If you are in any way like me, you wanted your rock star ambitions to be reflected in every aspect of your life. This means that you wear clothes that even Keith Richards would look at with a skeptical eyebrow raise, you have a carefully cared for and highly specific facial hair arrangement and an elaborate haircut that you think will someday end up being iconic (spoiler alert: it probably won’t). You also probably have a cool mode of transportation, shiny shoes and a smile that drives everyone and their mom insane. If you have taken it too far, you probably also have a Guitar Hero character that you have kept since the game came out and have regularly played with, fulfilling your dream and fantasy of having crowds of people scream your name and playing alongside some of the most famous musicians of all time. If you don’t, well I do, and yes I am a loser, but my character is not – He is exactly the opposite of a loser. He has a green mohawk, a tank top and tight jeans and is the best bass guitar player the world has ever seen. Tattoos all over his body, he puts Sid Vicious, Sting and Flea all to shame. The speed of his playing by far exceeds mine and…Oh god I need to get my life together. Bottom line is, the bass guitar is proven to be an instrument of exceptional importance and power and holds sway over how the band sounds, looks and feels to an audience. Which is why bass players deserve only the best bass guitars.
Table of Contents
- 1 Top 9 Best Bass Guitars – All Categories
- 2 Bass Guitars for Beginners
- 3 Cheap Bass Guitars
- 4 Under 300
- 5 Under 500
- 6 Under 1000
- 7 Under 2000
- 8 5 String Bass Guitars
- 9 6 String Bass Guitars
- 10 Acoustic Bass Guitars
- 11 How They’re Built
- 12 Conclusion
Top 9 Best Bass Guitars – All Categories
|1||Dean E09M Edge Mahogany Electric Bass||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|2||Yamaha TRBX204 GLB 4-String Bass||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|3||Squier by Fender Vintage Modified Jazz Bass '77||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|4||Sterling by Music Man RAY34-NT Bass||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|5||Fender Jaco Pastorius Jazz Electric Bass||(5 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|6||Squier by Fender Affinity Jazz Beginner Electric Bass||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|7||ESP LTD B55 5-String Electric Bass||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|8||Schecter Stiletto Studio-6 Electric Bass||(5 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|9||Ibanez PCBE12MHOPN||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon
How They’re Built
If you think the bass guitar and the electric guitar are not much different from each other in structure, you are right. If you think that they are not different enough to warrant an individual section describing how the bass guitar is structured, you are wrong. The instrument itself is not complicated, but understanding its parts and what each one of them does is integral to understand what makes a good bass guitar.
Similarly to the electric guitar, the bass guitar has a body, neck, fretboard and the headstock. The neck of the bass guitar is much longer than that of the electric guitar, this is needed to get the strings of the instrument to vibrate at the frequencies required to produce the typical bass guitar sound. The bass guitar also has magnetic pickups, tuners, bridge, 4 to six strings and electronics that allow for more control of the sound of the bass guitar.
- The body of the bass guitar has several typical types of tonewoods, categorized by their hardness. The harder the wood, the more percussive and snappy the sound of the bass guitar is. The soft woods, as you might have guessed, produce a mellower sound. Depending on your preference you might choose wood of a certain hardness.
- The neck of the bass guitar is longer than what you might be used to on an electric guitar. This results in a heavier instrument, but is needed to accommodate the physics of low frequency sounds that bass guitars produce.
- The fretboard of the bass guitar most often uses rosewood, just like in an electric guitar. The bass guitar also has two options in the fretboard – with or without frets, which affects your playing of the bass.
- The headstock of the bass guitar tends to be smaller, if it has four strings, than that of the electric guitar and contains the tuners for the strings.
- The tuners of the bass guitar are stronger so they can accommodate the additional pressure exerted by the thicker strings.
- Just like the tuner, the bridge of the bass guitar needs to be able to resist the stronger forces exerted by the thick strings of the bass.
- There can be several control knobs on the bass guitar that affect the tones of the bass guitar, allowing you to customize the sound of your instrument in the moment.
- The strings are the most important part of the bass guitar, which, well, duh. The bass strings are thicker and heavier than the strings of the electric guitar. This results in the low sound of the bass guitar.
