Many guitarists have likely thought about the origins of their instrument and where it came from. The modern electric guitar is a very popular and important instrument after all, and music would be very different without it.
While thinking about the electric guitar, many musicians overlook the electric bass guitar; an instrument that has an interesting history, and is also quite significant in music!
In the 1920’s and earlier, before bass guitars existed, musicians relied on a string instrument that resembled today’s double bass (a cello-like instrument) to play the bass parts in their music. These instruments were massive, which made them quite a challenge to carry around, and they were rather quiet compared to the other instruments, especially as electric guitars started becoming more widely used. Thus, the need for a smaller, louder bass instrument was born, and inventors began coming up with ideas.
And thus, the first prototype of an electric bass was born, created by Lloyd Loar. This prototype was, however, poorly received. It never made it into production, and Lloyd ultimately left Gibson the year he created the prototype. Luckily, however, this was not the end of the bass guitar.
In the 1930’s, the idea of the electric bass was revisited by Paul Tutmarc. It was called the “Model 736 Bass Fiddle” and heavily resembled the bass guitars of today; it looked different, but was played the same as modern bass guitars. This instrument was not that popular and did not get that many sales, but it was an important invention that opened the door to the creation of modern bass guitars.
Several years later, in the 1950’s, Leo Fender would create the very first modern bass, the “Precision Bass”. The body of the instrument resembled a Stratocaster, and became extremely popular among musicians. It was much more portable than the double bass was, and it was also much louder, allowing it to be heard better. This instrument changed the way that bands played forever, and for the better.
Other inventors soon saw the popularity of the Precision Bass, and began to create their own versions of the bass guitar. As rock music exploded in popularity, this led to further innovations in these instruments over the years.
And that is how the bass guitar came to be. Could you imagine a world with no bass guitars in it? Music would sound completely different than it does now, and musicians would have to tote around giant bass instruments on tours. Thank goodness for the electric bass!