Remnant of the Classical "double bass"(contra bass, Upright bass, violin bass, Ect.) it was created to allow bass players to take their instruments with them easily without the need for lots of space. it initialy had been created with frets, to make learning the instrument simpler.
The bass guitar evolved into a completly different instrument than its ancestor, a bass guitar is played with the fingers, either with the common Pizzicato or finger pluck, or by slap playing. slap bass is when a bassist "slaps" the side of the string, usualy a lower string, to produce a vibration, then can be followed by a "pop" where a player gets under the string with a finger and plucks it firmly, the string comes down on to the fingerboard and generates an almost "tinny" sound. Invented by Larry Grahm, This method of playing is used mainly in funk, but in the past 15 years or so has crept over into punk influenced music (e.g. Flea of the Red hot chili peppers although many of the lines are not as complex as most funk) and into metal based music(e.g. Les claypool of Primus and c2b3). There is a variation on the "slap" technique and that is called double thumbing. Inveted by the Wooten family (claims have been made that Regi tauhgt victor this method) double thumbing consists of a slap, followed by a pop, followed by bring the thumb back up from under the previously slapped string. This can generate very interesting sounds, including on of which sounds if it were a drum roll, soon to be known as a Bass roll. another Technique commonly used by funk bass players is when the strings are just raked across with the back of the fingers with the right hand, this is more or less used when playing chords. The use of a plectrum on a bass guitar is quite common now, although many bass players see it as unholy for anyother bass player other than Paul McCartney of Wings and The Beatles, as it takes much less technique and is associated more or less with punk music. Many Bass players dislike beign associated with punk as it has a very basic 3 chord structure and for bass, is almost always just roots of the chord. Tapping is another technique becoming more common, tapping is when the player hammers-on with the left and hand and does the same with the right, this can be used to play complex lines spaning a wide range as in paganinis 2nd caprice, originaly written for violin, the 5ths tuning of a violin made the intervals playable, but on a bass guitar, no human would ever be able to stretch that far.
Bass, is a very overlooked instrument, people think it has such little importance on music as it is not medolic in pop music, but even the simple structure of pop music would not sound proper with out the low octaves only a bass instrument can produce.
Many people are under the illusion that bass is a simpler instrument to play, as it has fewer strings, this is a common misconception, as to play a bass properly takes more technique than that of a guitar. For example if a guitar and bass were to play the same line in multiple octaves(assuming the bass player is using a 4 string bass), the guitar player would have a much easier time, as he would have less space to cover than the bass player.
variations on the instrument include:
8 string bass -
1. a 4 string bass with doubled strings, as of that of a 12 string guitar, or mandolin.
2. a very wide neck with all the strings tuned in perfect 4th intervals - F#BEADGCF
5 string bass-
a bass with 1 more sting than a traditional bass. usualy tuned BEADG, This allows the playing of a lower range without sacrificing the high end by detuning but in some cases of jazz players who want more reach to the higher octaves - EADGC
5 string basses are the most common extended range bass gutiar on the market.
6 string bass-
a bass with 2 more strings than that of a traditional bass. tuned BEADGC this is the original extended range bass. This is a very versital instrument being able to play guitar lines, and bass lines, sometimes even simotaniously.
9+ string basses-
any of these basses are usualy meant to played by a touch style of playing, which is all the notes of a line(s) played by tapping.
first invented by Jaco Pastorious(god rest his bassy soul) this gives the bass a more "upright" tone, it has its own signature "growl" to it which is completly distinct from that of its fretted counterpart. any of the extended range basses mentioned can be found in a fretless version
electic upright bass-
this is NOT a bass guitar, nor should it be played like one, this is an electric version of a double bass. not to be confused with fretless bass guitar.
Many guitarists are under the misconception that they can play bass, musicaly a decent guitar player with knowledge of music theory would have very little probelm with the left hand, the problem rests in the right, where most give up and use a plectrum, which does not always give the desired sound.
a good bass guitarist is difficult to come by, please, do not abuse them as they are luke warm water between the fire and ice of the guitar and drums.
"Wow! look at that Bass guitarist do those bass rolls!"
Since most people here seem to be ignorant of what a bass is:
1) It was NOT "based off the guitar", it's an electric adaptation of the double bass which became awkward and increasingly less audible compared to other instruments in the earliest rock/jazz bands.
2) While easier to learn than guitar, it is far far more difficult to master. Anyone can sound cool playing the pentatonic scale and power chords over and over; it takes a great more deal of musical skill and talent to be excellent at bass.
3) On a related note "Anyone who plays guitar can play bass by default" is ridiculous. If you have no sense of rhythm and can't keep a beat, then you can't play bass. Hell, most guitarists I've met can't even play the bass without making the frets buzz their first few times.
4) Bass is a rhythm instrument, with a deeper more mellow sound. Guitar is melodic (or at least mostly used for such). To say bass is inferior to guitar is also stupid.
2) A guitarist can sound "amazing" in just a couple years. I'd like to see anyone learn Victor Wooten's Classical Thump in just a couple of years.
3) "Whoa dude whats wrong with your frets? Why are they buzzing??" - Guitarist who thinks he can play bass
4) Have you ever heard a band with two guitarists and no bassist? It sounds like a transistor radio
goes great with drums
Like the original upright bass, bass guitars most commonly have 4 thick strings tuned EADG. But extended-range models with five (BEADG) or six strings (BEADGC) are available too, as are 8 and 12 string models (based off the idea of 12 string guitars).
many people overlook the bass as being simple but if anyone has any proper knowledge of the bass then they know that it is harder than it looks to play.
people may say if u can play guitar u can play bass but its not always like that. due to the basses heaviness and longer neck it can take a while to get used to!