|Names:||electric bass guitar, electric bass, bass|
|Image Capt:||A sunburst-colored Fender Precision Bass|
|Classification:||String instrument (plucked or picked)|
|Hornbostel Sachs Desc:||Composite chordophone|
(a standard tuned 4 string bass guitar)
The electric bass guitar (also called electric bass,   or simply bass;, as in "base") is a stringed instrument played primarily with the fingers or thumb (either by plucking, slapping, popping, tapping, or thumping), or by using a pick.
The bass guitar is similar in appearance and construction to an electric guitar, but with a larger body, a longer neck and scale length, and usually four strings tuned to the same pitches as those of the double bass, which also corresponds to one octave lower in pitch than the four lower strings of a guitar (E, A, D, and G). The bass guitar is a transposing instrument, as it is notated in bass clef an octave higher than it sounds (as is the double bass) in order to avoid the excessive use of ledger lines. Like the electric guitar, the electric bass guitar is plugged into an amplifier and speaker for live performances.
Since the 1950s, the electric bass guitar has largely replaced the double bass in popular music as the bass instrument in the rhythm section. While the types of basslines performed by the bass guitarist vary widely from one style of music to another, the bass guitarist fulfills a similar role in most types of music: anchoring the harmonic framework and laying down the beat. The bass guitar is used in many styles of music including rock, metal, pop, blues and jazz. It is used as a soloing instrument in jazz, fusion, Latin, funk, and in some rock and metal (mostly progressive rock and progressive metal) styles.
In the 1930s, inventor Paul Tutmarc from Seattle, Washington, developed the first guitar-style electric bass instrument that was fretted and designed to be held and played horizontally. The 1935 sales catalogue for Tutmarc's company, Audiovox, featured his "electronic bass fiddle," a four-stringed, solid-bodied, fretted electric bass guitar with a 30½-inch scale length. The change to a "guitar" form made the instrument easier to hold and transport, and the addition of guitar-style frets enabled bassists to play in tune more easily and made the new electric bass easier to learn. However, Tutmarc's inventions never caught the public imagination, and little further development of the instrument took place until the 1950s.
In the 1950s, Leo Fender, with the help of his employee George Fullerton, developed the first mass-produced electric bass. His Fender Precision Bass, introduced in 1951, became a widely copied industry standard. The Precision Bass (or "P-bass") evolved from a simple, uncontoured "slab" body design similar to that of a Telecaster with a single coil pickup, to a contoured body design with beveled edges for comfort and a single four-pole "single coil pickup." This "split pickup", introduced in 1957, appears to have been two mandolin pickups (Fender was marketing a four string solid body electric mandolin at the time). Because the pole pieces of the coils were reversed with respect to each other, and the leads were also reversed with respect to each other, the two coils, wired in series, produced a humbucking effect (the same effect is achieved if the coils are wired in parallel).
Monk Montgomery was the first bass player to tour with the Fender bass guitar, with Lionel Hampton's postwar big band. Roy Johnson, who replaced Montgomery in Hampton's band, and Shifty Henry with Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five, were other early Fender Bass pioneers. Bill Black, playing with Elvis Presley, adopted the Fender Precision Bass around 1957.
Following Fender's lead, Gibson released the violin-shaped EB-1 Bass in 1953, followed by the more conventional-looking EB-0 Bass in 1959. As with Fender's designs, Gibson relied heavily upon an existing guitar design for this bass; the EB-0 was very similar to a Gibson SG in appearance (although the earliest examples have a slab-sided body shape closer to that of the double-cutaway Les Paul Special).
Whereas Fender basses had pickups mounted in positions in between the base of the neck and the top of the bridge, many of Gibson's early basses featured one humbucking pickup mounted directly against the neck pocket. The EB-3, introduced in 1961, also had a "mini-humbucker" at the bridge position. Gibson basses also tended to be smaller, sleeker instruments; Gibson did not produce a 34" scale bass until 1963 with the release of the Thunderbird, which was also the first Gibson bass to utilize dual-humbucking pickups in a more traditional position, about halfway between the neck and bridge.
