Th first bass guitar was built in the 1930s by the inventor Paul Tutmarc from Seattle, Washington. The bass guitar that he first made was the “Model 736 Bass Fiddle” from his electric music company Audiovox. The alteration to a guitar form made the instrument easier to hold and transport, and the addition of frets enabled bassists to play in tune more easily. Around 100 of these instruments were made during this period but Paul Tutmarc did not make much of a market success.
In the 1950s, Leo Fender developed the first mass produced bass guitar. His Fender Percussion Bass became became a widely copied industry standard. The design Percussion Bass (or the P-bass) was similar to the Telecaster guitar with a “single coil” pickup. This “split pickup”, introduced in 1957, appears to have been two mandolin pickups (Fender was marketing a four string solid body electric mandolin at the time). Because the pole pieces of the coils were reversed with respect to each other, and the leads were also reversed with respect to each other, the two coils, wired in series, produced a humbucking effect.
The Fender Bass became a new revolutionary instrument. Since the electric bass is horizontal, it became easier to tune compared to the classic basses. Since then the Fender Bass has become part of rock bands since then due to its lightness and the electrical sound it has.
In the 1960s, Fender produce the Jazz Bass (J-bass). The Jazz Bass was normally made to accompany the Jazz guitar. But they made it better by making it able to adjust the volume and tone better. Also the neck of the Jazz bass is thinner than the Percussion bass. There is a difference in the sound between the Jazz and Percussion Bass but visually you can tell the difference by the pick ups.
In the 1970s the Music Man StingRay became very popular and largely produced. The StingRay was the the first widely produced bass with active (powered) electronics. This bass became very popular among many famous bassists like Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Now basses are being changed like making them fretless or adding more strings.