Bass Guitar Facts
15 Interesting Facts About The Bass Guitar
Bass is difficult to describe to the layperson. One way to do so is to simply remove the bass from their favourite music, perhaps using an EQ setting. Having heard this strange deduction most people realise instantly how crucial bass is to their enjoyment of that music. It’s an essential element, with a fullness that travels easily through most materials, including your body. We respond to this aspect in powerful ways.
The bass guitar finds its way into virtually every form of popular music. Its technique relies more heavily on skilful fingerpicking and includes niche, rhythmic styles like slapping.
Despite the arguable mystery of the bass guitar, its role is essential. Let’s get into some interesting facts:
1. The Bass Line
Moving forward from its early design in the 1930s the bass guitar became more sellable in the 1950s. From that time bass began to replace its brilliant ancestor the double bass in most popular music genres.
2. Plug it In! Or Not
The bass guitar comes in two forms, both electric and acoustic. The acoustic versions have the ability to sound loud and rich without amplification. The electric can provide both smooth subtlety or body shaking power.
3. Glide Along
Unlike regular guitars, bass guitars are available without frets. This creates an unworldly and beautiful sound found on records like Paul Simon’s ‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes’ and ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)’ by Paul Young. This is a super technical and impressive style.
4. Slap the Disk In
It’s rare to find ‘geniuses in bass playing’ as the focal point of fan-ship and media interest. However, take the Red Hot Chili Peppers musical frontman Flea as a rare example. His technical skills and power are hard to ignore. The easiest way to recommend his playing skills can be found in the following statement: Listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
5. Pastor Jaco
Double bass is the key low-end instrument in Jazz. It has enormous low-end energy and sounds incredible in smaller settings. The Bass guitar’s place in jazz is best heard through artists like Jaco Pastorius. In his track ‘Continuum‘ he lays down delightful riffs on his fretless neck, with an incredible relaxing effect.
6. Hidden Hero
Lots of colourful expressions are used in the description of bass players. As we’ve already said, they are obviously the most understated and essential part of a musical group. However, one thing seems to be clear, if you truly master this art you will soon become a well paid and satisfied studio musician. They are rare.
7. Play it Together
In rock music the bass guitar is often partnered with the kick drum. When they hit together it creates the absolute authority of rhythm and musical impact. In other genres, the bass guitar can be linked with other parts of the drum kit, such as the symbols in Jazz.
8. A Race to Make More Bass
Bass guitars generally come with four strings, though five and six string guitars are very popular in genres such as metal and jazz. In particular they use a bottom B note for low end dominance. To push a little further you can also acquire eight and twelve string bass guitars for a thorough exploration of geekery (sorry bass comrades).
9. Who’s Who?
Again, we see another example of Fender’s domination in the world of instrumentation. Take the classic ‘Jazz‘ and ‘Precision‘ models, two of the most played and adored instruments. If you’re a studio-session bass player you will certainly own and use one of these. It’s also worth mentioning other brands and models such as Rickenbacker 4001 (now available as the updated 4003), played by Paul McCartney and the Motorhead’s Lemmy. Additionally, check-out Gibson’s Thunderbird, an adaption of this played by the Who’s John Entwistle.
10. Bass. Is. Good
For the dominance of bass in Hip-hop, check out the Notorious B.I.G with ‘Hypnotise’. From the early years of this genre, artists like Sugar Hill Gang expressed the pure power of bass in songs like ‘Rappers Delight’. Both of these tracks are great examples of bass sampling and performance using analogue record decks. In the case of Sugar Hill, this bass line was taken from the great Bernard Edwards of the band Chic, but Sugar Hill utilises the bass line with beautiful dominance in the mix.
11. Push the Button
Have you ever noticed when a live bass sound changes in volume depending on which notes are being played? There are many factors to suspect, including the acoustic quality of the room or the technical characteristics of the bass. This is where audio compression comes in. Compression squashes the overall sound of the bass guitar to even out its sound, reducing dynamics and can definitely be overused, if you’re not careful.
12. Full of Hot Air
So what is the hardest and most satisfying aspect of learning bass? Many would say that great players (along with drummers) need to be more steady and reliable in live and recorded performances. Soloists can live more outside the box in live performance, occasionally messing up or altering a line. This is due to the underlying tonal power of bass. Check out and compare the performances of bass player John Paul Jones and guitarist Jimmy Page in live Led Zeppelin performances.
13. Good Circles
In the last ten years or so ‘loop stations’ (like the Boss RC-5) have been found across popular and niche music performance. Victor Wooten not only provides an exceptional display of dominant bass playing skill, but utilises pedal looping to enhance his performance. It’s hard to ignore this suple mixture of talent and technology. It’s definitely harder not to envy.
14. Cheap and Really Cheerful
There are obviously delicious tones and benefits that only money can buy. Fortunately, there are great bass guitar deals to grab from companies like Epiphone, Squire and Gretch. For 2020 we are mentioning the Ibanez SR300EB, a great all rounder for under $350 (£300) and the Sterling SUB Ray4 Electric Bass, just entering the mid price range.
15. Get Out of My Face Bass
One of the coolest bass tracks ever made (gulp) comes from Spinal Tap. ‘Big Bottom’ features both regular guitarists playing four string basses and the regular bass player using a monsterous double neck. Let’s do the maths; that’s three and a half bass parts in this track. Unforgettable!
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