Fender Bass VI
|Fender Bass VI|
|Period||1961—1975, 2006, 2013-present|
|Neck||Quartersawn Maple, C-shaped|
|Bridge||Vintage-style "floating" tremolo with tremolo lock button|
|Pickup(s)||3 single pole, originally Strat style, Custom Jaguar from 1963|
The Fender VI was released in 1961, and followed the concept of the Danelectro 6-string bass released in 1956, having six strings tuned E-E, an octave below the Spanish guitar. Its other ancestor was the Fender Jazzmaster, with which it shared many styling and technical details, notably the Fender floating tremolo. The Bass VI had a similar but not identical body to the Jazzmaster.
It departed from the concept of the Fender Precision Bass not only in having six strings, but also in having a shorter scale and thinner strings, and of course the tremolo arm (later called a whammy bar).
The original issue Bass VI had three strat-style single pole pickups, which were controlled by using a panel of three on-off slider switches rather than the more conventional three-position switch. When the Fender Jaguar was released in 1962, it used the Jazzmaster body with its unusual lead/rhythm electrics, and the floating tremolo, but with a short scale length neck and the Bass VI switch panel in place of the conventional pickup change switch, and two unique "toothed" pickups. With only two pickups to control, on the Jaguar the third slider switch served as a bass cut (strangle) switch. In 1963, the Bass VI electronics were revised to incorporate some features from the Jaguar, with the adoption of toothed pickups and the addition of a fourth slider switch to provide strangle. This then remained the setup of the Bass VI throughout its remaining twelve years of continuous production.
Like all other Fenders of the time, the Fender VI had a 7.25" fingerboard radius, which made them all tricky instruments to set up without buzzing, and required some adjustment of playing technique. The electronics and extra strings were ideal for a soloist, but in the 1960s few electric bass players played solos. The close string spacing and light strings might have made guitarists more comfortable, but were an annoyance to string bass players.
In the late 1960s some artists used heavy guitar strings with resp. length and tuned the Bass VI to a baritone guitar from 'B to b' or 'A to a'.
For whatever reason, the Bass VI never caught on to the extent that the four string Precision Bass and its derivatives did, even among surf music and country and western bands for which its tone colours would have seemed ideal.
The original Fender VI, along with the Jaguar, the Jazzmaster and the Electric XII, has given a bound fretboard with rectangular block inlays in 1967 - followed by a thicker black CBS-style headstock decal and polyester finishes instead of nitrocellulose lacquer in 1968 - before being discontinued in 1975.
In 2006, the Fender Custom Shop released a faithful recreation of the original Bass VI made in the early 1960s, featuring three single-coil pickups and identical electronics. This guitar was previously available as a '62 vintage reissue model made by Fender Japan in 1995.
In 2013 Fender released a Bass VI as part of their Pawn Shop-series. Going with the series purpose to reconfigure classic Fender designs, the new Bass VI features a bridge humbucker and a Strat-style 5-position blade instead of multiple switches. There are three available colors: brown sunburst with a tortoiseshell pickguard, black with a tortoiseshell pickguard, and candy apple red with a white pickguard (and painted headstock).
Later in 2013 Squier released a Bass VI as part of the Vintage Modified series, this Bass VI was more similar to the traditional Bass VI design with 4 switches (on/off for each pickup and a strangle switch) and a Jaguar style control plate. It continued the trend set by the Squier Vintage Modified Jaguars and Jazzmasters of having a non-locking tremolo plate. It is available in 3 colour sunburst or olympic white with a brown tortoiseshell pickguard and black with a white pickguard.
In 2004, Fender issued the Fender Jaguar Baritone Custom (later renamed "Jaguar Bass VI Custom"), which is more or less a combination of the Bass VI and the Fender Jaguar. The Jaguar Baritone Custom uses the same string gauges and tuning as the Bass VI, but differs in that it has a Jaguar-shaped body, two pickups with Jaguar-style switching options, a fixed bridge, and a shorter 28.5" scale length.
- Solid body (alder) fretted electric bass guitar, 6 strings in 6 courses tuned E-A-D-G-B-E an octave below the normal guitar tuning.
- Scale length 30” / 762 mm (as opposed to 34” / 864 mm for the Jazz and Precision basses) for the US versions, 30,3" for the Japanese versions.
- Curved fingerboard (rosewood), radius 7.25” / 184 mm, 21 frets
- Standard strings .095 .075 .055 .045 .035 .025 inches, Fender stainless steel, P/N 073-5350-000.
- Fender floating tremolo arm.
All passive electronics, with three single pole magnetic pickups. There were two different types of pickups used on different models: Early models had three Stratocaster type pickups which were mounted in special chrome rings and were controlled with three slider switches. Later, Jaguar type pickups were used, and a bass-cut switch was added to the controls.
- Three pickup on/off slider switches.
- Tone control slider switch (bass cutoff, also known as "strangle") (not on very early models).
- Volume control potentiometer.
- Tone control (treble cutoff) potentiometer.
The tremolo arm was the "floating" type with a locking device. This mechanism was developed for the Fender Jazzmaster, and also used on the Fender Jaguar. It was more elaborate than the synchronised tremolo of the earlier Fender Stratocaster, and was claimed by Fender to be superior, but it failed to achieve the same popularity. Unlike the synchronised tremolo, it was rarely copied by other makers, and disappeared from the Fender catalogue with the withdrawal of the Jaguar line in the 1970s. It has since appeared mainly on Fender reissues.
