Best bass guitar

playing bass guitar

Finding the best bass guitar for you is often challenging for many bassists. There are hundreds if not thousands of bass guitars available online, they come in a range of shapes, sizes and also have varying amounts of strings.

For new bassists, this is extremely overwhelming and it can often be hard to know what the best guitar is. However, fear not. In this article, we’re going to show you our favourite basses as well as some insightful information about your favourite low-end partner.

By the end of this text, we guarantee that will know everything that you need to know about buying your next bass guitar. Let’s dive in…

Best Overall Bass Guitar

Yamaha BB435 Electric Bass Guitar


Yamaha is known for creating excellent quality instruments, whether it’s acoustic guitars, basses or even classical instruments like trumpets and clarinets, Yamaha has always created excellent quality instruments for beginner and professional musicians.

 

It’s no surprise that the Yamaha BB435 is one of the best bass guitars around. The bass itself features a solid alder body, a 3-ply satin neck with maple and mahogany woods, a scale of 34” and 21 frets.

 

In addition to this, the graph tech nut, lightweight machine heads and bolt-on neck increase the overall tuning stability and projection of the instrument.

 

Furthermore, the bass comes equipped with Yamaha’s custom V5 pickups. As the name might suggest, these pickups use alnico five magnets. Essentially, what this means for you is that they have a bright tone that stands out in live and recording scenarios.

These pickups are controlled by the onboard volume and tone pots. Although these don’t provide as much tonal sculpting as active pickups, they still stand up to the needs of most bassists. 

Overall, if you want the best bass guitar for all-around performance, the Yamaha BB435 is a great choice. 

Pros

  • Available in a variety of colours including Black, Raspberry Red, Vintage White and Tobacco Sunburst.
  • Features a six-bolt mitre neck joint which increases the overall sustain of the instrument.
  • The body is lightweight and extremely comfortable.
  • The bass itself features Yamaha’s custom Alnico five pickups.

Cons

  • Some users have experienced set-up issues when first receiving the instrument.
  • No gig bag.

Best Bass Guitar For Beginners

Squier by Fender Micro Bass


Fender basses little brother, Squier is known for producing some of the best bass guitars at a low price and the Squier bronco is no exception.

Simple in its construction, the Squier Bronco features a lightweight poplar body, a smaller scale of 30” and a single pick up with an extremely punchy sound. If you’re a beginner bassist, these features are perfect and make the overall playing experience in the early stages of learning much more pleasurable.

Originally, this bass came with an Agathis body, however, in recent years Squier replaced this with poplar. This is a slightly heavier wood material, but what it does do is increase the sustain and tone of the instrument.

One of the main reasons we love the Squier Bronco bass is because of its simplicity and ease of use. The single pick-up and volume and tone control mean it’s just pick up and play. This is great for beginners who can often get overwhelmed by the many controls on modern basses.

However, it’s not all sun and rainbows for the bronco bass. Some players have expressed some set-up and quality control issues on the first arrival. However, this is not uncommon for basses in this price category and can easily be sorted out by a qualified technician.

Overall, if you want a good bass guitar that is lightweight, easy to play and inexpensive, the Squier Bronco is one of the best bass guitars out there.

Pros

  • Smaller-scale of 30” makes the bass more accessible for younger players.
  • The poplar body is lightweight.
  • The satin neck finish and laurel fingerboard provide the player with a smooth feel and makes the playing experience far easier.
  • Die-cast tuning machines and chrome bridges aid the overall tuning stability of this instrument.

Cons

  • Only features one single-coil pickup, so may not be as versatile as other basses like the precision bass or jazz bass.
  • The two saddle bridge may cause some intonation issues.

Best Short Scale Bass Guitar

Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass


Although Gretsch is most famous for their hollow-body guitars, particularly models played by guitarists such as Chet Atkins and Brian Setzer. Gretsch also makes some of the best bass guitars on the market. One of their best bass guitars is the Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass.

The Gretsch G2220 features a recognisable Les-paul style body in a gloss finish. The body itself doesn’t feature any contours, however, this doesn’t stop the bass from being comfortable to play. Its smaller scale length enables you as a bass player to access the notes all across the fretboard.

