The author is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
Bass for Beginners
Beginners who are looking for their first bass guitar have a lot to think about. There are countless instruments aimed at newbies out there, and some are obviously better than others. But if you don’t know anything about bass guitar, how do you sort the good from the not-so-good?
One way you can ensure you don’t end up with a dud for your first instrument is to choose a brand that has proven itself over decades by building quality gear for all levels of bassist. Yes, there is something in a name, and when you pick a bass made by a company with a solid reputation you are off to a great start.
There are a few reasons for this:
- Quality. Well-built gear makes for a better learning experience for new players. Compared to guitar, the bass is a larger instrument with thicker strings, and for some beginners, it can be a struggle to learn the right technique. Why make things harder by choosing a cheap bass that isn’t put together correctly?
- Sound. A bass that sounds good will inspire a newbie to practice and play. You have a better chance of finding great sound in a bass made by a brand with a reputation for quality. You get what you pay for, and when it comes to budget bass guitars from no-name brands you can guess what you can expect.
- Value. Unfortunately, not everyone sees this music thing through. Today your heart is set on becoming the next bass superstar, but tomorrow maybe you’ll discover your true calling is interpretive dance. Or maybe you’ll just want to trade your old bass in for a better one when you advance a little. Whatever the case, a bass made by a reputable brand will have greater resale or trade value.
In this article, you’ll get some advice on which brands you can trust if you are trying to choose a bass guitar for a beginner. There is no reason to settle for sub-par gear when you are first starting out when there are so many affordable, quality bass guitars on the market today!
Squier by Fender
Squier gets my top recommendation when it comes to bass guitars for newbies. Squier is a company owned by Fender, and they have built their brand around offering quality, inexpensive versions of classic Fender basses and guitars. There is a reason these are among the most popular bass guitars for beginners in the world.
They don’t have the same high-level build and features as their American-made Fender cousins, but they do look every bit like real Fender basses.
They are also some of the best values in the bass guitar industry, at every price point. Squier makes budget bass guitars in their Affinity Series lineup, but also some great affordable bass guitars in their Classic Vibe and Vintage Modified Series.
Here are a few options worth checking out in the Squier lineup:
Affinity Jazz Bass
This bass gets my #1 recommendation for beginners. The Fender Jazz Bass is legendary in the rock, country, and of course the jazz world. The Squier Affinity version comes in at under $200 and features all the best attributes of the classic Fender design.
With a pair of pickups, each controlled via an individual volume knob, a newbie gets a chance to experiment with different sounds. In my opinion, a Jazz-style bass is a perfect place for a beginner to start exploring the possibilities of the bass guitar.
Affinity Precision Bass
The Precision Bass is another Fender classic, and like the J-Bass the Squier Affinity version comes in at a very affordable price. Along with the body shape and slightly thicker neck, the difference here is the pickup. The Precision design features one pickup for a punchy, deep tone many players love for rock and metal. Squier's P/J versions add a second pickup at the bridge, similar to the Jazz bass. This offers a few more tonal possibilities and more exploration for newbies.
For me, this bass comes in a close second as the top choice for beginners, but if you already know you love that P-Bass growl it may be the perfect choice for you.
Vintage Modified and Classic Series
For serious beginners, check out the Squier by Fender Vintage Modified and Classic Vibe Series. Here you’ll find versions of the Precision and Jazz Bass with upgraded components. Even though they are still very affordable, many accomplished bassists (me included) find them among the best values out there, and comparable to basses costing quite a bit more.
Check them out if you have a few extra bucks in your pocket to spend on this bass thing. You'll get a higher-quality instrument, and you won't have to upgrade until you're ready for an advanced-level bass.
The Bronco is a short-scale, single-pickup bass that’s perfect for kids and smaller players. While I don’t recommend this bass for the average teen or adult starting out, for children it’s a great option.
I love Ibanez bass guitars for all levels of players, but I think they really have a lot to offer for beginners. Squier by Fender instruments are typically more classic in design. They are, after all, based on some of the legendary bass instruments that started this whole electric bass thing, over half a century ago. But Ibanez instruments tend to be sleeker, hotter and a litter more advanced when it comes to design and electronics.
The two groups of musicians that seem to be most drawn to Ibanez are metal and modern jazz bassists. It may seem an odd pairing, but when you think about it these are two genres that require textured tones and sophisticated technique. Ibanez offers both of those in spades.
