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The bass guitar, electric bass or simply bass, is the lowest-pitched member of the
guitar The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that typically has six string instrument, strings. It is held flat against the player's body and played by strumming or Plucked string instrument, plucking the strings with the dominant hand, while sim ...

guitar
family. It is a
plucked string instrument Plucked string instruments are a subcategory of string instruments that are played by plucking the string (music), strings. Plucking is a way of pulling and releasing the string in such a way as to give it an impulse that causes the string to vib ...
similar in appearance and construction to an
electric Electricity is the set of physics, physical Phenomenon, phenomena associated with the presence and motion of matter that has a property of electric charge. Electricity is related to magnetism, both being part of the phenomenon of electromagnet ...

electric
or an
acoustic guitar
acoustic guitar
, but with a longer
neck The neck is the part of the body on many vertebrate Vertebrates () comprise all species of animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the Kingdom (biology), biological kingdom Animalia. With f ...
and scale length, and typically four to six
strings String or strings may refer to: *String (structure), a long flexible structure made from threads twisted together, which is used to tie, bind, or hang other objects Arts, entertainment, and media Films * Strings (1991 film), ''Strings'' (1991 fil ...
or
courses Course may refer to: Directions or navigation * Course (navigation), the path of travel * Course (orienteering), a series of control points visited by orienteers during a competition, marked with red/white flags in the terrain, and corresponding ...
. Since the mid-1950s, the bass guitar has largely replaced the
double bass The double bass, also known simply as the bass (or by other names), is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed (or plucked) string instrument String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce so ...

double bass
in
popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training.Popular Music. (2015). ''Funk ...
. The four-string bass is usually tuned the same as the double bass, which corresponds to pitches one
octave In music Music is the of arranging s in time through the of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the aspects of all human societies. General include common elements such as (which governs and ), (and its associated co ...

octave
lower than the four lowest-pitched strings of a guitar (E, A, D, and G). It is played primarily with the fingers or thumb, or with a pick. In order to be heard at normal performance volumes, electric basses require external amplification.


Terminology

According to the ''New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians'', an "Electric bass guitar
s
s
a Guitar, usually with four heavy strings tuned E1'–A1'–D2–G2." It also defines ''bass'' as "Bass (iv). A contraction of Double bass or Electric bass guitar." According to some authors the proper term is "electric bass". Common names for the instrument are "bass guitar", "electric bass guitar", and "electric bass" and some authors claim that they are historically accurate. As the electric alternative to a double bass (which is not a guitar), many manufacturers such as
Fender Fender may refer to: Places * Fender, Arkansas, a community in the United States People * Fender (surname), a surname Transport * Fender (boating), a bumper used to keep boats from banging into docks or each other * Fender (vehicle) or wing, a p ...
list the instrument in the electric bass category rather than the guitar category. Like the double bass, the bass guitar is a
transposing instrument A transposing instrument is a musical instrument A musical instrument is a device created or adapted to make Music, musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can be considered a musical instrument—it is through purpose that ...
, as it is notated in
bass clef A clef (from French: 'key') is a musical symbol used to indicate which notes Note, notes, or NOTE may refer to: Music and entertainment * Musical note In music, a note is a symbol denoting a musical sound. In English usage a note is also ...

bass clef
an octave higher than it sounds, to reduce the need for
ledger lines A ledger line or leger line is used in Western musical notation Music notation or musical notation is any system used to visually represent aurally perceived music played with instrument (music), instruments or singing, sung by the human voic ...

ledger lines
in music written for the instrument, and simplify reading.


History


1930s

In the 1930s, musician and inventor
Paul Tutmarc Paul Tutmarc (May 29, 1896 – September 25, 1972) was an American musician and musical instrument inventor. He was a tenor singer and a performer and teacher of the lap steel guitar The lap steel guitar, also known as a Hawaiian guitar, is a ty ...

Paul Tutmarc
of
Seattle Seattle ( ) is a port, seaport city on the West Coast of the United States. It is the county seat, seat of King County, Washington, King County, Washington (state), Washington. With a 2020 population of 737,015, it is the largest city in bo ...

