The NS Blog

  • NS iNSight – Perfecting the tuner.



    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:

  • Marcos Varela debut “San Ygnacio”


    (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:

    Photography by Laura Meraz

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




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



    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.



    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.


    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:


  • 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

    2015 Benny Rietveld 1a alan Poulin

    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:

  • Louis Ochoa: Taking Flight


    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.


    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.


    Find news and tour dates with Louis and the VGO at 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.

    WAV4-VN-TR Front Angle 360x640


    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.


    WAV Violin Amberburst Vertical 360 high with logo


    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:

  • Meet Wytold

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    If you’ve never seen him, this video is a great example of what NS Design Artist Wytold Lebing is all about.

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    Wytold has excited audiences with his unique artistry at the Kennedy Center Millenium Stage, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Strathmore Performing Arts Center, and a host of other venues. His recent performance with the National Symphony Orchestra was highly acclaimed by the Washington Post, and he’s now featured in an excellent new TEDx talk.

    As an educator, Wytold teaches both classical and exploratory cello. Along with hip-hop artist Chrystylez Bacon (who partnered with him on the Prelude video), he frequently travels throughout DC, VA, and MD offering ‘Classical Hip-Hop’ educational programs to elementary, middle, and high school students.

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    About the NS Cello

    This instrument is designed for ease of performance in every sense. It’s light. It’s compact. The entire fingerboard is accessible and comfortable. The best part is when you start playing… at the heart of every NS cello is the Polar pickup system, which delivers an incredibly acoustic, feedback-free signal to whatever gear you use. Its full-bodied tone is also perfect for effects like looping, distortion or any other kind of signal processing.
    The NS Cello includes a Tripod Stand, with the option of an Endpin Stand for more conventional style playing, or the Frame Strap System which Wytold uses. Along with the CR6 which he plays, 4 and 5 string models are available in both the CR and NXT series.

    Violin, Viola, Cello or Bass: NS Design has an instrument for you. Explore here.

  • NS Insight: Highs & Lows

    NS Insight: Highs & Lows

    There’s a reason why professional bass players love the big, punchy low end and the glistening highs & harmonics of an NS Bass. Here’s what’s going on:

    Human hearing is naturally strong in the mids (roughly between 1 and 5 kHz, the vocal frequency range), but drops off at higher and lower frequencies. Most instruments, including basses, have a matching problem producing sound: strong in the mids but tapering off at both ends of the sound spectrum where a great deal of important tone content resides. This is usually compensated for with equalization, boosting the highs and lows, suppressing the mids. However, that signal processing comes at a price: loss of quality and clarity.

    Highs and Lows graphic

    How are we different? One of the features of every NS bass is the Polar™ pickup system. Unlike an ordinary pickup, the Polar pickup doesn’t lose sensitivity above or below the midrange. The piezo technology embedded at the base of bridge harnesses the entire range of frequencies your strings produce – with full fidelity, and full force. And your ears can definitely hear the difference.

  • Good Times at Merlefest

    Honoring the memory of Eddy Merle Watson, son of the legendary Doc Watson, Merlefest is a four-day outdoor festival that features the best of old and new in Country, Bluegrass, Americana and Folk music. Music lovers from all over the country flock to the hills of North Carolina to attend this event for four days every spring.

    From our booth near the main stage this year, we loved hearing Scythian get the crowd moving with their danceable blend of roots folk, infused with Eastern-European gypsy fiddling. NS Cellist Larissa Fedoryka kept the groove heavy under these virtuostic exciting band of musicians.

    We also enjoyed seeing many children so excited to try NS’s electric bowed instruments, proving how fun and exciting these instruments are for anyone to play.