Buying your first bass guitar
A comprehensive 2019 electric bass guitar guide
The electric bass guitar is my instrument of choice, my passion, and my specialty. I’ve you’re looking to buy your first bass guitar, I wholeheartedly welcome you to this journey.
I will guide you through your first bass choice and the reasons as to why you should play bass guitar. I will teach you the basic elements of the ultimate grove instrument and everything you will need to start playing.
If you feel like instead buying an electric guitar or, even better, buying both instruments and start a multi-instrumentalist journey, feel free to check this beginner electric guitar buyer’s guide.
Are you ready to slap the bass?
- 1 How much budget do you have?
- 2 Following this guide, you will learn:
- 3 Where do bass guitars come from?
- 4 Why should you play a bass guitar?
- 5 What to look for in an electric bass guitar?
- 6 The top 10 beginner electric bass guitars
- 6.1 Roger Waters Signature Fender Precision Bass
- 6.2 Fender Deluxe P/J Bass Special
- 6.3 Fender Player Jazz Bass
- 6.4 Squier Vintage Modified Precision Bass PJ
- 6.5 Music Man Sterling
- 6.6 Epiphone EB-3
- 6.7 Yamaha TRBX304 Electric Bass
- 6.8 Marshall 2525C Mini Silver Jubilee
- 6.9 Schecter Omen 4
- 6.10 Ibanez GSRM20BS
- 7 Final Considerations
How much budget do you have?
Electric bass guitars sell for about the same price as electric guitars. It can go as high as four zero ciphers for ultra pro, VIP equipment; to three-cero ciphers as pro equipment; top-tier budget instruments bellow the thousand dollar mark; or as low as an entry-level Android phone.
A beginner bass guitar is one that, budget or not, it’s friendly: easy to play, light, not too heavy, and featuring little to none customization options. RIght out of the bat, it should give you an amazing tone without you needing to move around the knobs.
More so, you can get enough power without needing extra pedals or a complex P.A. system. A P.A. system is an array of microphones and stereo speakers controlled by a console. They are very common in live setups.
And, most of all, a good beginner bass is one you can use to learn how to play bass guitar but, as you progress on the learning curve, it will still do justice for you. So it should be good for learning but also for rehearsing with your band, playing live, and even recording.
Like former Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine guitarist said, many professional musicians starters their careers with low-level instruments as they didn’t have resources to buy anything else. So, don’t worry too much about the instrument and worry more about the music.
There’s also the question of influences and styles. Depending on what you like, you would have to pick a bass guitar that fits your personality.
For example: if there’s a band you love or a specific bass guitar player you follow that may have inspired you to play the instrument, you might want to sound like this. See, every bass fills a specific space in the musical genre spectrum, so it means you wouldn’t be able to play metal with a jazz-oriented bass. Or, at least, not as good, and not without further knowledge.
What’s more, some iconic, famous and pro bass guitar players have their signature bass guitars. For instance, I love Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters signature Fender Precision bass. So, it’s always a good idea to check if your favorite musicians have their signature instruments, because signature bass guitars are particularly incredible. They aren’t too expensive and especially not as expensive as their electric guitar or electric guitar amps counterparts.
Plus, they pack the amazing tones these musicians made famous and, as a bass guitar is all about the instrument’s natural, clean tone and less about the amp and the pedals, this is something you should be looking for.
Overall, it’s all about the following questions:
- How much budget do you have?
- How much are you willing to pay?
- What are you using your bass for? (Learning, rehearsing, practicing, playing live)
- What kind of music do you like?
- What kind of bass guitar players do you like?
- What kind of sound do you want?
Answering those questions will put you on the right path to pick exactly what you need and what will make you happy.
And, lastly, as you’re looking for a beginner’s bass, it’s best to look for bundles that include everything you need to play: the bass, a strap, cables, and the bass amp.
We’re looking for light and friendly basses with good clean tones
Following this guide, you will learn:
- A brief history bass guitars, where do they come from?
- Why should you play a bass guitar?;
- What to look for in an electric bass guitar?;
- The top 10 electric bass guitars for beginners;
- Final considerations.
Meanwhile, here’s a great YouTube channel you can follow to learn how to play bass guitar.
Where do bass guitars come from?
It’s always good to learn a bit of context about the things you dive into. So let me tell you a quick story about the bass guitar’s origins.
The bass is the connection between rhythm and melodies just like it has ever been. It’s its primary design, its function. It’s the essence of every song and every band, even if you can’t hear it in your speakers.
Paul Tutmarc, an inventor from Seattle, created the first bass guitar in the 1930s. Nevertheless, it wasn’t popular or successful. Even before the formal invention of the electric bass, the “guitarrón,” commonly known as the “fingernail bass,” had been present in Latin music since the 1600s.
