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VI style basses

I've been a bass player since about 1995. My first bass was a Profile copy of a Precision Bass, black with tortoise shell guard and a maple neck. It played pretty well for what it was... Until the neck developed a double warp. I then moved on to playing 5-string for a few years on a Yamaha BBN5, and back to 4 strings with a Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass. I started playing metal and grunge, which turned into indie rock, post punk and new wave, and these days I mostly play indie rock, I suppose, with a good smattering of straight up rock within.

It was my interest in post punk and new wave that brought my attention to an under appreciated style of bass, specifically through the Fender VI (or Bass VI) occasionally played by Robert Smith of The Cure. VIs are a short scale (30") 6-string bass, but, unlike most 6string basses that are tuned BEADGC, they are tuned EADGBe like a standard guitar, but an octave lower (the top strings are tuned exactly like a standard 4 string bass). This style was first used by Danelectro in the late 50s, but Fender used the idea in '61 and made it more popular (though it remained a niche instrument). It was initially intended as a "tic-tac" bass, used to play exactly along with a acoustic standup bass to provide the strong pick attack and note definition that the acoustics lacked (mostly in country music), but they were played as a standard bass on their own, as well as taking on a role most basses never did for another 15-20 years; a lead instrument. Jet Harris was one of the first to really bring this instrument and it's unique voice to the forefront in some of his surf music.

A year and a half ago, I bought my first VI bass, a Schecter Hellcat VI, and have LOVED it. The small scale and closer string spacing took a little getting used to at first, but once I got used to it, roads opened up to me Wink I've always been a bit of a chord-er on bass, but the VI is born to play chords. The B and e strings also offer some interesting new fingering choices for the fretting hand, as well as offering up notes/ranges that simply weren't available on standard bass formats. I've since added a Schecter Ultra VI to my arsenal too Smile

I really don't understand why this style of instrument didn't really catch on. They sound great, they're flexible and they're easy to play. In a way, I kinda dig that they're not popular, it does help me stand apart, and the style does catch people's attention, making them want to know more about the unusual bass they're seeing/hearing on the stage Wink

1 blog comments below

A pic of my Hellcat and Ultra:
Ankhanu on Fri Nov 18, 2011 1:59 am

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