Fender Bass VI

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Fender Bass VI
Fender Bass VI.jpg
Manufacturer Fender
Period 1961—1975, 2006, 2013-present
Body type Solid
Neck joint Bolt-on
Scale 30"
Body Alder
Neck Quartersawn Maple, C-shaped
Fretboard Rosewood
Bridge Vintage-style "floating" tremolo with tremolo lock button
Pickup(s) 3 single pole, originally Strat style, Custom Jaguar from 1963
Colors available
3-Tone Sunburst

The Fender Bass VI, originally known as the Fender VI, is a six-string electric bass guitar made by Fender.

Design concept and history[edit]

The Fender VI was released in 1961, and followed the concept of the Danelectro six-string bass released in 1956, having six strings tuned E to E, an octave below the Spanish guitar. Its other ancestor was the Fender Jazzmaster, with which it shared 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 in having six strings, a shorter scale and thinner strings, and a mechanical vibrato arm. The Bass VI never caught on to the extent that the four string Precision Bass and its derivatives did. The model was discontinued in 1975.


In 2006, the Fender Custom Shop released a recreation of the Bass VI, featuring three single-coil pickups and identical electronics. This format was previously available as a 1962 vintage reissue model made by Fender Japan in 1995.

In 2013 Fender released a Bass VI model as part of its Pawn Shop series. In line with the series' purpose to reconfigure classic Fender designs, the new Bass VI has a bridge humbucker and a Stratocaster-style five-position pickup selector instead of multiple switches.[1] 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.

Also in 2013, Squier released a Bass VI as part of the Vintage Modified series. This model was similar to the traditional Bass VI design with four 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 a three-colour sunburst finish, Olympic White with a brown tortoiseshell pickguard and black with a white pickguard.


Fender Bass VI string set.

Like other Fenders of the time, the Fender VI had a 7.25-inch fingerboard radius. The Fender VI, along with the Jaguar, the Jazzmaster and the Electric XII, was 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.

  • Solid body (alder) fretted electric bass guitar, six strings in six 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.


The original issue Bass VI had three Stratocaster-style single coil pickups, which were mounted in special chrome rings and were controlled by a panel of three on/off slider switches rather than the 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, the Bass VI switch panel and two unique "toothed" pickups. With only two pickups to control, on the Jaguar the third slider switch served as a bass cut (also known as "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 bass-cut. This remained the setup of the Bass VI throughout its remaining twelve years of continuous production.[2]

Electronics mentioned above were all passive elctronics.

  • Three pickup on/off slider switches.
  • Tone control slider switch (bass cut-off, or "strangle") (not on very early models).
  • Volume control potentiometer.
  • Tone control (treble cut-off) potentiometer.

Vibrato Arm[edit]

The vibrato 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.

Related instruments[edit]

In 2004, Fender issued the Fender Jaguar Baritone Custom (later renamed "Jaguar Bass VI Custom"), which in format was a combination of the Bass VI and the Fender Jaguar. The Jaguar Baritone Custom used the same string gauges and tuning as the Bass VI, but differed in that it has a Jaguar-shaped body, two pickups with Jaguar-style switching options, a fixed bridge and a shorter 28.5-inch scale length.

Notable players[edit]

Robert Smith playing a Bass VI live with The Cure
  • In the 1970s, Henk Bruysten of the Dutch band Hank the Knife an the Jets used the six-string bass.
  • The first to use the Bass VI in the UK was the former 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 Harris), and used it on "Thunderbirds", "Zero X Theme", "Stingray" and the instrumental version of "My Way" (within the "Finders Keepers Medley"). Harris used a Fender Bass VI during the recording of "Diamonds" (with Tony Meehan) in 1963, and also used this bass live on the Wembley Musical Express.
  • In the early 1960s some artists used heavy guitar strings tuned the Bass VI to a baritone guitar (from B to B or A to A). 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) 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 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-track bass and guitar parts 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.
  • 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."[3]
  • 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 in 1969-70, and also as a session musician with Duster Bennett (also known as "Peter Blue") and Peter Bardens among others.
  • Steve Kilbey, the singer-bassist in The Church, has used the Bass VI on many recordings, as early as the 1983-84 Remote Luxury and Persia EPs.
  • During the guitar collection scene of This is Spinal Tap, Nigel Tufnel's extremely special guitar is 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, just two Sea Foam Green Bass VIs of that vintage exist.
  • Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal of Placebo play 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."[5]
  • Luther Perkins, Johnny Cash's first guitarist, played a Bass VI on "Happy to Be with You". That guitar is currently being shown at the Country Music Hall Of Fame and Museum.
  • Peter Kimberley of UK rock band Bachdenkel played one both on live gigs and on studio albums.
  • When Johnny Marr played in The Cribs, his Bass VI was used on their 2009 album Ignore The Ignorant, notably on "Save Your Secrets". Guitarist Ryan Jarman played it during live shows. Following Marr's departure in 2011, songs recorded with the instrument have not been played live.
  • Mercy Harper, bassist of the Houston emo trio Football, etc., uses the Bass VI extensively.
  • Paul Abrahams, bassist for The Reels, played live and recorded with a Bass VI on The Reels (1979) and Quasimodo's Dream (1981) albums. His instrument can be seen in many of The Reels' early videos. It was painted black and had its tremolo arm and bridge cover (mute) removed.
  • Producer Mike McCarthy talked about using the Fender Bass VI on records in a December 2007 Mix Magazine article.[6]
  • [Ted Nugent]] used a Fender Bass VI on the instrumental "Sunrize" from album Hunt Musiccompilation album (2004) and on the songs "Little Miss Dangerous" and "At Home There" from album Craveman (2002).
  • 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 1970s, in the band Odyssey with Terje Rypdal, among other bands and projects.
  • Another Norwegian bassist, Jørun Bøgeberg, has used the Fender VI as his main instrument 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 played on.



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