The Guitarrón is still common in folkloric Mexican music such as “Mariachi Music.” You can see a little bit about it on the video below:
Later on, Leo Fender manufactured the Fender Precision Bass in 1951. It was the result of tweaking the design of their solid-body guitars which used pickups to amplify their sounds.
Pickups are the in-built transistors of any electric guitar or bass, and they came into existence in the 1930s as a means to make guitars louder.
So, by the mid-50s, Fender and other companies began making minor adjustments to the bass. Still, the “P-Bass” became the industry standard, and it remains as the most common bass amongst beginners, enthusiasts, amateurs, and pro players alike. In fact, there’s a multitude of copycats out there.
The Fender P-Bass is probably the most famous electric bass guitar in the market.
In 1959, Fender introduced the Jazz Bass. The J-Bass is a lighter, slimmer, and easier-to-play bass as it has a smaller neck. Plus, it has two pickups to give a wider musical range. It’s also very common in modern music.
And just like the P-Bass, there’re plenty of copies made by other companies in the music industry.
Rush’ frontman and bass guitar player rocking a Fender Jazz Bass. He has his Geddy Lee Fender bass Signature Mode as well.
Gibson entered the race a bit late, but it didn’t stop them from gaining momentum with their first small-scale violin bass (which is a violin-shaped bass). Musicians could play it upright or horizontally.
They introduced their first bass in 1953 with the EB series. The EB-3 became the most successful model, and the popular Thunderbird comes as a close second.
I must add the Gibson Thunderbird is the first bass with a long 34” scale. The bass scale is the size of the instrument, but we’ll learn more about that later on.
Another very popular and important addition to the bass market was the Höfner 500/1 violin bass, better known as the “Beattle Bass.” This is a hollow-body bass made by Höfner in the mid 50s. It gained celebrity as Paul McCartney adopted this piece as his main instrument. The legendary songwriter, singer and bass player still uses this bass more than 50 years later.
We must also talk about the Music Man line of basses made by Leo Fender after he left the company founded under his name. The Stingray has a deep and punchy tone plus a classic design that resembles a violin bass.
Both the Stingray and the 500/1 have plenty of copies in the market.
Sir Paul McCartney on the stage with his Höfner 500/1 violin bass.
Modern bass guitars
Since the jazz era to the prime days of blues and rock and roll, the upwards “double bass” was the standard thing. But as jazz, rock, and blues progressed and became more popular mostly in New Orleans, musicians needed instruments that were easier to carry and play, as their venues became plentiful and farther away.
More so, they needed an instrument with a wider tonal range, as the double bass could only offer a classical, deep bass sound. Because of the tonal variety, the electric bass became popular. Elvis Presley’s bassist Bill Black brought the electric bass to light and became one of the first musicians to adopt the Fender Precision bass guitar.
Later on, McCartney’s creative and elegant bass lines helped establish the bass as an unstoppable and inevitable musical force. The influence was further stretched with players like Jack Bruce (Jaco Pastorius’ bassist), The Who’s John Entwistle, Geddy Lee, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, or the all-important James Jamerson.
A side note: the funky Jamerson practically wrote the Bass Guitar Bible and remains as the most influential Fender-P player in history. He played for various legendary bands and artists, including Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Temptations, and the Jackson 5.
More recently, I should mention the late and still influential Cliff Burton, Metallica’s bassists during their first two albums; Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Flea rocking mostly on fretless basses; or Primus’ psychedelic Les Claypool.
I urge you, encourage you, advise you to check all of the musicians I just named. They will guide you to becoming an amazing bass guitar player and inspire you to be different, creative and cool, even when playing on the “background” instrument.
As for today, the bass has also become the main part of most club music, such as trap, hip-hop, reggaeton, house, lounge, and other electronic music. It’s also present in all kinds of rock, metal, and pop music.
Can you say the same about any other instrument? I bet no, and that’s why you must decide what kind of music you’re hoping to play.
But, even more important is being 100 percent convinced this is the instrument for you. Not only the instrument you will like and feel passionate about, but also the one that will fit your who you are.
A bassist is a connection between melody and grove. A bassist holds the rhythm together and flows with harmonic lines that fill the empty spaces left by the voice and the guitar.
Why should you play a bass guitar?
Let’s imagine something for a bit. Let’s say each instrument has a distinct personality:
A piano would be the elegant person that goes to every reunion wearing a bright tuxedo with a bow. He greets everyone with a handshake and confidently says his name. He wears formal shoes and, although he’s a bit shy, he’s also a major nerd and is looking for any opportunity to talk about the things he loves.
The drummer is a frenetic extrovert person. He talks with everyone, makes the most noise, has several memorable personality traits, and, to some, may ironically be the “slowest” person in the group. Also, he NEVER shuts up.
