Miscellaneous Rumbles

How To Arrange for a Bass VI


When you have a Bass VI carrying the melody in a song, what do you do with the actual bass player? Two people playing in the same sonic range can get pretty messy, I would think. Is the Bass VI part substituted for the regular bass line?


Looks exactly like the one I just bought recently. I'm interested in hearing the responses to your question.


I've been pondering this question for quite some time, Tom, so I am also keen on seeing the responses.


I don't know the answer, but when I played my Bass VI at a gig, I tried to always play in the higher registers. However the gig was around Christmas, it was a snowy night, and so my bass player did not make it (just myself and a drummer).


You don't have to play everything in the lowest possible register. A couple of notes that are sub-guitar go a long way.


Here is another interesting response which I received from someone:

"I would say keep the bass line simple, and make sure that sonically their tones are different. The bass vi could be eq-ed to bring out the upper mids and treble, while the bass would occupy more of the lower eq. Really anything goes as long as you like the sound of it."


You don't have to play everything in the lowest possible register. A couple of notes that are sub-guitar go a long way.

Yes, and part of the charm of the BVI is that when you play in guitar register, it still has a very different timbre than a guitar - thanks to scale length and string diameter (and the fact that some notes which would be on the plain strings on guitar are on big freakin' wound strings on the BVI. Very fat.)

As for arranging it with a bass, kinda common sense. If you're doing low string twang melody on the BVI, the bassist has to stay our of your way. Play simpler, stick with reinforcing roots, darken his tone (while you take care to stay bright enough). In that same vein, in a combo (as opposed to solo), you can partially back off the lows on the BVI to keep it from getting muddy and to reduce the potential for plainol low end mud (which is a different issue from low end over-busyness). The BVI/bari will still have its intended unique timbre.

For any given tune, you will probably have to work out the arrangement with bassist and drummer, perhaps at first on a measure-by-measure basis. If players' instincts don't lead to good-sounding choices, then you have to break it down in detail - sometimes down to what NOTE is being played on a given beat of the measure. Some "accidental" chords created in passing while a guitar and bass each do their habitual thing - which sound OK with guitar and bass - do NOT sound OK with bass and bass. Then you have to be careful and musically find a solution.

When I've doubled up bass content, I've also spearminted with syncopation and offbeats for one line or the other, just to keep passing tones in a melody or a bass line from stacking up unmusically. If you can find two different cadences for the instruments, with repeating complementary rhythmic figures, you can get a whole nother texture happening. Might not have that latitude when strictly surfing - and the drummer has to be intelligently involved as well.

Find some of Duane's stuff with baritone or 6-string bass, and hear how those arrangements were handled.


Proteus, I was thinking that very thing; that is, to examine some of Duane's recordings. I would be curious to hear his thoughts on this if I had the chance to talk to him about it.


Of course, what they're really for is TicTac:


Enjoyed these clips, Billy. Tic-Tac... gotta love that term (my first time seeing it).

And a PS to my earlier post: we did rehearse with the bass player, and as I recall it sounded fine. I was playing "baritone" lead lines and some high register chords.


Generally, the "lead" instrument is going to be playing with a lot more treble than the bass instrument, so you start with that differentiator. Then, as others have said, the bass line could be simpler, so that even if both are playing in the same register there won't be too much overlap.

Here's a video of MBP where I'm playing a baritone Jag, tuned B-B. Lots of reverb and tremolo (and glorious Showman-Amp volume!) make it stand out.


6 string Bass can be either a bass or a lead instrument.


And, once more, just for the record...the one with 6 strings is called a Bass Guitar. The one with 4 strings is an Electric Bass.


That's a wonderfully surreal video, Mel.

Just a lot of nice middle American surbanites out on the running track for a sunny Saturday, being aurally assaulted by a troupe of bearded rabbis playing surf music in front of the tennis court.

I woulda turned Jewish and done it free just for the experience.

Love the carnival organ, too!

The electrified longer-scaled 6-stringed instrument tuned like a guitar but in a lower register sounds perfect in that arrangement.


Without intending to cut off any further ideas or suggestions, let me thank those who shared their thoughts here thus far. This has been an interesting discussion for me.


If you listen to the Diamonds recording by Jet Harris and the Wichita Lineman youtube by Glen Campbell where he uses a Bass VI, what they are playing could mostly be played on a standard guitar. It was in the same range. In fact, they frequently did. But the Bass VI had a totally different sound than a standard guitar.


And here is Glen again singing Galveston with Steve Wariner (CGP) on a Dano Bass Guitar (there you go, Billy).


What you can do with a 6 or 7 string bass:


those squier bass vi's are good fun for the low buck...

the original fender vi's came with flatwound strings...makes a nice difference if you go that route..26-95

also to get the action low and comfy, many add a shim to neck...otherwise like the jazzmaster and jaguar guitars...raise the saddles and set the entire bridge base low



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