I can tell you about electric basses. I don't know a damn thing about those giant hollow wooden things. You have to wear a beret to play those, and have a goatee. That's just not my "thing". Besides, they don't have frets either, and the final impossibility has to do with the fact that I won't smoke French cigarettes even at gunpoint.

Seriously, I was in France, and this guy in a beret -- that of a French guy, not that of a beatnik jazz musician and certainly not that of Our Brave Fighting Men in Uniform; there are subtle differences -- put a gun to my head and handed me a Gitane. I politely declined. With an eloquent Gallic shrug, he departed.

You have to know how to deal with the French: Just make faces at them and giggle. It's against their code of honor to shoot somebody who's giggling. Please draw no conclusions about the regrettable events of the Fall of 1940.

So. This bass thing.

An electric bass is a lot like an electric guitar (to the point of each being frequently mistaken for the other by laypeople), with the following differences:

  • They have four strings instead of the six that a guitar has (with the freakish exception of five and six string basses, about which I know little and care less: Did James Jamerson ever play one? Nope. Case closed.)

  • The four strings are tuned as the lowest four strings a guitar: E, A, D, G -- but they are an octave lower.

  • To get an octave down from a guitar, two things are done:

    1. The strings are much thicker ("heavier") than those of a guitar. They differ also in construction: Guitar strings are the same diameter all along their length, but bass strings taper at the very end (the very end, past the nut).

    2. The neck is roughly (real roughly) six or eight inches longer than that of a guitar. The strings, therefore, are longer as well1, and the frets are more widely spaced. This is called the "scale length". Basses are usually in the neighborhood of thirty-four inches, while guitars fall more around twenty-six or so. All of this varies with make and model.

  • In addition to having a longer neck, basses are generally bigger and heavier than guitars. Sustain and all that.

  • Bass amplifiers differ from guitar amplifiers also: Low frequencies require more wattage to get the same perceived volume level; three-hundred watt bass amps are not strange, while eighty or a hundred watts is plenty for a guitar amp. Bass amps also frequently have fifteen-inch speaker cones, while guitar amps rarely have speakers larger than twelve inches. Again, this is because of the low frequencies -- and again, there are many exceptions, both freakish and otherwise. The canonical knuckledragging tube bass amplifier is the 300-watt Ampeg SVT with a speaker cabinet containing eight ten-inch drivers (get one of those and a P-Bass with nice fat dead strings and you're in business, pal). But fifteens are still sort of the usual thing, more or less.

  • Bass is usually played with the tips of the fingers, while guitar is usually played with a pick, or with the fingernails (go to fingernails; there's a groovy writeup there by our own dannye, a fingerpicker of long standing). Again, there are exceptions: I play bass with a pick.

  • One plays entirely different kinds of things on a bass: You don't often play full chords, for example, because that far down the scale they sound like crap. You can play power chords pretty much anywhere on the neck, though, and above the fifth fret they can sound very neat. That's only the beginning of the differences in playing style between the two, but to cover the topic well would take days.


In closing, I'd like to mention that Wicked_Bass (above) speaks righteous truth: Fuck chops. Find the pocket and dig in. Make it move, make it funky, make it shake. That's where it's at.



1There are a few rare, freakish exceptions (such as the Guild Ashbory bass) which have a shorter scale length than a normal guitar; there are also "short scale" basses with a scale length somewhere between that of a conventional bass and that of a conventional guitar. I've got one in the closet (a Fender Musicmaster -- Quiet! I heard that!) but I don't feel like digging it out to measure the scale length. Short scale basses appeal to guitarists too lazy to stretch their fingers out like a normal bass requires. Bill Wyman plays short scale basses because he has short arms; I seem to recall that Tina Weymouth has played short scale basses for the same reason. Finding strings for a short scale bass is hell, because they're not all that widely played. You can't shorten an ordinary set of long scale bass strings, because of that taper at the end -- the full width of the string won't fit through the hole in the tuning machine post. Ack, screwed again!

