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Bass Guitar

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jmp883

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I'm a bass player and it seems that I'm in the minority when it comes to 4-string vs 5, 6, and 8 string basses.

When I started playing back in the late 80's the 4-string was still the predominant style of bass. When I started subscribing to Bass Player magazine back then they seemed to be slanted towards the 5/6/8 string instruments, almost ignoring the 4-string. Many of the celebrity bass players they interviewed or featured also held the same view...that the 4-string was for beginners only and that if you were a 'serious' bass player it was beneath you to play a 4-string.

I stopped playing after a few years, for various reasons, and have just recently started again. However I've noticed that the attitudes haven't changed much from 15-20 years ago. It still seems that if you're a 4-string player you're not considered a 'real' bass player.

While the 5/6/8 string basses are gorgeous instruments, and I do admire those who can play them, isn't the whole idea of the bass to lay down the foundation (base?) for the rest of the band to work from? Why do bassists feel the need to solo and take lead lines? I played tuba and sousaphone for many, many years before I started playing the bass and I love just laying down a good bass line. I have no need, or desire, to want to solo or be flashy. To me a flashy bass line is a good 'walking bass line' like the one in 'Doraville' by the Atlanta Rhythm Section. I just enjoy putting down a solid bass line for the rest of the group to work off of. And to be able to do that the 4-string bass works admirably.

I don't know...maybe I am wrong. I'll hold on to my Fender Jazz 4-string forever.

How do you other bass players feel about 4-string vs. more-strings?
 

radiofan1

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I guess I'm contrary to popular opinion---I don't think 5 6 8 string guitars are bass guitars. 4 string guitars are bass guitars. :wink:
 

cipher66

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I also feel that the bass guitars purpose is to lay down the foundation of the song, either used percussively, or melodically... doesn't matter, the bass line is the bass line. To me a bass guitar is a 4-string instrument! The Fender you speak of is a classic example of the bass guitar. The 5/6/8 stringers are basically still bass guitars but when it comes down to it they do the same thing as the 4-stringers.... to me, the 5/6/ and 8'ers are unnecessary for bass.
 

Lt51506

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I'm predomantly a guitar player, but do play bass from time to time. I can see maybe a 5 string to increase tonal range, but anything after that is flash in the pan as far as I'm concerned. I can remember when Tom Peterson of Cheap Trick trucked around a 12 string bass for awhile. Didn't make much difference in the music quality, but I suppose it looked cool.

Having the 5, 6, 8 or more strings does not make you a professional. Being able to play the instrument and play it well does. Ever think of the skill it takes to play a "washtub" bass? Those who can are absolutely amazing. No frets, no electronics to make you sound better than you really are....just skill and a good ear.

My preference, a '66 Vox Mark IV V224 is all I'll ever need. It's solid, the sound and tone are nice and clean, plus the action is very smooth. I've tried a few bass rigs with more than 4 strings over the years, but there was nothing to compare. Anything with more than 5 strings just adds to your workload as a bass player. If you can't do it with 4, then you can't do it at all.
 

crashcrew

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I guess Jack Bruce, John Paul Jones, John Entwhistle, Geddy Lee and Chris Squire were "beginner" bass players, because they played 4 string basses.

4 string basses are the only real basses........they're all you need.
 

jmp883

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Thanks for all the input, guys.....I kind of thought that the 4-string wasn't really dead yet.

I remember reading an interview with the late Allen Woody, who was playing with the Allman Brothers at the time, where he was talking about multi-stringed basses. As I recall he stated he prefers the 4-string for recording and live performances. He did play one multi-stringed bass live. It was a custom-built 16-string monster that he only played on Whipping Post. If you have the Live At Great Woods VCR tape or DVD you'll see him playing that beast. I saw him playing it when they were in the NYC area and it was an impressive instrument, and he was definitely able to handle it. He said it was only good for one song simply because it was very tough to keep in tune because of the amount of strings and the resulting tension loads on the neck.

Well I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who prefers the 4-string. Thanks again!

