Shown here in Candy Apple Red
First released as the ultimate baritone guitar and Fender’s answer to Dan Electro’s U2 which pretty much had a monopoly in that market, the original Bass VI was widely adopted by bass players of that era due to its very tight, short scale and being fully tuned in the bass octave. The original 1961 design underwent a few changes for the revised model in 1963, but nothing nearly as drastic as what we get with this great-looking yet simplified Pawn Shop version.
For those of you unaware of Fender’s highly touted Pawn Shop series of electrics, think of them of dream mash-ups that take classic yet rare models and combine them with features from others in order to make guitars that are uniquely their own. Want a Stratocaster with Telecaster neck along with a double set of humbuckers? What about a Jaguar WITHOUT the confusing control layout? They’ve got you covered – and those two are pretty simple compared to some of the more daring combinations the Pawn Shop line has available. Fender themselves describe the line as “guitars that never were but should have been,” taking some of “most audacious” guitar concepts from the mid ‘60s through mid ‘70s to create sometime completely new, albeit with enough modern sensibility and technology to rock out with the best of them. And from my own experience with the brand, they aren’t kidding!
The first thing those familiar with the original will notice is that the distinctive chromed metal control and switch plates have now been replaced by an all-in-on scratchplate that holds the entire section together. As far as knobs go, you only get two – Volume and Tone – along with a standard Fender five-way selector switch to take care of the pickup selection.
One of the original Jaguar-style pickups has now been replaced by a humbucker (even though it still looks like a single coil), but the lockable floating vibrato system remains, as does the matching headstock color.
The vibrato piece actually works great, although you do need to be a lot heavier-handed in using it than you would on most any other guitar, and a little shake might be required as you return from a dip to help keep it on pitch. The locking feature is a plus, too, particularly when using it as a more conventional bass guitar.
The way this Bass VI sounds a lot different from the original design, and not only because of the humbucking pickup. It's really all down to the lever switch, because it means you can't engage the neck and bridge pickups together, or all three, both of which were classic sounds from the original instrument.
That said, the new Bass VI really still is the sort of guitar that's going to inspire you instantly. It might be just that it's so different from what you're used to, but notes and chords take on a totally different character compared with their regular-scale counterparts. Clean or slightly driven, it's magnificent for layering parts in recordings - there's no style of music where you couldn't use it to great effect.