took me a while to realize that what I wanted in a new bass
was exactly what Lee Barker was building: a vertically oriented
electric bass. I experimented with other electric upright
basses--not right for me. What I wanted was a Fender Jazz
Bass in a vertical orientation. Once that sunk in, it was
clear that I had to have a Barker Vertical Bass. From the
moment I had it in my hands I was in love with it! The tone
the tone the tone the tone! That and the playability make
it a winner. The feel and shape of the neck is perfect for
me. The maple wood in the neck is exquisite, and the finish
is a silky smooth satin. The shape of the body is unique and
This fall, we experimented with the bass by installing a set
of Piezo pickups, and related electronics from the Graphtech
company. The experiment was a massive success, as the tone
choices are now even more varied. I can get an "electric"
sound, or a very articulate "acoustic" sound, and a deeply
resonant "acoustic" sound. The piezo pickup adds tremendous
detail to the sound, and indeed, makes the bass sound more
like an upright bass.
enjoy playing the B1 in small jazz combos and in a bigband.
It gets looks, but the sound is what wins the prize.
my first day with a Barker Vertical Bass (a lined fretless
5 string B1) I knew I had stumbled upon something that
special and quite out of the ordinary. Not really a double
bass and not really an electric bass guitar, the BVB was
a category all by itself. I quickly found out that the bass
was amazingly adaptable to every style of music I played.
Jazz, rock, big band swing, country, folk... it didnít
matter. My Barker did the job beautifully.
real challenge was the string limitation. As an extended range
bassist, Iím most comfortable playing basses with 6, 7 or
8 strings and the Barker line was limited to a 5 string.
it to say that I was thrilled when Lee agreed to build a
custom fretless 6 string for me! This fretless 6 string is
a beautiful example of his craftsmanship, it has one of the
most incredible musical voices I have ever played! Not a
goes by where I donít receive numerous compliments on both
the appearance and tone!
you, again, Lee, for your fantastic workmanship in building
me this beautiful bass!Ý And additional thanks for the extensive
contacts made during the build time ...The steady stream
of emails and photo documentation through each step of the
was great. I have been playing bass (and basses) for a long
time and your attention to customer service and satisfaction
is unmatched (and I have worked with many gifted luthiers
over the years)!
San Francisco Bay Area, California
trumpet player here. I'm not a performing bassist (yet), but
music is a consistent passion of mine, and has been for my
entire life. When I dove into bass about three years back,
I had a lot of innovation (in this industry) to absorb. What
kind of bass? What kind of electronics? How to account for
certain limitations of my increasingly aging body? How to
ramp up my equipment for what I wanted to play, yet keep as
much open as possible until I found my vision?
a little time, the most mind-blowing discovery for me
of this was Barker Bass. The concept is so logical and yet
so unprecedentedly innovative - a vertical bass guitar
34" scale. Why wasn't anyone doing this before? So I shot
off an email to Lee Barker just asking a few questions,
here I am a few years later, the owner of one of these awe-inspiring
could write books about why this all works. I'd just say
love the sound - it's really amazing. I love the ergonomics
- it's really amazing. I love that I can just walk up
beautiful beast and start playing (no straps, no unplugging
or replugging because it's passive). It all just works.
- it's not exactly a travel bass that I can just throw into
the back of my car, but it's not a double bass either
Friends watch me playing this thing, and they repeat what
I just said - it works. And there are many other players
with a Barker Bass, so it's not like I had to carry the concept
to the world for the first time. That was cool also. Finally,
it doesn't hurt that these instruments look so much like
lovely ladies. Other than the sound, that's likely the
comment I get about this bass (grins).
thank you, Lee, for your genius, and thanks for just being
Redstone, Colorado USA
playing conventional style basses for 30 years, I developed
a herniated disk in my neck from the pressure exerted on my
neck and shoulder. My music career certainly looked as if
it had ended.ÝNot wanting to just give up, I searched for
options and ultimately contacted Lee Barker. His unique hybrid
design, I thought, would eliminate the bass guitar problem
that caused my injury.
corrected the herniated disk and now after six months of
I am playing the bass again, this time with no problems.
I have two Barker Basses, a B1 fretted 4 #87, and a B1
4 #93. These basses are incredible. Both are plugged into
an a/b splitter box so that I can switch from one to the
without unplugging from the amp. The fretted delivers crisp
tones and the fretless has a nice defined growl on the
notes and the upper octave produces mellow tones. I had no
problem learning to finger the fret boards vertically.
is the most natural position, and relieves the stress on
your wrist joint. I am relaxed through every show because
not have a heavy bass pinching down on one side of my body
while I am working to keep my left arm elevated.
resonance chambers within the bodies create incredible sustain.
