However Fender has offered quite a few unique and somewhat unknown instruments. Here are a few of Fender's bass guitars for all you bass players and those interested in guitar history.
Theoretically this would eliminate the ‘woofy’ sounds one gets when the string is shortened at the top of the fretboard. Fender did this by adding another high string which was tuned to C.
The neck had only 15 frets but had the same tonal range as a 20 fret bass. It was hoped that bass players who actually read music would adapt to this bass. Unfortunately, this concept failed to produce results. Bass players were happy with their Precision Basses and Jazz Basses.
It was in the 1950’s when Nathan Daniels of Danelectro was building his unique electric guitars and 4 string electric basses, most of which he sold under different labels through businesses such as Sears and Montgomery Wards.
Many major pop and rock recordings through the mid 1950’s to the mid 1970’s featured a bass player and a six string bass player.
Sometimes the six string part was called ‘tic tac’ bass. The sound was lower than a guitar and brighter than the bass line.
The body was similar to the Fender Jazzmaster, which was already in production, but the top horn was shaped more like a Stratocaster.
The control layout was very similar to the Fender Jaguar, which was introduced the following year. Fender named this the Fender VI. The scale was 30” and shorter than the 34” scale of Precision and Jazz basses. The strings were much thinner than those on standard Fender basses. The instrument came with 3 single coil Fender pickups and a vibrato unit similar to the one on the Jazzmaster.
Later models added a fourth slider which was a bass cut switch. This added a brighter treble sound to achieve the tic-tac effect.
Some guitarists compensated by making this a “baritone guitar” by using heavy guitar strings and tuning from low B to high B.
World War II put Britain in a lot of debt to the United States. To offset this war debt, the UK levied high tariffs on items imported from the United States.
This put a big damper on the guitar market, which is why many ‘60’s British bands played a lot of guitars that were built in Europe. For instance Paul McCartney played a German Hofner bass and Bill Wyman played a Framus bass that was also made in Germany.
Slab Precision basses.
|Fender slab Precision Bass|
slab p-basses had a much better tone than the contoured ones and believed the electronic circuitry was different.
In 1982, under the direction of John Page, Fender put together a line of budget priced guitars and basses under the Bullet label. The Fender Bullet Bass was produced from 1982 to 1986. It was a replacement instrument for the Fender Mustang Bass and the Music Master Bass, both of which were discontinued in 1981.
The Bullet Bass came in two versions. One was a short scaled model, called the B-30 (30” scale) and the long scaled B-34 (34” scale).
The original ones had the Fender logo with a star graphic that stated Bullet Bass Deluxe. These basses were made in the USA from 1982 to 1984.
Squier Bullet Bass. It discontinued in 1988.
Katana Bass, both made in Japan. These were perhaps Fender’s oddest instruments ever.
The body was sort of an asymmetrical triangle with a pointy headstock. The bass came with one pickup. This was Fender’s first bass guitar made with an unusual 32” scale. The bass and guitar lasted less than a year when Fender pulled the plug in 1986.
Both models came with pointy headstocks and distinctive shaped bodies. What made the models most unique was the two octave neck range.
Standard Performer Bass. This guitar came with a white pickguard and twin pickups that had a most unique shape. The neck was rosewood and this bass sold for around $500 USD.
The Elite Performer Bass was an upgrade and subsequently more expensive; $950 USD. It was US made and came with three uniquely shaped pickups and no pickguard.
It is rumored a five string version was made as a prototype. Both of the Performance Basses as well as the Katana are very rare, and though under appreciated when created, now command high prices by collectors.
Factor Bass. This was a bass that had locking tuners on the body much like the Steinberg bass. Kubicki worked for Fender from 1964 to 1973 as a student of Roger Rossmeisel.
He was the creator of George Harrisons well known Rosewood
Both came in fretted and fretless models. Unfortunately sales began to slack off and Fender quit offering the instruments by 1992.