Seattle
, Washington, developed the first electric bass guitar in its modern form, a
fret A fret is a space between two fretbars on the of a . Frets usually extend across the full width of the neck. On most modern fretted instruments, frets are the spaces between the strips (fretbars) that are inserted into the . On some historica ...

fret
ted instrument designed to be played horizontally. The 1935 sales catalog for Tutmarc's company Audiovox featured his "Model 736 Bass Fiddle", a solid-bodied electric bass guitar with four strings, a scale length, and a single pickup. Around 100 were made during this period. Audiovox also sold their “Model 236” bass amplifier.


1950s

In the 1950s,
Leo Fender Clarence Leonidas Fender (August 10, 1909 – March 21, 1991) was an American inventor who founded the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company. In January 1965, he sold Fender to CBS and later found ...
and
George Fullerton
George Fullerton
developed the first mass-produced electric bass guitar. The
Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company The Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC, or simply Fender) is an American manufacturer of stringed instruments and amplifiers. Fender produces acoustic guitars, bass amplifiers and public address equipment, but is best known for i ...
began producing the
Precision Bass The Fender Precision Bass (often shortened to "P-Bass") is a model of electric bass The bass guitar, electric bass or simply bass, is the lowest-pitched member of the guitar The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that typically has s ...

Precision Bass
, or P-Bass, in October 1951. The design featured a simple uncontoured "slab" body design and a
single coil pickup A single coil pickup is a type of magnetic transducer A transducer is a device that energy from one form to another. Usually a transducer converts a in one form of energy to a signal in another. Transducers are often employed at the boundari ...
similar to that of a
Telecaster The Fender Telecaster, colloquially known as the Tele , is the world's first mass-produced, commercially successfulLes Paul Lester William Polsfuss (June 9, 1915 – August 12, 2009), known as Les Paul, was an American jazz Jazz is a m ...
. By 1957 the Precision more closely resembled the
Fender Stratocaster The Fender Stratocaster, colloquially known as the Strat, is a model of electric guitar An electric guitar is a guitar The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that typically has six string instrument, strings. It is held flat agains ...

Fender Stratocaster
with the body edges beveled for comfort, and the pickup was changed to a split coil design. The Fender Bass was a revolutionary instrument for gigging musicians. In comparison with the large, heavy
upright bass The double bass, also known simply as the bass (or by other names), is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed (or plucked) string instrument String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce so ...
, which had been the main bass instrument in popular music from the early 20th century to the 1940s, the bass guitar could be easily transported to shows. When amplified, the bass guitar was also less prone than acoustic basses to unwanted
audio feedback Audio feedback (also known as acoustic feedback, simply as feedback, or the Larsen effect) is a special kind of positive loop gain which occurs when a sound loop exists between an audio input (for example, a microphone or guitar pickup) and an ...
. The addition of
fret A fret is a space between two fretbars on the of a . Frets usually extend across the full width of the neck. On most modern fretted instruments, frets are the spaces between the strips (fretbars) that are inserted into the . On some historica ...

fret
s enabled bassists to play in tune more easily than on fretless acoustic or
electric upright bass The electric upright bass (EUB) is an instrument that can perform the musical function of a double bass The double bass, also known simply as the bass (or #Terminology, by other names), is the largest and lowest-pitched Bow (music), bowed (or ...
es, and allowed guitarists to more easily transition to the instrument. In 1953,
Monk Montgomery William Howard "Monk" Montgomery (October 10, 1921 – May 20, 1982) was an American jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th cen ...
became the first bassist to tour with the Fender bass, in
Lionel Hampton Lionel Leo Hampton (April 20, 1908 – August 31, 2002) was an American jazz Vibraphone, vibraphonist, Piano, pianist, Percussion instrument, percussionist, and bandleader. Hampton worked with jazz musicians from Teddy Wilson, Benny Goodman, and ...
's postwar
big band A big band is a type of musical ensemble A musical ensemble, also known as a music group or musical group, is a group of people who perform instrumental An instrumental is a recording normally without any vocals, although it might incl ...

big band
. Montgomery was also possibly the first to record with the electric bass, on July 2, 1953, with
the Art Farmer Septet ''The Art Farmer Septet'' is an album by trumpeter Art Farmer Arthur Stewart Farmer (August 21, 1928 – October 4, 1999) was an American jazz trumpeter and flugelhorn player. He also played flumpet, a trumpet–flugelhorn combination especially ...
. Roy Johnson (with Lionel Hampton), and
Shifty Henry John Willie "Shifty" Henry (4 October 1921 – 30 November 1958) was an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of ...
(with
Louis Jordan Louis Thomas Jordan (July 8, 1908 – February 4, 1975) was an American saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and bandleader who was popular from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. Known as "Honorific nicknames in popular music, The King ...
and His
Tympany Five Tympany Five was a successful and influential American rhythm and blues Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by re ...
), were other early Fender bass pioneers.
Bill Black William Patton Black Jr. (September 17, 1926 – October 21, 1965) was an American musician and bandleader who is noted as one of the pioneers of rock and roll Rock and roll (often written as rock & roll, rock 'n' roll, or rock 'n roll) is a ...

