Skip to main content Skip to footer
Save up to 20% on live essentials     Shop Now
  •  Español 877-687-5402
  • Stores

How to Choose the Best Bass Guitar

How to Choose the Best Bass Guitar

There are a lot of outstanding reasons to pick up an electric bass guitar. Maybe you love the classic sound of a four-string Fender Precision Bass, the low-end rumble of an extended-range five- or six-string machine made for modern metal, or the sweet song of a fretless. You might be a guitarist who wants to have a backup plan, or a home recordist who wants to lay your own bass tracks. Or, you might be someone who loves the idea of being an informal conductor (a role bassists often play, usually uncredited). Maybe you just like making the world rattle. We know that there are a lot of choices, and, at Guitar Center, we understand that the desire to make music is a very powerful one. From Hofner Violin basses to Guild acoustics to modern, multi-scale Ibanez instruments, this guide will introduce you to the basics (or bass-ics) of making sure your next instrument is the best electric bass guitar for your needs.

Stick with us through the next couple of sections to get some inside information about the history and development of the electric bass, as well as some tips that will help you decide just which bass you want. Or, if you want to get straight to the gear, use the links in our convenient Table of Contents to jump directly to the sections that interest you.

Table of Contents

What You'll Need to Know
Four-String Foundations
The Groundbreakers
Other Iconic 4-Strings
Five- and Six-String Options
Short-Scale Basses
Fretless Bass-ics
Active Basses
Acoustic Basses
Best Beginner Choices
The Bottom Line

What you'll need to know

So what do you need to think about when buying a bass guitar? There are a lot of things to consider. From the kind of music you want to play and what type of bass sounds you like to how big your hands are, let’s dig into what will help you decide on the bass that’s right for you.

Parts of the Bass Guitar

Scale length

The scale length of a bass is the length of the vibrating portion of the string. This is measured from the bridge to the nut. There are four basic classes of scale length: Short (less than 30”), Medium (30–33”), Long (34”) and Extra-Long (35”+). Most basses fall into the long-scale category because that was the scale of the earliest electric bass, the Fender Precision Bass.

Which one will be best for you depends on the fundamental tone you want and how large your hands are. The longer the scale, the more tension it takes to get a string to pitch. The more tension, the stiffer the string feels and the more piano-like the tone is. Changing the scale length also changes the basic tone, or timbre, of a note due to changes in the ratio of tones in the harmonic series generated by the string’s vibratory length. So a short-scale bass will have a richer low-end tone and a smoother high end. A longer scale makes for a brighter high-end tone and more “twang” in the low end. So, that’s one thing to consider.

The other consideration is that bass guitar, especially a longer-scale bass, can be a physically demanding instrument to play due to the distance between frets, especially in the lower positions. Think of it this way—a four-fret stretch from the nut on a standard 34”-scale neck is just about the equivalent to a seven-fret stretch on a 24.75”-scale guitar. This is one reason why, despite legendary Booker T & the MGs bassist Duck Dunn’s proclamation that, “There’s no money above the seventh fret,” when you see bass players soloing, it’s mostly in upper registers where frets are closer together. So, for younger players or players with smaller hands, a short-scale bass can be a good place to start. This is not to say that small hands can’t play long-scale basses, but if you fall into that category, try them all, and go with what’s physically most comfortable.

Pickup type

Like electric guitars, the electric bass has pretty much two basic types of pickup to choose from—single coil or humbucking. Single-coil pickups have a wider frequency bandwidth (more highs, more lows), but can be more prone to picking up electrical noise and interference. Humbucking pickups have a second coil that’s wired in reverse polarity which helps cancel out unwanted noise at the cost of losing a little bit of highs and lows. This results in a generally thicker tone, but with a little less definition than a single-coil pickup.

An interesting variant is the Fender P-Bass-style split-coil pickup. While it may look like a single coil, the two halves of the pickup are wired in reverse polarity. This helps you get most of the noise rejection of a humbucker with most of the sound of a single coil. Clever.