A small number of other companies also began manufacturing bass guitars during the 1950s: Kay in 1952, and Danelectro in 1956; Rickenbacker and Höfner also produced models. With the explosion of the popularity of rock music in the 1960s many more manufacturers began making bass guitars.
First introduced in 1960, The Fender Jazz Bass was known as the Deluxe Bass and was meant to accompany the Jazzmaster guitar. The Jazz Bass (often referred to as a "J-bass") featured two single-coil pickups, one close to the bridge and one in the Precision bass' split coil pickup position, and was designed by Leo Fender to be an easier bass for a guitarist to play than the existing Precision Bass, due to the narrower nut (noted later). The earliest production basses had a 'stacked' volume and tone control for each pickup. This was soon changed to the familiar configuration of a volume control for each pickup, and a single, passive tone control. The Jazz Bass' neck was narrower at the nut than the Precision bass (1½" versus 1¾").
Another visual difference that set the Jazz Bass apart from the Precision is its "offset-waist" body. Pickup shapes on electric basses are often referred to as "P" or "J" pickups in reference to the visual and electrical differences between the Precision Bass and Jazz Bass pickups.Fender also began production of the Mustang Bass; a 30" scale length instrument used by bassists such as Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads ("P" and "J" basses have a scale length of 34", a design echoed on most current production electric basses of all makes).
In the 1950s and 1960s, the bass guitar was often called the "Fender bass", due to Fender's early dominance in the market for mass-produced bass guitars. The term "electric bass" began replacing "Fender bass" in the late 1960s, however, as evidenced by the title of Carol Kaye's popular bass instructional book in 1969 How to Play the Electric Bass The instrument is also referred to as an "electric bass guitar", "electronic bass", or simply "bass".
The 1970s saw the founding of Music Man Instruments, owned by Leo Fender, which produced the StingRay, the first widely-produced bass with active (powered) electronics. This amounts to an impedance buffering pre-amplifier on-board the instrument to lower the output impedance of the bass's pickup circuit, increasing low-end output, and overall frequency response (more lows and highs). Specific models became identified with particular styles of music, such as the Rickenbacker 4001 series, which became identified with progressive rock bassists like Chris Squire of Yes, while the StingRay was used by Louis Johnson of the funk band The Brothers Johnson.
In 1971, Alembic established the template for what would subsequently be known as "boutique" or "high end" electric bass guitars. These expensive, custom-tailored instruments featured unique designs, premium wood bodies chosen and hand-finished by highly skilled luthiers, onboard electronics for preamplification and equalization, and innovative construction techniques such as multi-laminate neck-through-body construction and graphite necks. In the mid-1970s, Alembic and other "boutique" bass manufacturers such as Tobias, and Ken Smith produced 4- string basses and 5-string basses with a low "B" string. In 1975, bassist Anthony Jackson commissioned luthier Carl Thompson to a 6-string bass tuned (low to high) B, E, A, D, G, C.
In the 1980s, bass designers continued to explore new approaches. Ned Steinberger introduced a headless bass in 1979 and continued his innovations in the 1980s, using graphite and other new materials and (in 1984) introducing the Trans-Trem tremolo bar. In 1987, the Guild Guitar Corporation launched the fretless Ashbory bass, which used silicone rubber strings and a piezoelectric pickup to achieve a "double bass" sound with a short 18" scale length. In the late 1980s, MTV's "Unplugged" show, which featured bands strumming acoustic instruments, helped to popularize hollow-bodied acoustic bass guitars amplified with pickups.
During the 1990s, as five-string basses became more widely available and more affordable, an increasing number of bassists in genres ranging from metal to gospel began using five-string instruments for added lower range. As well, the onboard battery-powered electronics such as preamplifiers and equalizer circuits, which were previously only available on expensive "boutique" instruments, became increasingly available on modestly priced basses.
