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Multi-Stringed Basses

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Ulyanov, May 14, 2001.

  1. Does anyone know when 5+ stringed basses first started to appear? Just curious.
  2. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    i think fender started experimenting with a low b 5 string in the 60's.

    danelectro and fender had 6 string basses, tuned like guitars but an octave lower, and with tight, guitar-like string spacing, since at least the 60's if not earlier.

    i'm pretty sure the first 6 string bass was in the 70's, made by carl thompson for anthony jackson.
  3. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Actually, the original 60's Fender Bass V had a high C, not a low B, and had something like 15 frets (no need for those high notes with the extra string!).

    Alembic was making 5-strings in the 70's, but they also mostly had high C's--I believe Jimmy Johnson's 1975 Alembic 5 was the first with a low B. And you're right, the bass built by Carl Thompson for Anthony Jackson in 1974 was probably the first 6-string bass tuned B-to-C. They were pretty rare until the early 80's, though, when high-end makers like Ken Smith, Tobias, Modulus, etc. leapt into the fray. By the mid-80's, folks like Ibanez and Yamaha were producing a few relatively inexpensive 5's, though 6's have still been pretty rare up until the last few years.

    That's how I rememebr it, anyway.

  4. Jimmy Johnson is usually credited with the first low B 5 string. Anthony Jackson with the 6. There may have been earlier ones, but these were the first "name" players to introduce them.
  5. Thanks everyone, greatly appreciated. I could only trace the 5 string back to 1985, when Geddy Lee played his 5 string Wal on Power Windows. At least I think he did, it was a 5 string something, correct me if I'm wrong.
  6. Actually, Geddy played the Wal 5 on "Hold Your Fire", the tune was "Lock and Key".
  7. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    yeah, geddy recorded all of power windows with a wood-grained 4 string wal that belonged to peter collins, and then got the black one made for him that he used in the video for big money. he didn't get the 5 until hold your fire, like dave said.

    interestingly enough, back then their 5 strings and 4 strings had different body styles, and geddy was the first one to get a 4 string from them that had the 5 string body style - the red 4 string that he used for roll the bones.
  8. oh, ok. that makes sense. thanks.
  9. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    The 5 has an elongated top horn. The first 4 to have that body shape was the midibass in 1989. I played one at a music fair with Pete Stevens (nice bloke) changing the patches.

    BTW I did an 'active upgrade' for an owner who didnt know that you could make them active by pulling the pots. And I didnt charge him.
  10. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    yeah, and 24 frets. the older 4's didn't have 24 frets either.

    i wrote a letter to wal in 1986 where i asked them to make me a 6 string bass - i was in college at the time, and i was going to see how much it would cost and get a job and work towards it, but unfortunately they didn't make 6's at the time. i still have their letter, the sent me a brochure, what a bunch of beautiful basses. i've always had a soft spot in my heart for wals and the way they sound. i'm gonna pick up a 6 one of these days, or who knows, maybe they'll make a 7 ;)
  11. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    Wal is one of those basses that I have always wanted and never got around to owning. I nearly got a 5 in 88 and didnt. Nearly got a fretless in 90 and didnt.

    I spoke at length to (the late) Ian Waller on the phone and he was so enthusiastic about basses and had time to talk to amateurs like me. As stated before I met Pete Stevens and he is a gentleman.
    Its nice to see makers who treat lesser mortals with respect (even if they never owned one of their basses).

    John have you seen the doubleneck ?
  12. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    yeah, i've seen jonas helbourg's - actually, doesn't he have 2? there's this other guy who had one, i saw him in an ad for his band's album with his guitarist, i think they were some kind of fusion/speed band in the late 80's.
  13. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    I had forgotten about Jonas Hellborg I think he had the first one.
  14. I'm sure I saw a Wal (Jonas Hellborg-style fretted and fretless 4) doubleneck advertised at the Bass centre Wapping for £495 a couple of years ago....I wonder who picked it up......
  15. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I remember that ad, too. He was wearing a trenchcoat.
  16. 5+ stringed Bass Viols ( like double-basses ) were around in the 16th century. I've seen 7-string Bass Viols.


  17. Is that what those things are called? I saw one of those on a tv show where a couple of people were playing baroque music, but it had frets.
  18. Yep. Viols generally had frets made of some kind of gut wrapped around the fretboard like on a Lute.

    Check out this site for some more pictures of some cool baroque instruments:


    - Dave
  19. Thanks Dave

    I remember I saw one of those at the Globe Theatre in London, on a school trip. I didn't know what to think of it.
  20. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    what's really cool are barytons - they have up to 7 strings that are fretted, and anywhere from 9 to 22 resonating/harp strings that can be plucked simultaneously.

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