The necks are narrow and easy to finger.The electronics are
first rate and sound better than any solid body bass. The
woodwork is beautiful, and the asymmetrical design of the
body is artistically ergonomic. I have not played a gig yet
where someone has not come up to me and asked me what kind
of a unique instrument I was playing.
was very pleasant to work with, and as he built my instruments
he sent progress reports and photos, and made me part of
the experience. It was as if I were there in the shop
the build. Lee is always there even today to answer any questions
I have or to just say hi, howís it going.
only is Lee a first rate luthier, he is also an artist and
craftsman of the highest quality. I will never play any other
basses, and when I retire I will hand these two down to my
son, who has recently started to play the bass as well.
I thank you for saving my career.May I impart a little
to all bass guitar players: switch to Leeís standup basses
before you injure your body! You will be happier, more popular,
and you wonít have to spend $20,000 on an operation.
I picked up the bass yesterday, and played it for the first time tonight with a friend who plays piano.
Took me about half an hour to get used to the (R) hand with 5 strings, but first impressions:-
will take a photo and post on the forum.
for the great service.
keep in touch.
brought the B1 and my best jazz bass to the studio for
laying down the first round of "what flavor do you
with the band leader. Well, I might as well take a splitting
maul to the jazz bass.
That B1 has done me right. Thank you for putting your heart into the BVB. I
am getting work that eluded me in the past thanks to it.
a long and sustained courtship, I finally had a chance
to play a Barker Vertical Bass. The first time I played
Barker fretless four number 84, I knew it was the bass
for me. The notes blossom blissfully and sustain suspended-like
as a result of the convergence of outstanding design, selection
of the highest quality materials, lots and lots of wonderful
wood, and the craftsmanship of an artisan who clearly takes
pride in his work.
was absolutely zero adjustment to the vertical playing
position for this self-taught electric bass guitar player.
I immediately found the vertical playing position more
natural and more comfortable than playing an overgrown
guitar with a 35 inch scale. I also found that it just
feels right to be playing straight-ahead jazz vertically
as opposed to walking an electric bass guitar. So, to anyone
who's wondering about making the transition, I say: jump
in -- the water's fine.
phrase sums up my Barker fretless four (with apologies
to Carmen McRae in "My Handy Man Ain't Handy No More" from "Live
at Birdland West"): I knew it was gonna be good, but I
didn't know it was gonna be THIS kind of good.
you, Lee. You have made a beautiful instrument, and you
have made me a very happy owner.
The bass just arrived, and once I got it set up, I was
ready to go.
I can say, is my tone is here, but BIGGER... MUCH BIGGER!
job with the Bartolinis, everything works perfectly...
feels and sounds so familiar, just BIGGER... right now
I've pretty much left the tone settings mostly flat,
and it sounds great!......
nice bass, can't wait to spend some time playing it...
Spent many hours playing the new bass today, and I can't
tell you enough how much I'm enjoying playing this
bass... It took a little adjusting (mostly on my technique),
and now I'm ripping the finger board up... didn't realize
my left forearm was in such bad shape... not any more.
am running it through an Eden Wt550, with a couple twelves
and a two ten cab... everything is set flat (including
the bass), and the perfect bass tone I've always wanted
is all around the room... as you know, I love the Bartolini
sound, and at least for me, they are the perfect match
for this bass.
for the B string, well, I will be selling my Modulus,
this bass has just as much low end as that one, but without Ýthe
annoying 35" scale.
you can tell, I'm very very happy with the bass, and
just wanted to thank you for making such a wonderful
bass... I hope you sell thousands more of these basses,
because I think you make a great sounding unique instrument,
that is a blast to play.
writing, I'm going back to play it some more.
I now know for sure that the next CD will be recorded with
a Barker Bass... it's the perfect tone for the music
I'm still playing the bass... I have found a sweet-spot
for very rapid percussive right-hand stuff by picking
around the 15 fret... no lack of definition like most
standard-type basses... this bass rules!
use to be a bridge pickup player, and never much cared
for the tone when picking around the neck pickup, but
now I have found that my right hand picks just above
the neck pickup, with my thumb resting on the north edge
of that pickup... my right arm is pretty much at a right
angle, with no arch in the wrist... what comfort, and
other observation... when playing notes on the G string...
around F#, G, A, (11, 12, 14 fret), I've noticed that
with this bass, you can actually feel them...they are
Huge! I have never played a bass with such a pronounced
G string...it sings with authority all the way up...and
has such clarity on the lower G string notes too.
haven't been this excited about playing in a long time...
thanks again for the bass, it really is great, and you
know I'm very picky *smile*
Musician, Educator and Author
got the bass and accessories today and had a few moments
to try it out. What can I say? It's a visually striking
instrument to see in person. These basses are obviously
made with a great deal of love and care. I tried it first,
briefly, by playing it without the included stand. The
importance of the stand became obvious as my left hand
bore too much of the weight of the instrument to be able
to play comfortably. Then I set it up with the stand
and adjusted it to my taste.