In the 2000s, some bass manufacturers included digital modelling circuits inside the instrument to recreate tones and sounds from many models of basses (e.g., Line 6's Variax bass). Traditional bass designs such as the Fender Precision Bass and Fender Jazz Bass remain popular in the 2000s; in 2006, a 60th Anniversary P-bass was introduced by Fender, along with the introduction of the Fender Jaguar Bass.
Instruments handmade by highly skilled luthiers are becoming increasingly available. Bass bodies are typically made of wood although other materials such as graphite (for example, some of the Steinberger designs) have also been used. While a wide variety of woods are suitable for use in the body, neck, and fretboard of the bass guitar, the most common type of wood used for the body is alder, for the neck is maple, and for the fretboard is rosewood. Other commonly used woods include mahogany, maple, ash, and poplar for bodies, mahogany for necks, and maple and ebony for fretboards.
Other design options include finishes, such as lacquer, wax and oil; flat and carved designs; Luthier-produced custom-designed instruments; headless basses, which have tuning machines in the bridge of the instrument (e.g. Steinberger and Hohner designs) and several artificial materials such as luthite. The use of artificial materials (e.g. BassLab) allows for unique production techniques such as die-casting, to produce complex body shapes. While most basses have solid bodies, they can also include hollow chambers to increase the resonance or reduce the weight of the instrument. Some basses are built with entirely hollow bodies, which changes the tone and resonance of the instrument. Acoustic bass guitars are typically equipped with piezoelectric or magnetic pickups and amplified. Bass guitar necks are generally made of maple.
Many exotic woods include bubinga, wenge, ovangkol, ebony and goncalo alves. Graphite or carbon fiber are used to make lightweight necks and, in some cases, entire basses. Exotic woods are used on more expensive instruments: for example, the company 'Alembic' is associated with the use of cocobolo as a body material or top layer because of its attractive grain. Warwick bass guitars are also well-known for exotic hardwoods: most of the necks are made of ovangkol, and the fingerboards wenge or ebony. Solid bubinga bodies are also used for tonal and aesthetic qualities.
The "long scale" necks used on Leo Fender's basses, giving a scale length (distance between nut and bridge) of 34", remain the standard for electric basses. However, 30" or "short scale" instruments, such as the Höfner Violin Bass, played by Paul McCartney, and the Fender Mustang Bass are popular, especially for players with smaller hands. While 35", 35.5" and 36" scale lengths were once only available in "boutique" instruments, in the 2000s, many manufacturers have begun offering these lengths, also called an "extra long scale." This extra long scale provides a higher string tension, which yields a more defined tone on the low "B" string of 5- and 6-stringed instruments (or detuned 4-string basses).
Another design consideration for the bass is whether to use frets on the fingerboard. On a fretted bass, the frets divide the fingerboard into semitone divisions (as on a guitar). The original Fender basses had 20 frets, but modern basses may have 24 or more. Fretless basses have a distinct sound, because the absence of frets means that the string must be pressed down directly onto the wood of the fingerboard as with the double bass. The string buzzes against the wood and is somewhat muted because the sounding portion of the string is in direct contact with the flesh of the player's finger. The fretless bass allows players to use the expressive devices of glissando, vibrato and microtonal intonations such as quarter tones and just intonation. Some bassists use both fretted and fretless basses in performances, according to the type of material they are performing, as with Pino Palladino, who has played with Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, and is now currently a member of the John Mayer Trio; a wide variety of genres. While fretless basses are often associated with jazz and jazz fusion, bassists from other genres use fretless basses, such as metal bassist Steve DiGiorgio.
