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An outstanding double bass instrument has improved many melodies since the 16th century. The best bass guitar is a long-scaled necessity for many music genres and can even mesmerize with its solos. From the invention of the electric bass – which was much louder – and the dynamic Leo Fender design that made carrying, playing, and singing with a bass guitar much easier – today this instrument is widely used in popular music by artists such as Paul McCartney, Gene Simmons, Bootsy Collins, and John Paul Jones.
Further below you can find in-depth descriptions and specifications for each feature of any bass guitar, from the weight and how it will affect the sound as well as your stage presence, to the tone influencing wood used in the guitar’s body and top and neck/fretboard. We also looked at the scale length and pickups for each guitar included in the design. Our research into these guitars included approaching manufacturers for design information, as well as talking with verified musicians to get their feedback on the guitar(s) they’ve used.
More features: S-teak bridge, Master volume, blend, 3-band active E/Q controls, 2-way adjustable rod
Our first professional example of an exemplary bass guitar is a stylish stiletto style electric bass.
This full body electric will weigh a little more than any hollow or semi-hollow design, but it’s thicker woods will give it that extra reverb and deep tone any bass player wants. Made with a mahogany and bubinga body and top, this guitar pairs it’s base woods with a golden-brown neck made from maple and walnut with a 24-fret rosewood fretboard.
This guitar comes with a 36-inch scale length and 5 strings; pickups are located near the bridge and the neck and are dual EMG 40HZ active pickups with a battery power pack rather than requiring you to trail an extra cord in every concert.
Other features include an S-Tek bridge which adds versatility as well as a good warm tone, a unique fanned fretboard, 3-band active E/Q controls, and a master volume control. Out of the box the smallest adjustment you might want to make are with the included strings, as the strings leave something to be desired.
Why are we impressed?
Dual EMG 40HZ pickups
Active pickups run on battery power
Weighs less than many full-body designs
Comfortable to hold
Easy to tune
What negatives must you be aware of?
Included strings are rather weak and quickly go out of tune
Pickups: Ultra Noiseless Vintage Jazz Single-coil, active
More features: 5-saddle HiMass, Fender lightweight vintage paddle, stacked treble/bass, stacked midrange/tone, mini toggle active/passive switch
At just a glance this guitar exhibits an incredibly looking mix of alder and gloss body and top with a maple neck and rosewood fretboard. What you can’t see at a glance is Fender’s latest revolutionary innovations which give this bass cutting-edge tone along with a fast but smooth playing feel.
Noiseless pickups create a vintage-style response while playing and are fueled by an 18-volt preamp for thumping music that easily matches any style – plucked, picked, or even slap-and-pop.
A Hi-Mass Vintage bridge creates a wider resonance along with basslines that have unbelievable sustainability. The single-coil fender pickups run off battery power and pick up all sounds so that you can even play with top-load or string-through-body stringing.
The master volume allows you to boost or cut your treble, bass, and control active/passive playing when your battery power is low. With a new truss rod, this guitar even lets you make neck relief adjustments with relative ease.
Last but not least, how can you not admire the ergonomic contours of this guitar body, it’s black chrome headstock logo, and even its large perloid fret markers? This is easily the best fender bass guitar.
Why is it special?
Thru-body-neck design with greater sustainability
Unique 5-saddle HiMass vintage bridge with greater resonance
More features: push/pull coil-split, 2-band Active EQ, 3-way toggle mini-switch voice select
The ESP LTD F-1005 FM Bass Guitar is our top pick for the best intermediate bass guitar, and here’s why we choose it. First, this guitar has a wickedly sculpted body that is sure to look great in the hands of any player. There’s nothing more gorgeous than a 35-inch scale instrument complete with a 7-piece maple heart and a mahogany body. The 5-string bass guitar feels just as great to play as well.
The ESP LTD F-1005 is a remarkable bass guitar, and that’s why it deserves a spot on this list. The ESP LTD F-1005 has a massive sonic range thanks to a 2-band EQ with a 3-way mini switch for the different voices. We particularly love the innovative Fishman Fluence Soapbar pickups that come with this guitar to deliver multiple voicings.