Basses are also the coolest singers in any choir with men singing, be it men only or a mixed choir. It's true that tenors and sopranos usually have the melody, but it's the bass rumble that really sets the mood for a piece. Just put your head on the chest of some guy who's singing some note that's below the bass clef and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Besides, it's a well known fact in choirs that even if the women all drool over the tenors and how high they can sing, they all end up going home with the basses in the long run. They know where those notes really come from.

Bass are also a type of fish.

Bass are various fishes of the families Serranidae and Centrarchidae, which are the sea basses and freshwater basses. The sea basses are a large, diverse, and commercially important family of perchlike fishes with oblong and compressed bodies. All basses are carnivorous and most are marine, although several species are found in freshwater. Sea basses inhabit warm and temperate seas throughout the world and are highly valued as game and food fishes. Along the Atlantic coast as far north as Cape Cod is found the common, or black, sea bass, a sluggish bottom fish averaging 2.7 kg in weight and 45 cm in length. Offshoots of the sea basses and classified with them are the white basses, including the striped bass (or rockfish) and the white perch, both found in fresh and brackish waters from Florida to Canada; the white bass of the Mississippi valley and the Great Lakes; and the similar but smaller yellow bass, found in the same range. The Pacific sea basses include the giant sea bass, or Pacific jewfish, a bulky bottom fish that reaches a weight of 270 kg and a length of 2.1 m, as well as the 60-cm kelp and sand basses. The groupers are an important genus of large tropical sea basses. Very closely allied to the sea basses are the tripletail, with prominent anal and dorsal fins, and the robalo, or snook, widely distributed in tropical American saltwaters. Basses are classified in the phylum Chordata , subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Perciformes, families Serranidae and Centrarchidae.

Bass fishing is a popular and addictive passtime for many people. There are quite a few organizations that provide information and support in this activity, most notably B.A.S.S., or Bass Anglers Sportsman Society. I enjoy bass fishing here in Illinois, especially angling for small mouth bass.

However, bass have a sort of a bad name now, thanks to the abomination of Big Mouth Billy Bass.

Bass, as a common rather than proper noun, refers to low-frequency audible sound, and is the opposite of treble. Frequently, lower-toned instruments whose names begin with bass, like the bass viol or bass guitar but not the bass drum, are simply referred to as bass. The lowest singers in a choir or quartet are also referred to as bass. When referring to sound or music, bass is pronounced with a long a, as in "base."

A bass, pronounced with a short a (rhymes with gas), is an edible fish. It is a common game fish (there's even a group devoted to bass-fishing, known as Bass Anglers Sportsman Society or B.A.S.S.), and is quite tasty fried or grilled.

A peculiarity of the English language is that bass is used for both the singular and the plural, whether referring to sound, instruments, or fish. (This can sound awkward when using bass as a quick way of referring to bass guitars, viols, or singers; usually the abbreviated version isn't used in the plural because of this.) "Basses" is not a word.




YOU BETTER TELL ME WHO YOU ARE?

          - Mega Man, in Mega Man 7

I'll tell you who he is. Bass (known as Forte in the Japanese version) is the dark-armored, heavily-armed rival of Capcom's blue bomber, Mega Man. Built after the events of Mega Man 6 and responsible for Dr. Wily's breakout at the beginning of Mega Man 7, he was built when Dr. Wily actually clued in that reclusive, one-trick-pony robots weren't exactly stopping Mega Man (after all, he'd gone through more than 40 of them so far), so he decided to build a robot as versatile and intelligent as Dr. Light's creation.

Doc Robot and Terra are conveniently forgotten when saying this is the first "versatile, intelligent robot" Dr. Wily has built. Shhh, this is Capcom we're talking about.

Naturally, it didn't work. This is Dr. Wily, after all.

In Mega Man 7, Bass posed as another crime-fighting robot, until, predictably, he turned out to be evil, surprising exactly two people, and was defeated by Mega Man. He harassed Mega Man all through Mega Man 8, apparently obsessed with proving himself to Dr. Wily. (He needn't bother, as this is the guy who build Junk Man and Dust Man we're talking about.) Of late, Dr. Wily has been looking to replace Bass, having built such robots as King (destroyed by Mega Man and Bass working as a team in Mega Man and Bass) and, much later, Zero (as implied in Mega Man: the Power Fighters and all but stated in Mega Man X4 and X5.)

