NEM #31: Michael Manring’s Limitless Bass Guitar

Michael ManringMichael has played on 500+ recordings and studied with jazz legend Jaco Pastorius. He was the house bassist for the Windham Hill label in the ’80s and has put out seven solo albums since then, with increasing focus on solo works. He expands what electric bass can do by using many tunings, even retuning on the fly using a custom-built system, using his bass as a percussion instrument, and sometimes playing multiple basses at once. We also talk about looping, amplification and processing, and more.

We discuss “Excuse Me, Mr. Manring” from Soliloquy (2005), and “My Three Moons” and “The Enormous Room,” both from Thonk (1994). The opening music is “Thunder Tactics” from Unusual Weather (1986), and we wrap up by listening to “Unclear, Inarticulate Things” by Attention Deficit, his trio with Alex Skolnick (Testament) and Tim Alexander (Primus), from Idiot King (2001). Learn more at

Here Michael discusses and shows more of that rhythmic approach to bass playing. Here’s Michael explaining the Zon Hyperbass and introducing “The Enormous Room” and then playing it. Here he is playing “My Three Moons” live on four basses. Here he is doing some looping in order to play along with himself.
Here’s another one of his trios: this one with Vic Stevens and Scott McGill. Here he is in 1996 playing with Michael Hedges.

Here’s another interview with Michael where he talks about Jaco and other things. Here’s another where he talks about Michael Hedges, Montreux, the “stigma around bass,” and other things.

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  1. Thank you so much for doing this episode. I first discovered Manring’s work on Jeff Loomis’ solo record where he did a bass solo on “Cashmere Shiv’ (my favorite on the record). I then found a recording of him performing ‘The Enormous Room’ live and immediately connected with the idea and, probably even more, the sensibility of the composition. I really enjoyed hearing his thoughts on composing as a quasi-classical throwback, i.e. pure art with the limitations of appealing to a broad audience (probably my taste in most anything), and improvisation as a contextual, feeling-type judgment. I don’t remember you guys discussing practical wisdom in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics VI, but it might be worth reading that part with some other peaces to take about things like improvisation, or contextual/expert behavior. I remember taking a seminar on Action Theory and contemporary Naturalism in Analytic Ethics a couple of years ago when I was an undergrad, and most of our discussion came back to this particular issue about practical wisdom being either based on a perception of appropriateness in context, or in some sense being based on knowledge of rules. If not a PEL episode, maybe you can do an episode on NEM to talk about this.

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