In addition to this, the gloss maple neck uses a common D shape. This shallow style of neck feels easy to play and the 19mm gaps between each string work well with the shorter scale length of this instrument.

At first sight, we love the vintage aesthetics of the Gretsch G2220. Featuring a twin-play scratchplate, chrome bridge, die-cast machine heads and black surrounds for the pickup. Another nice touch on this instrument is the letter ‘G’ on the volume and tone knobs, although this may seem like a small thing it does add a touch of class to the instrument.

The dual humbucking pickups add a distinctive low-end tone, however, they can easily get muddy if you’re not careful. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just something to be aware of with this bass guitar.

Overall, the Gretsch G2220 is one of the best bass guitars in this price range and would make a fantastic first bass and is more than capable of delivering on the stage or in the studio.

Pros

  • The two mini-humbuckers add growl and aggression to your overall bass tone.
  • The short scale of this bass increases the overall playability of this instrument.
  • Interesting tonewoods such as a walnut fingerboard and basswood complement the overall sound quality of this bass guitar.
  • Available in a variety of interesting colours such as Walnut finish and Shell Pink.

Cons

  • Some users have mentioned that the bass is better suited to flatwound strings than the round wound strings it comes with.
  • The mini-humbuckers aren’t the most versatile.

Best Precision Style Bass Guitar

Fender Player Precision Bass


The Fender Precision bass is one of the most iconic basses of all time. The P bass has been played by bass players such as James Jamerson, Mike Dirnt from Green Day and Roger Waters.

There are many variations of the P bass on the market, whether it’s by Squier or Fender’s custom shop. However, the bass we’re going to focus on is the Fender Player Precision Bass.

Made in Mexico, the Fender Player Precision Bass is easily one of the best bass guitars in its price range, featuring an alder body made to the original P bass specifications, a choice of maple or pau ferro fingerboard and a wide range of colours to suit all tastes.

In addition to this, this bass has Fender’s player series pickups which pack a punch and work extremely well for slap bass. In addition to this, the C shaped maple bolt-on neck, fixed bridge and open-gear tuning machines provide excellent tuning stability and sustain.

One of the main positives of this bass guitar is that it comes with a free hard case. So, you needn’t worry about it getting damaged in a gig bag, as the hard case will protect it from venue to venue.

However, there are some criticisms to be had from this series. Some users have experienced quality issues with the overall setup and finish of these instruments. Therefore, if you can try one before you buy one, that may work out best for you.

Overall, this is an affordable take on one of Fender’s most iconic basses and is worth checking out if you want an instrument that is going to work on stage or studio.

Pros

  • Available with a maple neck or pau Ferro fretboard.
  • Classic P bass pickups provide a warm sound that is thick and punchy,
  • The modern C-shape neck is extremely comfortable and easy to play with.
  • Available in right or left-hand models.
  • Cutaway and neck joint make the upper frets easy to access.

Cons

  • Although the Fender bridge is solid, some players have complained about the overall quality of this.
  • Some users have experienced quality issues out of the box such as sharp fret ends and high action.

Best Jazz Style Bass Guitar

Fender American Professional Jazz Bass


The Fender Jazz Bass is arguably one of the best bass guitars available on the market today. Played by artists such as Geddy Lee, Jaco Pastorious and of course John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, the Fender Jazz Bass has played a rich part in popular music history.

It’s no surprise that the jazz bass is still widely in production, one of Fender’s finest iterations of this model is from the Fender American Professional series.

This standard jazz bass comes with either an Alder or Pine body. The main benefits are the tonal differences between these two kinds of wood. Alder is a well-balanced tonewood that will allow users to sculpt their tone to their hearts’ content.

Whereas pine is much more lightweight with a punchy and aggressive tone. As this wood is roasted too, the overall resonance of the instrument is improved.

One of the more advanced features of this jazz bass is the addition of a sculpted heel neck joint. This allows users to reach the higher frets with ease. As well as this, this neck now features a posiflex graphite truss rod.

