Not all bass guitars are made alike and choosing the best bass guitar for beginners is a difficult task. Because there are so many variations between bass guitars, it’s important to research all the factors that go into your decision before you set foot in a guitar shop.
First, before you start shopping, set a price that you’re willing to spend. Bass guitars start at about $200 new and $100 used. These entry-level guitars are a beginner’s best bet because they sound good, help you get a feel for the instrument when you’re starting out and constitute a fairly small investment so if you find out that the bass guitar is not for you, you haven’t spent $1,000 that you’ll never recoup.
Second, decide between a four, five and six string bass. In general, a four string bass is the most common and most suitable for bass guitar beginners. The five and six string bass guitars allow for greater experimentation and are useful for bass players who perform frequent solos. Beginners should start out with the basic four string bass because it’s an easier instrument to learn on. Neither the fifth or sixth strings are necessary for basic bassists so why pay for something you’re not going to use?
In the same vein, bass guitars can be purchased with or without frets. Like the choice between four or more strings, this is mainly a feature for individuals with a lot of talent and experience. Frets make the bass easier to play by clearly marking each semitone, producing a consistent intonation and generally making beginning bassists more confident in their handling of the strings. That being said, fretless bass guitars produce a distinct sound that some expert bassists crave. Without frets, the bassist presses the string directly against the wood of the fingerboard, producing a somewhat muted intonation compared to fretted bass guitars. The fretless bass also enables the use of vibrato and other musical effects popular in Jazz and Funk.
But perhaps the most important factor to keep in mind when purchasing the best bass guitar for you is just how comfortable it is for you personally. Everything from the weight of the instrument to the length of the neck to the width of the body can influence how comfortable the bass guitar is for you. Remember, how the guitar actually feels is far more important than how it looks or what it costs. Don’t settle on a guitar simply because it’s on sale or you like the way it looks.
One final feature to keep in mind is the wood the bass guitar is constructed with. The wood used in manufacturing a bass guitar has a significant impact on its tone. It isn’t something that a beginner should be concerned with but it is interesting to know that alder is the most common wood used for the body and maple the most common for the neck. The wood shouldn’t matter to your playing style until you’re ready to purchase your second or third bass guitar.
As a beginner, your choices are fairly simple and price will probably prove the most significant factor in your purchase. However, these other features will be important as you learn more about your instrument and progress enough to consider purchasing a second bass guitar.