Great setup considering the thing came all the way across
the country. It was even close to being in tune! Very,
very playable straight out of the box.
played it through a small Gallien Krueger combo that
I normally use with my acoustic upright. The sound out
of the tapewound strings, with my right hand plucking
near the end of the fingerboard, has a very generous
amount of low end along with great definition. It has
acoustic "vibe" coupled with electric clarity.
I was impressed by the warmth of the sound and by how
the instrument responded to slides and glissandos --
they show just how the bass can sing. In addition to
the craftsmanship evident in the instrument itself, the
case and accessories are all very high quality and very
well thought out.
Playing jazz standards and having a lot of opportunity
to solo, I noticed that I could solo on the Barker with
a dexterity and harmonic complexity that already approaches
my normal electric technique, and that’s on the first
gig! In other words, I can play a lot more "hip" without
I saw the Barker Bass on Lee Barker's website, I was
immediately attracted by its extraordinary design and
the fact that the bass is played upright. Today I'm the
proud owner of Barker Bass no. 43. It's workmanship and
setup are very good . When I got it I was surprised to
find it even more beautiful than on the photos, revealing
details like the beautiful texture of the wood and the
nice color shading. Though it's quite tall, the slim
shape makes the Barker Bass easy to store and handle.
The tone is warm and accoustic. Playing upright on the
Barker Bass is very comfortable and easy. I'm very happy
to own such a great instrument!"
Santa Cruz, California
bassplayers of the world:
My Brother is a drummer in Central Oregon and he told me
about a luthier there who was making an upright bass that
might be of interest to me. Bassists are by nature curious,
so I needed to find out more. I took time out from my fulltime
bass playing and teaching to investigate this "new" instrument." (read
Hear the audio files here
Yanni Ethnicity Tour
was looking for an electric upright with sustain for
the "Yanni Ethnicity Tour" when I met Lee Barker at the
Music Trade Show. I tried the Barker Fretless 5 String
and loved the way it sounded and felt. It has a warm,
big sound and the sustain is amazing! Thank you Lee!"
after several gigs under the bridge, I have to be very
honest with you. Your bass does not meet my expectations.
In fact, it far exceeds them. It is such a wonderful
instrument. I see now why I listened to my inner voice
and bought it. I really thought it would take my playing
to a new dimension that did not previously exist, and
would totally justify buying it even though common sense
and cash flow suggested otherwise. I have to say that
I was completely and absolutely right.
Wacker - Owner, #36
am having a ball with the bass...I find that I want to
play it any chance I can...that means practicing when
ever I am not on a Gig! THANKS!
Ehr, on hearing the Barker Bass in a Trail Band Concert
design. It's a wicked-cool looking instrument. It is
eye catching, and from an audience perspective, it makes
one curious and want to sit up and take notice when it
gets played; to pay attention to the sound.
Gertz, Professor/bass, Berklee College of Music,
Recording artist, Author of Mastering the Bass, Walkin and
Barker Bass is beautifully constructed and has a clear,
fat, warm sound.
It's fun to play!
Smith - SoundSmith Studios
first thing that struck me upon hearing the Barker Bass
was how huge the sound was.....fat without being boomy,
with incredible sustain. Also impressive is the "evenness" of
notes up and down the neck, without the occasional dead
spots (or hot spots) found on some basses. Being an electric
bass player myself, I was surprised how comfortable and
natural it felt to play this "vertical" instrument.
Barker Bass #37 is comfortably residing in Wisconsin and
all are happy. My son Al, my wife Mary and I all think
it is different, unique, and really beautiful. The
sound is wonderful, with great sustain. I was up early
playing it today and am drawn to it constantly.
the category of fit and finish, it is a 10. Every detail
is taken care of: The opening in the bottom of the bag
for the endpin; the packing box and its intelligent design;
the numbered and signed truss rod plate; the musical
design in the monogram, the personality worked into the
Lee, thanks. This all happened to me rather fast, impulse
like, but I trusted my instincts, trusted DownBeat, loved
your website and found you to be very helpful. I got
more than I could have imagined when I purchased #37.
and Bernie Bliss
attended a recent concert of Kream of the Krop in Greeley,
Colorado. The Barker Bass provided a rich, resonant foundation
for the swing music they played. The band stood straight
and tall with the BVB providing the musical backbone.
Following the concert, we were able to see it up close
and enjoy the beauty of its workmanship.
upright acoustic bass
Misty River Band
first pleasure upon meeting the Barker Bass was walking
into the shop! I got the best vibes from the place.
Playing through a Fender amp, the first voice was powerful,
solid, happy, thorough, beautiful, bright, and clear, with
gorgeous sustain. Instantly I felt the ease and comfort
for my right hand. These basses gently guide you to the
upright position. The stand supporting the bass was another
solid joy to rely on. I felt free and easy to play the
Barker Bass this way. I liked the fact that there was no
make-shift acoustic body to pretend to lean on. The stand
supplied a great deal of freedom and stability. A very
vibrant lively tone emanates from these instruments. Lee
has a good thing going!