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The Short-Scale Six-String Club—for the original six-string basses!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by lunarpollen, Dec 27, 2007.

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  1. There is already a club or two for the Johnny-come-(relatively)-lately coffee tables with aircraft carrier flight decks for fretboards ;) ;) that many people commonly think of first when they see or hear the term “six string bass.”

    But this club is for the original six-string bass guitar concept, short scale (approximately 30 inches), tuned EADGBE, like a standard guitar but an octave lower (i.e., like a standard four-string bass + two bonus higher strings). I don’t claim to be an expert on this subject (although my love for the instrument surely makes up for that ;)), so I welcome any factual corrections, suggestions, etc.

    The original six-string electric bass was first introduced by Danelectro in 1956 and followed by others like Fender (in 1961 with their [in]famous Bass VI), Gibson, Burns, Teisco, and a bunch more over the years. The early six-string basses were often used as “tick-tack” basses in the recording studio, where picked bass lines would be recorded to double the recorded lines of the upright bass, giving a unique full sound when combined (I believe the Four Seasons original version of “Big Girls Don’t Cry” is an example most people have heard). Aside from “tick tack” bass, the short-scale six-string basses could usually also perform the traditional twangy baritone guitar role well

    This club is not for instruments that are dedicated baritone guitars (i.e., instruments with a shorter scale than short-scale bass and greater than that of standard guitar, designed to be tuned A to A, B to B, or some other range where the lowest string is higher than the low E string of bass, but lower than the low E string of standard guitar). Baritones are fun and lovely instruments, but this club is for the E-to-E, 30-inch-scale instruments. Short-scale six string basses are often equipped with “choke” or “baritone” switches for use in the baritone role (some short scale four-string basses have such a baritone switch too, e.g., the Epiphone Rivoli).

    Early bass amplification combined with the guitar pickups of many of the early six-string basses meant that it wasn’t always easy to get a lot of low-end from the instruments. But in the late 1960’s, the Fender Bass VI and similar instruments started to be used in the traditional bass role by a few brave souls to good effect (Jack Bruce of Cream, the Beatles on some tracks, and others.)

    Toward the tail end of the 1970’s, the short-scale six-string found another role, that of a lead instrument in its baritone range, but not necessarily in the twangy fashion traditional associated with baritone guitar. Harry Nilsson’s 1977 album Knnillssonn featured six-string bass as a lead instrument, adding some haunting beauty to the music. But Peter Hook of Joy Division famously used a Shergold Marathon 6, often with heavy chorus, for relatively simple but distinctive and melodic leads played in the upper register, which contributed a great deal to the sound of New Order through the 1980’s and beyond, and inspired others to explore such a role.

    Today, with modern amplification and instruments, the short-scale six-string bass can easily perform the traditional bass role along with the other more-unique roles that it’s more famous for. This club is dedicated to those instruments and those who play and love them. The short-scale six-string is often regarded as a “black sheep” of the bass family by some, but there are enough fanciers of the instrument to ensure its continued existence and contributions to music for a long time to come. So if you are a proud owner of one of these instruments, post pictures and get counted!! :hyper:

    One of the other purposes of this club is also to keep a running list of the various makes and models of short-scale six-strings out there. I only know of a handful of them, so I welcome and encourage contributions by others. Post photos, stats, info, anecdotes, etc. I personally own a Schecter Hellcat VI, which I currently use as my main bass. I love the wide variety of tones this thing possesses. It can do traditional bass stuff just fine, and it can do all the other things normally associated with Bass VI-type instruments. It has three humbucking pickups, plus a coil tap switch which is great for baritone guitar stuff. I highly recommend this bass for anyone who wants a Bass VI-type instrument but can’t afford the enormous sum that the Fender commands. I’ve tried out my bandmate’s Bass VI, and I definitely like the feel of the Hellcat VI better.
  2. eboe


    Jul 14, 2005
    Columbus, OH
    let me in, with my OLP MM5 please! ;) (in the rare blue sparkle/maple neck original configuration)


    I hope to get a hellcat VI at some point...
  3. Showdown

    Showdown Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    I'm in. I'm not in enough clubs.....

  4. GradyBass


    Oct 15, 2006
    Paris, France
    I've always been confused and enraged by these basses.

    How do you play it? I mean, with my right hand, do I still finger it as if it were a normal bass, just tiny strings? Like messing around on an acoustic? Or is it more of a chordal instrument, like a proper guitar?
  5. shannons


    May 29, 2007
    W. Seattle, WA
    Endorsing artist: Ampeg
    I love these basses. The OLP MM5 & Dano 6 I had were a lot of fun to goof around on, but I could never really find a use for them in any band I was in. I guess if I was doing surf rock or spaghetti western music, I could use them. They do great for that twangy / tic-tac bass sound. But, they never sat well with the rock & metal bands I've been in. I needed a much more "modern" tone for that.

