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Builder Profile: Fodera Guitars

Builder Profile: Fodera Guitars

1. Victor Wooten’s original Monarch from 1983, nearly 30 years later. 2. Even the Standards have the trademark inlayed Butterfly in the headstock. 3. The Yin Yang Standard. 4. The very first Yin Yang Standard, first announced at the 2011 Winter NAMM Show.

The Yin and Yang of It All
The Wooten Connection

Arguably one of the most famous bass players associated with Fodera is Victor Wooten. His Monarch bass has become as popular in bass folklore as James Jamerson’s Funk Machine or Marcus Miller’s Jazz bass. It’s Wooten’s Monarch that’s heard on the groundbreaking A Show of Hands, and he’s rarely seen without a Fodera-crafted bass in his hands. His relationship with Fodera, however, started off as simply and serendipitously as the company’s beginnings.

In 1983, a 19-year-old Wooten found himself in Bloomfield, New Jersey, at a recording session. The producer didn’t like the sound of Wooten’s bass, and, through another musician on the session, the upstart bass builder Vinny Fodera was contacted to bring in a new bass. Fodera showed up with two Monarchs, and after playing Fodera #37, Wooten was instantly attached.

It’s a common misconception that Wooten has been on some sort of endorsement payroll ever since. But according to Fodera, Wooten never received any compensation from Fodera up until the introduction of the Yin Yang Standard. The relationship between player and builder goes much deeper. Some of the modifications to the bass—such as a lower string action and thinner neck—evolved directly from Wooten’s techniques, and conversely, his style evolved around the instrument. This symbiosis has pushed both parties to do things that they might not have on their own. Wooten’s Fodera #37 served as the inspiration for the 30th Anniversary Monarch— of which only five will be made. However, eventually the model will be the basis for the new Monarch Standard.

Wooten’s jaw-dropping Yin Yang was born when the chops master simply asked for a yin-yang inlay on a bass. Fedora and Lauricella took the concept a step further and came up with a design that spread the symbol across the whole face of the instrument. When finally completed in 1995 and presented to Wooten, he (along with legions of his fans) was floored.

The Yin Yang features an alder Monarch body with two contrasting, seamlessly joined pieces of wood for the top, with the graceful curves flowing over onto the fingerboard. The initial Yin Yang was a fretless bass constructed of holly and ebony, which made for a striking contrast. Subsequent custom versions have been made with exotic woods such as purpleheart and pau amarillo.

Since its introduction, the Yin Yang has been Fodera’s most-requested bass—which is sometimes a double-edged sword. Because it requires twice the labor of other basses, the Deluxe model is now limited to only six a year. But demand from Wooten fans remained, so he approached Fodera about making a more affordable production model Yin Yang. The Yin Yang Standard—which is part of the new small-batch production approach and features a catalyzed-paint yin-yang design rather than a sculpted wood top—offers the same handcrafted care as the custom models.

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