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Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Bass Guitars

2. History

The Electric
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
Bass
Guitar has been a crucial instrument in contemporary music since it replaced the double
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
in rock ‘n’ roll in the 50s. It’s widely believed that Leo Fender was its inventor, but this is actually not the case - the first incarnation of the
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
guitar was produced by the American manufacturer Paul Tutmarc in the early 30s. Called an ‘electronic
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
fiddle’, it was a solid bodied 4-stringed fretted instrument with a 30½ inch scale, and was designed to be played horizontally in a similar fashion to the guitar. This instrument didn’t catch on at the time, which is why it’s more commonly credited to Leo in 1951. Fender’s first instrument was the ‘Precision Bass’ which is still hugely popular today (often referred to simply as the P-Bass). Its invention brought about a sea-change in popular music, enabling bassists to learn the instrument and play in tune more easily, and with a greater degree of comfort and portability. Crucially, it was simple to amplify and not prone to
FeedbackThe phenomenon whereby audio picked up by a microphone or guitar pickup that is then played from a speaker close or loud enough for it to be captured again by the same source. If left the signal will continuously loop, with any resonant frequency causing the undesirable 'howling' sound often heard at concerts.
feedback
. The rest, as they say, is history!

1952 Precision Bass
1964 Fender Jazz Bass

The original Precision
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
Bass
had a ‘split’ single-coil
PickupA device for converting sound into an electronic signal, usually by direct contact with the instrument body or by magnetic interaction with the strings, as opposed to a microphone which picks up sound vibrations in the air.
pickup
, 21
FretA narrow metal strip on the neck of a guitar or other fretted instrument, against which the string is pressed to produce a precisely tuned note.
frets
, and a bolt-on neck. The
AshAny of four tree genera, most often the genus Fraxinus, of which two subspecies (hard northern and lightweight southern) are used for guitar bodies, notably but not limited to those of Fender guitars.
ash
body and rosewood
FingerboardThe part of a stringed instrument against which the strings are pressed when playing. Usually called the fretboard on fretted instruments.
fingerboard
gave the
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
a weighty sound that recorded easily, and its playability and lightweight construction made it considerably easier for young musicians to take up the
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
. Some say that the Motown sound would never have been possible without the Fender Precision, and of course, legendary bassist James Jamerson, more of whom later...Leo Fender continued to develop his range of basses, adding the ‘Fender Jazz’ or ‘Deluxe’
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
in 1960. The Jazz (or ‘J’)
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
differed slightly from the Precision in that it had 2 single-coil
PickupA device for converting sound into an electronic signal, usually by direct contact with the instrument body or by magnetic interaction with the strings, as opposed to a microphone which picks up sound vibrations in the air.
pickups
, with stacked controls per
PickupA device for converting sound into an electronic signal, usually by direct contact with the instrument body or by magnetic interaction with the strings, as opposed to a microphone which picks up sound vibrations in the air.
pickup
for
Volume1) In audio and music, the loudness or amplitude of a signal. 2) In computing, a fixed amount of storage space, addressed as a single entity ('C:', 'D:' etc). A physical drive may contain more than one volume, but a single volume may also span more than one drive!
volume
and tone. This gave the instrument much more emphasis in the mid-range and allowed it to
CutTo make a break or split in a piece of audio. Traditionally this was done with a razor blade where magnetic tape was physically cut.
cut
through the mix a little more. It also had a slightly smaller
NutPiece of bone, plastic or other material at the top of a guitar neck, with evenly spaced slots through which the strings pass.
nut
width, making the instrument a little easier to get around. Leo’s original intention was that the Jazz
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
Bass
would encourage upright
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
players to make the switch to electric, but like the P-Bass, most were sold to players of popular music of one genre or another.

The Fender Jazz went through some minor changes is the 60s, most notably the move from dual concentric volume/tone pots, to the single tone and dual
Volume1) In audio and music, the loudness or amplitude of a signal. 2) In computing, a fixed amount of storage space, addressed as a single entity ('C:', 'D:' etc). A physical drive may contain more than one volume, but a single volume may also span more than one drive!
volume
controls we see today. The instrument is almost certainly the most copied
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
guitar in history, with countless manufacturers offering ‘boutique’ models, sporting ‘boutique’ price tags!

Gibson EB-1 Bass

Later in the 60s, Fender also released the Mustang
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
Bass
(1966), and the Telecaster
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
Bass
(1967). The Mustang had a shorter scale for more diminutive players, while the Telecaster had a slightly more contoured body shape.Gibson threw their hat into the ring in 1951 with the violin-shaped EB1
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
, and soon afterwards, the EB0 in 1959. The EB0 was based on their ‘SG’ model guitar and looked a little more like the basses we are familiar with today. As rock music seemed to take over the world in the 60s, many companies started to make their own versions of the electric
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
, including Rickenbaker and Danelectro. Leo Fender left the Fender company in 1970 to set up Musicman, where he developed the ‘Stingray’, the first mass-produced
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
with
ActiveDescribes an instrument or speaker system that has its own electronic functions built-in, as opposed to requiring external devices. Active speakers have their own amplifiers built-in, while an active instrument such as a guitar or bass will have electronic controls or a pre-amplifier.
active
circuitry. This paved the way for high-end basses from makers such as Alembic, which featured exotic woods and onboard pre-amplifiers.

Let’s move on now to take a look at the
KeyAn additional input on a dynamics processor such as a compressor or noise gate, enabling the dynamics of one signal to control the level of another. This can be used for many functions, including ducking (compressing a music signal when a DJ or announcer speaks), synchronised gating, and (in conjunction with an equaliser) de-essing.
key
areas to consider when choosing a
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
guitar:

Jaa