The NS Blog

  • NS Design announces the new NXTa Active series.

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    The NXT Series Goes Active and Stays Green!

    With the launch of the new NXTa series, Ned Steinberger and NS Design herald the introduction of battery-free, high performance active electronics for the full family of NXT instruments. These include the violin, viola, cello, Omni bass and double bass. The new capacitor-powered custom circuitry, designed for NS Design by Mi-Si Electronics Design, integrates with the NS Polar Pickup System to provide two distinct signal output modes, bringing the convenience, versatility and performance capability of the NXT to another level. Read More »

  • Confessions of an NS Design-Loving Traditionalist

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    Convenience is an idol, and I have no desire to worship at its altar.  I don’t own an iPod, I prefer my 78 RPM records played on my vintage tube phonograph.  I don’t own a coffee maker, I would rather use my french press, or better yet, I would rather make a cup of pour over that would change your life, not just your morning beverage preferences.  But I know what you’re thinking:  “Good for you.  You and the rest of your little hipster buddies may not worship at the altar of convenience, but you love to sacrifice to the gods of high-horse traditionalism.”  Maybe, but not so fast. Read More »

  • NS iNSight – A Perfect Fit

     

    RADIUS Users cover

    Music instrument aesthetics are rarely, if ever, considered from a scientific point of view. Yet for industrial designers and architects, form must meet function. And there is a lot of science and technology to apply in this way.

    While technique for playing bass is often the subject of passionate discussion, and there are varying theories (plectrum, fingers, slap, tap, Simandl method, one note per fret method, etc.) the design of the instrument itself has a lot to do with the overall playability of the bass and the ability of the player to successfully use those techniques. When the very first electric bass was created it was just a squared, slab of wood with no cuts or rounded/beveled edges. Ergonomics took a backseat to sound production. And while there were changes over the years, they were an answer to specific player issues and ideas rather than a look directly at design. Even today, most of the emphasis and science in the music instrument industry goes into the materials and electronics of the instruments. Guitar and bass aesthetics are merely a function of what is pleasing or challenging to the eye.

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    Ned Steinberger is synonymous with innovative headless instruments. Yet it is not as well known that Ned designed the body of one of the most iconic basses of all time, the Spector NS-2 bass. Yes, the NS stands for Ned Steinberger. As a furniture designer and builder specializing in chairs, Ned understood that function and form are all essential to an aesthetically pleasing, yet functional piece of furniture. And it was in that Brooklyn co-op that he shared with some up and coming guitar and bass builders where he first applied those principles to music instruments. In collaboration with Stuart Spector, he designed something radical for the time, a rounded, radiused bass body with cuts and carves that naturally fell against the body of the player, making the bass exponentially more comfortable and easier to play. His body shape has been copied numerous times over the years, by some of the world’s largest guitar manufacturers.

    With the NS Design Radius Bass, Ned uses ergonomic science and technology and has taken the body contour to a whole new level. While maintaining and refining the back body curve cut so that the bass lies on the player’s body comfortably, the front of NS Diradial™ Body has a 20 inch radius, which, in combination with the general wedge shape of the body, shifts it into more comfortable orientation for the right and left hand. The slight wedge shape of the body tilts the body and neck slightly inward so the fingerboard is more visible to the player, and the concave curve on the back of the body creates a more stable platform. The radius of the bass is continued along the entire body, to include pickups and bridge, to optimize the playability and comfort of the bass.

     

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    The pictures show how the radius has been built into the bass. Built in based on technology.

    Simple, yet intuitive. Form, science, and engineering meeting function.

  • NS iNSight – Perfecting the tuner.

     

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    Pulleys and levers. Remember them? Yes, those concepts you learned in high school physics are the heart of the NS Design patented tuning system found on all the NS Design headless instruments. In particular, US Patent 6,528,710.