The guitar player is the eccentric person, the one who usually stands in a crowd for being too weird and different. He’s a bit egotistical, all about himself, and is very happy with the attention he can get.
The singer craves for attention. He’s the person who’s always dressed cool, full of tattoos and not short of personal troubles and strange personal philosophies.
And let me tell you something. Guitarist and singers are somehow similar. In fact, they’re so similar their self-centered nature has led them to play with loops to finally ditch the rest of the band. You can read all about loop arrangements here!
And, finally, the bass player is the one who doesn’t need or like attention, but who are probably working the hardest within a group. He’s the silent genius, always curious about how things work and ready to play his part.
So, which one of these descriptions fit you better? Because right now, it’s time to learn the job of a bassist as you need to see for yourself if it’s a function you would do.
I know, this is not especially accurate and it’s mostly based on my own experience. However, imagine this for yourself. See yourself in a band, where do you want to be? On the spotlight? On the louder side? Playing the thing everyone will notice your skills for?
A bass player is both the groove keeper and the harmonie enhancer.
The job of a bassist player
Bass is indeed the most overlooked instrument in any musical group. Often, the audience doesn’t know what a bass even is or what it’s for. More so, casual speakers don’t even play low frequencies, which means they won’t play the bass.
Despite these facts, the bass guitar is a critical instrument. It gives rhythm, shape, and power to the songs. So, as a starting bass player, you’d be happy to know there’s always a high demand for bassists. Even better if you’re a good, different one.
You might then be wondering, how is it a critical job?
Well, commonly, a bass player has two functions within a band: the bass gives a harmonic foundation and a rhythmic base.
So, I’m dividing the explanations into two sections, with two different lesson videos, that should be enough to get you started on the bass, even if you’ve never touched one before.
I also recommend you go get yourself a cheap acoustic guitar and learn how to play both instruments together. It will make a better musician of you and help you understand the bass’s dual function.
The rhythmic foundation
The rhythmic foundation means being consistent with the musical pulse, the beat, the flow. It’s about giving the band enough support to keep a steady pulse and a general good feeling. So, even if you can hear it most of the time on your laptop speakers, it’s there, and it’s keeping the whole band together.
Such is the top responsibility of a bass player. The pulse you will be creating many people will follow it with their foot. And, what’s more, low frequencies travel further than high and medium frequencies, so the further someone is from a speaker (like, for example, if you’re sitting far away in a live venue), the bass is the first and most powerful thing you’ll listen.
Alongside the bass, the drummer also creates the rhythmic pulse. Hence, bassists and the drummer must be intimately close, although the drummer must strike each beat, whereas the bass must have an independent sense of rhythm and be able to play around and within the drum lines.
As a bass player, you must master your sense of rhythm and your inner beat. As for the notes and the scales, it comes in second: no matter the choice of notes you pick for your lines, if you place them wrong, it won’t sound right.
So, for instance, you can play a simple line with three notes, play it on time, and sound like a beast. Or you can play 16 different notes of a scale, play the offbeat, and sound like a pretentious amateur.
Master your beat first.
Let me give you an example: there are a guitar-strumming 4 chords on a stable pattern. The guitar is playing a 4/4 beat (which means four beats for each compass, and four compasses for each phrase) in quarter notes (one strike per beat).
You could, for example, do one of the following options:
- Play a note per beat (quarter)
- Play two notes per beat (eight)
- Play one note per two beats (half)
- Alternate different musical shapes and be creative.
The harmonic foundation
The second and equally important function of the bass is supporting the harmony. You probably know the bass is also a solid-body instrument with frets, strings, and notes, just like an electric guitar. So it means you have to play the right notes at the right times.
Harmony means together. In music theory, harmony is how the human ear hears when several instruments, notes, and frequencies play together.
A person alone can create harmony with a chord, which is two or more notes played together in a single moment on a single instrument.
Other times, a band, orchestra, quartet or any musical group can create harmony by playing together and hitting different notes of a logical scale.
By the way, you could also play chords on bass, although it’s not too common. For example, the song below starts with a bass chord line.
The bass has a significant role in how we hear these harmonies. When we hear various notes playing together, we hear them relative to the lowest frequency pitch, which means the bass note.
Let me explain further. As a bass player, you must follow, more or less, the scales in which a song was built or the scales than could sound well with a song. Following the notes on a scale can go as smoothly as “this note sounds okay, but this note sounds horrible.”
So, let’s say you’re playing a song in E major.
E Major Scale: E – F# – G# – A -B- C# – D#
And now there’s a piano playing the A note. In the meantime, the bass can commonly do one of the following options:
- Play the same note (A)
- Play the 3rd note (D#)
- Play the 5th note (F#)
- Play the 7th note (G#)
- Alternate these notes with different musical shapes, be creative, and keep both the rhythm and the harmony.
