Acoustic bass guitar

Modern acoustic bass guitars

The acoustic bass guitar is a popular modern term to describe an acoustic musical instrument based on the configuration of basses pioneered by Leo Fender's electric Precision Bass. The 4 string acoustic bass traces its lineage to the lowest tuned instrument of the violin family - the double bass. See bass guitar.

Eston bass
Eston bass

Like the Fender Precision bass and the double bass, it commonly has four strings, normally tuned to E-A-D-G, making it an octave below the lowest four strings of the 6-string guitar. Like the electric bass, 5+ string models have been produced although these are relatively much less common. The physics of sound production means it is very hard to produce a usable low B string and five string varieties may be strung E-A-D-G-C instead.

There are two main varieties. The majority of acoustic basses are fretted but a significant number are fretless instead. Semi-fretted versions are also occasionally seen.

Because it is virtually impossible for a strictly acoustic bass to be heard over other instruments, even acoustic guitars, many (but by no means all) acoustic basses are fitted with internal pickups, either magnetic or piezoelectric or both, so that they can optionally be used with an amplifier.

There are also semi-acoustic models fitted with pickups and intended to be always used with an amplifier. The box of these is principally designed to produce a distinctive tone when amplified, similarly to semi-acoustic electric guitars. Thin-body semi-acoustic basses such as the violin-shaped H÷fner made famous by the early Beatles and several Fender models are not normally regarded as acoustic basses at all, but rather as hollow-bodied electric basses. As with semi-acoustic electric guitars, the line between acoustic instruments fitted with pickups and electric instruments with tone-enhancing bodies is sometimes hard to draw.

Other manufacturers, not mentioned above, include Eston, Gibson, Maton, Prestige and Tacoma.

Mexican acoustic bass guitars

Traditional music of Mexico features several varieties of acoustic bass guitars.

The baja sexto, with six pairs of strings, resembles a twelve-string guitar tuned an octave lower. The heavy gauge strings generate a large string tension, yet the guitar is built relatively lightly. The baja sexto began to be used in Texas in the 1920s with the rise of "Tex-Mex" music, where it continues to be used to play the parts which would be played by the piano in traditional American popular music. A Mexican variation of the Baja Sexto is the Bajo sexto. The tuning of these instruments is (Capital letters are an octave lower than small letters):

BAJA SEXTO - Ee Aa Dd Gg Cc Ff
BAJO SEXTO - Ee Aa Dd gg bb Ff

The guitarron (more accurately guitarrˇn) or chitarrone is a very large, deep-bodied Mexican 6-string acoustic bass guitar played in Mariachi bands. Although obviously similar to the guitar, it is not a derivative of that instrument, but was independently developed from the sixteenth-century Spanish Bajo de U˝a. It achieves audibility by its great size, and does not require electric amplification. The guitarron is fretless, the strings are heavy guage, and the action is high, so that quite a bit of left hand strength is required. The strings are plucked strongly, two strings an octave apart at a time, which is facilitated by the unusual tuning, A D G c e A. (Unlikely but true guitarron trivia: the guitarron is played by Roy Estrada on the Mothers of Invention album Freak Out!.)

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