst stain over the myrtle-burl top). Michael really knows how to pick his wood - he refers to my bass's figuring pattern as "embryonic"!

MTD 5-StringThe electronics are an active, 2-pickup, 18-volt, custom Bartolini system with tons of output. This bass' responsiveness and resonant qualities scream out before even plugging in; those tonal attributes, when amplified, come through loud and clear. It's strung with MTD Stainless Steel Roundwound strings, medium (45-65-85-105-130) gauge. These are a big contributor to the bright tone, as well. I love how long they retain a usable high end.

The only modification I've made to this instrument (done after shooting the Grooving videos) is that I've had a thin sheet of wenge shaped into a pickguard and attached between the end of the fingerboard and the front pickup. It serves to slightly reduce the distance between the body and the strings. My own slap technique is dependent upon not getting too much of my finger beneath the string, and I've had a similar device attached to all of my basses upon which I intend to play slap style. Otherwise, this bass is in "straight from MTD" condition.

It can be heard throughout the "Pondering the Sushi" project. To hear its slap tone, please check out "The Race" or the title track (Tracks #1 and #2, respectively). To hear it in an unaccompanied solo context, "The Star Spangled Banner" (Track #12) was recorded exclusively with this instrument.

Monster bass...

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