The ESP LTD F-1005 is similar to the ESP LTD F-415FM, another 5-string bass guitar from the same manufacturer. Both guitars share several similarities, especially in terms of their design. However, in terms of pickups and controls, they are quite different. For instance, while the LTD F-1005 is a Fishman Fluence SB-1 Humbucker pickup, the other guitar has an EMG 40DC, active pickup.
What makes it special?
Offers an impressive sonic range
stunning, well-sculpted body
Sound emersion is further improved by bridge and neck pickups
What cons did we find?
Due to the long scale length, the guitar is best suited for those with larger hands
More features: Vintage Plus convertible bridge, lightweight open gear tuners, I.R.A treatment
Yamaha’s best bass guitar is this newest BB model with all the technological advancements and researched additions of our age. BB stands for Broad Bass, meaning you can expect this guitar to supply that meaty punch along with the refined voice typically associated with bass Jazz music.
This guitar also has one of the most sophisticated constructions with a body than sandwiches maple between pieces of alder for overall stiffness and added midrange clarity in all music. In comparison, the slim smoothed neck features 5 separate pieces in a maple and mahogany construction that seems nearly indestructible and even features a six-bolt metal neck joint connecting through to the body.
With a vintage plus bridge – made from bright sounding steel – the strings will have more of a relaxed angle while playing and will provide extra vibration that will aid in pickup relay.
Electronics include duel Alnico VP7 split-coil pickups placed in fender accurate positions that create those throaty jazz bark and gristle sounds. This guitar only weighs 9.5 pounds with 21 frets along a 34-inch scale length; it’s perhaps best for jazz and funk music.
Why did it make our list?
Fender accurate pickups provide the best jazz sounds
Easily one of the lightest full-body bass guitars
IRA treatment relieves all playing stress on the wood
What is not ideal about it?
Humbucker pickups are not included
Vintage plus bridge has more of a metallic/jazz sound that isn’t very adjustable for other genres
Pickups: Lakland J-Style Single-coil, Lakland MM Humbucker
More features: pull preamp bypass, 3-band active EQ, 3-way mini-switch (bridge coil-tap)
The Lakland Skyline 55-02 Deluxe Bass Guitar is our top pick for the best bass guitar for metal music, and here’s why. More than just its high-catching design, this guitar comes loaded with many high-end features that make it perfect for the modern performer.
There are plenty of things to like with this guitar starting with its premium tonewoods. It features an attractive quilt maple top with a flat-sawn maple neck and an ebony fingerboard. The electronic components are top quality as well. The pickups are of exceptional quality, and the guitar delivers pleasing metal tones with excellent sustainability, which is why it deserves a spot in this review.
This Lakland guitar can be compared to the Warwick RockBass Streamer in so many aspects. Both guitars have the same weight, string set up, and scale length. However, their fretboard design and materials are remarkably different. The two units also use different pickup types
What are its best features?
The neck features a deep cutaway, and this helps to increase access to the fingerboard
Delivers impressive metallic tones
A longer scale length guarantees a tighter B-string tone
More features: two volume controls and one tone control, Hipshot HB6 tuners, Hipshot TransTone bridgfe
Sporting one of the most unique body designs – top and body made from swamp ash wood – this guitar gives off a southern vibe that matches nicely with its long neck made from maple with a walnut bracing joint.
With four strings this is a tenor guitar, it also has a 34-length scale but uses the typical rosewood fretboard with 24 frets. The typical sound of this guitar is sweet and warm with a fundamental tone, and the unique swamp ash body creates double the balance and sustainability of any note.
Dual SE 4B ‘H style’ pickups are active humbuckers that provide top end clarity while playing, along with a lot of punch; the sound might best be described as old-school tonal, something most modern basses have been missing.
Additional elements include two volume controls and a one tone control which will allow any musician to use the humbuckers for excellent jazz tones. The Kingfisher PRS guitar has a modern signature sound with old-school tones that will grab an audience’s attention.
Why are we impressed?
High-quality swamp ash body with a warm sound
Two volume controls with a 1-tone control for specifications
What negatives must you be aware of?
Hipshot bridge does require some know-how for restringing
Extra-long wizards neck requires a specific gig bag for the safest carrying
More features: gig bag included, active EQ, custom built-in tuners
You rarely meet a bass guitar that actually meets all airline carry-on requirements – which is any bag under 22-inches not weighing more than 40 pounds – this is that bass guitar (kind of).
