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Bass VI: practical application

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by spanndrew, Jan 5, 2014.


  1. spanndrew

    spanndrew

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2013
    Location:
    Atlanta, Ga
    This one is for all of you bass VI owners out there, no matter the make or model. What playing situations have you found your VI to be useful? Specifically a time when a normal bass just wouldn't cut it. Share anything you like about these uniques beasts!
     
  2. lz4005

    lz4005

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2013
    In my experience bass VI type instruments supplement but don't replace normal guitars and basses.

    They're wonderful for layering in the studio, doubling bass parts and guitar parts, playing in different keys that regular guitars don't allow, and getting unique tones.

    Functionally they're more similar to guitars than basses.

    Now that they're being made again in quantity it'll be interesting to see what a new generation of players do with them.
     
  3. ChronicPyromaniac

    ChronicPyromaniac

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2001
    I like the way mine sounds for normal bass playing. I normally play with a pick, so I didn't need to adjust as much as someone who plays finger style. I did put a staytrem bridge on it, and it feels much more solid than it did stock. I honestly haven't picked up another bass since I got it.
     
  4. HaphAsSard

    HaphAsSard

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2013
    Location:
    Italia
    Funny, in my experience normal guitars and basses don't replace bass VI type instruments! ;)
    Seriously, whenever I don't have access to mine and have to make do with a four stringer I miss the 2 extra strings or just plain can't play the song the way I intended it. OTOH, I only play fingerstyle (guitar, bass VI or bass) with a less than perfect technique, so when I play with a drummer I tend to dig in and the narrow spacing of the VI is a problem for that; for the moment a 4 is more confortable to me in those contexts.
    Except they aren't in many respects: string tension makes them less bend-friendly than Spanish-tuned electrics, and you simply can't expect to be able to play whatever narrow voiced chord you feel like because it's going to sound muddy, and the human ear is to blame for that, not the instrument or the amp/cab (something well known to composers and piano players). You need to put some distance between the lowest voice of the chord and the second-lowest.
    (This is the biggest difference with a long-guitar-tuned-baritone, B to B or A to A: you can play those just as you would a normal guitar, and it will still sound good because the lowest chords are still outside the mud zone.)
    As far as their bassness, well, they are short scale basses with small gauge strings. (Yes, with 2 more strings and narrow string spacing, but it's not like these aspects magically impact the sound of the 4 other strings, do they?)
    Thus not-a-P-bass in the first place. If, in a particular application, you have to have a P for sound or feel you're not gonna like these in the same application.
    This said, they are or aren't adequate as basses in the same ways as other short scale basses with small guage strings are. Sure, they might have pickups lacking in bass response (or in the wrong locations, but heck, Fender/Squier VIs have three of 'em to choose from!) but that's a possibility for individual models of long stringers: you have to try them, hear for yourself, and decide with your brain, not your eyes.
    (And yeah, in order to use a bass VI as a bass you pretty much need to use a bass amp and cab: guitar stuff filters out lows by design, so it's guaranteed to sound guitary/thin.)

    As for me, I use an OLP MM5 Baritone tuned as a VI (with flats) in a piano duo. According to what the song (or my vision of it) calls for, I play normal bass lines, strummed chords (up the neck and/or on the thinnest four strings), arpeggios and a couple "hybrid" arrangements with low notes on the odd beats, high plucked or strummed chords on the even. Oh, and the occasional lead part!
    I guess a normal sixer (as in, the aircraft carrier-y ones) allows you to do all this stuff and more. However, there's something to be said for narrow spacing for chordal work, the short scale is confortable to me, and I feel at home with the octave guitar tuning. Plus, mine came dirt cheap.
     
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  6. lz4005

    lz4005

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2013
    They're definitely their own instrument.

    I guess that's point I was trying to make, and I don't disagree with anything you said, that you can't really put them in either category or play them as you would either a conventional guitar or bass.
     
