Talk:Bass guitar/Archive 1

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We seem to have both bass guitar and electric bass, which are (strictly speaking) different things but (obviously) overlap heavily. They may need to be merged, or at least refer to each other. --rbrwr

Bass Notes Image

I changed the image since there was some controversy on its copyrighting. I made the image on adobe and uploaded it, hope theres no objections. I'm not familiar with the wiki rules so if theres a problem, feel free to fix it yourself. --Nissi Kim 20:09, 1 April 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Article Title

The debate over the correct name for this instrument begs review of the article's title. The partisan position of "Bass Guitar" has laid claim to the article. I suggest the article be titled accurately with a neutral point of view. Use the leading manufacturers' term and recognise the popular vernacular by renaming the article "Electric Bass (a.k.a. Bass Guitar)". Ozbass 06:05, 11 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I disagree. I think the article should include the fact that there was a bass guitar, made by Gérard J. Deleplanque, in 1782. And it wasn't neccesarily the first.
I know many bassists; and precisely 0 (that's 0.0% in real terms) of them refer to the instrument as an 'electric bass', or themselves as 'electric bassists'.

Please sign posts. The actual name of the instrument should be "electric bass guitar" but nobody calls it that either. The Deleplanque instrument (interesting!) should probably go under acoustic bass guitar, shouldn't it? How many strings did it have? Badagnani 23:11, 11 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

For the contibutor (above) that knows many bassists - please refer your bass playing associates to a modern master of the instrument. The books and instructional videos / DVD's written by Jaco Pastorius refer to "Electric Bass" and himself as an "electric bassist". Ozbass 05:14, 21 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I have never heard of anyone, nor any manufacturer, refer to an "electric bass guitar" nor is it in any manual or label provided by the manufacturers of the instrument supplied as an "electric bass". For example check the label and manual that comes with the Fender Jazz Bass illustrating this article. Most musicians (including myself) refer to their "bass" and themselves as a bass player or bassist. Sometimes they are referred to as a bass guitarist. I would often let that go or sometimes gently remind these people that I am not a guitarist. In the 50's through to early 70's in the recording industry "electric bassists" were often called "Fender bassists" to distinguish them from double bass players. I don't think anyone is debating the currency of the term "electric bassist".

I often refer to the electric bass in conversation for clarity to distinguish the instrument from my double basses (acoustic or EUB) or other acoustic basses. In an encyclopedia (as wikipedia aspires to be) such accuracy and distinction would be paramount.

The ten stringed Deleplanque "bass guitar" had six single strings on the neck and four bass strings outside the neck. It is more correctly called a chitarra decachorda (10 string guitar) and is NOT the ancestor of the instrument in this article, nor anything like the instrument popularly referred to today as a "bass guitar".

A wikipedia article titled "bass guitar" could refer to the Deleplanque instrument as an historical note, with an aside to the different understanding of the modern vernacular.

Personally, I think a bass guitar would be an acoustic only instrument of guitar shape and construction with six strings, 25-28 inch scale, tuned an octave lower than a guitar. Quite likely this has been experimented with, but I have never seen one. The baritone guitar and the baja sexto come close, but they already have names and latter is 12 string and bigger. Ozbass 06:56, 17 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You're correct, people almost never call it that, but it is an electric bass guitar (as it's in a guitar shape, although with usually 4 strings). Its equivalent is the acoustic bass guitar. Terminology isn't perfect. Badagnani 07:03, 17 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

If people never call it that, then why push for it? If popular terminology is not perfect, why go for the inaccurate? The guitar shape is a distraction in the debate which has been addressed before. Scan below for violin/viole/evolution/form/function-type arguments. Ozbass 09:12, 17 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The Bass Player Magazine website uses the long form of the name (as well as the shorthand "bass guitar" when the context is understood):
"Bass Player magazine is your source for acoustic and electric bass guitar tabs, chords and free online bass guitar lessons, tutorials and videos..." Badagnani 08:00, 17 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It looks like Bass Player Magazine would benefit from a better sub-editor. "...acoustic and electric bass tabs.." is much more concise and accurate. What everyone else uses is "bass tabs". Wouldn't the short form be simply "bass" when the context is understood? Keep in mind Bass Player is a consumer magazine and not an encyclopedia. Opinion - Journalists have a lot to answer for when it comes to corrupting and dismantling the English language. Ozbass 09:12, 17 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

