These are some of my favorite toys. Originally developed by Tony Levin and his bass tech, based on an idea that Peter Gabriel suggested – I believe the story went something like this: When they were rehearsing or recording one of Gabriel’s tunes, to get a percussive sound, Tony was whacking his bass with a spare drumstick. Peter said, “Why not attach the sticks to your fingers? The result was this:
For a brief time, Tony actually had a bunch of sets made, and sold them on his website. I was lucky enough to grab a few sets for myself when they were there, since he no longer produces them. As a result, he gives his permission to recreate them yourself for personal use – but mandates that you cannot mass produce or sell them for profit (I think he owns a patent for them). I’ve since seen original pairs of the ones he produced sell on eBay for over $100 (which is ridiculous since they should be easy enough to make for yourself.)
I actually got pretty good at using them; I performed with them regularly in live concerts and bar gigs with Second Story – as well as recorded two of the songs for the second album using them (“Dancing on the Hill” and “Abducted”). I hope to soon have some video available of them in action.
But they’re neat, very cool, and they never failed to get a reaction from the crowd when I started smacking my bass with them. And they can provide an ultra-percussive bass sound that just can’t be matched with the thumb alone.
Here’s a clip from the studio (pre-vocals) of “Dancing on the Hill,” which features me playing the Funk Fingers through a distorted amp.