Bass guitar components

Our Best Bass Guitar Guide: What Should You Buy in 2024

Last update 5/2/2024

So, with so many choices out there in 2024, you might be asking yourself, what bass guitar should I buy? How do you find the best bass guitar that “will be the one for you?” If you have begun to do any research at this point, you are probably feeling overwhelmed. Ask us how we know.

Best Bass Guitar – Buying guide

This year, we have many choices to try and pick from. Some rules apply here as they do with any purchase, “The law of diminishing returns.” The most expensive Bass may or may not be the best Bass for you. There are many basses to choose from; in fact, let us say some exceptional instruments from major guitar manufacturers.

This comprehensive guide explores the best bass guitars and their variations, catering to every player’s style and budget.

Fender Jazz Bass
Fender Jazz Bass

Buying a new Bass

Choosing the perfect bass is not just about finding an instrument that looks good; it’s about finding one that complements your playing style and helps you find the tone. Finding the right tone can be very subjective, i.e., personal, well-crafted bass can inspire your bass.

The essential factors to consider when choosing a bass are as follows: Its tonal characteristics and body styles to scale length, pickups, bridge types, and playability; we’ll cover everything you need to know to make an informed decision.

Additionally, we’ll provide recommendations for bass guitars suitable for beginners, intermediate players, and advanced musicians.

Best Bass Guitar Brands

A few words about a few of the iconic bass brands. Fender it’s hard to talk about an iconic guitar manufacturer like Fender without repeating what has already been said before. Fender has earned its place as a legendary bass guitar brand with its Precision and Jazz Bass models that have, in our opinion, defined the sound of modern music.

Yes, Fender makes very fine instruments; however, Let’s not forget Yamaha, renowned for producing a wide range of basses, catering to different skill levels and budgets. Yamaha is well known for producing basses for their playability and sound quality.

Furthermore, Ibanez also stands out for its innovative designs, catering to modern players with its sleek looks and versatile tones.

1. Tonal Characteristics

Buying a new Bass Tonal Characteristics
Buying new Bass Tonal Characteristics

The tonal characteristics of a bass play a pivotal role in defining your sound. Factors like the type of wood used for the body and neck, the pickups, and the electronics all contribute to the instrument’s overall tonal profile.

As a bassist, it’s essential to consider the genre of music you play and the tonal qualities you prefer.

For instance, if you’re into jazz, you may lean towards a bass with a warm and mellow tone, while rock or metal enthusiasts might prefer a bass guitar with a punchy and aggressive sound. Each bass has its unique tonal palette, making it crucial to find one that resonates with your musical preferences.

2. Body Style

Electric Bass Body Style and shapes
Electric Bass Body Style and Shapes

Types of Bass Guitars

The electric bass is offered in various body styles, each with its own distinct tonal characteristics and feel.

Body styles

The three primary body styles are solid, semi-hollow, and hollow bodies. Solid-body bass guitars are the most common and versatile. They provide various tones suitable for various genres and playing styles.

Solid bodies are often favored by players looking for a well-rounded instrument that can handle most musical situations. On the other hand, semi-hollow and hollow-body bass offer a more resonant and acoustic-like tone. These basses are great for players looking to achieve a vintage or warmer sound. The hollow spaces in the body add a unique richness and depth to the bass’s sonic character.

3. Scale Length

Bass Scale Length
Bass Scale Length

The scale length of a bass refers to the length from the nut to the bridge. Scale length is an important technical aspect of the bass for the following reasons:

  1. Short-scale bass guitars have a shorter distance between frets, making them more comfortable to play for those with smaller hands or beginners. These basses generally offer a looser feel and are well-suited for players who prefer a more relaxed playing experience.

2. Conversely, long-scale bass guitars have a longer distance between frets, resulting in tighter string tension.

This configuration provides a more defined and focused tone, making long-scale basses popular among players looking for a powerful and punchy sound.