Bass's armor is dual-layered. On the bottom is a flat white suit. Over that is a black breastplate with flaring shoulderpads, with gold trim and a large blue gem in the center. Over his waist and lower torso is a black bottom piece, edged on the top with gold. His lower legs and lower arms are covered with oversized guards, also edged in gold, but his feet and hands are white. His arm cannon is large-caliber and has a flat end, rather than coming to nearly a point, like Mega Man's. His eyes are brown almost to the point of being red, and he wears a perpetual sneer. Finally, his helmet flares from his forehead like a pair of wings, gold on the bottom and black on the top.

Fitting in with the musical puns in the names of Mega Man characters, Bass is accompanied by his loyal robot dog, Treble. This pits Rockman, Roll, Rush, and Tango against Bass and Treble. Unfortunately, in this case, the Japanese names are less clever, as Forte is accompanied by his dog, "Gospel".

Bass is pronounced "base," as in music. In Mega Man 8, his name is occasionally pronounced "bahss," as with the fish, but this is usually attributed to the fact that the voice actors are not native English speakers.

Bass is only playable in Mega Man and Bass and the Mega Man: the Power Battle series, and has very different abilities in each. In MM&B, he has a double jump, and can fire in any direction. As a trade-off, he can't shoot on the run, nor can he charge up his gun, making many bosses much harder. In MM:PB, he handles pretty much like Mega Man, with a dash he can jump out of instead of a slide.

His role in the Mega Man fan community in the US is a little odd. For some reason, Bass is generally cast as either a bumbling fool or a total stoneheaded moron. The reasons for this aren't quite clear, but Bob and George is an excellent example of this, having Bass forget such things as opening a door before he tries to walk through it.

The electric bass, (sometimes referred to as a "bass guitar") is the most important instrument in modern music. It's also one of the most stylistically diverse. The first basses were built by Fender in the early 1950's. The electric bass had two primary advantages over the acoustic, or upright bass. Its biggest advantage was that it did not depend on simple acoustics to produce sound. The electronic signal from the magnetic pickups is sent into an amplifier that can boost the sound to over 100 decibels. Secondly, the electric bass had frets like a guitar, so that notes were precise (Thus Fender named their first bass the 'Precision'). These factors led to the rapid adoption of the electric bass in many forms of music. Others have already documented the instrument itself, so I thought I'd try something a bit different. I'm going to attempt to trace the major innovators, and the tracks they played on. In the name of brevity, I am going to limit this to a degree, but this should be a good stepping off point.

Early Innovators: The first bassists of note became known in the mid 1960's. Early innovators included James Jamerson (All most all Motown records) and Donald "Duck" Dunn who was the backbone of Booker T and the MGs as well as playing in the Stax Records house band behind artists like Otis Redding and Albert King. Both Jamerson and Dunn have a style that is simple and to the point, but is notable for showing melody. Songs representative of this style include: "Mr. Big Stuff" (Jean Night) , "Soul Limbo" (Booker T and the MGs), and "Ask the Lonely" (The Four Tops). Many of so-called 'British Invasion' bands drew heavily on this sound, and the playing of performers such as Paul McCartney of the Beatles and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones can be traced to soul records emanating from Nashville and Detroit.

Rock: The next step along the way finds us around 1969, in England. The British blues rock groups were taking the charts by storm, and many of these records are touchstones of low end groove to this day. Big names of this era included Jack Bruce of Cream, John Entwhistle of The Who, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, and Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath packed a mighty wallop. They were running their basses through giant amplifiers, and using a style full of riffs, short musical ideas that are repeated throughout a piece. Also, at this time they began playing solos, a first for the instrument. Crucial tracks from this period include: "The Lemon Song" (Led Zeppelin), "Crossroads" (Cream), "Waitin' for the Bus (ZZ Top), "All Along the Watchtower" (Jimi Hendrix), and "Fairies Wear Boots" (Black Sabbath). This style of bass playing has evolved some over the years, and it's still very common.

