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Buying Guide: Best Bass Guitar for Beginners

Posted on November 18, 2021

There is one instrument in almost every band that doesn’t get nearly as much love as it deserves, and that’s definitely the bass guitar. That’s why we’re stoked to see that you’re interested in getting your first bass guitar and start playing. Unfortunately, there’s one hurdle every bass player has to get past before they can start rocking the four strings. That is, of course, deciding what kind of bass guitar they should start playing.

There are so many beginner bass guitars to choose from, but luckily for you, we can point you in the right direction. In this blog post, we introduce some things you should look out for when browsing through the countless bass guitars music stores and online marketplaces have to offer. We also give a few examples of what we think are among the best beginner bass guitars out there.

Buying a beginner bass guitar

Let’s begin with some things to know when picking your beginner bass guitar. There are many factors you can try to optimize and nail down in your hunt for the best bass guitar for beginners. Here are a few we think you should pay special attention to when making your decision. These include the type of bass, scales and scale length, the number of strings, pickup, material, and price of your beginner bass.

Should I buy an acoustic or electric bass guitar?

Just like acoustic and electric guitars, there are both acoustic and electric basses. For beginners, we recommend going for an electric bass. Why? First of all, an acoustic bass can be more difficult to play, in case you’re just starting to learn bass. On top of that, an electric bass guitar provides more possibilities when it comes to playing, whereas an acoustic bass is most often used for some specific purpose or genre, such as folk music.

Also, being able to play with an amp is one huge advantage of an electric bass guitar. If you’re specifically looking for an acoustic bass and want that acoustic unplugged sound, then there’s no harm in going with an acoustic bass guitar either. Just keep in mind that you should also get an amplifier when buying an electric bass guitar, and that will increase your bass-buying budget a bit.

Scales and scale length

Scale length refers to the distance between the bridge and the nut, not the length of the neck itself. The bridge of a bass guitar is the part where the strings begin at the bottom of the instrument’s body. Although a bass guitar’s strings end at the tuning machine located at the headstock, the other end of a bass guitar’s scale length, the nut, is the part located just where the fretboard begins.

The standard scale length for bass guitars is 34 inches. These instruments are referred to as long-scale bass guitars (as opposed to short-scale basses). A short-scale bass has a scale length of 30 inches. Even though these aren’t the only available scale lengths (there are so-called medium-scale basses available too) bass guitars with 30- or 34-inch scale lengths are the most common ones.

For beginners, we recommend choosing the scale length of your bass guitar based on your own size. In case you have small hands or you’re buying a beginner bass guitar for a child, then a smaller short- or medium-scale bass is a good pick. For most other players, we recommend going with a long-scale bass guitar.

Bass strings and string count

Bass instruments can vary in their number of strings, but they are most commonly four- or five-stringed. For more experienced bass players, there are even six-string basses, but it might be a good idea to leave those for the future and consider them once you’ve mastered the four strings of a more traditional bass guitar first.

Because all of our recommended beginner bass guitars are intended especially for beginners, the basses in this article all have four strings. Overall, more strings add to the complexity, which is not required in a beginner bass guitar. As you learn to play, you can upgrade your beginner bass from one with four strings to one with five, for instance.

Five-string bass guitars are sometimes used in heavy metal to increase the range of playable notes. However, four-string bass guitars are sufficient and valued even by the pros.

The number of bass strings isn’t the only choice you have to make, as there are different types of bass strings available as well. For beginners, we can recommend going with roundwound bass strings. The other option for bass players would be flatwound strings.

Pickup

Pickups consist of a magnet with a copper wire coiled around it. When the vibrations of a bass string disturb the magnetic field of the magnet, small voltage fluctuations in the copper coil are produced. These fluctuations are then transmitted to the bass amp, amplified, and translated into sound.

Bass pickups are different from guitar pickups as they’re made for lower frequencies, in addition to the thicker strings of a bass guitar. You can choose between single-coil pickups and so-called humbucker pickups, which are great for playing different rock genres and heavy metal.

Materials

Most commonly, bass guitars for both pros and beginners are made of wood. However, so that things don’t get too simple and easy, there are a number of different wooden materials to choose from. On top of that, there’s the difference between solid and hollow-bodied bass models (whether the bass guitar’s body is made of solid wood or if it’s hollowed out).

It’s up to the bass manufacturer whether they want to show the wooden material the instrument is made of or cover it with a colorful layer of paint. In addition to changing the look of the bass guitar, the wood used in the instrument influences its sound as well. Some common wooden materials for bass guitars include:

  • Maple
  • Ebony
  • Mahogany
  • Walnut
  • Rosewood
  • Alder
  • Ash and swamp ash

Bass guitar price

As we’ve learned so far, there are many factors that’ll influence your decision when choosing the best beginner bass guitar for you. Finally, there’s one more thing to cover. That’s right — we’re going to have to talk about money.

Depending on your budget, there’s definitely a wide range of basses to choose from. As a beginner buying your very first bass guitar, you don’t want to pay too much for the instrument. At the same time, you shouldn’t cut corners when it comes to the bass guitar’s quality, sound, and playability.