4. Pickups

Electronic bass guitar Pickup
Electronic bass guitar Pickup

The pickups on a bass guitar are in no small part responsible for an electric bass tone.  In simple terms, a guitar pickup is made up of magnets put inside a coil of wire. This special setup changes the energy from the guitar strings moving (vibrating) into a type of electricity. This current goes to your guitar amplifier, changing back into moving energy, creating the sound waves you hear.

There are two main types of pickups: single-coil and humbucker.

Single coil pickups

Single-coil pickups offer a bright, clear tone, making them great for funk and pop. They have a distinctive, crisp sound that adds clarity and definition to your playing.

Humbucker pickups

On the other hand, humbucker pickups provide a thicker and more powerful sound. Humbuckers are great for rock, metal, and heavier music styles. Humbucker pickups are designed to stop “hum” and reduce unwanted noise and interference.

Like some electric guitars, some bass guitars combine both pickup types, offering increased tonal versatility. These basses allow you to switch between single-coil and humbucker modes, providing a broad spectrum of sounds to choose from.

5. Bridge Type

Hip shot 4 string B style bass bridge
Hipshot string-style bass bridge

The bridge of bass is an important component of the instrument. It affects sustain, intonation, and overall feel. Several types of bridges are commonly found on bass guitars, including standard, vintage-style, and modern bridges.

Standard bridges provide stability and make string changes easy. They’re simple and reliable, making them popular for bass players looking for a straightforward setup.

Vintage-style bridges are designed to replicate the aesthetics and feel of classic bass guitars. They often feature “ashtray-style” covers and barrel saddles, giving the instrument a vintage vibe. Vintage bridges appeal to players who appreciate older bass models’ traditional look and feel.

Modern bridges often have advanced features like individual string saddles for precise intonation adjustments. These bridges are the go-to by players who want maximum control over their setup and intonation.

Our pick for the best bass guitars in the following categories

This is where the “rubber hits the road” for our main recommendations.

1. Best High-End Bass Guitar: The Fender American Elite Jazz Bass
2. Best Mid-Range Bass Guitar: The Music Man Sterling
3. Best Budget Bass Guitar: The Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass
4. Best Boutique Bass Guitar: The Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo
5. Best 5-String Bass Guitar: The Ibanez SR1605B 5-String Bass

Best High-End Bass Guitar: The Fender American Elite Jazz Bass

The Fender American Elite Jazz Bass represents the epitome of high-end craftsmanship and innovation. This flagship bass offers premium tonewoods, cutting-edge electronics, and exceptional playability, making it a top choice for discerning professionals.

Fender American Elite Jazz Bass
Fender American Elite Jazz Bass

Specifications:

Body: Alder or Ash
Neck: Maple or Rosewood with Maple fretboard
Scale Length: 34″
Pickups: Fender Noiseless Single-Coil Jazz Bass
Bridge: Fender HiMass™ Vintage (4-saddle or 5-saddle)
Controls: Volume (2), Pan-Pot, 3-band EQ (Bass, Mid, Treble)

Pros

Superior build quality and playability
Noiseless pickups for a clean and clear sound
Versatile tonal options with advanced EQ controls

Cons

The premium price range may not be accessible to all players
Some players may prefer a more traditional look
Rating: 4.9/5

Read out the full review: Fender American Elite Jazz Bass Review

2. Best Mid-Range Bass Guitar: The Music Man Sterling

The Music Man Sterling is a testament to the perfect balance of quality and affordable price. This mid-range bass offers excellent craftsmanship, signature Music Man tone, and practical features, making it a go-to instrument for musicians looking for great value.

Music Man Sterling
Music Man Sterling

Specifications:

Body: Ash or Mahogany
Neck: Maple with Maple or Rosewood fretboard
Scale Length: 34″
Pickups: Music Man Music Man® humbucking pickup
Bridge: Music Man Vintage or Modern
Controls: Volume, Tone, 3-band EQ (Bass, Mid, Treble)

Pros

Great value for a high-quality bass.
Music Man’s renowned humbucking pickup for a distinct tone.
Comfortable neck for ease of playability.

Cons

Limited finish options compared to high-end models
It may lack some premium features found in higher-priced basses
Rating: 4.6/5

Read out the full review: The Music Man Sterling Bass.

