About the Bass

In modern times, the term "bass" can mean two things in music: the upright bass or bass guitar. The former precedes the latter by about 400 years, but they are both tuned the same and serve more or less the same purpose in a band.

For the most part, the bass guitar has overtaken the double bass in nearly all styles of music, save classical. However, some forms of rock, country, and jazz still use the double bass.


The double bass has a similar trajectory to that of the cello. They both derive from the 15th century bass violin. However, over time, its proportions were changed to differ from the cello and other instruments in the violin family. The body is much, much wider, and its shoulders are cut much steeper. It's also the only bowed stringed instrument tuned in fourths. All three of these aspects have led some historians to believe the double bass may be part of the viol family, and its roots may lie somewhere other than early violins.

The double bass has stayed more or less consistent. But in the 20th century, the three-string model evolved and broke into separate four-, five-, or six-string models more aligned with other string instruments.

Paul Tutmarc developed the first electric bass in the 1930s. In 1951, Fender revolutionized the bass with the mass-produced Fender Precision Bass, which became the gold standard. Gibson soon followed suit with the EB-1, and over the next few decades, these world-famous guitar makers, along with other brands, would slowly perfect the electric bass. In the 1990s, five-string basses increased and popularity, and nowadays, you can find any number of customized basses made out of a variety of materials.

Differences & Similarities

There are many differences between a double and electric bass. The most obvious is that double basses are substantially bigger and more cumbersome. Double basses are also played upright, while bass guitars are worn across the body. Both instruments are usually picked either with a guitar pick or the fingers, but double basses can be played with a bow (especially in classical music). Double basses also feature an unfretted neck, a departure not just from the bass guitar but from other stringed instruments of its size.

>p>Disregarding the bow, the playing styles for both basses are more or less the same. plucking, slapping, popping, tapping, thumping, or picking are all common methods for playing the strings. Many bass guitar players also use particular strings to mimic the sound of the double bass.