A bass guitar is often considered to be an instrument serving as a background for lead guitar and vocals. Luckily, more and more often we can hear musicians proving that statement wrong. If you’re in a band or are still planning to be in one, and you’re into the low bass tone, you’re going to find yourself among a wide range of different choices, seeing as with each year we’re given new options within bass gear.
Build and features
The first thing that comes to our attention is four strings. It’s a mistake to discredit it is as simply not enough for what a musician needs. Albeit, if somebody pressures upon that idea there’s still choice of five string or six string basses to buy.
Bass strings are much thicker than regular strings produced for an electric guitar. It’s understandable due to its tuning, which goes an octave lower than in a standard guitar, thus making its scale length extended. A guitar’s scale length is the distance from its bridge to the nut, so it’s the space where the strings are active.
Types of bass guitars:
There are two types of basses, an electronic bass and an acoustic one (or let’s also add an electro-acoustic bass guitar to that).
An acoustic bass looks very similarly to a standard acoustic guitar, and it also doesn’t need to be amplified due to having a sound board, it’s much louder than the electric gear with pickups in that place. Sometimes we can also spot some fretless basses, which simply don’t have frets, making it much more difficult to play, but definitely keeping a distinctive sound of its own. It’s not easy for beginners to pick a right instrument for start, and that’s where brands like Epiphone, Cort or Yamaha step in to the game. Not too expensive, while also maintaining solid quality and a professional enough construction. A good example is an Epiphone Toby, which allows us to get a wide range of sounds, starting with some easy and smooth background, through melodic playing, up to aggressive attacks proper for rock or metal bands. Yamaha on the other hand, is a brand with different types of instruments, and not only instruments on top of that, but it’s easy to admit it’s still a great company that knows how to produce basses, too. A lot of bassists recommend their products, and models like Yamaha BB424 can be suitable even for picky musicians. An interesting model worth mentioning is Hoefner HCT500, which resembles the bass used by Paul McCartney. Every Beatles lover will appreciate this instrument, which tonally can easily suit the music from the seventies, and looks interesting even for people not keen on music.
You can play either with your fingers or with a guitar pick on a bass. On top of that, there’s a wide range of different techniques you can use to reach some interesting sounds from one instrument.
This method requires one to quickly pull the strings from underneath with one’s fingers, using all the fingers respectively, besides the thumb.
Very similar to popping, but this time using a thumb. Usually used with strings E and A, which are the thicker ones. This method is very often employed by Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s worth to take your time and look up closer to bassists of such a wide variety of skills, though we don’t really need to look that far away, seeing as even in Poland we have great bassists like Wojciech Pilichowski.
A very interesting and characteristic technique based on dynamic hits towards the strings with your thumb. Thanks to its distinctiveness it’s easy to spice up a bass line in nearly every genre.
It’s popular to think of bass guitar as just the background element, but there are bassists that bring much more to the table. A great example is John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame, seeing as he can prove that bass can live its own life and still maintain the harmony with the band. It’s worth to listen up close to the bass line in songs like “Black Dog”, where the main riff is played on both, the guitar and the bass, and what’s interesting here, that very was written by the aforementioned bassist, John Paul Jones.
Stiff and schematic playing is the fastest way to routine, which is the biggest reason to lose passion towards playing in the first place. A bass guitar is not only a supporting instrument, but more likely one to bring life to the band, with a lot more space for melody and distinctive parts than most tend to believe.