Created | Updated Jan 9, 2012
The bass1 is a stringed musical instrument which originated as a hybrid of the standard Hawaiian guitar, as electrified by Les Paul, and the enormously cumbersome double bass. The standard bass guitar has four strings, tuned in 4ths up from a low E. While technology has evolved to make the modern bass sound and play better, it is essentially unchanged since the early days of rock 'n' roll.
Current trends in bass playing have expanded the instrument to include up to seven strings in a variety of tuning configurations. In spite of this expansion, the essence of the bass guitar is still the original 4-string configuration.
While generally considered a pop or rock instrument, the bass guitar is widely used in all types of music, if for no other reason than its portability.
While the bass guitar itself has remained fairly true to its original form, methods for playing it have not. In the early days, the bass guitar player was not generally considered to be an impressive musician, mostly due to amplification limitations. Without solid sound reinforcement, all the bassist was stuck with was some muddy crotchets (quarter notes).
As sound reinforcement technology expanded, so did the role of the bass player. Jazz players began to give up their enormous old basses in favour of the electric bass guitar. Paul McCartney of The Beatles was among the first to make the bass guitar an integral part of popular song writing. From that point forward, the bassist increasingly became a force to be reckoned with.
Today, the bass guitar is as central to popular music as the electric guitar is. Players like Sting, Jack Bruce, Jaco, Tony Levin, Geddy Lee, Chris Squire, Les Claypool, and Sam Rivers have helped to elevate the instrument to an art form.