Depending on which option the bass chooses, you will hear the piano’s A (which is the medium and high frequency) completely different. It doesn’t change the sound alone, it also changes the feeling, the tone, and the overall purpose of the song.
In summary, the bassist second role is to define the harmony playing the correct foundational notes, which depend on the tone, the purpose, and the feeling the song intends to give.
An easy way to blend rhythm and harmony is playing each note in the tune, and then another note to set up the next chord the other players are about to play.
What a good bassist player does
As you grow on your musical path, you will learn music is made of three elements:
- Melody (commonly high and mid-frequency instruments like the voice and the guitar)
- Harmony (commonly mid-frequency instruments like the bass, the piano, and the guitar)
- Rhythm (commonly low-frequency instruments, like the drums and the bass).
You, as a bassist player, belong on the rhythmic and harmonic side and have the advantage of your sound traveling further and making the hearts beat. More importantly, you are the foundation of two of the three main elements of music.
Studying bass means you must learn and master rhythm and harmony and the techniques you need to blend these two into a beautiful dance encompassing the music all around it.
I hope you now understand how powerful the bass is. A good bass player can uplift a mediocre group, but a mediocre bass player can destroy a great group. Even when playing the “overlooked” instrument, you can shine.
More so, if you turn yourself into a good bass player, you could even write music with these instruments. You would no longer belong in the back seat, as the silent supporter of the music. Instead, you would be the pillar where the rest of the band holds together. Such is the role of a good bassist player.
All of that and only with four strings. Remember this very carefully: a 5 or 6 string bass is completely unnecessary. 4 is all you need.
Now that you’ve learned all your role as a bassist player, it’s time to understand a bit more about the instrument.
What to look for in an electric bass guitar?
The Beginner Guitar HQ bass guitar buyer’s guide will cover everything you need to know to buy your first electric guitar.
Let’s start by the anatomy of the instrument:
Understanding the parts of a bass guitar.
If you desire to learn more about the bass guitar’s parts, I recommend reading our acoustic guitar parts guide. As I said before, you should be learning both these instruments together.
There’s an amazing thing about bass guitars: they are not as expensive as electric guitar or electric guitar amps. By buying an under three-cero digits bass, you’ll be able to rock your way from 0 to the top.
Even better, every coin you’re not spending on the instrument you can spend on your bass guitar amp.
Remember this, without a bass guitar amp, you’ll lose the drive to learn, ass the bass just doesn’t have enough acoustic sound without some electric power. Not even an acoustic bass is loud enough to make you come back to it again and again.
As I said before, an excellent option for you is going for signature basses. If not, It’s always best going for the affordable options of a top brand rather than buying a cheap bass from sub-par brands. Top bass brands are (in order) Fender, Gibson, Yamaha, Music Man, Schecter, Warwick, Spector, Lackland, and Washburn. Other than that, there’s also Rickenbacker, which is a legendary bass brand you may be willing to afford.
A bass guitar needs quality electronics to deliver a good sound. As its frequencies are so low, it’s a delicate trade. Cheap basses from cheap brands cut a lot of corners and, as a result, its sound gets lost and fuzzy too easy.
But you don’t need to cut corners. Invest some money on the top brands and, specially, in the alternatives I’m giving you on the section below.
And don’t worry, we’re going to talk about budget alternatives as well as top-tier alternatives. As it’s for beginners, our budget goes for basses that are easy to play.
If you’re on a budget, you can always aim for the Fender Squier Affinity Series. Squier is Fender’s younger, cheaper brother. As a beginner, I understand if you’re not up to spending top dollar for an instrument you can’t yet play.
2. Bass scale
The second thing to consider is the bass’ scale, which is another term for “how big is it?”
The scale refers to how long is the bass from the strap button to the first fret. It refers mostly to the length of the strings, the lengths of the frets, and the number of frets. It’s also related to the tone quality you’re getting from the strings:
The lower pitch you want, the longer scale you need.
That’s why guitars, which play at higher frequencies, are much shorter than a bass guitar.
- The most common electric bass scale is 34”. A 34” bass is called a “long scale.” The Fender Standard Precision Bass has a 34’’ scale.
- 5-string basses are 35” scale. Any scale longer than 34” is called an “extra long scale.” The famous and powerful Schecter Stiletto Studio series are extra long scale basses.
- “Medium scale” basses, which have a softer sound with higher mid-tones have between 30” to 33”. Queen’s Brian May has a signature Brian May Bass, which is a “medium scale” instrument.
- “Short scale” basses, which offer a more melodious sound while giving softer low notes. are 30” or less. Paul McCartney’s violin-bass is a short-scaled instrument.