Funk: If there has ever been a style of music that spotlights the bass, it would have to be funk. When it comes to funk there are two people that define the genre. The first is Larry Graham. Graham was the foundation of Sly and the Family Stone. He laid down the bass to essential grooves such as "Dance to the Music", "Sing a Simple Song", "I Want to Take You Higher", "Everyday People", and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)". He was the first major player to "slap" the bass, a technique that uses the thumb to "pop" the strings creating a percussive sound. The other main innovator in funk is William "Bootsy" Collins. Bootsy defined cool for a generation, with star-shaped sunglasses and a bass to match. Starting out with a stint in James Brown's band, where he laid down the bass on classic tracks like "Sex Machine". After splitting with Brown, Bootsy was drafted into the P-FUNK army of George Clinton. This is where he came into his own, and did much to cement the bass as an instrument. Collin's style was fluid, with a wide range of odd sounds laying down the groove on many classic tracks such as "Flashlight", "P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)", "One Nation Under a Groove","Tear The Roof Off (We Want the Funk)", and countless others. While many others have followed in the tracks of those giants, they're still the definitive funk bassists. Often Emulated, Never Duplicated. Dig it.

Reggae: Reggae is a microcosm all of its own. One of the few truly original musical styles to come out of the 20th century, Reggae developed out of the ska and dancehall scenes in Kingston, Jamaica. The sound is a mixture of New Orleans Jazz, Motown soul, mixed in with plenty of local character. Reggae bass is characterized by deep, booming notes, yet often reggae basslines are often lyrical or melodic. Lead innovators of the style include Aston "Family Man" Barrett (Bob Marley & the Wailers) and Robbie Shakespeare (Sly & Robbie). Key tracks from this genre include: "Sinsemilla" (Black Uhuru), "Chill Out" (Black Uhuru), "Kinky Reggae" (Bob Marley & the Wailers), and Trenchtown Rock (Bob Marley & the Wailers). In fact, the entire Wailers catalog is a goldmine of musical goodness. The styling of Jamaica have not gone unnoticed in US. Many of these grooves have been looked to by hip hop producers and other samplers.

Jaco Pastorius: Jaco Pastorius represents one of the most tragic stories in music. On one hand, he was a brilliant composer and arranger, and probably the best bass player to ever walk the Earth. On the other hand, he was very unstable mentally, the result of an untreated Bipolar disorder. He died a penniless cocaine addict only 11 years after setting the music world on fire. Jaco was the first to truly treat the bass as a solo instrument. He played a fretless bass, something of a hybrid. A fretless is essentially a standard electric bass, but without the frets so the neck is smooth like an upright bass. The result is a mellow, rich sound. In addition, it is possible to slur or slide between two notes. With his self-titled debut album in 1976, he turned the Jazz world on its head. The opening track, a cover of the Charlie Parker tune Donna Lee found Jaco's bass doing exactly what Parker's sax had done. This opened a lot of eyes. Later that year he was invited to join groundbreaking fusion outfit Weather Report, with whom he toured for the next several years, continuing to break new ground. Sadly, after he left Weather Report in 1980 his mental health worsened, and both his personal life and creative energy suffered. It all came crashing to a halt on September 21, 1987 when he was beaten to death by a bouncer in his home town of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His entire discography is essential listening, but highlights include "Donna Lee", "Continuum", and "Teen Town".

