How To Choose A Bass Guitar (Ultimate Guide)
Are you ready to join the low-end revolution and make some serious grooves? Choosing the right bass guitar is crucial for unleashing your inner funk, but with so many options out there, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of choices.
In this ultimate guide, I will break down the process of choosing a bass guitar into manageable steps, from understanding the basics of bass guitars to trying out different models and selecting the right accessories.
The Most Important Considerations When Choosing a Bass Guitar
- Going for a 4-string bass guitar is generally a safe choice for beginners
- Consider your budget
- Consider your skill level and play style
- Consider your genre
- Understand the different types of bass guitars
- Know the anatomy of the bass guitar
- Play and test out different bass guitars
- Ask for advice from fellow musicians
- Research and read reviews
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Bass Guitar
When choosing a bass guitar, several factors come into play, including your budget, skill level, playing style, and genre. Keep these factors in mind to help you narrow down your search for the best-suited bass guitar for you.
Bass guitars come in a wide range of prices, starting from a few hundred dollars and going up to several thousand dollars. Consider how much you’re willing to spend before starting your search. It is important to know that while expensive bass guitars offer superior sound quality and durability, there are also many affordable options that can somewhat satisfy your needs.
If you’re a beginner then it’s generally good to start with entry-level to mid-range bass guitars and upgrade from there as your playing style changes.
We have a whole other article on how much bass guitars cost if you want a more in-depth pricing guide.
Consider your skill level when selecting a bass guitar. Beginner bass guitars are specifically designed to be affordable and will be pretty basic, while intermediate and advanced bass guitars are more versatile and offer a wider range of features, including more sophisticated electronics, superior tonewoods, and better overall construction.
But if you’re a beginner, it’s not necessarily a bad idea to opt for an intermediate or advanced bass guitar. In fact, if you want to and have the resources, then go for it!
It’s important to keep in mind that your play style or genre of music may evolve over time, and having a versatile bass guitar that can cover a wide range of genres can save you from having to constantly switch instruments. By investing in a high-quality, adaptable bass guitar from the start, you can avoid overspending in the long run.
Your playing style will also affect your choice of bass guitar. Whether you prefer fingerstyle, pick-playing, or slap techniques, each of these styles demands a distinct type of bass guitar that can produce a tone that complements your playing style. For example, the Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Jazz Bass is a particularly good bass guitar for slapping, the Ibanez SR500E Electric Bass Guitar is good for picking, and the Sterling by Musicman StingRay is great for fingerstyle.
Different genres of music require different types of bass guitars. Rock/metal bass guitars are typically powerful and punchy like the Ibanez SR500E Electric Bass, while jazz bass guitars are smooth and mellow like the Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Jazz Bass. Funk bass guitars are bright and percussive, an example would be the Sterling by MusicMan StingRay.
Understanding What Type of Bass Guitar You Want
Bass guitars typically have four strings, although five and six-string models are also available. But it’s safe to say that going for a 4-string bass guitar is an ideal choice.
There are three main types of bass guitars: electric, acoustic, and semi-acoustic.
- Electric bass guitars are the most common, but they require an amplifier to produce sound. An example would be your Fender Precision Bass.
- Acoustic bass guitars are unplugged, and they produce sound through their hollow body. An example would be the Fender Fa-450-ce Acoustic Bass. Check out our article on the best acoustic bass guitars to learn more.
- Semi-acoustic bass guitars are a hybrid of the two, featuring a hollow body with an electric pickup. A great example would be the Epiphone Jack Casady Signature Semi-hollow Electric Bass.
For more information about the different types of bass guitars check out the below video by Sutton Music Centre:
and the following video on Hollow & Semi-Hollow Bass Shootouts by Andertons Music Co for a more detailed look at these different types of bass guitars.
Know the Anatomy of a Bass Guitar
Understanding the anatomy of a bass guitar is crucial when selecting the right model for yourself. To make sure that you will be happy with your decision, it is important to have an understanding of each component of the bass guitar in order to really know what you need.
Bass guitar bodies come in four main types: solid, acoustic, semi-hollow, and hollow. Solid bodies are the most popular type and are known for producing a bright and punchy sound. While the acoustic bass is a type of bass guitar that is designed to be played without the use of an amplifier. It produces sound through its hollow body and soundhole, much like an acoustic guitar. On the other hand, semi-hollow and hollow bodies generate a warmer, more resonant tone.
While solid-body bass guitars are generally more suitable for genres like rock and metal, acoustic, semi-hollow, and hollow-body bass guitars are preferred by musicians who play jazz, blues, and other genres that require a more mellow sound.
When it comes to bass guitar necks, there are three main types: bolt-on, set-in, and neck-through.
- Bolt-on necks are the most common and are easy to repair or replace.
- Set-in necks are glued to the body, providing better sustain and resonance.
- Neck-through bass guitars have a neck that extends through the body, providing excellent sustain and stability.
Each type of neck has its unique advantages and disadvantages, and your choice will depend on your playing style and preference.
Scale length refers to the distance between the nut and the bridge. Bass guitars with short-scale lengths are generally easier to play and are known for producing a warm and rounded sound. In contrast, long-scale bass guitars tend to deliver a brighter and more defined tone.
