Bass…where the groove of the music comes from. But what exactly is the bass guitar and how does it differ from electric guitar?
Bass guitar is a stringed instrument played primarily with fingers or thumb or picked with a plectrum. Similar to an electric guitar, but with a longer neck and scale length, usually four strings, tuned one octave lower than the four lowest strings of a guitar (E, A, D, and G).
In this article, I’ll explain what a bass guitar is and what it’s used for and we’ll get into some additional information about the different types of bass guitars.
What is an Electric Bass Guitar?
If you’re looking to get into the world of music, you’ve probably heard of the electric bass guitar. But what is it, exactly? Well, it’s basically a guitar with four heavy strings tuned to E1’–A1’–D2–G2. It’s also known as a double bass or electric bass guitar.
The scale of the bass is located along the length of the string, from the nut to the bridge. It’s usually 34-35 inches long, but there are also “short scale” bass guitars that measure between 30 and 32 inches.
Pickups and Strings
Bass pickups are attached to the body of the guitar and located beneath the strings. They convert the vibrations of the strings into electrical signals, which are then sent to an instrument amplifier.
Bass strings are made of a core and winding. The core is usually steel, nickel, or an alloy, and the winding is an additional wire wrapped around the core. There are several types of windings, like roundwound, flatwound, tapewound, and groundwound strings. Each type of winding has a different effect on the sound of the instrument.
The Evolution of the Electric Bass Guitar
In the 1930s, Paul Tutmarc, a musician and inventor from Seattle, Washington, created the first modern electric bass guitar. It was a fretted instrument that was designed to be played horizontally and had four strings, a 30+1⁄2-inch scale length, and a single pickup. Around 100 of these were made.
The Fender Precision Bass
In the 1950s, Leo Fender and George Fullerton developed the first mass-produced electric bass guitar. This was the Fender Precision Bass, or P-Bass. It featured a simple, slab-like body design and a single coil pickup similar to that of a Telecaster. By 1957, the Precision Bass had a body shape more similar to the Fender Stratocaster.
The Benefits of the Electric Bass Guitar
The Fender Bass was a revolutionary instrument for gigging musicians. Compared to the large and heavy upright bass, the bass guitar was much easier to transport and was less prone to audio feedback when amplified. Frets on the instrument also allowed bassists to play in tune more easily and allowed guitarists to transition to the instrument more easily.
In 1953, Monk Montgomery became the first bassist to tour with the Fender bass. He was also possibly the first to record with the electric bass. Other notable pioneers of the instrument include:
- Roy Johnson (with Lionel Hampton)
- Shifty Henry (with Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five)
- Bill Black (who played with Elvis Presley)
- Carol Kaye
- Joe Osborn
- Paul McCartney
In the 1950s, other companies also began manufacturing bass guitars. One of the most notable was the Höfner 500/1 violin-shaped bass, made using violin construction techniques. This became known as the “Beatle bass” due to its use by Paul McCartney. Gibson also released the EB-1, the first short-scale violin-shaped electric bass.
What’s Inside a Bass?
When it comes to basses, you’ve got options! You can go for the classic woody feel, or something a bit more lightweight like graphite. The most popular woods used for bass bodies are alder, ash, and mahogany. But if you’re feeling fancy, you can always go for something a bit more exotic. Finishes also come in a variety of waxes and lacquers, so you can make your bass look as good as it sounds!
Fingerboards on basses tend to be longer than those on electric guitars, and are usually made of maple, rosewood, or ebony. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can always go for a hollow-body design, which will give your bass a unique tone and resonance. Frets are also important – most basses have between 20-35 frets, but some come without any at all!
The Bottom Line
When it comes to basses, you’ve got plenty of choices. Whether you’re looking for something classic or something a bit more exotic, there’s something for everyone. With a variety of materials, finishes, fingerboards, and frets, you can customize your bass to fit your sound – and your style!
Different Types of Basses
When it comes to basses, the strings are the main difference between them. Most basses come with four strings, which is great for all genres of music. But if you’re looking to add a bit of extra depth to your sound, you can opt for a five or six string bass. The five string bass adds a low B string, while the six string bass adds a high C string. So if you’re looking to really show off your solo skills, the six string bass is the way to go!
Pickups are what give the bass its sound. There are two main types of pickups – active and passive. Active pickups are powered by a battery and have a higher output than passive pickups. Passive pickups are more traditional and don’t require a battery. Depending on the type of sound you’re looking for, you can choose the pickup that works best for you.
Basses come in a variety of materials, from wood to metal. Wood basses are usually lighter and have a warmer sound, while metal basses are heavier and have a brighter sound. So if you’re looking for a bass that has a bit of both, you can opt for a hybrid bass that combines both materials.