The first fretless bass guitar was made by Bill Wyman in 1961 when he converted an inexpensive Japanese fretted bass by removing the frets.  The first production fretless bass was the Ampeg AUB-1 introduced in 1966, and Fender introduced a fretless Precision Bass in 1970. In the early 1970s, fusion-jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius created his own fretless bass by removing the frets from a Fender Jazz Bass, filling the holes with wood putty, and coating the fretboard with epoxy resin. Some fretless basses have "fret line" markers inlaid in the fingerboard as a guide, while others only use guide marks on the side of the neck. Tapewound (double bass type) and flatwound strings are sometimes used with the fretless bass so that the metal string windings will not wear down the fingerboard. Some fretless basses have fingerboards which are coated with epoxy to increase the durability of the fingerboard, enhance sustain and give a brighter tone. Although most fretless basses have four strings, five-string and six-string fretless basses are also available. Fretless basses with more than six strings are also available as "boutique" or custom-made instruments.
See main article: Bass guitar tuning. The standard design for the electric bass guitar has four strings, tuned E, A, D and G, in fourths such that the open highest string, G, is an eleventh (an octave and a fourth) below middle C, making the tuning of all four strings the same as that of the double bass. This tuning is also the same as the standard tuning on the lower four strings on a 6-string guitar, only an octave lower. String types include all-metal strings (roundwound, flatwound, groundwound, or halfwound), metal strings with different coverings, such as tapewound and plastic-coatings. The variety of materials used in the strings gives bass players a range of tonal options. In the 1950s, bassists mostly used flatwound strings with a smooth surface, which had a smooth, damped sound reminiscent of a double bass. In the 1960s and 1970s, roundwound bass strings similar to guitar strings became popular, though flatwounds also continue to be popular. Roundwounds have a brighter timbre with greater sustain than flatwounds.
A number of other tuning options and bass types have been used to extend the range of the instrument. The most common are four, five, or six strings:
Some bassists have used other types of tuning methods to obtain an extended range or other benefits such as providing multiple octaves of notes at any given position, as well as a significantly larger tonal range. Instrument types or tunings used for this purpose include basses with fewer than four strings (1-string bass guitars, 2-string bass guitars, 3-string bass guitars (E-A-D)); alternate tunings (e.g., tenor bass, piccolo bass, and guitar-tuned basses) and 8, 10, 12 and 15-string basses, which are built on the same principle as the 12-string guitar, where the strings are grouped into "courses" tuned in unison or octaves, to be played simultaneously.
Extended Range Basses (ERBs) are basses with 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12 strings which are not doubling unisons or octaves. The 7-string bass (B-E-A-D-G-C-F) was built by luthier Michael Tobias in 1987. This custom instrument commissioned by bassist Garry Goodman was the first example of a bass with more than six single course strings. Goodman developed a special playing technique requiring seven or more strings. Conklin builds 8- and 9-string basses. The Guitarbass is a 10-string instrument with four bass strings (tuned E-A-D-G) and six guitar strings (tuned E-A-D-G-B-E). Luthier Michael Adler built the first 11-string bass in 2004 and completed the first single-course 12-string bass in 2005. Adler's 11- and 12-string instruments have the same range as a grand piano. The Adler 12-string has the same range as the Bösendorfer 290 grand piano with 97 notes. This was made possible by Goodman developing an Ab4 string for the 32" scale. Sub-contra basses, such as C#-F#-B-E ("C#" being at 17.32 Hz) have been created.  Ibanez had released SR7VIISC in 2009, featuring a 30" scale and narrower width, and tuned as B-E-A-D-G-C-E; the company dubbed it a cross between bass and guitar.
For more information on pickups, see Pickup (music).
Most electric bass guitars use magnetic pickups. The vibrations of the instrument's metal strings within the magnetic field of the permanent magnets in magnetic pickups produce small variations in the magnetic flux threading the coils of the pickups. This in turn produces small electrical voltages in the coils. These low-level signals are then amplified and played through a speaker. Less commonly, non-magnetic pickups are used, such as piezoelectric pickups which sense the mechanical vibrations of the strings. Since the 1980s, basses are often available with battery-powered "active" electronics that boost the signal and/or provide equalization controls to boost or cut bass and treble frequencies.