3. Best Budget Bass Guitar: The Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass

The Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass is a top-of-the-shelf entry point for aspiring bassists on a budget. This budget-friendly bass offers solid construction and a classic Precision Bass tone, making it a recommended choice for beginners.

Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass
Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass

Specifications:

Body: Alder or Poplar
Neck: Maple with Indian Laurel fretboard
Scale Length: 34″
Pickups: Standard Single-Coil Precision Bass
Bridge: 4-Saddle Standard
Controls: Volume, Tone

Pros:

Extremely affordable and beginner-friendly
Classic Precision Bass tone loved by countless musicians
Decent build quality for its price range

Cons

Limited tonal shaping options compared to higher-end models
It may require some setup and adjustments for optimal performance
Rating: 4.2/5

Our review of the Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass

4. Best Boutique Bass Guitar: The Ernie Ball Music Man 4 Bongo

The Ernie Ball Music Man 4 Bongo is a premium boutique bass that embodies innovation and precision. It has a distinctive body shape and is very well built; this instrument is hard to beat and should be high on the list for serious players.

Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo
Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo

Specifications:

Body: Basswood
Neck: Select Maple with Rosewood, Maple, or Ebony fretboard
Scale Length: 34″
Pickups: Dual Humbucking Neodymium pickups
Bridge: Music Man Standard
Controls: Volume, Blend, 4-band EQ (Bass, Mid, Treble, Dual Concentric Mid)

Pros

Unique and modern design with ergonomic contours
Wide tonal range and versatile sound-shaping options
Impeccable craftsmanship and premium materials

Cons

High-end pricing may not be affordable for everyone.
Body shape may not appeal to traditionalists

Rating: 4.8/5

Review Ernie Ball Music Man 4 Bongo

5. Best 5-String Bass Guitar: The Ibanez SR1605B 5-String Bass

Ibanez SR1605B <yoastmark wp-image-8036
Ibanez SR1605B 5-String Bass

The Ibanez SR1605B 5-String Bass caters to bassists looking for extended range and exceptional playability. With its sleek design, top-notch electronics, and smooth neck, this bass guitar is a top choice for discerning players.

Specifications:

Body: Mahogany with Poplar Burl top
Neck: Wenge and Bubinga with Panga Panga fretboard
Scale Length: 34″
Pickups: Nordstrand™ Big Single 5 pickups
Bridge: MR5S bridge

Pros:

An extended 5-string range for expanded musical possibilities
Articulate and clear tones with enhanced sustain
Slim neck for effortless and comfortable playing

Cons

It may not suit players who prefer traditional body shapes
The premium price range for a specialized instrument
Rating: 4.7/5

Our review of the Ibanez SR1605B 5-String Bass

Bass Guitars for Beginners

The Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ is an outstanding option for beginners. This bass guitar features a comfortable “C”-shaped neck profile, making it easy for newcomers to navigate the fretboard.

The PJ pickup configuration combines a split single-coil Precision Bass middle pickup with a Jazz Bass bridge pickup, offering a versatile range of tones suitable for various musical genres.

The lightweight body design ensures that extended playing sessions remain comfortable. Its affordability, solid build quality, and iconic Fender design make it a top choice for those embarking on their bass-playing journey.

Best Pickups

Bartolini pickups are known for their clarity and articulation, making them preferred for bassists who prioritize tonal precision. EMG pickups offer high-output and noiseless operation, ideal for genres that demand a more aggressive sound. Seymour Duncan offers a diverse lineup, from vintage to modern designs, allowing bassists to customize their tone effectively.

Best Value

The Yamaha TRBX174EW provides exceptional value for its price. It features an eye-catching exotic wood top, solid construction, and versatile electronics. The P/J pickup configuration enables players to dial in a wide range of tones, from fat and warm to bright and punchy, all without breaking the bank.

Best for Rock

The Music Man StingRay Special is a rock classic known for its punchy and assertive tone. Its active preamp allows players to sculpt their sound precisely, making it suitable for driving rhythms and prominent basslines that cut through the mix.

