|500/1 Violin Bass|
Left-handed Höfner 500/1 Vintage '62 World History LH
|Manufacturer||Karl Höfner GmbH & Co.|
|Body||Spruce (Top), Maple (Back/Sides)|
|Bridge||Höfner Ebony Bridge|
|Pickup(s)||Höfner 511B Humbucking Pickups|
The Höfner 500/1 violin bass (nicknamed the "Beatle bass" or "Cavern bass") is a hollow-bodied bass guitar manufactured by Höfner under several varieties. It was introduced in the mid-1950s and gained celebrity status during the 1960s as one of the primary basses used by Paul McCartney of The Beatles.
In 1955, Walter Höfner designed an electrically amplified, semi-acoustic bass guitar. The hollow body made this style of guitar very light and easy to play, as well as giving it a rich tone, similar to that of the traditional double bass. The bass was first shown to the public at the Frankfurt Music Fair in the spring of 1956. A major boost for the bass came in early 1961 when it caught the eye of a young Paul McCartney.
McCartney, who is left-handed, was drawn to the bass because he felt that its symmetrical shape would mean that playing it left-handed would not look as awkward as using a cutaway guitar designed for a right-handed player:
"I remember going along there, and there was this bass which was quite cheap. I couldn't afford a Fender. Fenders even then seemed to be about £100. All I could really afford was about £30 ... so for about £30, I found this Hofner violin bass. And to me, it seemed like, because I was left-handed, it looked less daft because it was symmetrical. Didn't look as bad as a cutaway which was the wrong way. So I got into that."
McCartney eventually acquired two guitars of this model: his original 1961 model, and a 1963 model  Afterward, McCartney mainly played the 1963 model, leaving the original as a backup. In 1964, he had his 1961 model refinished in sunburst and had a new updated pickup surround system installed around the original pickups, as one of the plastic original surrounds had snapped (the one nearest the neck). He can be seen using this bass in the "Revolution" promo video, strangely with the strap attached to the top of the headstock instead of the neck heel strap button. He continued to regularly use the violin bass until 1965 when he switched to a Rickenbacker 4001S; afterwards, he would rotate between the two. On 30 January 1969 the Hofner Bass made its last Beatle appearance at the Apple rooftop concert. Sometime during the recording of Let It Be, the 1961 model was stolen from Twickenham Film Studios, along with George Harrison's Gretsch Tennessean and Rickenbacker 360/12. McCartney switched to using his 1963 model for the remainder of the album. He switched back to the Rickenbacker for the recording of Abbey Road and he even used it with Wings and his solo career. As of 2018, he is still in possession of the 1963 bass, and regularly uses it for performances.
A Höfner bass on display at the Beatles-Museum Biebelnheim
The following variations are or were sold by Höfner:
Due to the cost of the official Höfner bass, several guitar companies offer more affordable versions of the "violin bass". These include Greco, Epiphone, Tokai, El Degas, Jay Turser, Duesenberg, Rogue, Douglas, Harley Benton and Eko. These range anywhere from $200 to $1,500. Höfner themselves make an affordable version of their famous bass (the Ignition).
The Höfner 500/1 appeared in Guitar Hero II while the Epiphone Viola appeared in Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. A replica of the Höfner bass used by McCartney (albeit right-handed) is used as the basis for a guitar controller, included with the special edition bundle of The Beatles: Rock Band.