Many basses have just one pickup, typically a "P" or soapbar pickup. Multiple pickups are also quite common, two of the most common configurations being a "P" near the neck and a "J" near the bridge (e.g. Fender Precision Bass Special, Fender Precision Bass Plus), or two "J" pickups (e.g. Fender Jazz). The placement of the pickup greatly affects the sound. A pickup near the neck joint emphasizes the fundamental and low-order harmonics and thus produces a deeper, bassier sound, while a pickup near the bridge emphasizes higher-order harmonics and makes a "tighter" or "sharper" sound. Usually basses with multiple pickups allow blending of the output from the pickups, with electrical and acoustical interactions between the two pickups (such as partial phase cancellations) allowing a range of tonal effects. Sound demonstrations of the tonal effects of varying blends of the P and J pickups are demonstrated at the following link.
The use of non-magnetic pickups allows bassists to use non-ferrous strings such as nylon, brass or even silicone rubber, which create different tones.
See main article: Bass instrument amplification.
Like the electric guitar, the electric bass guitar is often connected to an amplifier and a speaker with a patch cord for live performances. Electric bassists use either a "combo" amplifier, which combines an amplifier and a speaker in a single cabinet, or an amplifier and a separate speaker cabinet (or cabinets). In some cases when the bass is being used with large-scale PA amplification, it is plugged into a "DI" or "direct box", which routes their signal directly into a mixing console, and thence to the main and monitor speakers. Recording may use a microphone setup for the amplified signal or a direct box feeding the recording console. The performer or producer may also use a blend of the miked and direct signals.
Various electronic bass effects such as preamplifiers, "stomp box"-style pedals and signal processors and the configuration of the amplifier and speaker can be used to alter the basic sound of the instrument. In the 1990s and early 2000s, signal processors such as equalizers, distortion devices, and compressors or limiters became increasingly popular.
Most bass players stand while playing, although sitting is also accepted, particularly in large ensemble settings, such as jazz big bands or in acoustic genres such as folk music. It is a matter of the player's preference as to which position gives the greatest ease of playing and what a bandleader expects. When sitting, right-handed players can balance the instrument on the right thigh or like classical guitar players, the left. Balancing the bass on the left thigh positions it in such a way that it mimics the standing position, allowing for less difference between the standing and sitting positions.
In contrast to the upright bass (or double bass), the electric bass guitar is played horizontally across the body, like an electric guitar. When the strings are plucked with the fingers (pizzicato), the index and middle fingers (and sometimes with the thumb, ring, and pinky fingers as well) are used. James Jamerson, an influential bassist from the Motown era, played intricate bass lines using only his index finger, which he called "The Hook." There are also variations in how a bassist chooses to rest the right-hand thumb (or left thumb in the case of left-handed players). A player may rest his thumb on the top edge of one of the pickups or on the side of the fretboard, which is especially common among bassists who have an upright bass influence. Some bassists anchor their thumbs on the lowest string and move it off to play on the low string. Alternatively, the thumb can be rested loosely on the strings to mute the unused strings.
The string can be plucked at any point between the bridge and the point where the fretting hand is holding down the string; different timbres are produced depending on where along the string it is plucked. Some players are known for plucking near the bridge where the string is most taut, such as jazz fusion bassist Jaco Pastorius, whereas other bassists prefer the "looser" part of the string nearer to the fingerboard.
