When it comes to buying a new bass guitar, many people enter the world of bass guitars blindly, not knowing whether to go for a 4-string, 5-string, or even being able to answer the question “what is a bass guitar?”.
This article should both shed some light on the wonderfully powerful instrument that is a bass guitar, as well as pointing you in the right direction to getting your own bass guitar.
To help you on this, we came up with a short guide for choosing the best beginner bass guitar. We’re also going to give you some brief bass guitar reviews of models we think you should consider.
- What Is A Bass Guitar?
- Choosing Your First Bass: 4 Things To Consider
- The Bass Guitars: A Few Brief Bass Guitar Reviews
- Fender Mustang PJ Bass - Classic, Jazzy, Funky
- Sterling Ray4 - Well Known, Well Played, Well Priced
- Ibanez GSR200 - Every Band Started Somewhere
- Yamaha TRBX304 - Versatility From Metal To Jazz
- Epiphone EB-3 - Like A Rock Star
- Squier Affinity Jazz Bass - Not A Fender, But Who Cares?
- Yamaha TRBX174 - Build Your Way Up To The Next Level
- Ibanez AEB5EBK - Who Needs An Amp Anyways?
- Final Words
What Is A Bass Guitar?
Before we can go any further, let’s go back to the basics and discover what constitutes a bass guitar.
Many people hear the word “guitar” and aren’t able to see the difference between a bass guitar and regular guitar.
What’s the difference between guitar and bass then?
Well, there’s the neck, strings, play style, and uses… just to name a few.
The strings of a bass guitar are the easiest difference to see between guitars and basses.
Generally a bass guitar will have 4 strings, or sometimes 5. As we all know, a guitar has 6 strings, or possibly 7, if you’re looking at electric guitars.
The other way that the strings differ, is that the bass guitar’s thinnest string, is thicker than the guitars thickest string.
The thicker a string, the lower the notes it can produce, and that’s what bass guitar is all about.
The next difference between a guitar and a bass is the neck.
Thicker strings, means a longer stretch, and that requires a longer neck than a regular guitar would.
Another pretty cool feature on some bass guitars, is a fretless neck.
With guitars, frets are required to get the notes sounding pleasant, and not discordant.
However, as you play bass guitars one note at a time (unless you’re a professional bassist, that is), a fretless bass makes your playing that much sweeter.
It adds a more classic “double bass” tone to the playing, which is music to any bassist’s ears.
The Play Style
The next difference between bass and guitar is the play style.
Acoustic guitars generally are used for chords, and electric guitars are used for soloing with a plectrum, but a bass guitar is played somewhat differently.
You get the regular plectrum playing that most beginner bassists start with, or perhaps the plucked style of more adventurous bassists.
However, the most advanced, and most rewarding play style for a bass guitar is funk.
Funk bass playing is when the bassist “slaps” the lower strings with their thumbs, or “pops” the higher strings but plucking them aggressively with their fingers.
This style of playing is what everyone things when they hear the phrase “slappa da bass” (from the movie “I Love You Man), and that’s why everyone knows about “slap-bass” style of playing.
The fourth difference between a guitar and bass is the purpose of the instrument.
You see, a guitar might produce the chords that allow a melody to follow it, but the bass guitar plays the notes that keep the listener bobbing their heads, and tapping their feet.
It’s the perfect blend between timing, rhythm, and musicality.
It connects the guitars with the drums, and keeps the band going when no-one knows which chord goes next.
That’s the purpose of the bass guitar, to keep the song on track, without anyone knowing it.
Choosing Your First Bass: 4 Things To Consider
So now that you know what a bass guitar is… what should you look for when choosing your first bass guitar?
Well, there’s quite a few things to consider when choosing your first bass guitar, as it’s the first step in joining a band, and touring the world (if you look at it optimistically).
You need to decide on your budget, play style & musical genre, functionality, and general tone of the bass.
Budget is always an important one. Sometimes you hear the tone of an amazing bass guitar and think to yourself “I have to have that”, but then you have a look at the price and realize that you’re looking at one of the top bass guitars, and you have to walk away with your head down, defeated by your wallet.
Don’t worry though, there’s plenty of affordable bass guitars out there for you to choose from.
Whether it’s an Ibanez GSR206 GIO, with it’s modern rock tones, or more classical tone of the Squier Bass Guitar, both of these are within the budget of a cash-strapped music lover, and you can find out more about them later in this article.
2. Musical Genre/Tone
The next thing to consider is the musical genre and tone that you’re going for.