Active or passive

While we’re on the topic of electronics for your electric bass guitar, we need to touch on the subject of active and passive basses. The original electric basses all had unpowered passive electronics systems. This means that the tone controls can cut frequency ranges, but not boost them. Active, in basses, can mean either pickups that have a built-in preamp or a powered preamp that boosts and EQs the signal of passive pickups in the guitar. Active electronics always require power, either from an onboard battery or phantom power from an external power supply.

Don't fret the frets

The final electric bass variation we’ll look at before we dive into specific models is the question of frets. If you’re a fan of bassists like Jaco Pastorius, Pino Palladino, Les Claypool, Victor Wooten or Bill Wyman, you’re familiar with the sound of a fretless bass. The fretless electric bass used to be seen as a sort of oddball choice, but more and more bassists seem to be looking for that silky smooth, vocal-like tone and are willing to put in the extra hours refining their technique. While it may not be the ideal choice for an absolute beginner, if you’ve already been playing a while, a fretless can be a great addition to your arsenal. Just be ready to put in the practice time.

Four-string foundations

By far the most common electric bass guitar is the regular four-string version. It was originally designed both to enable guitar players to double on bass and to allow upright bass players to have a more portable instrument. The electric bass’ fourths-based tuning, based on the bottom four strings of standard guitar tuning, not only made it easier for guitarists to pick up, but actually helped to standardize E-A-D-G for orchestral double bass as well, as symphonic players and composers had only recently begun to use that tuning. Four strings is probably the best place for any beginner to start learning.

The Groundbreakers

The electric bass revolution began in October of 1951, with the release of the Fender Precision Bass (sometimes call the Telecaster bass because its slab body, Bakelite pickguard and single-coil pickup resembled the then-new Telecaster). The next evolution occurred a decade later, with the debut of the Fender Jazz Bass. These two basses not only broke new musical ground, but became so iconic, their design elements were and are echoed in many instruments from other manufacturers.

Fender Precision Bass

You really couldn’t design an instrument that was simultaneously as simple and as versatile as the original Fender Precision Bass, or P Bass. With a slab body and single pickup with volume and tone control, it was stripped down and easy to incorporate into any band that needed an amplified bass. Featuring a warm, punchy tone that could add a bit of bite and a neck that was instantly comfortable for the guitar players who were swapping over, it was an ideal fit for the small touring combos of the time. When Fender released the Stratocaster in 1954, the body shape of the Precision was modified to match the new guitar’s contours. In 1957, the signature split-pickup design was added. This basic design—streamlined and functional—has become so immediately identifiable that it has remained basically the same with only minor changes in finish and electronics choices.

Fender American Professional II Precision Bass

Pictured: Fender American Professional II Precision Bass 

Guitar Center offers a wide range of P Bass models in a huge variety of finishes, from entry-level Squier versions to Fender Custom Shop masterpieces.

Fender Jazz Bass

When Fender first released the Jazz Bass, or J Bass, in 1961, it wasn’t called that yet. Originally known as the Deluxe Bass, it borrowed an offset body design from the (then-new) Jazzmaster and Jaguar guitars. The narrower, but rounder, neck was intended to appeal more to jazz musicians than to the country, rock ‘n’ roll and R&B players who had so readily adopted the Precision Bass. A pair of single-coil pickups that could be mixed via individual volume and tone controls offered a much wider range of tonal options than previous basses, as well as more definition in both the low and high frequencies, and a distinctive mid-range growl. The earliest Jazz Bass had stacked pots with volume and tone for each pickup at a single-knob position. After a couple of years, this control setup was changed to the current setup of individual volume knobs and a master tone control. Some guitarists who double on bass find the Jazz Bass neck easier to shift to because, oddly enough, it feels a little less like a guitar, so it makes it easier to think of as a distinctly different instrument.

Fender Player Jazz Bass

Pictured: Fender Player Jazz Bass 

Our selection of this model spans the full gamut, with versions for every level of player experience and budget.