Bill Black
, who played with
Elvis Presley Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was an American singer and actor. Dubbed the " King of Rock and Roll", he is regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century. His energized interpreta ...

Elvis Presley
, switched from upright bass to the Fender Precision Bass around 1957. The bass guitar was intended to appeal to guitarists as well as upright bass players, and many early pioneers of the instrument, such as
Carol Kaye Carol Kaye (''nee'' Smith, born March 24, 1935) is an American musician. She is one of the most prolific recorded bass guitarists in rock and pop music, playing on an estimated 10,000 recordings in a career spanning over 50 years. Kaye began pl ...
,
Joe Osborn Joseph Osborn (August 28, 1937 – December 14, 2018Paul McCartney Sir James Paul McCartney (born 18 June 1942) is an English singer, songwriter, musician, and record and film producer who gained worldwide fame as co-lead vocalist, co-songwriter, and bassist for the Beatles The Beatles were an Englis ...

Paul McCartney
were originally guitarists. Also in 1953,
Gibson Gibson may refer to: Businesses * Gibson (guitar company) Gibson Brands, Inc. (formerly Gibson Guitar Corporation) is an American manufacturer of guitars The guitar is a fretted musical instrument A musical instrument is a device created ...
released the first short-scale
violin The violin, sometimes known as a ''fiddle'', is a wooden chordophone (string instrument) in the violin family. Most violins have a hollow wooden body. It is the smallest and thus highest-pitched instrument (soprano) in the family in regular ...

violin
-shaped electric bass, the EB-1, with an extendable end pin so a bassist could play it upright or horizontally. In 1958, Gibson released the maple arched-top EB-2 described in the Gibson catalog as a "hollow-body electric bass that features a Bass/Baritone pushbutton for two different tonal characteristics". In 1959, these were followed by the more conventional-looking EB-0 Bass. The EB-0 was very similar to a
Gibson SG The Gibson SG is a solid-body thumb , Sound sample of solid-body electric guitar. A solid-body musical instrument is a string instrument String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instrument A musical instrumen ...

Gibson SG
in appearance (although the earliest examples have a slab-sided body shape closer to that of the double-cutaway
Les Paul Lester William Polsfuss (June 9, 1915 – August 12, 2009), known as Les Paul, was an American jazz guitarist, jazz, country guitarist, country, and blues guitarist, songwriter, luthier, and inventor. He was one of the pioneers of the solid bod ...

Les Paul
Special). The Fender and Gibson versions used
bolt-on Bolt-on neck is a method of guitar (or similar stringed instrument) construction that involves joining a guitar neck and body using screws or bolts, as opposed to glue as with set-in neck joints. Methods The "bolt-on" method is used frequentl ...
and glued-on necks. Several other companies also began manufacturing bass guitars during the 1950s. 1956 saw the appearance at the German trade fair "Musikmesse Frankfurt" of the distinctive
Höfner 500/1 The Höfner 500/1 Violin Bass (sometimes nicknamed the "Beatle Bass" or "Cavern Bass") is a model of bass guitar, electric bass manufactured by Höfner under several varieties. It was introduced in 1955 and gained celebrity status during the 1960 ...
violin-shaped bass, made using violin construction techniques by Walter
Höfner Karl Höfner GmbH & Co. KG is a German (originally Austro-Bohemian) manufacturer of musical instruments, with one division that manufactures guitars and bass guitar, basses, and another that manufactures other string instruments, such as violins, ...
, a second-generation violin luthier. Due to its use by
Paul McCartney Sir James Paul McCartney (born 18 June 1942) is an English singer, songwriter, musician, and record and film producer who gained worldwide fame as co-lead vocalist, co-songwriter, and bassist for the Beatles The Beatles were an Englis ...