  7. spanndrew

    spanndrew

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2013
    Location:
    Atlanta, Ga
    That's what I'm fairly excited to hear about and why I made this thread.
     
  8. Ferniff

    Ferniff

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Location:
    Queens, NYC
    Well I play primarily jam music and out of the 3 basses I have (Hofner, Rickenbacker, Bass VI) I use the Bass VI as my main bass. With the right EQ and flatwounds it fills the role of bass quite well. I use the standard 4 strings in my bass playing and occasionally use the G-B-high E for chords during more spacey jams.
     
  9. Alex J

    Alex J

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2011
    Location:
    Sheffield
  10. HaphAsSard

    HaphAsSard

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2013
    Location:
    Italia
    I can agree it has its very own set of strengths as well as limitations.
    My point (not really directed at you in particular) was that I wouldn't put "thin sounding" under the latter column. Or even "doesn't sound like a bass". What bass? There are trilliards of them and they feel play and sound different.
    So yes, it can replace a 34" four-banger, provided you like how the VI feels, plays and sounds in the bass role.
    For that matter, it also can replace a six string 25" standard tuned guitar, provided you know how to work in the bass register, don't need the uppest range of a conventional guitar, and, again, like how it feels, plays and sounds in the guitar role...

    (It goes without saying that if, as a bass player, one doesn't really have a use for the highest two strings, and unless one already plays with a pick or a guitar fingerstyle and finds the narrow string spacing actually a plus, there are cheaper solutions that play comfier, as far as short scale basses go.)

    But people shouldn't assume these things sound like a strat just because they kinda look like one.
    On that note, here's an experiment:
    -take a strat; take out the strings;
    -buy this string set (as soon as they relist it :meh:); discard the G;
    -put the three strings on every other saddle, machine head; don't even bother widening the nut slots for the moment; string it standard (bass) EAD;
    -plug the abomination through a bass rig; play a couple notes, never mind if the intonation is all over the place;
    -I dare say it sounds like a bass (or at least some kind thereof), rather than as strats are expected to, even with standard guitar pickups.
     
  11. boristhespider7

    boristhespider7

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2008
    Location:
    UK
    I don't own one (although GAS increasing!) but i was always interested in seeing how The Cure would use one live. Quite a few of their well know tracks use Bass VI like:

    Lullaby: http://youtu.be/RfeZ3u0bZYM
    Pictures of you: http://youtu.be/aNBJ1rBAlN8 (you get a good view of what Robert Smith's doing on this one)

    I'm sure there are loads more they did. They seemed to use it more "guitar like" with lots of chorus, delay w flanging. His use of drone strings reminds me a bit of Peter Hook who also used a 6 string bass (Shergold) on some of the New Order tracks like Blue Monday
     
  12. therhodeo

    therhodeo

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2011
    Location:
    Owasso OK
    I like them and love certain uses for them but I do believe there is a reason why bassist gravitated toward long scale wide spaced instruments and guitarist to the standard 25.5/24.75 scale 6 string. Bass VI's are a funny niche instrument that you have to think about a bit differently.
     
  13. Ferniff

    Ferniff

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Location:
    Queens, NYC
    The High B-E are absolutely useless in a bass role. I taught myself a lot of 3 note chords so I can be able to play guitar as well using bright sounding chords. I actually find this easier to play as a guitar than my acoustic guitar.
     
  14. spanndrew

    spanndrew

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2013
    Location:
    Atlanta, Ga
    Not going to lie, the interest is coming from some crazy GAS.
     
  15. tuba_samurai

    tuba_samurai Yamaha BB Club #123 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2013
    Location:
    Georgia
    I have a Schecter Ultra VI that I GASed over for a year. When I got it I almost sent it back because I was trying to play it like my 4 string. I decided to stick it out and it has become my main bass. I play fingerstyle mostly and I absolutely love the close string spacing. When the songs call for it I can get some really chunky distorted chords. It is sort of a jack-of-all master-of-none deal, but I wouldn't take anything for it.
     

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