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 Best Bass Guitar Brands
- 13 Conclusion
Top 9 Best Bass Guitars – All Categories
|Dean E09M Edge Mahogany Electric Bass||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|Yamaha TRBX204 GLB 4-String Bass||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|Squier by Fender Vintage Modified Jazz Bass '77||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|Sterling by Music Man RAY34-NT Bass||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|Fender Jaco Pastorius Jazz Electric Bass||(5 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|Squier by Fender Affinity Jazz Beginner Electric Bass||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|ESP LTD B-205SM Spalted Maple||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|Schecter Stiletto Studio-6 Electric Bass||(5 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|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
Best Bass Guitar Brands
The thing with bass guitars is that there are a whole lot of brands that manufacture them. A lot of people even believe bass guitars to be the secondary product of a company, with the primary position being relegated to the electric guitar. Yet this could not be any less true. The bass guitar is just as important as any other instrument, and making the bass guitar right is a big responsibility for manufacturers. This brings me to Ibanez, and the fact that they are probably the best, or at least one of the best, bass guitar manufacturers to have ever graced the market. Ibanez has a long track record of wonderful electric guitars, but the list of bass guitars produced by them is just as long and just as impressive. Some of the most impressive and famous bass guitar models by ibanez are the Gio series models, the Talman Bass series, the BTBs, the ATKs, the SR series, the Mikro series and the Bass workshop series and a few others that would make a list too long to read or to talk about. The thing is, Ibanez is one of the best electric guitar brands and it is also definitely one of the best electric bass guitar brands. Good stuff Ibanez, keep it up!
The very first electric bass guitars were invented way back in the 1930s. The guy who invented the instrument shall forever remain relevant to the genres of blues, rock and roll and, actually, every single genre that has ever used a bass guitar. Which means all of them. Which is why it is important to appreciate him. But it is just as important to know of the people who innovated in the field of bass guitar making, and reintroduced the instrument into the market the way it had never been known before. The Fender musical instrument company did this in 1951. Clarence Leo Fender introduced the Precision Bass to the world, creating one of the most iconic and famous bass guitars of all time. That single reinvention of the instrument brought the Fender bass guitars to the forefront of the favored bass guitar brands and ever since then, Fender has remained the favorite of many. Today the brand offers electric bass guitars that can fit either the vintage or the modern category. They remain true to the iconic precision bass but have since introduced new lines of bass guitars that are in no way inferior. Proving themselves to be one of the best brands for bass guitars, they should be mentioned on any list that tries to talk about where the best bass guitars come from.
It is assumed that the general rule of thumb is that if a brand produces a high quality electric guitar, then you should expect some incredible quality bass guitars from them as well. This is a rule of thumb that makes sense on the surface, but is not always easy to follow, which is why this list of brands is so short and concise. The length of the list is how you know that the brands on the list are actually worth taking a good, long, hard look at. ESP has a long and complicated history, which might make some people hate it and some people not really care about it, but we all have to come to an agreement. These people know how to build their instruments, and they invest a whole lot of dedication and effort into them. Which shows and is reflected in the quality of their guitars. Offering up a variety of bass guitar series, ESP has produced some of the most iconic, unique looking and hard working basses out there. Whether you become partial to the ESP-II bass series or the LTD bass series, or a number of other series, you are likely to realize that each and every series has something you admire about them. You are not alone, which is why ESP is on the list.
If you have been following me for a while, or reading the things I write, reviews blog or whatever else, you know that I am one of the biggest fanboys of Schecter guitars there has ever lived on the planet. So I won’t judge you too much for being suspicious of me when I place Schecter on the list of the best brands of anything, and yet I want you to trust me, not because I am a fanboy, but because Schecter has proven itself so many times already. When I say Schecter is one of the best bass guitar producing brands, I want you to look at all of the examples. Whether they are custom (oh lord save us all) or whether they are more mass market oriented, the bass guitars offered by Schecter are definitely something else. Here is a quick rundown of some of my favorite models and ones that you should probably check out some day: Simon Gallup Ultra Spitfire Bass, Baron H Vintage, the C-5 and the C-4 series are quite impressive, and for the all around great bass guitar, just take a look at the Stiletto bass guitars. Just make sure you have a piece of cloth to wipe away the drool when you are looking at the bunch of them.
Music man joined the bass guitar manufacturing game a little later than most of the crowd listed up above, not much earlier than Schecter did in fact, and yet they have been killing the game from day one. Music Man is famous for their musical instruments, especially guitars and bass guitars which they have been producing since 1976, when their first manufacturing plant went up. They have produced some of the most iconic guitars ever since, with the first guitars being criticised a little, but becoming more popular with later iterations. Today, the music man signature Stingray bass guitars are pretty much a staple, loved among most bass players from around the world. The Music Man bass guitars are numerous and all of them offer something for any buyer, whether you are a newbie bass player or an experienced one. Which is why I have slapped their name onto the list right here. The thing with bass guitar manufacturers is that there are so few of them that can actually be said to be the best. The Music Man brand learned from whatever mistakes their first bass guitars had and built upon those mistakes, bring the world a slew of wonderful instruments to work with and love. This makes them one of the most consistent bass guitar manufacturers in the world, and the one that is most loved or appreciated by me. If you don’t think you have found the bass guitar you have always dreamt of, look closer, because the Music Man brand might have something you will enjoy.
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.