Carl Thompson (luthier)

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Carl Thompson (born 1939) is a luthier and musician specializing in the construction of high-quality custom bass guitars. He is based in Brooklyn, New York.

Born in Pitcairn, Pennsylvania to a large musical family, Thompson moved to New York City in 1967 to pursue a career as a jazz guitarist. After working in a guitar shop to supplement his income, he started his own guitar repair business. He made his first instrument in 1974 and quickly gained renown in the craft.

Unusual custom bass guitars made by Carl Thompson are the piccolo bass - a guitar of the same dimensions as a normal bass but tuned an octave higher - and five- and six-stringed contra-bass guitars. Carl is attributed with creating both the first electric piccolo bass (commissioned by Stanley Clarke) and the first electric six-string bass.

Carl's most popular endorsee is Les Claypool of the band Primus, who plays and owns seven Carl Thompson basses, his most famous being the Rainbow Bass, a six-string fretless bass made of several different woods. He has made at least three basses for Stanley Clarke and one for Clarke's famous brother-in-law, Charles Farnsworth. Clarke honored Thompson at one of his concerts and invited him on stage, calling him "a very great bass maker. He made one of my first piccolo basses. In fact, he made the first piccolo bass." The bass for Farnsworth is a four-string all cherry fretless (see image below in external links). He has also designed and built the world's first six string bass for Anthony Jackson, based upon Jackson's vision.

Thompson has invented several important designs for modern basses. The most important ones are how the neck is locked into the body of the bass and of course the piccolo and six string basses. The piccolo bass was envisioned by Clarke and built by Carl Thompson. The six string bass was envisioned by Anthony Jackson and subsequently built by Carl Thompson. These features have been copied by other many other luthiers.

Thompson basses are sought after, and he maintains a two-year waiting list, though some orders can take well over three years to complete. The cost for a basic four-string bass made by Thompson is about $5,500. Basses such as the "Rainbow Bass" can cost well over $10,000, although Carl will not make copies of the bass for his clients despite being asked to do so in the past. He maintains that all his basses are one-of-a-kind.

Thompson continues to be an active musician, practicing several hours a day, and performing once a week at a local Brooklyn restaurant. He has a fascination with jazz singers, and is a respected vocal coach of young singers.


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