Short scale bass guitars are great for small people because they have shorter necks and compact dimensions. They are a great choice for younger or challenged players looking to learn. Many people also prefer the shorter spacing from fret to fret in short scale basses.
Short scale bass guitar are currently in boom, as they have been on the backburner since the 60’s. When you play a note on these basses, the note comes with a series of unique harmonics. See, the string’s length also changes the quality of the harmonics: the shorter the string, the more harmonics it delivers, whereas higher harmonics go out with smaller volumes.
On the contrary, a long scale bass features a wider space from fret to fret, which is good for adult players or people with generally big hands. They are heavier and pack a heavier punch, but are a bit harder to play and to learn with.
Finally, medium scale basses fall right in between, while extra-long basses are definitely for experienced players and people looking for the metal sound.
In my experience, though, don’t go for a small bass just because you feel your hands are small. Your hands will learn how to stretch the more you practice.
Choose the scale of the bass for its sound and the necessities of the musical genre you’re about to play.
On the same note, you will also pick between 21, 22, or 24 frets on your bass. As you’re a beginner, going for 21 is perfectly okay, as you won’t have enough opportunities to play higher notes. See, higher notes on the bass don’t belong on bass lines but bass solos, and, tell me, are you ready for bass solos?
And what about fretless basses? You ask. Well, are you Flea? No, and neither am I.
This category is much simpler. Electric bass guitars are commonly solid-body instruments. However, there’s also semi hollow bodies in the market, which are few and in between, but give a rounder and more acoustic sound.
The top brand making semi hollow body bass guitars is Gretsch. Getting one of these bases will give you a definitely vintage sound and a different feel. I could only recommend you try one or look for one on YouTube.
Semi-hollow bodies offer a softer, more acoustic tone, and are good for jazz, country, and similar genres.
In the end, as you’re a beginner, I strongly recommend you pick a solid-body bass guitar. Semi hollow alternatives require you to know a bit more about sound.
Next, although maybe not on the top of your list, is the bass’ construction materials or tonewoods.
Luthiers believe the wood is the most important factor determining the instrument’s tone and quality. I don’t believe that, but the tonewoods indeed play an important factor in the overall sound, so let’s review the different materials:
- Ash and alder: these are similar materials. They give a lot of sustain and a balanced tone full of harmonic overtones. It’s a very common material and offers an attractive grain with a transparent or semitransparent finish.
- Agathis: common in entry-level bases as it’s an inexpensive tonewood. It’s a cheaper version of ash and alder. It offers an emphasis of lower and midrange tones.
- Mahogany: it gives a warm sound and a sturdy body. Mahogany gives more power to low-frequencies.
- Basswood: is the favorite body of most bassists playing a wide range of music. It offers soft tones and absorbs vibrations, noises and other fuzzes. It has a shorter sustain, which gives you more control and allow more complex techniques like slapping.
- Maple: maple is a dense wood which gives plenty of sustain plus a crisp and bright tone. Recording engineers and pro basists players often prefer maple as it gives more clarity and definition to the instrument.
Now, a bass guitar typically has 4 strings. These have narrower necks than a 5 string or a 6 string bass, whereas the tune is the standard format:
E- A – D – G
On the contrary, modern music often uses a 5-string bass, so a bassist player uses a lower tuning:
B – E- A- D – G – E (if there’s a 6th string)
Regardless of the style, a 5-string bass gives much more room to expand, be creative, and pack a punch. However, you can still achieve all of this with your standard 4-string bass, which is still very common in the music industry.
Regarding the 6th string, this is a thing for pro players looking to do a lot of bass solos and fancier tricks. It’s very common in funk and jazz music.
A 5-string bass requires advanced playing skills.
We must also talk about the string’s gauge and brand. It’s vital yo choose the strings that fit your playing style and desired tone. More so, you should always go for coated bass strings as they resist much more.
We must also talk about the string’s gauge and brand. It’s vital yo choose the strings that fit your playing style and desired tone. More so, you should always go for coated bass strings as they resist much more.
First of all, bass strings are made of different alloys, which are commonly nickel, bronze, and steel. Nickel is softer and easier to play, while steel is harder to play but offers more punch. Bronze falls right in between.
String gauge determines the feel and sound of the bass’s strings. The rule is as follows:
The heavier the gauge (between .050 and .105) the richer bottom end sound it gives. However, it requires more strength on the fingers than lighter gauges (around .040 to .095)
- Heavy gauge: good for learning and playing root notes. They give a heavy, fat sound and work best with steel materials.
- Light gauges: good for advanced playing, creative jamming, composing and soloing. It allows your fingers to move faster as it requires less strength to press the strings. It works also with steel, but it’s best with bronze and other materials.
- Always go for coated material or stainless steel.
