Unveiling the Best Beginner Bass Guitars: A Comprehensive Review and Guide

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Last updatedLast updated: April 02, 2024
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Choosing the right beginner bass guitar can truly enhance your initial learning journey. Given the diversity of brands, models, and unique features, making a well-informed decision might seem daunting for a beginner.

To simplify this process, we’ve compiled a comprehensive buying guide, offering a detailed overview of the fundamental elements contributing to a bass guitar’s tone, feel, and overall playability.

From understanding what a bass guitar is, to knowing its integral parts and functionalities, and identifying the factors to consider when purchasing, this guide breaks down everything you need to know. Let’s dive deep into the world of bass guitars and help you find an instrument that meets your needs and inspires you to play and grow as a musician.

1.

Ibanez GSR200Editor’s Choice

Features

Features:

  • Number of Strings: 4
  • Body Shape: SR
  • Body Material: Poplar
  • Scale Length: 34″
  • Number of Frets: 22, Medium

As our Editor’s Choice, the Ibanez GSR200 stands out as a fantastic beginner bass guitar known for its sturdy construction, comfortable playability, and lively tonal quality. Its agathis body features a sleek, double-cutaway design that makes higher frets easily accessible.

When it comes to performance, the GSR200 shines in several categories. Its PJ pickup configuration includes a precision neck pickup and a “jazz” bridge pickup, delivering a broad spectrum of tones suitable for genres ranging from funk to metal. The Phat II active bass boost adds extra low-end power, making it a versatile tool for beginners.

This bass guitar is an excellent match for beginners still exploring their preferred music genre. Its wide range of tones allows players to experiment with different styles, which is beneficial for broadening their musical horizons.

What distinguishes the GSR200 is its combination of high-quality construction, playability, and affordability. Unlike many beginner instruments that compromise on quality to lower costs, the GSR200 maintains excellent build quality and sound without draining your wallet.

While the GSR200 is a top-tier beginner bass guitar, its agathis body may not offer the same resonance as pricier woods such as mahogany or ash. Nevertheless, for a beginner delving into the world of bass, the GSR200 is a valuable investment.

What do we love it for?

  • Versatile sound range
  • High-quality build
  • Excellent value for money

What were we disappointed with?

  • Agathis body might not provide as much resonance as other woods

2.

Yamaha TRBX174Best in Versatility

Features

Features:

  • Number of Strings: 4
  • Body Shape: TRBX
  • Body Material: Mahogany
  • Scale Length: 34″
  • Number of Frets: 24

The Yamaha TRBX174 is our top pick for versatility. This bass guitar is noted for its playability and a plethora of features that lend to its versatility.

With a body crafted from solid alder, the TRBX174 produces clear, balanced tones with a generous dose of low-end thump. The neck, made from maple, adds to the durability and responsiveness of this instrument.

The TRBX174 is a powerhouse in performance, offering an excellent range of tones courtesy of its precision and single-coil pickup configuration. This combination provides a rich tonal palette, perfect for exploring various genres, from rock to blues.

What makes this bass exceptional is its ability to adapt to the player’s style, making it ideal for beginners still figuring out their sound.

While the TRBX174 is a fantastic bass guitar, its hardware could be upgraded to match the overall build quality and performance. However, for a beginner, the Yamaha TRBX174 delivers a satisfying balance of durability, versatility, and sound quality.

What are our favorite features?

  • Wide tonal range
  • Durable construction
  • Highly versatile

What could be better?

  • Hardware could be better

3.

Squier by Fender Affinity Jazz BassBest Value for Money

Features

Features:

  • Number of Strings: 4
  • Body Shape: Affinity Series Precision
  • Body Material: Poplar
  • Scale Length: 34″
  • Number of Frets: 20, Medium Jumbo

Our pick for Best Value for Money, the Squier by Fender Affinity Jazz Bass, brings an impressive balance between performance and affordability.

This bass guitar is constructed with a solid alder body, providing a robust foundation for the instrument. Its C-shaped neck, made from maple, offers comfort and easy playability, making it perfect for beginners.

When it comes to performance, the Affinity Jazz Bass has a lot to offer. Its dual single-coil Jazz Bass pickups produce a punchy, clear tone, making it great for various genres, from jazz to punk.