The neck of the bass can also make a difference in the sound. There are two main types of necks – bolt-on and neck-through. Bolt-on necks are more common and are easier to repair, while neck-through necks are more durable and provide better sustain. So depending on what type of sound you’re looking for, you can choose the neck type that works best for you.
What are Pickups and How Do They Work?
Types of Pickups
When it comes to pickups, you’ve got two main options: single coil and humbucker.
Single Coil: These pickups are the go-to for a lot of genres. They give you a clear, clean sound that’s great for country, blues, classic rock, and pop.
Humbucker: If you’re looking for a darker, thicker sound, humbuckers are the way to go. They’re perfect for heavy metal and hard rock, but they can also be used in other genres. Humbuckers use two coils of wire to pick up the vibrations of the strings. The magnets in the two coils are opposite, which cancels out the signal and gives you that unique sound.
When it comes to bass guitars, there are three main types of necks: bolt on, set, and thru-body.
Bolt On: This is the most common type of neck, and it’s pretty self-explanatory. The neck is bolted onto the body of the bass, so it won’t move around.
Set Neck: This type of neck is attached to the body with a dovetail joint or mortise, instead of bolts. It’s harder to adjust, but it has better sustain.
Thru-Body Neck: These are usually found on high-end guitars. The neck is one continuous piece that goes through the body. This gives you better response and sustain.
So What Does All This Mean?
Basically, pickups are like the microphones of your bass guitar. They pick up the sound of the strings and turn it into an electronic signal. Depending on what type of sound you’re going for, you can choose between single coil and humbucker pickups. And when it comes to necks, you’ve got three options: bolt on, set, and thru-body. So now you know the basics of pickups and necks, you can get out there and rock!
How Does a Bass Guitar Work?
So you’ve decided to take the plunge and learn to play the bass guitar. You’ve heard it’s a great way to get your groove on and make some sweet music. But how does it actually work? Well, let’s break it down.
The bass guitar works just like an electric guitar. You pluck the string, it vibrates, and then that vibration is sent through an electronic signal and amplified. But unlike the electric guitar, the bass has a much deeper sound and is used in almost every genre of music.
Different Playing Styles
When it comes to playing the bass, there are a few different styles you can use. You can pluck, slap, pop, strum, thump, or pick with a pick. Each of these styles is used in different genres of music, from jazz to funk, rock to metal.
So you’re ready to start playing the bass? Great! Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Make sure you have the right equipment. You’ll need a bass guitar, an amplifier, and a pick.
- Learn the basics. Start with the basics like plucking and strumming.
- Listen to different genres of music. This will help you get a feel for different playing styles.
- Practice, practice, practice! The more you practice, the better you’ll get.
So there you have it! Now you know the basics of how a bass guitar works. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start jamming!
Bass Guitar Vs Double Bass
The bass guitar is a much smaller instrument compared to the double bass. It’s held horizontally, and is often amplified with a bass amp. It’s typically played with either a pick or your fingers. On the other hand, the double bass is much bigger and is held upright. It’s usually played with a bow, and is often used in classical music, jazz, blues, and rock and roll. So if you’re looking for a more traditional sound, the double bass is the way to go. But if you’re looking for something more versatile, the bass guitar is the perfect choice.
Bass Guitar Vs Electric Guitar
When it comes to electric guitar and bass guitar, there’s a lot to consider. For starters, the sound of each instrument is unique. Electric guitar has a bright, sharp sound that can cut through a mix, while bass guitar has a deep, mellow sound that adds a layer of warmth. Plus, the way you play each instrument is different. Electric guitar requires more technical skill, while bass guitar requires more of a groove-oriented approach.
Personality-wise, electric guitarists tend to be more outgoing and enjoy the spotlight, while bassists often prefer to hang back and collaborate with the rest of the band. If you’re looking to join a band, playing bass may be the way to go since it’s often harder to find a good bassist than a guitarist. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. If you’re still undecided, explore some of Fender Play’s collections to help you decide which instrument is right for you.
Bass Guitar Vs Upright Bass
The upright bass is a classic-style acoustic string instrument that’s played standing up, while the bass guitar is a smaller instrument that can be played either sitting or standing. The upright bass is played with a bow, giving it a mellower, smoother sound than the bass guitar, which is played with a pick. The double bass is the perfect instrument for classical music, jazz, blues, and rock and roll, while the electric bass is more versatile and can be used in almost any genre. It also requires an amplifier to get the full effect of its sound. So if you’re looking for a classic sound, the upright bass is the way to go. But if you want more flexibility and a wider range of sounds, the electric bass is the one for you.
In conclusion, the bass guitar is an incredibly versatile instrument that can be used in a variety of genres. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, the bass guitar is a great way to add depth and complexity to your music.
With the right knowledge and practice, you can become a BASS MASTER in no time. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start rocking!
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.
Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:Subscribe