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Review

Shuker Bass Guitars: Custom handmade basses

Issue #58

Shuker Guitars not only makes top notch basses but also a wide range of electric guitars that are sublime in both tone and looks. Jon’s main body of work is in custom work; building a relationship with his customers to truly understand what it is they need. I absolutely found this to be the case and Jon’s attention to detail meant that I ended up with exactly what it was I wanted and discovered a few things I didn’t know I needed at the same time too!
Dan Veall

PROS:

Hand-made by a highly skilled artisan.

Within reason, whatever you want in a bass.

Exceptional instrument knowledge from one of the UK’s best.

CONS:

The cost of a handmade, completely custom bass will be higher than a massed produced instrument, but the difference in quality is far, far greater.

Guitar Interactive star rating: 5 stars

Shuker Bass Guitars: Custom handmade basses

MSRP £TBC (UK)  £TBC (US)


Shuker Bass Guitars: Custom handmade basses

Handcrafted in England since 1995, Jon Shuker has been building some of the most exceptional bass guitars on the market. Dan Veall talks us through what makes this company's custom instruments stand out so far from so many.

I think I first became aware of Jon Shuker around 2003 I guess. By then Jon had already attained quite a name for himself in the world of luthiery since starting business in 1995. An affable, hardworking gent, modest in personality but don’t let that fool you. We are dealing with a master here as you will see.

Shuker guitars caught my eye initially owing to Jon’s instrument designs that build on his set of exceptional blueprints from which customers can begin their journey to owning a totally custom instrument or, if they so wish, keep it simple and familiar.

Looking to choose my first custom instrument after many, many years of playing off-the shelf offerings that I felt fell short of my needs, I spent probably the best part of a year researching the options. Essentially the top tier luthiers in the UK.

I have to say at this point that today, we have some serious talent in the UK; like Jon they are shoulder to shoulder with the very best in the world without a doubt. (I know, I’ve played a few basses in my time!) I’d also like to mention some of the up and coming brands too. Some that have been working away for years who aspire to the innovation and quality of work attained by the likes of Jon Shuker.

Shuker Guitars not only makes top notch basses but also a wide range of electric guitars that are sublime in both tone and looks. Jon’s main body of work is in custom work; building a relationship with his customers to truly understand what it is they need. I absolutely found this to be the case and Jon’s attention to detail meant that I ended up with exactly what it was I wanted and discovered a few things I didn’t know I needed at the same time too!

Shuker Guitars has an impressive list of endorsers including the likes of Joe Heaton from Aliases, top session player Roger Inniss, and Simon Rix from Kaiser Chiefs. A long time relationship with The Stranglers, a firm favourite of Jon’s has also meant having iconic bassist JJ Burnell proudly flying the Shuker flag with his own signature model. The JJB comes in three versions including a lightweight model and a bass first, an innovative carbon necked instrument that I would dearly love to review.

I worked very closely with Jon Shuker in the design of this particular instrument. Indeed only this year I sent it off to Jon for a good service after nearly ten years of hard graft on stage and in the studio.  A few tweaks to the set up, the installation of some neck dot markers, brand new EMG pickups and a new and exciting finish: A crackle paint job with a layer of green to purple chameleon flip paint over the top. This bass literally changes colour as you move it in the light!

Underneath the gorgeous finish, the instrument is all about tone. Strong fundamentals across the fretboard but bite and clarity coming from the EMG pickups and preamp for a modern twist.

It is a neck-through-body design meaning that the neck section is one construction all the way from the nut down to the bridge. This is a 7 piece laminate of premium Maple and Wenge. The neck also includes carbon inserts for reinforcement and a two way truss rod for neck tweaks.

On to the neck is expertly fitted a beautiful piece of bird’s eye maple for the fretboard and 24 medium sized frets profiled perfectly. The hand shaped fretboard edge and neck profile is so smooth and comfortable.

Anchoring the strings on to the bass at the zero fret position is a custom headpiece with a unique all brass cover. Running down the body to the other end of business, ABM Hardware from Germany supply the trouble free headless tuning bridge pieces. I selected separate mono rail units as this allowed us to play with the string spacing to match my custom seven string bass also made by Shuker Guitars. Headless basses are often a bit ‘marmite’ in opinions but there are many definite benefits. Much less weight on your shoulder and… they fit in guitar cases! - and probably overhead lockers on aircraft.

The very curvy, smooth body is made of white ash. Similar to ash without the added weight for comfort and tonal benefits.

Around to the electronics, we have on board two EMG DC active soap bar pickups. I understand that these pickups are modelled on an MM style unit given that there are two coils in each soap bar.  They are of the rail / blade type and the two coils are summed electronically with an onboard preamplifier. They are loud, very clean, have a real depth to the sound but also a defined zing in the top end, reminiscent of those MM style units. Both pickups go via a 3-way selector switch and the signal is fed to a two-band EMG preamplifier.

Tonally the bass has been designed to be rich and resonant to make it useful for styles such as slap, tapping and with the inclusion of a high C string, chordal and melody work too. This is helpful for occasions when there may not be a rhythm guitarist or keyboard player in an ensemble or group.

Wrapping up this review, Shuker Guitars make exceptional instruments, either in something you can just pickup and take away, or customise right down to the last wood screw. Should you be in the lucky position to arrange a visit to see Jon Shuker, it’s wise to take lots of biscuits for an extended visit and beware the lure of the wood store. It’s quite an eye-opener!

SPECS

Various custom options are available

For more information, please visit:

Shuker Guitars

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