Paul McCartney
, it became known as the "Beatle bass". In 1957,
Rickenbacker Rickenbacker International Corporation is a string instrument String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when a performer plays or sounds the strings in some m ...

Rickenbacker
introduced the model 4000, the first bass to feature a
neck-through 200px, Neck-through construction on Ibanez Studio guitar Neck-through or neck-thru (or in full form neck through body) is a method of electric guitar An electric guitar is a guitar The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that typic ...
-body design in which the neck is part of the body wood.
Kay Musical Instrument Company Kay Musical Instrument Company was a United States, US musical instrument manufacturer of the United States, in operation from 1890. Kay was established in 1931 in Chicago, Illinois, by Henry "Kay" Kuhrmeyer, from the assets of the former Stromberg ...
began production of the K-162 in 1952,
Danelectro Danelectro is a brand of musical instruments and accessories, founded in New Jersey in 1947. The company is known primarily for its string instruments that employed unique designs and manufacturing processes. The Danelectro company was sold to the ...
released the Longhorn in 1956, and
Burns London Burns Guitars London is an English manufacturer of electric guitar An electric guitar is a guitar The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that typically has six string instrument, strings. It is held flat against the player's body ...
/Supersound in 1958.


1960s

With the explosion in popularity of
rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no ...
in the 1960s, many more manufacturers began making electric basses, including
Yamaha is a Japanese multinational corporation A multinational company (MNC) is a corporate A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company A company, abbreviated as co., is a Legal personality, legal entity repre ...
,
Teisco Teisco was a Japanese musical instrument manufacturing company from 1948 until 1967, when the brand "Teisco" was acquired by Kawai Musical Instruments, Kawai (河合楽器製作所; Kawai Gakki Seisakusho). The company produced guitars as well a ...
and
Guyatone Guyatone ( or ) is a Japanese manufacturing company which makes electric guitar An electric guitar is a guitar The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that typically has six string instrument, strings. It is held flat against the play ...
. Introduced in 1960, the
Fender Jazz Bass The Fender Jazz Bass (often shortened to ''J-Bass'') is the second model of electric bass The bass guitar, electric bass or simply bass, is the lowest-pitched member of the guitar The guitar is a fret (in the background, coloured wh ...

Fender Jazz Bass
, initially known as the "Deluxe Bass", used a body design known as an offset waist which was first seen on the Jazzmaster guitar in an effort to improve comfort while playing seated. The J-bass features two single-coil pickups. Pickup shapes on electric basses are often referred to as "P" or "J" pickups in reference to the visual and electrical differences between the Precision Bass and Jazz Bass pickups. Providing a more "Gibson-scale" instrument, rather than the Jazz and Precision, Fender produced the Mustang Bass, a scale-length instrument. The Fender VI, a 6 string bass, was tuned one octave lower than standard guitar tuning. It was released in 1961, and was briefly favored by
Jack Bruce John Symon Asher Bruce (14 May 1943 – 25 October 2014) was a Scottish bassist, singer-songwriter, musician and composer. He gained popularity as the co-lead vocalist and ‍bassist ‍of British rock band Cream. After the group disbanded in ...

Jack Bruce
of
Cream Cream is a dairy product Dairy products or milk products are a type of food Food is any substance consumed to provide Nutrient, nutritional support for an organism. Food is usually of plant, animal or Fungus, fungal origin, and contains e ...
. Gibson introduced its short-scale EB-3 in 1961, also used by Bruce. The EB-3 had a "mini-humbucker" at the bridge position. Gibson basses tended to be smaller, sleeker instruments with a shorter scale length than the Precision; Gibson did not produce a -scale bass until 1963 with the release of the
Thunderbird Thunderbird or Thunderbirds may refer to: * Thunderbird (mythology), a legendary creature in certain North American indigenous peoples' history and culture Arts, entertainment and media Fictional characters * Thunderbird (John Proudstar), a Marvel ...
.


1970s

In 1972,
Alembic An alembic (from ar, الإنبيق, al-inbīq, originating from grc, ἄμβιξ, ambix, 'cup, beaker') is an alchemical File:Aurora consurgens zurich 044 f-21v-44 dragon-pot.jpg, Depiction of Ouroboros from the alchemical treatise ''Auro ...
established what became known as "boutique" or "high-end" electric bass guitars. These expensive, custom-tailored instruments, as used by
Phil Lesh Philip Chapman Lesh (born March 15, 1940) is an American musician and a founding member of the Grateful Dead The Grateful Dead was an American rock music, rock band formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California. The band is known for its eclectic st ...

