The feature bass this week has a really cool pickup configuration!
Owner Michael Logiovino writes:
I purchased this Bass as it was originally built by Jon Letts. I became aware of Letts through my nephew who has had several Basses custom built by this Luthier. I was looking for a 5 string fretless Bass at the time and when I saw this I fell in love. It’s made from a combination of Mahogany, Paduak, Wenge, and Ebony. The Bass was originally set up with passive electronics with only a master volume and tone control. The pickup was also custom built by Letts and encased in Ebony. Letts conveniently equipped it to be upgraded to active by having a battery compartment already built into the body.
After playing it for awhile I decided to add active electronics. My brother had customized one of my nephews Letts Basses using Nordstrand Big Splits 5 pickups and Seymour Duncan Signature Steve Bailey electronics. I loved the combination so I decided to go with it. My brother who is a master carpenter, electrician, machinist, etc, is the only person I’d trust to take a router to this beautiful instrument.
He started by making very precise measurements of the cavity where the Nordstrand pickups needed to go. He then made a template to guide the router since the cavity had to be expanded on 3 sides and in depth. We also needed to add an additional knob for the pickup pan pot. Again measuring the original holes in the electronics cover plate he recreated the route to match for the third pot.
Once we had the pickups fitted we needed a spacer to go between them to fill the gap. We used a block of Wenge that was dark enough when waxed to match the neck pretty closely. We used card stock to evenly space the pickups and the block of Wenge then glued the block between the pickups. We decided to mount the circuit board for the electronics to the underside of the cover plate for easy access when removed and for space conservation where the pots came down into the cavity. We added a strip of foam that had adhesive tape already attached to it to the bottom of each pickup to help with the height adjustments once they were mounted.
After we were satisfied everything was perfectly in place all that was left was the soldering. Once the Bass was restrung I adjusted the height of the pickups and started playing her!
Because Jon Letts had run the fret board of the neck all the way up to the pickup cavity this Bass has over 3 octaves. The highest note on the neck is a Db. Letts had only run position markers to the 12th fret. Because I wanted to take advantage of the rest of the neck as far up as I could I asked my brother if he could add more markers the rest of the way. He did this by drilling a hole in a thin wooden dowel to mount a small drill bit in since we needed to get the bit across the body of the Bass. We then used the StewMac fret positioning calculator to find the exact position for the markers. I ordered white plastic dowels made for this. Once the holes were drilled we used a dab of crazy glue to secure the dowels in place and trimmed them with an Xacto knife.
This Bass already played like a dream before the modifications. Adding the active electronics expanded the versatility of the sound adjustment tremendously as you can image going from passive with a volume and tone knob to active with volume, stacked bass and treble, and a pickup pan. It took me quite some time to decide where I liked everything set for my desired overall sound and to familiarize with making slight adjustments when necessary. But that was all part of the fun!
I’ve since used my modified Letts Bass in studio sessions. I run direct in the studio and the warmth and punch of the fretless with this pickup and electronics configuration is wonderful. I play live through SWR amps and I often find myself caught up in just enjoying how good this Bass sounds.
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