Everyone knows the classic jokes about the different members of a band; the singer is desperate for attention, the guitarist needs everyone to know about his ‘essential’ settings, and the drummer was too daft to be given a real instrument. But what about the bass player?
The usual, totally untrue, joke about bass guitar players is that the bassist is totally fine, as long as the lead guitarist can tell them what to do! All jokes aside, the bass guitar is an essential part of modern, western music and pull any album off your shelf from the last fifty years and there will almost certainly be a bass guitar chugging happily at the bottom of the mix.
But what is the story behind this too often forgotten instrument? How did it get here and why is the bass guitar so important? Read on for an interesting look at the bass guitar in all of its glory!
The Arrival of the Bass Guitar
In the last few hundred years, music has formed some quite standard forms. Orchestras and big arrangements relied on different groups of instruments to produce a wide array of tones and sounds. This makes the music feel layered and full, with the bass instruments producing the low notes which gives the tune rhythm and texture, while the higher instruments lay the melody on top. Bass instruments like percussion instruments, the low end of the piano and big brass like tubas and euphoniums keep the tempo and rhythm, holding the music together.
As ensembles shrunk, dance bands and smaller groups tried to create a fuller sound, and relied on one or two instruments to create a ‘bassline’. The rhythm section of the band, usually the drummer and bass guitar player, still provide the texture and structure of the music while the melody and lyrics are laid on top by the other musicians.
The Bass guitar really appeared in response to this need for smaller bands and more power from each remaining instrument. The first electric bass guitar was built by an inventor and musician called Paul Tutmarc in the 1930s, but it failed to really grab attention. In 1951 Leo Fender had a try and brought his Precision Bass to the market. It was a lot more successful, and with a few tweaks over the next few years, it soon became the bass guitar we think of today. When performers like the Beatles and Elvis Presley took on the electric bass guitar into their sound, they quickly cemented its use in modern pop.
The Bass Guitar Today
Using four, or sometimes five, much thicker strings than a ‘traditional’ guitar, the bass guitar produces a deep resonant tone and can be played in a wide range of styles. There are styles of bass guitar playing and a whole range of genres to explore. To get your hands on a bass guitar today, visit the team at Curvy Sounds in Newcastle for a look at their beautiful bass guitar range.