An afterthought - proponents of the term "electric bass guitar" and journalists for popular magazines are invited to go to the Fender USA website, download the manuals and price lists and find "electric bass guitar". Hint: There are lots of electric basses and electric guitars listed. Ozbass 03:10, 18 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The URL says "bassguitar." Badagnani 03:17, 18 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Another diversion. I appreciate you have firmly held opinions on this, as I do. However, firstly look at the page and please read EXACTLY what I have written: The link you have supplied is to a category of short scale ACOUSTIC basses NOT ELECTRIC basses. The webpage category listing on the left states "acoustic basses" and label under each instrument pictured describes each of these three instruments as an "acoustic/electric bass". You have re-inforced my point! Look everywhere else on the website please. Download the manuals and price list as I said. You are confusing a web designer's shorthand used in a URL link for a subcategory and ignoring the manufacturer's term plainly evident under the instrument itself, Even then, the web designer doesn't even use the longform terms "electric bass guitar" nor "acoustic bass guitar". BTW: The standard scale acoustic basses are NOT referred to as "bass guitars" either. (not to mention this discussion is about ELECTRIC basses) Ozbass 03:54, 18 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The instrument is commonly referred to by a variety of names. Personally, I prefer to think of it as electric bass and to call myself a bassist. However, if you check, you'll notice that people can come to the Wikipedia looking for 'electric bass' and they'll end up here (orginally there were two separate pages but that has been done away with long ago!). For purposes of clarity, there is an Etymology section on the page that explains, in dispassionate terms, that this instrument is known by a number of names. I can see it might be more important if we were working with a paper based encylopedia (so you don't get down the E- volume and then find you've got to go back for the B- one) but here people are painlessly redirected to the information they seek. That's why I'm happy to stick with 'bass guitar'; even though it's not my preference, I can't deny that the information is readily accessible whatever terminology I use and the existence of the debate is clearly acknowledged from a neutral point of view. Basswulf 12:48, 20 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If apparently more (myself included)players prefer the term Electric Bass and it's been proved to be at least as accurate and widespread, could we rename the article and make Bass Guitar redirect to Electric Bass. Should we have a vote? I must admit I'm not sure how these things are handled in Wikipedia. -Gnome
"Electric bass" is an incomplete, "shorthand" way of referring to the instrument. "Electric bass guitar" is the complete name and "bass guitar" is a shortened form. I prefer "electric bass guitar" for the article title (as "Bass Player" magazine refers to the instrument, in contrast to the "acoustic bass guitar") but "bass guitar" is okay too. Badagnani 04:17, 19 April 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Subcontra Bass

I saw this yesterday. I don't think it's all that common, there might be perhaps two companies that produce them, so perhaps an example or a player would be appropriate?

