Acoustic bass guitar

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Two acoustic bass guitars Vea.guitarra.baixa.png
Two acoustic bass guitars

The acoustic bass guitar (sometimes shortened to acoustic bass or initialized ABG) is a bass instrument with a hollow wooden body similar to, though usually larger than a steel-string acoustic guitar. Like the traditional electric bass guitar and the double bass, the acoustic bass guitar commonly has four strings, which are normally tuned E-A-D-G, an octave below the lowest four strings of the 6-string guitar, which is the same tuning pitch as an electric bass guitar.


Because it can sometimes be difficult to hear an acoustic bass guitar without an amplifier, even in settings with other acoustic instruments, most acoustic basses have pickups, either magnetic or piezoelectric or both, so that they can be amplified with a bass amp.

Traditional music of Mexico features several varieties of acoustic bass guitars, such as the guitarrón , a very large, deep-bodied Mexican 6-string acoustic bass guitar played in Mariachi bands, the león , plucked with a pick, and the bajo sexto , with six pairs of strings.


Eston acoustic bass guitar with no electric pickup, fretless but with fretlike markers, made in Italy in the 1980s Estonbass.jpg
Eston acoustic bass guitar with no electric pickup, fretless but with fretlike markers, made in Italy in the 1980s

The Bassoguitar built by the Regal Musical Instrument Company is likely the first mass-produced acoustic bass to make use of a guitar-like body. [1] This was an upright instrument, too big to play in a transverse position. The first modern acoustic bass guitar was developed in the mid-1950s by Kay of Chicago[ citation needed ] Harptone started producing their B4 model in 1965 under the name Supreme; production ended in 1975. They also made a very limited number under the Standel logo. Ernie Ball of San Luis Obispo, California, began producing a model in the early 70's. Ball's aim was to provide bass guitarists with a more acoustic-sounding instrument that would match better with the sound of acoustic guitars. Ball stated that "...if there were electric bass guitars to go with electric guitars then you ought to have acoustic basses to go with acoustic guitars." Ball notes that "...the closest thing to an acoustic bass was the Mexican mariachi bands, so I bought one down in Tijuana and tinkered with it." [2]

Ball collaborated with George William Fullerton, a former employee at Fender, to develop the Earthwood acoustic bass guitar, which was introduced in 1972. Production of this instrument ceased in 1974, resuming a few years later under the direction of Ernie Ball's employee Dan Norton, until production finally ended again in 1985. The Earthwood acoustic bass guitar was quite large (and deep) in contrast to most instruments in current production, which gave it more volume, especially in the low register. photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 The Ernie Ball company describes Ball's design as "an idea before its time"; the instrument was little used in acoustic musical performances until the late 1980s, when the acoustic basses were used in performances on the MTV Unplugged television program. [2] The Earthwood was quickly supplanted by the Washburn AB-40 designed by Mick Donner and Richard Siegle. The AB-40 and the more affordable AB-20 became the instrument of choice for bass players appearing on Unplugged. [3]

Folk bass player Ashley Hutchings used the acoustic bass guitar with his Etchingham Steam Band in 1974 and 1975. [4] An early user of the acoustic bass guitar in rock was English multi-instrumentalist and composer Mike Oldfield, who had one custom-built for him by luthier Tony Zemaitis in the mid-1970s and used the bass on a number of his recordings from that time onwards, a prominent example being his 1975 album Ommadawn .

Construction and tuning

Unlike the electric bass guitar, which is generally a solid body instrument, the acoustic bass guitar usually has a hollow wooden body similar to (though usually somewhat larger than) that of the steel-string acoustic guitar. The majority of acoustic basses are fretted, but a significant number are fretless instead. Semi-fretted versions also exist, although they are quite rare.

Like the traditional electric bass and the double bass, the acoustic bass guitar commonly has four strings, which are normally tuned E-A-D-G, an octave below the lowest four strings of the 6-string guitar. Like the electric bass guitar, models with five or more strings have been produced, although these are less common. In part, this is because the body of an acoustic bass guitar is too small to produce a resonance of acceptable volume at lower pitches on the low "B" string. One solution uses the five string acoustic bass to add an additional high string ("E-A-D-G-C") instead of adding a low "B". Another solution is to rely on amplification to reproduce the low "B" string's notes, or by making the body a little bit larger.

