Bass guitar

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The Electric Bass or short electric bass guitar is a stringed instrument usually fabricated from wood. The electric bass is from only a small sound and needs to be strengthened as the electric guitar. Converts to a built-in electromagnetic pickup, the vibrations of the strings into electrical signals, which are usually made ​​audible by means of an amplifier.

In contrast to the upright bass of mostly standing played electric bass suspended horizontally or at an angle to about 45 ° before the player's body and is held there by a strap over the shoulder down.

As a bass instrument he lays the foundation in an acoustic ensemble with its deep frequencies. With electric basses played bass lines are typical of many genres, such as jazz, rock, blues, country, pop, pop and dance music.

  • 2.1 prehistory
  • 2.2 New requirements in bands
  • 2.3 For the first time in series
  • 2.4 Differences for electric guitar



A bass guitar can have four to seven, and in special versions also have up to twelve strings, which are continuously tuned in fourths. The standard tuning of a four-string bass guitar ( E, A, D -G ) corresponds to the mood of the double bass and is one octave lower than the four lowest strings of the guitar. What guitar and bass is the bass guitar a transposing instrument; the notes are an octave higher than the bass will sound recorded.

The pitch change is done by tapping the strings on the fretboard. On this 20 to 24 frets in the same stage semitones are usually inserted so that the range of a four-string bass guitar in standard tuning by the counterparty to E (with 24 frets ) one-lined g ( sounding ) is sufficient. This corresponds to a fundamental frequency range from 41.2 to 392 Hz


Unlike acoustic instruments, the body electric bass is not a resonator, which is why he usually consists of a solid piece of wood; However, even with a hollow body basses were mainly in the 1960s spread ( " semi-hollow body "). The shape is reminiscent of the body usually at an eight, with most at the top of deep cuts ( English: cutaways ) are inserted to facilitate gripping of the high frets. The body shapes almost no limits due to the low acoustic influence; a significant scale is the ergonomic playability of the instrument. For this reason also plays the way of the paint, except for extremely thick varieties such as polyester-based paints, not a big role. With some bass guitar models from the 1960s, the wooden body is the entire surface covered with plastic film. Considerable influence on the sound have the material and the body mass.

On the front of the body can be screwed out of hard plastic or metal a pickguard. It has the function of preventing scratches the plectrum on the painted surface of the body, and covered with some models milled slots in the cabinet for the electrical system of the Instruments - Pickups, cables, potentiometers. On the body is the bridge over which the strings run. The lower end of the string is held by the tailpiece, which is either integrated into the bridge (the combination of tailpiece and bridge is also known as bridge - English: Bridge - designated ), or as a separate component on either the front or back of the body is - in the latter case the strings behind the bridge passed through the corpus (English: string -through -body ).


The neck of the bass guitar is used in most instruments in a pocket-shaped milling in the body and screwed or, more rarely, glued. In another design, the bass is built with neck (English: Neck -thru ), to which the two body wings are glued to the side. This construction has the advantage that no transition between neck and body dampens string vibrations and thus a longer decay of the strings (English: Sustain) can be achieved.

As with the body too strong damping of the string vibrations will be avoided by the use of hard wood species and different constructive techniques. With necks made of soft material to or in unfavorable structures in wood may arise on the fretboard so-called Dead spots - fret positions with strongly shortened decay time of the tone played. These occur when the natural resonance of the neck is excited by the vibrating sound so that the belonging to a fretted note collar is on an antinode of the neck. Thus, the neck draws energy from from the vibrating string, resulting in a strongly shortened sustain. Likewise, a " building-up " of the strings is possible.

On the neck is the fretboard, in which usually 20 to 24 frets are set into equal temperament semitones. However, there are fretless bass. This design is named after the English term fretless. The saw cuts for the frets are executed and designed with wood or plastic to orientation part. This particular helps beginners to find the right grip position on the fretless bass. A special case is the Bass model Ibanez MC 924 a, a kind of hybrid bass, the fingerboard is provided from the fundamental to the first octave of the freely vibrating string with frets, and at higher altitudes has a fretless fingerboard (half and half ).