Addition by FMB6GL: The Low C# theory can by found here. The Low C# theory has much controversy surrounding it, as the C# is tuned to 18hz, while normal human hearing range is thought to have been at 20hz. The Low C# theory is often attacked by players who have a firm stance that Leo fender's original 4 string designs were enough. Anyway, the first few SCB players include the following (I'm sure more will be added as the years pass. SCBs and the Low C# theory is still relativley new) Jauqo; who was the one who actually developed the Low c# theory owns 3 SCBs, one being a 4 string string fretted SCB, one 4 string fretless, and one 8 string. These basses are made by Adler Guitars. Garry Goodman, who is known for playing 11 and 12 string basses,and debuting the 7-string bass guitar. is another SCB player. He owns an 11 and 12 string basses, bothof which are made by Adler Guitars and were the first basses of their kind( Al Caldwell owns an 11 string SCB which was built by Bill Conklin. Jean Baudin, the latest inductee to the SCB club (Nov. 2005) owns 2 11 string SCBs. His first SCB, made by Ken Lawerence is a fanned fret bass named the Joust bass for it's inlay depicting a character from a retro video game called "Joust" The bass had been recieved by Jean Baudin on the 2nd of October, of this year. His second SCB, had just been recently finished this month and is named The Hideous Claw. An inlay of the name is placed on the fanned fretboard. This bass has had multiple luthiers work on it , however, it is speculated that one builders is Alemic because of the similar body style and crafting.(Don't consider that little part to be 100% true, yet) (Fmb6gl 05:03, 16 November 2005 (UTC))Reply[reply]

It might be the basis for an article in it's own right but I think there's already enough information about this esoteric corner of things on the bass guitar page. Basswulf 12:59, 17 November 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Agree with Basswulf--Light current 17:52, 17 November 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]


 I have just made my first edits to Wikipedia this week, and I lept into things and edited without signing in or discussing the proposed changes. I did not realize that there is are community and discussion boards for every article. I am now hoping to learn what the accepted approach is.  I assume that minor edits can be made without discussion.  But for a larger proposed change, do you make a suggestion in this Talk page first?  ThanksNatMor-Canada 04:55, 12 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Inspired by the creation of the electric guitar, almost all classical instrumentalists experimented with attaching pickups to their instruments.

Today's bass and bass player alike is more complicated and expressive than the basses of yesteryear. Companies such as Warwick, Fodera, Ernie Ball, Yamaha, and Alembic have helped to take Leo Fender's original dream and idea to new levels.

The modern bass player has a wide range of choices when choosing an instrument, for example:

  • How many strings (and what tuning)? Leo Fender's classic design had four strings, tuned E, A , D, G (with the fundamental of the E string vibrating at 41 Hz). Modern variants include:
    • Five strings (normally B, E, A, D, G but sometimes E, A, D, G, C)
    • Six strings (B, E, A, D, G, C)
    • More than six strings!
    • double and triple courses of strings (eg, a 12 string bass might be Eee Aaa Ddd Ggg, with standard pitch strings supported by two strings an octave higher)
    • Tenor bass - A, D, G, C
    • Piccolo bass - e, a, d, g (an octave higher than standard tuning - standard bass tuning is *two* octaves below standard guitar tuning, contrary to the addition made to this section of the article)
    • Any other tuning, including mechanisms such as hipshot detuners that allow changes during the course of one song.
  • Pickups - the earliest basses had a single split passive magnetic pickup. Modern choices include:
    • Active or passive (active circuits use a battery to boost the signal)
    • Pickup type
    • Pickup position (near the bridge or further towards the neck for a fatter sound)
    • More than one pickup, giving more tonal variation
    • Non-magnetic systems, eg. piezos or the innovative new Lightwave systems (these allow the bassist to use non-metallic strings)
  • Body shape and colour
    • A wide range of coloured finishes or exploiting the amazing variety of natural wood forms
    • Different body shapes (affecting weight, balance and aesthetics)
    • Headed and headless (with tuning done at the bridge) designs
  • Frets

Add in the factors of amplification and effects units and it's easy to see why some bassists suffer from what is known as GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) ;-)

Anything in the above that isn't already included in bass guitar needs to be merged in. Tannin 23:42 Apr 8, 2003 (UTC)

I think that's most of the stuff merged in. I've included the list above as a good way of presenting a range of options and enhanced the lists at the end of the page with a selection of the material presented therein (expanding the list of players and adding a list of manufacturers).
It would be good to have the links from those lists filled in to indicate what each has contributed to the design and playing styles of the instrument.
Basswulf 10:48 Apr 9, 2003 (UTC)

I think the 'playing styles' section could do with a bit of rewriting. I've moved the section on 'Acoustic Bass Guitars' as they are another form of the instrument rather then forcing a particular playing style. However, there's some other assertions that need tidying up (picks only used for playing fast? speed a hallmark of modern playing?)... I might do it sometime but if someone else fancies taking a stab at it...

