How many times have you heard phrases like “This is a Classic Bass Technique”, “I like classic basses”, “Electric Bass Tradition”, and a hundred more phrases that are spread over the million articles and notes that have been written in relation with our beloved instrument?
It is important to say that I think that all these quotes are well inspired, and have been intended to show and to express respect for our instrument and its evolution. But if we analyze them more profoundly, they become completely inaccurate.
Paul Tutmarc was in my opinion the creator of the very first Electric Bass. He began our instrument’s history in 1934, building the fretted 30″ scale Audiovox #736 and started to commercialize it on 1935. So, if mathematics doesn’t lie, this year, 2011, the Electric Bass is 77 years old.
Some people prefer to count from the construction of the very first Fender 34″ standard scale fretted Bass, which on 1950 was the first widely commercialized Bass in history. I think we have to be fair with Mr. Tutmarc and give him the deserved credit for being the real inventor of the fretted, electric, solid body and “shoulder strapped” Bass.
Electric Bass and Electric Bassists started the evolution process since those years, merging from the shadows of sound and the dark corners of the stages, and slowly achieving its deserved place on the music scene. Since Jaco, Electric Bass finally proved that it was also capable of being a consistent and convincing solo instrument.
Within the fundamental and standard band/group instruments, Electric Bass is the youngest of them all. Drum Sets, Electric Guitars and Keyboards started their evolution many years before our instrument, and are still evolving. But the most important aspect to mention is that all those instruments, even though they have been experiencing all the technological advances throughout the years like the Electric Bass, have maintained their exact role and function within the band context, and this is exactly how the Electric Bass differentiates itself and stands apart from the others. If we compare what Electric Bass used to be 77 years ago with what it is now in terms of technique, function, sound, role, gravitation, and many more aspects, the differences are outstanding. The reason for this constant and accelerated evolution is very simple indeed, and responds proportionally to the longevity of the Electric Bass.
It would be wiser avoiding terms like “Tradition”, “Classic”, and “Correct”, and changing them for terms like “Commonly”, “Originally”, and “Conventionally”, etc. Those other terms help in promoting involution, fundamentalism and orthodox behaviors that damage creativity, change and the achieving and consolidation of an identity for our instrument…
The most toxic aspect comes when these subliminal ideas contaminate critics, bassists, teachers, and future teachers that will be always assuming that there’s already an “Established Bass Truth”, that they are somehow commissioned to preserve, like in Classic Piano for example which has hundreds of years of evolution, enough time to be related with terms like “Classic” and “Tradition”, (also debatable).
You’ll find people trying to force the application of Double Bass techniques and studies on the Electric Bass, objecting fingerings, sweeping, tapping, chords, number of strings, sound, and soloist role…eventually, refusing to accept any evolution related with the so called “Classicism” of the instrument. And even mort dangerous, classifying every evolution outside from what they consider to be the “Electric Bass Context”
e.g.: I play an 8 string Bass, so “That’s not a Bass”, Ergo: “I’m not a Bass Player.”
I’ve said it many times…, and maybe it’s a good occasion to repeat it:
“In my opinion, the very essence of the Electric Bass & Electric Bass Playing relays just on the execution concept, and remains intact unless you change it’s fundamental role in music… you can add new roles, but not change the fundamental one”.
See you on the next my friends…, please feel free to comment and share..!!