The key strength of this bass is its remarkable performance despite its affordable price tag. For beginners, this means getting a high-quality instrument without breaking the bank.

While the Affinity Jazz Bass provides excellent value for money, it may require some setup out of the box to achieve optimal playability. However, once it’s properly set up, beginners will find it to be a reliable instrument that can grow with them as they progress.

What makes it stand out?

  • Affordable price
  • Versatile tone
  • Comfortable neck

Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?

  • May require setup

4.

Epiphone EB-3Top Choice for Classic Tones

Features

Features:

  • Number of Strings: 4
  • Body Shape: SG
  • Body Material: Mahogany
  • Scale Length: 34″
  • Number of Frets: 22, Medium Jumbo

The Epiphone EB-3 earns its place as the Top Choice for Classic Tones with its unique SG body shape and vintage vibe. Made of mahogany, both the body and the neck of the EB-3 provide a rich, warm, and sustained tone.

When it comes to performance, the EB-3 is equipped with a Sidewinder humbucker and NYT Bass mini humbucker pickups. This combination allows for a full-bodied tone with enough versatility to handle both melodic lines and driving rhythms.

The EB-3 is best suited for those seeking a classic, vintage tone. Its unique SG body shape looks great and provides the player with easy access to higher frets.

Its distinctive vintage tone and aesthetics set the EB-3 apart from other beginner bass guitars. This bass guitar can be a wonderful choice for beginners looking to play classic rock or blues.

Despite its many positive attributes, the EB-3 may be slightly heavy for some beginners. However, for those seeking a vintage-looking bass with warm and versatile tones, the EB-3 stands out.

What makes it stand out?

  • Classic vintage tone
  • Unique SG body shape
  • Solid construction

Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?

  • May be heavy for some beginners

5.

Cort Action Bass V PlusBest for Modern Styles

Features

Features:

  • Number of Strings: 4
  • Body Material: Poplar
  • Scale Length: 34″
  • Number of Frets: 24

Next on our list, the Cort Action Bass V Plus is our Best for Modern Styles. This bass guitar stands out with its double-cutaway design and its meranti body, which ensures a balanced tone with a good amount of sustain.

In terms of performance, the Action Bass V Plus features a pair of Powersound PSEB passive pickups, providing a modern tonal range that can accommodate various music genres. The Active 2-band EQ further allows tonal shaping to suit your musical style.

The Action Bass V Plus is best for those looking to venture into modern styles of music. Its sleek design and versatile tone make it a flexible choice for beginners.

The distinct feature of this bass guitar is its five-string configuration. This feature provides an extended lower range, giving beginners the opportunity to explore a wider tonal spectrum.

While the Action Bass V Plus is a top-notch bass guitar, some beginners may need time to get used to the five-string configuration. Nevertheless, its modern aesthetic, diverse tones and the added advantage of an extra string make it an exciting choice for beginners.

What are our favorite features?

  • Sleek design
  • Versatile tone
  • Five-string configuration

What could be better?

  • Five-string configuration might be challenging for some beginners

6.

Fender Mustang PJ BassBest for Compact Size

Features

Features:

  • Number of Strings: 4
  • Body Shape: Player Mustang
  • Body Material: Alder
  • Scale Length: 30″
  • Number of Frets: 19, Medium Jumbo

The Fender Mustang PJ Bass, our Best for Compact Size, is a short-scale bass that offers comfort and ease of playability. With a body made of alder and a comfortable C-shaped maple neck, the Mustang PJ Bass is both durable and comfortable to play with.

Performance-wise, the Mustang PJ Bass is equipped with a Precision Bass middle pickup and a Jazz Bass bridge pickup. This combination allows for a broad tonal range that is suitable for various music genres.

The Mustang PJ Bass is ideal for those looking for a compact and comfortable bass guitar. Its short-scale length is perfect for players with smaller hands or those who prefer a less-stretched fretting hand.

What sets the Mustang PJ Bass apart is its compact size. Despite its smaller scale length, this bass guitar doesn’t compromise on tonal quality or versatility, offering a rich and balanced sound.

While the Mustang PJ Bass is an excellent choice for beginners, those with larger hands or those accustomed to a standard-scale bass may find it too small. However, its comfortable playability and versatile tonal range make it a standout choice for beginners.

