New School: Stew McKinsey

Stew McKinsey

Stew McKinsey is a bassist with an affinity for extended range instruments. It wasn’t long after getting into the 4-string that he was introduced to a 5-string, then a 6-string, and so on. His current arsenal includes a 10-string Conklin Sidewinder. While that may seem extreme, McKinsey is quick to point out his efforts are to be a musician first.

What makes you new school?

It’s an interesting question. Stylistically, I don’t think I am particularly new school, but maybe my aesthetic could be described that way. I compose and perform exclusively on bass. And all my solo recordings of the last 25 years or so have been either bass in a true solo format, or bass played in duet, trio, quartet or similar small ensemble format. In terms of technique or pyrotechnics, however, I am definitely not breaking new ground.

How did you discover your new school style?

I think as is the case with most artists, it was and continues to be an organic process. I started on another instrument – on several other instruments, actually – but bass was the first instrument that made sense, that I truly loved. Whenever I was playing it in a band or on a session, I found it was mixed down or even taken out of the mix altogether. That was tough for me. So I started writing music that was just for me, my family and my friends. Eventually I was encouraged to perform and release it, I’ve never looked back.

Share some of your videos with us

Tell us about your gear

Stew McKinsey's extended range bassI play extended range instruments in my solo work, generally 8 and 10 string basses.

I prefer passive instruments, fourths tunings and pickups wired directly to the output jack. I endorse Conklin and Bee Basses, but I also own and play basses made by Nordstrand, Skjold, Wyn as well as a few that I made myself.

My amp is a Genz Benz Streamliner 900 and I put it through an AccuGroove Tri115 and an El Gordo.

What kinds of gigs do you get with your new school style?

For the most part I am invited to perform and teach as a solo artist, but I am also a columnist for Bass Guitar Magazine (“The Extended Range Specialist”) and I contribute to the Bass Players United website.

Stew McKinsey performing

Any traditional playing gigs?

I get a bit of sideman work and some session gigs, but these are generally not using my 8 or 10 string basses. I built my career as a gigging player and doing sessions, so I still get calls for that kind of work. I love playing in a band and making the groove happen, so I am always glad when I get these calls!

Do you have albums where we can hear your new school style?

My first solo albums are out of print, but I am just about to release my first solo album in several years. I think there is a compilation I played on a few years back called Jaguar that is still available.

Where can we find you on the web?

I took down my original website earlier this year and am hoping to launch a new one before long, but at the moment I can be found online at Facebook, Youtube, Bass Players United and Bass Guitar Magazine’s website.

What’s next for you?

I plan to continue my solo work, but I’m also hoping to take on some students again and ideally to put together a few bands. No matter what I am or am not doing in the public eye, I am always writing music. And I’m writing a series of science fiction novels that I may or may not try and publish soon.

What else do you want to share?

I believe that it’s very easy with the internet to learn another player’s style and to cop his or her technique. What’s far more challenging is to develop ones own style and to follow the inner voice. I am definitely not the flashiest or the fastest player doing solo bass, but I don’t think people are listening to me because they want to hear shredding. There are players light years beyond me in terms of technical ability and in terms of theory. But I continue to try and develop as an individual and I hope that is a part of what comes through in my music.

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Share your thoughts

  1. Extended basses are a new thing for me as a five string bassist so this video was extremely interesting. Personally, I love the tone of that bass when being played in the octaves that most bass players are comfortable in.

  2. That was cool but there are so many notes he cant play on that thing. the lowest 3-4 strings are useless.

    • How so? I play a 7 string tuned F#-B-E-A-D-G-C and the low f# is most definitely not useless. Sure, you can’t play fast on it or it sounds like mud, but for a slow groove, it most definitely works. Not sure if his 10 string adds a low C# below the F#, but either way, still holds true.

    • Wesley, I’m sorry you feel that way. Personally, I love playing the lowest 4 strings. In recordings they sound wicked! I’ll grant you, that’s only my opinion, but I’m probably going to keep hacking away at this thing.

      Paul, it has an additional C# below F#.

  3. that thing must way a ton!

  4. …i’ll take a piano over this any day… jus say’n coming from a 4… sometimes 5 string player lol’.

  5. So I am in my solo work I play a 6 string bass with a high f rather than a low b and I have been having trouble finding strings for that set up. Do you have any suggestions?

  6. Man. Stew just completely rocks. Thanks No Treble for featuring one of my favorite players and people!

    • You stop trying to make me blush, hippie!

      And thank you, man. Even if you stop writing songs about clouds, I’m gonna be a fan of you. As a musician and as a person. Not even necessarily in that order.

      ; )

  7. My god, That was fantastic! What is the string spacing on that 10 string?

  8. Interesting- yes…but that’s no Bass it’s more like Outer-Space.

  9. great! but its not a bass…

  10. Must take on age to tune! Hope that one day I will have the balls to even go to 5!

  11. Stewart, you’ve converted this 10 string skeptic with that video demonstration. I heard musicality all over the fretboard, and musicality is what counts in the end with any instrumental tool. By the way, I loved the “wrong” note the most! Hahaha! Nice work, man!

  12. Stewart, you’ve converted this 10 string skeptic with that video demonstration. By the way, I loved the “wrong” note the most! Hahaha! Nice work, man!

  13. Stew! So many great people on the New School list. Hope to see you sometime soon.

    • Kent! What up, man?? How you been??

      Thanks for the kind words, man. I am about ready to get some lessons from you!

    • Ha lessons, whatever dude! I’ve been super busy with touring, it’s hard to make time to write. Slowly but surely things are happening. It’s so cool to see you, Darren, Trip, Jayme and some of my other friends popping up on No Treble! It hit me when I realized we are all friends, what great community we have going on here. How are you man?!?!

    • Things are good, man. Thanks. Got a bunch of family and friends on the east coast so I’m kind of trying to sort through and see how everyone’s doing, but life is good.

      And YES!! The community of bassists is AWESOME!!!

      So glad to hear you’re busy and hoping you’re well!

  14. This is simply awesome, Stew. What a great interview, pictures and videos!