Explain the Fender Bass VI

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

  1. hieronymous


    Nov 28, 2002
    Northern CA
    The Bass VI can function as either a bass or as a baritone guitar. Very few people consistently used it as a "normal" bass guitar (John Lennon, George Harrison, and Jack Bruce as mentioned before spring to mind), but the one that blew me away was Roy Babbington of later (and current!) Soft Machine - check out this footage (the second clip has Allan Holdsworth!):

    I have one of the '96-'97 MIJ reissues that I acquired in a trade in 2006. I finally dove in and started using it as a bass with other people this past year, trying to play it exclusively with standard finger style. The string spacing makes it challenging but it was fun! I managed to record a couple of things - no drums, but I think it still would have worked. The first one is fingers, the second pick:

    (Played through a Vox VX50BA mic'd with a Shure Beta 52A into a Zoom H6)

    So my conclusion - for me, it's an ERB - an extended range bass - that covers the normal 4-string bass range with an extra two strings on top.

    Glen Campbell's Wichita Lineman is a classic use of it as a baritone:

    (It looks like he's "lip-sync" strumming along at the beginning but then he starts turning knobs and plays the low melody part in the middle at 1:42)
  2. Love my Warmoth Bass VI. It's so much fun to play (I only play with fingers) and punches a lovely deep bass tone to rival any of my other "proper" basses. To the uninitiated, I'd suggest not over-analyzing it.

  3. hieronymous


    Nov 28, 2002
    Northern CA
    That is very cool! Definitely needs to be played vs analyzed - and it took me a long time to really begin to plumb the depths! Mine actually has some issues - would love to get a bridge like yours. Would also like to stop the tailpiece - it's supposed to have the option but I haven't been able to get it to work. For now it's relegated back to the case but someday I'll get it out and up and running! Forgot to post a pic:

    Last edited: Apr 25, 2019
  4. Here you go:

  5. TheReceder


    Jul 12, 2010
    I've got one... definitely not a baritone guitar.
    Mike.C. and Allatoona Rebel like this.
  6. matante


    Nov 3, 2003
    Los Angeles
    That's from a VHS concert film named "Show". I probably bought it the day it came out.
    Mike.C. and Spectrum like this.
  7. hypercarrots


    Jan 28, 2009
    i posted this in post #27
  8. 2F/2F


    May 26, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    It's just an octave guitar. That means the notes cover the range that a typical bass guitar covers, and then two more up high, B and E, just like a guitar. The bottom four strings are thinner than on a standard bass guitar, but they are tuned to the same pitches as the four strings on a bass guitar.

    As for how it can be used, that's up to you. But I consider it an octave guitar more than a bass guitar...though it does have the same low range as a four string bass guitar, just a different timbre.

    IMO, this is how to use a Bass VI. It's so good...and it would never sound exactly like that with a bass or with a guitar. Only the Bass VI can make it sound this cool:
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
  9. REV

    REV Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I saw a band once in Houston Texas and they were using one. The guy playing it didn't play lines like a bass or a guitar and it gave the band an interesting texture. Their music didn't seem to miss the typical big bottom that you usually hear with a rock band. I liked it.
    Allatoona Rebel likes this.
  10. Allatoona Rebel

    Allatoona Rebel

    Aug 15, 2018
    Glen Campbell used one way back in the 70's when he had his own show. George Harrison is pictured with one in the video of "Hello, Goodbye" and maybe on the album cover of Sgt Peppers.
    Simon Fretless likes this.
  11. pbassjbass


    Jun 21, 2013

    Fun all around. tic tac and bass vi in its own right.

    And don't forget to smile!
    Tony In Philly and Clem Lushness like this.
  12. Dabndug

    Dabndug Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2017
    Somewhere in Oz
    Tony Garnier used a bass vi, a Warwick Star Bass, and an upright when he played with Bob Dylan in Sydney last year. The bass vi sounded great.
  13. Eric Haydock of The Hollies used one at times too.

    Cave Puppy likes this.
  14. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    I haven't gigged it yet, but I've been playing jazz on a Squier VI and my old Wurlitzer 7771, which is similar but a bit shorter, using guitar-flavor fingerstyle, which lets me cover the bass parts and add rhythm-guitar body. Playing melody and single-line improvisation, to me the sound is a great blend of authority and mellow, more complex than we typically hear from guitar, likely because the strings have greater mass and tension. It can go all surfy real easy (I expect that was a target market), but it doesn't have to at all. I can see playing country gigs with it all day, but I think it's even better for blues and R&B. A little reverb really makes it happen.

    I think it's the only configuration that can be fairly and pedantically called a bass guitar.
    Dabndug likes this.
  15. boggus


    Feb 21, 2018
    Fender Bass VI appears in Beatles "arsenal" starting from 1968. They got it as some sort of freebie shipment or something like that, I assume along with the rosewood Telecaster, some amps, and also couple of Jazz Basses.

    The only Beatles songs that have Fender Bass VI in them are Back in the USSR, Rocky Raccoon, Honey Pie, The Long and Winding Road (another possibility could be Oh! Darling), and that's it! John and George used Fender Bass VI when Paul was playing piano or guitar during the times when they worked the song out or even doing basic tracks. In some cases, like Let It Be song, the original Fender VI Bass track would be wiped and re-recorded by Paul on different bass later. It was also used in couple of videos, in Hey Jude it's "played" by George, and 'videos' of Let It Be and The Long and Winding Road use footage of John playing it.

    It would be also interesting to know, which one of them ended up owning that particular Fender Bass VI after the split.
  16. Spun__Kee

    Spun__Kee Inactive

    Apr 17, 2019
    How do you know?
  17. ihaveaquestion


    Jan 9, 2018
    Here are some other instruments with the same scale length and tuning:

    The first one is based on an old Teisco model, which is used by one member in the band Blonde Redhead:

    RedVee likes this.
  18. boggus


    Feb 21, 2018

    Andy Babuik - Beatles Gear: All the Fab Four's Instruments from Stage to Studio
    Mark Lewisohn - The Beatles: Recording Sessions: The Official Abbey Road Studio Session Notes, 1962-1970
    Brian; Ryan, Kevin Kehew - Recording the Beatles : The Studio Equipment and Techniques Used to Create Their Classic Albums
    Geoff Emerick - Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles

    Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition book
    The Beatles ("White Album") 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition book

    There are more resources. However, not all of them are perfect, as there was a lot of misinformation found in Emerick's book for example, and a few errors in Lewisohn's as well. The album anniversary reissue books have some questionable information as well for example stating Lennon playing bass as an overdub on While My Guitar Gently Weeps, but overall it's all not too bad, especially if you cross-reference and put it all together.

    Unfortunately some confusion like bass on released version of Helter Skelter still remains ("it's John playing sloppy on Fender VI" is still repeated everywhere ad nauseam) and also comes mostly from some of these books as well. In these cases, "Multi-tracks" from Beatles Rock Band video game and a lot of officially released and bootlegged outtakes are a big help as well.
  19. Toptube


    Feb 9, 2009
    Julie Slick uses one from Lakland

  20. hypercarrots


    Jan 28, 2009
    blue monday is 6 string bass
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