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Should extended range basses still be called basses?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by russpurdy, Sep 20, 2013.

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  1. russpurdy


    Apr 16, 2013
    I was watching some extended range bass videos on YouTube and was wondering if some of these things really should be called basses anymore. I'm not talking about 5 or 6 strings but these 9,10,11, and 12 string beasts that have almost an entire guitars range along with the traditional EADG. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with these instruments but it seems like their primary use is quite different from how someone would use a traditional bass and since some of them have more "untraditional" strings than traditional ones should they have their own destination? I'm thinking they would fit in more with the "stick" instrument rather than other basses. Maybe "fretted harp" would be an accurate description? Please don't take this post too seriously and if you play a bass with tons of strings please don't take offence (just started playing a sixer myself). I just thought this might make for an interesting conversation. Unless of course it's been brought up before in which case forget I mentioned it haha.
  2. russpurdy


    Apr 16, 2013
    To add to my point, if I played a 12 string "bass" and someone asked me what instrument I played I would feel like i was misleading them by telling them I played a bass.
  3. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    to be fair, most of them go waaaay lower than normal basses. which definitely separates them from other instruments... ever heard a harp hit low C#?

    i think "extended range basses" covers it pretty well ;)
  4. SactoBass

    SactoBass There are some who call me.......Sactobass Supporting Member

    Jul 8, 2009
    Sacramento CA
    I don't consider those instruments basses. I don't know what to call them, but I don't see them as a bass guitar. It's more of a guitar with some lower register strings.

    For me, bass is for laying down the foundation, the groove, the thickness. Not that twangy trebley stuff.

    I'm not knocking a guy who chooses to play a 37 stringed instrument. Do what makes ya happy in life is my mantra. But to call such an instrument a "bass" is, IMHO, a misnomer.

    EDIT: of course, my post is obviously focusing on the higher register strings.
  5. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
  6. SactoBass

    SactoBass There are some who call me.......Sactobass Supporting Member

    Jul 8, 2009
    Sacramento CA
    Yeah, I felt the need to add that "edit" due to your very true post #3 about going waaay lower! I'm okay with lower (because that is bass), but higher?? Not for me thanks.
  7. bluesblaster


    Jan 2, 2008
    I guess anything lower than a cello might be considered bass territory, however I too wonder, when does it stop being a bass in the traditional sense ?
  8. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    I get the OP's point, but a true "bass" would probably only have F#, B,E,A strings and not have more than 12 frets!

    Actually, I should have kept that idea to myself, it sounds like a cool concept for an instrument!
  9. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon. Supporting Member

    More then 5 strings confuses me personally. I can easily play a 6er, but prefer a 5er or even a 4. To each their own.

    BUT.... using the initial logic posted.... as an example, is Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders) not playing "guitar" because he shreds on an Ibanez 8 string?

    I friggin' LOVE listening to cool stuff on ERBs (Jean Beaudin's Mario Bros theme is a good example), but even though these basses can be played differently than most 4/5 strings, it is still bass IMO.

  10. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    Bass is a role more than an instrument type. The ways and means to get the sound out into the world isn't as important as the ideas. Stevie Wonder and Greg Phillinganes don't really even play bass guitar but their keyboard bass lines are as good (or arguably better) than what an electric bassist would or could play.
  11. russpurdy


    Apr 16, 2013
    I guess I'm thinking when an instrument has more strings outside its normal range than inside its normal range it may be time for a new category. I'm not saying they aren't cool instruments, it just seems like some of them are almost their own instrument that could exist alongside a bass. Some of the ERB stuff I hear could almost have a funky bass groove behind it as rhythm and have the extended range instrument playing the main melody. That's my case or being a different type of instrument.

    As for 8 string guitars, if they are only adding two strings outside the normal range then I think they are still firmly in guitar land. If you had a 10 or 11 string guitar that went crazy high or crazy low that would be different. Some of the log scale 8 strings are closer to a bass than a guitar to me and should be labelled that way. A 30 inch scale with a low F is a bass in my books.
  12. russpurdy


    Apr 16, 2013
    Very good way to look at it, hadn't thought of that yet. Which emphasizes my point on extended range instruments playing high range melodic parts. Kinda takes it out of "bass" territory.
  13. ddhm


    Mar 18, 2011
    Memphis Tn USA
    I'm really surprised that the ERB players aren't speaking up on this. To be honest, I (as an ERB player, only 6 strings and Stick now) kinda find this offensive. It feels like you are saying "if it has more range than my bass, it's not a bass". That's a very narrow view.
  14. Hmmm... If only there was a a nice, short, three-word name to describe basses that extend beyond the normal range :bag:
  15. Jean Baudin

    Jean Baudin

    Aug 27, 2003
    redwood city, ca
    Endorsing Artist: See Profile
    The reason is 1) there are not too many of us, and 2) we've heard this a billion times.

    My instrument is 34" or more scale, the strings are spaced a lot wider than a guitar, and it's tuned in fourths. My main bass (an 11-string) is only a little more than an octave higher than a 6-string (and those are the super high notes that I rarely play).

    I have at my disposable nearly an octave LOWER than a 5- or 6- string bass... so from my angle I can throw the same question back at you guys? :D
  16. Seems like if you play it with your fingers, even if it's mostly tapping, it's still considered to be a 'bass' of some sort. Whatever. If it sounds good, it is good!
  17. bluesblaster


    Jan 2, 2008
    a harp is plucked with the fingers
  18. Yes, but no fingerboard. It's gotta be 'guitar-like.'
  19. Splods


    Oct 7, 2012
    Adelaide, SA
    I see them as basses, just big ones.

    A bass' design, and a bass' function are two different things. ERB are basses by design, but not by function.

    To me, I see the ERB function as a piano, but designed for people who like the feel of playing guitar. It's designed so that people can play both the bass line, and the melody at the same time, but not have to deal with the excessive size of a piano.

    I wish I could play ERB, but my right hand can only handle 4 strings :D

    For some great examples of ERB, look up Scott Fernandez.
  20. russpurdy


    Apr 16, 2013
    Honestly didn't mean to offend anyone and I'm sorry that I did. I was just curious as to what puts these out of the ordinary instruments in the bass category. There have been a few answers with explanations I haven't thought of which I was really happy to hear (playing bass lines, tuned in fourths, by design rather than function, etc.) these are all great explanations.

    Once again, didn't mean to offend or try and ostracize anyone. I started playing a six string and it seems so much different from a traditional 4 it seems like it could be a different instrument. I love playing it and love what guys can do with some multi string beasts but was wondering what about these instruments still puts it in the "bass" category. Some wonderful people have given some great reasons and thanks to those people!

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