Frequently Asked Questions: General

This a general FAQ for the Ashbory Bass. If you have specific questions about the use or form of the Ashbory Bass, please check the Technical FAQ. There is also a variety of articles and documentation available.
 

Q: Is the Ashbory Bass a bass guitar?

A: The Guild product slick refers to the Ashbory as "the most innovative bass guitar ever created" though I'm thinking that's just marketing talk. It has about as much in common with an upright bass as a bass guitar. The scale is far removed from either, closer to a Bass Guitar but still just a little over half that length. There's no metal strings, no frets but there is guitarlike fret markings on the fingerboard. The strings are tuned the same E-A-D-G as both.

In short, it is an Ashbory Bass, which is an electric bass. If it were an electric bass guitar, it would be built more like an electric guitar with a combination of features centered around a fretted neck, metal strings, 34 inch scale neck, separate body wood, and magnetic pickups. That's not to say all electric bass guitars follow this recipe either, but there's a clear level of distinction between an Ashbory and say a Steinberger which doesn't follow the standard Leo Fender recipe, but is more of a re-engineered bass guitar (magnetic pickups, 34 inch scale metal strings, fretted versions) than something else.

 

Q: How does a little instrument sound so deep and rich? Is there some electronic tricks that make it happen, like a pitch shifter, midi, of something like that.

A: Nope, the bass really sounds like that. What you hear is the real sound of the strings. No pitch shifting, midi, or anything of the sort.

Due to the way the solid silicone rubber strings work, there is no real need for longer scale. The onboard preamp is only there to boost the existing piezo signal. There's no tricks or manipulations to the sound outside of standard bass, treble, and volume controls. The magic is in the strings, not the electronics.

Here is a recording made without using the stock pickup or electronics and you can hear the fundamental Ashbory sound regardless. That is because the instrument really has that sound. You can put your ear up to the neck while playing and the basic essence comes through. This recording is made by using "a Planet Waves tuner (#CT-02) for $10 US. It has a piezo built into a clamp, and the tuner has a 1/4" out. I clamped it to the Ashbory headstock, sent it through my recording stuff, and came up with this recording:"

 

Q: How did the Ashbory Bass come to be?

A: There is a super cool site dedicated to the Ashbory Bass written by instrument co-inventor Nigel Thornbory. I strongly recommend visiting, the pictures alone make it worth a visit, and there's far more information than is presented here. Here's a short history constructed primaily from that site, Ashbory.com.

Brief History of the Ashbory Bass:
In 1985, Alun Ashworth-Jones, a maker of transducer pickups for guitars, notices by accident that a rubber band over a transducer makes substantial bass notes. He builds a very crude test mule to prove the concept, then contacts luthier Nigel Thornbory and after a couple of days he creates the predecessor to the Ashbory bass, which shortly after is improved with the use of rubber O rings to replace the rubber bands. The bass debuts at the Barbican Guitar Exhibition in London where it catches the ear of CF Martin IV, who commissions prototypes for the Martin Guitar Company. Prototypes are made, and research was also centered on development of better strings. Sometime after, a small amount of Ashborys were built by Thornbory. These lead to exposure and media praise.

Things fell through with C. F. Martin Guitars, but George Gruhn was familiar with the Ashbory and managed to introduce the instrument to Guild. Ashworth-Jones and Thornbory later visited the Guild Factory in Westerly, Rhode Island to collaborate on production and at the 1987 NAMM show in Aneheim, California, the Ashbory was introduced. Guild had undergone some ownership changes and the licensing for the Ashbory was terminated in 1988 or 1989, with a reported 1235 units of total production.

The Ashbory lived on, however. A new Mark II Ashbory design with a different body shape and a longer scale was created. It was available in a variety of forms from a variety of builders over time but never in any significant volume. Finally, the Ashbory Mark II disappeared as well, with a smaller total production number than the Guild version.

Fender Musical Instrument Corporation (FMIC) purchaced Guild Guitars in November, 1995. This opened the door for the Ashbory to return, and a new, overseas produced Ashbory styled like the Guild models was introduced under the DeArmond brand used for import Guilds. It was introduced in the July 1999 Summer NAMM show in Nashville Tennessee, and has been in production ever since.

In August 2001, the Westerly, Rhode Island plant where the Guild Ashborys were made was closed, well over ten years after the last Guild Ashbory left the building.

As mentioned before, this short history does not do justice. Do yourself a favor and visit the the official history at http://www.ashbory.com.

