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Keyboard bass

The keyboard bass is the use of a low-pitched keyboard or pedal keyboard to substitute for the bass guitar or double bass in popular music.




The earliest keyboard bass instrument was the 1960 Fender Rhodes piano bass, pictured above. The piano bass was an electric piano with the same pitch range as the electric bass (or the double bass), which could be used to perform basslines. It could be placed on top of a piano or organ, or mounted on a stand. As well, keyboard players such as The Doors' Ray Manzarek placed his Fender Rhodes bass on top of his organ to play basslines. About the same time, Hohner of Germany introduced a purely electronic bass keyboard, the Basset, which had a 2-octave keyboard and rudimentary controls allowing a choice of tuba or string bass sounds. The Basset was in due course replaced by the Bass 2 and, in the mid-1970s, the Bass 3. All three were transistorized; the Basset was among the earliest solid-state electronic instruments. Similar instruments were produced in Japan under the "Raven" and "Rheem Kee Bass" (sic) names.


1970s and 1980s

Moog Taurus (1976-1981)

In the 1970s, a variant form of keyboard bass, bass pedals, became popular. Bass pedals which are pedal keyboards operated by musicians using their feet. The guitar player or bass player of a bands such as Genesis' Mike Rutherford, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin during acoustic sets, Rush (bassist Geddy Lee), The Police (bassist Sting), Marillion (Pete Trewavas) or Atomic Rooster (organist Vincent Crane) use the bass pedals to play bass lines. Stevie Wonder pioneered the use of synthesizer keyboard bass, notably on Boogie on Reggae Woman. During these decades the keyboard bass in its original form was still in use by some bands such as the B-52's, who used a Korg SB-100 "Synth-Bass".

1990s and 2000s

In the 1990s and 2000s, 25-note MIDI keyboard controllers are used to play the basslines in some pop groups. Keyboard bass instruments are a common alternative to bass guitars in rap, modern R&B, and in electronic dance music such as house music. As well, bassists from bands such as No Doubt sometimes perform basslines on 25-note MIDI keyboards. Jack White of The White Stripes uses a vintage Rhodes Piano Bass live, particularly on performances of My Doorbell.



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