A review of the Barker Vertical Bass....my opinions, experiences, and feelings surrounding my Barker B1 4 String Fretted #66.

I've owned and played many basses since I first began to learn the electric bass, in the winter of '62. I still own most of the basses I've ever had, and enjoy using them regularly. I've always been open to try something new or different...be it someone's latest offering, or a cool old vintage piece.

I'm very fortunate to be offered the opportunity to work regularly, and I always enjoy playing... whether it's live shows or studio work. As the result of a particularly busy two week period, my left shoulder and neck developed a painful condition. My doctor told me that it would not go away until I gave it a rest from a bass hanging around the injured area. Not really willing to stop working for the period of time necessary to allow the injury to heal, I began researching alternatives to having a bass strap around my shoulder. There were various strap configurations available, but I felt they would make me look like a dog in a harness type collar!

I then came upon the Barker Bass website. I was immediately intrigued by the concept and design.... not to mention a solution to my shoulder problem. After researching the Barker on the web, I came to the conclusion not only would this solve my injury problem, but this was a very high quality and versatile instrument. By all accounts of what I was able to read from owners and players who had experience with the Barker, this bass was a tone monster. Always seeking that "perfect tone" I decided I should own a Barker.

I got acquainted with Lee Barker just by visiting his website , and decided to e-mail him to make some initial inquiries. Lee's responses were prompt, and I got a good feeling about Lee and his bass. After several more e-mails, we spoke over the phone several times. Each and every time I called, Lee answered the phone himself! Lee was always willing to take time away from his work to talk with me, and answered my questions in a most forthright manner. Lee, and his company, really understands "Customer Service".
I gave Lee an order, and in a few days, My Barker arrived. (There is a thread on the Barker Bass website "Leo gets his Barker!" with some initial comments.)

Now about the Bass, Barker #66. It's a Barker B1, 4 String Fretted. My first impression was with the quality of construction and finish. The construction is simply flawless... beautiful woods, and quality hardware. It's very solid, with no buzzes or rattles. All of the pieces are fitted together perfectly. It's obvious a lot of thought went into the design, as exemplified by the layout of the controls, pickups, thumb rests, and the stand. In my opinion, the quality of this instrument is on par with any high end Zon, Spector, or Alembic.
The Barker plays wonderfully. The neck is smooth and quick, the frets are finished off with obvious great care, and the playing position is very comfortable. The well placed thumb rests are very handy. This bass is a joy to play. The cleverly designed stand offers versatility in height, tilt back, and body position in relation to the instrument. It's very easy and quick to get set up and acquainted with. I look forward to every opportunity to play it.

As I said previously, the Barker is an absolute tone monster. Big and fat, yet clear and articulate. The Seymour Duncan Jazzline pickups do an excellent job. They produce the tones I need with the front and rear pickup volume controls, and single tone control. Pickups aside, I have always felt that if a bass doesn't sound good acoustically, the best electronics available probably won't improve it. The Barker has a great acoustic sound. It's naturally loud and resonant, with great natural and artificial harmonics, probably partly due to the sound chambers in its body. The sustain is unbelievable! I feel the body design, choice of woods, and construction all blend to give it that awesome tone. The Barker responds well to various plucking techniques. You can "dig in" to get that growl, pluck above the neck pickup to get a smooth, sweet, upright sound, work near to the bridge to get a close, tight sound, and yes, as it has been discussed in other reviews, it can be slapped and popped. Your slapping technique will be slightly different that what you may be using on a conventional bass, but I found adapting was quick and easy. It probably won't be played with a flat pick, and although it resembles an upright, it cannot be bowed. The Barker is all about your touch, and responds beautifully and obediently. It punches through a live mix very well, and the engineers love it in the studio! I require a lot of tonal flexibility, and my Barker delivers. I constantly get many positive comments on my Barkers' tone.

The Barker comes with a very nice gig bag, and a bag for the stand. The gig bag has a strap and handles, and it can be carried over the shoulder. Setting the Barker up for the gig is quick and easy. Because the Barker has its own stand, you're free to move about around the instrument. It's a good feeling having the bass standing right next to you, not hanging on you. I really enjoy the feeling my Barker gives me on stage... it's kinda' like standing next to a beautiful woman...

(My wife, of course!) It's absolutely amazing the comments I get about the Barker. All of the other Bassists who I have let play it love it. But the comments I get from the people in the audience during and after the shows are amazing! People ask"What kind of instrument is that? "Is that an electric Cello?"I get all kinds of questions. One thing for sure...the Barker is a real attention getter!
I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute spent with my Barker. Since I took delivery of my Barker, it's been the only bass I have used. It's a lot of fun, it looks and sounds great. If you ever have the opportunity to play a Barker, I think you'll see why I feel the way I do. Although the Barker costs a little more that your average Fender, Lakland or Gibson, I feel it's an outstanding Value. When you take the customer service, construction, performance, and value...my Barker was worth every dollar.

Now a word about Lee Barker and his company, using a quote from one of my previous posts on the Barker Forum.

I got the feel of Lee's passion for his instrument, along with the ingenuity, creativity, and forthright thinking that is so apparent when you view, and put your hands on the instrument in person. Lee understated every aspect of the bass, and greatly over delivered in every respect. So, thanks Lee... for a wonderful Bass! And Lee, get to work... I'm jonesin' for a Barker Fretless! Want to learn more?

Email Lee...I know you'll have a great experience with your Barker!

If you're ever in Memphis, I can usually be found gigging in the Blues Clubs on Beale St. Stop by and say hello, and try out the Barker.