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martin8708

Fender Bass VI , bass or baritone guitar ?

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Any one play one ? 

I am in a standard 3 piece band ( bass/ guitar / drums ) and just looking at bringing a fuller sound to the band , are they a viable alternative to a regular bass , or are they more of a guitar type instrument ?  I play some guitar as well , so looking to throw in some basic chords as well.

I have watched a few YouTube clips , most seem to play them through guitar amps with distortion pedals as they would a regular guitar .

Would a Squier bass vi be a good introduction to the instrument ? 

All comments welcome .

Edited by martin8708
Incorrect guitar type

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I must admit I quite fancied one for a while, but I went with an actual 6 string bass in the end. I suspect, due to the string spacing, it would feel much more like a guitar than a bass, and playing with fingers would be difficult if not impossible. 

I'd still like to get my hands on one and try it fist hand though. The Squire VI looks nice too, and it's not overly expensive. 

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I reckon the Squiers are pretty good for the money. Like the more expensive Fender models, they benefit greatly from bridge replacement and lighter strings than the stock ones. It's a thing for the experimental player for sure, and if you're looking to use as a bari the 30in scale makes it harder to find suitable strings. But totally do it, yeah. 

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39 minutes ago, Newfoundfreedom said:

I suspect, due to the string spacing, it would feel much more like a guitar than a bass, and playing with fingers would be difficult if not impossible. 

I bought a Revelation RJT60B on a whim, and I'd agree with that assessment. Forget finger style bass playing, slap etc. It feels like a guitar to play, and I can't help adding some reverb and playing open chords on it.

That said, played with a pick and eq'd appropriately it can fulfil the bass role if needed.

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Boring answer time but I've always looked at mine as a different instrument in the bass register, and requires a different approach to playing in the same way a doublebass, or indeed any other bass instrument does. It's just another type of sound. You can make it sound, and play it like a 'normal' bass but you may as well use a 'normal' bass in that case.

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As someone who plays Bass VIs exclusively in one of my bands (I own a Burns Barracuda and a Squier Bass VI) here's my take:

The 30" scale models with 3 pickups tuned E-E (an octave below standard guitar tuning) are most definitely basses, but with an extended upper range. The voicing of the 3 pickups allows bass as well as guitar type sounds. Don't expect to be able to play full chords in the first (or second) position on one of these though, it's just an undefined bassy mess. However two or three note chords in the upper register can work well, if you pick your notes and pickup voicings and arrange the song for it. Bar chords are unplayable unless you a have a vice-like grip on your fretting hand.

In my band I alternate between bass parts and mid-range melody lines, but we don't have a guitarist and live, the synth player takes over with a bass sound when I'm playing melodies on the Bass VI. As I said it's all about the arrangement.

The Squier Bass VI can be a good starting point, but there are a number of things you need to take into consideration first.

1. The neck is very narrow even by guitar standards. Of all the Bass VIs currently available the Squier has by far the narrowest neck. Think 70s Fender Stratocaster width, which with the much thicker strings you need very Bass VI tuning doesn't make the string spacing low down on the neck very comfortable. If you are used to very narrow guitar necks then you might be OK. I play guitar as well but all my guitars have wider necks so I find the Squier a bit of a struggle hence it's been relegated to being my spare Bass VI for live work only. On the other hand the bridge spacing is much better (wider) than a lot of the competition. IMO you have to try them all, but you may well find like me that it is a compromise between narrow string spacing at the nut or narrow string spacing at the bridge. This is a function of many of the instruments using standard guitar parts when they should IMO really be using specialised ones to account for the thicker strings.

2. The supplied stings are too light for decent bass playing - especially low E and A. This problem affects all the Bass VIs I have tried. What you change them for will depend on the sound(s) you are after. 60s style bass VI and you'll probably want LaBella Bass VI Flats. If your inspiration is more late 70s post-punk (Cure, New Order) you'll want either LaBella Bass VI Rounds or Newtone Axion Bass VI strings. I like the Newtones - the lower strings are the same gauge and feel as standard short-scale bass round wounds but the G, B and high E are lighter for a more guitar-like feel.

3. On the Squier you will also need to shim the neck to get a better string break angle over the bridge. You might also want to change the bridge for a StayTrem model that doesn't rock back and forth on the posts. This is fine if you are playing MBV guitar parts, but doesn't really add anything to a Bass VI except more opportunities to go out of tune. You will also find once you have changed the strings that the vibrato mechanism now barely works with the increased tension of the heavier strings. Again this a compromise. You can have a working vibrato but only if your bass lines can cope with the sloppy sound of of the lighter gauge strings.