Stu Hamm is a well known session bass player. In 1993 Fender was hoping that a very classy looking bass would peek the interest of professional bass players looking for a classic well made instrument. This was the era of natural wood basses. So Fender tapped Stu Hamm and made some very high end instruments and used his name. It is said that he was the first musician to receive a signature Fender bass model.
It came with 3 pickups. Jazz bass pickups in the bridge and just above the center position and a Precision bass pickup in the center of the body. The electronics were both passive and active. There was a master volume/pan knob, a bass/treble know, a four position EQ knob and a three position pickup selector. The output jack was stereo.
The through the body bridge was gold plated as were the tuning keys and other hardware. It sold for around $1600 USD.
Like the original Stu Hamm Bass, the pickup configuration was twin Jazz bass pickups on the bridge side, a Precision bass pickup in the center and another Jazz bass pickup above it. The bass featured four control knobs, including a master volume/pan control, a three-band active EQ knob with treble, bass and mid cut/boost. It also had a 3 position toggle pickup selector.
The neck on this guitar was had Posiflex graphite support rods. The tuners were Fender/Schaller deluxe models.
The bass was offered in a number of finishes. The colored bass guitars had matching head stocks while the sunburst model came with a natural finished headstock. This instrument sold for $2285 USD.
a Hipshot drop-D tuner on the E string. New finish options were available. The price was now $2740 USD. It was dropped from the Fender line-up in 2010.
During the mid 1980’s Charvel, Jackson and Ibanez guitars reigned supreme with their Super Strat guitars.
Fender tried to enter the market with it’s Katana and Performer line but were unsuccessful.
Heartfield DR bass guitars. This lineup consisted of six different models. The first offered were the DR4 and DR5; four and five string basses.
The bodies were alder, the bolt on necks were tri-laminated for strength in an unusual manner. They were made up of maple/graphite/rosewood. The headstock featured tuners on both sides of the neck. The basses electronics were active. The pickups were low Z output and hum cancelling. These basses were made at the Fender Japan facility.
DR6C which had six strings. By 1993 Fender discontinued the series. The Heartfield was expensive to produce especially with the diminishing value of the yen.
These came in Fender and Squier versions and sold for approximately $300 USD. They were made for the heavy-metal pointy headstock crowd ala the “H.M.” logo.
The Fender version came with three Jazz bass pickups and a TBX (treble and bass cut), a 9.5” radius and multiple customer colors.
H.M. Bass Ultra. It had a figured maple top and back, a tri-laminated neck with maple/graphite/rosewood, three Fender Lace Sensor J-Bass pickups, five way switching and active electronics. The tuners were made by Gotoh. This beast came with a price of $1350 USD.
The entire H.M series was shut down in 1993 due to poor sales and manufacturing costs.
Up until 1966, Fender had only offered two different bass guitars; The Precision Bass and the Jazz Bass. In 1966 Fender offered a brand new guitar called the Mustang. It was an upscale version of the Musicmaster and Duosonic.
The Mustang Guitar was a short scale instrument with a 22” scale. As a companion Fender came up with the Mustang Bass. Interestingly, this was the final bass guitar Leo Fender designed for his company.
Mustang Bass had a short scale; 30” and one split Precision style bass pickup. The guitar had a volume and tone control and a thumb rest. The headstock was, similar to other Fender basses.
The Mustang came with four standard bass tuners. The standard finish was red or white. The pickguards were generally tortoise shell style.
It continued in production through 1981. In 2002 production briefly resumed in Japan.
The Mustang had a chrome section for the controls, but the Musicmaster’s controls were housed on the plastic pickguard.
This bass had one Stratocaster pickup on the center of the body. The scale was 30”s. This guitar was pulled from the lineup around 1981.
The Squier Musicmaster bass resurfaced briefly in 1997 for one year and then was rechristened the Bronco Bass.
Pawn Shop Series. These guitars are made at the Fender factory in Mexico.
A very young James Burton.