A generation of musicians has come of age since NS Design founder Ned Steinberger revolutionized the electric bass in the early 1980s. In this in-depth article, MusicRadar.com’s Jim Reilly explores the history of the original “headless” Steinberger basses and guitars, and traces Ned’s journey from those early instruments to NS Design’s innovative product line of today.
In-depth with bass’s headless horseman
In the world of bass guitar design, the name Ned Steinberger conjures up many different images. Some people envision Sting or Jamaaladeen Tacuma jumping around, playing an odd-looking bass with a huge sound and incongruously tiny body.
Others see Tony Levin strutting across Peter Gabriel’s stage with an electric upright. Still others picture Grace Chatto bowing an electric cello with pop sensation Clean Bandit.
For those really in the know, the name Ned Steinberger brings to mind not only those images but also pictures of a bass with a curved, ergonomic body – and a huge number of players and fellow instrument builders inspired by that design. Ned’s designs are all those things and much more.
His story, at its heart, is one of a true designer – someone inspired by problems, who when he or she gets hold of a good one, won’t let go until a solution has been found. In Ned’s words, “I get obsessed with a problem. I say to myself, over and over, ‘There has got to be a way to do this!’ Finding a new and better solution to something – something that hasn’t been done before – is what excites me.”
To really make sense of Ned’s achievements in electric bass design and understand what makes his new electric bass – the NS Design Radius – special, we will need to go back to the mid 1970s, and a small, communal, woodworker’s co-operative in Brooklyn, New York.