History of the Bass Guitar
As far as instruments go, the bass guitar is one of the newest on the scene. It's a completely original component of today's bands and modern music and has not even been in existence for a century. Don't let the name "bass guitar" fool you either, the bass guitar is not actually derived from the guitar.
While electric guitars were developed from acoustic guitars, bass guitars were developed from the double bass instrument. They were originally known (and are still sometimes called) electrical bass instruments or the electric bass.
The original double bass, or simply the bass, are the massive, classical instruments that have been around for several hundred years. They are played with the instrument resting on the ground, using a bow across the strings.
The bass guitar is of course held with a strap on a musician's body and is played using one's fingers. As opposed to the back and forth of the bow on its predecessor and the strumming with a pick of an electrical guitar, the bass guitar is typically played with either plucking or slapping movements of the fingers.
It is tuned to sound the same as an original bass with of course the added benefit of being able to be amplified. In the early part of the 20th century, as music was getting louder, the bass was being drowned out and was unable to be heard. And so the quest for an electrical bass began.
Leo Fender and the Creation of the Bass Guitar
Leo Fender was an amazing man, a visionary and is one of the single most influential people in modern music history. All of these things and many more is Leo Fender. However, one thing he is not is the inventor of the bass guitar.
In 1935, it was Paul Tutmarc who developed the first incarnation of the electric bass. It was to be played horizontally and held like a guitar and could be plugged in for amplification. However, his instrument never truly caught on. It was in 1951 that the bass began earning its spot in modern music.
Leo Fender created his Fender Precision Bass, which was mass produced and skyrocketed in popularity. Gibson followed shortly there after and the bass guitar became an important component of jazz ensembles and today, nearly all musical styles and bands.
Just as with the electric guitar, Leo Fender capitalized on previous inventions, tweaked them to his own specifications and mass produced them to extreme success. While he should be remembered fondly for his contributions, let's not forget the original inventor of the electric bass, Paul Tutmarc.