    Ned has been perfecting tuning systems for guitars and stringed instruments going all the way back to the beginning, US Patent 4,192,213 for his legendary headless bass. The screw based tuning mechanism was key to the overall function of the instrument. In this tuner, the ball end of the string is held in a jaw, which is threaded to accept a screw that pulls the string taut. In this kind of system, the free end of the string is held in a clamp which requires a tool to operate or the use of strings with a ball at both ends.

    The common tuning systems in use today create tension in the strings by wrapping the free ends around tuning posts fixed at the head end of the instrument neck, which posts are turned through a worm gear arrangement to create the required tension. This system, has stability problems because the worm gear drives needed to operate the tuning posts have backlash making precise tuning difficult, and also the strings can slacken around the posts after once being tightened, detuning the instrument. In looking for ways to improve the conventional system, Ned came up with the Gearless Guitar Tuner, US Patent 5,057,736, considered by many guitar players to be the ultimate headstock tuner.

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    Which brings us to today’s tech talk, the NS Design Patented “self clamping” tuning system. Simple in its design, using the time tested physics of levers, this headless tuning system provides extremely accurate tuning and quick, easy string changes without the need for wrenches or double ball strings.

    The tuner uses its own string tension, through lever action, to provide the clamping force necessary to hold the string securely. A tuning screw drives a second lever to increase or decrease the tension in the string.

    The amount of pinch pressure applied to the string is determined by the ratio of the lever arms, in accordance with the elementary principles of mechanics. By appropriately setting the lever arm ratio, the amount of pinch pressure may be made sufficient to prevent string slippage, while at the same time not severing the string due to excess pressure. The relevant lever arms are 1) the distance from the contact between the string and the lever to the pivot pin and 2) the distance between the pinch pin and the pivot pin. The actual pinch force is influenced both by the lever arm ratio and the angle at which the pinch pin presses against the lever.

    While a single lever can be used to properly multiply the string tension and provide the needed force to hold the string, in order to more easily, and more accurately tune the string, additional mechanical advantage to pinch the string is obtained by including a second lever.

    If you look at the drawings, it becomes clear just how simple, yet effective this design is. First, the tension of the string itself pushes the lever arm toward the “headstock” to pinch the string against a pin, which holds the string in position. The more tension, or force toward the “head” of the instrument, the greater the force to hold the string against the pin. Now adding the second lever arm, and using a screw mechanism to move that lever arm, not only adds force to hold the string, but also causes the lever arm position to move, enabling one to tune the string. Also, the increased tension on the string increases the holding force proportionately, assuring a high degree of stability even at very high string tension.

    Simple. Effective. Efficient. Innovative.

    For more iNSight and information on a weekly basis, look for our Tech Tuesday and TBT – Throwback Thursday posts on the NS Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/ThinkNS/

  • Marcos Varela debut “San Ygnacio”

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    (Photo by Laura Meraz)

    Houston born native and New York City based composer and bassist Marcos Varela releases his debut “San Ygnacio” on Origin Records.

    Check out Jon Liebman of For Bass Players Only  and his interview with this burgeoning young artist.  Melding genres from be-bop to latin and african infused original compositions and jazz standards, Marcos has created a cross-generation debut with contemporary shining players of the NYC jazz scene.

    Read more at:  http://forbassplayersonly.com/marcos-varela/

    Photography by Laura Meraz

    Read more reviews about Marcos Varela’s latest release “San Ygnacio” on Origin Records.

    http://www.allaboutjazz.com/san-ygnacio-marcos-varela-origin-records-review-by-dan-mcclenaghan.php

    http://www.notreble.com/buzz/2016/03/22/marcos-varelas-latest-generates-praise/

    http://republicofjazz.blogspot.com/2016/03/marcos-varela-san-ygnacio-2016.html

    http://www.midwestrecord.com/MWR1063.html

    http://lance-bebopspokenhere.blogspot.com/2016/03/cd-review-marcos-varela-san-ygnacio.html

    http://bassmusicianmagazine.com/2016/03/bassist-marcos-varela-bridges-generations-remarkable-debut-cd/

    http://www.allaboutjazz.com/san-ygnacio-marcos-varela-origin-records-review-by-dan-mcclenaghan.php?width=1366

     

     

     

  • On the set of NBC’s Hollywood Game Night with Claire Courchene and Ric Markmann.

