8 Best Bass Guitar for Beginners – Getting Started With The Proper Instrument

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Last Updated: Jul-17-2018
Beginners to bass have a great selection available to them – and we’ve made selecting one even easier with our latest chart refresh.

We’ve removed the slightly dated Rogue LX200B and added a few new models, including the super-sleek Epiphone ‘Toby’ Standard IV, the short-scale Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro, and the basic but solid Davison Full Size Starter Pack. Buying guide was also further extended.

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 instrument.

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 model 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 options 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 that fits you like a glove. With that said, let’s get started.

Top 8 Beginner Bass Guitars:

ImageBass Guitar / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Ibanez SR370 Ibanez SR370

Total of 4.92/5  

The ideal short-scale bass for smaller beginners.

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

Total of 4.88/5  

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

+ - Schecter Omen 4 Schecter Omen 4

Total of 4.88/5  

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

+ - Yamaha TRBX174EW Yamaha TRBX174EW

Total of 4.66/5  

Great style and playability from this affordable exotic wood bass.

+ - Ibanez GSRM20 Ibanez GSRM20

Total of 4.86/5  

The ideal short-scale bass for smaller beginners.

+ - Epiphone “Toby” Standard IV Epiphone “Toby” Standard IV

Total of 4.90/5  

This affordable Toby is perfect for beginners.

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

Total of 4.62/5  

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

+ - Davison Full Size Electric Bass Starter Pack Davison Full Size Electric Bass Starter Pack

Total of 4.10/5  

A very cheap pack that’s very basic, but great for beginners.

Ibanez SR370

Ibanez SR370

Body And Neck:
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Ibanez make another appearance on this chart thanks to their GSRM20 Mikro which brings together performance and style with a very affordable price. The highlight of this bass is its beginner-friendly short scale (28.6”) design, making it slightly easier to get to grips with the maple neck.

In addition to playability, it looks and sounds great. The slender double-cutaway body is made of solid mahogany and finished with a sleek gloss in a variety of paintjobs, ranging from metallic purple to pearl white.

This is loaded with a Dynamix P pickup at the neck and a Dynamix J pickup at the bridge, along with decent controls and chrome hardware. For the wallet-friendly price, this is a winner – as we mention in the full review.

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

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

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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

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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 models which shows you perfectly what we meant with that statement.

While many will tell you it’s made for metal, which definitely isn’t a lie, this model’s spectrum of capabilities is much wider than that. Compared to other Schecters, 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 that will serve you well for a long time.

Yamaha TRBX174EW

Yamaha TRBX174EW

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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.

Ibanez GSRM20

Ibanez GSRM20

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Next, we want to show you is a very special little axe from Ibanez. This is one of their short scale models which have swept the market like a forest fire. In many ways, this bass is very similar to their GSR200 model, only it comes with a shorter neck.

What are the benefits of such design? Well, first and foremost, it’s much easier to play, both for beginners and those who have smaller hands. While it might feel like you’re losing something by having a few inches cut off from the scale, the fact is that the difference is marginal at best.

Build quality is more than decent, sporting a nice combination of Agathis body and a standard maple neck. hardware is solid and holds the tuning just fine, while the pickups give you a decent range of tones to play with.

Epiphone “Toby” Standard IV

Epiphone “Toby” Standard IV

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Epiphone’s ‘Toby’ is a superb affordable bass with a style that puts others in the budget bass market to shame. Inspired by the original Michael Tobias design, this entry-level Toby shows off the famous sleek and sexy double-cutaway body which is lightweight and ergonomic, crafted from solid radiata (a pine variation) and finished in a glossy black.

There’s a very comfortable bolt-on hard maple neck, which houses 24 frets. Electronics are also surprisingly great for an affordable beginners’ guitar, with two single-coil pickups – a Tobias TBR and a Tobias TBT – as well as some extensive controls that are simple but offer great versatility.

Check out our full review of the Epiphone ‘Toby’ Standard IV for all the details.

Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Special SS

Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Special SS

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Beginners with small hands will feel at home with this Vintage Modified Jaguar from Squier, which has an easier-to-play 30” scale length. With three colors to choose from this model 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 Special SS.