Bassists trying to emulate the sound of a double bass sometimes pluck the strings with their thumb and use palm-muting to create a short, "thumpy" tone. The late Monk Montgomery (who played in Lionel Hampton's band), Bruce Palmer (who performed with Buffalo Springfield), Sting and progressive rocker Geddy Lee use thumb downstrokes. The use of the thumb was acknowledged by early Fender models, which came with a "thumbrest" or "Tug Bar" attached to the pickguard below the strings. Contrary to its name, this was not used to rest the thumb, but to provide leverage while using the thumb to pluck the strings. The thumbrest was moved above the strings in 1970s models and eliminated in the 1980s.
See main article: Slapping. The slap and pop method, which is a mainstay of funk, uses tones and percussive sounds achieved by striking, thumping, or "slapping" a string with the thumb and snapping (or "popping") a string or strings with the index or middle fingers. Bassists often interpolate left hand-muted "dead notes" between the slaps and pops to achieve a rapid percussive effect, and after a note is slapped or popped, the fretting hand may cause other notes to sound by using "hammer ons", "pull offs", or a left-hand glissando (slide). Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone and Graham Central Station was an early innovator of the slap style, and Louis Johnson of the The Brothers Johnson is also credited as an early slap bass player.
Slap and pop style is also used by many bassists in other genres, such as rock (e.g., J J Burnel and Les Claypool), metal (e.g. Eric Langlois), and fusion (e.g. Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten and Alain Caron). Slap style playing was popularized throughout the 1980s and early 1990s by pop bass players such as Mark King (from Level 42) and rock bassists such as Flea (from the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Alex Katunich (from Incubus). Wooten popularized the "double thump," in which the string is slapped twice, on the upstroke and a downstroke (for more information, see Classical Thump). A rarely-used playing technique related to slapping is the use of wooden dowel "funk fingers", an approach popularized by Tony Levin.
The pick (or plectrum) is used to obtain a more articulate attack, for speed, or just personal preference. Although the use of a pick is primarily associated with rock, picks are also used in other styles. Jazz bassist Steve Swallow uses a pick for upbeat or funky songs. Picks can be used with alternating downstrokes and upstrokes, or with all downstrokes for a more consistent attack. The pick is usually held with the index and thumb, with the up-and-down plucking motion supplied by the wrist (one exception is tremolo picking, in which the whole arm is used to play a note very rapidly). Some bassists use their fingernails to play flamenco-style, such as the late John Entwistle, Geddy Lee, the late Cliff Burton and Les Claypool.
There are many varieties of picks available, but due to the thicker, heavier strings of the electric bass, bassists tend to use heavier picks than those used for electric guitar, typically ranging from 1.14 mm – 3.00 mm (3.00 is unusual). Different materials are used for picks, including plastic, nylon, and felt, all of which produce different tones. Felt picks are used to emulate a fingerstyle tone.
The fretting hand—the left hand for right-handed bass players and the right hand for left-handed bass players — is used to press down the strings to play different notes and shape the tone or timbre of a plucked or picked note. The fretting hand can be used to change a sounded note, either by fully muting it after it is plucked or picked to shorten its duration or by partially muting it near the bridge to reduce the volume of the note, or make the note die away faster. The fretting hand is often used to mute strings that are not being played and stop the sympathetic vibrations, particularly when the player wants a "dry" or "focused" sound. On the other hand, the sympathetic resonance of harmonically-related strings may be desired for some songs, such as ballads. In these cases, a bassist can fret harmonically-related notes. For example, while fretting a sustained "F" (on the third fret of the "D" string), underneath an F major chord, a bassist might hold down the "C" and low "F" below this note, so that their harmonics will sound sympathetically.
The fretting hand can add vibrato to a plucked or picked note, either a gentle, narrow vibrato or a more exaggerated, wide vibrato with bigger pitch variations. For fretted basses, vibrato is always an alternation between the pitch of the note and a slightly higher pitch. For fretless basses, the player can use this style of vibrato, or they can alternate between the note and a slightly lower pitch. While vibrato is mostly done on "stopped" notes--that is, notes that are pressed down on the fingerboard--open strings can also be vibratoed by pressing down on the string behind the nut. As well, the fretting hand can be used to "bend" a plucked or picked note up in pitch. To create the opposite effect, a "bend down", the string is pushed to a higher pitch before being plucked or picked and then allowed to fall to the lower, regular pitch after it is sounded. More rarely, a bassist may use a tremolo bar-equipped bass to produce the same effect.