Here are some of the best Ibanez bass guitars for beginners.
Ibanez GIO basses are built around the legendary Ibanez Soundgear (SR) design. This means fast, thin necks and some excellent options for tone control. In this case, two pickups are controlled by a pair of volume knobs and single tone control. But there is also an active Phat II EQ control for added bass when you want it.
Active electronics employ an onboard battery, and typically allow for much great tone-shaping than passive basses. The GSR200 is a little more advanced than the Squier options, and I think this is the best bass for newbies who are into metal and jazz. And, it still comes in at a super-affordable price. It's even available with a gorgeous spalted maple top for a few extra bucks.
This instrument gets my recommendation as to the best 5-string bass for beginners. It features all the great stuff you’ll find in the GSR200, with the addition of a low-B string. Do you really need a 5-string as a newbie? In most cases, I recommend starting out on a 4-string bass until you learn the bass.
It’s up to you to decide and for genres like extreme metal a 5-string is practically a necessity. Like the GSR200, the GSR205 comes in a variety of tops and colors.
Here is another short-scale option for kids or smaller beginners. It’s a bit pricier than the Squier Bronco but offers more sound flexibility.
Hear the Ibanez GSR200
Both Ibanez and Squier offer excellent bass starter packs for beginners. These include a bass, an amp and all the accessories you need to start playing right now. You’ll save a little money, and you’ll avoid having to figure out and hunt down every piece of gear you need to start playing. They even come with instructional materials so you can start learning right away.
- Squier by Fender Bass Starter Packs: The PJ Bass gives newbies the best of both the Precision and Jazz Bass pickup configuration. This pack also includes the Fender Rumble 15 Bass Amp. It’s not only a great amp for beginners, but an outstanding practice amp for advanced players. The kit also includes a gig bag, strap, cable, tuner, and instructional DVD. It’s an affordable and smart way to get started playing bass without all the hassle and expense.
- Ibanez Jumpstart Pack: If you’d prefer to go the Ibanez route, their Jumpstart kit features a sleek Ibanez GSR190 bass. This is a very popular instrument for beginners, with the tone and slick neck of the Ibanez SR style. The kit also contains all the accessories you need to get started. The downside here may be the amp. While the 10-watt Ibanez amp is certainly enough to get started with, it would be nice to see a better amplifier included with this pack
More Top Bass Brands for Beginners
Check out the Zone and Edge Series basses. Dean Custom Zone basses feature wild colors like Florescent Pink and Nuclear Green, and the fretboards match the body paint of the guitar! For those into heavy metal, and pointy guitar shapes, Dean also has a series called Metalman. Here you’ll find V-shaped bass guitar, Explorer-type shapes, and the awesome ML body style.
Yamaha makes great stuff, especially for beginners. If you are thinking of bass, think about the Yamaha TRBX and RBX Series. They both feature affordable bass guitars with modern appointments. One of the things I like most about Yamaha is the way they deliver quality instruments and low price points. That makes Yamaha bass guitars great choices for beginners.
The Jackson Concert Bass is a classic in the metal and hard rock world. It’s a no-nonsense tone machine, and to carry the Jackson name you know it has to get the job done in heavy music. The JS Series brings this bass down to a level even newbies can afford. Look for the Jackson JS3 Concert Bass in versions with both passive and active electronics.
The Jackson JS3 Concert Bass
How to Choose Your First Bass
It can all be pretty confusing when you are first starting out, but I hope this article helped. Remember that these recommendations are based on my own opinions. As always, I suggest you do plenty of research before making a decision.
- Most beginners are smart to start out on a Squier Jazz or Precision Bass. They are solid, basic instruments with half a century of heritage behind them.
- If you are into metal or jazz, or if you just want something a little more modern, consider the Ibanez GIO Series. Go with either the 4-string GSR200 or the GSR205.
- For the most bang for your buck, choose a starter pack. Unless you are prepared to do the research to choose each piece of gear individually.
- If none of that sounds good, check out some of the other brands I recommend. Or, do your own research. Look for basses around the $200 mark with a good reputation for quality.
Good luck finding the best bass guitar brand for a beginner. If that beginner is you, good luck learning bass too! It’s tough work, but so worth it!
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.