About the Bass
The term "bass" can refer to either the upright "double bass", or to the modern electric bass.
The double bass (also known as the contrabass, string bass, upright bass, bull fiddle, bass fiddle, bass violin, or simply bass) is the largest and lowest pitched bowed string instrument used in the modern symphony orchestra. It is a standard member of the string section of the symphony orchestra and smaller string ensembles in Western classical music. In addition, it is used in other genres such as jazz, 1950s-style blues and rock and roll, rockabilly, bluegrass, and tango.
The electric bass guitar is a stringed instrument played primarily with the fingers (either by plucking, slapping, popping, or tapping) or using a pick. The bass is similar in appearance and construction to an electric guitar, but with a larger body, a longer neck and scale length, and usually four strings tuned one octave lower in pitch than the four lower strings of a guitar.
Since the 1950s, the electric bass guitar has largely replaced the double bass in popular music. The bass guitar provides the low-pitched bass line(s) and bass runs in many different styles of music ranging from rock and metal to blues and jazz. It is also used as a soloing instrument in jazz, fusion, Latin, funk, and rock styles.
The double bass is generally regarded as the only modern descendant of the viola da gamba family of instruments, a family which originated in Europe in the 15th century, and as such it has been described as a "bass viol". Before the 20th century many double basses had only three strings, in contrast to the five to six strings typical of instruments in the viola da gamba family or the four strings of instruments in the violin family. Some existing instruments, such as those by Gasparo da Salo, were converted from sixteenth-century six-string contrabass violoni.
Double basses are constructed from several types of wood, including maple for the back, spruce for the top, and ebony for the fingerboard. It is uncertain whether the instrument is a descendant of the viola da gamba family or from the violin family; while the double bass has features which are similar to those found on violin family instruments, it also has features which may be derived from the viola family.
Like many other string instruments, the double bass is played either with a bow (arco) or by plucking the strings (pizzicato). In orchestral repertoire and tango music, both bowing and plucking styles are used. In jazz music, the bass is mostly plucked, except for some solos which are performed with the bow. In most other genres, such as blues and rockabilly, the bass is plucked.
In the 1930s, inventor Paul Tutmarc from Seattle, Washington, developed the first guitar-style electric bass instrument that was fretted and designed to be held and played horizontally. The 1935 sales catalog for Tutmarc's company, Audiovox, featured his "electronic bass fiddle," a four stringed, solid bodied, fretted electric bass guitar with a 30 1/2" scale length. The change to a "guitar" form made the instrument easier to hold and transport, and the addition of guitar-style frets enabled bassists to play in tune more easily and made the new electric bass easier to learn. However, Tutmarc's inventions never caught the public imagination, and little further development of the instrument took place until the 1950s.
In the 1950s, Leo Fender developed the first mass-produced electric bass. His Fender Precision Bass, introduced in 1951, became a widely copied industry standard. The Precision Bass (or "P-bass") evolved from a simple, uncontoured 'slab' body design similar to that of a Telecaster with a single coil pickup, to a contoured body design with beveled edges for comfort and a single four-pole "split coil pickup.
Following Fender's lead, Gibson released the violin-shaped EB-1 Bass in 1953, followed by the more conventional-looking EB-0 Bass in 1959. As with Fender's designs, Gibson relied heavily upon an existing guitar design for this bass; the EB-0 was very similar to a Gibson SG in appearance (although the earliest examples have a slab-sided body shape closer to that of the double-cutaway Les Paul Special).
The 1970s saw the founding of Music Man Instruments, owned by Leo Fender, which produced the StingRay, the first widely-produced bass with active (powered) electronics. This amounts to an impedance buffering pre-amplifier on-board the instrument to lower the output impedance of the bass's pickup circuit, increasing low-end output, and overall frequency response (more lows and highs). Specific models became identified with particular styles of music, such as the Rickenbacker 4001 series, which became identified with progressive rock bassists like Chris Squire of Yes, while the StingRay was used by Louis Johnson of the funk band The Brothers Johnson.
During the 1990s, as five-string basses became more widely available and more affordable, an increasing number of bassists in genres ranging from metal to gospel began using five-string instruments for added lower range. As well, the on board battery-powered electronics such as preamplifiers and equalizer circuits, which were previously only available on expensive "boutique" instruments, became increasingly available on modestly-priced basses.
In the 2000s, some bass manufacturers included digital modeling circuits inside the instrument to recreate tones and sounds from many models of basses (e.g., Line 6's Variax bass). Traditional bass designs such as the Fender Precision Bass and Fender Jazz Bass remain popular in the 2000s; in 2006, a 60th Anniversary P-bass was introduced by Fender."Bass guitar." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 25 Apr 2008, 08:53 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 26 Apr 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bass_guitar&oldid=208070047>.
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