Explain the Fender Bass VI

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

  1. Mike.C.


    Jan 2, 2016
    Atlanta, GA USA
    Honorable mention..

    Same Deep Water As You.
  2. Mike Vee

    Mike Vee

    Oct 8, 2012
    Los Angeles
  3. I took the time to add a shim to the neck, and I also traded bridges between my Squire Jaguar so I now have the style of bridge that is on the Vintage Modified instead of the Classic Vibes one it came with and then reversed it and now I finally have it intonated properly (so nice to play at the fifth fret on the E string and not sound a little sharp). The E string is still a little floppy - so I ordered the La Bella flats - $90cdn all in, they should arrive in a couple weeks, I made the jump after hearing them finally on YouTube. I will post impressions on them once I finally have them.

    I am still planning on upgrading the bridge - but the vintage modified one is much better than the Classic Vibes one for the VI. My Jaguar plays much better with the new bridge which is awesome.

    I think because I have already spent 12 years playing guitar (20 on bass) I did not have many issues moving to it - my style of bass was actually fairly adaptable to it (I still mostly play it finger style the same way I play my four strings) the caveat being I switch more to a guitar finger picking style when I want to get the most out additional strings.

    I was most surprised by how funky it plays - it is my go to instrument now for playing live, though my 4 strings still are the driving force in the studio (the VI is much more of an augment overdub instrument in that capacity).
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2020
    HaphAsSard and Dabndug like this.


    Nov 28, 2014
    John used a Bass VI on Helter Skelter and I hate to say it sounds terrible! Look for Helter Skelter isolated bass on YouTube! I think George did better on Back In the USSR, but I haven't heard that in a long time. You gave me something to look up!
  5. bigtone23


    Dec 10, 2014
    Denver, CO
    I agree, when isolated, it's pretty rough, but Helter Skelter's Bass VI tone is a perfect match for the guitar tone and vibe of the song!
    SimonSays32 likes this.
  6. The thing is that playing rough or terrible can be effective - there is a reason why Trout Mask Replica regularly makes top 10. In the world of sonic exploration it can be a texture when used effectively as demonstrated in Helter Skelter - or by Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, etc.

    Of course there is a difference between doing it intentionally and something sounding rough because the player is a beginner - if you listen to the isolated bass on Helter Skelter you can tell that John is a decent player, but his aggressive technique is leading to things like zero sustain in the bass register, lots of percussive clicks and sometimes missed notes; most of which is covered up in the mix and the overall effect of this rough aggressive playing gives the song it's well known menace.
    bigtone23 and lizardking837 like this.
  7. BenderR


    Jun 1, 2004
    Tucson, AZ
    Great thread!

    I’ve been fascinated by the VI, since first seeing one in the Fender catalog, circa 1967. When I was first learning guitar, someone told my father that I should double on bass, because there’s always demand for bass players. When I saw the VI it occurred to me that this would make for an easy transition to bass. However, I don’t think I ever actually saw one, until many years later.

    I finally got close with a Jaguar Baritone Custom, which was a 28.5” E-E instrument. I used it as a bass, but with that exceptionally short scale, the low E was too floppy. Later on, I bought a Custom Shop VI, which had its merits, but I never bonded with it. For reasons that evade logic, it just didn’t sound the way I wanted and didn’t sound half as good as the Jaguar Baritone Custom. So, for some years, I was six-less. One day, I decided to try eBay; lo and behold, there had been a run of Fender Japan VIs imported and I scored one in Candy Apple Red, with a matching headstock.

    I’ve had several Fender Japan instruments and have always admired their quality. The VI was true to form, although the pickups were piercingly bright, something that was true of a Fender Japan Jaguar I had owned a few years earlier. I bought some Fender Pure Vintage Jaguar pickups and that made the character much more to my liking.

    I can use mine as a bass and, depending upon how I select pickups, etc. the sound can go from a pretty convincing P-Bass thump to something that sounds like a Fender Jaguar’s uncle, and all points in between. I use LaBella flats and these seem to fit well with my tastes in sound and feel.

