An extended-range bass is an electric bass guitar with a greater frequency range than a standard-tuned 4-string bass guitar.
One way that a bass could be considered 'extended-range' is to utilize a tuning peg that allows for instant re-tuning, such as the popular 'Xtenders' made by Hipshot, however it is more so those bass guitars that have a low-B string such as the 5 string bass guitar and/or a high C-string - the 6 string bass guitar - that are most normally considered extended-range bass guitars. Basses have of course been made with 7,8,9... even 15 strings (!) with extremely wide necks and custom pickups. These too are of course considered extended-range basses.
Michael Manring's 'Hyperbass' by Zon guitars and Les Claypool's main Carl Thompson piccolo bass are both 4 string basses but with necks that exceed the standard 24 frets (24 being the 'standard' for most commercially available bass guitars). Les Claypool's piccolo bass has 32 frets whereas Manring's Ultra Bass is a fretless instrument (however if it were a fretted bass it too also exceed the 24th fret).
"Extended-range bass" does not refer to bass guitars with double or triple courses of strings such as the 8 string bass guitar or 12 string bass guitar, both of which could be considered as standard 4 string basses but with the addition of piccolo bass strings, tuned in octaves. These strings are generally played in unison with the bass strings, thereby producing a natural chorus effect.
The Ibanez Ashula bass guitar, though having six strings, would also not be considered as an extended-range bass because the first four strings - E A D G - lie over a section of the fretboard that has frets whereas the last two strings are - D & G again - lie over a fretless part of the same fretboard.
In 1975, Anthony Jackson asked Carl Thompson to build him a six-string bass guitar tuned (from low to high) BEADGC, which he called the contrabass guitar. Jackson's bass extended the range of the bass both lower and higher than a four-string. Though Jackson initially received much criticism for the new instrument, the deep sounds of the low "B" string has become a standard in many genres including metal, R&B, funk, and gospel.
In the late 1980s, luthier Michael Tobias made the first bass with more than six single course strings, a custom order seven string bass for bassist Garry Goodman, tuned BEADGCF. In 1988, Atlanta luthier Bill Hatcher also made a seven string bass tuned EADGBEA and later tuned BEADGBE. This bass can be verified with serial number and date on it. Since that time, luthiers have been adding strings to their custom basses. In 1995, luthier Bill Conklin made a 9-string bass for Bill "Buddha" Dickens. Subsequently, other luthiers built instruments with 8, 9, 10, 11 and even 12 strings. Custom bass builders have added both lower strings (such as F# and C#) and higher strings (such as F and Bb) to the six-string bass guitar.
Construction and tuning
While the extended-range bass instruments are built using the same design methods as the more traditional electric bass, some performers view it as an entirely new instrument, since its expanded range permits high-register melodies, four- and five-note chords, and other techniques.
Construction of basses with more than 7 strings has largely been the realm of boutique luthiers, with the exception of several production-run models including Galveston 7- and 8-string basses and Conklin Groove-Tools line of 7-string basses. Some extended-range basses are tailor-made to a player's specific preferences, including much variation in scale length, appearance, and electronics. Due to the fact that the scale length of a typical bass guitar (34" or 35") produces excessive tension on the highest strings of extended-range basses, many builders opt to use slanted or fanned frets to achieve a variable-scale instrument (such as the instruments by Novax Guitars ) and prevent these strings from breaking.
Usually, extended-range basses are tuned in 4ths, and the most common methods include tuning 7-string bass to F#BEADGC or BEADGCF, an 8-string to F#BEADGCF, a 9-string to F#BEADGCFBb, a 10-string to C#F#BEADGCFBb or F#BEADGCFBbEb, an 11-string to C#F#BEADGCFBbEb or F#BEADGCFBbEbAb, and a 12-string to C#F#BEADGCFBbEbAb or BEADGCFBbEbAbDbGb.
The techniques used to play the extended-range bass are virtually identical to those used for standard 4-string basses, including pizzicato (finger plucking) or user of a plectrum (a.k.a. 'pick'), the slap and pop technique and tapping.
The upper strings of an extended-range bass allow bassists to adopt playing styles of the electric guitar. One such style is the practice of "comping", or playing a rhythmic chordal accompaniment to an improvised solo. The increased polyphony of extended-range basses allows for voicings of five or more notes, as well as wider voicings such as "drop 3", "drop 2+4" and "spreads." Walking a bassline and comping at the same time is also possible, which is useful in jazz combos lacking a chordal instrument, or in accompaniment of a chordal instrument during their solo. Two bassists notable for adopting this style are Todd Johnson and Oteil Burbridge.
The added strings of the extended-range bass compound the muting problems that many bassists encounter. Because of the sympathetic vibration of the bass, a plucked note will cause that same note (and its octaves) to sound on all strings if left unmuted. Extended-range bassists often turn to hairbands or advancing muting techniques, including the "floating thumb" technique (allowing the thumb of the plucking hand to mute lower strings), to achieve a good sound.
Many extended-range bassists, because of the extreme range of their instruments, choose to practice a technique called "two-handed tapping," in which the player uses both hands on the fretboard to press down the strings and creates sound with both hands (similar to the way one plays a Chapman Stick). By using both hands, extended-range bassists can create sophisticated chordings, harmonies, melodies, and contrapuntal music.
The role that the extended-range bass plays in music is still largely a matter of situation and personal preference. Many extended-range bassists play the bass part in bands, but many also perform their instrument in a solo setting, often using advanced techniques such as two-handed tapping or chording. Still others are exploring the extended-range bass's potential through the art of looping by layering complex bass parts, melodies, and harmonies on top of each other.
5 Strings, Primary
- Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse
- Derek Boyer of Suffocation
- Erlend Caspersen of Spawn of Possession, Deeds of Flesh
- Felipe Andreoli
- Kelly Conlon
- Mike Flores of Origin
- Ryan Martinie of Mudvayne
- Steve DiGiorgio of Soen, Death
- Steve "Fuzz" Kmak of Disturbed
- Fieldy of KoRn
- Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue (Played a custom 15 string bass)
- Doris Yeh of Chthonic
- Sandra van Eldik of Equilibrium
- Jaroslav Beran of Exekučně Zabaveno
6+ Strings, Primary
- Adrian Lambert of Biomechanical
- ChaotH of Unexpect
- Dominic "Forest" Lapointe of Quo Vadis
- Jean Baudin of Nuclear Rabbit, Voodoo Gods
- Jeff Hughell of Six Feet Under
- Jeroen Paul Thesseling of Pestilence, Obscura
- John Myung of Dream Theater
- Josh Gurner of Hacktivist
- Sami Hinkka of Ensiferum
- Stephan Fimmers of Necrophagist
- BILL DICKENS - "The Buddha of Bass": Stevie Wonder and Bill Dicken Jamming at X2 Wireless
- Edo Castro Homepage
- Igor Saavedra Official Website
- Jimmy Haslip Official Website
- John Patitucci Home Page
- Steve Bailey - That Bass Player Dude
- 9 String Bass
- Les Claypool - Electric Apricot: Quest For Festeroo - In Theaters Now
- Kelly Conlon Website
- Stewart McKinsey's article, "Approaching the Extended Range Bass"
- Dave's Guitar and Bass Resource Pages This site includes numerous scale and chord charts for 5 and 6 string basses.