It doesn’t help to get yourself a Fender Mustang PJ bass guitar (a classic funk bass) if you’re looking at playing some heavy, complex metal genre licks.
Along the same lines, buying a Warwick bass, with it’s heavy growl featured in the band Mudvayne’s songs, then if you’re wanting to hit the bass with some sick funk lines, it’s recommended that you look elsewhere.
Choosing the bass that suits your musical genre is the next important step in buying your first bass guitar.
Granted, the best beginner bass guitar probably won’t be a Fender Mustang P-bass, as that’s a classic bass, and comes with a hefty price tag.
What is recommended though, is that you listen to various bands, and see what bass guitars they play.
Chances are, certain genres of music will always use the same bass guitar brands, and that will help you when it comes to getting the best bass guitar that suits your musical genre play style.
Most metal bands require a 5-string bass guitar to hit the low notes, so keep that in mind when looking and listening to bass guitars.
Up next is functionality. Passive bass guitars are fantastic for beginner bass guitarists, as there’s almost no maintenance required.
No batteries, or complicated internal wiring. However if you get a bass guitar with active pickups, it gives you the freedom to tweak the tone, and pump up the volume to make sure that all of your neighbors can hear you practicing.
Although some might think that this is more along the lines of advanced bass guitaring, many beginner bassists find that starting out with a beginners bass guitar that has extra electronic functionality, such as overdrive, or EQ adjustments can help them in their playing.
Getting a bass guitar with dual pickups, humbuckers, or triple pickups can also help when fine-tuning that perfect tone for your playing.
So always look at functionality when choosing your first bass guitar.
4. Play Style
The next (but by no means last) area of bass guitars that you have to look at is the play style you’re looking for.
Many bassists enjoy playing an Ibanez or Washburn bass if they use a plectrum, as they tend to give very clean playing tones.
However, classic funk players will go for a Fender or Music Man bass for the more clear, twangy sound that they produce.
Further up the chain of play style is the fretless bass guitars, acoustic bass guitars, and a warmer, muted tone for jazz-style playing of bass, where the bassist needs to flow smoothly up and down the neck to get all of the notes in clearly, smoothly, and cleanly.
You have to consider the distance between the neck and the strings (called the “action” of the bass guitar), as more height is great for funk, but terrible for speed playing of jazz.
All of these things have to be considered when choosing the best beginner bass guitar, as your first bass is like your first car, special, used for years, and never forgotten.
The Bass Guitars: A Few Brief Bass Guitar Reviews
So now that you know what to look for when choosing the best bass guitar for beginner, it’s time to have a look at a few options.
Perhaps you’re looking for a good entry level bass guitar, or maybe you want to know about the top rated bass guitars.
We have a whole plethora of bass guitars to show you, so keep reading.
And there you have it – 8 beginner bass guitar reviews, from just under $200, to just over $500.
Classic tones, to heavy rock sounds. Jazzy or funky, we’ve got you covered too.
Is that all there is? No, of course not. However, we were talking about the best beginner bass guitars.
You can pick up a cheap bass guitar for under $150 or $100 from a secondhand store, but the quality will be so bad, you’ll with you hadn’t.
That’s why we didn’t list the entry-level bass guitars in this review.
So you might also be wondering why there weren’t any 5-string bass guitars in this list?
Well, the reason for that, is a 5-string bass guitar isn’t a beginner-friendly guitar. Extra strings means more learning, and more complications.
Most beginner bass guitarists prefer a 4-string for playing funk songs, as the low “B” of a 5-string bass guitar gets in the way of slap-bass playing every time.
The other reason we didn’t mention 5-string basses, is because beginner bass guitarists are given songs in “drop-d” tuning, so the 5th string would never be used.
When it comes to getting yourself a bass amp, bigger is usually better. However, don’t go for a separate “head and cab”.
Combo amps are ideal for beginner bass guitarists, as they’re literally “plug in and go” amps.
They offer enough power through 3 or 7-band equalizers, but they’re simple enough for anyone to use. If you’re wanting to practice, a 15W amp will be fine for you.
If you’re wanting to play with others though, we recommend a bass amplifier between 90W-220W.
A bass amplifier this size will get you through most practices, whilst still being able to compete with (and drown out) any obnoxious electric guitarists.
So whether you’re wanting to “go pro” and invest in a top rated bass guitar, or whether you’d prefer to test the waters with something cheaper, this article should help highlight just a few of the best bass guitars in the various ranges.
Now all that’s left for you to do, is to go out there, plug a few bass guitars into amps, and play them until you find the one that speaks to you.