Explain the Fender Bass VI

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Jason42, Apr 25, 2019.

  1. Jason42


    Jun 8, 2018
    Tobes of Hades
    Is it a guitar? Is it a bass? Who plays these things and in what settings? What's up with the whammy? I've never seen these things in person, but they show up in my Reverb feed and I'm curious
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  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Jack Bruce played one in Cream on a couple of early albums.
  3. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    The Fender VI was released in 1961 and followed the concept of the Danelectro six-string bass released in 1956, having six strings tuned E to E, an octave below the Spanish guitar. The Bass VI was closely related to the Fender Jaguar, with which it shared styling and technical details, notably the Fender floating tremolo. The VI had an offset body similar but not identical to that of the Jazzmaster/Jaguar.

    It departed from the concept of the Fender Precision Bass in having six strings, a shorter scale and thinner strings, and a mechanical vibrato arm. The Bass VI never caught on to the extent that the four-string Precision Bass and its derivatives did. The model was discontinued in 1975.

    In 2006, the Fender Custom Shop released a re-creation of the Bass VI, featuring three single-coil pickups and identical electronics. This format was previously available as a 1962 vintage reissue model made by Fender Japan in 1995.

    In 2013 Fender released a Bass VI model as part of its Pawn Shop series. In line with the series' purpose to reconfigure classic Fender designs, the new Bass VI has a Jazzmaster-type P-90 bridge pickup and a Stratocaster-style five-position pickup selector, as opposed to separate switches.[1] There are three available colors: brown sunburst with a tortoiseshell pickguard, black with a tortoiseshell pickguard, and candy-apple red with a white pickguard and painted headstock.

    Also in 2013, Squier released a Bass VI as part of the Vintage Modified series. This model was similar to the traditional Bass VI design with four switches (on/off for each pickup and a strangle switch) and a Jaguar-style control plate. It continued the trend set by the Squier Vintage Modified Jaguars and Jazzmasters of having a non-locking tremolo plate. It was available in three-color sunburst finish with tortoiseshell pickguard, Olympic White with a brown tortoiseshell pickguard and black with a tortoiseshell pickguard. It currently is available in three-color sunburst and Olympic white.

    In 2019, Squier released its Classic Vibe Bass VI, available in three-color sunburst and black. It has a slightly wider width at the nut than the Vintage Modified Bass VI (1.685" vs. 1.65") and is equipped with narrow, tall frets. Most of the other main features are similar to the Vintage Modified model.

    Oh, yeah, they're a little on the heavy side.
  4. Jason42


    Jun 8, 2018
    Tobes of Hades
    Nice. Do any TBers use this in a gigging scenario? What genre / setting?
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  5. catcauphonic

    catcauphonic High Freak of the Low Frequencies Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2012
    Seattle WA
    Skip to 1:30 >

    Though he modded his a bit, our lead player switched to one when the Squire came out. Incredibly versatile. The low end sounds great enough that they don't even need me for some numbers, but shhhh :cautious:
  6. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    They sound like a low guitar when played through a guitar amp, and like a twangy bass when played through a bass amp. You can sort of do either function, but I've always thought they should be considered a 3rd, unique instrument.

    They're great for layering in the studio, or as a 3rd or 4th voice in a band. They're all over the old Phil Spector wall of sound recordings, doubling muted bass parts. As well as in older country music doubling upright parts. That style of arrangement was called Tic Tac bass.

    Wichita Lineman is a great example of using one as the main melodic instrument in a song. There's a couple of songs on SRV's Live Alive that have one in a melodic role as well, played by Stevie's brother Jimmy. It's as good a reason to give that album a listen as any.

    They're all over older songs by The Cure as well. Robert Smith used one as a 3rd guitar in that setting. Lots of high partials and low drones.
  7. catcauphonic

    catcauphonic High Freak of the Low Frequencies Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2012
    Seattle WA

    Last edited: Apr 25, 2019
  8. Jason42


    Jun 8, 2018
    Tobes of Hades
    Thank you gents. I'm going with an analysis of Really Baritone Guitar. Rock on
  9. Axstar

    Axstar Inactive

    Jul 8, 2016
    I've tried one, but didn't like the feel. It lacks the sort of low end authority that even a good shortscale bass delivers on. Hard to play fingerstyle on (so you are stuck with pick playing) and a bit fiddly in the left hand. The temptation is to play chords, and occupy a sonic territory somewhere between guitar and bass.