Seeming to defy the laws of nature, this little bass – often called the U-bass or ukulele bass – has a short scale and easy action making it fun for casual players. Although with this mini axe its tone has also captured the professional community’s attention.
Made entirely from mahogany in one piece with an inlaid rosewood fretboard (only 16 frets) this small bass has the usual 4 strings but only a 21-inch scale length. It weighs only 3 pounds.
Electronics include custom built-in tuners and a custom pickup and amp connection; this instrument also uses unique fat strings custom made to create those heavy bass sounds in such a small instrument.
It’s design actually include a rather simple but ingenious concept, that a shorter scale length, with thick and dense low-tension strings against a small acoustic chamber, with a preamp/EQ will ultimately equal a huge tone in an insanely portable bass.
What do we love it for?
U-Bass that’s easily portable and even airline friendly
Easy to learn
Uses unique technology for a smaller design with a lot of punch
What were we disappointed with?
Limited scale size gives you a shorter song repertoire
Not a full-sized bass guitar and may get you a lot of questions before and after performing
Although Ibanez has a more popular 6-string acoustic and full body collection, this 4-string bass often stands out as one of their better products.
It’s unique top and body design are crafted from agathis wood that leads into a maple neck laid with the typical warm rosewood fretboard. Scale length is a little different on this instrument, at 28.6 inches, and will assist with quicker strumming, plucking, and cutting against the fretboard for all kinds of notes, tones, and sustain.
A B10 steel bridge creates excellent vibration through the solid wood frame and great sound pick up in the single coil bridge attaching pickup. However, the PSND pickups are rather weak and put up a lot of DC resistance that will mute sound.
Beyond being quieter, they do sound good and can create some good variance in tone while using the two volume and one-tone controls.
Why did it make our list?
Includes Ibanez Gold lifetime warranty
Very stylish and modern design
Unique scale length assists in playing for people with small hands and short reach
What is not ideal about it?
Single coil pickup creates some distracting reverb.
More features: Ibanez AEQ-2T preamp with onboard tuner, ¼’’ output jack
One of the only full hollow bass guitars on our list, this instrument will create a lot more reverberation and loud humming notes while you’re playing.
Its top and body are made from thick mahogany leading into a maple neck that’s laid with a rosewood 20-fret fretboard.
Pickups are in the under-saddle style and feature connections to an onboard tuner and AEQ-2T preamp with a quarter inch output jack.
An extended 32-inch scale allows an extended playing range that will echo beautifully in the acoustic hollow chamber and be transmitted through the pickups into strumming chirrups and sliding melodies best for pop and acoustical music’s.
Other features include the classic Ibanez ebony t-style tuners, a simple rigid metal bridge, and a 9-volt battery for active pickups that give you dynamic playing on any stage.
Why did it make our list?
Includes Ibanez brand-familiar gold warranty
Under-saddle pickups with great range
Semi-hollow electric body acoustic guitar has a deep long sound
More features: 4-saddle standard bridge/tailpiece, affinity series precision
With the Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass Guitar, what you get is a top-of-the-shelf classic fender bass tone guitar at quite an amazing price point. This is why this guitar is our budget pick for this review. If you want a budget-friendly bass guitar that still looks stylish and performs great, this guitar should be top of your list of considerations.
The Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass guitar features a lightweight and resonant body making it perfect for long hours of performance without wearing you out. The unit combines both Precision and Jazz Pickups to deliver a captivating gritty vendor tone. We also love how customizable the tone of this guitar is. The unit comes with a volume knob as well as a master tone knob to easily tweak the tone output based on the player’s preferences.
This bass guitar is quite similar to the PRS SE Kingfisher, our Best Starter Guitar. Equally affordable, this guitar also has a 34’’ scale length but weighs slightly heavier than the Squier Affinity. The Squier Affinity guitar also features a 4-saddle standard bridge as one of the standard features.
What do we love it for?
Versatile tone thanks to the bass pickup combo
Lightweight and comfortable to play
Suitable for different styles and playing conditions
What were we disappointed with?