Why is it special?

  • Compact size
  • Comfortable to play
  • Versatile tonal range

What are the flaws?

  • May be too small for some players

7.

Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4Best for Sound Quality

Features

Features:

  • Number of Strings: 4
  • Body Shape: StingRay
  • Body Material: Basswood
  • Scale Length: 34″
  • Number of Frets: 21, Medium

Rounding out our list is the Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4, our Best for Balanced Tone. The Ray4 offers a solid hardwood body coupled with a comfortable and sturdy maple neck.

The Ray4 features a single high-output humbucker, which provides a punchy and balanced tone. This bass is also equipped with a 2-band active preamp for easy tonal adjustments.

The Ray4 is great for beginners looking for a balanced and punchy sound. Its solid construction ensures it can withstand heavy playing, while its active electronics provide many tonal possibilities.

What distinguishes the Ray4 is its active electronics and high-output humbucker, which provide a punchy, balanced tone. It also includes a solidly built 6-bolt neck joint for improved sustain and stability.

Although the Ray4 is a great beginner bass, some players might need time to get accustomed to its active electronics. Nevertheless, the Ray4’s balanced tone, durability, and tonal versatility make it an excellent choice for beginners.

What are our favorite features?

  • Balanced and punchy tone
  • Solid construction
  • Active electronics

What could be better?

  • Active electronics might be challenging for some beginners

Things to Consider

Stepping into the world of bass guitars as a beginner can be quite a thrilling yet overwhelming experience. There are many factors to consider, from the vast array of models and brands to different kinds of woods, strings, and more. This comprehensive buying guide aims to break down these elements in a detailed manner, helping you make an informed choice when you’re on the hunt for the best beginner bass guitar.

Understanding the Basics of a Bass Guitar

Before diving into the world of bass guitars, it’s crucial to understand what a bass guitar is and how it operates. Traditionally, a bass guitar is a stringed instrument designed to produce deep, low-pitched sounds known as ‘bass frequencies.’ These frequencies lay the rhythmic and harmonic foundation of a musical piece, making the bass guitar an integral part of a band or ensemble.

Let’s look at some key elements that contribute significantly to the tone, feel, and overall playability of the bass guitar:

Body Type

A bass guitar’s body can be made from a variety of woods, each with its unique tonal characteristics:

  • Mahogany: Known for producing rich, warm, and full tones, mahogany-bodied bass guitars are excellent for genres like rock and metal.
  • Alder: Alder is a popular choice for bass guitar bodies due to its balanced tone with decent resonance in the low, mid, and high ranges.
  • Ash: Offering a bright tone with excellent sustain, ash is a great choice for players looking for a more pronounced midrange.

The shape of the bass guitar’s body also matters as it influences the instrument’s balance and comfort. Experimenting with different body types can help you find what feels most comfortable when standing or sitting.

Neck Construction

The bass guitar’s neck is another critical aspect affecting both the sound and stability of the instrument. There are three primary types of neck constructions to consider:

  • Bolt-On Necks: This is the most common neck construction, where the neck is bolted onto the body. Bolt-on necks offer a punchy sound with a good sustain and are relatively easy to adjust or replace.
  • Set Necks (Glued-In Necks): Set necks are glued into the body. They typically provide more sustain and warmer tones than bolt-on necks.
  • Neck-Through Designs: In neck-through designs, the neck extends through the entire length of the guitar body. Due to their complex manufacturing process, they deliver excellent sustain and stability but are usually found on higher-end bass guitars.

The shape and thickness of the neck, often referred to as the neck ‘profile,’ also impact the instrument’s playability. For instance, a thinner neck might be more comfortable for players with smaller hands.

Pickups

Pickups are the heart of an electric bass guitar, as they capture string vibrations and convert them into an electrical signal, which can then be amplified. The two main types of bass pickups are passive and active:

  • Passive Pickups: The original type of pickups, passive models, provide a warm, dynamic, and vintage tone that’s perfect for genres like blues, jazz, and classic rock. They require no external power source, making them low maintenance.
  • Active Pickups: These pickups use a battery-powered preamp to provide a clear, punchy sound with a higher output. Active pickups are great for players seeking a modern sound, as they offer excellent tonal flexibility and noise reduction.