--Basswulf 14:45 Apr 25, 2003 (UTC)

Bass guitar vs Electric bass

As I've noted in the article, this article is currently about electric bass, not about all bass guitars.

I've started an article on acoustic bass guitar. Strictly speaking, perhaps most of this article should be moved to electric bass, and bass guitar become a more general page? I'm still pondering this.

Arguments I see for it staying as is are that that the electric bass was most commonly called a "bass guitar" for the whole second half of the 20th century. It's arguably still current usage, and appears on many album credits.

Arguments for changing are that the inventor of the precision bass, which is the ancestor of all modern bass guitars both acoustic and electric, never used or approved of the term "bass guitar". This is becoming more relevant with time, Leo's contemporaries didn't care what he thought nearly as much as the next generation do. Also, acoustic, fretless and acoustic fretless (and semi-fretted) instruments are becoming more common, and this is producing a change too. There's even a tendency (not new) to regard calling an electric bass a "bass guitar" as a sign of ignorance. Most manufacturers, especially in the higher price brackets, avoid the term "bass guitar". In view of all this, some might find the current article structure confusing.

I think we need to acknowledge both usages, which the current structure does well, so I'm not in a hurry to change it. Other thoughts? Andrewa 20:49, 15 Sep 2003 (UTC)

How about an overarching page called Bass (instrument). This could contain general information about a wide range of instruments - guitar family, violin family, electric and acoustic variations, fretted and fretless, and even other 'bass' instruments such as tuba - and help explain some of the overlap between them.
It is confusing though - I'd rather have a simple page called, perhaps misleadingly, bass guitar than a plethora of unrelated pages that give inconsistent information on facets of the overall subject. FWIW, as a musician I think of myself as a bassist, never as a bass guitarist... Basswulf 09:02, 16 Sep 2003 (UTC)
I like the idea of a Bass (instrument) article. There's a mention in the musical comedy "The Music Man" of "the one and only bass, and I oompahd up and down the square" and I've never understood exactly which instrument this means but brass players all seem to know. What to call the electric bass has been controversial since the 60s and possibly before but it didn't concern me then. I've changed my usage over the years, you'll have noticed I now call it an "electric bass guitar" not just "electric bass" as I used to out of respect for Leo. This is because nowadys there's another instrument that we need to call an "acoustic bass guitar" to distinguish it from a string bass (and nice edit to that article, just BTW, much clearer). (As another aside, when I have recorded using the Eston pictured, some ears I respect have mistaken its tone for that of a string bass. Just a bit limited in volume, and no pickup. Mikes up well and needs to be for any venue above about 40 people.)
There's another thing... by and large, I don't think working musicians care what it's called so long as it's clear what is meant. It's mainly some of the keen (non-playing) music fans who like to be pedantic, and always has been. But we need to cater for them too IMO. Andrewa 19:59, 16 Sep 2003 (UTC)
Well, I've gone and set the page up. Pop over to bass (instrument) and see what you think. I would like to see it being used when talking about bass in a context where that role may be filled by more than one form of bass instrument. Basswulf 12:05, 18 Sep 2003 (UTC)

I wasn't keen on the changes made to the page yesterday - they removed the neutrally worded, balanced historical picture and replaced it with trendy bass-speak. Fine for a home page but not, I think, quite the tone for the Wikipedia. Basswulf 11:30, 21 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Bass guitar vs Electric bass revisited