Phil Lesh
,
Jack Casady John William "Jack" Casady (born April 13, 1944) is an American bass guitarist, best known as a member of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. Jefferson Airplane became the first successful exponent of the San Francisco Sound. Their singles, inclu ...

Jack Casady
, and
Stanley Clarke Stanley Clarke (born June 30, 1951) is an American bassist, film composer and founding member of Return to Forever, one of the first jazz fusion bands. Clarke gave the bass guitar a prominence it lacked in jazz-related music. He is the first jaz ...

Stanley Clarke
, featured unique designs, premium hand-finished wood bodies, and innovative construction techniques such as multi-laminate neck-through-body construction and
graphite Graphite (), archaically referred to as plumbago, is a Crystallinity, crystalline form of the element carbon with its atoms arranged in a Hexagonal crystal system, hexagonal structure. It occurs naturally in this form and is the most stable for ...
necks. Alembic also pioneered the use of onboard electronics for pre-amplification and equalization. Active electronics increase the output of the instrument, and allow more options for controlling tonal flexibility, giving the player the ability to amplify as well as to attenuate certain frequency ranges while improving the overall frequency response (including more low-register and high-register sounds). 1976 saw the UK company Wal begin production of a their own range of active basses. In 1974 Music Man Instruments, founded by Tom Walker,
Forrest White Forrest Fred White (21 May 1920 in West Virginia - 22 November 1994 in Banning, California, Banning, California) was an American musical instruments industry executive, best known for his association with Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Whi ...
and
Leo Fender Clarence Leonidas Fender (August 10, 1909 – March 21, 1991) was an American inventor who founded the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company. In January 1965, he sold Fender to CBS and later found ...
, introduced the
StingRay Stingrays are a group of sea rays, which are cartilaginous fish Chondrichthyes (; ) is a class (biology), class that contains the cartilaginous fishes that have skeletons primarily composed of cartilage. They can be contrasted with the Ost ...
, the first widely produced bass with active (powered) electronics built into the instrument. Basses with active electronics can include a
preamplifier A preamplifier, also known as a preamp, is an electronic amplifier An amplifier, electronic amplifier or (informally) amp is an electronic device that can increase the power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, p ...
and knobs for boosting and cutting the low and high frequencies. In the mid-1970s, five-string basses, with a very low "B" string, were introduced. In 1975, bassist Anthony Jackson commissioned luthier Carl Thompson to build a six-string bass tuned (low to high) B0, E1, A1, D2, G2, C3, adding a low B string and a high C string.


Fretless bass guitars

While electric bass guitars are traditionally fretted instruments, fretless bass guitars are used by some players to achieve different tones. In 1961,
Rolling Stones The Rolling Stones are an English rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical ...

Rolling Stones
bassist
Bill Wyman Bill Wyman (born William George Perks; 24 October 1936) is an English musician, record producer, songwriter and singer. He was the bassist for the English rock and roll band the Rolling Stones The Rolling Stones are an English band ...
converted a used UK-built Dallas Tuxedo bass by removing the frets and filling in the slots with wood putty. Wyman used it to record songs such as "
Paint It Black "Paint It Black" is a song recorded in 1966 by the English rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals ...
" and "
Mother's Little Helper
Mother's Little Helper
" in 1966.


See also

*
Bass guitar tuning Each bass guitar tuning assigns pitch (music), pitches to the strings of an electric bass. Because pitches are associated with Musical note, notes, bass-guitar tunings assign open notes to open string (music), open strings. There are several techni ...
* Bass instrument amplification * Bass effects * Pickups * List of bass guitar manufacturers *
List of bass guitarists The following is a list of notable electric bass guitar players. The bass guitar is a stringed instrument played primarily with the fingers (either by plucking, slapping, popping, or tapping) or using a plectrum, pick. Since the 1950s, the electric ...


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * {{Authority control American inventions American musical instruments Amplified instruments Bass guitars Bass (sound) Blues instruments Contrabass instruments Electric bass guitars Folk music instruments Guitars Jazz instruments Rhythm section Rock music instruments String instruments