Since the 1960s, the bass guitar has largely replaced the double bass in popular music as the bass instrument in the rhythm section. While types of basslines vary widely from one style of music to another, the bassist usually plays a similar role: anchoring the harmonic framework and establishing the beat. Many styles of music include the bass guitar, including rock, heavy metal, pop, punk rock, country, reggae, gospel, blues, symphonic rock, and jazz. It is often a solo instrument in jazz, jazz fusion, Latin, funk, progressive rock and other rock and metal styles.
In the 1930s, musician and inventor Paul Tutmarc of Seattle, Washington, developed the first electric string bass in its modern form, a fretted instrument designed to be played horizontally. The 1935 sales catalog for Tutmarc's electronic musical instrument company, Audiovox, featured his "Model 736 Bass Fiddle", a four-stringed, solid-bodied, fretted electric bass instrument with a 30 1⁄2-inch (775-millimetre) scale length. The adoption of a guitar's body shape made the instrument easier to hold and transport than any of the existing stringed bass instruments. The addition of frets enabled bassists to play in tune more easily than on fretless acoustic or electric upright basses. Around 100 of these instruments were made during this period.
Around 1947, Tutmarc's son, Bud, began marketing a similar bass under the Serenader brand name, prominently advertised in the nationally distributed L. D. Heater Music Company wholesale jobber catalogue of 1948. However, the Tutmarc family inventions did not achieve market success.
In the 1950s, Leo Fender, with the help of his employee George Fullerton, developed the first mass-produced electric bass guitar. Fender was the founder of Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, which made popular brands of electric guitars, basses and amplifiers. Fender's Fender Precision Bass, which began production in October 1951, became a widely copied industry standard for the instrument. The Precision Bass (or "P-bass") evolved from a simple, un-contoured "slab" body design and a single coil pickup similar to that of a Telecaster, to a contoured body design with beveled edges for comfort and a split single coil pickup.
The "Fender Bass" was a revolutionary new instrument for gigging musicians. In comparison with the large, heavy upright bass, which had been the main bass instrument in popular music, folk and country music from the early 1900s to the 1940s, the Fender bass could be easily transported to shows. The bass guitar was also less prone to unwanted feedback sounds when amplified, than acoustic bass instruments. In 1953 Monk Montgomery became the first bass player to tour with the Fender bass guitar, in Lionel Hampton's postwar big band. Roy Johnson, and Shifty Henry with Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five, were other early Fender bass pioneers. Bill Black, playing with Elvis Presley, switched from upright bass to the Fender Precision Bass around 1957. The bass guitar was intended to appeal to guitarists as well as upright bass players, and many early pioneers of the instrument, such as Carol Kaye and Joe Osborn, were originally guitarists.