Welcome to Breakdown, an unofficial resource and discussion list about the innovative guitarist/producer Michael Brook. This site is infrequently updated, but contains a great deal of background info which will remain online. For up-to-date news and information, visit Michael Brook's official site and MySpace page.

Instrumentation Technical details infinite guitar and buzz bass

Anonymous commentary

"The Buzz Bass is a fretless bass guitar with string action so low that when the string is plucked by the finger hard enough, It buzzes against the fingerboard. On Hybrid and other recordings, the Buzz Bass has been mixed with reverb to give it a sense of space and depth.

"The buzzing sound is in order to resemble the low resonating strings on a Sitar (Indian instrument used in Hindu music).

Breakdown commentary

Michael Brook is often cited as the inventor of a particular kind of infinitely sustaining guitar called the infinite guitar. Another, lesser known creation of his is the "buzz bass."

Buzz bass is used without the accompanyment of other kinds of bass (i.e. keyboard or traditional) in "Breakdown," "Slow Breakdown," and "Ten" from Cobalt Blue, in "Think" from Dream, and in "Crest" from Night Song.

Cobalt Blue

In "Breakdown" and "Slow Breakdown," there is an extremely low-register bass guitar providing bottom-end texture to the poppy tune. The bass has very little attack (sounding more like "MMMM" than "BMMM" - if that makes any sense).

In "Ten," the buzz bass is used to dramatic end under a crying infinite guitar and hypnotic arperggios. A slow, percussive melody later arises, which sounds like it could be played in the upper reaches of a bass guitar's neck.

Night Song

For "Crest," the buzz bass definitely has a noticeable attack, but retains the characteristic depth of tone. Some of the sliding notes sound indicative of a fretless bass.

The buzz bass in "Think" is, I believe, responsible for the repeated two-note rhythmic underpinning. The notes have the quality of large bells, calling to mind the sound of mutely rung Indonesian gamelan bells.


In these tracks, the sound of the buzz bass is hard to classify. It typically has a very rich sound with a potentially speaker-blowing low register, which is not immediately different from some traditional bass sounds. It sometimes sounds heavily effected (as in "Ten" and "Think") but is other times totally clean ("Crest"). A defining characteristic is the sometimes fretless sound - certainly in tune with the Eastern notions that informed the invention of the infinite guitar.

As its name would seem to imply, it carries along with it a "buzzing" sound. Some African instruments are designed to produce dirty, complex tones. The mbira, for example, often has bottle caps affixed to the shell to create buzzing textures when the metal keys are vibrated.