How to Choose Your First Bass Guitar 2020 – Trusted Buying Guide

You are a big fan of The Who or Davie504. Because of their/his fantastic bassist/bass playing, you now want to learn the bass guitar. You decided to buy a bass, and there is nothing that will stop you. But you have no idea about the bass guitar, what can you do? You start researching the bass guitar and find many exciting and expensive bass on the internet. 

You might have already gone to the store and blown away by all the bass. But now you are confused about which bass guitar to buy!  Here is a secret; choosing your favorite color does not mean it is the perfect bass for you.

So here is the thing: it is my job to guide you through the whole buying process and ensure that you have a good idea of what you are looking for prior to entering the store.

What To Look For When Buying An Acoustic Bass Guitar?

Body Style: The acoustic bass comes in many shapes and styles. The most commonly used shapes are the Dreadnought, parlor, classical, auditorium, and orchestra. The shapes are very significant when it comes to playing. Ensure you get the perfect shape that enables you to access the high notes without decreasing the sound quality.

Neck: The bass guitar’s neck serves two purposes: It is the base or the platform for the player and to handle the string’s tension. Bass guitars have longer necks than an acoustic guitar. So it is crucial to choose the perfect shape. The famous shapes are C-shape, V-shape, and U-shape. People tense to use the C-shape because of its maximum comfort.

Scale Length: Scale length is the distance between the bridge and the nut. The long scale basses are the standard length for bass. Starting off with a short scale can be helpful as it is easier to play. But it has some down-side too. The short neck has shorter sustain, not well-defined pitch control, and less pronounced treble frequencies. You will also find difficulties down tuning with a short scale. So if you think stretching the hands won’t be a problem, then it’s highly suggested to go with the long neck.

Tuning machines: Tuning machines are essential. A good tuning machine should hold the strings in tune, and it should be enclosed.

Bolt-on, Neck-Thru: There are two types of neck joints used on the bass. Bolt-on and neck through. Bolt-on necks are generally cheaper, easily repairable, and can be replaced. But it can be a little uncomfortable as it will limit fret accessibility. Neck-thru offers the best accessibility with max comfort. But it is expensive and impossible to replace.

Fingerboard: The fingerboard or the fretboard of most basses have a rosewood or a maple fingerboard. Maple fingerboard makes a punchier and percussive sound while the other one has a warmer and darker tone.

Number of fret: Each fret creates a different note. So having more frets meaning able to access more notes. You might not use the 24th fret, but it certainly gives you more freedom.

Wood: Harder woods have a brighter and snappier tone while the softer woods have a mellower and warmer tone. Harder woods consist of Maple, Ebony, walnut, and Padauk. Softer woods are the Adler, Swamp ash, and Basswood.

Different Types Of Bass Guitar

Bass guitar can be separated into many types. Two of the giants are the acoustic and the electric bass guitar. The names are self-explanatory. But we will go deep into the differences and what you can expect from these.

Acoustic & Electric

Acoustic Bass

Acoustic bass does not need any electricity to produce any sound. All you need is a place to sit or a strap and the guitar. Even though you will get a vibrant and clear sound, the sound may fade from a distance. You can always use an amplifier and mic to increase the sound. 

 Acoustic bass strings are kind of different from their electric counterpart. You can expect it to be heavier than an electric bass as it will create more vibration. You will also have to press down strings way harder than the electric bass, which can be somewhat troublesome. 

  • Cheaper 
  • Does not require any additional equipment
  • A great practice instrument
  • Good for some specific genres
  • Does not require electricity
  • Portability
  • Great for unplugged jam session
  • Requires more additional equipment so the bass can play into an amp
  • Volume range is very limited
  •  Higher difficulty level as the strings are difficult to press.
  • Less comfortable than an electric guitar

 The acoustic bass guitar has sound holes in it. So you can expect it to be wider than the electric bass, so it can also be challenging if you have short arms. Sound holes amplify the sound, so you will not need amps just so you want to play for yourself.

If you have already decided to get an acoustic bass guitar, check out our article about the best acoustic bass guitar. We talked about acoustic bass guitars of all price ranges, and we picked out only the best ones.

  • Expensive
  • Requires electricity
  • Additional equipment needed for playing
  • Heavy and not as portable as the acoustics
  • Requires more additional equipment so the bass can play into an amp
  • Volume range is very limited
  •  Higher difficulty level as the strings are difficult to press.
  • Less comfortable than an electric guitar

Electric Bass

The electric bass requires electricity (obviously). Instead of a soundhole, an electric guitar uses pick-up to capture sound and amps to produce the sounds. In most cases, an electric guitar can have two pick up and 3 equalizers. It makes the sound clearer while being louder. Changing the tone is also easy because you will be using fx-pedals.

Tonewood compared

We already talked about how bass guitar comes in two types: solid bodies and hollow bodies. The objective of a hollow-bodied bass guitar is to increase natural resonance and decrease the weight. Woods, which is used to craft the body, creates a massive difference in the sound. Let’s go through some of the woods and their specialty.

Ash & Alder 

There are two types of ash tonewood; Swamp ash and northern hard ash. Swamp ash is the soft ash tonewood. The swamp ash tonewood creates high resonance across the entire frequency and tends to feature scooped mid frequencies. 

