The first fretless bass guitar was made by Bill Wyman in 1961 when he converted a used UK-built ‘Dallas Tuxedo’ bass by removing the frets and filling in the slots with wood putty.[25][26][27] The first production fretless bass was the Ampeg AUB-1 introduced in 1966, and Fender introduced a fretless Precision Bass in 1970. Around 1970, Rick Danko from The Band began to use an Ampeg fretless, which he modified with Fender pickups—as heard on the 1971 Cahoots studio album and the Rock of Ages album recorded live in 1971.[28][29] Danko said, "It's a challenge to play fretless because you have to really use your ear."[30] In the early 1970s, fusion-jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius had the fingerboard of his de-fretted Fender Jazz Bass coated in epoxy resin, allowing him to use roundwound strings for a brighter sound.[31] Some fretless basses have "fret line" markers inlaid in the fingerboard as a guide, while others only use guide marks on the side of the neck.
Most electric bass guitars use magnetic pickups. The vibrations of the instrument's ferrous metal strings within the magnetic field of the permanent magnets in magnetic pickups produce small variations in the magnetic flux threading the coils of the pickups. This in turn produces small electrical voltages in the coils. Many bass players connect the signal from the bass guitar's pickups to a bass amplifier and loudspeaker using a 1/4" patch cord. These low-level signals are then strengthened by the bass amp's preamplifier electronic circuits, and then amplified with the bass amp's power amplifier and played through one or more speaker(s) in a cabinet.
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Some basses, particularly expensive boutique instruments or custom-made guitars, use more unusual pickup configurations. Examples include a soapbar and a "P" pickup (found on some Fender basses), bassist Stu Hamm's "Urge" basses, which have a "P" pickup sandwiched between two "J" pickups, and some of funk bassist Bootsy Collins' custom basses, which had as many as five J pickups. Another unusual pickup configuration is found on some of the custom basses that virtuoso bassist Billy Sheehan uses, in which there is one humbucker at the neck and a split-coil pickup at the middle position.
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Instruments handmade by highly skilled luthiers are becoming increasingly available in the 2010s. Exotic materials in high-end instruments include woods such as bubinga, wenge, ovangkol, ebony, and goncalo alves. Some makers use graphite composite to make lightweight necks[23][24] More expensive basses often feature exotic woods. For example, Alembic uses cocobolo as a body or top layer material because of its attractive grain. Warwick bass guitars are well known for exotic hardwoods, making most necks out of ovangkol, and fingerboards from wenge or ebony. Some makers use solid bubinga bodies for their tonal and aesthetic qualities.
The bass guitarist sometimes breaks out of the strict rhythm section role to perform bass breaks or bass solos. The types of bass lines used for bass breaks or bass solos vary by style. In a rock band, a bass break may consist of the bassist playing a riff or lick during a pause in the song. In some styles of metal, a bass break may consist of "shred guitar"-style tapping on the bass. In a funk or funk rock band, a bass solo may showcase the bassist's percussive slap and pop playing. In genres such as progressive rock, art rock, or progressive metal, the bass guitar player may play melody lines along with the lead guitar (or vocalist) and perform extended guitar solos.
The Berklee College of Music in Boston offers training for electric bass players. Electric bass students get private lessons and there is a choice of over 270 ensembles to play in. Specific electric bass courses include funk/fusion styles for bass; slap techniques for electric bass; fingerstyle R&B; five- and six-string electric bass playing (including performing chords); and how to read bass sheet music.[64] Berklee College alumni include Jeff Andrews, Victor Bailey, Jeff Berlin, Michael Manring, and Neil Stubenhaus.[64] The Bass Department has two rooms with bass amps for classes and ten private lesson studios equipped with audio recording gear. Berklee offers instruction for the four-, five-, and six-string electric bass, the fretless bass, and double bass. "Students learn concepts in Latin, funk, Motown, and hip-hop, ... jazz, rock, and fusion."[64]
Bassists often play a bass line composed by an arranger, songwriter or composer of a song—or, in the case of a cover song, the bass line from the original. In other bands—e.g., jazz-rock bands that play from lead sheets and country bands using the Nashville number system—bassists are expected to improvise or prepare their own part to fit the song's chord progression and rhythmic style.
The first fretless bass guitar was made by Bill Wyman in 1961 when he converted a used UK-built ‘Dallas Tuxedo’ bass by removing the frets and filling in the slots with wood putty.[25][26][27] The first production fretless bass was the Ampeg AUB-1 introduced in 1966, and Fender introduced a fretless Precision Bass in 1970. Around 1970, Rick Danko from The Band began to use an Ampeg fretless, which he modified with Fender pickups—as heard on the 1971 Cahoots studio album and the Rock of Ages album recorded live in 1971.[28][29] Danko said, "It's a challenge to play fretless because you have to really use your ear."[30] In the early 1970s, fusion-jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius had the fingerboard of his de-fretted Fender Jazz Bass coated in epoxy resin, allowing him to use roundwound strings for a brighter sound.[31] Some fretless basses have "fret line" markers inlaid in the fingerboard as a guide, while others only use guide marks on the side of the neck.
The late Bernard Edwards, bass player with the Disco group Chic, was known to use a technique called chucking to pluck the bass strings with the forefinger of his right hand, in a manner similar to how strings are plucked with a plectrum.[58][not in citation given] Chucking uses the soft part of the forefinger and the nail of the forefinger to alternately strike the string in an up-down manner. The thumb supports the forefinger at the first joint, as though using an invisible plectrum. With a flexible wrist action, chucking facilitates rapid rhythmic sequences of notes played on different strings, particular notes that are an octave apart. Chucking is distinguished from plucking in that the attack is softer with a sound closer to that produced by the use of fingers. Chucking allows a mix of plucking and finger techniques on a given song, without having to take up or put down a plectrum. Examples of Edwards’ use of chucking on his Music Man Stingray bass can be heard on the intro and solo section of "Everybody Dance" and the foundation bass line of "Dance Dance Dance".
Six strings are usually tuned B0–E1–A1–D2–G2–C3—like a four-string bass with an additional low B string and a high C string. Some players prefer B0–E1–A1–D2–F♯2–B2, which preserves the intervals of standard six-string guitar tuning (an octave and a fourth lower) and makes the highest and lowest string the same note two octaves apart. While less common than four or five-string basses, they appear in Latin, jazz, and other genres, as well as in studio work where a session musician's single instrument must be highly versatile, and to facilitate sightreading in the recording studio. Alternative tunings for six-string bass include B–E–A–D–G–B, matching the first five strings of an acoustic or electric guitar with an additional low B, and E–A–D–G–B–E, completely matching the tuning of a six-string guitar but one octave lower allowing the use of guitar chord fingerings. Rarer tunings such as E–A–D–G–C–F and F♯–B–E–A–D–G provide a lower or higher range in a given position while maintaining consistent string intervals. In 1974, Anthony Jackson worked with Carl Thompson to create the Contrabass guitar (BEADGC). Later, Jackson brought his ideas to Fodera and worked with Ken Smith to create a wider-spaced Contrabass guitar, which evolved to the modern six-string bass.

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