What Are The Top Bass Guitars For Starters – Reviews And Recommendations

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Last Updated: June-20-2017
With only six beginner-friendly basses featured, there wasn’t too much need to revamp our chart, although we did replace two slightly dated models. The Squier Affinity P/J was replaced with Squier’s short scale Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Special SS while Yamaha’s BB424 made way for the exotic Yamaha TRBX174EW.

Learning to play bass guitar is both exciting and hard. Compared to an electric guitar, bass operates in a completely different environment. Your job as a bass player is to bridge the gap between the drummer and the rest of the band, thus keeping everything going in sync. One of the main issues beginners have at the start of their journey is selecting their first bass guitar.

There are just so many of them on the market, with different features and components available. It definitely can get overwhelming at times. In order to help you out, we wanted to create a short guide that would contain all the information you are going to need to pick the right bass that will serve you well throughout your starting phase.

This guide is going to be divided into two sections. The first one is going to contain some tips, recommendations and general information on how to choose a bass guitar and what to look for. The second part of the guide is where you can find some of the starter guitars we think are best at this moment. As a matter of fact, some of them are definitely among the top rated bass guitars you can get, period.

If you are interested which bass guitars belong in that group, check out our recommendations. By the time you’re done reading here, you should have enough info to pick out a bass guitar that fits you like a glove. With that said, let’s get started.

ImageBass Guitar / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4 Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4

Total of 4.88/5   4.88 Stars

Model which offers a good part of that awesome Music Man experience.

+ - Schecter Omen 4 Schecter Omen 4

Total of 4.88/5   4.88 Stars

Capable bass with taste for metal, but a versatile tone as well.

+ - Ibanez SR370 Ibanez SR370

Total of 4.92/5   4.92 Stars

Balanced SR model with a great tone, build quality and hot output.

+ - Yamaha TRBX174EW Yamaha TRBX174EW

Total of 4.66/5   4.66 Stars

Great style and playability from this affordable exotic wood bass.

+ - Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Special SS Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Special SS

Total of 4.62/5   4.62 Stars

Affordable classic Jaguar bass with a beginner-friendly short scale.

+ - Rogue LX200B Series III Rogue LX200B Series III

Total of 4.80/5   4.80 Stars

Great basic model that brings good build quality.

Buying Guide For Your First Bass

For the most part, selecting your first bass guitar is going to be limited by two factors. First one is going to be your budget and the second one is going to be related to what you are comfortable playing. Both of these are crucial to your success down the road.

Budget

When it comes to the budget, there is no maximum amount you can spend. With bass guitars, just like any other instrument out there, sky is the limit. Figuring out what’s the minimum amount of money you need to spend if you want a good bass guitar is a lot harder to figure out. If you are going for a brand new bass, anything under $150 is going to questionable at best. Around $200 is a pretty comfortable mark and you can find some pretty decent models in that price range like the ones we covered in our separate guide. Going over $500 is really not recommended until you build up some skill and experience.

Comfort

Learning how to play a stringed instrument is always going to be a bit uncomfortable, however bass guitar takes that to a whole new level. Since it has a much longer scale than a guitar, you will have to learn how to spread your fingers much farther. Figuring this out takes time. In some extremely rare cases, a person simply won’t be able to play comfortably on a standard bass guitar scale. The only solution for that problem is to get a short scale bass guitar.

The shape of the body also matters. Some bass guitars are larger than others, and often time the balance is a problem. Especially with more affordable models. Finding a bass guitar that is comfortable for you to play is definitely something worth doing, no matter how much time it takes. Most of the models on our list bellow are going to be standard basses in terms of length and shape, so if you’ve ever held a bass guitar before, you shouldn’t have a problem with comfort.

Number of strings

Bass guitars are traditionally four string instruments. However, there are models with five and six strings available. We definitely suggest that you stick with four strings in the beginning, since that is going to be complicated enough as it is. Once you develop some skills, you can hop over to a five string model if you wish to. If you’d like to know what some of the great five string models are, check out our recommendation. In general, a four string bass guitar won’t leave you limited in any way no matter what genre of music you are interested in.

