The evolution of the upright bass into the streamlined electric double bass is a history fraught with hits and misses, but with a greatfuture ahead of it. Previously players had little choice in this area with many of the early models being little more than a convienent option for practice and transport. This came at the expense of sound quality, and so it languished for a few decades. In the early development of the jazz scene and dance music the bass viol and tuba provided the basslines for the music. However with the “big band sound” competing with demands on the musicians to play to packed bars on a touring schedule these instruments fell out of favor. As you can see from the example to the right, attempts at improving the sound without amplification grew increasingly difficult (and sometimes ridiculous!). Musicians grew frustrated at the difficulties in logistics and playing the instruments, as reaching the right notes and keeping time on a packed stage was unnervingly difficult even for skilled players.
Two early models of electric upright basses shown to the left, were the best of a field still coming to terms with their vision versus technological limitations. To the left are shown two of the better examples. A metal bodied Rickenbacker (1935) and a wooden Vega (circa late 1930’s). The design is still essentially unchanged for some models used today. Both have an interesting character, and strong elements of design – especially in the case of the Vega model. Unfortunately the main issue was the lack of appriopriate amplification.
When amplification technology began to improve in the post war years, there began to develop a distinction between the varieties of electric upright basses. The first, still patterned after the traditional full bodied double bass, retained a hollow cavity on the body. While not producing enough sound to play to an audience, it was still enough for the purposes of practice without the expense of an amplifier. The second, which became more popular as the amplification techology continued to develop, went for a solid body which of course produced no sound without amplification. In terms of play, pizzicato (plucking) is the standard method but in the modern era there a variety of innovations that have allowed the use of a bow. These models generally must have a pronouced arc to the bridge, and require more complicated audio management.
Many musicans both play the acoustic double bass and the electric upright, changing when the situation or the musical piece requires. An excellent example of its sound and power can be found in Dave Pomeroy’s concert performance “The Day The Bass Players Took Over the World” . If you are interested in this cutting edge instrument please feel free to come into the store to ask for a demonstration or sample it yourself. We have an excellent range in store with the NXT Series 5 string being one of the finest, and with a large capacity to order to your taste.