4. You'll need to think about your amplification if you want both bass and guitar-like sounds from one. I run mine into a Line 6 Helix multi-effects and then direct into the PA with an RCF745 FRFR powered speaker for on-stgae monitoring. Otherwise I'd need separate bass and guitar rigs to get the appropriate sound for the different parts. Again experimentation is the key to find what works best for you. Occasionally at multi-band gigs I've forced into using the bass rig for on-stage monitoring. In these cases I always find that the higher parts end up sounding like bad jazz guitar. I know it's going to sound fine FoH so I don't worry about it too much, however if you are a player who needs to be hearing the right sounds on stage to be able to get the best out of your playing, that is something to consider.

Hope all of that helps.

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1 hour ago, nige1968 said:

I reckon the Squiers are pretty good for the money. Like the more expensive Fender models, they benefit greatly from bridge replacement and lighter strings than the stock ones. It's a thing for the experimental player for sure, and if you're looking to use as a bari the 30in scale makes it harder to find suitable strings. But totally do it, yeah. 

I think you mean heavier strings... 😉

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IME if you want a Baritone Guitar get something with a 28" scale length and tune it B-B. This gives usable sounding chords with any of the standard guitar shapes all the way down to the nut and isn't too much of a stretch over a typical guitar.

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1 hour ago, BigRedX said:

I think you mean heavier strings... 😉

Yep, did, thanks

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Many thanks to your replies , especially to BigRedX for his encyclopaedic knowledge  the bass vi .  It sounds like it's neither bass nor guitar ,but a different instrument in its own right .

The squier seems to be the best way to enter into the world of bass vi without breaking the bank , 

Many thanks 

Martin

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I have a Bass VI. N.B. I also play guitar. I regard my Bass VI as a kind of hybrid instrument.

My plan is to use this bass on tunes where I want to play high-register figures, or even lead lines/soloing. For my other basses, I have 2 Spector 5-strings and an Aria EUB, so I regard this as a completely different instrument, which is underlined by the fact that I play it with a plectrum (unlike my other basses); I also use a lot of right hand muting. I even occasionally use the Twang Bar (which is not a venue for Duane Eddy tribute bands).

I won't ever use the Bass VI as my only bass at a gig.

I did need to make adjustments to my board, as my other two basses are active; so I have added a Carl Martin boost pedal to bring up the level and add some oomph; and I will at some point add an overdrive for lead playing.

 

And before anyone says it....there's no guitar in this band. Nor are we going to be adding one for the sake of the higher-register parts on a couple of tunes, out of a book of 25 pieces of music.  To have those parts played on 6-string bass rather than just assign them to the keyboards  - it's something different tonally and visually.

Edited by mangotango
can't type, won't type
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I've recently starting trying to give the VI a real go and got a Squire Classic Vibe about a month ago.

I'll try not to repeat whats already been said but thicker gauge strings are a must. 

Personally, i find the Bass VI slightly thin sounding on its own with a low output compared to a "regular" bass, but decent EQ will help with that. I've currently using a DOD FX10 Bifet Preamp and have just taken delivery of a Mantic Thug, which i am helping will replace the DOD. 

Having the extra strings is opening up a whole new world for me creatively and has me writing basslines in a totally different way to how i usually would, i'm really enjoying it and am starting to fill out more of the sound that would usually be taken by a second guitarist, allowing me to melodic "second guitar" parts in some places but traditional bass lines in others. 

 

Unless i want to downtune, in which case, ill grab a different bass. 

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On the Squier in particular I found that adding a bit more "drive" to the sound than I normally world did wonders for the sound.

Also don't forget if you shim the neck and raise the bridge to get a better break angle over the bridge, you'll need to raise the pickups as well.

For those who are interested all the bass and guitar parts on these recordings with the exception of the fretless bass in the breakdown section of "12 Long Years" were done on the Burns Barracuda Bass VI.

 

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Ibanez SRC6 is pretty hard to beat, and IMO with the right strings can handle bass parts no problem, and sound like a guitar on the higher end as well.

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3 minutes ago, adamg67 said:

Ibanez SRC6 is pretty hard to beat, and IMO with the right strings can handle bass parts no problem, and sound like a guitar on the higher end as well.

What's the actual string spacing at the nut E-E? The Ibanez site only give the overall nut width which tells you little as IME the wider the nut on a bass VI the further from the edges the outer strings are.

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