Precision Bass vs. Jazz Bass

Model

Fender Precision Bass

Fender Jazz Bass

Origin Year

1951

1960

Body Style

Double cutaway

Offset double cutaway

Pickups

One split single coil

Dual single coil

Nut Width

43 mm

38 mm

Neck Shape

Relatively constant thickness

More tapered thickness

Sound

Strong, warm lows and crisp highs

Solid lows, signature midrange, crisp highs

Players

James Jamerson, Roger Waters, Duff McKagan, “Duck” Dunn, Dee Dee Ramone

Noel Redding, Larry Graham, Jaco Pastorius, John Paul Jones, Geddy Lee, Marcus Miller

Other Iconic 4-strings

The Fender P Bass and J Bass certainly set the standard for great four-string electric basses in general. But there have been many other instruments from other manufacturers over the years that have offered a look, a sound or a feature set that set them easily in the pantheon of instruments serious bassists would like to have.

Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay

The original Music Man company was, in fact, Leo Fender’s next dive into instrument design after selling his original company in 1965. The StingRay bass, which debuted in 1975, offered a versatile new humbucking pickup along with a couple of design firsts. Always looking to improve both signal quality and tonal versatility, Music Man designed the StingRay as the first bass to have onboard active EQ. This enabled a much wider range of tone, including the ability to boost, not just cut, frequencies. Combined with the custom-designed alnico humbucking pickup, the StingRay creates tones that can deliver truly deep lows that didn’t get muddy, while providing punch in the low and upper miss and a sweet high end. It was also the first bass to offer the “3+1” tuner configuration, which enables a more compact headstock, reducing dead spots on the neck while maintaining straight string pull through the nut.

Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay Special HH

Pictured: Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay Special HH

When Ernie Ball took over the Music Man name in 1985, they were committed to maintaining the same levels of quality and innovation, and have been a more than worthy steward of the tradition. The current generation of StingRay bass remains a popular choice among picky bassists.

Hofner Violin Bass

Debuting in 1956, the Hofner Violin Bass became forever known as “The Beatle Bass” when Sir Paul McCartney played his 1961 model on the Beatles’ American television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1963. The shape originated with the fact that most of the builders at Hofner’s factory were violin makers, and it was a shape and construction they could easily adapt to. This short-scale (30”) instrument features rich low end with an almost tuba-like resonance.

Hofner Ignition Series Violin Bass

Pictured: Hofner Ignition Series Violin Bass 

Rickenbacker 4000 Series

Another electric bass guitar with a surge in popularity directly attributable to Sir Paul McCartney is the Rickenbacker 4000 series. Though Macca continued to play his Hofner bass onstage, beginning in 1965, his 4001s became his go-to instrument in the studio. With its neck-thru design and unique 33.25” scale length, the contemporary 4003 model boasts a slightly wider neck and hotter pickups, but still carries the signature Rickenbacker tone that balances the warmth of a short scale with the snappier high frequencies of a long-scale bass.

Rickenbacker 4003S Electric Bass Guitar

Pictured: Rickenbacker 4003S Electric Bass Guitar 

Gibson Thunderbird

From its introduction in 1963, the Gibson Thunderbird electric bass has been a favorite choice for rock and roll. In the hands of players like The Who’s John Entwhistle, Aerosmith’s Tom Hamilton and Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson, the Thunderbird put some serious rumble behind the rock. Conceptualized by Firebird designer Ray Dietrich, the current T-Bird bass model combines a neck-thru construction with some serious humbucker tone while echoing the Firebird’s reverse body and headstock. The full 34” long-scale neck brings a rich, ringing sonic quality with some serious sustain.

Gibson Thunderbird Bass

Pictured: Gibson Thunderbird Bass 

Epiphone Embassy Bass

Epiphone first introduced their Embassy Bass in 1963, building them on the same line as the also-new Gibson Thunderbird. Then, as now, the Embassy offered great long-scale performance and solid humbucker sound in a body style that was just enough off the beaten path to carve its own look. Today’s Embassy Bass carries a vintage aesthetic, but not one that’s buried in nostalgia. Tonally, it strikes a balance between a single-coil short- or medium-scale bass and a long scale, thanks to Epiphone’s Probucker pickups.

