Compared to most modern instruments, the electric bass has a relatively short history. There were many influential bass players who carved out and redefined the role of the bass over a few decade. See our article Greatest Bass Players of All Time.
Table of Contents
Leo Fender Guitar Maker
Although there were versions of the instrument as early as the mid-1930s, it was not until Leo Fender mass produced the Fender Bass guitar in 1951 that there was a real emergence of the instrument.
Jazz upright-bass players and traditional six-string guitarists were the first musicians to embrace the Fender bass. Jazz upright player Monk Montgomery was one of the pioneers. His technique of playing with only his thumb was a big influence on early bass guitar players.
The Motown Sound & James Jamerson
With the emergence of the Motown sound from Detroit in the early 1960s, a group of studio musicians known as The Funk Brothers became highly sought after by artists such as Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and The Jackson Five. Electric bassist James Jamieson, who had a jazz upright-bass background, was one of the main reasons for The Funk Brothers’ success. Through his creative and improvisational approach, he explored and developed the electric bass’s potential.
His melodic approach to creating bass lines, along with his solid groove, inspired many bassists of the time, including The Beatles’ Paul McCartney, and continues to inspire bassists today.
Bass Legends Of The 60s & 70s
Other bassists such as Carol Kaye, James Brown’s bassists Bernard Odum and Bootsie Collins (among others) and Paul McCartney, also influenced the way the bass was used in popular music. However, it was not until the 1970s that the electric bass saw its first virtuoso.
In Walks Jaco
As a member of the progressive jazz-fusion ensemble, Weather Report, Jaco Pastorius, using a fretless Fender jazz bass, demonstrated the capability of this instrument. With his horn-like melodies and solos, Jaco changed the way the world viewed the electric bass.
The Discovery of Slap Bass
We will discuss many styles of bass playing in this book, including the slap bass style, pioneered by bassists Larry Graham and Louis Johnson in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The 70s and Beyond
Since the 1970s, there have been many amazing bass players who continue to defy aspects that were previously considered to be limitations of the instrument. Along with performance developments on the bass, there has been an increase in bass guitar manufacturers and instrument makers. There is now a huge range of bass guitars available.