Washburn AB-10 Acoustic-Electric Bass Guitar Washburn AB-10.jpg
Washburn AB-10 Acoustic-Electric Bass Guitar

There are also semi-acoustic models, fitted with pickups, for use with an amplifier. The soundbox of these instruments is not large enough to amplify the sound. Instead, it produces a distinctive tone when amplified, similarly to semi-acoustic electric guitars. Thin-body semi-acoustic basses such as the violin-shaped Höfner made famous by the early Beatles and several Fender models are not normally regarded as acoustic basses at all, but rather as hollow-bodied bass guitars. There are also semi-acoustic basses such as Godin Guitars' "A-Series" that, once amplified, sound much closer between acoustic bass guitars and upright basses (double bass), and have been used in professional circles to "simulate" one when it would be impractical for transportation and other reasons to use a full-sized upright bass. As with semi-acoustic electric guitars, the line between acoustic instruments fitted with pickups and electric instruments with tone-enhancing bodies is sometimes hard to draw, especially when some instruments can also be equipped with a variety of pickups such as piezo pickups, the "standard" of acoustic-electric instruments as well as synth pickups that can replay "virtual" upright bass sounds and bring a semi-acoustic bass much closer to a double bass sonically. Saga Musical Instruments produces a four-string bass resonator guitar under their Regal brand name. videos National Reso-Phonic Guitars also produce three models of resonator bass guitar.


Other manufacturers of acoustic bass guitars (not mentioned above) include Alvarez, Ibanez, Boulder Creek Guitars, Breedlove, Chesbro Music Company (Teton Guitars), Cort, Crafter, Jerzey, Dean, Eko, Epiphone, Eston, Furch, Guild, Washburn, Maton, Ovation and its subsidiary Applause, Michael Kelly, Prestige, Ribbecke Halfling Bass, Sunlite, Sandberg, Stagg, Takamine, Tacoma, Tanglewood, Taylor, Larrivée, Lindo Guitars, Warwick, Fender, Gibson and Martin.

Mexican bass guitars

Mexican guitarron acoustic bass guitar AcousticBassGtr.jpg
Mexican guitarrón acoustic bass guitar

Traditional music of Mexico features varieties of acoustic bass guitars. The guitarrón is a very large, deep-bodied Mexican 6-string acoustic bass guitar played in Mariachi bands. The bajo sexto, with six pairs of strings, resembles a twelve-string guitar tuned an octave lower. The heavy gauge strings generate a large string tension, yet the guitar is built relatively lightly. Musicians began to adopt the bajo sexto in Texas in the 1920s with the rise of "Tex-Mex" music, and remains in common use to play parts that would be played by the piano in traditional American popular music. The tuning of these instruments is (capital letters are an octave lower than small letters):

Baja sexto: Ee Aa Dd Gg Cc Ff
Bajo sexto: Ee Aa Dd Gg Bb ee [ citation needed ]

Other Latin American acoustic bass guitars exist as well, such as the Bordonua.

See also

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Steel-string acoustic guitar

The steel-string acoustic guitar is a modern form of guitar that descends from the nylon-strung classical guitar, but is strung with steel strings for a brighter, louder sound. Like the classical guitar, it is often referred to simply as an acoustic guitar.

The bass guitar, electric bass or simply bass, is the lowest-pitched member of the guitar family. It is a plucked string instrument similar in appearance and construction to an electric or an acoustic guitar, but with a longer neck and scale length, and typically four to six strings or courses. Since the mid-1950s, the bass guitar has largely replaced the double bass in popular music.

Electric guitar Electrical string instrument

An electric guitar is a guitar that requires external amplification in order to be heard at typical performance volumes, unlike a standard acoustic guitar. It uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals, which ultimately are reproduced as sound by loudspeakers. The sound can be shaped or electronically altered to achieve different timbres or tonal qualities, making it quite different from an acoustic guitar. Often, this is done through the use of effects such as reverb, distortion and "overdrive"; the latter is considered to be a key element of electric blues guitar music and rock guitar playing.

Guitar Fretted string instrument

The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that typically has six strings. It is held flat against the player's body and played by strumming or plucking the strings with the dominant hand, while simultaneously pressing the strings against frets with the fingers of the opposite hand. A plectrum or individual finger picks may be used to strike the strings. The sound of the guitar is projected either acoustically, by means of a resonant chamber on the instrument, or amplified by an electronic pickup and an amplifier.

String instrument Class of musical instruments with vibrating strings

String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when a performer plays or sounds the strings in some manner.

Twelve-string guitar

A twelve-string guitar is a steel-string guitar with 12 strings in six courses, which produces a thicker, more ringing tone than a standard six-string guitar. Typically, the strings of the lower four courses are tuned in octaves, with those of the upper two courses tuned in unison. The gap between the strings within each dual-string course is narrow, and the strings of each course are fretted and plucked as a single unit. The neck is wider, to accommodate the extra strings, and is similar to the width of a classical guitar neck. The sound, particularly on acoustic instruments, is fuller and more harmonically resonant than six-string instruments.

Jazz bass

Jazz bass is the use of the double bass or bass guitar to improvise accompaniment ("comping") basslines and solos in a jazz or jazz fusion style. Players began using the double bass in jazz in the 1890s to supply the low-pitched walking basslines that outlined the chord progressions of the songs. From the 1920s and 1930s Swing and big band era, through 1940s Bebop and 1950s Hard Bop, to the 1960s-era "free jazz" movement, the resonant, woody sound of the double bass anchored everything from small jazz combos to large jazz big bands.

