Interview with Hector Rodriguez, Creator of the Bass Rail
The Bass Rail can be found on facebook here. It is a unique device to mimic the feel of another string to give bassists a better anchor for their thumb fingers. MostlyBass talks with the Hector Rodriguez, creator of the Bass Rail.
What is your bass playing history? When did you start playing bass?
I started playing bass at 17 years old in 1992 in earnest, after a false start in 1988-89. At first, I didn’t even know what a bass was. I wanted to play an instrument, but the first thing I did was decide that guitar was not going to be it. It seemed to be what everyone went for. And drums were too unwieldy for a scrawny 13 year old, and too loud for my parents, who hate rock and metal. Then I watched Cliff ’em All, and Cliff Burton blew me away, and the lightbulb went off. I’m mostly self taught. I’ve taken a total of 3 bass lessons in my entire life.
Later on, I got into jazz through Jaco, and from there into all sorts of stuff. Jazz, funk and latin are my other favorite genres. Especially for bass, funk and latin are awesome, because the grooves are so deep.
Even though I did play in a jazz combo for a while, I’ve come to realize and accept that I’ll never be a bonafide jazzer. I’m a metalhead at heart, and the influences of latin and funk also come easier to me than those of jazz. That stuff just seems to be forever out of reach, and I’ve made my peace with that. Not that I’ll stop practicing jazz, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to play like Paul Chambers, you know?
Did you go to college for music?
Yes, I did, but not a very good one. I happened to have been accepted as a biology major. On my second semester, I decided to go with my heart. I figured it was easier to switch majors in the same university (financial aid had been approved, etc.), than to seek out another institution. So, that’s what I did. I did learn to read both bass and treble clef, and lots of theory. Other than that, it wasn’t stuff that would really help me “make a career” as an electric bassist.
What do you do now? Are you a full time musician?
I have a normal “day job.” I don’t have illusions of “making it,” whatever that is. I play in a metal band called Project 25. Their ad said they wanted a bass player that would NOT follow the guitars most of the time. They wanted almost a lead bass player. Odd, eh? It’s been great. I’ve been having lots of fun adding crazy stuff on bass to their riffs. I can do a latin groove while the guitarist picks fast 16th notes, tapping licks while the guitar plays sustained chords, I play lots of double and triple stops, and all sorts of scalar variations. It’s like I’m allowed to be a mad bass scientist.
I’ve also written 10 songs of my own. My “solo” project is called Voice of the Vortex. It’s a “bass-centric” project – no guitar or keyboards. Just bass, drums, and two kinds of vocals. I do “gruff” vocals, and there’s a female singer doing cleans. I get to mix my metal influences with funk, latin, and other various bits of stuff I like.
My practicing in recent years has focused on technique. Three-finger right hand plucking, and fast two-finger picking in which you strike the string in both directions, playing double the notes. I also learned Todd Johnson’s “floating thumb” technique. I noticed that when playing the E string (my lowest string, as I’m a straight 4-stringer), my thumb would be literally floating – it had no support. When playing the A, D, and G strings, my thumb rested against the other, lower strings, which made it easier to maintain a precise position. So, I had another lightbulb moment – what if there was something there, round like a string, and at roughly the same spot that a B-string would be? I grabbed a piece of paper, made a drawing, and built a first prototype with the help of my brother-in-law. It worked, but it was too thin and too small. I enlisted the help of my wife’s uncle, who’s a true craftsman. He built the version I’m currently using. The support rod is thicker, the height is adjustable now, and it’s longer. PERFECT. It’s been working like a charm for me. Of course, there’s a bit of a learning curve, a re-adjustment period. But it’s definitely doing what I thought and hoped it would.
Have any parts manufacturers taken an interest?
I haven’t formally approached anyone yet.
There seems to be an interest in the bass community for this product. If it’s not licensed do you plan to sell it yourself?
Yes, I noticed that, and it’s exciting! I had the idea of maybe contacting local metal workers and see how much it would cost to have them build me a good number of them and maybe sell them myself. We’ll see.
Are you planning a version that won’t require screw holes into the bass – like using the pickup screws? Or providing replacement pickup screws?
Those are good ideas. Somebody on talkbass.com had actually mentioned that. I don’t know if I’ll pursue that route. I’d have to pick the brain of the man that actually built it. I just had the idea, but I’m not a craftsman. I can’t build anything. Ha, ha.
What are you future hopes for The Bass Rail?
The perfect scenario would be that a bass company (either a full scale company like Fender, or a parts/accessories one like Planet Waves or Hipshot) takes enough of an interest and licenses or even “buys out” the idea from me. When that happens, I sure hope they put their best minds into action and build several varieties and improve upon the design. I’m thinking it could be made out of wood, carved beautifully, and even the metal versions can be “prettied up.” They could also offer something like a mounting rail that goes the length of the body from the bridge to the start of the fingerboard. This way you could “pop in” the Bass Rail on any spot along that length that you’d like – close to the neck or in between, or close to the bridge. Or, they could do a full length version of the rail that goes from the bridge to the start of the fingerboard (I hope you can kind of picture what I’m saying.) I believe it’s got potential. But, if at the end of the day it doesn’t get licensed and I don’t find a feasible way of selling them myself, I guess I can live with that. The basic version that I have can be built by anyone that works a little with metal or wood. So, it’s out there now. Whatever happens, happens.