Jazz/Funk: In the late 1970's, a fusion of Jazz and Funk began to hit the scene. These were jazz players like Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock who were listening to the Funk, liked what they heard, and integrated it back into jazz. The first album to really crystalize this fusion was Herbie Hancock's Headhunters. This modern masterpiece featured a number of extended workouts, the most famous of which is the 11 minute+ "Chameleon". The bassist on that record was Paul Jackson, and he set the ground rules for what was to follow. His style was rhythmic and percussive, with little attempt to form melodic lines. The other prominent player in this style is Stanley Clarke. Clarke was the first virtuoso slap player, and gained both critical and popular success with the bass anthem "School Days". A more modern entry into this category is Marcus Miller. Miller spent most of the 1980's backing up Miles Davis, and has released several excellent solo albums in recent years, including the the Grammy-winning M2

Modern Soloists: In the wake of Jaco Pastorius, there was a huge void left open in the music world. Several talented players stepped up to fill it, and perhaps the most talented of all is Victor Wooten. Victor played his first professional gig at the age of 5, and honed his skills through out his teen years. His big break came when he was discovered by banjo ace Béla Fleck, who asked him to join his new group Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. Several Grammys later, Victor's unique talent is known through out the music world. He comes as close as anyone to being "the total package". He has the persuasive melodic chops of Jaco Pastorius, the "groove" of Bootsy Collins, and his slap playing does for the bass what Eddie Van Halen did for the guitar. He's won about every award there is to be won, and continues to break new ground musically. There are a number of other promising new talents worth checking out, including Anthony Jackson and Steve Bailey.

The musicians and recordings named here barely scratch the surface, and I could go on for hours (Wait, I already have...), so I'll wrap things up here. If there's enough interest, I may cover some of these periods in greater detail at a later date.

There are many ways to approach a bass guitar... for example;

Most people will play it as a rhythm instrument, to keep the beat etc (almost every bassist nowadays)

Some will keep the rhythm but in a much more colorful manner, they can use effect pedals, have isolated parts, solos, and else. Good examples of this, are the bassist of the band Tool, Justin Chancellor who's famous for his use of effects pedals, mainly the whammy, or Cliff Burton from Metallica with his signature distortion+wah boost sound. This kind of bassist is something inbetwen a rythm guy and a lead guy (see below) some tend to lean more towards rythm and some the other way around.

Some are reffered to as "lead" bassist, in this case the bassline is much more elaborated and melodic, drums keep the beat and guitars and else give color. Good examples are Peter Hook from Joy Division, he has a signature chorus sound which is really recognisable, and is famous for his original basslines exploting his G (hehe...) and D strings. Also Simon Gallup in albums of The Cure such as Faith and Seventeen Seconds, he had really prominent basslines, alot of songs from that album are brought to life by an amazing bassline in combination with beautiful vocals, he used a flangy sound or a really agresivve tone.

Most bassist will have different approaches on different songs and albums etc.

Bass (?), n.; pl. Bass, and sometimes Basses (#). [A corruption of barse.] Zool.

1.

An edible, spiny-finned fish, esp. of the genera Roccus, Labrax, and related genera. There are many species.

⇒ The common European bass is Labrax lupus. American species are: the striped bass (Roccus lineatus); white or silver bass of the lakes. (R. chrysops); brass or yellow bass (R. interruptus).

2.

The two American fresh-water species of black bass (genus Micropterus). See Black bass.

3.

Species of Serranus, the sea bass and rock bass. See Sea bass.

4.

The southern, red, or channel bass (Sciaena ocellata). See Redfish.

⇒ The name is also applied to many other fishes. See Calico bass, under Calico.

 

© Webster 1913.


Bass, n. [A corruption of bast.]

1. Bot.

The linden or lime tree, sometimes wrongly called whitewood; also, its bark, which is used for making mats. See Bast.

2. (Pron. )

A hassock or thick mat.

 

© Webster 1913.


Bass (?), n. [F. basse, fr. bas low. See Base, a.]

1.

A bass, or deep, sound or tone.

2. Mus. (a)

The lowest part in a musical composition.

(b)

One who sings, or the instrument which plays, bass.

[Written also base.]

Thorough bass. See Thorough bass.

 

© Webster 1913.


Bass, a.

Deep or grave in tone.

Bass clef (Mus.), the character placed at the beginning of the staff containing the bass part of a musical composition. [See Illust. under Clef.] -- Bass voice, a deepsounding voice; a voice fitted for singing bass.

 

© Webster 1913.


Bass, v. t.

To sound in a deep tone.

[R.]

Shak.

 

© Webster 1913.

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