Epiphone Embassy Bass

Pictured: Epiphone Embassy Bass 

Five- and six-string options

Many jazz/fusion and prog-metal bassists are turning to five- and six-string basses, also known as extended-range basses. With the addition of a low B string and, on the 6-string extended range, a high C, bassists have the ability to get far, far heavier tones and to extend the harmonic range of solos. Best of both worlds, right? But this increased freedom does have some impact on the instrument’s design that you’ll want to consider before choosing one.

First of all, extended range basses tend to have longer, 35” or more, scale lengths to keep that low B string from being too floppy. This means you’ll have to stretch more in the lower range of the bass. Combine this with the necessarily wider neck, and you’ll find that you’ll have to adapt to reaching further for notes. Switch to a 6-string, and the neck gets wider yet, so it becomes more important to approach it with proper technique (keep that wrist straight) to avoid problems.

Secondly, the added tension of extra bass strings means the neck is probably going to have to be a bit chunkier, even with modern carbon graphite rod reinforcement. After all, you’ve got in the general vicinity of 200 pounds of tension on a 6-string bass neck, and if you’re not planning on using it to shoot arrows, you need some serious strength there.

Both the above factors also mean that your extended-range bass is going to weigh more, so balance and comfort will be important things to look for. All this being said, a five- or six-string bass can really extend (see what we did there?) a player’s musical choices, so let’s look at some of the great choices we have available.

Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass V

The Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass features a rethought neck profile that helps compensate for the added width. The noiseless pickups and active preamp can easily go from classic J-Bass vocal-like sweetness to aggressive attack accentuated by the low B string. The preamp can also be easily switched out for fully passive operation.

Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass V

Pictured: Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass V 5-String Maple Fingerboard 

Schecter Stiletto Stealth

The Stilleto Stealth from Schecter Guitar Research offers a combination of neck single coil and bridge humbucker for a wide range of tones, and a deferrable two-band EQ to fully contour your sound.

Schecter Guitar Research Stiletto Stealth-5

Pictured: Schecter Guitar Research Stiletto Stealth-5 

Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo 6

Ernie Ball Music Man’s Bongo 6 delivers seriously modern styling in a 6-string bass guitar that’s designed for tonal versatility. With a four-band EQ and custom neodymium humbuckers, there’s a world of sounds at your fingertips. The easy upper-fret access makes it ideal for jazz and fusion players looking to expand their range.

Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo 6

Pictured: Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo 6 

Short-Scale Basses

We touched on short-scale basses in an earlier section, but it’s time to dig a little deeper into the legitimate cool factor of this more compact form factor.

Historically, short-scale basses have tended to be dismissed as strictly a bass for younger students. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Short-scale basses have advantages far beyond just being easier to play for smaller hands. For one thing, you shouldn’t just dismiss that whole “easier to play” thing. Unless you like to suffer, easier is better. And if you’re a guitar player who’s thinking about doubling on bass, it’s a lot easier to go back and forth between instruments, given the closer relation between scale lengths.

Another element, and a big one for many, is the tonal difference between short- and long-scale instruments. Short-scale basses generally sound absolutely huge. This has to do with a couple of physical factors. First, the shorter strings carry less tension and so vibrate more easily. Second, as we mentioned before, different scale lengths change the ratios of the various harmonics generated by the string. So where a longer string with higher tension will generate more higher harmonics, a short-scale bass tends to generate comparatively more lower harmonics, resulting in a bigger, warmer sound. Like we said, huge. This combination of bigger tone and easier to play has seen a lot of players adding a short-scale bass to their collection.

Fender Player Mustang PJ Bass

Stepping beyond Fender’s original 1964 design, substituting a Jazz Bass pickup at the bridge and a Precision Bass pickup in the neck position (commonly referred to as a P/J setup), the Fender Player Mustang PJ brings a new tonal range to the ever-popular Mustang line.

Fender Player Mustang PJ Bass

Pictured: Fender Player Mustang PJ Bass 

Sterling by Music Man StingRay Short Scale

The StingRay Short Scale from Sterling by Music Man features a passive boost circuit along with the Music Man-designed humbucking pickup and the familiar StingRay body shape.