Pickup (music technology)

A pickup is a transducer that captures or senses mechanical vibrations produced by musical instruments, particularly stringed instruments such as the electric guitar, and converts these to an electrical signal that is amplified using an instrument amplifier to produce musical sounds through a loudspeaker in a speaker enclosure. The signal from a pickup can also be recorded directly.

Bajo sexto Mexican string instrument

Bajo sexto is a Mexican string instrument from the guitar family with 12 strings in six double courses. A closely related instrument is the bajo quinto which has 10 strings in five double courses.

Electric upright bass

The electric upright bass (EUB) is an instrument that can perform the musical function of a double bass. It requires only a minimal or 'skeleton' body to produce sound because it uses a pickup and electronic amplifier and loudspeaker. Therefore, a large resonating structure is not required to project the sound into the air. This minimal body greatly reduces the bulk and weight of the instrument. EUBs must always be connected to an amplifier and speaker cabinet to produce an adequate audible sound. The EUB retains enough of the features of the double bass so that double bass players are able to perform on it.

Guitarrón mexicano

The guitarrón mexicano (the Spanish name of a "big Mexican guitar", the suffix -ón being a Spanish augmentative) or Mexican guitarrón is a very large, deep-bodied Mexican six-string acoustic bass played traditionally in Mariachi groups. Although similar to the guitar, it is not a derivative of that instrument, but was independently developed from the sixteenth-century Spanish bajo de uña ("fingernail[-plucked] bass"). Because its great size gives it volume, it does not require electric amplification for performances in small venues. The guitarrón is fretless with heavy gauge strings, most commonly nylon for the high three and wound metal for the low three. The guitarrón is usually played by doubling notes at the octave, a practice facilitated by the standard guitarrón tuning A1 D2 G2 C3 E3 A2. Unlike a guitar, the pitch of the guitarrón strings does not always rise as strings move directionally downward from the lowest-pitched string (the 6th string from the lowest-pitched string, A2, is a perfect 5th below the Adjacent string E3).

Los Super Seven is an American supergroup which debuted in 1998. According to Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine, "Los Super Seven isn't a band, per se – it's a collective, organized by manager Dan Goodman, who comes up with a concept for each of the group's albums and assembles a band to fit." The collective has released three albums to date, with wildly varying personnel. Only Ruben Ramos and Rick Trevino are featured on all three releases.

In music, a chorus effect occurs when individual sounds with approximately the same time, and very similar pitches, converge and are perceived as one. While similar sounds coming from multiple sources can occur naturally, as in the case of a choir or string orchestra, it can also be simulated using an electronic effects unit or signal processing device.

Course (music)

A course, on a stringed musical instrument, is either one string or two or more adjacent strings that are closely spaced relative to the other strings, and typically played as a single string. The strings in each multiple-string course are typically tuned in unison or an octave.

Outline of guitars Overview of and topical guide to guitars

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to guitars:

Piccolo bass

A piccolo bass is either an electric bass or acoustic double bass which has been tuned to a higher frequency, usually one octave higher than conventional bass tuning. This allows bass players to use higher registers during soloing while retaining a familiar scale length and string spacing.

Plucked string instrument

Plucked string instruments are a subcategory of string instruments that are played by plucking the strings. Plucking is a way of pulling and releasing the string in such a way as to give it an impulse that causes the string to vibrate. Plucking can be done with either a finger or a plectrum.

Acoustic guitar

An acoustic guitar is a musical instrument in the guitar family. Its strings vibrate a sound board on a resonant body to project a sound wave through the air. The original, general term for this stringed instrument is guitar, and the retronym 'acoustic guitar' distinguishes it from an electric guitar, which relies on electronic amplification. Typically, a guitar's body is a sound box, of which the top side serves as a sound board that enhances the vibration sounds of the strings. In standard tuning the guitar's six strings are tuned (low to high) E2 A2 D3 G3 B3 E4.

Bridge (instrument) Part of a stringed instrument

A bridge is a device that supports the strings on a stringed musical instrument and transmits the vibration of those strings to another structural component of the instrument—typically a soundboard, such as the top of a guitar or violin—which transfers the sound to the surrounding air. Depending on the instrument, the bridge may be made of carved wood, metal or other materials. The bridge supports the strings and holds them over the body of the instrument under tension.


  1. Mottola, R.M. (1 January 2020). Mottola's Cyclopedic Dictionary of Lutherie Terms. p. 15. ISBN   978-1-7341256-0-3.
  2. 1 2 History of Ernie Ball Strings and Music Man Guitars Archived August 30, 2005, at the Wayback Machine - Ernie Ball
  3. Bassie (25 November 2017). "Geschiedenis van de basgitaar: van 1936 tot heden". Basgitaar (in Dutch). Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  4. "The Etchingham Steam Band".