In the neck is a metal neck tension rod that catches the string tension and the curvature of the neck can be changed. By a slight curvature of the neck (from the perspective of the bass player to the front) a contact of the strings on the fingerboard ( fretless basses in ) or on the frets and thus a rattling of the strings is prevented. Too much neck relief causes the distance between the strings and neck very large and fast and precise game is so difficult. Depending on the strength of the string set used, the curvature can therefore be adjusted individually.

The fingerboard ends with the saddle over which the strings to the tuners run that are on the top end of the neck, the head plate, recessed. In English it is called the saddle groove. Derived from the traditional models Fender Precision Bass ("P- Bass" ) and Fender Jazz Bass ( " J- bass " ), there are different width necks. The P -Bass was in the saddle typically have a width of about 45 mm ( 1.750 inches), the J -Bass only about 38 mm (1.50 inches), both figures for four-string bass guitars. The narrower J- bass neck facilitates finger movements across the strings on the fretboard and comes bass players meet with smaller hands.

Basses are available with different length scale lengths (length of the vibrating string ): Short Scale (30 Zoll/762 mm), medium scale (32 Zoll/813 mm), Long Scale (34 Zoll/864 mm), and extra - long scale or super - long scale ( 35-36 Zoll/889 or 914 mm). Most commonly basses are built with long scale - scale.

Pickups and tone control

The located under the strings electromagnetic pickup (English: pickups ) convert the vibrations of the strings by means of electromagnetic induction in an electrical signal. There are some standards in the pickup configuration. Are usual a pickup or a combination of two pickups, with the switch to the electrical output signals, or can be mixed with each other, which leads depending on the position and nature of the pickup to sound different results.

Frequently pickups ( known technically as well as Pi, short for pickups ) named after the model of the Fender bass from the 1950s and 1960s: J-Style pickups ( a magnetic coil, named after the Fender Jazz Bass ) and / or P-style pickups (two coils in opposite circuit, named after the Fender Precision Bass, as the split coil called ). There is also since the 1970s, a variety of formats, mostly doppelspulige humbucker. Here, especially the MM format has (named after the model Music Man StingRay - see photo in infobox ) and after its closed plastic cap named Soap Bars ( German: " soap bar " ) was established. In addition, one can incorporate piezo or microphone elements in the web, whose tone sounds similar to a purely acoustic instrument with a resonating body.

There are two basic ways equalization while electric instruments. You can either use a passive circuit that only allows you to filter the volume and individual frequency bands, and which requires no power supply. Or to use pre-amplifier integrated into the instrument, to allow raising and lowering of each frequency band and an impedance conversion of the output signal. Here are the disadvantages lie mainly in the influence that the circuit on the unprocessed signal. For passive circuits, it is usually a volume potentiometer per pickup and a common tone control, which can be always dull the sound depending on the position. In addition, you can change each other with switches the wiring of the pickups and use additional filters. Raising of frequency bands already in the instrument is in passive instruments ( without internal pre-amplification ) is not possible; lowering the heights or depths can lead to audible transmission losses.

Active circuits allow addition to the options known from the passive interpretation produces a significantly more versatile change of sound. On panoramic potentiometer, the mixing ratio can be changed in two pickups without having to adjust the volume control. The tone control can be done via equalizer with two or more frequency bands. The use of non-magnetic pickups is only possible through the use of preamplifiers. In active electric bass guitars, an integrated preamplifier is usually powered by a 9- volt battery in the instrument with power. The pre-amplification ensures impedance matching of the first high-impedance signal, whereby loss of sound on the way to the amp (guitar cable) can be compensated. With some bass models, the active electronics can be switched off. This allows the player a greater variety of sounds and allows the game with an empty battery.

The wiring of the electrics is located in the corpus. The resulting, usually asymmetric signal is usually transmitted via a 6.3mm jack connection. The reinforcement of the transmitted signal in a bass amplifier (English: bass amp) the sound of an electric bass can be reproduced by loudspeakers. Some instruments (for example, the models of the Yamaha TRB series) provide the signal quasi- symmetric (Return on resistor and capacitor to ground) or fully balanced (Return inverted) available, making the bass easier even without an intervening DI box to can be connected and played a mixer.

