Extended-range bass

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An extended-range bass is an electric bass guitar with a wider frequency range than a standard-tuned four-string bass guitar.[1][2]


One way that a bass can be considered 'extended-range' is to use a tuning machine mechanism that allows for instant re-tuning, such as the popular 'Xtenders' made by Hipshot detuners. When the player triggers the detuner, it drops the pitch of the string by a pre-set interval. A common use of detuners is to drop the low E to a low D. Detuners are more rarely used on other strings. Michael Manring uses basses with detuners on every string; this enables him to have access to a greater number of chime-like harmonics.

Another way to get an extended range is to add strings. The most common type of bass guitar with more than four strings is the five-string bass. Five-string basses often have a low-B string, extending the instrument's lower range. Less commonly, five-string instruments add a high C-string, extending the higher range. Less commonly, the six-string bass guitar is used. Most commonly, six-string basses add a low B and a high C, extending the range on the low end and the higher register, although other tunings are used. Basses have been made with seven, eight, nine, or even fifteen strings with extremely wide necks and custom pickups. These too, are considered extended-range basses.

Michael Manring's 'Hyperbass' by Zon guitars and Les Claypool's main Carl Thompson piccolo bass are both four string basses but with necks that exceed the standard 24 frets (20 to 24 being the 'standard' for most commercially available bass guitars). Les Claypool's piccolo bass has 29 frets whereas Manring's Hyper Bass is a fretless instrument (however if it were a fretted bass it too would also exceed the 24th fret).[3]

Extended-range bass does not refer to bass guitars with double or triple courses of strings such as the eight-string bass guitar or twelve-string bass, both of which could be considered as standard four string basses but with the addition of piccolo bass strings, tuned in octaves. These strings are generally played in unison[citation needed] with the bass strings, thereby producing a natural chorus effect.

The Ibanez Ashula bass guitar, though having seven strings, would also not be considered as an extended-range bass because the first four strings - G D A (low)E - lie over a section of the fretboard that has frets whereas the last three strings - a lower G, D and A - lie over a fretless part of the same fretboard.


In 1956 Danelectro introduced their six-string bass (tuned EADGBE, an octave below a six-string guitar). Fender brought out the Fender Bass VI in 1961. In 1965, Fender introduced the first five-string bass guitar, the Fender Bass V.

In 1975, Anthony Jackson asked Carl Thompson to build him a six-string bass guitar tuned (from low to high) BEADGC, which he called a "contrabass guitar." Jackson initially received much criticism[from whom?] for the new instrument.

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 made a seven string bass tuned EADGBEA (the lowest six strings follow standard six-string-guitar intervals, EADGBE, down 1 octave, and the seventh string an added fourth above). A later tuning was BEADGBE, following standard seven-string-guitar tuning (EADGBE plus a low B). He later narrowed the neck down to convert it to a six-string instrument, tuned EADGBE.

In 1995, luthier Bill Conklin made a nine-string bass for Bill "Buddha" Dickens, and in 1999 luthier Alfonso Iturra made an eight-string bass for Igor Saavedra.[4] Subsequently, other luthiers built instruments with up to twelve strings, adding both lower strings (such as F# and C#) and higher strings (such as F and B♭) to the six-string bass guitar.

Construction and tuning[edit]

Construction of basses with more than seven strings has largely been the realm of luthiers. Some extended-range basses are built to a player's specific preferences, including variation in scale length, appearance, and electronics. Due to the fact that the scale length of a typical bass guitar (34–35 in, 86–89 cm) produces excessive tension on the highest strings of extended-range basses, a builder may use slanted or fanned frets to achieve a variable-scale instrument.

Usually, extended-range basses are tuned in fourths. Five-string basses are normally tuned B-E-A-D-G, with a lower B string in addition to the four strings of a normal bass guitar. Some musicians such as jazz bassist Steve Swallow tune the five-string bass to E-A-D-G-C, with a high C-string instead of the low B-string.

The most common tunings for a seven-string bass are F to C or B to F; an eight-string F to F; a nine-string F to B; a ten-string C to B or F to E; an eleven-string C to E or F to A; and a twelve-string C to A or B to G.

Playing styles[edit]

The techniques used to play the extended-range bass are virtually identical to those used for standard 4-string basses, including pizzicato (finger plucking), use of a plectrum (a.k.a. 'pick'), slap-and-pop, 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 lead. The increased polyphony of extended-range basses allows for voicings[further explanation needed] 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 lead portion.

The added strings of the extended-range bass compound the muting problems that many bassists encounter.[further explanation needed] Because of sympathetic vibration, a plucked note makes that same note (and its octaves) sound on all strings that are unmuted. Extended-range bassists often turn to hairbands[further explanation needed] or advanced muting techniques, including the "floating thumb" technique (using the thumb of the plucking hand to mute lower strings) to achieve a good sound.

The role that the extended-range bass plays in music is still largely a matter of situation and personal preference.[weasel words] Many extended-range bassists play the bass part in bands, and may also perform in a solo setting, using advanced techniques such as two-handed tapping or chording.

Notable players[edit]





Five strings, primary[edit]

Six or more strings, primary[edit]


  1. ^ Jisi, Chris (2008). Bass player presents the fretless bass. New York: Backbeat Books. ISBN 9780879309251. OCLC 226281048.
  2. ^ Overly, Mike (2003). Bass encyclomedia : how to see the whole fretboard and easily play its many chord, scale, and arpeggio fragments (1st ed.). Dayton, OH: 12 Tone Music Pub. ISBN 0965808661. OCLC 55109256.
  3. ^ Jonathan, Rosseu (May 5, 2018). "Tien suppervette basloopjes. Puur genieten!". BasgitaarShop (in Dutch). Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  4. ^ Raul Amador (August 2013). "Igor Saavedra". Bass Musician. pp. 60–77, 6th Anniversary: The Latin Bass Issue.
  5. ^ Steve Bailey - That Bass Player Dude
  6. ^ Edo Castro Homepage
  7. ^ BILL DICKENS - "The Buddha of Bass": Stevie Wonder and Bill Dickens Jamming at X2 Wireless
  8. ^ Jimmy Haslip Official Website
  9. ^ John Patitucci Home Page
  10. ^ Igor Saavedra Official Website
  11. ^ Kevin Johnson (September 19, 2013). "Bass of the Week: Esperanza Spalding's South Paw Fretless 5-String". No Treble.
  12. ^ "ERB Legend Al Caldwell". Bass Musician. December 2016. Retrieved May 28, 2018.
  13. ^ Les Claypool - Electric Apricot: Quest For Festeroo - In Theaters Now
  14. ^ Kelly Conlon Website

External links[edit]

See also[edit]