Sterling by Music Man StingRay Short Scale

Pictured: Sterling by Music Man StingRay Short Scale 

Ibanez 6-string Multi Short-Scale Ergonomic Headless

The Ibanez EHB1005SMS is an advanced short-scale bass that has several modern features we haven’t discussed here yet. While both headless and multi-scale instruments have been around for some time on specialty instruments, it’s only been fairly recently that the two have been combined on basses intended for the mass market. The unique look of the multi-scale bass, with its angled bridge and nut and frets that resemble a fanned deck of cards, may seem unusual, but there are sound ergonomic reasons. Minimizing wrist bend, which this setup does, helps prevent repetitive stress injuries due to playing. In addition, each string having its own scale length makes for more accurate intonation. This is a great instrument if you’re focused on perfecting technique and expanding the range of your playing.

Ibanez EHB1005SMS 5-String

Pictured: Ibanez EHB1005SMS 5-String 

Fretless Bass-ics

We took a brief look at fretless basses in an earlier section. Let’s look a little deeper here at what makes a fretless an attractive choice, and then offer some examples you might want to add to your collection.

The first reason to play a fretless is for the tone. It’s round and warm with a mid-range growl that’s almost vocal in quality. It’s a tone that’s even more unique to the player than usual, because it’s your finger that is actually making the note, not simply pressing a string against a fret. When you listen to different fretless players like Jaco Pastorius, Sting, Bakithi Kumalo (Paul Simon’s bassist on “Graceland”) or The Band’s Rick Danko, the difference in individual touch is what makes each one identifiable almost immediately.

The biggest reason, many players feel, is control. You have more control over all the aspects of the sound of the bass with a fretless because it’s a more direct connection to your hand. And some techniques, like sliding harmonics, aren’t really possible on a fretted instrument. A fretless bass will demand more practice and working on ear training skills, but fretless players, en masse, will say it’s more than worth the effort.

Fender Player Fretless Jazz Bass

The Fender J Bass is one of the most popular choices for fretless, and this Fender Player Series Fretless Jazz Bass is a great example. Featuring comfortably smooth pau ferro fingerboard and a classic J Bass control setup, it’s a great place to stop fretting.

Fender Player Fretless Jazz Bass

Pictured: Fender Player Fretless Jazz Bass 

Squier Classic Vibe ‘60s Fretless Jazz Bass

For a more vintage take, the Squier Classic Vibe ‘60s Fretless Jazz Bass has the classic sunburst look and responsive alnico pickups.

Squier Classic Vibe '60s Fretless Jazz Bass

Pictured: Squier Classic Vibe '60s Fretless Jazz Bass 

Rogue LX200BF Fretless Series

With a more modern look and a price tag that makes it easy to see if fretless is for you, the Rogue LX200BF Fretless has a P/J-style pickup configuration and a high-mass bridge for added sustain.

Rogue LX200BF Fretless Series III

Pictured: Rogue LX200BF Fretless Series III 

Active Basses

You may have noticed us mention a bass as being “active” in a couple of the sections above. Let’s dig a little more into that, since there is more than one way for an electric bass guitar to qualify as an active bass.

At the fundamental level, active means that there are electronics in the guitar that require electricity to work, usually from an onboard battery (occasionally two batteries). What kind of electronics? Usually some form of preampfification for the pickups. On what are called active pickups, the preamp is built into the pickup itself, and the tone controls will still be passive (i.e. only allow for frequency cut, not boost). The big advantage of active pickups is that they are generally low impedance and can drive much longer cable runs without suffering the high-frequency loss that a passive pickup would.

An active preamp system, on the other hand, can be used with either passive or active pickups, and provides both the advantages of a low impedance output we just mentioned, plus active EQ. This EQ can be anything from standard Treble/Bass knobs that can boost, as well as cut, frequencies to a 4-band EQ with sweepable high- and low-mids, offering some serious sonic control.

So, aside from the long and exceptionally quiet cable runs, what are the advantages and disadvantages of the two types of active? It’s all about the tone. Both active pickups and active preamp systems deliver a cleaner, more full-bandwidth signal to your amp or recording interface/console, sounding bigger and punchier. With the active preamp’s EQ section, you can contour your sound in much more detail.