This reinforces the neck and means that the bass is much less resistant to movement. This makes it a great choice for touring musicians who often move through different climates.

As well, the addition of a deluxe moulded hardshell case means that your bass will be protected from gig to gig. So, whether you’re a studio musician, live performer or just a stay at home hobbyist, this is easily one of the best bass guitars available on the market.

Pros

  • Fender’s own hi mass bridge has increased sustain and the overall tone and projection of this instrument.
  • Fender has consistently worked on developing areas of this bass guitar and has resulted in a far superior instrument than in previous years.
  • It’s made in the U.S.A.
  • The rolled fingerboard edges of the slim C shaped maple neck and sculpted neck joint make this extremely comfortable to play.
  • The V mod II jazz bass pickups are specifically wound for each position and are well balanced tonally, containing punch and warmth that any vintage purist would be happy with.

Cons

  • It may be too expensive for some users.

Best Five String Bass

Sterling by Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay Bass


Sterling by Ernie Ball Music Man is one of the best bass manufacturers around. The company was originally founded by Fender Instruments owner Leo Fender. However, since the company was established in the 60s, the company has gone from strength to strength.

After the P bass and Jazz bass, the StingRay is one of the best basses of all time. Featuring a mahogany body, roasted maple neck and humbucking pickups, the StingRay is at home from Funk to Rock. Some players may find the dual humbuckers too much, however, these can be easily controlled and manipulated via the master volume, master tone and 2 band EQ.

Accompanying the spec of the StingRay bass is a 6-point bolt-on maple neck and 38mm nut. This increases stability and the overall playability of the instrument.

One of our favourite aspects about the StingRay bass is the wide range of colours and finishes available. Whether it’s butterscotch, sunburst or a more attractive quilted maple top, Sterling have you covered.

Overall, if you want a 5 string bass guitar with an iconic sound that’s going to be ready for live performance or session work, the StingRay is one of the best bass guitars around.

Pros

  • A solid mahogany body increases the overall sustain and mid-range character of the bass.
  • Available in a variety of different versions including 4, 5 string basses.
  • The dual humbucker allows for a driving tone that works in a range of genres.
  • Excellent tonal variation from the onboard push-pull pots, 3-way switch and tone controls.

Cons

  • Mahogany can be a slightly heavy tonewood.
  • Music Man StingRay bass guitars have a very specific sound that isn’t for everyone.

Best Six String Bass

Ibanez GSR 6 String Bass


Although Ibanez is most famous for its association with metal and rock genres. They also make some of the best bass guitars around. Whether it’s four, five-string bass or six-string, Ibanez has got you covered.

One of their best models is the Ibanez GSR 6-string bass guitar. This model features a mahogany body, maple neck, jatoba fretboard and 22 medium frets. The combination of the mahogany and jatoba provides the bass with a thick and punchy mid-range.

For the pickups, we have Ibanez’s own Dynamix humbuckers which provide a tight punchy sound. These are controlled by the onboard two-band eq, this allows you to sculpt different tones out of the bass and as a result provides a range of sounds for many different playing styles.

Surprisingly, for a six-string bass guitar, it is surprisingly light. The addition of the extra strings means the bassist can enjoy the joy of a low b string and a high C, giving much more versatility than a standard four-string.

However, although this is one of the best bass guitars in its category, it does have some flaws. Firstly, the pickups can get muddy, especially on the lower strings. In addition to this, there have been some quality control issues such as the nut properly being installed and high action.

One other thing that you have to watch on extended range basses is that the overall string tension is a lot higher than a standard four-string bass. It’s not a big problem but does mean that this style of bass requires some extra TLC.

However, at such a low price for this bass, you can’t complain and overall, we do believe the pros outweigh the cons, therefore this is easily one of the best bass guitars available.

Pros

  • The added strings increase the overall versatility of the instrument.
  • For a six-string, this is one of the most affordable basses on the market today.
  • The addition of the two band eq means increased tonal versatility.
  • The Ibanez B10 bridge can be individually adjusted meaning that every note on your bass will be perfectly in tune.