BTW....my favorite bassists:

Allen Woody
Geddy Lee
'Duck' Dunn
Skylark
Jack Bruce
Larry Junstrom (also fellow ham radio operator)
 

radiofan1

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I don't believe anyone can get around a Fender neck like Geddy Lee. My roomate years ago had a live video, don't remember what song or album---but I do remember Lee was singing, playing bass pedal with one foot, playing keyboard with right hand, and hammering strings with the left hand...all at the same time.
I've never seen anything like it since.
 

jmp883

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Radiofan1 wrote:

I don't believe anyone can get around a Fender neck like Geddy Lee. My roomate years ago had a live video, don't remember what song or album---but I do remember Lee was singing, playing bass pedal with one foot, playing keyboard with right hand, and hammering strings with the left hand...all at the same time. I've never seen anything like it since.
That had to be something to see......:D

My favorite bassline.....Doraville from the Atlanta Rhythm Section. Starts off kind of mellow but quickly evolves into a great walking bassline!
 

jmp883

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Stu Hamm......all I can say after watching that video is...WOW!

I had forgotten about Stu and never thought to look him up on YouTube. Much thanks to Crashcrew for posting the link to that incredible video.
 

SCPD

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I agree that high notes on a bass with more than 4 strings aren't really bass notes, but 8-string basses are different. They're the same as the last 8 strings on a 12-string guitar. Some have 7 strings.

I recently got a black Geddy Lee Model Jazz.

Hamer makes a 12-string bass called the Chapparal. Electric and acoustic models. Four sets of three strings each tuned in octaves.

Sorry I screwed that up.
 
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SCPD

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I guess Jack Bruce, John Paul Jones, John Entwhistle, Geddy Lee and Chris Squire were "beginner" bass players, because they played 4 string basses.

Also Sting, Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius. Even Tal Wilkenfeld has a 4-string. I wonder when she's going to get a real Fender instead of a knock-off.
 
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EJB

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Les Clyapool of Primus and Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath.

Always felt that the rythum section of Sabbath was underrated, the drummer Bill Ward and Geezer held the bottom down and even sounded jazzy on their first few albums.

My collegue at work is a bass player and a disiple of Django Reinhardt and he gets a kick out of talking about the bass. He normally plays a standup bass that is bigger than him.
 

EJB

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I'm predomantly a guitar player, but do play bass from time to time. I can see maybe a 5 string to increase tonal range, but anything after that is flash in the pan as far as I'm concerned. I can remember when Tom Peterson of Cheap Trick trucked around a 12 string bass for awhile. Didn't make much difference in the music quality, but I suppose it looked cool.

Having the 5, 6, 8 or more strings does not make you a professional. Being able to play the instrument and play it well does. Ever think of the skill it takes to play a "washtub" bass? Those who can are absolutely amazing. No frets, no electronics to make you sound better than you really are....just skill and a good ear.

My preference, a '66 Vox Mark IV V224 is all I'll ever need. It's solid, the sound and tone are nice and clean, plus the action is very smooth. I've tried a few bass rigs with more than 4 strings over the years, but there was nothing to compare. Anything with more than 5 strings just adds to your workload as a bass player. If you can't do it with 4, then you can't do it at all.
When I told my collegue above about your bass he smiled and it brought back a lot of memories for him, he felt it is a unique bass and a great one.

He also mentioned that he feels that bass playing has changed over the years. It is noe more melodic with many people playing 5, 6, 8 & 12 string bases.

Makes a long tedious day at work be a little better.
 

Lt51506

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EJB,

Glad I could bring some good memories to your friend. I also have to agree...Django was to the bass - what Les Paul was to the guitar. Each provided a foundation to their respective craft and fostered an entire new feel for the music. Profond landmarks in musical history are far and few between, at least the ones that really matter. Nice to see someone remembers Django Reinhardt and honors him as such. Kudo's to your friend.

Tom :)
 

EJB

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EJB,

Glad I could bring some good memories to your friend. I also have to agree...Django was to the bass - what Les Paul was to the guitar. Each provided a foundation to their respective craft and fostered an entire new feel for the music. Profond landmarks in musical history are far and few between, at least the ones that really matter. Nice to see someone remembers Django Reinhardt and honors him as such. Kudo's to your friend.

Tom :)
He has led many gypsy jaz bands. If you want I will ask him to provide links to his work.
 
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I am a bass player too, and I play 4 string. I always said if 5 string still a bass, but 6 and up it starts sounding too much like a guitar and bass in one. I can play a little on a five but prefer a four. I been playing (self taught) for three years.
 
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