Ramsay Musical Instruments

Our Mission

RMI is a small family business founded in October 2011 by Mark Ramsay and Stuart Ramsay.  Our diverse range of basses is the creation of Mark Ramsay Design. These quality instruments are all finely crafted by Korean master luthiers to Mark's exact specification and dimensions using CNC machinery - immaculately hand finished with premium materials to industry standards. Born out of a passion for art, technology and musicianship, RMI follows a clear vision:

  1. Create - build unique and specialized instruments of excellent quality with compelling featuress for bass players of any preference at a bargain price
  2. Innovate  - design more playable instruments using a purpose-driven, solutions-oriented approach for contemporary requirements
  3. Liberate – inspire freedom and new 'outside the box' possibilities for musical creativity and ingenuity

Satisfied customers are our priority.  We will work consultatively with you to help you find the ideal instrument for your budget.  Whatever your flavour, if you are looking beyond standard vanilla for the spec of a custom instrument for more realistic money, we are listening.

Philosophy

Our philosophy is quite simple:

“You are the music!  The bass is the instrument!”

It’s not what you play that is important, it’s how you play on a suitable, carefully chosen instrument that does not drain your hard earned cash for non benefits like overinflated 'fashionable' value, huge production overheads, features you don’t really need and the illusive promise of getting respected simply because of the brand you are playing.  Money and image cannot buy musicality!  “No pain, no gain” should refer to your work ethic and the merits of hard work alone.  Fighting with an instrument not right for you and compromising your technique – even your health, should never be entertained.

Our approach to crafting quality purpose-made instruments is inspired by the privilege of choice -  according to your musical style, personality, technique, and budget.  Every musician is unique and whether you consider yourself a virtuoso, technical or functional player, student, enthusiast, beginner or collector, you should feel free to express your musical voice on a bass that feels comfortable and endearing – worthy of your passion.  This means – robust, aesthetically elegant, pristine, but most importantly, ergonomic – a bass that feels balanced, accessible, responsive and versatile. 

Less is more, so they say.  Although we esteem the notion of elegant simplicity, sometimes less is not more.  Sometimes less is simply LESS if you are left wanting of a particular sound or facility from the bass.  Our components are carefully selected to bring out the best of the instrument at a given price point.  You will find custom-style features in our basses usually available only on the most expensive boutique instruments.  We go the extra mile to put the finest, value added quality package within your reach, and an enchanting instrument under your fingertips.

When one size does not fit all, and one bass does not fit all, you can rely on us to deliver a range of basses with diversely different functions, yet all of them have that same familiar feel and appeal.  You know you are holding a Ramsay bass, whether short scale, medium scale, long scale, active, passive, single coil, humbucking, fretted, fretless, neck-through-body, bolt-on, set neck, 4, 5, 6, 7 strings, with jumbo, standard, even mandolin fret sizes ranging from standard numbers like 20, 21, 24 - all the way up to the more custom numbers like 26, 28, 36 frets!

Every bass has a personality.  We understand this is an important selection criterion for a musician who needs to consider not only the performance attributes of the bass but also the visual character of the instrument.  Image is an essential factor for the performing artist but you should not have to re-mortgage your house to afford the class and respect you deserve!

You are a musician. You are the music!

Background

The Piano Bass

Since way back in 1993, Johannesburg, South Africa where Mark designed and supervised the building of his very first custom ‘prototypes’, his dream to create a new breed of instrument that could go into production was finally realised in the spring of 2011.  The catalyst was the Piano Bass project where Mark used recycled woods from an old upright piano to make a fretless bass with a view to using the body as a prototype for the now Boomslang series. 

This project was essentially inspired by the good deed of his dear friend Ruth Fisher who, when scaling down for her imminent move to Spain offered him her beautiful short-scale bass for safe keeping.  The instrument was handmade in Glasgow and was once used by Abe Laboriel when his bass did not arrive on time for a gig with Ron Kenoly in Glasgow.  No expensive hardware or complicated circuitry, just great wood, great craftsmanship, great feel, great tone!  On that cold and windy, but sunny day at Aberdeen harbour in February 2011, Mark’s destiny came into focus: “by this time next year I will be making basses.  Mark my words!”

