“Building basses was the inevitable culmination of being an avid player and a compulsive ‘maker.’ I had been working with wood and making things as far back as I can remember, and once the idea came to build my own bass there was nothing that was going to stop me.”
– Jerome Little
If some people are born to excel in specific areas, it seems at least plausible that Jerome Little was fated to be an instrument builder.
Born and raised in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California, Jerome was an avid woodworker from an early age and began studying the bass at the age of 13. After graduating from Greenville High School, he went on to Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, where he majored in Music and Acoustics and, in 1994, built his first bass. It was, as he says, “not a great bass — but it was good enough to play for a while, and I was definitely hooked and eager to do better!”
His passion was fueled further after he attended a three-week instrument-building workshop at Formentera Guitars on the Spanish island of Formentera. However, the real “aha” moment arrived just a few months later, when Jerome started to become aware of the chronic injuries – like tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome – that some players suffered after years of bass playing. It was then that he decided not just to build basses, but to build a better bass.
In his final year at Hampshire College Jerome undertook the research, design, and construction of the first Torzal Natural Twist bass. Shortly after its completion, he had the opportunity to display the prototype at a special event at the Smithsonian Institution, in the company of many of the world’s most innovative and influential contemporary instrument makers.
Among them was Ken Parker, with whom Jerome worked for several years at the latter’s Parker Guitars. He also worked with other great luthiers over the years, including Luke Wilson and Lance McCollum in Northern California and Bill Collings in Austin, TX. At the same time, he maintained his own shop in Austin, refining his designs and techniques, and filling orders for the Torzal Natural Twist.
Currently Jerome lives in Austin with his wife Meikan and their two sons, Elias and Diego. As the founder and director of Torzal Guitars, he oversees all operations of the growing company and continues to look for ways to refine and improve his innovative instruments.
When asked recently what sustained his ongoing love affair with instrument building, Jerome explained: “Building instruments is the ultimate blending of many different disciplines. It’s a dynamic pursuit, with lots of variables – many of which can be quantified – but which in the end relies on an intuitive connection between the craftsman and the craft. It’s mostly the process of building that I enjoy, but it’s icing on the cake to see the fruits of my labor bring joy to others, and in turn bring music to many beyond that.”