- Best bass string brands are D’Addario, Fender, Elixir, DR, or Ernie Ball.
Pickups are the ones that translate the bass’ string vibrations into music for your amp. In simpler terms, they like in-built microphones that heavily influence your sound.
There’re two kinds of bass pickups to choose:
- Passive pickups: they provide a dynamic sound plus a full and warm tone. However, they give less control, with fewer knobs to move, and they require no batteries. If you like fat and punchy sound and are looking for an easy time, these are for you.
- Active pickups: these are a newer development and give bass guitar more controls with more knobs to handle. For instance, most basses with active pickups give you the chance to turn each pickup on and off or blend them together; they may have a 3-band EQ; or individual volume and tone knobs for each pickup. These pickups require a battery for its preamp, thus these basses tend to be louder. Finally, active bass pickups are harder to manage as they need you to know a bit more about sound.
Top bass pickup brands are Seymour Duncan, DiMarzio, Fishman, Fender, and EMG. Bass pickups are usually modeled after particular sounds, bands, bassists, or basses.
You may change the pickups on a bass to change its sound.
Commonly, a bass guitar either has a single coil or dual coil (humbucker) pickups. A single-coil creates more noise or hum than a humbucker. Thus, you would think the humbucker is the best choice, but the Fender Precision uses single-coil, while the Jazz Bass uses humbuckers.
Humbuckers may also be “slip-coils.” A humbucker has two coils wired together, whereas a split-coil is not wired within itself but directly to the output. It creates a “single-coil” sound with a bit more punch and less hum.
Additionally, there’re various kinds of dual-coil and single-coil bass pickups out there. It’s good for you to know this because by simply changing your bass pickup you can drastically improve or change its sound.
- J Pickups: known as the “jazz pickup,” they give a bright and aggressive sound goo jazz, rock metal, and rock. They commonly come in pairs: one on the bridge and the other on the neck, which is wider and gives more punch. Additionally, the knobs can mix the signal between the two pickups.
- P Pickups: known as the “precision pickups,” they have a deeper and heavier sound, good for funk, heavy metal, and heavy rock. P pickups are often shipped in pairs, one sitting on the higher string and the other on the lower strings.
Another kind of bass pickup is piezoelectric, which is very common on acoustic bass guitars. These pickups eliminate even more buzz and hum than the humbuckers, but the sound is weaker and thinner than their counterparts. A bass with piezoelectric pickups have them in-built inside the bridge, and there’s usually one per string.
You may learn more about pickups in my previous electric guitar buyer’s guide.
By preamp, I mean the inbuilt knobs the bass guitar packs. The knobs, as the preamp, change the tone of the bass straight from the pickups before sending the signal to the amp.
Every bass has a master volume knob and a playable range, which means it may lose quality when playing with too low or too loud volumes (common in cheap basses). Aside from master volume, every bass also packs a tone knob, which changes the way the bass sounds. Commonly, you remove high frequencies from the signal by turning the knob down, thus giving you a deeper tone on one end and a higher tone on the other.
Other basses have a 3 or a 2-band EQ: knobs for treble (high notes), mids (medium notes), and lows (low notes).
Sometimes, if the bass has more than one pickup, they have a “blend” knob, something that allows players to pick the sound from one pickup or the other, or mix the signal between the two.
And lastly, common in Yamaha basses, some bass guitars have a switch to change between different playstyles.
7. Neck and body construction
Just like electric guitars, bass guitars have two kinds of construction styles:
- Bolt-on neck: it’s the traditional construction design. The neck is a separate piece of wood bolted on the body. The advantage is that it allows you to change the neck if you damage it, which is fairly common for beginners and people traveling a lot with their instruments.
- Neck-through body: the neck and the body are a single piece of wood; or there’re different pieces of tonewoods glued together. Such a design provides more sustain as the energy transfer is more direct. More so, the tonewoods of such design are usually of very high quality, which is why this construction design is common in top-tier guitars and basses. On the downside, neck-through body are harder to adjust or repair.
Lastly, most basses have a C-shaped neck, which is easier to carry and hold than round-shaped necks.
Fender P basses are modeled after the Fender Stratocaster guitars, which is why they are easier to carry, hold, and sit on your lap.
8. Bass gear
Finally, you must consider buying all the things you need to get you started on your bass. As I said before, it’s good going for a bundle, but, if you choose to gear yourself up, these are the things you need:
- A bass guitar;
- A set of cables (at least two cables);
- A bass guitar amp;
- A bass pick (this is optional, you can learn to play with your fingers or play with the pick. Both offer a different sound and different speeds, so it’s best if you go and learn for yourself);
- A tuner (also optional, as you could get a tuner app, a tuner friend, a tuner YouTube video, so on and so forth);
- A metronome (optional as well, as there are metronome apps for Windows, iOS, and Android. Although you wouldn’t be able to carry this to a rehearsal successfully, you can practice with these, and you should always practice with a metronome);
- A strap (don’t get too used to play bass while sitting because, eventually, you will play live);
- Extra batteries (in case you pick a bass with active pickups);
- An extra set of strings (optional, but keep in mind you need to change bass strings at least once per year, better twice per year).