Number of Strings

While most bass guitars come with four strings, five and six-string, variants are also available:

  • Four-String Bass: The standard and most common type of bass guitar. The simplicity of having fewer strings makes these models ideal for beginners.
  • Five-String Bass: These bass guitars add a lower B string, expanding the instrument’s lower range. This extra string can be beneficial for certain styles of music like metal, jazz, or progressive rock.
  • Six-String Bass: A six-string bass adds a higher C string to the five-string configuration, offering an even broader range. Advanced players typically use these basses in genres that demand complex bass lines, such as fusion and jazz.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Beginner Bass Guitar

Budget

You might not want to splurge on your first instrument as a beginner. Luckily, you can find quality bass guitars in the $200-$300 range that provide excellent value for money. Consider other necessary expenses like a case, strap, amplifier, and maintenance tools when setting your budget.

Size and Scale Length

The scale length of a bass guitar is the distance from the bridge to the nut. A ‘full-size’ or ‘long-scale’ bass typically has a scale length of 34 inches. ‘Medium-scale’ basses measure around 32 inches, and ‘short-scale’ basses, around 30 inches or less. The choice between these depends on your physical comfort and the kind of tone you want. Shorter scales are easier to handle, particularly for younger players or those with smaller hands. They also produce a warm and vintage tone. On the other hand, long-scale basses offer a bright and punchy tone.

Genre of Music

Your preferred music genre can also influence your bass guitar choice. If you’re into rock or punk, you might prefer a Precision Bass (P-Bass) for its punchy and aggressive tone. If you like jazz or soul, a Jazz Bass (J-Bass) with its bright and rich tone would be an excellent choice. Those into metal might prefer a five-string bass for its expanded lower range.

Getting the Most Out of Your Beginner Bass Guitar

Regular Maintenance

Keep your bass guitar in the best possible condition by cleaning it regularly and changing the strings when they lose their tone. Also, learn how to set up your bass to suit your playing style. This includes adjusting the string action and intonation.

Learning Resources

Consider investing in some learning resources. You can find plenty of free online tutorials and lessons to get started, but hiring a professional teacher can greatly expedite your learning process.

Joining a Community

Join a community of bass players, whether online or offline. You can learn from the experiences of others, ask questions, and receive feedback on your progress.

FAQ

 
 

Absolutely! Bass guitars are an excellent choice for beginners due to their simplicity and importance in a band’s rhythm section. While it might seem less glamorous than lead guitar initially, playing the bass comes with its own set of rewards and challenges, making it a fulfilling instrument to learn.

As a beginner, starting with a four-string bass guitar is generally recommended due to its simplicity and ease of learning. Consider factors like your budget, the style of music you want to play, and the bass size when choosing your first instrument. Popular beginner models include the Ibanez GSR200, Yamaha TRBX174, and Squier by Fender Affinity Jazz Bass.

Yes, with dedication and consistent practice, you can certainly self-learn bass guitar. Plenty of resources are available online, including tutorials, video lessons, and online courses. However, investing in a few lessons with a professional teacher can significantly speed up your learning process.

The price of a bass guitar can vary widely depending on the brand, materials, and features. However, as a beginner, you can find decent bass guitars in the range of $200-$300. Remember to factor in additional costs like a case, strap, amplifier, and maintenance tools when setting your budget.

If you already play guitar, you’ll find some transferable skills when switching to bass, such as understanding chord structures and reading tablature. However, keep in mind that the bass has its own unique role and techniques to master. Its strings are thicker, and it requires a different playing style. While your guitar knowledge will give you a head start, learning bass will still present a new and exciting challenge.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the best beginner bass guitar can feel like a daunting task, but with the right guidance, you can find an instrument that suits your needs and helps you on your journey to becoming a great bassist. Our Editor’s Choice, the Ibanez GSR200, stands out for its combination of high-quality construction, versatile tonal range, and affordability, making it an excellent starting point. The Yamaha TRBX174‘s wide tonal palette and the Squier by Fender Affinity Jazz Bass‘s value for money also make them worthy contenders.

Remember, the best beginner bass guitar for you is the one that feels right in your hands and inspires you to play and practice. Happy playing!

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