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Songs of Thanks, the Bass VI & Rise Against's Tim McIlrath

Instrumental: Bass VI

Bass VI In the latest installment of our Instrumental segment, producer Evan Chung takes a look at the history of a lesser-known instrument that doesn't have a proper name ā€“ the Bass VI. Once again, we get some help from Daniel Escauriza and Shelby Pollard of Chicago Music Exchange to demonstrate. The Bass VI is a hybrid six-string instrument that looks and feels like a guitar, but is tuned in the range of a bass. Sonically, the Bass VI features a sharp attack and a distinctive twangy sound.

Fender released the most popular model, but the Danelectro company put out the first version of the instrument in the 1950s. It then became a staple of country, rockabilly, and early rock ā€˜nā€™ roll. In a style known as "tic-tac bass," Nashville producers would use an upright bass and a Bass VI simultaneously on recordings by Patsy Cline, Ernest Tubb, Roy Orbison, and more. In the 1960s, it was a favorite tool of the Wrecking Crew sessions musicians in LA, who used it on classic recordings with The Beach Boys and Glen Campbell.

Beginning in the 1980s, artists began to find new spookier uses for the Bass VI. New Order, The Cure, and The Cocteau Twins all incorporated it into their sound. Doug McCombs has been the most prominent Bass VI player of the last few decades, featuring it in his work with Tortoise, Eleventh Dream Day, and Brokeback. McCombs stopped by our studios to discuss his love of the instrument and to perform Brokeback's "From the Black Current" live.