The Bass guitar or Electric Bass Guitar is a generally a solid bodied instrument, there are hollow chambers in some Bass body’s to help reduce weight and increase instrument resonance and also some come completely hollow which also does the same.
Bass guitars, which can come in a multitude of varieties (four, five, six, eight or twelve strings), have a slightly longer neck and scale length than its Electric Guitar counterpart, also there are the fretted and fretless variety of Bass.
Bass’s follow the tuning of a normal guitar also, just one octave lower (E,A,D and G), the 4 string Bass guitar is the most common one played by most Bass players.
The Bass guitar has been used now only since, which is surprisingly to most, from 1930 when it was invented by Paul Tutmark in Seattle, see, not only Pearl Jam come out of Seattle.
The first mass produced for market Bass guitar (In the 1950’s) was manufactured by Fender, this was the start of the Fender Precision Bass and then soon enough, others followed by making their own versions of the Bass.
The Bass guitar is played with your fingers or thumb, by plucking, slapping, popping, tapping, thumping, or picking and so, you can get a wide variety of sounds with the Bass.
Since the 1960’s Bass guitar has become the most prominent bass instrument in the rhythm section of bands, recently this may have been replaced somewhat with the development of computers and advancement of keyboards and synthesizers.
The body of a Bass guitar ::
The body of most Bass guitars are made of wood, there has only been a few exceptions over the years, one of these being the Steinberger Graphite Bass.
The most common wood used for the Bass body is Alder, but a lot of different manufacturers use different types of wood for the Bass body’s as you get different tones and sustains by doing so.
There is also neck through bases which use a multitude of different woods in construction and also eliminates the standard bolt on design, the various manufacturing process produces again, different tones and sustains in the instrument.
The neck of a Bass guitar ::
Your frets are on the neck of your Bass guitar, the frets act as a simple guide for you to place your fingers on specific notes either to make chords or single notes depending on what you are playing.
When you place your fingers on the neck inbetween each fret, you are changing the length of the string and therefore the tone of the note being played is changed too.
The most common material used for the neck of a Bass is maple and then rosewood for the fretboard on top of this.
The neck is longer on a Bass than its Guitar counterpart and it generally has 24 frets.
There are fret and fretless variety of Bass guitars too, the fretless was created by Bill Wyman from the Rolling Stones when he popped out the frets on one of his Bass’s in 1960, then they went into production in 1966 with Ampeg making a model, followed by Fender producing a Fender Precision Fretless Bass by 1970.
Most necks are bolt on necks the same as a normal guitar in design and contain a truss rod that can be adjusted to stop fret buzz and string height etc, in recent times there has been a development of the neck through design where pieces of wood (1,3,5 or more) are layered and then the Bass neck is milled out of this one piece of combined timber, then the body of the Bass is added like adding wings on a plane, both give a different sound but the truss rod bolt on neck still remains the most commonly used.
Most Bass guitars have a 34 inch neck, some have a smaller 30 inch neck (Usually for Bass player’s with small hands and Hobbit Bass Guitarists), also through the years there have been even longer neck lengths manufactured for Bass’s, these generally provide a higher string tension and therefore give a better sound in a low B string in a 5,6 or 8 stringed Bass, also when detuning a normal 4 string Bass guitar.
The head of an Bass guitar ::
The head, which is at the top ironically, is where the tuning pegs/machine heads are and generally the top of the truss rod with a nut on it, generally the truss rod has an alum key nut on the body end and this is easier to adjust the neck with than the head end.
The head also is where the strings are wrapped around the pegs and tightened, when tightened to the correct tension, this gives you your sound for each string.
The tuning pegs on a Bass guitar are obviously a lot bigger than normal guitars pegs, just the sheer size of the string makes it hard to tighten at the best of times, as you get a better quality Bass, the pegs get better too.
There are also Bass guitars that have no head on them and all their tuning is controlled at the base of the strings on the Bass’s body, these are called Headless Bass Guitars and the Steinberg was the first type of Headless Bass.
Bass guitar strings ::
There are many different types of string for the Bass guitar, as well as different gauges there are roundwound, flatwound, halfwound, ground wound, pressure wound and Bass strings with different coatings.
The Bass string comes in many gauges, they also ironically come in different sets ie; 4,5,6,8 and 12 string sets, (Imagine restringing a bloody 12 string Bass guitar, not ideal), a standard 4 string Bass guitar for medium string setup increments would be .045/.065/.080/.100, again the string choice comes down to personal preference and what you feel comfortable playing and sometimes it depends on the quality of your Bass too as cheaper nasty ones can’t handle larger string gauges.
Bass guitar accessories ::
Bass Guitar Picks / Plectrum :
Picks come down to personal preference and what/how you are playing your Bass, when using a pick and also varying the pick thickness will give you different sounds on your Bass.
Generally picks for most Bass guitars will cost you pocket change, you can have a whole lot of different ones and it isn’t going to cost you much.
They are generally measured in thickness in mm or some companies that manufacture picks use describing words like “Light” or “Heavy”.
The thin Bass guitar picks generally are more flexible and bend and as you get to the thicker Bass guitar picks, they don’t bend as a rule.
Bass Guitar Strap :
A guitar strap for a Bass guitar basically comes down to preference too.
There is adjustable straps and non adjustable and they come in a massive variety of colours, designs and widths.
The main point to a strap is to hold up the Bass so you can play it whilst standing up, they aren’t generally used if you are a sit down player (Jazz Bass players do sit down on occasion, you would too with a 12 string fretless Bass guitar)
Bass Guitar Tuner :
Tuners for Bass vary a lot, they are the same as a normal Guitar tuner, if your Bass is an electric Bass you can plug it in to tune and also there are online Bass tuners and apps.
What to look for when buying a Bass guitar ::
A good a place as any to start if you are new to playing is “How much am I willing to spend to live my dream of becoming “The Bass Player” in a band?”
If you only have a few hundred set aside for a Bass, that is cool, don’t expect a miracle Bass.
Also I have found that a lot of ex learner musicians have bought middle of the road Bass guitars and so, sell them cheap to some cash fast, so you might end up with a bargain every now and then in the paper, especially in rich suburbs.
Head down to the local music shop and if you find one that feels great, plays ok, doesn’t vibrate and looks ok, it is probably the one for you at that 200 dollar price!
After you have fluffed around for a while get the music shop dude to belt out a few Flea Chilli Pepper riffs for you on your top 2 or 3 guitars and see how it sounds to you from a listening point of view.
For anyone else but a beginner, you probably know your stuff a little better, know how to research Bass guitars and so it comes down to how much you want to spend and what you are using it for, hacking out a few Green Day tunes or using it in your live sets at the local pub each have their own advances and features needed for use.
Where to learn to play Bass guitar?
Other than the obvious and googling your local Bass teacher and going to see him, there is many websites to find Bass Guitar Tabs where you can learn many songs and see tutorials on how to play, remember there is many ways to play Bass too, you can pick, pluck or pop individual notes or you can use super bass chords to fill out the songs too.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this bit of information about Bass guitars.
Now go out and play one, it’s a great instrument and very misleading in the details of playing until you have tried to copy a few Bass masters’ chops.