Guitar Gopher is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
Budget Basses for Newbies
The best bass for a beginner is one that makes learning enjoyable. It’s smart to keep the budget under $200, and you can find some great basses out there in that price range. Fender, Ibanez, Yamaha, Jackson, and ESP are just some of the best names in the music industry, and they all offer starter instruments that won’t break your wallet.
It can be tempting to pick up a super-cheap bass from a big-box store when first starting out, but remember: Just like anything else in life, you get what you pay for. To give a newbie bassist the best chance of success it’s smart to start them off with something that sounds good, looks good and is enjoyable to play. Choose a quality instrument as a first bass, not simply the cheapest option you can find.
Above all else, it’s important for a newbie to be inspired to pick up the bass and practice every day, and if their bass is a dud they are less likely to do so.
Below you’ll find my recommendations for beginner-level bass guitars that will get the job done. In most cases, they are budget versions of expensive basses made some of the top bass guitar brands in the world. They sound good for basses in their price range, and they a lot look like their big brothers. These are the kinds of basses that provide inspiration for newbies!
And they all come in under $200 as of this writing. That's a good ballpark budget that lets you get the best bass guitar for the money.
Top 10 Bass Guitars for Beginners
Here are the best bass guitars for beginners:
- Squier Affinity PJ Bass
- Ibanez GSR200
- Yamaha TRBX174
- Squier Affinity Jazz Bass
- ESP LTD B-10
- Dean Edge 09
- Ibanez TMB100
- Jackson Spectra JS2
- Squier Bronco
- Ibanez GSRM20 mikro
Below you can learn more about each instrument. Be sure to check out the gear manufacturer’s websites for the most up-to-date information on their instruments.
Squier Affinity PJ Bass
Another affordable instrument based around a classic Fender design. So what are the differences between the Precision and the Jazz? The Precision Bass has a slightly larger body and, more importantly for beginners, a slightly thicker neck.
The traditional P-Bass has a single pickup, compared to the dual-pickup Jazz Bass. This means the Jazz is capable of a wider array of tones. The sound of the Precision tends to be punchier, and more applicable to rock music, though P-basses have certainly been used effectively in jazz, country, funk, and just about every other style of music.
However, in the case of the PJ we see the addition of a jazz-style pickup at the bridge. That means a wider arrange of tones for newbies to explore.
The Precision Bass is great for musicians who want an aggressive tone. When it comes to budget Squiers, I have always thought that the Precision sounds more like a Precision Bass should, than the Jazz sounds like a Jazz Bass should.
Again, a great bass for starters, but maybe not #1 on the list unless a newbie knows a Precision Bass is definitely what they want.
If you have a little more cash in your pocket, you may want to take a step up to the Squier Vintage Modified Series. These are much higher quality instruments, for not a whole lot more cash. Truly they among the best deals in the bass guitar world, and even though they are priced for beginners they are making a big splash with veteran bassists.
Hear the Squier Vintage Modified P/J Bass
Ibanez Soundgear GSR200
Ibanez is a company known for making great heavy metal guitars, but many a rock and jazz musician has found great value in Ibanez basses as well.
Like their guitars, Ibanez basses are known for having thin, fast necks.
Their Soundgear line, in particular, is well-suited to new players, or those who just want the fastest necks they can find. Soundgear basses also have slightly narrower string spacing when compare to the Squiers above.
This means they’re a little better suited to playing with a pick.
During my days of playing in metal bands, Ibanez Soundgear basses were among my main basses. The higher-end models are amazing instruments, and the baby GSR is a great starter bass for anyone looking to walk that metal path.
I put this bass high up on the list of best choices for newbies.
Yamaha is another elite bass manufacturer that gives the newbie a great bang for their buck. The TRBX174 is a no-frills, quality bass with a great style, and like the Ibanez it’s easy to play. Yamaha is best known in the genres of jazz and rock, but this starter bass can walk the line between any genre.
The TRBX174 also comes in an EW model, featuring more exotic woods and finishes. This might not be a concern for more newbie bassists, but for a price bump of only a few dollars, it’s a nice option.
I’ve always liked Yamaha basses. They sound amazing, and even the lower-end models are known for their great tone. I feel the Ibanez is a notch above, but I’d put this Yamaha right in there with the Squiers.
Hear the Yamaha TRBX174
Squier Affinity Jazz Bass
Squier basses are made by Fender, one of the most famous guitar companies in the world. The Fender Jazz Bass has been a favorite of musicians in all kinds of genres for decades, from jazz to blues to country and even hard rock.