In addition to pressing down one note at a time, bassists can also press down several notes at one time with their fretting hand to perform a chord. While chords are used less often by bassists than by electric guitarists, a variety of chords can be performed on the electric bass, especially with instruments with higher ranges such as six-string basses. Another variation to fully pressing down a string is to gently graze the string with the finger at the harmonic node points on the string, which creates chime-like upper partials. Glissando is an effect in which the fretting hand slides up or down the neck. A subtle glissando can be performed by moving the fretting hand without plucking or picking the string; for a more pronounced effect, the string is plucked or picked first, or, in a metal or hardcore punk context, a pick may be scraped along the sides of the strings.
The fretting hand can also be used to sound notes, either by plucking an open string with the fretting hand, or, in the case of a string that has already been plucked or picked, by "hammering on" a higher pitch or "pulling off" a finger to pluck a lower fretted or open stringed note. Jazz bassists use a subtle form of fretting hand pizzicato by plucking a very brief open string grace note with the fretting hand right before playing the string with the plucking hand. When a string is rapidly hammered on, the note can be prolonged into a trill.
In the two-handed tapping styles, bassists use both hands to play notes on the fretboard by rapidly pressing and holding the string to the fret. Instead of plucking or picking the string to create a sound, in this technique, the action of pressing the string onto the fretboard is used to create the sound. Since two hands can be used to play on the fretboard, this makes it possible to play interweaving contrapuntal lines, to simultaneously play a bassline and a simple chord, or play chords and arpeggios. Bassist John Entwistle of The Who would tap percussively on the strings, causing them to strike the fretboard with a twangy sound to create drum-style fills. Some players noted for this technique include Billy Sheehan, Stuart Hamm, John Myung, Victor Wooten, Les Claypool, and Michael Manring. The Chapman Stick and Warr Guitars are string instruments that are designed to be played using two-handed tapping.
Popular music bands and rock groups use the bass guitar as a member of the rhythm section, which provides the chord sequence or "progression" and sets out the "beat" for the song. The rhythm section typically consists of a rhythm guitarist and/or electric keyboard player, a bass guitarist and a drummer; larger groups may add additional guitarists, keyboardists, or percussionists.
The types of basslines performed by the bass guitarist vary widely from one style of music to another. Despite all of the differences in the styles of bassline, in most styles of popular music, the bass guitarist fulfills a similar role: anchoring the harmonic framework (often by emphasizing the roots of the chord progression) and laying down the beat (in collaboration with the drummer). The importance of the bass guitarist and the bass line varies in different styles of music. In some pop styles, such as 1980s-era pop and musical theater, the bass sometimes plays a relatively simple part, and the music forefronts the vocals and melody instruments. In contrast, in reggae or funk, entire songs may be centered around the bass groove, and the bassline is very prominent in the mix.
In traditional country music, folk rock, and related styles, the bass often plays the roots and fifth of each chord in alternation. In Chicago blues, the electric bass often performs a walking bassline made up of scales and arpeggios. In blues rock bands, the bassist often plays blues scale-based riffs and chugging boogie-style lines. In metal, the bass guitar may perform complex riffs along with the rhythm guitarist or play a low, rumbling pedal point to anchor the group's sound.
The bass guitarist sometimes breaks out of the strict rhythm section role to perform bass breaks or bass solos. The types of basslines used for bass breaks of bass solos vary by style. In a rock band, a bass break may consist of the bassist playing a riff or lick during a pause in the song. In some styles of metal, a bass break may consist of "shred guitar"-style tapping on the bass. In a funk or funk rock band, a bass solo may showcase the bassist's percussive slap and pop playing. In genres such as progressive rock, art rock, or progressive metal, the bass guitar player may play melody lines along with the lead guitar (or vocalist) and perform extended guitar solos.
