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Vintage Vibes: 1965 Lake Placid Blue Fender Bass VI
Not a baritone, not a bass, and not even really a guitar, this 1965 Fender Bass VI is somehow all of those things at once, and more. Papa Shelby takes us through the history of this freaky Fender and outlines how it’s similar to other models, yet entirely its own. And he does a spot-on Carol Kaye.
The Bass VI is kind of a strange instrument as that it is not a bass or a guitar or a baritone. But somehow it is all of those things in one.
The Bass VI was released in 1961, right around the same time the Jag came out. It was really designed to compete with Danelectros UB-4 at the time. The original production line ran up to 1975, which is a really long period of time considering how strange this thing really truly is.
The Fender Bass VI is not a baritone, it is actually tuned like an electric guitar in perfect fifths from E to E, but down an entire octave like a bass would be. But it's also not a six-string bass with a huge neck.
It's a 30-inch scale with 21 frets. Like a Jag, you have independent switches for each pickup here and also a high pass filter, the strangle switch so you can get a wide variety of tones. Also, the pickups, although they look like Strat pickups in the way that Jaguar pickups look like Strat pickups are actually quite a bit different because of the comb here on the sides.
The metal piece on the side of the pickup actually focuses the energy into the middle of the whole piece of a much more defined sound than you would in a Strat pickup.
The Bass VI also has a really great Fender mute, which also came on the Jaguar. So if you really wanted to get that Tic-tac bass sound, you just have the articulation of the note, but not the sustain. You can mute the notes. This one's actually intact. A lot of the old ones fall apart. You need to replace them.
These instruments were played by the likes of Carol Kaye, Glen Campbell, The Beatles, The Cure and more.
I think it's just a fun hybrid, again, between playing bass and electric guitar, because you can really make beautiful chords that are obviously an octave below what you normally would be in as a guitar player, but still have all the feel and functionality of a guitar. I mean having a trem on a bass is really interesting. It also has an offset waist. So it's very comfortable.