is the fender bass vi really a...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bonespatrol, Jun 19, 2019.

  1. ...bass?

    or a down tuned guitar?
  2. or something else?

    legit curiosity.
  3. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    It's technically a baritone guitar since it's tuned an octave below a standard guitar. So, neither. :smug:
  4. BigBigGuy44

    BigBigGuy44 Supporting Member

    Jul 29, 2009
    Happy Valley, PA
    The Bass VI: Baritone Guitar or Bass?
    Find out more about this controversial instrument.

    By Jeff Owens

    Bass guitar, for sure.

    The Bass VI, recently resurrected in hot-rodded form by Fender and in its classic form by Squier, is a six-string bass guitar. It was designed and offered as a special kind of bass guitar during its original run from 1961 to 1975, and it is designed and offered as such today. It is not a baritone guitar.

    Then what’s the difference between the Bass VI and a baritone guitar? If it isn’t a semantic matter of two names for the same thing —as some suppose — what distinguishes one from the other?

    Baritone guitars are considered just that—guitars. They’re strung with guitar strings, and they have a scale length usually somewhere around 27”, which is between the standard scale lengths for a guitar (around 25”) and a bass guitar (usually 34”; around 30” for short-scale and 32” for medium-scale models). Baritone guitars almost never use standard guitar tuning (EADGBE). Rather, they’re usually tuned a fourth lower than a guitar (BEADF#B), with the fifth-string E matching the sixth-string low E on a standard guitar. Baritone guitars are sometimes tuned a fifth (ADGCEA) or even a major third lower (CFBbEbGC) than standard guitar tuning.

    The current Fender and Squier Bass VI models are considered bass guitars, as was the Fender original. They’re strung with bass strings, albeit a special set made specifically for the model. They have a 30” scale length, like most short-scale basses, and they use standard tuning (EADGBE) one octave lower than a guitar.

    You could use alternate tunings on the Bass VI if you wanted to, but that wouldn’t make it a baritone guitar; it’d just be, well, a Bass VI with another tuning. And the converse would be pointlessly impractical — slapping a set of bass strings on a baritone guitar probably isn’t going to work because bass strings will likely be too floppy on a 27”-scale instrument to be of any use, and the tuners would likely be too small to be able to accommodate bass guitar strings anyway.

    So it really isn’t just a matter of semantics. As Fender has always intended and characterized its Bass VI, the terms “six-string bass guitar” and “baritone guitar” are not interchangeable. Although the differences might seem subtle to some, they’re definitely two different kinds of instruments.

    In the few instances when Fender has offered true baritone electric guitars, they’ve been billed as just that; i.e., the Sub-Sonic Baritone Stratocaster of 2000-2002, the Jaguar Baritone Special HH of 2005-2010 and the Blacktop Telecaster Baritone of 2012-present. All three instruments have a 27” scale.

    To reiterate, however, Bass VI models old and new are considered bass guitars and have always been billed as such by Fender.

    Incidentally, the new Bass VI models don’t say “Bass VI” on the headstock. They say “Fender VI” and “Squier VI” on their headstocks, respectively. This is in keeping with the style of the original instrument, which said “Fender VI” on its headstock even though it was first billed in the 1961 Fender catalog as simply a “New Fender bass guitar” and as the “Bass VI guitar” and “Bass VI” in subsequent catalogs throughout the rest of the 1960s and into the 1970s.

    The Bass VI: Baritone Guitar or Bass?
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2019
    Seanmo, Mark 63, cosmicevan and 2 others like this.
  5. BigBigGuy44

    BigBigGuy44 Supporting Member

    Jul 29, 2009
    Happy Valley, PA
    I remembered reading this on Fender's website. Puts the whole argument to bed.
  6. thanks for the replies. to me the scale length situation seals it as well.
  7. I really want one. I'll have to pay Sweetwater to set it up or I'll go NUTS. My wife's an artist and is going to paint it Cream Style.
  8. Rib 13

    Rib 13 Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2006
    I like just saying "Its a Baritone Guitar tuned in Standard Guitar tuning an octave lower".....however, its function really depends on the user and application, so it can be quite a chameleon instrument.............
  9. Then every bass is a baritone guitar!!!
    Every Fender Precision or Jazz and most other "basses" are tuned that way. The VI only uses strings with a bit less gauge (like a 95 or even a 85 for the E-string) and it has two strings more: a b-string and a high e-string. And the distance between the strings is smaller, more guitar like (hard for finger picking).
    Some tune the entire instrument in 4th, 'cause it is confusing for bass players that the 5th string (the b-string) is tuned only 4 halftone steps higher than the g-string.
  10. Tekkers


    Dec 16, 2018
    I would consider it the true ‘bass guitar’ - i.e. a guitar with bigger construction and accessing notes in the bass range.
    Other bass instruments like bass clarinet, bass trombone etc are built like this and follow this naming convention.

    In contrast, the four-stringed solid body straight fourths-tuned instrument we all know and love bears a superficial resemblance to the guitar, but in terms of harmonic function, playing style and techniques, it’s quite different. Adding extra strings makes the differences even more pronounced.
    So I’d always referred to my instrument as an ‘electric bass’ and I don’t really consider it to be a guitar at all.

    The bass VI though, it feels much more like a bass version of a guitar to me.

    I’ve recently acquired an Ibanez SRC6 and it’s great craic, although I’m still sort of working out what to do with it. The narrower spacing and maj3 string interval lends itself much more to guitar playing styles.
  11. Rib 13

    Rib 13 Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2006
    The difference is in the build parameters, not the hz values.....also,you didnt quote the most important thing I said:
  12. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Otherwise known as a major 3rd, which for guitar players is perfectly normal tuning. Hence the dual function of the instrument, as @SpazzTheBassist pointed out.
  13. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Bass guitar is a guitar.

    So therefore, Bass VI is also a guitar.

    They are all members of the guitar family of instruments.
    JakobT and HaphAsSard like this.
  14. cyberprimate


    Mar 6, 2010
    I think Fender didn't write "Bass VI" on the headstock in 1961 because they possibly wanted to distinguish it from the regular 4-string Fender bass and emphasize that although being a bass guitar it was very much its own thing.

    Plug it in a guitar amp and with a pick it will sound just like a low-tuning guitar (I guess, I don't have one!). Plugged in a bass amp and it seems to mimic a regular 4-string bass pretty well. Watch that comparison below. I don't hear a massive tone difference between the Fender Jazz (with flats) and the Fender VI when played with fingers. I guess one has to adapt his playing to the VI and maybe play with the thumb like Wes Montgomery.

    I wonder how the VI sounds with a capo at the 12th fret.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2019
  15. When the VI was invented, the electric bass was still a very young new instrument. Fender wanted to appeal to guitar players to change or double on bass and thought that guitar players would feel more at home at a Bass VI than at a Jazz or Precision.

    I've owned a Pawnshop Bass VI and still own a MIJ Fender VI. For me it is a very special instrument with a very special sound. I would never use it instead of a traditional bass.
  16. primusfan1989


    Jan 17, 2005
    new jersey
    Baritones are tuned b-b or a-a (4th or 5th below guitar). The bass six lives in the same register as a bass or upright bass so it is technically a bass
    Seanmo and MonetBass like this.