 

Q: What is a Ashbory Mark II?

A: There were multiple runs of the Mark II, which are different from the preceeding Guild models. Differences include a longer scale and a different body style, plus they were made in England independently from Guild. For more information, read the official Ashbory history, starting at Chapter 7 and ending at Chapter 10. The Mark II was sold primarily in the UK.

 

Q: What year was my Guild Ashbory made?

A: Here's the serial numbers for the last Guild Ashbory Bass made each year:

1986: AJ23
1987: AJ1109
1988: AJ1235

 

Q: What is the differences between the Guild and DeArmond bass models?

A: In short, the DeArmond is newer and superior, while being made in Korea. The Guild models were crafted by Guild in the USA but have inferior pickups and vastly inferior tuners compared to the new DeArmond models. Both have the same basic dimensions (body, strend scale length) and form. A comparison is available here.

 

Q: What are the differences between the DeArmond Ashbory and the Ashbory by Fender and when did this happen?

A: Fender dropped the DeArmond name from Ashbory Basses beginning in late 2002. Marking differences on the body, the back of the headstock, and the name badge on the gig bag are the only changes. More information is available here. They are the same bass, just with different art and name. The new (DeArmond and Fender) Ashborys have always been a Fender product since their introduction to the market by Fender owned DeArmond in 1999. The Fender part numbers are the same for in 2007 for an Ashbory by Fender as they were in 2003 for a DeArmond Ashbory.

 

Q: How many Guild Ashbory Basses were made, when, and where?

A: Judging from the serial number data available, 1235 total with production in 1986, 1987, and 1988, with 23 of those being made in 1987, 1086 in 1987, and 126 in 1988. All were made at the now closed Guild factory in Westerly, Rhode Island.

 

Q: What kind of cases were available for the Guild Ashbory Bass?

A: According to the 1987 Guild Suggested Retail Price List, the only case available is a gig bag, with a suggested price of $50. Some cases have red liners and other have blue liners. All reported have black exteriors. There is no evidence of an available from the factory hardshell case.

 

Q: Is there a patent on the Ashbory Bass?

A: Yup! US Patent #4,750,397 "Electronic musical instrument with elastomeric strings and shielded bimorphic transducers" covers the Ashbory Bass. It can be viewed here at this site.

 

Q: What is the plural form of Ashbory?

A: Ashborys.

 

Q: Why isn't "Ashbory Bass" spelled as "Ashbury Bass" or "Asbury Bass"?

A: The term Ashbory is a combination of Ashworth, associated with co-inventor Alun Jones, and Thornbory, the last name of co-inventor Nigel Thornbory. There is no association between the creation of the bass and the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, or Asbury Park, New Jersey. From the first prototype to the Guild models to the present DeArmond offering, it has always been A-S-H-B-O-R-Y. More information on the creation of the name can be found in this page from Ashbory.com.

 

Q: Would your recommend the Ashbory for the beginner as a secondary bass, or would it be a confusing adjustment?

A: I don't find the change confusing at all (like I do between a 34 inch scale bass and a 32 inch scale, that really messes me up). Being a fretless makes it more difficult for a beginner. There's a parallel between learning to drive with an automatic vs. a stick and learning to play fretted vs. fretless. It is easier to get the strings down on the Ashbory and that won't help you too much with a bass guitar but it shouldn't make things more difficult either.

In short, it will be more difficult to play than a fretted bass guitar, but you could learn.


Q: Is the Ashbory available in a left handed model?

A:There has never been a left handed production Ashbory to my knowledge. They are convertible, however.

Here's an overview of the conversion process:
http://www.largesound.com/ashboryarticle/mod/lefthanded/

The conversion isn't perfect, but it works. Large Sound commerce offers a conversion option for $40.


 

Q: What is the connection between the Ashbory Bass and skeet shooting?

A: The premiere bass-centric Internet mailing list "The Bottom Line" has a history of references about using Ashbory Basses for skeet shooting. No, this is not a recommended use for your bass! Here's the original posting from Sun, 28 Nov 1999:

From 	 EdFried
Subject 	Ass-shbory
Date 	Sun, 28 Nov 1999 23:51:54 EST
Reading the post about using #9 lead shot to balance out the Ashbory bass
made me think of an even better use for that combination. Maybe a little
skeet shooting, bet that thing would fly pretty good!

Of course, I've probably offended someone (sorry), but I can't think of any
reason to bring that thing back on the market.

Ed