Electronics

Bass guitars come with two different types of electronics, just like electric guitars. You have passive and active models, both with their own benefits and flaws. Passive pickups are going to be cheaper, won’t require an external power source to work, and are generally more expressive. On the other hand, active pickups are much hotter, which means they have a better output, but are more expensive.

As a beginner, the choice of electronics is not something you should worry about too much. Passive pickups are more than fine until you develop a taste for tone. Then you can see whether or not a passive setup is working for you.

Pickup Layout

Affordable bass guitars, which are more or less what we are going to talk about today, come with several standard pickup layouts. There’s your Precision layout, Jazz layout, P/J layout and standard double pickup layout. The precision layout is probably the most distinctive type. It’s consisted of a split coil pickup at the neck position.

Benefits of a Precision style layout include a fatter tone, reliability, and overall lower cost. Jazz layout includes two single coils – one at the bridge and one at the neck. This layout offers more clarity compared to a Precision setup, but is going to be lack some girth as well.

P/J is the most common layout you are going to find. Basses that have this type of pickup configuration will come with a split coil at the neck and a single coil at the bridge. A P/J layout is going to combine the benefits of these two configurations, offering a decent middle of the road solution.

Lastly, there is the standard double pickup layout which can include both single coils and humbuckers depending on the model you are looking at. Generally, each one of these pickup configurations is great and choosing one comes down to personal taste. As someone who is just starting out, you won’t make a mistake if you go for any of these.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, there’s one tip we can give you, and that is to get the best bass guitar your money can buy. For some, that means going for the entry level model, while others might reach pretty high up the quality ladder. With that said, it’s important to decide right away if playing bass is something you see yourself doing in the long run. If the answer to this question is yes, omitting to a more expensive bass guitar is always a good choice. If you are not sure, then you have to decide how big of an investment you are comfortable making.

Buying a used instrument is a route that a lot of beginners take, but it also introduces a number of problems. Unless you have a very experienced bass player with you, chances are you won’t be able to recognize some red flags that usually come with used instruments. Going for a new bass guitar eliminates that risk, especially when you have a warranty to fall back on.

Now that we know what to look for in a decent budget bass guitar, let’s go over some of the good models. We have chosen basses that we think fit the description perfectly, while some of these have been a beginner’s go-to option for a long time. This list is going to start with the most affordable and end with the most expensive bass we are comfortable recommending to new players. On that note, let’s get started.

Top 6 Beginner Bass Guitars:

Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4

Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4

Body And Neck:4.8 Stars
Hardware:4.9 Stars
Electronics:4.9 Stars
Sound:4.9 Stars
Value:4.9 Stars

Music Man bass guitars have always been an authority in top tier segment of the market. Aside from their impressive performance and quality, Music Man instruments are also known for their pretty exclusive price. Sterling is a company that has a relationship with Music Man which is similar to that between Squier and Fender. Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4 is an affordable version of the original Sting Ray series, and the sound you get is one of the better in its respective segment. The tone is hard hitting and rich in terms of output power. You can dial in a wide range of tone styles thanks to a versatile active humbucker and a two-band EQ that comes with it. As a beginners bass guitar, you can count on Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4 to meet all of your requirements as you progress from beginner to advanced player. Even then, you will hardly find it to be limiting. While it is a bit more expensive, Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4 is worth the investment.

Schecter Omen 4

Schecter Omen 4

Body And Neck:4.9 Stars
Hardware:4.8 Stars
Electronics:4.9 Stars
Sound:4.9 Stars
Value:4.9 Stars

Schecter has proven to be one of the most trusted brands when it comes to getting performance on a budget. On average, all of their models punch above their weight class in some way. Schecter Omen 4 is one of their bass guitars which shows you perfectly what we meant with that statement. While many will tell you it’s a metal bass, which definitely isn’t a lie, this model’s spectrum of capabilities is much wider than that. Compared to other Schecter basses, Omen 4 looks pretty neutral and nonaggressive. It comes with an active set of pickups, a great two band EQ section, and an appearance that puts many other basses in this segment to shame. The tone it offers is pretty versatile. With two hot humbuckers, you can get that sharpness for precision work, while at the same time being able to muddy up the waters with a nice, fat tone. As a starter, this is the type of bass guitar that will serve you well for a long time.