After completing three homespun instruments within the period of a year - two basses and one guitar (where he helped a student build his own instrument for a school music project) and having conducted a series of successful DIY guitar making summer workshops for young people at the local youth centre, Mark’s father Stuart, long-time believer and investor in the Ramsay dream suggested that starting a guitar business at this stage was timely.

Matt's Guitar (designed by Matt)

Having travelled extensively around the world during his former career in various roles as product specialist/ consultant/engineer/architect/educator/evangelist/executive in the corporate tech space, Mark acquired a diverse array of skills and invaluable experience in service delivery, solutions design, product marketing, product development, and support.  Thereafter, growing increasingly disillusioned with the stability of the industry and having relocated his family twice across continents within the space of 6 months, Mark and his wife Angela sensed a vocational calling to do something significant in their hometown of Hampton.  Sharing a passion for youth work and a vision for using music as a means by which to promote community values and culture, they soon founded Groove Academy – an award winning contemporary music school and accredited arts activity centre for young people in early 2004.  Although modest in size, the academy offers a busy and varied weekly programme which is consistently well attended with an ambitious gigging schedule.  Students enjoy performing and collaborating locally, nationally and internationally.

Growing up in a creative and musical family, Mark was always playing instruments, singing and making things.  In 1979 he attended the famous Drakensberg Boys Choir school where he also became curious about contemporary music and started to experiment on the drumkit.  After studying flute classically for 6 years and writing songs on guitar and piano, he eventually discovered the bass at age 16.  His exposure to gospel, soul and classic rock in his teens were a formative influence on his musical education and direction.  In 1987 he matriculated from the National School of the Arts in Johannesburg where he studied art and went on to complete an honours degree in social sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand.  It was in the early stages of his working life as a magazine photographer, graphics artist and network systems programmer that Mark found his love for jazz, fusion and eclectic world music.  This exciting voyage of discovery led him to later meet and learn from many of his heroes in the world of bass – legendary players, luthiers and parts manufacturers, with the added good fortune of getting to jam on some of the most iconic, original, bespoke instruments which feature on some major records.   These collective experiences have all informed in a profound way his concept of how high-end basses should be built and what really matters to bass players of different musical orientations.

The VM 500 prototype

Mark’s first bass project was designed in consultation with friend and internationally-acclaimed South African bassist/producer Victor Masondo (Miriam Makeba, Friends First, Nina Simone and many others).  This burgundy red Ramsay VM 500 bass proudly bore Vic’s signature and made its debut appearance with the maestro at a jazz gig in Yeoville, Johannesburg in 1993.  Freddie Hubbard’s On the Red Clay was certainly a most fitting opening number for this instrument.  The growl, sustain and clarity of the VM 500 was astounding even if the pickups were wired up incorrectly in haste for this last-minute opportunity.  The bass made no excuses whatsoever and Vic delivered an inspired performance!

The reconditioned VM 500

Sadly, after putting the project on the shelf at the time whilst focusing on his tech career, which brought Mark and his young family to London in December 1995, Mark kept this bass as his primary instrument until one unfortunate day when the bass was accidentally damaged by a friend – unaware of the bass leaning against the passenger door of her parked car.  After sustaining a hairline fractured neck from the full weight of the car reversing over it, the VM 500 was unplayable although it looked undamaged at first glance.  The mighty fine expertise of Martin Pedersen of The Bass Gallery in Camden, London brought the bass back to life with an extreme makeover - a complete and lasting neck repair, minor body re-shaping, total re-fret, re-spray and upgrade of the pickups and circuitry.  The bass was serviced a few years later by setup specialists, The Charlie Chandler Guitar Experience in Hampton Wick.  Needless to say, after all the love, attention and heritage of this now mamba black bass, it remains the benchmark and point of reference for tone and feel for all Mark’s pro-spec designs.