Cons

  • The neck can be too wide for some players.
  • Not as glamorous as other models in the Ibanez range.

Best Acoustic Bass Guitar

Cordoba Mini II Bass EB-E


Although Cordoba is more well known for its production of classical and nylon string guitars. They also make fantastic acoustic basses. However, at first sight, the Cordoba Mini II Bass looks slightly unusual. It’s a lot smaller than a standard bass, however, don’t let its small size fool you. This axe packs a punch that most bassists would be proud of.

The obvious advantage to the Cordoba Mini II is its size. From the top of the headstock to the bridge this short-scale bass measures 22 ⅞”. This is a great size and makes this extremely portable. In addition to this, it could make a great first bass guitar for a beginner or child.

In addition to this, the bass features a mahogany neck and pau Ferro fretboard. These two kinds of wood complement each other extremely well and allow the bass to resonate beautifully.

What makes this bass guitar stand out from the crowd is its ability to be used in more natural acoustic settings such as jam sessions and camping trips. However, if you do want to amplify it, the Cordoba Mini II Bass has a handy preamp that can easily be plugged into a mixing desk or amplifier.

The main drawbacks of the Cordoba Mini II Bass are the plastic bridge pins and metal tuners that potentially weigh down the headstock of the bass. However, at this price, it’s hard to find much to complain it.

Overall, if you want one of the best bass guitars at an extremely reasonable price, the Cordoba Mini II Bass EB-E is worth checking out.

Pros

  • Authentic acoustic tone without the need to learn double bass.
  • The bass comes with a 3-band eq installed, along with a tuner and phase switch.
  • A solid spruce top and ebony back and sides give this bass a rich, dark acoustic feel.
  • Perfect for camping trips, acoustic jams and folk sessions.

Cons

  • Acoustic basses like this can be prone to feedback in live situations.
  • No gig bag.

Best Bass Guitar For Rock

Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass


The jaguar classic vibe Squier bass is one of the best bass guitars in its price range. The bass itself is extremely well made and easy to play. In terms of feel, the Squier jaguar bass feels extremely similar to the fender jazz bass. However, the neck width is slightly wider than a standard jazz bass.

On many guitars in this price range, one of the major issues is the fretwork. It’s not uncommon to see sharp fret ends on budget bass guitars. However, the Jaguar classic vibe does not fall victim to this and has smooth fret edges all across the neck.

The neck itself features a high-quality Indian laurel fretboard with block inlays. The cutaway neck joint allows bass players to reach the upper frets with ease.

Similar to a rosewood fretboard, this deep natural look makes the bass look a lot more expensive than it is. In addition to this, the unique selling point of this bass is its medium scale. Striking the balance between shorter scale and longer basses.

However, there are some downsides to this bass guitar. A lot of the hardware isn’t as good as other models in the series. As well as this, the bridge and neck pickup is a lot weaker compared to previous versions. Ultimately, we’re not sure why Squier made these cutbacks as this bass could have been far superior than what it is.

However, despite this, we still think this best bass guitar on the market and is worth checking out if you want an epic rock bass at a reasonable price.

Pros

  • The body of this bass looks extremely cool and works perfectly in the rock genre.
  • Vintage-style bridge and tuners are extremely stable and add to the overall aesthetic of the bass.
  • Similar to Fender’s jazz bass, we have two pickups that work extremely well together.
  • Extremely good quality and playability considering the price.

Cons

  • The gloss finish on the neck can feel sticky at times.
  • Out of the box, there are some major setup issues. Including the bridge not lining up with the pickups.

Buying Guide 

When looking for your next bass guitar, there is a wealth of different options. Whether it’s the type of bass, long scale or short scale, passive or active basses or different wood types. 

In this buying guide, we dive into the details of bass guitar tech specs and tell you everything that you need to know when buying a bass guitar. 

Types of Bass Guitar

The main types of the bass guitar are as follows:

  • Electric Bass Guitar.