    In my humble opinion, it’s a Swiss Army Knife of an instrument. It can fill the role of a bass, but it takes a bit of practice before you can find that sound. It is perfect for TicTac bass, if you use a pick. It can get an amazingly Funk sound, albeit slapping and popping are not really its greatest strength. It can do pretty much anything a B-B baritone can do, except hit the highest 4th of the range, but it makes for a great baritone effect in many tunes. Obviously the Duane Eddy inspired material is right up its alley, and it’s perfect for Surf. Jack Nitzche’s The Lonely Surfer features a VI, played by David Gates, and the sound is great.

    Fairly early on in those thread, someone posted that it’s a good idea not to over analyze it, and think that is right on the money. Every instrument is a compromise, of some sort or another. The VI is good at many things, but it isn’t going to sound exactly like a P-Bass, a J-Bass, or anything else. If I got a call for a bass gig, I’d probably take it, play fingerstyle through a bass amp and it would do fine. IMO, it is worthy of being considered a bass (which really describes a tonal range, not an instrument).

    Because of some tendonitis, I am restricted to 30” scale basses. While I miss some of my old 34” basses, I can’t say that I suffer in any way, because of the short scales of my basses. I have a CIJ Mustang, which sounds surprisingly good, dead stock. When my orthopedic surgeon suggested that I restrict myself to short scale basses, I had a short scale Warwick Corvette fretless, made to my specs. It has J-Style pickups, passive tone controls and has tremendous sustain. The VI fills a slightly different niche, but holds its own as a bass, and is more versatile than the Mustang. It’s really an excellent instrument.
    Mike.C., Jebberz, RedVee and 2 others like this.
  8. lizardking837


    Jan 28, 2009
    Has anyone upgraded their Bass VIs? The nut on mine came loose. It still fits relatively snug in the slot and the string tension holds in place no problem.

    But, seeing as how I have the opportunity to upgrade, any thoughts?
  9. bigtone23


    Dec 10, 2014
    Denver, CO
    Never hurts to put a nicer bone, nubone, graphite, etc... nut on there. I haven't upgraded mine as the original plastic one is holding up fine for now. I just fine tuned and smoothed up the slots for my string gauge and put some graphite in the slots for extra slip. If and when it gives out or I find myself with a lot of extra time, I will change the nut on it and a couple other basses.
    lizardking837 likes this.
  10. Larry Balara

    Larry Balara Supporting Member

    Oct 28, 2018
    Did Babbington ditch the bass vi on Bundles? Sounds like a standard 4 to me!
  11. hieronymous


    Nov 28, 2002
    Northern CA
    Nah, it's in the Montreux '74 DVD with Holdsworth:

    And he's pictured with the Bass VI in the liner notes for British Tour '75, including a pic with the whole band including John Etheridge, the guitarist who replaced Allan Holdsworth after Bundles was recorded.

    That's what's amazing to me about Roy Babbington's use of the Bass VI - it shows what the instrument is capable of. I think it's so cool that two upright bassists (Jack Bruce & Roy Babbington) chose the Bass VI as their instrument - I guess they weren't used to anything other than the upright at the point so any electric bass would require an adjustment.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2021
    Mvf likes this.
  12. Larry Balara

    Larry Balara Supporting Member

    Oct 28, 2018
    But I think Roy tuned it in 4ths and Jack tuned it like a guitar.
  13. hieronymous


    Nov 28, 2002
    Northern CA
    That could be - I'm not talking about tuning - the bottom four strings are exactly the same as a P-Bass - it's getting used to playing it with fingers of the right hand that impresses me! And getting such a fat sound! It basically is a regular 4-string bass, just with two extra high strings.
  14. Larry Balara

    Larry Balara Supporting Member

    Oct 28, 2018
    Have you checked Sveinung Hovensho?
  15. hieronymous


    Nov 28, 2002
    Northern CA
    Never heard of him - nothing comes up in Google - can you share something?
  16. hieronymous


    Nov 28, 2002
    Northern CA
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