1. Home
  2. /
  3. Buyer's Guides
  4. /
  5. What is the best bass guitar for me?

What is the best bass guitar for me?

No band is complete without a bassist. The bass forms an important part of the rhythm section and gives songs a fuller sound. If you're looking for an electric bass guitar, how do you know which one is right for you? This guide provides answers to some of the questions you may have. For additional help, don't hesitate to contact our customer service team who will be happy to assist you.

1. What is a bass guitar?

A traditional electric bass guitar is an instrument with four strings. Fender's Precision bass was first introduced in 1951 as an alternative to the double bass. It quickly become popular with jazz musicians as well as those playing styles like pop and rock. Today, the bass guitar is an integral part of virtually all modern music.

If you prefer an acoustic sound, but don't want something as large as a double bass, then an acoustic bass guitar is an ideal choice. This guide, however, will focus on electric bass guitars.

If you're a left-handed player, we also have a special 'Left-Handed Bass Guitar' category just for you!

 Electric Bass Guitars
 Left-handed bass guitars
 Acoustic bass guitars
 Double basses

What is a bass guitar?

2. I'm a beginner. What do I need to know?

This might surprise you, but the most important question a beginner can ask is: 'Do I like this bass guitar?'. Simply put, if you like your instrument, you're more likely to pick it up and play it more often. A guitar's appearance can often give you a clue as to how it will sound and feel as well. For instance, a metal-style bass guitar is likely to have a sound and feel associated with basses in that genre. Looking at the type of instrument your favourite bassist plays can also give you a good idea about what you might want.

If you want to invest in an instrument that's a little more expensive, it's sensible to do a little more research, of course. The information below will give you a little more knowledge about electric bass guitars. Tip: bear in mind the things that are most important to you when deciding which bass guitar to choose.

 Electric Bass Guitars

2. Ik ben beginner. Waar moet ik op letten?

3. How many strings should my bass guitar have?

As mentioned above, a bass guitar traditionally has four strings and most beginners start with a 4-string model. A 4-string bass is usually tuned to E-A-D-G, which is the same tuning as the lowest 4 strings on a guitar but at an octave lower.

There are also bass guitars with five strings and the extra string is an additional low note tuned to B. These models are often used in styles like country and metal. There are bass guitars with six and even eight strings available too for creative bassists who want a even wider range of notes.

As you can imagine, the neck of a 4-string bass is narrower than a model with five or six strings and is therefore easier to play. For that reason, we recommend that beginners start with a 4-string bass.

 Bass guitars with 4 strings
 Bass guitars with 5 or more strings

How many strings should my bass guitar have?

4. What scale length should my bass guitar have?

The scale length is measured by the distance between the string nut and the bridge saddles. The string nut is the part the strings run through where the neck meets the headstock. At other end, they're attached to the bridge saddles. Most bass guitars have a scale length of 34 inches, which is commonly known as 'long scale'.

There are also 'short scale' bass models that have a length of 30 inches like the violin bass played by The Beatles. These are good for younger players or those who have difficulty playing a full-size model due to the larger distances between the frets.

Bass models with five and six strings normally have an extra-long scale length of around 35 inches. The advantage of this is that the lower strings in particular have even more tension for a tighter feel.

 Standard bass guitars (long scale)
 Short scale bass guitars
 Bass guitars with other scale lengths

What scale length should my bass guitar have?

5. What is a fretless bass guitar?

Most bass guitars have frets, which are the metal strips that divide the fretboard up into the semi tones that make up the chromatic scale that is used in Western music. The frets allow you to easily find the right notes, which is why we recommend that beginners play a bass guitar that has frets.

As its name suggests, a fretless bass has no frets, which means the fretboard is completely smooth just like it is on a violin or a double bass. The biggest advantage of this is that you can slide smoothly between notes, which is what gives the fretless bass its characteristic sound. Sting's song 'Englishman in New York' features a fretless bass. The biggest disadvantage is that it's harder to know exactly where you should place your fingers unless you're a bit more experienced. Some fretless models do feature fret lines to help you though.

 Bass guitars with frets
 Fretless bass guitars

What is a fretless bass guitar?