Davison Full Size Electric Bass Starter Pack

Davison Full Size Electric Bass Starter Pack

Body And Neck:
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We did have to take a bit of time to decide whether we were ruining the integrity of this list by adding such a cheap bass, but – after spending some time with this pack – there was no way we could leave it off!

This very wallet-friendly starter pack includes everything you need to get up and running on bass, including a small amplifier, a strap, a lead and a soft gig bag. Of course, taking center stage is the bass itself which is very basic but performs well and gives beginners a good platform on which to learn.

It features one split-coil pickup and simple controls, while the amp is also easy to get to grips with. There’s more on this inexpensive pack in the full review!

Buying Guide For Your First Instrument

For the most part, selecting your first instrument 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 model is a lot harder to figure out. If you are going for a brand new axe, 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 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 scale. The only solution for that problem is to get a short scale model.

The shape of the body also matters. Some basses are larger than others, and often time the balance is a problem.

Especially with more affordable models. Finding one 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 options in terms of length and shape, so if you’ve ever held a bass 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 instrument 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 models, 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 possible value for money.

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 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 before you proceed to taking some beginner lessons. 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 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.

We have chosen guitars that we think fit the description perfectly, while some of these have been a beginner’s go-to option for a long time. Our list starts with the most affordable and end with the most expensive options we are comfortable recommending to new players.

How Much Should I Pay for a Beginner Bass Guitar?

A great question. Although it’s one with no specific answer!

Naturally, learning on a gorgeous $5,000 custom bass with a sleek neck and high-end pickups will certainly encourage you to sit and practice, but we aren’t all able to afford one of those.

Thankfully it’s not necessary – or even that common – for beginners to spend much more than a couple of hundred bucks on a decent bass. Providing a budget bass can plug into an amp, give you a decent voice, and play relatively well, that’s all you truly need to begin.

A budget bass is a solid choice for all beginners, especially if you are just testing the water. If you aren’t sure if bass is the right instrument for you, why spend more than you need to trying it out?

However, if you feel you are a Flea in the making and have your future firmly fixed on the stage, then extending your search to something in the under $300 market wouldn’t hurt.

This would give you a solid model with great playability and you won’t outgrow it too quickly.

What is The Easiest Type of Bass Guitar to Play?

As you may be aware, 5-string and 6-string basses are becoming more and more popular, offering players in all genres a new way to express themselves musically. They can be a great tool to add to any bassist’s arsenal.

Having said that, if you are just starting out on the bass guitar, we always advise going for a 4-string bass. The reason? They are easier to understand, the necks are narrower, and – truth be told – the majority of songs you will learn to play won’t require the extra string(s).

Even if you are keen on learning a certain style of music that requires an extra string (for example heavy metal), we still recommend you learn on a 4-string bass, then make the step up when you are more comfortable.

Whatever bass you end up on, we always recommend you have it set up properly, so the action is nice and low, which always makes the bass easier to play. You can do this yourself (by following how-to videos like the one below) or by taking it to a local pro.

What Do You Need to Play Bass Guitar?

You’ve bought the bass – what else do you need? An amplifier should be the next thing on your list, ideally bought at the same time as the bass.

While you can certainly ‘dry practice’ (playing unplugged), playing through an amplifier will give you important feedback on your technique and allow you to develop good playing habits. Plus, an amp is essential if you are jamming or performing with a band. Of course, the amp wattage you need will be determined by why and where you are performing. See our page on bass amps [INSERT LINK to https://www.guitarfella.com/best-guitar-amplifier/bass/] for more information.

To plug into the amp, you will also need a decent instrument cable, which will work for both guitar and bass. You can spend as little as a few bucks, but aim to buy something between $10 and $20, which will give you a much better tone and will last longer.

You may want to buy a couple of plectrums too. While bass is traditionally played with fingers, some bassists – especially in the punk, rock and metal genres – like to play with a pick, which can give a more defined, aggressive sound.

Finally, it may be worth investing in an inexpensive guitar tuner, which will help you easily tune your bass, as well as a decent case/gig bag to store and transport the instrument.

To sum up, here’s our quick bass checklist to get you up and running.

• Bass
• Amp
• Cable
• Plectrums (optional)
• Tuner
• Case

Needless to say we have guides covering all of the stuff above!

The Final Word

If you’re just starting out on your 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 models 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 your instrument. Reaching that point takes time and a lot of practice. Whatever you choose, good luck!


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