    For all the pickup combinations on tap you get a few different flavours of rubbery twang (which is also how the bass felt in my hands). Great for tick-tack '60s soundtrack music and the occasional burst of '80s goth, but otherwise a pretty difficult fish to find a lot of use for. Beyond those two uses you end up going into fuzz + reverb soundscape territory.

    The Bass VI reinforces my belief that not everything Leo Fender came up with was necessarily golden.
  10. Mustang Surly

    Mustang Surly

    Jul 10, 2013
    " I've tried one, but didn't like the feel. It lacks the sort of low end authority that even a good shortscale bass delivers on. Hard to play fingerstyle on (so you are stuck with pick playing) and a bit fiddly in the left hand. The temptation is to play chords, and occupy a sonic territory somewhere between guitar and bass."

    Pretty much mirrors my own experience.
  11. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    I've never really wanted one - which was a good thing, since AFAIK, nobody ever made a lefty version - until Eastwood came out with one recently. When I need to occupy that sonic space, my Sidejack baritone guitar - with "almost" Bass VI strings - works well enough to satisfy me. Especially when (as lz4005 says) played thru a bass amp... :cool:
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  12. realale


    Nov 29, 2016
    Bridlington U.K.
    Jack Bruce played in a trio called Graham Bond Organization long before Cream.
    Jack Bruce on Fender VI, Harmonica and vocals
    Ginger Baker drums
    Graham Bond Hammond Organ and Saxophone (often both at the same time) and vocals.
    Must have seen them play weekly free of charge for over a year in a local pub in London Edmonton.
    Shortly before Graham died (he fell under an underground train in Finsbury Park London) a young guitarist got on stage and jammed with the Organization, I've always believed that was Eric Clapton.
    Shortly after Graham's sad death The Cream was born.
  13. bassstrangler


    Mar 2, 2015
    I saw The Church back in the 90s and Steve Kilbey did a good portion of the set on a VI. Not sure why he did. Every other time I've seen them he's played a traditional 4 string.

    As a bass player they are impractical for playing the bass. As an extra instrument like The Cure uses it, it's an excellent choice. I'm a bass player not a second or third guitarist. Mine hit the bricks after it sat in its case for four years of owning it. The low E is hideous.
  14. dalkowski

    dalkowski It's "rout," not "route." Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    Beat me to it.

    If I'm not mistook, the VI also figgers prominently in the Cocteau Twins oeuvre.
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  15. Nevada Pete

    Nevada Pete Guest

    Nov 22, 2016
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  16. And I

    And I

    Feb 19, 2009
    Witchtown, MA
    I am oversimplifying it or is this a 7 string guitar without the high E? I've seen it classified as a "baritone guitar". To me this is not a bass at all...
  17. matante


    Nov 3, 2003
    In the first video, Robert is playing a P Bass. In the second, he's playing his Jaguar/Jazzmaster guitar. Supposedly he plays the Bass VI on the old albums but you don't see him use it live til about '85/'86.
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  18. matante


    Nov 3, 2003
    It's tuned just like a regular guitar except it's an octave lower.
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  19. Stinkoman20xx


    Oct 19, 2003
    It's not a baritone guitar. You are right a baritone is tuned B-B. It is a bass tuned an octave below guitar on the lowest 4 strings like a bass. The high B-E on the bass VI are tuned to pitch of the lowest 2 strings on a 7 string guitar.
  20. selowitch

    selowitch Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Rockville MD
    I have a PRS baritone that is terrific but it is a different beast than the Bass VI.
    I owned an Ibanez SRC6 briefly and a Squier Bass VI but never could quite bond with either one.
    As it turns out, the PRS was more what I was looking for.
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