What’s a good price range for beginner bass guitars? You can get a fairly good bass guitar for about $200, but as you move up in the price range, many things tend to improve. For example, the wood used to build the instrument gets better. On top of that, by paying more, you’ll also get better electronics, which can really change how the bass sounds. Luckily for brand-conscious players, even the top bass manufacturers such as Fender, Gibson, Yamaha, and Ibanez offer great beginner bass guitars.

You can save some money by buying your instrument secondhand. However, be careful not to pay for anything if you don’t know what you’re buying. We advise you to get your beginner bass guitar from a reliable music store or someone else you can trust. Overall, it’s a good idea to test the instrument before paying for anything so that you can be sure that the instrument feels good to play.

Beginner bass guitars: Recommendations from the Yousician team

To get you started on your hunt for the best beginner bass guitars, our team at Yousician has collected a few good recommendations to consider. These beginner basses have been tested by the expert bass players on our team. The beginner bass guitars in this list are also great for playing bass in a number of music genres, making them great entry-level instruments for all aspiring bass players.

1. G&L Tribute LB-100

Made in the USA, this bass by G&L is a reiteration of the traditional P bass design introduced 20 years ago. This model features a rock maple neck, Brazilian cherry fretboard, and solid ash body, with four strings and a 34-inch scale length. At more than $500, the G&L Tribute sits at the higher end of beginner bass guitars. However, it’s a fantastic choice if your budget allows.

G&L Tribute Bass

2. Yamaha TRBX-174

Is it surprising to find a Yamaha instrument on our list? This bass guitar is a well-rounded model that suits many playing styles. The four-stringed Yamaha TRBX-174 features a maple neck, sonokeling fingerboard, and alder body with a 34-inch scale length. At just over $200, this Yamaha instrument is among some of our favorite budget bass guitars.

Yamaha TRBX-174 Bass

3. Ibanez SR-300

The Ibanez Soundgear series is known for its thin, easy-to-play necks and wide tonal palettes, which suits many styles of music. The Ibanez SR has been around for 25 years, and this iteration is just as great as its predecessors. The price is just right for a beginner model, and it has features that ensure you won’t outgrow it fast. This four-string bass guitar features a maple/jatoba neck, nyato body, and a deep cutaway to reach those upper frets.

Ibanez SR-300 Bass

4. Squier Affinity Jazz Bass

Despite what its affordable price may make you think, the Squier Affinity Jazz Bass is a great choice. The Jazz Bass comes with a C-shaped maple neck, a 20-fret Indian laurel fingerboard, and dual single-coil Jazz Bass pickups. In case you’re looking for a Squier bass up a notch in the price range, we recommend the Classic Vibe Precision Bass as well.

Squier Affinity Jazz Bass

Parts of a bass guitar

When buying your first beginner bass guitar, it’s good to be familiar with the main parts of the instrument. If some of the bass guitar parts already mentioned sounded foreign to you, don’t worry! Here’s what they mean:

  • Body: The body of a bass guitar is the biggest part of the instrument to which many of the smaller parts are attached. These include the tuning pegs, bridge, and pickups, for instance. As mentioned above, a bass guitar can have a solid or hollow body, depending on the type of instrument.
  • Neck: Starting from the bass guitar’s body, you have the instrument’s neck, and where the neck ends, you can find the bass guitar’s headstock. This is where most of the action with your fretting hand takes place.
  • Fretboard: Part of the bass guitar’s neck is the fretboard. This part is needed to locate and play individual notes or chords (yes, there are bass chords as well). In order to play a note, you have to press the bass guitar’s string against the fretboard with your fretting hand while plucking the string with your fingers or picking it with a pick. To make locating individual notes easier, the fretboard is divided into frets.
  • Headstock: The bass guitar’s headstock is essential for tuning the instrument. It contains the bass guitar’s tuning pegs that you twist to adjust the pitch of the strings. All beginners should get familiar with the tuning mechanism as soon as possible because playing with a bass guitar that’s out of tune is no fun.

Bass guitar gear and accessories

In addition to a good acoustic or electric bass, you’re going to need some other gear as well when learning how to play bass. Picking up these additional pieces of equipment isn’t required, but we highly recommend considering at least some of them. Most importantly, you’re going to need an amp if you’re playing an electric bass.

  • Amp
  • Instrument cable
  • Picks
  • Bass strap
  • Bass strings
  • Carrying case
  • Bass tuner

Your beginner bass guitar needs to be in tune whenever you play, as even the most expensive and fancy instrument won’t sound good if it’s out of tune. For a great bass tuner, check out GuitarTuna, our fantastic and accurate tuning app in your pocket. You can download GuitarTuna for free either on your iOS or Android device. It also comes with tuners for other stringed instruments, as well as many alternate tunings.

Learn to play bass guitar with Yousician

Did you find a good instrument out of these bass guitars for beginners? The first big step on your journey to becoming a great bass player is getting the right instrument to play with. Once that’s done, it’s time to start learning.

For a fun and effective way to learn bass guitar, check out Yousician and our interactive bass lessons that make learning how to play fast and easy.

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