The sound is also bright. The hard tonewood makes a more colorful and distorted sound. Alder is the most balanced tonewoods there is. The balance between low mid and high frequencies is just perfect. 

Mahogany

Mahogany creates a soft and warm tone. It is also able to create a smooth, lower mid, and low-frequency tone. Mahogany is cherished and favored by Gibson.  

Basswood

Basswood creates a soft tone compared to other hardwoods. It is a very cheap and lightweight wood. Some people claim it to have a tendency of being warm rather than bright.  

Maple

Maple is of two types; soft and hard. Hard maple wood is commonly used in the neck rather than the body itself because of its unwanted weight. But some bass guitars use maple wood anyway for its bright tone. Soft maple is used in bass mostly because of its stunning look.

How many strings?

There are bass guitars with 4- 5- and 6- strings. So which one should be the best for you? When bass guitar was produced, it only had 4 strings. It stayed like this because people felt that is all that they needed. But 5- or 6- string bass gave them more range. It means bassists were able to play more low or high-pitched notes.

Yes, now it may seem like the 5- or 6- string bass guitar is a better choice. But there are some factors you should consider before choosing the 5- or 6- string guitar. Though the 5 or 6 string bass guitars add more notes to your bass, you have to keep track of more strings. 

While playing the bass, you also have to make sure your strings are quiet when it’s not played. So yes, again, you have to do more work when keeping your strings quiet. In a 5 or 6 string guitar, the fretboard is wider, but the strings are closer to each other. 

So you might feel a bit uncomfortable playing the bass. As the strings are closer, some playing style (e.g., slap bass) can be very tricky. 

...neck-through basses are expensive, have better sound, maximum fret allowance. The bolt-on bass is cheaper, easily repairable, and has greater sustain...

Bolt-on vs. Neck Through Body

Two of the common guitar construction methods are bolt-on neck and neck through. In the bolt-on method, the neck and the body are joined by using screws or bolts. The neck is usually made of a single maple blank with the fretboard. In the neck-through method, the piece of wood used in the neck extends through the entire body.  The neck and the body are made of multiple blocks of wood that are sandwiched into each other.

The neck on a bolt-on method can be easily replaced if any accidents occur. The cost of a bolt-in bass guitar is less than a neck-through bass guitar. You can also achieve a full-bodied sound on a bolt-on neck. The neck-through method allows you to access the last fret. It is undeniably smoother than the bolt-on necked bass. 

But bolt-on necks have more incredible sustain to it. So, in short, neck-through basses are expensive, have better sound, maximum fret allowance. The bolt-on bass is cheaper, easily repairable, and has greater sustain.

 

Fretted vs Fretless

A regular bass guitar comes with frets. There is a reason why fretted bass is more common. A fretted bass is significantly more comfortable to play. You can easily tune your bass and can play a pitch-perfect note with a fretted bass. In a fretless guitar, you have to memorize the exact location while playing the bass. 

A fretless bass can give complete control over notes. There are some playing techniques you cannot achieve on a fretted bass. Sliding harmonics is an excellent example of that. Without the disturbance of fret, you can now perform a sliding harmonic in your bass.  

But let’s be real, if you have no knowledge about guitar or bass, you should definitely go with a fretted bass. Because you might need to learn music theory. Without frets, dealing with pitch-perfects can be super tricky. 

So it is advised to go with a fretted bass if you are a beginner. It will allow you to learn music theory easier. Tuning the bass and playing a song will be more comfortable.

 

Purpose and Budget

You now have sufficient knowledge about the bass guitar right now. Here comes the real talk. Which bass you should buy heavily depends on your purpose, budget, experience with a lute family, and how much you know Davie504. Ok, I made that last one. But let’s get back on the topic.

If you are a beginner and not know much about guitars, bass, or the music itself. You might start with affordable bass guitars. An instrument requires good handling skills. So if it is not a good idea to buy an expensive machine when you don’t have any previous experience. 

But if you have some music knowledge and perform many shows, you can go for high-end bass guitars. So if your purpose is to learn for yourself, you can go on any excellent budget bass, but if you want to make music, it is advised to get a good guitar. Not only your learning experience will be smoother, but you will also save money in the long run.

Budget:

There are many exciting brands to choose from. As a beginner, you can try Spector, Fender, Ibanez, Yamaha, or Music Man. Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro is the perfect budget guitar as it has everything you need. Squire Classic Vibe ‘60s jazz Bass is a great beginner guitar. The price starts at below 400$

60s jazz Bass

60s jazz Bass Fender

High-end:

Ibanez SR800 and Schechter Hellraiser Extreme-4 will work best for professional usage. Both guitars have 5-start ratings on the hardware, sound, and electronics.

Ibanez SR800

Ibanez SR800

Bass Accessories

Bass Asseccsories

Conclusion

We hope that with this guide makes buying your first bass guitar an easy, exciting and affordable experience. Make sure you try out several models to find the one that best fits your size, plays well and has the sound and style that you like.

Further Reading

Different Parts of an Acoustic Guitar

The most common and widely reputed Acoustic Guitar is an essential musical instrument that produces music via its vibrating steel strings just above the hollow

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