Are you ready to pick your first bass?.
The top 10 beginner electric bass guitars
Here is the top 10 best beginner bass guitars in 2019.
Roger Waters Signature Fender Precision Bass
This one is a personal favorite as I am a Pink Floyd fan. Roger Waters is the legendary and egomaniacal songwriter, bassist player and co-singer of the traditional British rock band Pink Floyd, although he left the band in the 80s due to “creative differences ” (ego issues).
I hope you can share this passion with me because both the versatility and the tone this bass offers is a great choice for beginners and pro players alike.
The Fender P-Bass has been Waters instrument of choice since the 70s. In 2010, Fender released its signature models with a couple of features to emulate the original Fender P design plus the acid and psychedelic bass tone that made Pink Floy such a mythical band.
It’s a beautiful bass with a dark finish, scratchplate, and a definite 70s look and feel.
The bass has two Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound split-coil pickups (SPB-3). It’s one of the most sold Seymour Duncan basses in the market right now.
The SPB-3 gives the bass a punchy sound with enhanced mid-range frequencies and plenty of texture on its tone. Such qualities lead to traditional rock, although the instrument is quite versatile and functional in many genres.
For instance, musicians using the SPB-3 pickups include Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus, Nine Inch Nails, and Beck.
Alternative Fender P Signature versions:
- The Fender Duff McKagan P Bass is probably the best choice for modern rockers. It has Seymour Duncan split-coil and an advanced electronic circuit to provide great tones. DUff McKagan was Guns n’ Roses bass player during its glory days, as well as Velvet Revolver’s bassist.
Fender Deluxe P/J Bass Special
IA P/J bass offers the body of a P bass, the neck of a J bass, and the pickups of both basses. It gives you knobs to change and mix the sound between the two pickups ( a J single-coil and a P dual-coil).
Additionally, P/J basses are active and passive. You can change between the two modes with a simple switch flip.
P/J basses are a great option to get started as they offer the advantages of both Fender models, give you the most versatility, and are, in fact, easier to play than both of them.
Learning to use the knobs will just be a matter of practice, repetition, and YouTube videos.
It’s a good option for you if you’re aiming to become an open musician and play various types of music. Soul? Yes. Reggae? Yes. Heavy metal? Sure enough. You won’t leave anything behind.
I have to say this particular model includes a 3-band EQ.
Alternative Fender P/J versions:
- Affordable: If you’re looking for a cheaper version, you can also check the Affinity Series Precision Beginner Electric Bass, with 20 frets and volume controls for each pickup.
- Mid-range and small: the Mustang P/J bass features a small 30” scale and a toggle pickup switch to select between the bridge pickup, the neck pickup, or both.
- Beginner’s budle: the PJ electric bass guitar beginner pack ships with a standard and perfectly okay Fender Rumble 15-watt bass amplifier, a strap, and a set of cables.
Fender Player Jazz Bass
Here’s a bundle I choose since it seems like a great option for you. This Fender J bass ships with a strap, extra strings, a strap, a cable, a tuner, and bass picks.
This model has an alder body and a gloss finish, features two single-coil J-pickups, two volume controls, and a master tone control, a C-shaped neck, and a neck-through-body. It’s a long-scale body with a maple neck and with 20 frets.
The Player series is an affordable lineup, better sounding than anything Squier can offer. More so, it has a modern sound.
Alternative Fender Jazz Bass version:
- Top-tier: if you’re looking to invest yourself into the bass, go for the Fender American Elite J Bass.
- Affordable: you may pick the Squier J Bass from the affinity series, which still offers a great sound, just not so much power.
Squier Vintage Modified Precision Bass PJ
It’s a beginner bass that would be welcome by any pro player. The Squier Vintage Modified P Bass is a no-nonsense bass with rosewood and maple tonewoods, and a bolt-in c-shaped neck.
It has two P single-coil pickups with a very vast tonal range, from jazz and reggae to heavy metal and progressive rock. Lastly, it features 20 frets and a long-scale body.
More so, as it’s a P/J bass, it gives you the tonal control to combine the pickups, all of that for a very affordable price.
It’s such a good bass it deserved his own position on my list. I strongly recommend it: it’s easy to play on, has intuitive knobs, it’s not very heavy, and provides an excellent, almost professional sound.
Music Man Sterling
Aside from Fender, we must also name a Music Man option, as it’s also an amazing bass brand. Although the sound of these instruments is quite different from the Fender alternatives, it may suit your style. See for yourself:
It’s a funky, groovy sound.