Similar to the electric guitar, these are bass guitars that can be amplified. If you’ve ever watched a live band within a popular music context, you will have seen this instrument being utilised. Famous electric bass guitars include Paul McCartney, Nate Mendel (Foo Fighters) and Victor Wooten. 

  • Acoustic Bass Guitars.

Just like the acoustic guitar, you can also get an acoustic version of a bass. This isn’t used very often but is seen on acoustic recordings. The most famous example of this is Nirvana’s MTV unplugged performance. 

This type of bass guitar has a unique sound that works well in an acoustic context. 

  • Fretless Bass Guitars.

The name of a ‘fretless bass guitar’ gives away the name of the game. This is essentially a bass without frets. The fretless bass has a very lyrical sound and as such is used by players such as Pino Palladino and of course most famously, Jaco Pastorious. 

How Many Strings Does A Bass Have?

Although this may seem like an easy answer, the response isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Bass guitars come in three options:

  • Four-string basses.

This is the most common type of bass guitar. Traditionally, bass guitars have four strings. These are tuned E, A, D, G, one octave below a regular guitar. These are perfect for genres of music such as country, rock, blues, pretty much anything you can think of! 

  • Five-string basses.

Five-string basses were initially popularised in the 1980s, mainly to compliment the wide range of tones coming from synths. Five-string basses are tuned in the following ways:

  • B,E,A,D and G.
  • E, A, D, G and C.

Tuning the bass with a low B gives an extended low range and versatility to the instrument. This is extremely common with players who play in heavier genres such as metal, djent and other forms of progressive metal. 

However, players in the jazz genre have also been known to use five-string basses. The extra string can allow for some interesting chordal voicings. 

  • Six-string basses. 

Six-string basses are tuned with the following notes: B, E, A, D, G and C. The addition of a low B and high C allows bassists to experiment with chords and other techniques that aren’t usually possible on a four or five-string bass.

Scale Length – Long Scale Basses vs Short Scale Basses

When referring to musical instruments, the scale length is the core distance between the nut and bridge. In the bass world, a long scale is between 31” and 34” and a short scale is anything below 31”.

The main benefit of a long-scale neck is increased sustain, tuning stability. However, the frets are further apart and can weigh much more. 

A short-scale bass is smaller than a long scale bass. In addition to this, the distance between each fret is less and the bass itself is lighter. This makes the bass easier to play and allows the tone to have more mid-range and punch.

Woods Used For Bass Bodies & Necks

The main woods used for bass guitar bodies are as follows:

  • Alder.

Alder is one of the most common body woods and as such as well balanced tone. With an even frequency response amongst the low, mid and high end, this makes it a great choice for genres such as blues and rock. 

This type of wood is often used on G & L tribute basses, Music Man basses and Fender products. 

  • Ash.

When looking at Ash woods, there are two common types of Ash to look out for. These are Northern Hard Ash and Southern Soft Ash (Swamp Ash). The wood is lightweight, creamy in colour and features an aesthetically pleasing wood pattern that is more appealing than Alder woods. 

Tonally, Ash has a natural scooped mid-range. This results in a brighter sound in the top end, making it great for slap technique. As well as this, you will often see many basses with a swamp-ash neck. 

  • Mahogany.

Out of all the woods discussed, Mahogany is easily the heaviest wood. Mahogany has a distinctive mid-range bark that is ideal for genres of music like metal and rock. The red/brown wood finish is lovely looking and has been used on basses by companies such as Gibson, Ibanez and Epiphone. 

Similar to Mahogany, a Walnut neck is also common on many basses. 

  • Basswood.

Basswood is the lightest of the tonewoods. It’s relatively soft, cheap to manufacture and is often seen on a lot of lower range basses. Basswood often gets a bad reputation for being bland tonally, however, this can often work in the favour of the bassist who wants a clean palette to build their tone on. 

  • Maple.

Maple comes in either soft or hardwoods. Although more common on fretboards, maple can be seen on bass guitar bodies. 

The tone of maple is generally bright, with lots of sustain and attack. This type of tonewood is perfect for punching through the mix and providing tight, aggressive bass tones.

The main woods used for bass guitar necks are:

  • Rosewood.