Special options

Polychoral bass

For double instruments sometimes be used ( according to the principle of the twelve string guitar) For special sonic demands, which still ( at dreichörigen basses two) is used additional octave string to the base string. The very rare dreichörigen bass thus have a total number of strings of twelve ( four times three basic strings ), 15 ( five times three) or 18 ( six times three) strings.

Confederation lots Bass

→ Main article: Fretless Bass

A special type of electric bass is developed in the 1960s fretless (English: fretless ) bass, with which can achieve singing to growling sounds. Due to the shorter scale length, other strings of construction and others, the fretless bass does not achieve the sound quality of a double bass or e- bass. Confederation lots Basses have their own sound qualities, such as techniques such as Sliden. About the slap ( the hard striking the strings with the thumb joint in place of the conventional plucking ) with a fretless bass, there are different views. This sound is also different from a bass with frets where the characteristic slap sound is primarily caused by hitting the strings against the frets made ​​of metal. There is also fretless bass with fret markers that give beginners a guidance around the neck.


In order to still have a little more leeway in the low frequency range at the four-string bass guitar, the D-Tuner for bass guitar was developed. This device on the vocal mechanism allows the string herunterzustimmen by moving a lever to a whole tone (and back again ). In general, D- tuner on the E string are mounted so that they can be on, D tuned down in order to gain access to two additional ( semi) tones. However, they can be attached to any string. Disadvantage of this system is a significant shortening of the life of the string. Another rarity are four-string bass, in which the E -string a -1. and a -2. Federal Government, the scale of the (on, tuned D ), E string you far over the saddle of the other strings out.

Use of materials other than wood

The need for more stable necks led in the 1970s and 80s, the use of materials such as acrylic glass ( Ampeg Dan Armstrong model), aluminum ( Travis Bean, Kramer ) and carbon fiber reinforced plastic (modulus, at times in collaboration with Alembic, Steinberger, status, Clover, knight, that ever moved away from Miller Guitars & Basses, Schack, Moses, Vigier, SKC Bogart, Zon and others) who were initially great fashion, however did not succeed in the mass market in the long run, since the former bass with graphite neck too sterile sounding (which has changed to this day part). The sound is very brilliant and sounds long after (Sustain ). In addition, a guitar neck of graphite is not susceptible to temperature or humidity changes. The stability is so great that can be dispensed with a neck tie rod, which many manufacturers of graphite basses do. More common than full -graphite necks is the use of graphite rods or tubes in the timber neck to stabilize it, which has the goal to mate the stability of graphite with the tonal warmth and naturalness of wood. In 1979 appeared with the Steinberger L of the first E -Bass, which was made entirely of a laminate of carbon fiber and resin ( carbon fiber reinforced plastic, CFRP, carbon). As a state-of -the-art is considered nowadays a stabilized multi-piece neck using hard to very hard woods such as mahogany, maple, amaranth ( Purple Heart ), Wenge, Bubinga, Amazaque, Ovangkol, rosewood, ebony, cocobolo and olive.


The Bassjo or Banjo Bass combines a bass guitar neck with a banjo body and is equipped with electric bass strings.



Acoustic Bass Plucked with bundiertem neck such as the bass sounds have been known since about the 17th century. Another bass musical instrument with frets is related with the double bass South Slavic folk instrument Berda. From the 19th century, various acoustic bass stringed instruments originated in guitar shape, their differentiation from each other, however, is not completely possible: the contra-guitar, bass guitar and acoustic bass guitar. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the U.S. instrument manufacturer Gibson produced a similarly constructed acoustic mandolin " Mando - bass ".

New requirements in bands

With the advent of the electric guitar, there was the problem that in the former bands of the double bass used was inferior in volume. Also basses were fitted in the sequence with a pickup.

Forerunner of the electric bass developed in the 1930s and based on two families of instruments: the bass and the guitar or electric guitar. The first commercially marketed E -Bass, viersaitig, equipped with frets and designed for a horizontal play, is the Model # 736 Electronic Bass Fiddle, which was sold from 1935 by Paul Tutmarcs company Audiovox Manufacturing Co. at a list price of $ 65. Audiovox has produced up out of business around the year 1950, some 100 copies of this e- bass.

For the first time in series

The first E -Bass, which was produced in series, was the Fender Precision Bass. He came in 1951 in the stores. The term precision refers to the fact that this bass (as opposed to bass) frets and thus the tones for the players are easier to grasp precisely.