Take note as well that short-scale bass guitars are easier to handle for players with smaller hands, but they may not be suitable for musicians who require more extended stretches.
Number of strings
Bass guitars typically have four strings, there are also five and six-string models available. More strings provide more range and versatility but can be more challenging to play.
The additional strings provide a wider range of notes, enabling musicians to play more complex basslines and chords. However, playing a bass guitar with more strings can be more challenging, requiring greater finger dexterity and hand strength. If you’re on the fence about choosing a 4, 5, or maybe even a 6-string bass then we have articles that cover that topic. Consider giving them a read!
For more info about choosing how many strings you should get, check out the video “Choosing a 4, 5 or 6 String Bass” by DonMoenTV.
There are five primary types of bass guitar pickups: single-coil, split-coil, humbucker, soapbar, and active. Single-coil pickups offer a bright and transparent tone, split-coils produce a richer and deeper sound, while soapbar pickups provide a punchy and clear sound. Humbuckers are known for their warmer and smoother tone, whereas active pickups require a battery and offer a more powerful and flexible sound.
Active pickups are usually the odd one of the bunch since they require batteries as the others previously mentioned are all passive, meaning they don’t require a battery. If you’re confused about active and passive pickups, you can read our article comparing passive and active pickups so that you can learn more about them.
To learn more about Bass guitar pickups check out “How to Buy a Bass You‘ll Love: Pickups” by Sweetwater.
Bass guitar controls typically include volume, tone, and pickup selectors. While some models have only these basic controls, others come equipped with additional features for more precise tone shaping and EQ. These can include knobs for adjusting the frequency range, and a blend control for mixing the output of multiple pickups.
Try Out Different Bass Guitars in Person
Ultimately, trying out different bass guitars is crucial to finding the right model for your needs. Getting to know the “feel” of the bass you’re considering purchasing is very essential in finalizing your decision.
Visit a local music store
You may want to consider visiting a nearby music store to get a hands-on experience with various bass guitars. By doing so, you can evaluate the sound quality, playability, and overall feel of each instrument.
Try out various bass guitars
It’s always a good idea to try out several different bass guitar models to see which one suits you best. Don’t be afraid to experiment with ones that you think you might not like because you might end up finding a great fit that you hadn’t considered before. So, make sure you give every bass guitar a chance, as you never know which one will feel and sound just right for you.
Evaluate comfort, playability, and sound
When trying out bass guitars, think about how comfortable it feels to play, how easy it is to use, and how it sounds. Take note of the weight, the thickness of the neck, and how the frets and strings feel under your fingers. That way, you can decide if the bass guitar is comfy enough for you to play for long periods of time without feeling tired.
Ask for advice from store staff or fellow musicians
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from store staff or fellow musicians. They might have useful tips or insights that could help you make a better decision. You can ask them about the different brands and models available, or get their opinion on the sound quality and playability of a particular bass. You might also want to ask if there are any ongoing promotions or discounts for the bass guitars that you are interested in.
Take Note of Additional Accessories and Gear
In addition to the bass guitar itself, there are several accessories and gear you’ll need to consider:
Bass guitar amplifier
The first piece of gear that you need to consider is the Amplifier. When you ultimately decide on a bass guitar and it happens to be electric then you need an amp. Now choosing an amp can be as hard as choosing a bass guitar but a good starting point for choosing an amp is knowing where you’re going to use it. Is it for practice? Gigging? Or maybe for a concert? We have lots of articles that cover different types of bass amps and the best ones catered to your needs, consider checking them out!
For more details on how to choose an amp check out “How To Choose A Bass Amplifier!” by PMTVUK.
If you’re looking to get some great bass tones, effect pedals are where it’s at! But be warned, it’s a deep rabbit hole and you could get lost for hours. However, a good place to start would be checking out some overdrive, compressor, and chorus pedals. They’re pretty versatile and can help push you in the direction of the sound you’re looking for. We have an article that covers the best multi-effects pedals for bass guitars, give it a read as it is a great starting point as well!
For a more detailed guide on bass guitar pedals check out the video below “A Beginner’s Guide To Bass Guitar Effects Pedals” by PMTVUK.
Straps, cables, and gig bags or cases
Don’t forget to purchase straps, cables, and a gig bag or case to protect your bass guitar. You wouldn’t want to damage your brand-new bass guitar just because you didn’t think to protect it!
Tuners, metronomes, and practice tools
If you’re wanting to take your playing skills to the next level, you could think about picking up some gear like tuners, metronomes, and other practice tools. These tools can be a total game-changer when it comes to fine-tuning your skills and improving your overall musicianship. Plus, they’re super fun to use!
Picking out the perfect bass guitar can be a bit of a challenge, but don’t sweat it! Take your time, experiment with different models, and think about what kind of sound you’re after, as well as your budget and playing style. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’re well on your way to finding the perfect model for your needs. Have fun while you’re at it! Also make sure to snag some cool accessories and gear, and maybe even some learning resources, to level up your bass game! Good luck!