The most famous exponents remain bassists Jack Bruce of Cream, Graham Maby, and a number of old and current members of the band The Cure such as Robert Smith, Porl Thompson, Perry Bamonte and Simon Gallup. John Entwistle of The Who played one briefly in the early 1960s. In the seventies, Henk Bruysten of the Dutch band Hank the Knife an the Jets used the six string bass. Eric Haydock of The Hollies is another famous Fender Bass VI user. The first to use the Bass VI in the UK was the ex bass player of The Shadows, Jet Harris who played it on his debut solo single 'Besame Mucho'. Former Shadows bandmate Hank Marvin also acquired one (later than Jet), apparently still has it, and used it on Thunderbirds, Zero X Theme, Stingray and the instrumental version of My Way (within the "Finders Keepers Medley"). In the early 60s some artists used heavy guitar strings with resp. length and tuned the Bass VI to a baritone guitar from 'B to b' or 'A to a'. With this 'down and dirty' sound the Fender VI enriched 'Indo-Rock' bands with their unique Rock & Roll sound. One of those players was Reggy Tielman from the Dutch band the 'Tielman Brothers'.
Randy Bachman of The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO) fame played a Bass VI on many songs during his long career. Specifically he played a slab board 1962 Fender Bass VI through a small Fender tweed amp with the volume turned right up for clean distortion. There is a bass solo in the middle of "Hey You", a BTO song, that uses the Bass VI. Bachman also used the Bass VI to double bass and guitar tracks in many recordings. He used a Bass VI on the "Iron Horse" albums 1 and 2. "My One and Only", "Sweet Lui Louise" and many other songs too numerous to mention.
Tortoise bass player Doug McCombs uses the Bass VI extensively, especially on his solo/side project Brokeback. He is quoted as saying, "Brokeback wouldn't exist without the Fender six-string bass. I consider myself a bass player, and though I have dabbled with slide instruments (lap steel and dobro) I was never really interested in moving into the higher register until I became aware of this instrument and its perfect blend of twang and low tone. I began planning this album years before I could even afford to purchase one. It may seem ridiculous to give so much credit to the instrument, but most of these melodies practically wrote themselves, and they were exactly what I wanted to hear."
Don Ciccone used a Bass VI to record the "Who Loves You" album for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, as well as live in a few tours.
A Fender Bass VI can also be seen on the Beatles' videos for "Hey Jude", "Let It Be", and "The Long and Winding Road". It was played by either George Harrison or John Lennon ("Hey Jude", "Helter Skelter", "Back In The USSR", "Let It Be", "The Long and Winding Road") when bassist Paul McCartney played piano or guitar. It was also used by Harrison and Lennon on the band's last-recorded album, Abbey Road.
Peter Green made extensive use of the Fender Bass VI as a solo instrument during his live performances of "The Green Manalishi" with Fleetwood Mac from 1969–1970, and also as a session musician with Duster Bennett (aka "Peter Blue") and Peter Bardens, among others.
Roy Babbington used a Fender Bass VI exclusively during his tenure with Soft Machine (1973–1976), often coupled with a fuzz box and wah-wah pedal while soloing. Recordings can be heard on the Softs' albums Seven, BBC Radio 1971-1974, Bundles, Softs and Rubber Riff.
John Frusciante owns a sunburst Fender Bass VI and he can be heard playing it on The Empyrean track "Dark/Light". His Red Hot Chili Peppers replacement, Josh Klinghoffer plays a Fender VI on "Happiness Loves Company" on the album I'm With You.
During the guitar collection scene of This is Spinal Tap, Nigel Tufnel's extremely special guitar is actually an original sea foam green Fender Bass VI that has never been played and still has the price tag on it. Nigel does not even like anyone looking at it. In reality, only two sea foam green Bass VIs of this vintage exist.
Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal of Placebo were inspired to buy Fender Bass VIs with Molko commenting, "Playing the Fender VI is like playing two instruments in one, it can be treated as a guitar and as a bass. When Stefan is playing lead parts on the Fender Bass VI, he's also using his feet to play a bassline with Taurus pedals. I think if Stefan were an octopus, he'd be playing even more instruments." 
Peter Kimberley of UK rock band Bachdenkel, who played it both on live gigs and on studio albums.
Paul Abrahams bassist for Australian Indie Pop band The Reels played live and recorded with this bass on 'The Reels' and 'Quasimodo's Dream' Albums from 1978-1982. The Reels were support to The Cure during their 1979 tour of Australia. The bass can be seen in many of The Reels early film clips, it was sprayed painted black, tremolo arm and bridge cover (mute) removed.
Dennis Pendrith used a Fender Bass VI in one of the songs in "Raffi in Concert with the Rise and Shine Band ("Like Me and You").
Norwegian bassplayer Sveinung Hovensjø has been playing a Fender VI since the early 70s, in the band Odyssey with Terje Rypdal among countless other bands and projects, and he still does.
Another Norwegian bassist Jørun Bøgeberg have had the Fender VI as his main axe for over 20 years. It can be heard on his two solo-albums Songs From The Pocket (1996) and Basstard (2006), among other recordings he has participated in. Further info can be checked out at his homepage 
Souled American's Joe Adducci played a Fender Bass VI on their albums Fe, Flubber, and Around the Horn, and Sonny
- Peter Bertges: The Fender Reference; Bomots, Saarbrücken 2007, ISBN 978-3-939316-38-1
Hank The Knife and The jets
- http://www.musicradar.com/news/bass/the-history-of-the-fender-bass-vi-541018 retrieved 14 November 2013
- PlaceboWorld: Archive: Ear Candy Guitar Player (04/99).