There are really only two minor drawbacks here. First, an active system can sometimes result in a slightly “compressed” sound that has a little less dynamics. Generally, this is because the system is slightly underpowered, either because it’s time to change the batteries, or you’re playing aggressively enough that you’re running up against the available headroom of the preamp. If the latter is the case, and you’re running on only a single 9-volt battery, you can usually solve it by upgrading to a dual-battery, 18V power supply. (Pro Tip: The techs at Guitar Center Repairs will be glad to help you out with that). The second problem is also battery related. With a purely active system, when the battery goes dead, the bass goes dead. This is why almost all active preamp systems have a bypass switch that enables the bass to run in passive mode.

Now that you know the upside and the potential downside of active basses, we’ll take a look at a few choices that can really punch up your sound.

Sterling by Musicman StingRay Ray34

The original StingRay was the first bass to have an active preamp, and this Sterling by Music Man StingRay Ray34 makes that Music Man-designed 3-band EQ and alnico humbucker more accessible than ever. The incredible looks don’t hurt, either.

Sterling by Music Man StingRay Ray34

Pictured: Sterling by Music Man StingRay Ray34 

Jackson X Series Concert Bass

The Jackson X Series Concert Bass features Jackson’s trademark aggressive styling and a graphite-reinforced neck-thru design. The PJ-style pickup configuration is enhanced by active 3-band EQ. This bass is definitely aimed at the rock and metal player.

Jackson X Series Concert Bass

Pictured: Sterling by Music Man StingRay Ray34 

Mitchell MB200 Modern Rock Bass

Mitchell’s MB200 Modern Rock Bass is a great, easy way to add a bass with an active preamp to your arsenal. Featuring a 2-band active EQ for its P/J-style pickups and a high-mass bridge for extra tone and sustain, it’s a versatile, multi-genre monster.

Mitchell MB200 Modern Rock Bass

Pictured: Mitchell MB200 Modern Rock Bass 

Acoustic Basses

Up to this point, we’ve been talking strictly about purely electric basses. But for almost fifty years, there have been acoustic and acoustic-electric bass guitars that are a great addition to every bassist’s collection (Trivia: The first modern acoustic bass guitar was the Ernie Ball Earthwood Bass, which debuted in 1972.) There are some excellent reasons why you might want to add one to yours.

First, the ability to play it acoustically means that it’s a great practice instrument. No need for an amp or headphones, or any source of electricity whatsoever. Just pick it up and start working on your chops, wherever you may be at the time. An acoustic bass guitar also makes it easy to get together with friends and jam without all the hassle of setting up amps and a sound system or renting rehearsal space.

Second, it’s a great way to get a different sound. Different tonewood combinations will have more effect on your sound, and the resonance and sustain of an acoustic instrument offer a new texture to use in varied musical situations. Plus, you’ll be ready if MTV ever brings back Unplugged. Most acoustic bass guitars today come with internal pickup/mic systems, so you can still plug it in and get that big acoustic sound onstage. Here are some great choices to consider.

Guild B-140E Westerly Collection Jumbo Acoustic-Electric Bass

Most familiar from Nirvana’s performance on Unplugged, for which it earned a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Guild B-140E harkens back to their early entry into the acoustic bass world. In the mid-1970s Guild struck a (low) chord with the B-50, a bass version of their venerable D-50 dreadnought guitar. Featuring all-solid wood construction with a spruce top and mahogany back and sides, this is one sweet-sounding bass, either purely acoustic or using the internal Fishman Sonitone bass pickup system.

Guild B-140E Westerly Collection Jumbo

Pictured: Guild B-140E Westerly Collection Jumbo 

Fender Kingman V2 Acoustic-Electric Bass

The short-scale Fender Kingman V2 is designed for comfort with an easy-playing 30”-scale Jazz Bass neck married to a solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides. The cutaway body makes it abundantly clear this one is ready to rock.

