Bass of the Week: MonoNeon’s Microtonal Bass

MonoNeon Microtonal Bass

Most No Treble readers will recognize MonoNeon as a forward thinking bassist with a unique style that blends R&B with modern experimental music. He often plays with microtonality, meaning he uses quarter tones in addition to semi-tones that are created on fretted instruments.

“My fascination with microtonality is ‘casual’, similar to my fascination with Dadaism, Color Field, and other visual art stuff,” he explains. “I was introduce to microtonal music by David Fiuczynski, I met him during my brief stay at Berklee. Ever since then I’ve been kind of a ‘micro-dilettante’ and really been trying to embrace my desire to inhabit another pitch space that is not only 12 sounds. Hopefully more people will begin playing microtonal music, not only in the avant-garde classical stuff but combining the sounds of Julian Carrillo and Albert King, Ivan Wyschnegradsky and The Bar-Kays, or Easley Blackwood and Rev. Milton Brunson… just ideas I think about.”

MonoNeon now has a new microtonal bass that better facilitates the style. Tim Cloonan of Callowhill Guitars reached out to him and the two collaborated on the design, which also incorporates the bassist’s colorful palette. It’s built with a Honduran Mahogany body, an 11-piece maple/wenge/myrtle neck, and an Indian Rosewood fingerboard. The pickups are a pair of Nordstrand MM5’s matched with an Aguilar OBP-3 preamp.

MonoNeon gave us a rundown of how the bass’s fret system works. “The microtonal system used on the bass is 24 tone equal temperament, literally stretching the 2:1 (octave) to put 12 more notes in it. Each whole-tone within the octave is now comprised of equal 4 parts instead of 2 parts. In 24 TET the quarter-tone (50 cents) is the smallest interval, not the semitone (100 cents).”

If you’re trying to imagine what that sounds like, check out this video:

MonoNeon’s Microtonal Bass Photos:

MonoNeon’s Microtonal Bass Specs:

Body:Honduran Mahogany
Neck:11-piece Maple/Wenge/Myrtle
Fingerboard:Indian Rosewood
Pickups:Nordstrand MM5
Electronics:Aguilar OBP-3 Preamp

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Share your thoughts

  1. Well, that was annoying.

  2. And I thought I was going to be the only one that thought that sucked.

  3. That’s really cool, seriously ! I’m going each year to an avant-garde festival near my home, there are plenty of double bassists in that style, bowing of course and using all type of hammers and whatsoever, the feel is unique in that case with an electric microtonal bass, you can do the same, but more precisely, not as the tone you would get with a fretless. To each his own tastes of course, but also in oriental music (North african music, Middle East), having the possibility to play microtonal is a bonus !! Good on Calowhill to explore that way !!

  4. Is it April 1st already?

  5. cookie monster vox VS microtonal bass….and the winner is?

    I never thought of myself as “behind the times”…

  6. Loved it. I’m always excited when musicians think outside the box.

  7. Want to play a “microtonal” bass? Then get a fretless. Problem solved. Personally I prefer 5-Limit just intonation or a meantone temperment (like 1/4 comma) – but each to his own.

  8. I really thought that was going to be cool :/

  9. I really like the concept and the instrument. However, you forgot to link to CallowHill Basses, so I here’s the link –

  10. Nice to see that Tim Cloonan is getting some recognition on here. Dude is incredible, as are his basses. Props to him and MonoNeon for exploring the unknown. Looking forward to hearing more.

  11. Remember kids don’t do drugs

  12. I actually like this for some reason, very cool dissonance and all

  13. No thank you,just noise.

  14. To all the ones that have posted negative comments: post a link to an article written about your playing. If there isn’t one, stfu. The end.

  15. I love it! He always thinks outside the box with his playing. The sound of the bass itself is cool too. Music has evolved. It is multi-dimensional and always has been. Now we have the tools to expand on that. We have to catch up or get left behind. We have been brainwashed by the industry as to what we should gauge as ‘cool’. Freedom of expression is at our fingertips, literally! Staying positive and motivating other artists to be free in our crafts. Good stuff! And before you criticize, please listen carefully and check his other works. This dude is a GENIUS!