6. What is the best type of wood for the body of a bass guitar?

The body of an electric bass guitar is normally made out of a single piece of solid wood. Different types of wood have different characteristics, which affect the overall sound of the instrument, but beginners don't really need to worry about this too much.

More experienced players may well be able to differentiate between the subtle sound differences each type of wood produces. Ash and alder are both commonly used and there's not much difference between them. They both produce a well-balanced sound with harmonic overtones and plenty of sustain. Basswood is relatively lightweight and tends to absorb vibrations, which means less sustain, but makes it an excellent choice for more complex playing techniques. Mahogany is known for its rich, warm sound, while maple has a high level of density, which produces a bright sound with excellent sustain and lots of definition.

 Bass guitars with ash and alder bodies
 Bass guitars with basswood bodies
 Bass guitars with mahogany bodies
 Bass guitars with maple bodies

What is the best type of wood for the body of a bass guitar?

7. What is the best type of wood for the fretboard of a bass guitar? 

Again, beginners don't really need to worry too much about which type of wood the bass guitar's fretboard is made of.

Maple, rosewood and ebony are the most common wood types used to make a bass guitar's fretboard. Maple is easy to spot because of its lighter colour and it produces a bright, clear sound. Basses with a rosewood fretboard sound a little warmer, but because rosewood is becoming rarer, pau ferro is being used more and more instead. It is similar both in terms of sound and appearance. Ebony tends to be found on more expensive models. It sounds similar to maple, but has a darker colour.

 Bass guitars with maple fretboard
 Bass guitars with rosewood fretboard
 Bass guitars with pau ferro fretboard
 Bass guitars with ebony fretboard

What is the best type of wood for the fretboard of a bass guitar?

8. What is the difference between active and passive bass guitars?

The terms active and passive refer to the bass guitar's on-board electronics. An active bass guitar has a built-in preamplifier that is normally powered by a battery. These types of bass guitars produce a more powerful signal, which is handy when using long cables and the sound can be adjusted more accurately using the comprehensive tone controls. The only drawback is that when the battery dies, no more sound is generated. Passive bass guitars don't use batteries and have more simple controls that usually consist of volume and tone knobs. Basses with more than one pickup usually have a blend knob too.

Please note: active isn't necessarily better than passive. There are plenty of well-known bassists who play passive bass guitars.

 Passive bass guitars
 Active bass guitars

What is the difference between active and passive bass guitars?

9. What type of amplifier should I use with a bass guitar?

It's best to use a bass guitar amplifier with an electric bass guitar. Most bassists choose a transistor amp because they're cheaper and require less maintenance than tube amplifiers.

An amplifier that has a built-in speaker is known as a combo. You can also choose a separate amplifier head and speaker cabinet. Many beginners opt for a 1x8 or 1x10 combo because they're relatively compact and affordable. The '8' and the '10' in the names refer to the size of the speaker's diameter in inches. The table gives you an indication of the sound characteristics of different sizes of speaker.

 Bass guitar amplifier combos with 1 x 8-inch speakers
 Bass guitar amplifier combos with 1 x 10-inch speakers
 All bass guitar amplifier combos
 All bass guitar amplifiers

What type of amplifier should I use with a bass guitar?

10. What else do I need?

To hear your electric bass guitar properly, you'll need a bass guitar amplifier (see question 9) and a mono jack cable to connect them together. We also recommend getting a tuner so that you can tune your instrument accurately. If you plan on playing while standing up, you'll need a guitar strap too. When you're finished, it's wise to place your bass on a stand or store it safely in a gig bag or case.

Handy extras: over time, the sound of the strings will start to deteriorate so it's a good idea to have a spare set available. If you're just starting out, investing in some learning materials or starting an online course will help you progress faster. Effects pedals are a great way to get lots of different sounds and they're extremely fun to experiment with too.

 Complete bass sets
 Bass guitar amplifier combos
 Mono jack cables
 Tuners
 Guitar straps
 Guitar stands
 Bass guitar bags and cases
 Bass guitar effects pedals
 Bass guitar learning materials & online courses

What else do I need?

Bax-shop.co.uk | Christmas Presents