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When does a bass become something else?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by T.O.Bass, Sep 19, 2008.

  1. I posed this question in the Jaw Dropping Basses thread regarding a 11 string Conklin, but to avoid derailing that thread it, I've started this one.

    First off, PLEASE, do not turn this into a flame war. I think the 11 string is pretty amazing. One day I may even summon up the finances to get one for myself and tackle the daunting task of learning to play it. I'm not trying to start an argument; this is not about opinions and what we think is better. This is a legitimate question and merits discussion. That said, here's my question:

    How do we define bass guitar? With innovations in deisgn, what we consider a bass today is vastly different than what was considered a bass forty years ago. A 11 string bass is certainly constructed with the same underlying principles as a 4 string, but to say they are are the same instrument is to ignore the fact that they have obvious structural differences and vastly different sonic capabilities. The example I used in the other thread was along the lines of "What about a 15 string bass? 20? What it's got 30 strings and needs a stand to be supported?" When do innovations and changes in design require that we establish a new way of classifying these instruments? When does the bass/bassist becoming something else? Not better, just different.

    So, what do you think?
  2. ROON


    Aug 5, 2006
    Sydney, Australia
    IBTL. ;)
  3. Only when you can't hold down a groove.
  4. ehque


    Jan 8, 2006
    Um, TOBass, i told you to PM me, not start a new thread!

    Haha. IBTL.

    You'd define a bass as something derived from the bass platform. Hence, if you add 1 string to a 4 string bass, you have a 5 string bass. Add one more, 6 string bass. Not "extra-long-scale-downtuned" guitar, cos it wasn't derived from that.

    then, simply by mathematical induction, the 13 stringer is a bass, since it was derived from the 12 stringer, which was derived from the 11, and so on.

    Basses will never hit 30 strings as the lowest string would reach into the subsonic and the highest into the ultrasonic. Metallurgy and chemistry also have their limits, and the higher strings would break or slice thru fingers like butter.
  5. This certainly didn't happen with brass instruments. They are all derived from the same platform, but are strictly defined as different instruments as per their structrural differences.
  6. Oh and I started the thread because I want to hear everybody's two cents on this. I'm a sucker for debate and definition. :)
  7. UncleBalsamic


    Jul 8, 2007
    Brass instruments can be very different. Adding an extra string isn't much of a change really so +1 to what ehque said.
  8. ehque


    Jan 8, 2006
    That's cos of the snotty orchestral system!

    I kid. Brass (as well as the chamber family, i do believe) have had centuries to separate out into their respective instruments. Bass (guitar) is a relatively new instrument, and hence the distinctions between one form and another is blurred.

    I mean, you'd call a 5-string double bass a double bass, wouldn't you? And things like saxaphones have many different sizes but all are called saxaphones still.

    EDIT: And i really don't think there's a common ancestor for all the brass instruments.
  9. mark beem

    mark beem Wait, how does this song start again?? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA

    These threads always end the same... Do a search. This topic's been discussed in great detail here.
  10. Right. Lengthening the resonating tube isn't much of a change either, but if you lengthen it enough, say, on a trumpet, it becomes a tuba!
  11. I think you're kind of on the same page as me - we're watching the changes happen - which why this interests me so much. The potential for new developments based of off guitar and bass designs is astounding, like tapping style instruments for example.
  12. ehque


    Jan 8, 2006
    Here's the difference, see. If you add 2 strings to a bass, then shortened the scale length, you would think you would get a guitar. But the ancestry here is to the bass, and not to to guitar (and hence we call things like that bassVIs).

    In the same way you need to trace the ancestry of a trumpet and a tuba. I'm quite sure they don't come from the same ancestor, and are separate instruments made to work in roughly the same way, in the same way the bass viol was dragged into the violin family to become the double bass.
  13. I guess when the bassist can no longer figure out how to use it, it's not a bass to them. If you base it all on "tradition" it's has 4 strings and is played to the 5th fret, maybe 7-9 if they're daring. So, is a guy who detunes playing a contra bass? Is the guy who goes above the 12th fret a guitarist?

    The answer is..........

    just grab it and play it! :bag:
  14. john turner

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

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    the original bass that inspired all this was an 11 string, not a 13.
  15. True dat, although I lost count a few times, not because I dislike ERBs, but because.....not good at counting. :p
  16. Jared Lash

    Jared Lash Born under punches

    Aug 21, 2006
    Denver, CO
    I'm developing an 88 string bass. It's going to be so big that it will need to be played on it's side while sitting on a bench. And the strings will have to be different lengths. Plus, it would be impractical to play the strings with your fingers so I'm setting up these little hammers that will hit the strings when you press these white or black buttons.

    It's going to change music forever.
  17. LP75


    Aug 29, 2006
    "When does a bass become something else?"

    When you use is as something else. For example, if you swing it at someone, it becomes a weapon. If you put it in a fire, it becomes firewood. If you put wheels on it, it's a skateboard.

  18. Darkstrike

    Darkstrike Return Of The King!

    Sep 14, 2007
    Really, the instrument is whatever the owner wants to call it, plain and simple.
  19. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    If it (i) covers the traditional approx. 3 octave range of a 4-string bass guitar; (ii) possesses the basic body/neck anatomy of a guitar; (iii) has strings that are exposed and can be attacked with fingers or a pick, that works for me. Extra strings, doodads and funky construction details don't turn it into something else.
  20. john turner

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

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    apparently some folks haven't read the forum rules.

    just a reminder, folks : jokes/derrogatory comments/insinuations/evil glances (in other words, any kind of intolerance) directed toward extended range basses is not tolerated here. at all.

    if you have something funny or snarky to say at the expense of erb's, take it to another forum. if you say it here, you will be penalized. that's all there is to it.

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