I never realised that people felt so strongly about not using the G-word when describing a bass. I tend not to, but I can't say I never have. Interestingly, this page says that the bass developed from the viola da gamba, whereas aon that page it states that the the v da g has its roots in the guitar and the rebec. If both these statements are true then squabbling about nomenclature is a tad silly. Paul Tracy 14:04, 5 May 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • {This comment undermines the purpose of Wikipedia as an encyclopedia or accurate on-line reference. Using this logic we may as well call everything with strings a guitar. The violin could be a chin guitar, the cello a leg guitar, a mandolin a baby guitar, a banjo a velum guitar, a piano a hammer guitar... - Southern Bassist}
    • No it doesn't undermine the purpose of anything. The world will not end. I play bass, but I don't get offended or insulted if someone refers to the bass with the frets that I hold across the body as a "bass guitar" any more that if they call my double bass a "stand-up bass". Usage is very important in the evolution of language. Paul Tracy

I am not sure where the end of the world came into it, nor being offended or insulted if someone mis-labels something because they use a term based on a common misconception. Like you, I am not offended if my double bass is referred to as a "stand-up", "upright", "acoustic" or "doghouse" bass or even "bull fiddle". However, I would be stunned (note: not offended) if someone referred to it as a type of guitar. I still have not heard any convincing argument for an electric version, whether it be stand-up, upright, stick, or horizontal fretted or fretless, to be called a guitar when the purpose, function, voice, playing style and discipline are not those of a guitar.

"purpose, function, voice, [...] and discipline"? That's the same ball game to me! What differs between the bass guitar and the double bass is the construction, design, look, origin, the people that build it, playing technique..... Minuteman 15:16, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)

The Wikipedia article rightfully acknowledges popular usage. My argument is that an encyclopedia's purpose is to provide an accurate reference to access facts. If Wikipedia is to go down the path of presenting a popular misnomer as a fact to the exclusion of the correct terminology, then it should remove the "free encyclopedia" description and call itself a "glossary of modern slang". Is it an insurmountable problem to recognise the term "bass guitar" as a popular misnomer and to refer to the instrument by its correct name? - Southern Bassist

You yet have to explain - with valid arguments - why "bass guitar" is a misnomer for a "bass guitar" (not for a double bass).Minuteman 15:20, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I agree, it seems that a lot of bassplayers are just alergic to the word 'guitar'. All you have to do is take an electric guitar, remove two strings, extend it a bit, and detune the 4 remaining strings by one octave and you have a bass-guitar.

  • {Wrong. A bass is two octaves below a guitar, but by convention the music is written on the staff one octave higher. Perhaps you have described a baritone 4 string guitar? - Southern Bassist}
A bass is one octave below a guitar; the low E on each (assuming a 4-string bass) are 41.2 and 82.4Hz respectively. Guitar music is not written on the stave at pitch either.Paul Tracy
{I stand corrected on the pitch issue! - Southern Bassist}

The fact that you might have something against the six string instrument changes nothing.

  • {Or the fact that the protagonists for bass-guitar have something against the bass changes nothing - Southern Bassist}

I think a lot of bassplayers that are so touchy about the g-word are a lot of times people who are still afraid not to be recognised as a sepatarate group from guitar-players. Maybe a lot of them are old people who come from an age when bass guitar players still had to fight for recognition and acceptance.

  • {The arrogance behind that last statement! Musicians - young and old - who have studied double bass as their first instrument and never guitar simply regard people as ignorant if they label a someone a guitarist just because they pick up an electric bass and continue doing what they have always done. It has nothing to do with being touchy about the g-word or fighting for acceptance or recognition - there is a world wide shortage of trained bassists putting them in demand. Acceptance or recognition is a given. This is about accuracy in an encyclopedia! Sometimes in ensembles there is not even a guitar in the band. Or is it assumed the bass had to fight for recognition separating it from all other instruments such as an electric fiddle or banjo, or piano and singer? - Southern Bassist}
True or not, the ignorance about double basses and bass guitars is irrelevant for the discussion "bass guitar" vs. "bass".Minuteman 15:10, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I'd say those days are over, almost everybody who knows something about music knows that bassguitar and guitar are two totally different instruments with different functions, different disciplines etc. (the same as with a violin and a contrabass) But they are related instruments. Arguing otherwise is the kind of discussion wikipedia doesn't need IMHO.