- The second most important part of the bass guitar. This is what allows the vibration of the steel strings to be translated into an electric signal which is then amplified and projected through the amplifier. There are two types of magnetic pickups for bass guitars, passive and active, both of which have an effect on the sound of the instrument.
What to Look For
There are several details to consider when deciding what the best electric bass guitar for you is. The most important details is the sound you want to produce – a detail that is affected by so many things in the structure and construction of a guitar. Things such as tonewoods, their hardness, the type of pickups, frets and so many others need to be considered to bring the perfect bass guitar into your possession. Here is a quick rundown of some of the items to consider and their effects on the way you will sound when you play your instrument.
There are many different types of tonewoods used for the bass guitar. All of them have a unique impact on the sound of the guitar. This means choosing the guitar with a specific type of tone wood will allow you a sound that is more customized and related to your demands. The hardness of the tonewoods also determines the sound of the guitar, with the softer woods absorbing vibrations more readily. This results in a mellower sound. The opposite happens when the tonewoods are hard.
Some of the more common woods used for bass guitar bodies:
- Alder – Alder has a very beautiful grain, which is often featured in the design of the instrument. This wood also has a tendency to enhance the sustain that the instrument produces, while also providing a well rounded sound and harmonic overtones.
- Agathis – This wood is most often used in entry level bass guitars because it is relatively cheap. It tends to emphasize lower tones over higher tones and enriches the deep sound of the bass guitar.
- Basswood – The basswood is incredibly soft, which mellows out the percussive sound of the bass guitar. The lightweight body and the flexible nature of how it enhances sounds makes it a very popular wood for those looking to be able to perform over a large number of genres.
- Maple – The hardness of the maple results in a very snappy, clear and vibrant sound that is very popular with recording artists.
- Mahogany – This wood has a medium hardness and a very beautiful emphasis on the lower register tones of the bass guitar.
The two types of pickups available for bass guitars. The Active and the Passive.
Passive Pickups have been around for as long as the electric bass guitar has. It is the more traditional of the two and one that a lot of bass players prefer. The passive pickup produces a warmer, fuller sound but also gives less control of the tonality of your bass guitar to you.
Active Pickups are the more recent addition to the bass guitar family, which means that a lot of people find the pickups too new age to be liked. The facts are that the active pickups produce a brighter, clearer sound than passive pickups while also allowing a flexibility and customizability to the sound of the bass through a built in battery powered preamp. Just don’t forget to change the battery once in awhile.
Fretless of Fretted
The bass guitars also come in two other forms – fretless and with frets. The difference in sound between the two is not too distinctive. The true difference between the two lies in how hard each one is to play and the smoothness of transition between the sliding tones on the bass guitar. The fretted bass is standard for most bass guitars and allows the player to easily identify the position their fingers are holding on the fretboard. While some will say this is best for beginners, having a fretted bass guitar is simply comfort that is nice to have. Fretless bass guitars are harder to identify the correct positioning of the fingers on, but at the same time offer a warmer, clearer sound once played. One other virtue the fretless bass guitar offers is the ease with which the musician can slide up and down the fretboard. The sliding also creates an interesting sound effect. This is not an option well suited for beginner players
While I might have been trying to be funny up top, when referencing my awesome guitar hero character, I believe the subject of the bass player in a group should be discussed much more. It is often perceived by those of lesser understanding of music that the bass player and whatever they do is not that important, especially in a rock band. The bass players of the world should know that they have my deep and unfaltering respect. It is thanks to the bass players of the world that we get some of the most interesting music to listen to. It is thanks to them that rock and roll has flavor, character and punch. It is to you, oh aspiring or already professional bass player reading through my ode to you, that music does not sound empty or “missing something”. Makes me hope that the list I have arranged will be a useful guide and a helpful hand in your search for the best bass guitar. The list itself is chock full of incredible instruments, what it takes to find the right one for you is an objective understanding of your financial capability, preferred style and that feeling you get when you know you have found the right thing. Once you have the right instrument, the best instrument, you could ever have (one of the ones above, or one of the ones that are on the many lists related to bass guitars) you can have what you always wanted – to be the silent star of the show. Or, if you don’t like being quiet, the loudest star if you are anything like flea.