An extremely popular neck wood, a rosewood fretboard has a smooth silky sound that is extremely durable. In addition to this, rosewood is naturally rich in oils, so it doesn’t take a lot of maintenance to keep it in tip-top condition.  

This wood is regularly used by companies like Fender and G&L. 

  • Maple. 

As mentioned above, Maple has a bright tone and is great if you want to add more snap and sparkle to your overall sound. 

  • Ebony.

Ebony is a very dark tonewood, not just in colour but in sound too. Ebony is often the choice of tonewood for metal players because of this. 

Similar to rosewood, Ebony has a high oil content and can make your bass neck faster due to its smooth feel. 

  • Pau Ferro.

Pau Ferro was recently introduced due to the CITES protection of rosewood. Tonally, it’s very similar to rosewood however there are some differences. Firstly, it has a tighter grain than rosewood, meaning that tonally and it is snappier and faster. 

As well as this, it’s much lighter in colour than rosewood and has a caramel-esque colour to it.

Bass Pickup Types & Combinations 

In the bass guitar world, there are two many types of pickups. These are:

  • Single coils.

Single-coil pickups use one coil that is wound around the magnetic pickup. Tonally, single-coil pickups have a bright clear sounding, this makes them perfect for popular genres such as funk, country and blues. 

However, one thing that single-coil pickups are guilty of being is noisy. The nature of the pickup can often pick up unwanted noise from radios, lighting and electrical devices. This is known as 60-cycle hum and is a common problem for single-coil pickup users. 

This pickup is regularly used by companies like Fender, Music Man and G&L.

When referring to single-coil pickups, there are three main types, these are:

  • Jazz bass pickup.

This type of pickup is a long pickup that is often used in the bridge and neck position. In the neck position, these pickups feature a clear, fat and airy tone, whereas in the bridge the tone is tight and punchy. 

Originally, these pickups were designed for jazz music, however rock bassists have come to favour them for their aggressive nature.

  • Split-coil pickups. 

This type of pickup is often featured in a precision style bass guitar. A split-coil pickup is essentially one j bass pickup but split in two. Each pickup sits underneath both bass strings. 

When they first came out in the 1950s, many rock players quickly adopted this style of pickup as their primary choice due to their thick, clear tone. 

  • P and J combinations. 

Some bassists like to combine both j style and p style pickups. There are two ways of setting this, either you can have the P pickup in the neck and the J pickup in the bridge, or vice versa. 

This offers you as a bassist a wide variety of tones and this combination is arguably the most versatile. 

  • Humbuckers. 

Humbuckers are a dual-coil pickup. One of the main positives of this type of pickup is that they git rid of the noise that single-coil pickups are well known for. 

Fun fact, these pickups were originally made by combining two out of phase single-coil pickups together.

Predominantly used on Gibson, Hofner and Gretsch Basses, this style of the pickup has a thick, vintage-esque tone with a rich deep sound. 

Active vs Passive Pickups

The main difference between passive bass guitars and active bass guitars is that active bass guitars usually require a 9-volt battery to work properly and passive bass guitars do not. 

There are many advantages to having this type of pickup, first of all, they are much louder and provide a stronger signal from your bass to the amp. 

Active electronics usually come with a preamp. This preamp can control several EQ controls from Bass, Mid and Treble control. However the most common is either a 2-band eq or 3-band eq.

Passive pickups are fantastic for vintage-Esque tones as used by some of the world’s greatest bassists including James Jamerson and Paul McCartney. 

However, there is less tonal sculpting to be had from passive pickups as you can only have a master volume and master tone knob to control the sound of the bass. 

FAQ 

What is the best bass ever?

Arguably, the two most iconic bass guitars of all time are the Fender Precision Bass and the Fender Jazz Bass. 

What is the best guitar under $1000?

There are so many basses on the market that fall into this category, however, if we had to pick, we would narrow it down to these three:

  • Fender Player Precision Bass.
  • Fender Player Jazz Bass.
  • Sterling by Music Man StingRay.
  • G & L Tribute. 
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