I have been formally studying traditional Indian Classical music with my Guru, Shantanu Bhattacharryya for the past 6 years. He is a renowned Indian Classical vocalist residing in Kolkata, India. In this time I have spent many months living in Kolkata studying the music in the traditional vocal style, and adapting it as accurately as possible on upright and fretless electric bass
The upright and the fretless electric bass are both very well suited to the Indian Classical vocal and instrumental expressions. The ability to control the exact tuning, and the wide variety of tonal and dynamic nuances offered by both these instruments are helping me to grow closer to accurately representing this grand art form in a completely unique way. From my opportunities to share the music in this new form with audiences around the world, the bass has been widely accepted as a legitimate instrument to express this ancient tradition
When I started learning this music, I began with the fretless bass. At the time this was because bringing an upright bass to India seemed impossible. When I would return home, I would always gravitate back to the upright bass, realizing that it’s acoustic tone would be ideal for this music, and I was saddened that I may never get to express this music on that instrument in India. In the Indian playing style, the arco form of double bass playing is the most applicable technique. (There are many bowed Indian instruments, including the western violin, that are renowned for achieving the closest sound to the original vocal expression.
This past year, after spending 4 months in India in 2010, I decided I had to find a solution, so I started looking into the vast world of travel sized upright basses. I am most inspired by the traditional and acoustic tone of the upright bass, and therefore I was skeptical for sometime, as each new instrument I tried seemed to not quite produce the sound I was looking for. Instrument after instrument, I came out with different experiences, but never quite finding the full, natural arco sound I was searching for. One day, I stumbled across an NS NXT bass set up at a music shop in Toronto. I happened to have my small travel sized Mark Bass amp with me, which I use for my touring in India, so I plugged it in and asked the shop owner to borrow a French bow. I will admit I was not prepared for the sound that the instrument created.
From the first note I bowed, I was impressed well beyond any travel-sized or electric upright bass I had tried. The tone was pure, it was real, and it was not only the closest to a real upright bass arco tone, but it was a direct signal that I could have louder and more flexible than anything possible with a traditional upright bass. I played up and down the fretboard for hours that day, testing every nuance of the instrument, and I was continually impressed with the purity of tone. In that moment, I also became immediately inspired with so many new possibilities that this unique instrument could offer for my Indian Classical performance.
Almost half a year later, I am still growing to love this instrument more and more each day. What is most important is that it feels and sounds just like my upright bass.
Sonically, I am constantly impressed with the brilliant piezo pickup system and tone control. This instrument has managed to capture a high quality acoustic bass tone, while eliminating the acoustic phenomenon that plagues every double bassist in so many situations. The pure direct signal captures everything I want to hear through a microphone, with no possibility of feedback, and subtle EQ possibilities that are not possible with a microphone. This has allowed me to tailor the sound for each situation in so many different ways, which is a blessing for any touring artist. It is important to note that even through a bass amplifier with no EQ, I find that with the right volume, my ears and hands feel that I am at home playing my double bass.
The flexibility of the positioning with the stand is also a very important and unique attribute of this instrument. As you can see in my artist picture, I have decided to play this instrument sitting down. Many arco bassists play sitting on a stool. I have taken this to the next level by sitting on a much lower stool, and bringing the angle of the instrument more horizontal than is possible with the double bass. This has allowed for an experience with bow weight, and left hand weight that allows me greater flexibility of technique, and a very relaxed approach with little to no physical resistance. This experience is unique only to the NS Bass, due to the well designed stand, and is something that many artists could explore to help them find more comfortable and appropriate playing positions for themselves.