The electric bass is a relative newcomer to the world of jazz. The big bands of the 1930s and 1940s Swing era and the small combos of the 1950s Bebop and Hard Bop movements all used the double bass. The electric bass was introduced during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when rock influences were blended with jazz to create jazz-rock fusion. When the electric bass is used in jazz, it has both an accompaniment and a soloing role. When the bass is used to accompany, it may be used to perform walking basslines for traditional tunes and "jazz standards", in smooth quarter note lines which imitate the sound of the double bass. For latin or salsa tunes and rock-infused jazz fusion tunes, the electric bass may play rapid, syncopated rhythmic figures in coordination with the drummer, or lay down a low, heavy groove.
In a jazz setting, the electric bass tends to have much a much more expansive solo role than in most popular styles. In most rock settings, the bass guitarist may only have a few short bass breaks or brief solos during a concert. During a jazz concert, a jazz bassist may have a number of lengthy improvised solos, which are called "blowing" in jazz parlance. Whether a jazz bassist is comping (accompanying) or soloing, they usually aim to create a rhythmic drive and "timefeel" that creates a sense of "swing" and "groove".
Contemporary classical music uses both the standard instruments of Western Art music (piano, violin, double bass, etc) and newer instruments or sound producing devices, ranging from electrically amplified instruments to tape players and radios. The electric bass guitar has occasionally been used in contemporary classical music (art music) since the late 1960s. Contemparary composers often obtained unusual sounds or instrumental timbres through the use of non-traditional (or unconventional) instruments or playing techniques. As such, bass guitarists playing contemporary classical music may be instructed to pluck or strum the instrument in unusual ways.
American composers using electric bass in the 1960s included experimental classical music composer Christian Wolff (born 1934) (Electric Spring 1, 1966; Electric Spring 2, 1966/70; Electric Spring 3, 1967; and Untitled, 1996); Francis Thorne, a student of Paul Hindemith at Yale University (born 1922), who wrote (Liebesrock 1968–69); and Krzysztof Penderecki (Cello Concerto no. 1, 1966/67, rev. 1971/72), The Devils of Loudun, 1969; Kosmogonia, 1970; and Partita, 1971), Louis Andriessen (Spektakel, 1970; De Staat, 1972-76; Hoketus, 1976; De Tijd, 1980-81 and De Materie, 1984–1988). European composers who began scoring for the bass guitar in the 1960s included Danish composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen (born 1932) (Symfoni på Rygmarven, 1966; Rerepriser, 1967; and Piece by Piece, 1968); Irwin Bazelon (Churchill Downs, 1970).In the 1970s, electric bass was used by the American conductor- composer Leonard Bernstein (1918 – 1990) for his MASS, 1971). American jazz pianist Dave Brubeck used bass guitar for his 1971 piece Truth Has Fallen. Russian and Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke used the instrument for his epic Symphony no. 1, 1972. In 1977, David Amram(born 1930) scored for electric bass in En memoria de Chano Pozo. Amram is an American composer known for his eclectic use of jazz, ethnic and folk music.
In the 1980s and 1990s, electric bass was used in works by Hans Werner Henze (El Rey de Harlem, 1980; and Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, 1981), Harold Shapero, On Green Mountain (Chaconne after Monteverdi), 1957, orchestrated 1981; Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint (1987), Wolfgang Rihm (Die Eroberung von Mexico, 1987-91), Arvo Pärt (Miserere, 1989/92), Sofia Gubaidulina (Aus dem Stundenbuch, 1991), Giya Kancheli (Wingless, 1993), John Adams (I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, 1995; and Scratchband, 1996/97), and Michael Nyman (many works for the Michael Nyman Band).