Bass guitars have been around as long as ordinary guitars. A bass instrument is always required in a band to provide the depth of sound required to make listening full and pleasurable whether it is a brass band, where they would use the E or B flat bass or a modern pop group that would use electric bass guitars.
The electric guitar as we know it has been evolving since the 1930's and became increasingly popular in the 1950's. Traditionally, in the pop bands of the 1950's, the double bass or slap bass was used. As the development of amplifiers progressed and bands became loader it was hard for the acoustic bass to be heard and amplifying them by way of a microphone was awkward and cumbersome. Electric bass guitars were therefore developed and become popular using the same technology as electric guitars with electric pick-ups.
Additionally, transporting a large double bass was not an easy affair; that was remedied with electric bass guitars which, still bigger than electric guitars are considerably smaller than the acoustic double bass.
The Construction of Bass Guitars
Given the deeper sound required from bass guitars, their construction, whilst similar to ordinary electric guitars, differ mainly by their size. Generally 4 or perhaps 5 bass strings are used which are generally tuned one whole octave below the normal guitar and therefore somewhat thicker which enables them
those lush, deep and low tones. The necks and scale length on bass guitars are also longer.
Given the way modern bass guitars are constructed they are more easily mass produced and their price
therefore will be considerably cheaper than a quality slap bass guitar. With
the modern styling including contoured bodies and bevelled edges, they are more
comfortable to hold and play for longer periods.
Bass guitars continue to be developed for different styles of music and sound -
the headless and almost bodiless Steinberger is extremely light weight and fits
nicely with bass players playing a funky style of music. The rich tones of the
Fender Precision range of bass guitars fit well in a jazz environment but are also flexible enough to be used
for country music as well as modern pop music.
The range of bass guitars is massive and your choice will depend on the style of music you intend
to play and of course how deep your pockets are! Just like any instrument, you
have a choice from relatively cheap mass produced bass guitars to the beautiful hand made models with superior woods and very high
Mark J Emslie has been a guitarist and musician for over 35 years. Much of that
time has been in a professional capacity.
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