  • {Fortunately you recognise the differences in your statement, but in this forum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - you don't want accuracy? Arguing for popular ignorance is the kind of discussion of discussion wikipedia doesn't need IMHO - Southern Bassist}

I tend to use 'electric bass' as well, but in a lot of languages it is just not clear what you mean if you say this. --Vunzmstr 11:19, 10 May 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • {example please! Why don't you just call it a bass? How is the qualifier "electric" confusing? - Southern Bassist. 6 June 2005}
In the English language: An electric bass could mean any electrified bass instrument: electric bass guitar, electric double bass...
I'd say Vunzmstr is trying to improve the naming accuracy. A bass could be: a tuba, a low voice, the Basso voice range. Bass guitars and guitars simply have more in common than the bass guitar and the double bass, which belongs to the violin family, while the (electric) bass/bass guitar does not. Note the first (commercially successful) bass guitar: it was built by Leo Fender, not by Stradivarius!

Differences between bass guitar and double bass:

  • playing technique: one may use a bow for the double bass
  • design: the bass guitar is a direct derivative of the guitar (both electric and acoustic), while the double bass was derived from the violoncello
  • octave: the bass guitar is one octave lower than the guitar, the double bass an extra octave lower
Not true. A double bass and a standard bass guitar are tuned exactly the same, e.g. they share the same octave - Motormind
  • Minuteman - I speak English as my native language, and have never been confused by the term electric bass. Also, Minuteman should note that upright, fretted, 6 string acoustic upright basses date to the early 16th century (and probably earlier). So the current six string fretted form of a guitar was originally on a double bass more than 500 years ago! Up to that time the probable ancestors to the guitar - the lute, vihuela, gittern and Arabic al ud were very different instruments. The Catalan instrument of the late 15th century that may be the first guitar was a four course instrument. The five course guitar appeared in the 16th century - still very different to the basses of the time. The independant evolution of the instruments continues to this day, even though one may borrow design features from the other. Minuteman needs to back up his claims such as "the bass guitar is a direct derivative of the guitar" with facts that anyone can independantly verify. My research backs up the Paul Tutmarc origin of the electric bass (derived from the double bass). - Ozbass

BTW - a surviving example of Paul Tutmarc Studios' 1935-'36 electric bass is in the Experience Music Project museum along with an advertisement proclaiming it an "Audiovox Electric Bass Fiddle" Nota Bene not a guitar! The Audiovox Electric Guitar also featured in the same advertisement is a different instrument - Ozbass

Add to this that the number of electrified bass instruments may increase in the near future, further reducing the clarity of "electric bass". IMHO an encyclopedia should be clear and properly categorised. Electric bass instead of (electric) bass guitar does not meet that standard. Minuteman 15:10, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)

{Hi Minuteman, Your comments above suggest to me you have not understood the double bass / standup bass example made by Paul and that I am arguing that "bass guitar" is a misnomer for an electric bass. Correct me if I am wrong in that I suspect you are not a bassist, and please don't take offense if I am mistaken. You have made a number of comments that I cannot agree with and some factual errors.

  • This is completely irrelevant. See Ad hominem and Appeal to authority. Minuteman 11:56, 13 Jun 2005 (UTC)
  • I am asking you to understand the example and I am stating an opinion. Hardly ad hominem. - SB

Please research the history and origins of what is the electric bass, also called by the popular misnomer "bass guitar". It was inspired by and designed as an amplifiable alternative to the double bass for bass players - not derived from a guitar for guitarists wishing to transpose to a lower octave.

  • Another Ad hominem. This does not change the fact that the bass guitar (whether electric or not) shares a common design with the guitar, not with the double bass. Following your line of reasoning, a double bass is a tuba, because it is an alternative for it. Minuteman 11:56, 13 Jun 2005 (UTC)
  • Again, facts of the origin of the electric bass are not ad hominem. Common design attributes apply to a wide range of instruments. I did not suggest a double bass was an amplifiiable alternative to a tuba. I do not understand when it was agreed that a string bass (acoustic or electric) became an accepted alternative to a brass instrument. - SB.