     

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    As a two-year-old growing up in the UK and listening to her older sister practicing, Claire Courchene was determined and inspired to pick up the cello. That determination continued unabated, and eventually attending The University of Miami as a double major on both cello and trombone, she crafted her performance and technique, ultimately leading her to Hollywood.  Her dedication and hard work has paid off. Claire has performed on some of the biggest stages and highest profile programs, including American Idol, Rhye and Josh Groban.

     

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    Currently on set with NBC’s Hollywood Game Night serving double-duty on both the NS Cello and trombone, she and music director Ric Markmann make exciting, fun and energetic music for a fast and furious game show with some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities.

     

    Claire’s practical advice to anyone aspiring to making it in the LA scene is to “be on time, play exceptional and be reliable… take the extra time to go above and beyond.” About her instrument: after seeing her friend pick one up for a cruise ship gig, Claire chose an NS Cello for its portability and superior sound, a choice that has become “a fantastic investment.”

     

    2013 Emmy Award winner Ric Markmann serves as music director and bassist for HGN.  From cover bands as a youngster to roots in 90’s rock, including tours with Eleven, Chris Cornell and Heart, this Cambria, Australian bassist dreamed of being a composer. A self-studied composer with stints at conservatories and with private teachers, he honed his orchestration and music theory techniques, a perfect match for the demands of the Hollywood scene.

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    Wearing the dual hats as music director and bassist, the HGN show keeps Ric challenged in both composition and performance. He describes the gig as ” a lounge band with lots of energy.”

     

    While touring with Heart he saw Tony Levin performing with opener Todd Rundgren and was hooked on the NS Bass. “The NS Bass is ready for anything I throw at it, built strong, it’s the perfect instrument for me.  It’s great for touring, television and everywhere I go.” For HGN Ric runs his NS Bass direct through a Kempler Profiler amp, and live prefers an Ampeg SVT with a single 15 inch speaker cabinet.

     

    Check out the current schedule of NBC’s Hollywood Game Night:  http://www.nbc.com/hollywood-game-night

     

  • Benny Rietveld Shares Tales Of Musical Adventure

    Santana bassist talks to FBPO about working with Carlos, Miles, Sheila E. and his expanding roll as music director.

    By David Sands
    Top photo: Alan Poulin Photography
    June 3, 2015

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    Listening to Benny Rietveld, it’s hard not to be a little amazed at the places his bass has taken him.

    To start with, he plays with Carlos Santana and acts as musical director for the famous guitarist’s band. As if that’s not enough, he’s opened up for Prince as part of Sheila E’s ensemble and toured and recorded with the late jazz giant Miles Davis.

    In 2001, he released The Mystery of Faith, an adventurous genre-jumping solo album. Over the years, he’s also lent his talents to artists as varied as Herbie Hancock, Eagle Eye Cherry and John Lee Hooker.

    FBPO’s Jon Liebman recently had the opportunity to interview Santana’s fascinating bassist, who spoke with us about his musical origins, choice gear and work with Santana, Davis and other artists.

    Read the full interview at:

    http://forbassplayersonly.com/benny-rietveld-shares-tales-of-musical-adventure/

  • Louis Ochoa: Taking Flight

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    FROM JAZZ SOLOING TO CLUB GIGS, from backing singer songwriters to soloing with a 100+ piece orchestra and chorus, Louis Ochoa is finding his wings in some exciting and decidedly unique ways.

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    Born in the Philippines, Louis A. Ochoa moved to New York in 1998 and embarked on his formal training at the Bass Collective and the Mannes New School for Music, and then completed his studies at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Along the way he became active in the Boston Music scene, working regularly with the likes of Jamie Lynn Hart and John Hanifin.