Ibanez SR370

Ibanez SR370

Body And Neck:4.9 Stars
Hardware:4.9 Stars
Electronics:5 Stars
Sound:5 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars

Ibanez has been the patron saint of new bass players for decades. Their SR line of bass guitars includes models for every level of skill and every taste under the sun. Ibanez SR370 is a more moderate solution that brings the right kind of balance to the those want a good bass guitar that is still somewhat affordable. This bad boy packs two high output active pickups which are wired to a three-band EQ. The range of tones you can dial in is impressive, to say the least. If you are someone who likes a variety of different music genres, this bass will allow you to play them all with an equally good sound. This Ibanez is definitely among the most complex bass guitars we can recommend to a beginner, but it’s worth the extra effort and time necessary to learn how to use the features.

Yamaha TRBX174EW

Yamaha TRBX174EW

Body And Neck:4.8 Stars
Hardware:4.5 Stars
Electronics:4.5 Stars
Sound:4.7 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars

The TRBX174EW sits at the lower end of Yamaha’s popular TRBX bass series, but this makes it the perfect prospect for beginners. The bass has a unique look, thanks to an attractive layer of exotic mango wood on the top. The bulk of the body is made from mahogany, which is quite light and well-contoured for a comfortable feel whether standing or sitting. There’s an easy-playing bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fretboard and a full 24 frets. As we mention in our full review of the TRBX174EW it features both a split Precision-style single-coil and a Jazz-style single-coil, with tone and volume controls, for good versatility. For a mass-produced bass it is certainly punching above its weight when it comes to craftsmanship.

Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Special SS

Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Special SS

Body And Neck:4.8 Stars
Hardware:4.5 Stars
Electronics:4.5 Stars
Sound:4.5 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars

Beginners with small hands will feel at home with this Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass from Squier, which has an easier-to-play 30” scale length. With three colors to choose from this bass sports the classic Jaguar body, made from agathis, with a bolt-on maple neck, 20 frets and a rosewood fretboard. The pickups are nothing special and aren’t as powerful as you may expect, but certainly do the job – especially at this affordable price range. There’s a split single-coil Precision Bass pickup at the middle position, with a single-coil Jazz Bass pickup at the bridge, controlled by two volume knobs, and a master tone control. Make sure to check out our full review of this cool Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Special SS.

Rogue LX200B Series III

Rogue LX200B Series III

Body And Neck:4.7 Stars
Hardware:4.8 Stars
Electronics:4.7 Stars
Sound:4.8 Stars
Value:5 Stars

Rogue is among a small number of brands that offer decent instruments in the super affordable range. In other words, this is as cheap as you want to go with bass guitars. Rogue LX200B Series III brings a decent balance of quality and performance that can serve you well even after you’ve grown a bit as a bass player. It comes with a P/J pickup configuration and stylish pickup covers. The best thing about the electronics on this model is the fact that you get two sets of volume and tone controls for each pickup. That alone gives you a lot of versatility right off the bat. In terms of sound, this bass guitar is decent, to say the least. There’s enough output considering the pickups are passive, and the color of the tone is pretty neutral. Build quality is good, although you might want to take this bass to a shop and get a proper intonation and setup job done. For those on a super tight budget, this is an excellent choice.

Conclusion

If you’re just starting out on your bass journey, you’ll find it can be an exciting but confusing time – especially with the amount of bass guitars on the market and the amount of information thrown at you.

The six bass guitars we have featured above are some of the most affordable and beginner-friendly models on the market today, and we hope the accompanying short guide has armed you with the right advice to allow you to make an informed decision.

Anything that costs more than the models we’ve listed here may be best left until you figure out exactly what you want from a bass guitar. Reaching that point takes time and a lot of practice. Whatever you choose, good luck!


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