The bridge design may seem a little too simple for those who prefer something fancier
Things to Consider
The remainder of this guide is designed to teach you a little bit more about choosing a fretted instrument, handling a short or long-scaled bass, picking out the color and shape which best appeals to you, and even buying the best bass you can afford. Additionally, we go over any of the features we might have listed above and detail their purposes and different designs; listed are also our suggestions of bass guitars which best meet the most ideal feature specifics. Frequently asked questions are listed and answered at the end.
It’s all about the bass
What makes a good bass? Often this question is actually best answered by the bassist in particular because different bass players will always give you different answers. Many answers will differ on ‘what features affect the sound and playing ability’, such as wood type having a massive sound changing quality over a guitar. For instance, typically you’ll find that cheaper guitars use basswood or alder bodies – many guitarists swear these instruments have a weaker more muted sound – whereas guitars which use woods such as mahogany, swamp ash, and maple will move up the price range due to their broader and deeper sound effect over bass guitars. Another more important feature will, of course, be the pickups included and used in the design – often you’ll see a range of single-coils and humbuckers, as well as passive and active designs. Single coils are nice, but they only use one magnet and, in the end, have a lot of reverb which can distort the sound while you’re playing (though some bassists like this); humbuckers have a fatter sound which helps to cancel out background noise and reverb interference. Often the best bass guitar with the ‘best pickups’ depends on the music you play and the sound you’re going for.
So, what’s the difference between a bass guitar and a regular guitar? The answer is that the ‘pitch range’ is totally different and unique between these instruments. Bass guitars play notes and an octave lower – for instance in ‘Another One Bite the Dust’ by Queen, where the first few notes are clearly made by a bass. Another difference is that the lower notes of the bass typically play a supporting role – like the drums, etcetera – to create a foundation for an artist to add vocals or a defining melody over the top. You could almost say that the bass guitar provides the beat. In fact, you’ll rarely ever see a band without a bass guitar, but you’ll often see bands without drums and other instruments; see how important this instrument is? The bass can even have its own solo’s and play many of the traditional melodies and songs that a regular guitar can play.
What is a bass guitar capable of?
A better question is, ‘What isn’t the bass guitar capable of?’. Depending on the type of bass guitar you use, your range of playable music can change drastically. The sound depends on the guitar, and the choice of the guitar depends on you. Electric bass guitars are some of the most common bass instruments out there, they typically have a slim and solid body and so need pickups and a bass amplifier in order to play them. These electric basses have tons of power and versatility which can be used to play jazz, folk, pop, rock, metal, and pretty much any other genre of music (depending on the specific electric bass). Acoustic electric instruments, on the other hand, are a mixture that are typically semi-hollow and gives off more of an echoing light sound rather than full-bodied thrum. Acoustic electric basses usually have mire if a violin shape. Finally, acoustic basses are completely hollow and can’t be connected with pickups or attached by a cord to an amp. The acoustic bass sounds smooth and low strumming and is great for quieter music and calmer venues – typically you see love songs played on these guitars with smoother jazz sounds or quiet lilting pop melodies. Some bassists might play rock on these guitars, but only if the venue is small – like in a bar – an everyone within earshot can hear the bass guitar (otherwise, in a big venue, the acoustic bass would be drowned out by the other instruments).
What wood suits bass guitar the best?
Choosing an appropriate wood for your bass guitar can, for many bassists, be the hardest decision of all. Lots of experts swear that wood type changes the sound of an instrument, whereas many other professionals think that sound quality has less to do with the wood type and more to do with the electronics and the artist themselves. For information on wood types, however, we do have our own researched suggestions about different types of wood and how they might change the sound of your instrument. Alder wood is possible on the most commonly used woods and provides clarity and versatility of sound, meaning purer tones that aren’t too sharp or too flat; Ash supposedly has a brighter sound; Maple wood is dense and creates a bright sound with longer sustainability; Mahogany is less bright sounding but warmer with the most sustainability. The cheaper woods, like basswood and agathis, are reported to be softer with shorter sustainability and less tonality.
How to maintain your bass guitar
Perspiration/water damage is easily one of the worst things not only for your bass guitars wood, but also and especially its electronics. Always wipe your instrument down with a dry cloth after a gig or after playing outdoors. Additionally, double check that all fasteners are secure while wearing a strap with your guitar, and feel free to restring your guitar when you feel the pickups aren’t receiving the vibrations as well as they used to; restring one string at a time and then tune. If you adjust your pickup, make sure the screws at either end of your pickup aren’t ever left loose. The number one measure you can take to maintain your guitar is buying a gig case for carrying the instrument around; unfortunately, not many of the guitars on our list come with a protective gig case.