Referring to your comment - "construction, design, look, origin, the people that build it, playing technique....." The name 'electric bass' is from the people who were the originators. We agree on the the first commercially successful design by Leonidas Clarence Fender on the electronics and his team crafting the body and neck. This was and has always been called by Fender an "electric bass". For example, this label is clearly on the headstock of my Fender Jazz electric bass. It definitely does not say "Jazz Bass Guitar". Electric bass is how other manufacturers referred to these instruments as well.

  • Then you must also agree on the fact that Fender was a guitar builder, not a double bass builder. He opened a new market. His electric bass guitar was marketed for bassists, not guitarists, because of the function of the instrument (I think we agree on this). So it's not surprising he called it a bass, not a guitar. Minuteman 11:56, 13 Jun 2005 (UTC)
  • Fender made many instruments, not just guitars. And I agree he made basses for bassists, and guitars for guitarists! Fender did not open a new market, but he successfully capitalised on an expanding market. - SB

There is an alternative expression that has fallen from fashion. I have heard bassists, sound engineers and record producers that may fall into the "old people" class described by Vunzmstr (a generation before me BTW) sometimes called the electric bass a "Fender bass" to distinguish it from the double basses when called on to lay down a track. Note: Back then, the musician was always a bass player or bassist, not a bass guitarist. I have heard of, but never experienced first hand, a musician being labelled a "Fender bassist".

With regards to the look, do you consider the Hofner 500/1 electric bass (and its imitators) to look like a guitar? And Ned Steinberger's headless, graphite bass instrument that could swivel at any angle? Taking this "look" argument further true electric guitars can be only those in the Gibson ES hollow body / archtop style, or an acoustic fitted with a pickup. I expect you would agree the evolution in form and design does not change the function, purpose and voice in the case of guitars, so why a different case for basses?

  • This is a very good example of confusion due to the misnomer. The title of the page and instrument's description are all from Hofner. The manufacturer refers to a bass - only the guitar seller's sales speak calls it a bass-guitar in his red font insert. - SB

Some playing techniques of slap and pluck may further distinguish the bass from guitar, although there are many techniques of picking common to a wide range of instruments. I have yet to see chords strummed on six string basses as one would a guitar, or a line up of "bass guitar, rhythm bass guitar strumming chords and lead bass guitar doing a scorching solo". Mind you, there is a scene in the comedy Spinal Tap of 3 basses being played that comes close - just not the strumming on six strings.

The bowing argument does not help your case. Did Jimmy Page turn his Gibson Les Paul Deluxe into a violin when he used a bow, and magically back into an electric guitar when he put down the violin bow and started strumming and picking again?

  • Neither does a saw become a violin when it is bowed. Nonetheless, it does not change the fact that a bass (guitar) is not meant to be played using a bow, while the double bass (originally) is, and is usually played either with or without bow. Minuteman 11:56, 13 Jun 2005 (UTC)
  • I don't think a saw is a stringed instrument derived from the viole or guitar families. So we now agree the bowing argument is irrelevant - SB

Stradivarius did not make solid body electric violins either, or those electric instruments bowed or plucked and fashioned as a frame of a violin. Are they therefore a type of guitar when played pizzicato or strummed, or when played at the elbow or hip as they sometimes are instead of under the chin? I have seen a performance in which a violin strummed what is usually the rhythm guitar part as rock accompaniment. Never for a moment did I think to call it a guitar. The playing technique argument is just a distraction to the origin, discipline, voice and function.

There are electric basses that can be bowed. There are also innovative 12 string electric basses (4 courses of 3 strings each) that no-one in this discussion has touched upon. Would you argue that these are actually bass-mandolins because the term "electric bass" is unacceptable? They are certainly very different to 12 string guitars.