The International Institute Of Bassists
Bass Courses Video Lessons Bass Lessons Subscribe Interviews News Links Advertise About Contact Archive Home




Product Spotlight - April 2008

M Basses


M Basses
With a workshop based in Terryville, Connecticut, luthier Jon Maghini has been fabricating his customized M basses since 2001. Before venturing out on his own and starting a business with his own name, Maghini honed his skills as an apprentice under the guidance of a master luthier. During that period, Maghini worked on everything from basic assembly and wiring processes to surfacing and fretting necks, repairs, the complete restoration of vintage basses, and even building limited production runs of boutique instruments. With the principle philosophy that a bass guitar should play and sound just as good as it looks, Maghini's goal is to design visually-stunning and sonically well-balanced instruments. Regardless of playing level, Maghini strives to work on an individual basis with each of his customers to accommodate their specific needs. Whether you just seek repairs to an existing instrument or wish to commission the creation of an MEJ or M3 series M bass, Jon Maghini has solidified his reputation as one of today's premier builders of handcrafted bass guitars.

In this interview, Jon Maghini discusses the differences between his MEJ and M3 series basses, the standard features and wood combinations available on his instruments, scale length, pickups, finishes, playing ramps, the future of M basses, and more.




Can you tell us how you got started building electric basses?

I began playing bass at age 12, and almost immediately, I was taking my bass apart to see what made it work. Not long after, I became increasingly interested in luthiers like Ken Smith and other boutique builders who showcased their work in different magazines. Within a few years, I was modifying instruments for myself and my friends, and at age 16, I built my first bass. After high school, I was offered a job with Ron Blake. Ron got his start in the early '70's working as Carl Thompson's partner in Brooklyn, New York. Ron and Carl were pioneers in the industry and worked with world renowned bassists such as Stanley Clarke and Anthony Jackson. I spent the better part of three years working with Ron before moving on and setting up my own shop.

M Basses
How would you characterize the sound of an M bass?

I would have to say that all of my basses are very well balanced tonally. I don't limit myself by using only one or two wood choices so it's quite hard to characterize the sound in general. Most of the time, I find that my customers have a certain tone in mind when ordering a new bass, and it's my job to deliver on that.

Could you explain the general differences between your MEJ and M3 series basses?

The differences are completely aesthetic. Both the MEJ and the M3 models have the same standard features and the same list of available options. They were designed to be well balanced and offer comfortable access to all 24 frets. The MEJ and M3 models feature the same basic footprint in terms of size and weight resulting in similar tones.

Are there standard features that are found on most M basses?

Yes. There are standard features found on all of my basses. Bodies are constructed of alder, ash, mahogany, or walnut. While there are other body wood options available, these four tend to be the most popular. You can choose between several different exotic wood tops. All of my necks are made of 3-piece quarter-sawn maple with bolt-on construction, 24-fret fingerboards with abalone dot inlay, and matching peghead veneer with abalone logo inlay. Black hardware, M basses dual coil pickups, 3-band pre-amp, and a satin finish are also all standard features.

What are some of the options that are available to bassists in designing their own M bass?

I prefer to work one-on-one with my customers to ensure that they are getting the options that best suit their individual needs. Customers have their choice of everything from body and top woods to inlays and even fret size. I try to be as flexible as possible when it comes to the options I offer.

Have you found specific wood combinations that your customers tend to request more so than others?

I would have to say that for the past couple of years ash bodies have been quite popular paired up with maple or rosewood fingerboards. Of course, that only amounts to a somewhat small percentage of all the basses that leave the shop each year.

Between the 4, 5, and 6-string basses that you build, which seem to be most popular?

5-string fretted basses are definitely the most popular followed closely by 6-string fretted basses. While I still accept orders for 4-string basses, the 5's make up about two-thirds of all the basses I build each year.

Do you build both bolt-on and neck-through basses?

I currently build only bolt-on instruments.

How does the scale length of a bass affect its tone?

In theory, scale length affects an instrument's tone by altering string tension. For example, a 35-inch scale 5-string bass will have more string tension than a 34-inch scale bass resulting in a tighter sounding low B-string.

Have you ever considered using acrylicized fingerboards on your instruments?

I've never really given a lot of thought to acrylicized fingerboards in the past. I tend to lean towards the sound of natural materials. However, I think it would be interesting to experiment with an acrylicized fingerboard on fretless instruments.

M Basses
Can you tell us about the dual coil pickups that are featured in your instruments?

I like the dual coil pickups because they offer the best of both worlds in terms of tone. When the pickup is wired for dual coil operation, the result is a very full modern tone with more highs and a deeper low end with a cleaner midrange. With the addition of a coil tap, the dual coils are separated allowing only the outer coils of each pickup to remain on giving the player a more traditional single coil tone. Of course, there are other pickup options available as well.

How does the urethane satin finish that you utilize on your basses as a standard feature compare to the clear gloss finish that customers can choose as an upgrade?

The standard urethane satin finish gives the look and feel of a hand rubbed oil finish but is much more durable. The finish is also applied thin which allows the wood to breathe and results in a more organic tone. The high gloss urethane finish is relatively thick which provides great wear resistance and durability but tends to slightly compress the natural tone of the instrument. The clear gloss option also allows for the use of solid colors and sunburst finishes.

What are the benefits of having a playing ramp installed on your bass?

The playing ramp is all about right hand technique. It helps prevent a player from digging in too deep, and it gives them the feel of the ramp just under their fingertips. For the ramp to work, it must be setup properly so I match the ramp's radius to the fingerboard and try to keep it as close to the strings as possible. I generally prefer to keep the ramp between the pickups but I also offer the ramp between the end of the fingerboard and the neck pickup.

Should customers locate an authorized dealer, or can M basses be purchased directly from you?

Customers have the choice of coming directly to me or going through one of my dealers to purchase a bass. Bass Specialties in Bensalem, Pennsylvania typically stocks at least two or three basses at all times. For customers on the west coast, there is Bass Southwest in Redondo Beach, California. I also like to keep a small inventory of demo models at the shop for when players stop by. These basses are also available for sale with a 5-day approval period.

How long does it typically take to build a bass after an order is placed?

On average, 6 - 8 months is pretty typical, but some projects can take longer depending on the complexity of the build.

Are there any plans to expand the current M bass product line and offer additional designs in the future?

I have been in the process of designing a new Standard series model which I would really like to introduce sometime in 2008. The new Standard series basses will share many of the same features as their higher-end counterparts but will be limited to a select list of options.



MEJ Series


M basses are available in two models, the MEJ and the M3. Both models feature the same specifications as well as the same standard features.

M Basses MEJ Specifications
Alder, ash, mahogany, or walnut body
Exotic wood top
3-piece quarter-sawn maple neck, bolt-on construction
24 fret fingerboard with abalone dot inlays
Matching peghead veneer with abalone logo inlay
Hipshot style "A" bridge
Gotoh tuners (black hardware)
Aguilar OBP-3 preamp
M Basses dual coil pickups
Urethane satin finish
Additional options available




M3 Series


M Basses
M3 Series Specifications
Alder, ash, mahogany, or walnut body
Exotic wood top
3-piece quarter-sawn maple neck, bolt-on construction
24 fret fingerboard with abalone dot inlays
Matching peghead veneer with abalone logo inlay
Hipshot style "A" bridge
Gotoh tuners (black hardware)
Aguilar OBP-3 preamp
M Basses dual coil pickups
Urethane satin finish
Additional options available




Contact Information

M Basses
152 Bemis Street
Terryville, CT 06786
Web Site: MBasses.com
E-Mail: jon@mbasses.com


© 2008 The IIB