Features to consider while choosing the best bass guitar
Many of these features were briefly mentioned or listed in the detailed descriptions of our top ten bass guitars. Here we examine each feature further and even give you examples of the above guitars which best meet the standard of a good ‘body type’, ‘pickup design’, ‘scale length’, etcetera.
Your instruments body should be a very important factor in your decision, from the body materials that are used to the paint job and overall shape. Firstly, body materials should not be constructed of plywood that’s just glued together – none of the guitars on our list is this way – instead look at solid wood bodies which incorporated pieces that have been sanded together and finished in a veneer. Lighter wood like basswood and agathis should be avoided by professional bassists because these woods don’t resonate nearly as well. For a look at a truly professional and trustworthy design, take a look at the Ibanez PCBE12MHOPN with its full mahogany body that’s semi-hollow and electric. ‘Semi-hollow’ also brings up another matter of preference for the bassist, and that’s whether you want a solid body design – like the PRS SE Kingfisher – something in between, or a totally acoustic hollow-body bass. One of our more unique body designs belongs to the Kala UBASS-SSMHG-FS which is a ukulele bass guitar. Any additional body concerns should be the paint job and shape of the guitar itself (mostly preference).
When it comes to electric bass guitars it really isn’t the wood type that matters as much, instead, it’s the neck attachment the manufacturer decided to use. The reason this matters is that bass strings are typically longer and heavier and can be extremely stressful on a weak neck joint – that’s why you should never string a regular guitar with bass strings. Bolt-on-neck designs are the most common and are adjustable for when you’re restringing or using different strings. The Yamaha BBP35 features an extremely adjustable six-bolt neck design. More uncommon bass neck designs include set necks – these are not adjustable and are fitted into the overlap between body and neck – and thru-body necks – these are typically only in custom designed instruments, they’re the most expensive, but they offer the most stability and sustainability over time. The Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass V actually features one of these thru-body necks.
Length categories for bass guitars are ‘long scale’ which is typically 34 inches, ‘short scale’ that’s around 30 inches or less, and ‘extra-long scale’ that’s around 35 inches or more. Long scale is considered the standard and is the best default option for a beginning bassist or learning student. However, for younger students’ parents should definitely take a look at short scale instruments as these will be easier for them to handle. Typically, you won’t see many extra-long scale basses, but if you do make sure they have 5 or 6 strings because a bass that long needs a lower B string. One very unique bass on our list is the electric Kala UBASS-SSMHG-FS which is much smaller – carry on airline size – with a 21-inch scale length.
All of the bass guitars on our list feature a fretboard made from rosewood, first because rosewood allows for the warmest ‘cutting’ (pressing the string down against it to control the vibration/tone) and second because frets mark the exact spot to play a certain note and assist any musicians learning the bass or a new guitar. Fretless basses are not listed in our guide and are not suggested for beginner bassists.
Passive pickups will give a player a dynamic range of sound with a classic warm tone that is also quite punchy, however, the downside is that these guitars typically require a separate cord that limits your movement around the stage. On the other hand, active pickups are significantly higher in pitch and come with preamps built-in and powered by batteries. It all depends on your preference. The Schecter 2794 has a fantastic active pickup which will work great on any stage in any venue.
The bridge is the point where there’s a fixing point for the strings, and generally there are two types of bridge systems: fixed bridges and moving bridges. Often moving bridges are called ‘tremolo bridges’ and you’ll most commonly see these with electric guitars. Typically, tremolo bridges have a bar which you push or pull to increase or decrease the tension on the strings which will control the intensity of volume while you are playing. Tremolo relates to volume control, whereas vibrato bridge systems relate to pitch control. The PRS SE Kingfisher is a good guitar to look at because it has a unique bridge system (the Hipshot TransTone bridge system) which mainly controls the tone while you’re playing and allows for a punchier sound.
Whatever guitar you choose, you’ll want to make sure the notes play in tone as you move and fret up the neck – this is intonation. If the distance between frets on a guitar is off your guitar will be incapable of playing in tune and you’ll either have to replace the fretboard altogether or find a different instrument. Few bass guitars have this flaw, however, and if they do it is 100% a manufacturing error.