    I gotta admit though....I did play a cover of Metallica's "Master Of Puppets" using the MM5 for the bass lines one night. It was a kick watching the audience try to figure out where the bass line was coming from. ;)
  6. eboe


    Jul 14, 2005
    Columbus, OH
    they are great melodic instruments, and arpeggiating chords sound good on them too. Heck, I like to play big chords on them too. But of course the project I use mine in is very cure / new order influenced, so I can do that stuff ;)

    My friend has a 64 factory BLONDE Bass VI. It is a thing of beauty. My other friend had a bass VI reissue, and a Jerry Jones Longhorn VI. That is in my basement and I will attempt to get a pic of it soon, it's pretty nifty and it has 24 frets...
  7. Sound Chaser

    Sound Chaser

    Mar 19, 2005
    Lockport, NY
    My dad had a purple paisley Fender Bass VI in the sixties.
    Old Blastard likes this.
  8. BassBob185


    Oct 25, 2007
    Rocking Chair
    Enraged by a bass? Seems a little severe.

    It ain't that complicated. You pick it up and play it like any other bass, however you want.
  9. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    I've owned a Fender VI and Jerry Jones Longhorn Bass VI, currently I own a different JJ Longhorn Bass VI and a Gretsch Synchro Bass VI.
  10. Showdown

    Showdown Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    You normally use a pick, due to the strings being so close together (although Jack Bruce played his Fender Bass VI fingerstyle). They can fill the normal role for bass in a band (what I use mine for), or they can be played as a solo instrument with chords and melodies, or they can be used as a lead instrument in a band, like Peter Hook and others have done. In short they are a very versatile instrument.

    Ever hear the main riff on Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle"? Gibson EB6.
  11. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    Speaking of the EB-6, it's my "Holy Grail" of basses. I've played one and it was awesome!
    I prefer the solidbody version:
    but I'd "settle" for the hollowbody:
    bashbrand likes this.
  12. PICS!
  13. Hoover

    Hoover Banned

    Nov 2, 2007
    New York City

    Whoa! I kinda pride myself on being at least vaguely familiar with every Gibson electric guitar & bass made between 1957 and 1980 or so, but this is the first time I've ever heard about (much less seen) a thinline semihollow six-string bass from them. That's fantastic! Was there a model # to differentiate it from the solidbody SG-looking EB-6?
  14. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    Nope, both were called EB-6, the hollowbody came first then was replaced by the solidbody(SG shape) after a few years. Dig this shot:
    bashbrand likes this.
  15. My USACG VI replica:
    USACG body and neck
    Pickguard from Pickguardian
    My friend Alfred made the wider style bridge
    Fender Jaguar parts
    SD Custom Staggered Neck Pup
    1/4 pund Jag middle Pup
    SD Livewire bridge pup (batteries hidden under trem).
  16. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    Here's some better info:

    Model: EB-6
    Available: 1960 to 1966
    The six string version of the EB-2. Tuned an octave below standard guitar tuning with guitar string spacing. ES-335 style thinline body with double rounded cutaways, "f" holes, crown peghead inlay, right angle tuners with plastic tulip shaped buttons, 30.5" scale, dot fingerboard inlays.

    1960 EB-6 specs:
    Model introduction. One humbucking guitar pickup, sunburst finish.
    1961 EB-6 specs:
    Solidbody SG style double pointed cutaway body, 2 humbucking pickups, larger metal tuning keys, cherry red finish.
    1966 EB-6 specs:
  17. TheDarkReaver

    TheDarkReaver Banned

    Mar 20, 2006
    Lincolnshire, UK
    are these basses like baritone guitars? are they one and the same or different?
  18. Well, they usually can function well as baritone guitars (and some people tune them as baritones, commonly from A to A). But they are actually just short-scale (30") basses with two extra top strings.

    Many 4-string short-scale basses function well in the baritone role too, but the 6-string ones have a bit of an advantage ;)

    A guitar that's built as a dedicated baritone is shorter than short-scale bass, but longer than standard guitar, and is tuned to a range where it's lowest string is higher than the low E of a bass but lower than the low E of a standard guitar. Many are strung from A to A, B to B, or C to C.

    This club/thread is not for strict baritones; it's for 30" scale 6-string instruments tuned and used as basses, with the biggest string being the same low E as a traditional bass.
  19. That is a beautiful thing!!!!!

    I would love something like that but with a neck at least as wide and non-tapered as my Hellcat VI
  20. Basshappi


    Feb 12, 2007
    Schecter even offered the Hellcat VI lefty!

    However they have discontinued the lefties, I hope to find one on ebay someday (hopefully I'll have the necessary cash on hand when I do) or I might just have to go the USACG route and build it myself.

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