The bass guitar is an instrument commonly utilized in various genres of music. Typically made out of wood with four metal strings, its sound quality reflects this versatility.
The bass guitar is an essential instrument in modern music, helping to maintain the melody and rhythm of songs.
Leo Fender’s Precision Bass
Leo Fender’s Strat and Telecaster guitars have gotten all the credit for the invention of the electric bass, but it was the Precision Bass that really changed the course of music history. This instrument was designed by Fender in response to guitarists complaining about their ability to double on stand-up bass; he wanted to make it easier for them to do so.
The early Precision Bass models looked much like their Telecaster siblings, but the solid-body design won over guitar players throughout a period of two decades. Vibraphonist Lionel Hampton and Los Angeles session bassist Shifty Henry, among others, were early users.
It was the same instrument that backed the funky New Orleans R&B of the Meters, the jazz funk of Tower of Power and the furious rock and roll of King Crimson’s 1974 prog-rock heavyweight Red. It also backed the filthy, hard-driving rock of the Sex Pistols and the forceful melodic power of latter-’70s U.K. bands such as Elvis Costello & the Attractions and the Jam.
After Fender was bought by the cost-and-corner-cutting CBS in 1965, the quality of Fender instruments began to deteriorate. Under the new stewardship of Bill Schultz, who arrived in 1985 as president of the newly renamed Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, the company began rebuilding and revitalizing its name.
In the ensuing years, Fender engineers made numerous subtle tweaks to the original 1951 Precision Bass design. These changes helped refine the bass’s playing experience and tone, but Fender has never lost sight of the brilliance of Leo Fender’s original design.
Today, many people consider the Precision Bass to be one of the best bass guitars ever produced. Its sound is arguably as essential to the evolution of music as a good guitar is.
Its versatility is a testament to the unending drive and vision of Leo Fender. Its modern incarnation, which first saw production in Corona, California, in the mid-’80s, is a great example of the designer’s unending pursuit to perfect his bass designs.
Its American Professional II model is a fine example of the Precision Bass’s stability over time. While it doesn’t offer any major overhauls, it combines the improvements from earlier versions to provide an excellent bass for the player who wants something that’s both functional and elegantly crafted.
The Gibson EB-1 was their first electric bass, released in 1953 as a response to the success of the Fender Precision Bass. Featuring a violin-shaped body design and telescopic end pin spike that allowed it to be played upright style, this instrument quickly gained popularity among bassists worldwide.
The EB-1 was a mahogany body model featuring a carved top, painted-on “f” holes, an alnico magnet pickup with poles closest to the bridge, barrel knobs, an elevated pickguard and screw-in endpins. Produced until 1958 when it was replaced by the EB-2 model.
This rare EB-1 bass has been modified to play like an upright bass and is in excellent condition. It’s a heavy bass with a one-piece mahogany neck and 30.5″ scale length. The fretboard has 20 original medium (0.01) frets as well as inlaid pearl dot position markers for added comfort.
The EB-1 guitar is a highly sought-after model, especially among bass enthusiasts. This example is in excellent condition and boasts a solid mahogany body with an attractive fat neck profile, an expansive scale length, banjo style tuners and a rectangular case.
Collectors often seek these basses out at auction for several thousand dollars. They serve as a testament to Gibson’s progressive approach in bass guitar manufacturing, showing off how their instruments have changed over time.
The Gibson EB-1 was their initial attempt at manufacturing an electric bass, and it remains one of their most distinctive instruments. Although not a commercial success when released in 1950, this instrument remains highly sought-after today.
On eBay, there are many EB-1s for sale, some with extensive modifications that make them sound like an upright bass. This particular model is in good condition with minor fret wear but still plays beautifully.
The Gibson EB-1 was an innovative model, reflecting their company’s spirit. While they were known for acoustic guitars, this was their first venture into electric bass production – designed with a violin-shaped body which did not sell well during the 1950s.
Lloyd Loar’s Electric Bass
The bass guitar is an integral element of many types of music. This cello-like instrument produces low frequencies which amplify other instruments in the ensemble. Popular genres such as blues and rock have made bass guitars increasingly popular over time. Nowadays, there are various types of basses available to choose from.
Lloyd Loar created the first prototype of an electric bass guitar. Although this instrument never went into production, its significance to the history of bass guitar design cannot be overstated.
While employed at Gibson, Loar began experimenting with electrified stringed instruments. He adopted Stradivarius Arching technology into his guitars and mandolins for added movement and amplitude in their sound.
He further enhanced the bracing of his instruments to give them greater strength and stability, creating the concept of a solidbody instrument with increased power output.
One of his most remarkable inventions was a harp guitar. This instrument was one-of-a kind and featured ten bass strings instead of the usual six guitar strings.
This innovation proved revolutionary, pave the way for other electric instruments such as the viola.
After leaving Gibson, Loar created and patented an electric instrument with a coil pickup. He later formed the Vivi-Tone company with Lewis Williams in 1933.
His patents detailed a system of pedals he created to control the volume of his instruments. This concept was later replicated by Leo Fender for his Precision Bass design.
He further enhanced the amplifiers for his electric instruments by installing motorized systems of moving baffles and paddles in front of the speakers that could be turned on or off.
He also developed an electromagnetic pickup system. These picks were round and about the size of a silver dollar; they were highly sensitive to humidity and had high impedance values.
Paul Tutmarc Jr.’s Model 736 Bass Fiddle
Five years after the invention of electric guitars, Seattle music teacher and shopkeeper Paul Tutmarc Jr. created an innovative bass instrument. Called the Model 736 Bass Fiddle, it was sold in the late 1930s with a solid body and magnetic pickups to convert string vibrations into electrical signals. It could be played horizontally instead of upright like other basses;
This instrument, considered to be the first ever made, was inspired by electric guitars. However, unlike their upright bass counterpart, this one could be played with a fretted neck without having a bow attached. Furthermore, its loudness far exceeded that of an acoustic bass – something major advantage for players in early 20th century.
Though never patented, the Tutmarc 736 is widely believed to have been the world’s first electric bass guitar. Historians laud its innovative design as likely a forerunner of today’s Fender Precision Bass model.
This model was 42 inches in length with a body made of black walnut. It boasted a 305/16″-scale/16-fret neck and an ebony fingerboard, plus it featured a Tutmarc-Stimpson horseshoe pickup, mirror steel faceplate, and single Volume knob for convenient control.
Today, it’s rare to come across this model of bass guitar as it was an early example of electric instrument. Nonetheless, it has been listed for sale on eBay several times and currently commands a price tag of $20,000 at present.
Guitarists prize this model for its distinct sound and responsiveness to player’s hands. It was a popular bass instrument during the 1940s.
The 736 was manufactured in Seattle by Audiovox, who would eventually be taken over by Leo Fender and go on to produce and market many iconic electric guitars throughout history.
The EMP Museum proudly displays a set of Audiovox basses that were purchased by the institution in 1996 and have been on display ever since. Any guitar enthusiast should visit this must-see exhibit!