The tuning system represents a relationship between the bridge and the tuning keys which will affect the overall tuning precision of your instrument as well as tuning stability while playing. For instruments that feature an ‘upgraded’ or ‘unique’ bridge, make sure the bridge increases one or both of the following: sustainability and vibration transfer. Tuning systems that are updated should allow for better string positioning as well as hipshot or fender stringing systems. One such example is the Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass V with its updated fender tuning system.
The style completely depends on your preference, and there are lots of styles out there. For just beginners, you might want to start out with a bass guitar that has a traditional neck length and body shape. As you increase in experience work up from there to different styles – such as the stiletto style seen with the very professional Schecter 2794.
Some accessories you might want to have along with your bass guitar are: electric tuners, a protective hard-shell case (or soft shell depending on your preference). Amps, of course, and extra cords are always nice. There are also sprays and polishes specifically for guitars which make cleaning and upkeep much easier while you’re out on the road. If the listed guitar you like does not specify a case with the purchase, we suggest you go with the Reunion Blues RB Continental Voyager Electric Bass Guitar Case; it’s a great option for any time you go out touring.
Not all the above products were listed online with their warranties but we know that many of these companies and brands provide highly-rated warranties with all their products (just make sure you ask the distributor while buying). For instance, Ibanez guitars always come with a Gold lifetime warranty that covers all manufacturing errors and many (though not all) fixes and part replacements.
Two basic methods exist and should be covered before going into advanced playing techniques. The first and most obvious method of playing is ‘plucking’ the strings with your finger pads (most of the listed guitars are right handed instruments). Correct finger arrangement and number of fingers can actually differ per musician, depending on hand size, but most bassists agree that at least two fingers should be used: the index and middle finger. The second method then is also quite obvious, using a pick and ‘picking’ the strings up and down. One stereotype does exist that condemns those who use picks to play as ‘not real bassists’, but honestly this is just a matter of preference. Plenty of Punk and Alternative artists use a pick. Now, advanced techniques you might consider are: slapping (which involves whacking a string with you thump (this requires a high degree of precision); popping (which is plucking the string with more force than usual); and finger tapping (which involves fretting a note with your left hand but is a little more complicated and requires a lot of practice).
Professional players should change their strings around once every month; other players should change strings as they hear sounds grow dull or have issues/breakage. You’ll have to loosen the old strings first by turning the knob in the direction the pitch of the string lowers. After the peg gets really loose, you’ll remove the string from the peg by pulling it out and then you’ll slide it back through the hole where it’s inserted into the bridge. Putting the strings back on basically involves the same process in reverse. Although once you’ve restrung the instrument, you’ll need to retune each string; retuning is best done string by string with an electric tuner (rather than your ear).
It depends on how much time you devote to the practice of learning the bass and whether you’re learning on your own or taking lessons and practicing with a band or other individual. With lessons and help most people can manage basic songs within the first 2 or 3 weeks; with six months to a year you can expect to have mastered all the basics (although that’s lessons at least twice a week with practice maybe every other day). However, like with any instrument and any person, the learning process is never the same for everyone.
We love leaving our readers with the three top models – according to our research and reviews – and we’ve listed them below for your benefit. If you can’t quite put your finger on the guitar for you, the following three guitars represent a mixed bag of excellent designs, affordability, technological advancements, and unbridled sound which in our opinion make them some the best bass guitars.
Schecter 2794. Easily the best bass guitar on this list, this option is not only stylish but features an innovative design that utilizes the newest technological advancements and research into bass guitars and bass sounds. It comes with amazing dual active pickups and an impressive 3-way band EQ control system.
Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass V. Clearly the best pick for jazz and metal sounds, this guitar features all the newest technology to pickup the sound and transport the listener; it has an 18-volt preamp with active 3-band EQ, a master volume control, and a pant pot (pickup selector) which features treble boost, cut, mid-range boost/cut, and bass boost/cut. It’s also a very stylish instrument.
Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass Black Burst. If you’re looking for a starter guitar and pack within your budget, this is easily the cheapest bass with extra gear to help out your learning experience. The guitar itself even offers pretty good pickups.