by Lincoln Smith
Eastwood is no stranger to extended range instruments. You’re familiar with our tenors, baritones, and Mandocasters - perhaps even the Mandocellos or Tenor-Baritones of our Warren Ellis line. To celebrate the arrival of the Hooky Bass 6 Pro, we’re doing a deep dive on an instrument type we’ve visited and revisited with several of our models - the studio musician’s secret weapon - the Bass 6.
WHAT IS A BASS 6?
The answer is right there in the title! Well … almost. A Bass 6 is indeed a 6 string bass. It shares the same low-E starting point as your traditional 4-string bass; however, it’s arguably better defined as a hybrid, walking the line between guitar and bass and appealing to both groups of players. This appeal could possibly be attributed to the shorter scale, wider nut, and the player’s ability to apply all of the scale and chord shapes that apply to a standard guitar.
The Bass 6 is traditionally tuned one full octave below a standard guitar - EADGBE from top to bottom. This instrument quickly became a favorite of multi-instrumentalists and was popularly used in the studio by iconic groups from the late-1950s and 60s, to the modern day.
WHY PLAY A BASS 6?
As mentioned above, the bass 6 is a perfect middle ground between the guitar and bass. Guitarists in particular enjoy the familiarity that the bass 6 offers in a completely new range of notes, allowing them to step into a new section of the mix and apply styles and techniques normally reserved for guitarists rather than your traditional bassist. This creative edge was discovered and used extensively by country and rock bands in the 60s, before expanding to countless genres, including metal and jazz, in the following decades.
CLIP: RJ Ronquillo DEMO of the Sidejack Bass VI
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BASS 6
What we now know as a bass 6 was developed early on in the history of the electric guitar and bass. The 1950s were a hotbed of electric instrument innovation, with hundreds of contributions and patents remaining in use and virtually unchanged up to the modern day. Rhythm sections were changed forever with the advent of the electric bass - most notably the Fender Precision Bass in 1951. But it was unclear who this new instrument was really for. Bassists who desired more mobility? Guitarists who wanted to try their hand at a new instrument? New Jersey-based guitar manufacturer Danelectro put money on the latter speculation with the release of their first bass in 1956.
Danelectro founder Nat Daniel’s first foray into the electric bass market was the UB-2. With six strings and a scale length of 30 inches, Daniel made it clear that his instrument was intended to appeal to both guitarists and bassists alike. It was a first of its kind - what we now know as the bass 6 - and caught on right away in the country music market.
Picture: An early print ad for the UB-2
Never one to be outdone, Fender took notice and released the Fender Bass VI in 1961, borrowing design elements from their then top-of-the-line (though struggling to sell) Jaguar. This instrument was widely used in studios up to and well-past its discontinuation in 1975.
Today, Eastwood carries the torch of this unique and highly versatile instrument through several of its product lines. Modern artists searching for a bass 6 will be familiar with the Sidejack Bass VI, the popular, Teisco-inspired Eastwood TB-64, and a recent Custom project, the Eastwood Hooky Bass 6 Pro.
WHO PLAYS THE BASS 6?
Soon after its introduction to the world, the first bass 6 (the Danelectro EB-2) was a key component of the “tic-tac” bass sound, and was widely used on country albums by Patsy Cline, and “King of Twang” Duane Eddy.
Fender’s 1961 contribution, the Fender Bass 6 was instantly embraced by true guitar heroes. Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac, John Paul Jones of Led Zepplin, and George Harrison and John Lennon of The Beatles, have all made their timeless mark on music playing the bass 6.
Of course, the instrument’s popularity within some of the world’s hottest groups lit a powder keg, and throughout the decades became a frequent arrow in the quivers of Ted Nugent, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan, The Cure’s Robert Smith, Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante - even American jazz legend Wes Montgomery. Truly too many artists to attempt to name.
More recently, artists have turned to Eastwood to find the versatility of the bass 6 combined with modern design philosophies and manufacturing techniques. The result is an instrument built for the studio and stage, fully adjustable and ready to rock. The The Blue Oyster Cult’s Albert Bouchard prefers the sleek Mosrite-inspried angles of the Sidejack Bass VI. Others prefer the uniquely Japanese flavor of the Eastwood TB-64.
Our most recent bass 6 model celebrates an artist whose contributions to music are truly unmatched, Peter “Hooky” Hook of Joy Division, New Order, and currently, Peter Hook and the Light. His Shergold 6 string bass and his unique approach to the instrument has been an irreplaceable part of these bands’ sounds. Rightfully, we’ve introduced his very own signature model - the Eastwood Hooky Bass 6 Pro, designed to pay tribute to his original Shergold.
Picture: Peter Hook and the Eastwood Hooky Bass 6 PRO Prototype
For more information on the bass 6 and to check out our wide selection of unique instruments, visit our site and see what new tones are waiting to be discovered!