There is one instrument in almost every band that doesn’t get nearly as much love as it deserves, and that is definitely the bass guitar. That’s why we’re stoked to see that you seem to be 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 a 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 but here are a few we think you should assess carefully when making a decision. These include the type of bass, scales and scale length, the number of strings, pickup, material and price of your beginner bass.
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 how to play 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 advantage of an electric bass guitar. However, 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.
Scales and scale length
Scale length refers to the distance between the bridge and the nut, not the length of the neck. 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 instruments 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 can recommend going with a long-scale bass guitar.
Bass strings and string count
Bass instruments can vary in their number of strings, 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 after 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 complexity that’s not required in a beginner bass guitar. As you learn how to play, you can upgrade your beginner bass with four strings to one with five, for instance.
Five-stringed bass guitars are sometimes used for example in heavy metal to increase the range of notes you can play. However, four-string bass guitars are sufficient and valued even by the pros. The choice doesn’t end there, however, as there are different 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.
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 (source).
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 make a difference between single coil pickups and so-called humbucker pickups, that fit especially for playing different rock genres and heavy metal. You can find a helpful in-depth article here.
Most commonly, bass guitars both for pros and beginners are made of wood. However, so that things don’t get too simple and easy, there’s a number of different woods to choose from. On top of that, there’s the difference between solid and hollow bodied models. This refers to if 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 colourful layer of paint. In addition to affecting 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:
- Ash and swamp ash
As we have learned so far, there are many factors that’ll influence your decision when choosing the best beginner bass guitar for you. The last thing we’re going to have to cover is the price. Depending on your budget, there’s certainly 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 sufficient quality in the bass guitar’s 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, the wood used to build the instrument gets better. On top of that, by paying more you’ll also get better electronics. 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 second hand. However, be careful not to get anything completely blind. We advise you to get your beginner bass guitar from a trusted and 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 with.
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 in 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 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.
You can find it at Guitar Center here.
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″ scale length. At just over $200, this Yamaha instrument is among some of our favorite budget bass guitars.
You can find it at Guitar Center here.
3. Ibanez SR-300
Ibanez Soundgear series are known for their thin necks that are easy to play, and wide tonal palette, which suits many styles of music. The 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, but 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.
You can find it at Guitar Center here.
4. Squier Affinity Jazz Bass
The Squier Affinity Jazz Bass is a great choice despite it’s affordable price. 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 can recommend the Classic Vibe Precision Bass as well.
You can find the Squier Affinity Jazz Bass at Guitar Center.
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. Picking up these additional pieces of equipment isn’t required but we highly recommend considering at least some of them, most importantly a bass amp in case you’re playing an electric bass.
- Instrument cable
- Bass strap
- Bass strings
- Carrying case
- Bass tuner
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. Read more about the GuitarTuna bass tuner here.
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.