    Louis has also gravitated towards the world of video game music. He’s been featured in critically acclaimed video game soundtracks such as Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix and Final Fantasy XV, and has performed at a variety of video game industry conventions such as PAX Prime (Seattle), PAX East (Boston), and MAGFest (Washington, DC).

    Recently, Louis has been featured center-stage with the Video Game Orchestra. The VGO is a noted rockestral band, combining a 12-piece rock band and a full orchestra and choir. This video clip, with the Video Game Orchestra performing “Drank Dead DOM Die from D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die” is a great example of what that’s all about.

    Louis plays the NS CR5 Radius Bass, and says: “the tone is just fat and focused… whatever style you play, it sits so well in the mix.” His other gear includes the Tech 21 SansAmp Programmable Bass Driver DI, EBS Multi Comp, EBS Bass IQ, Digitech Bass Multi-Chorus, Ernie Ball Volume Pedal, and Fulltone Bass Drive Mosfet.

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    Find news and tour dates with Louis and the VGO at http://vgo-online.com/. Check out Louis’s other projects with the John Hanifin Band, Jamie Lynn Hart, LoVeSeXy a tribute to the music of Prince and Project O.N.S.

  • Get Serious, Have Fun – The WAV is Back

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    The WAV is back!  NS Design is proud to announce the return of the ever-popular WAV4 (4-string) and WAV5 (5-string) electric violins. Noted for excellent tone, versatility, and playability, the WAV shares core features with the advanced CR and NXT instruments.  This well-priced yet serious instrument is perfect for any player who is ready for plugged-in performance.

     

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    Tone Quality and Versatility

    The most important feature of the WAV is its full-bodied tone: the battery-free Polar™ Pick-Up System gives you the warmth, definition, and character of a good acoustic instrument. The low end on the WAV5 (tuned CGDAE) is strong, clear and musical.

    The WAV is perfect for looping, distortion and other electronic effects. Moreover, since feedback is never an issue, you have complete freedom of movement using any amplifier or sound system, regardless of volume.

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    Comfort and Playability

    As you play, the key landmarks are where your hands expect them to be. The feel and profile of the neck and fingerboard, the upper bout extension, the scale length, and the chinrest position are designed for quick, ready-to-play orientation. If you like, you can adjust the bridge for higher or lower string action, to suit your playing style.

    The WAV now includes the Custom Shoulder Rest, which allows you to shape and adjust the padded base to the contours of your shoulder and chest, for a secure and comfortable fit.

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    Tuning Ease and Stability

    Integrated into the body behind the bridge, the patented NS Tuning System puts precision tuning right at your fingertips. The pitch stability is amazingly solid during and between sessions, and players often begin without having to tune at all.

    The WAV, and every NS instrument, is about more than professional performance. It’s about freedom to create and explore, to play everything you can imagine, anywhere your music happens.

     

    Visit the WAV product page for more information.

     

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  • EXPERT REVIEW: NS CR5 RADIUS BASS GUITAR from Harmony Central

    A bass that can do it all…or at least come close enough for jazz.

    2015 Harmony Central - radius3-2b437b8bBy John McVarish

    I’m making a list

    So what does a demanding bassist require and how much are we (my significant other and I) willing to spend? First off, I’m old school and have never played in a pop band with a 5-string, but I’m ready to take the plunge. I’ve tried many 5-strings in stores and I want one that articulates well in the lows with a bottom B string that is more than a finger rest. For that, a 35” scale is near the top of my wish list.

     

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    Because I play jazz and have trouble fighting feedback with my acoustic bass, I’d like an electric that also has a piezo bridge that can be fudged into sounding as much as possible like an upright. I could go fretless, but I’ll have to compromise for the club band. Next, I want something that’s compact and light for those cover-band gigs where 4 sets are required. Last, and perhaps most important, I want a bass that looks cool.

    Read more at:  http://www.harmonycentral.com/expert-reviews/ns-design-cr5-radius-5-string-bass-guitar