It’s All About the Bass

You might have seen bass guitarists plucking, popping, slapping, tapping and thumping his or her way through a concert. But the thing is, unlike the lead guitarist whose instrument you can hear piercing the air, you can hardly hear the bass humming underneath all the other musical instruments. A review of bass strings such this one explains the differences but we have to ask – if you can hardly hear it, why let the bass guitarist do his thing anyway? The answer lies in the fact that people who stage concerts want to develop several layers of complementing and contrasting sounds that eventually make for a rich fusion of melody. And the low vibrations of the bass guitar contribute to that fusion greatly.


Before the 1950s, double bass was the most prevalent musical instrument that provided any concert that deep, low booming or humming sound that smoothens or balances the sounds of the other string instruments. Almost all the great composers of our age have written concerts or solos for the double bass making its distinctive sound popular among music enthusiasts. However, the double bass is a cumbersome instrument both wide and tall that has such a sonorous vibration that it was difficult to extend its sound range to a large concert hall. Likewise, its audible quality can easily be overwhelmed or canceled out by any other musical instrument that it is paired with or any other sound for that matter.


The lowest pitch a double bass can reach is 31Hz. 20 Hz is the lowest sound that the human hearing can still define as a pitch under pristine condition. Pristine conditions mean that there are no other sounds heard. So pairing the double bass with almost any other musical instrument, or sound or noise can make the instrument’s melody recede into the background. Therefore, there was a great need to amplify the sound of this musical instrument to bring it to the masses. This was when people started looking for an alternative to the double bass that can afford the same resonance but with more portability and has the capacity for a wider audible range.


The role of the bass guitar as a musical complement to concerts and musical recording have been more appreciated and expected as well over years now since their discovery. The deep resonance affords whatever composition being played a multi-layered effect, resulting in a richer ambiance. At the same time, the low notes help even out those too-distinct sounds being made by other string instruments like the electric guitar and the violin.


Theoretically speaking, the role of the double bass and the bass guitar is the same. However, like all specialized musical instruments, both basses provide different sounds to the composition. It is not rare to see a double bass and a bass guitar being played in a musical presentation at the same time.