Best for Jazz

The Fender American Professional II Jazz Bass is a perfect fit for jazz playing. Its classic single-coil pickups and comfortable neck profile produce warm, articulate tones that complement the genre’s subtleties and nuances.

Best for Recording

The Sire Marcus Miller V7 is a popular choice for recording due to its versatile electronics. The onboard preamp offers active/passive operation and tone-shaping capabilities, allowing bassists to tailor their sound to different recording contexts. The dual humbucking pickups deliver clear and balanced tones that translate well in studio environments.

6-String Bass

The Ibanez SR506E 6-String Bass stands out with its extended range and playability. The thin neck profile ensures comfortable fretting across all strings, while the versatile pickup configuration allows bassists to explore a wide sonic spectrum, from deep lows to sparkling highs.

Best Bass Guitars Accessories

Bass strap

  1. Levy’s M8P3-BLK Garment Leather Bass Strap: Offers comfort and durability, perfect for long gigs and rehearsals.
  2. The Mono M80 Betty Strap offers an ergonomic design and superior comfort, making it an excellent choice for bassists who perform for extended periods. The wide design distributes the instrument’s weight evenly, reducing strain on the shoulders and back.

Strings

  1. The D’Addario EXL170 Nickel Wound Bass Strings are famous for their balanced tone, long-lasting durability, and consistent intonation. They suit various genres and playing styles, from fingerstyle to slap techniques.
  2. Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Bass Strings are known for their consistent quality and balanced tone across different playing styles.

 Tuner

  1. The BOSS TU-3 Chromatic Tuner is known for its rugged build, accuracy, and visibility, even in bright stage lighting. Its chromatic and needle modes ensure precise tuning for both standard and alternative tunings.
  2. TC Electronic PolyTune 3 Tuner: Accurate and polyphonic tuning modes for quick setups.

Picks

Bassists favor Dunlop Tortex Standard Bass Guitar Picks for their consistent grip, durability, and ability to produce a balanced tone. They come in various thicknesses to suit different playing preferences.

Cable

The Mogami Gold Series Instrument Cable is highly regarded for its low noise and high-quality signal transmission. It’s sturdy connectors and shielding ensure reliable performance, making it a trusted choice for bassists aiming for optimal sound quality.

Bass Guitar Books

“The Hal Leonard Bass Method” by Ed Friedland: A comprehensive guide suitable for beginners, covering fundamental techniques and concepts.
“Standing in the Shadows of Motown” by James Jamerson: A legendary bassist’s biography that delves into his innovative playing and contributions to Motown’s iconic sound.

Guitar Stand

The Hercules GS414B A/G Guitar Stand offers a secure and stable resting place for bass guitars. Its auto-grip system ensures the instrument stays in place, while the adjustable design accommodates various body shapes and sizes.

Guitar Case

The Gator Cases Deluxe Molded Bass Guitar Case provides premium protection with its rugged exterior, plush interior, and TSA-approved locking latches. It offers peace of mind for bassists traveling with their instruments.

Effects for Bass

The Boss ME-50B Bass Multiple Effects Pedal is a versatile option that caters to a wide range of effects needs. It includes essential effects like distortion, compression, EQ, and modulation, making it a valuable addition to any bassist’s setup.

Conclusion

In the ever-evolving world of bass, the Fender American Elite Jazz Bass reigns as the pinnacle of high-end craftsmanship and innovation; it delivers premium tones and playability for serious players and professionals alike. The Music Man Sterling represents the perfect mid-range choice, offering excellent value, top-notch construction, and the signature Music Man tone.

The Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass is an exceptional entry-level option for those on a budget, providing classic Precision Bass tones without breaking the bank. If boutique excellence is your thing, the Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo combines innovation with precision and is an outstanding performer.

Finally, the Ibanez SR1605B 5-String Bass caters to extended-range enthusiasts with its sleek design and versatile tones.

Transparency disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that I may earn a commission if you click on a link and make a purchase. This commission comes at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products and services that I believe are helpful and valuable, and we never let the potential for a commission influence our recommendations.

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