  16. Bass players are so ridiculous, and I’m not talking about the one in the video here…

  17. I see a lot of “should have just got a fretless” comments on here and that’s EXACTLY what I thought when I was watching the videos a couple days ago. Glad I’m not the only one.

  18. I love the idea, and like to hear someone play something musical on it.

  19. Just sounds like a badly out of tune bass. Horrid! Not clever.

  20. Yeah…I’ve heard micro tonal done before, but this just sounded terrible. Not. very. musical. at all.

  21. Yeah…I’ve heard micro tonal done before, but this just sounded terrible. Not. very. musical. at all.

  22. To each his own…but, it sounds stupid to me…

  23. The first person to do anything different usually gets flack. Who knows? This could be the future of modern music, where we can hear and understand twice the number of tones than our western ears are currently tuned to. By these responses, it seems y’all would’ve scoffed at the idea that the earth was round in the days when flat thinking was the norm. People here even got fretless and this bass mixed up. The fretless has infinite tones- micro in every way possible, where as this bass gives you 50 cents per note- an exact note. I admit, even my ears aren’t ready yet for this, but I def give kudos to what’s going on here, like it or not.

  24. Now I’m curious to hear examples of harmonic, chordal microtonal music. I want to hear examples that illustrate the specific theory of microtonal music. Is there a varied emotional palette like regular music has? What’s the microtonal equivalent to a major or minor chord? Is the theoretical logic of it rooted in human emotional and spiritual response?

  25. ummm, what the heck was that ? if that was ” music” as it is commonly defined, then I guess all the ghetto rappers using autotune are actually musicians also ??????? I just wasted 5 minutes of my life I wont ever get back.

  26. I like it.Kin of sounds like your old pedal board James!Ha

  27. Look, I love avant-garde music. I’ve had roommates request I “never play that album ever again.” I should like this. But this… is not good. It sounds like a song trying to figure out what it wants to be, and not getting there. There’s a difference between pushing boundaries and tossing too many ingredients in the pot and hoping it works. Those big washes of casio synth sounds? Gag me.
    This seems like an incredible, unique instrument. The specs alone warrant attention, never mind the microtonal aspect. I still don’t really “get” microtonal tunings and want to learn more (but me bad math,) and this… didn’t help. I’d love to hear a proper demo – clean, solo bass through a flat amp/DI. Get Ed Freidland on this.

  28. Am I being stupid or could you just play a fretless really badly and get the same sound?

  29. There were many musicians of the past that thought playing major 6’s and 7’s sounded horrible. For some even our beloved major 3rd was alien sounding. And diminished chords… they were out of the question! It may take a bit to accept this change. The 12 TET system has reigned for a long time. It is all that a lot of us have ever heard. But we are moving into a future where that is changing.

  30. Sorry, this is the equivalent of painters who splatter paint on canvas and call it “contemporary art”. The sock on the headstock, playing a righty bass upside down as a lefty, AND the unique fret system?

    This is someone trying way too hard to be “cool” and different. It was a cool idea when I read about it, not when I heard it.

  31. Lowell Levene-Sims

    Good work M.N. I look forward to seeing/hearing what you do in the future with this. I will never understand the willingness of people to dismiss something so quickly, even more so however, the mean-spiritedness behind so many comments is just disheartening. What a world we live in…

  32. WilliamWhite

    That sounded like me when I try to play an unlined fretless except faster and funkier. I think that micro tonal music could sound good but really this didn’t; it sounded like a badly tuned and intonated bass.

  33. Love every second of it.
    Been listening to Mononeon (&related) now for a couple of days. Brings me back to the eighties, listening to Laswell and Golden Palominos (&related), spending the afternoons just enjoying the creative funky insanity.
    Picked up bass playing again, and this peaked my interest to a new approach.
    Fretless? Don’t know about that. Percy Jones is the only fretless bass player I’ve enjoyed listening to, and Zappa the only fretless guitarist (The torture never stops). Seems very difficult.