For the origins of the Dan Armstrong bass, it is highly recommended to first read through the guitar section, for with
the guitar prototype completed, building the bass guitar was going to be a somewhat easier task as Dan & Matt didn't
have to "invent the wheel" all over again. Like the guitar model though, the bass was all hand built by Matt Umanov and
although the overall body dimensions were identical the routing within the body needed to be changed.
Unlike the guitar, the bass did not utilize interchangeable type pickups. Thus the largest difference is the noticeable
lack of the sweeping pickup channel in the body. The routing for the ball end of the strings is placed further back
due to the fact that the combination bridge/tailpiece is placed further back on the body for intonation purposes.
However, there was a significant change in the routing of the bass pickup control cavity, and it was here that Dan
had once again delegated out a project. This time he turned to Kurt Munkacsi, who stated "I only got in on a small
part of the plexiglas instruments. Dan gave me the project of finding a way to hook up the bass pickup to the
volume and tone control wiring."
Kurt designed it so that there was a small section of the control cavity that wasn't routed as deep
as the rest. This gave him just enough room to secure both a good mechanical, and electrical connection from the
pickup to the rest of the circuitry.
On the earliest basses the pickup was secured to the body using a chrome plate that
screws down onto the body and laps over onto the pickup enough to hold it in place. Together, with the three screws
(seen above) that are also secured into the acrylic body, this provided enough of an anchor for even the roughest
of bass players.
Another sign of a very early bass is the use of the straight headed screws used to anchor down the combination bridge/
tailpiece. These straight headed screws were used on both the guitar and the bass in 1969 and were switched over to
the more familiar phillips head screws around 1970.
A low serial number and the use of the smooth, glossy type scratchplate material vs. the non-glossy matte material used in
later models are other signs of an early model, as is the lack of a pickup switch that later models employ. Notice the non stock
washer placed under the input jack added by the owner.
photo courtesy of George Gillis
photo courtesy of George Gillis
As can be seen above left and right, It wasn't long before Dan decided to to secure his bass pickups in the very same
fashion as the guitar models - using a thumbscrew on the backside of the body that screws into the bottom
of the pickup, thereby discontinuing the use of the chrome pickup-plate on top. However, and as can be seen better in
enlarged views, though the pickups were now secured to the body in the same fashion as the guitat model, the actual
routing of the pickup cavity remained the same - at least for awhile - and one can see the additional space between
the pickup and the acrylic body unlike my 1970 pickup seen at the very top of this page.
photo courtesy of George Gillis
photo courtesy of Jim Edwards
At upper left, this bass, as well as others like them in this line are transitional instruments, as they mark the
point in the production run when the bass instruments no longer relied on the chrome pickup plate to secure the pickup
to the acrylic body, but now was secured in place just like the guitar models - with a screw threaded into the back
of the pickup. However, it is also transitional in the sense that the news had not yet reached the production floor
(or it took time to impliment the change) as the pickup cavities on the bodies were still being routed wider than the
actual pickup, like the instruments before them.
This particular bass has the serial number D219A - while the bass at upper right has the serial number D150A - and
which also sports the chrome pickup plate. Somewhere between these two basses, and serial numbers, is where the change
occured, and so it's safe to say that the change occured relatively early on in the production run.
As seen at left, another bass that features an over-routed pickup cavity and lacks the chrome pickup plate.
Dan liked this design better because "by losing the plate it cleaned up the look of the entire body. Plus there
were some minor cost savings in making the bass a little more like the guitar model."
Notice that that the strap pin has been relocated to the lower cut-away horn by the owner. Bill Wyman of the Rolling
Stones has been photographed on their 1969 tour playing a clear Dan Armstrong bass with an exact modification such as
Another bass with the same over-routing of the pickup cavity as the ones above. Though on this one, the strap pin had
been relocated to the lower horn, but is now back to it's original 'stock' position on the upper horn. On all of these
models you may have noticed that they all feature the smooth wood grained formica as well as the straight slot headed
screws that secures the combination bridge/tailpiece to the body making all of them some of the earliest of models in
the production run.
The pickup being secured in place with a thumbscrew through the backside of the body was not the last way in which
the bass would more emulate the guitar model however. As seen at left, later basses with a serial number of D2000A and
above saw the addition of a 2-way selector switch that made the bass appear more like the guitar model, while allowing
even greater flexibility and control over the sound eminating from the already versatile instrument.
The year was 1976 when the bass player of our garage band showed up with an original Dan Armstrong black bass that
he said was "one of 8 ever made" and that he acquired it from Guitar Trader® in Red Bank, NJ Since most (if
not all) of these black instruments were sold out of Dan's shop - it was no stretch of fate for it to surface in New
Jersey - and only a short distance from where it was manufactured, Linden, NJ.
From what I can remember the bass played really well, and although it had a really good low end I do not recall it
having much treble or "zing" as Dan put it. Due to our low wattage light show the instrument did not
have any tuning issues to speak of.
Equally ironic is the use of the Ampeg SVT amplifier since Dan was instrumental in the design of it as well.
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