Leo Fender transferred the basic construction of an electric guitar to the bass, but modified the components such as the body, neck and pickups to the effect that they could withstand the low frequencies and the higher mechanical stress due to the string tension. A big difference to the double bass is that basses are played in more horizontal position of the instrument while playing upright basses (English: upright ) are held. But there are also some bass players such as Alex Webster and Bill Wyman, who keep the slung bass almost vertically.

A detail of the early Fender Precision Series is the idiosyncratic electronics that use the cover as a ground line and therefore requires fewer lines but also with poor noise insulation compared to modern instruments.

Differences to electric guitar

From the necessary conversions also some differences between the electric bass guitar and the electric guitar follow:

  • Scale: The scale electric bass is longer than that of an electric guitar in general.
  • Gauge: The strings have, compared to the electric guitar to a larger diameter, as with the higher string mass the vibration behavior changes such that only can be achieved by thicker strings of the desired low tone at an acceptable string tension.
  • Strings: Most basses have four strings, there are also five -, six- and seven- versions, which offer the bassist a wider range of sounds, and the already mentioned polychoric instruments.
  • Body: The body is longer than that of the electric guitar, typically is a long horn body, so that the instrument with a long neck and heavier tuners is not top-heavy.
  • Bridge: The bridge is located on the end of the body, so that the whole instrument is not too long.

Playing techniques

There are various playing techniques for E- bass, which relate primarily to the playing hand (as opposed to grip hand). Can distinguish Grob:

  • The plucking game with the index, middle and ring finger partly (English: Plucking ), related to the pizzicato in classical double bass and the Apoyando the classical guitar. This technique allows precise game and a very high control over the vibrations of the strings and thus on the sound design. While the muffling of vibrating strings with the fretting hand always causes a faint but audible background noise, the plucking technique allows silent, damp with the fingers of the hand shock. The resulting sound is generally of his character fro round and stronger than other playing techniques.
  • The game with a plectrum, a small plate, usually made of plastic. This corresponds to the typical electric guitar playing. Here, the stop is defined as in plucking. Well-known German protagonists are Hellmut Hattler ( Kraan and Tab Two ), Peter Hook, Wolfgang Schmid ( Passport, Wolfhound, kick). Among the jazz bassist internationally known this technique is practiced for example by Steve Swallow and Colin Hodgkinson.
  • The percussive slap technique -oriented, the. By hitting your thumb and tearing with the index or middle finger, as performed for example by Flea ( Red Hot Chili Peppers ) and Fieldy ( Korn) The achieved, concise sound differs significantly from the other playing techniques. This technique was known by the bassist Larry Graham of funk and soul band Sly & The Family Stone.
  • Another technique that has been made ​​known primarily for Victor Wooten, but is also used by bassists such as Marcus Miller and Alain Caron, is the Double Thumbing. In this plectrum the comparable version, the string is struck with up and strikes of the thumb.
  • Rather a marginal phenomenon is the most Tapping solo used, in which the right hand on the fingerboard strikes tones and so can achieve special effects along with the left hand. In the two -hand tapping, which was famous by Billy Sheehan, both hands are used for tapping.
  • Another technique is palm muting, in which the plucked string with the edge of the striking hand is slightly attenuated in front of the bridge, which reduces the duration of sound of the string and produces a muffled sound. This technique is suitable to vary the dynamics of the bass lines within a piece and to imitate the sound of a double bass.
  • A special type of gambling, the John Entwistle has made ​​popular, is the Type Writing ( " typewriter style "). It is normally used, but struck with the fingertips of the playing hand on the string, thereby generating similar to slapping a clear but short tone.

Bass Effects

Under E -Bass effects are understood devices that alter the electric bass signal by electronic circuits. Mainly they come in the form of pedals in front ( known colloquially as " stomp " or "land mines ") is, along with complex 19 "effects processors can be used. Well as multi-effects units such as the BOSS GT- 10B are for the electric bass in the soil format available. Widespread acquaintances are particularly distorting, reverb, modulation, and wah- wah effects. users can, for example, Cliff Burton, Jaco Pastorius, John Myung, Geezer Butler, Doug Wimbish and Flea.