Fender Kingman V2 Acoustic-Electric

Pictured: Fender Kingman V2 Acoustic-Electric 

Dean AXS Acoustic-Electric Bass

This Dean AXS Bass is one of the most affordable choices in this category. All-mahogany construction and a full 34”-scale neck strike a great balance between acoustic warmth and taut, piano-like lows. A Dean SL3 preamp offers easy tone adjustments when you’re plugged in, and a built-in tuner whether you are or not.

Dean AXS Acoustic-Electric

Pictured: Dean AXS Acoustic-Electric 

Best Beginner Choices

We’ve looked at a wide range of basses up to this point, but we’d like to take a little time to look at some of the best choices Guitar Center has for instruments for the beginning bass player. There are a few criteria that go into making a great electric bass guitar for beginners:

  • It needs to be comfortable to play. When you’re starting, you need to play a lot. Heck, you want to play a lot. The more comfortable your instrument is to play, the easier that is.
  • A beginner bass should offer great value for the money. Affordable is relative, and sometimes a beginner will start off on a pro-level bass because they can. But if it’s easy for you to buy, it’s easier to just get started playing. Better to keep that boutique custom shop bass in the back of your mind and set it as a reward for yourself when you hit a particular goal, then put off getting started any longer.
  • It should sound good—maybe even awesome. The better it sounds, the more you’ll play. This leads us to the last point.
  • Your first bass should make you want to keep playing. If your instrument ticks off all the points above, you should look forward to every practice session, then every jam with friends, then every band rehearsal and so on. Music is fun, and it shouldn’t hurt. Now go get ‘em! But one last word before we get to our final list.

While lots of musicians, including some pretty famous ones, are self-taught, you’re always better off starting with a good instructor to make sure you’ve got proper technique down from the get-go. And sometimes you need someone to help nudge you back on track if you wander off. Guitar Center Lessons, both in-store and online, are a great way to get started, get back to playing after a long hiatus, or simply to refine your skills. We’ve got instructors at all levels, in all styles, and it’s easy to set up a lesson plan and schedule that will work for you.

That being said, if you are just starting on your musical journey through the land of low-frequencies, here are some really solid choices to get off on the right foot.

Jackson Limited-Edition JS Series Concert Bass

Noting screams “Rock!” more than neon colors and classic Jackson styling. This limited-edition Jackson JS Series Bass dazzles the eye and the ear at a great price.

Jackson Limited-Edition JS Series

Pictured: Jackson Limited-Edition JS Series 

Sire Marcus Miller V3 4-string Bass

Legendary jazz/funk bassist Marcus Miller wanted to make sure that anybody could afford a bass that met his standards, so he teamed up with Sire. Like its namesake, it easily goes from aggressive thumb-popping funk to straight ahead jazz. Also a great instrument to use with pedals, the Sire Marcus Miller V3 4-string is one of the most affordable long-scale active basses, with Miller’s signature 3-band EQ a big plus.

Sire Marcus Miller V3

Pictured: Sire Marcus Miller V3 

Ibanez TMB100

Sporting a retro-look body style and active 2-band EQ, the 34”-scale Ibanez TMB100 packs standout features into a seriously affordable package.

Ibanez TMB100

Pictured: Ibanez TMB100 

Mitchell MB100 Short Scale Bass

The Mitchell MB100 Short-Scale Bass pulls together a sleek, modern body style with PJ-style pickups and an easy-to-play 30”-scale for smaller hands or guitar players looking for a comfortable entry into the world of bass.

Mitchell MB100 Short Scale

Pictured: Mitchell MB100 Short Scale 

The Bottom Line

Now that we’ve laid it all out for you, the next step is the hardest one—deciding which of these basses will be the right one for you. If you’re having trouble making up your mind, please stop in at your local Guitar Center and talk with an associate, or call 855-770-3373 to speak to one of our knowledgeable Gear Advisers. We want to make sure you get the right bass so that you can help keep the music going.

You are changing the Ship-To country.

Our product catalog varies by country due to manufacturer restrictions. If you change the Ship-To country, some or all of the items in your cart may not ship to the new destination.