Well, the Sterling features the original StingRay Classic Bass, one of m, and music’s most enduring instrument designs.
It has a 3-Tone Sunburst color, a mahogany body, and maple neck, a bolt-on body design, a single humbucker active pickup, and a 2-band EQ with Hi and Low controls.
Alternative Music Man basses:
- High-end: Music Man’ monster is definitely the Ernie Ball StingRay bass.
- Affordable: the StingRay Ray4 model is a cheaper version featuring almost the same characteristics.
- Beginner’s bundle: this Sterling model ships with a stand, a cable, a tuner, and a tuner stand.
Epiphone is Gibson’s cheaper line, although some could say it’s almost as good as Gibson. The thing is Gibson instruments are made in the USA, while Epiphone instruments are made in Asia, thus they are much affordable.
The Epiphone EB-3 bass guitar is the ultimate beginner instrument. More so, it features the legendary design of the Gibson Les Paul guitar and shares the tone and look of famous Gibson basses.
The EB-3 is a full 34” scale bass with a nice level of aggression and punch its shorter siblings don’t have. It also goes for the fraction of the cost of an old-school top-tier bass guitar.
The best thing about the EB-3 is its neck humbucker plus its mini-humbucker in the bridge. It gives a definite rock and roll sound.
It has a mahogany body, a rosewood fretboard, and a mahogany neck. The construction design is bolt-on neck, with a D-shaped neck, proper of the Gibson company.
Alternative Epiphone bass:
- Viola-bass: you can go for Epiphone’s viola-bass modeled after Paul McCartney’s Hofner viola-bass. It’s a great instrument to learn as it has a small scale, just 21 frets, short frets for less hand stretching, and a seriously elegant look. It has a rosewood fretboard, a maple body, and two mini-humbucker pickups.
- Mid-range: The Epiphone Goth Thunderbird-IV bass guitar is a definite improvement from the EB-3 and still goes for a budget. It also has Humbucker pickups, a rosewood fretboard, and 34” scale. However, the humbuckers have better quality and it has a mahogany body. It’s a great option to start from 0 and go straight up to 11. More so, it looks hot.
Yamaha TRBX304 Electric Bass
Yamaha is a Japanese music brand acclaimed all over the world. They make top-tier pianos and violins, but also some guitars and basses that are worth a try for both beginners and pros.
The Yamaha TRBX304 is very popular bass because of its attractive color, which ships in many different colors. Its double-cutaway body also makes it easier to play than most basses, so it has a great appeal for beginners.
It has two active humbucker pickups: one humbucker for a rich sound, and two for a heavy tone good for metal and rock music. It also has a treble knob to dial the tone up towards funk and pop genres.
More so, it features a performance switch to swap between various styles of play: slap, pick, flat , finger, or solo. As it’s such a nice addition, let’s look at a video:
It’s a versatile, balanced, comfortable mahogany bass guitar going for an affordable price. This one, I must say, it’s also a personal favorite of mine.
Alternative Yamaha bass:
- Entry-level: the Yamaha TRBX174 it’s an incredibly popular bass for beginners that sells for an even lower price.
Marshall 2525C Mini Silver Jubilee
This amazing mini version of the popular Silver Jubilee tube amp packs Marshall’s signature tubular sound.
The Silver Jubilee line celebrates 50 years of Jim Marshall working for the music industry. It contains a 3-band EQ, presence, gain, and volume FX loop controls.
It packs the highest Marshall factory standards and has no outsourced parts.
Schecter Omen 4
The Omen Series from Schecter has offered the beginning and seasoned player a fantastic value for the money for years! Sturdy construction and great-sounding components make the Omen Series the best value-priced guitar series on the market.
It gives you a sharp, versatile tone with a lot of precision on the knobs to work with, something that will take time to learn but will definitely pay off in the shape of sound knowledge. More so, it has a quality basswood and maple body.
As a starter bass, think of this as something you can keep for a long time, use it to rehearse with a band, record songs, and even play live.
Although I didn’t mention Ibanez as one of the top bass brands, this particular bass is a great choice for young learners.
It’s a small 28.6” scale lightweight bass with just 20 frets. However, it still has a quality maple tonewood and a rosewood fretboard.
It has two P single-coil pickups and individual volume controls for each pickup, plus a tone knob.
It’s an excellent bass guitar that offers a lot of value for its money
I laid the path for you to pick your first bass. I hope I did good for you and gave you all you need. Anything you pick from my list is a great choice, I assure you, but remember: pick depending on your playstyles, necessities, and how good the bass feels on your hands.
It would be best if you try out any bass before you buy, okay? Or, at least, search a YouTube video about it.