Living Legends of the Extended Range Bass
Compared to its origins in 1935, Electric Bass has been growing and developing more than any other popular instrument in terms of the technical performance and the original role it played within the musical context. The most clear and evident sign of this evolutionary process is the Extended Range Bass (ERB), which like any development and breakthrough in human history has been subject to criticism, but at the same time is admired and respected.
When discussing Extended Range Bass, it is important to understand that there are two main schools of thought that people use in determining what is an ERB:
On one side, people have chosen to define an ERB as any bass with more than 4 single strings, that extends its register, keeping the strings of a 4-string Bass (GDAE) as the “core” or basis for that range extension, and also keeping the standard descending perfect 4ths tuning of the 4-string Bass.
On the other side, due to the standardization of the 5 and 6-string basses, many people define an ERB as any electric bass with 7 or more single strings that extends its register, keeping the strings of a 6-string Bass (CGDAEB) as the “core” or basis for that range extension, and at the same time keeping the standard descending perfect 4ths tuning of the 6-string Bass.
For this special feature, Bass Musician Magazine has chosen the second approach, which is a more modern approach, without intending to imply that this definition should be the right one.
We have interviewed bassists who are considered living legends and pioneers in the ERB field, artists that has mastered, developed and advanced ERB, while dedicating their career to a given number of bass strings. This is not necessarily the same as, ‘The first ever to play,’ since establishing absolute first bassist for any given number of strings is a cloudy field.
Besides the artists themselves, musical history of the last millennia has taught us that Luthiers have played an obvious role in instrument evolution, mostly by improving the construction techniques and the material selection. The musicians have been the very vectors for the musical instrument evolution, mainly a result of their technical and artistic needs throughout history.
This expressive urge has lead bass musicians to ask Luthiers if they would build upon an idea they have, mostly asking them to improve ergonomic and expressive aspects (like the number of strings). This is the way that musical instruments have mostly evolved throughout the centuries. The best Luthiers in the world have understood that their real duty is to build for the musicians, working closely and collaboratively but never imposing their own agenda on them. As history is circular, repeats itself in cycles, here we are with one of the most dramatic examples of instrument evolution, Extended Range Basses.