Designed by Leo Fender, Tom Walker and Sterling Ball (Sterling was a beta tester for the instrument), the StingRay bass was introduced by MusicMan in 1976. It had a single humbucking pickup and an active pre-amp with a 2-band EQ. 3 band EQ and then piezo pickups in the bridge were later options. The neck had a heavy satin finish on the back to allow the player's fretting hand to glide up and down the fretboard. The symmetrical egg-shaped pickguard and separate chromed banana shaped control plate, and 3+1 tuner layout help to establish a striking visual identity for the StingRay.
The early models have through-body stringing at the bridge with adjustable string mutes. Later models don't have either of these features (except for the 30th Anniversary re-issue model of 2006).
In 2005, two-pickup versions of the StingRay (known as "HH" and "HS") were introduced, following the success of the Bongo Bass, one of Ernie Ball's latest bass designs, designed by Sterling Ball, Ernie's son and now CEO of Ernie Ball. This dual-pickup version includes a 5-way switch, allowing the user to select different combinations of pickup coils and thus greatly increasing the diversity of available tones. The dual-pickup configuration was also adopted on the StingRay 5 and the Sterling that same year.