But with a price tag of over $1,000, it’s not exactly the kind of instrument a beginner would play! And this is where the Squier line comes in. Squier Fender can offer low-budget instruments based on their classic designs, and start a new generation of bassists off on the right foot.
I love the Fender Jazz Bass. I personally own a Squier Vintage Modified Jazz Bass, which is a few steps up from the Affinity, and it’s a great bass. The Affinity is a very nice bass for the price, but I don't put it at the top of the list, unless a newbie is looking specifically for a Jazz Bass.
More Beginner Bass Guitars
Here are a few more instruments to consider:
ESP LTD B-10
ESP LTD guitars are generally geared more toward the hard rock and heavy metal crowd, but the B-10 has a look that would fit just about any genre. Like a Precision Bass, it’s a single-pickup instrument, so you’ll get that punchy tone. ESP LTD is known for building great intermediate and beginner-level guitars and the LTD B-10 comes through.
Jackson Spectra JS2
I’d love to see a Jackson Concert Bass for under $200, but no such luck. The JS-Series Spectra is a pretty good alternative though, with versatile pickups and the same Jackson attitude.
Dean Edge 09
With its single pickup design, the Dean Edge 09 is like a Precision Bass with a metal attitude. However, like a P-Bass, you can dial it back and experiment in jazz and lighter rock if you want to. One pickup is all you need. It also has a warm, resonant basswood body, which I really like in bass guitars.
Ibanez is just plain known for good stuff. You already know I think highly of the SoundGear lineup, and that carries over to their Talman line. This quality, along with its neck and build, make the TMB100 one of the best bass guitars for beginners.
The Jackson Spectra JS2
Best Beginner Short-Scale Bass Guitar
A bass guitar is much larger than a 6-string guitar, and it can be a little unwieldy for kids and smaller players. The solution may be to opt for a short-scale bass. These instruments are the same as a full-scale bass, but squished down to a size that’s a little more manageable for small bodies and hands.
Here are a few to consider:
The Squier Bronco is probably the most well-known short-scale bass out there. It’s a simple, one-pickup instrument with a downsized body and 30” scale length. I’d recommend this as a great first bass for children, or anyone who feels overwhelmed by a full-size bass.
Ibanez GSRM20 mikro
If you are feeling a little more metal, you may want to consider the Ibanez GSRM20 miKro. It is built in the SoundGear mold, but smaller, with 28.8” scale length. Compared to a Broncbo, the neck is faster and a bit thinner and offers a little more tonal variety.
The Ibanez GSRM20
Choosing a Bass
None of these basses stand head and shoulders above the others, but depending on the musical inclinations of the newbie they may prefer one over the rest.
For players who want a traditional bass, and have aspirations of moving up to a Fender Jazz or Precision Bass someday, the Squier Affinity basses are great options. They’re good sounding, solid instruments based on the classic designs that have shaped the music of every genre.
If something a little more modern is desired, the Ibanez or ESP-LTD basses are great choices. Especially for those who are into metal, and those who expect to play with a pick, these basses will shine.
The Yamaha is perhaps the best all-around bass, with a wide range of available tones and a high standard of quality.
What you go with is your choice, but remember to keep the price under control, because you’re going to need a beginner bass amp too.
More Advice for Beginners
The first instrument is always the toughest to buy. After a bassist is playing for a while they’ll have an idea of what they like and don’t like, but for now, in most ways, they have no clue. All you can do is make the best decision you can based on the information available.
New bassists should strongly consider starting on a four-string bass. Even though the five-string bass has become very popular, especially in heavier rock genres, for a musician just starting out it is important to understand the basics of the instrument before branching out to more advanced ideas.
Many new bassists choose bass guitar starter packs to get all the gear they need to start playing in one handy package. These packages come from some of the top names in the bass world, and contain a bass, amp, cables, picks, lesson materials and all the accessories you need.
Starter kits are a great way to save a little money while getting a quality instrument setup for beginners.
Some newbie bass players know they are meant to hold down the low end. Starting with a beginner's instrument might not be on the agenda, and they may want to get to the gig-worthy gear from the start. If you want to grab a higher-quality bass that will carry you onto the stage, into the recording studio and beyond, you can always choose an intermediate-level bass guitar as your first instrument.
But most new bassists can’t go wrong with any of the basses listed above. They’re all great starter instruments for the beginning bass player.
Which is the best bass guitar for beginners?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Guitar Gopher (author) on August 11, 2019:
@Jcoil - Since you said you are into metal and hard rock, I would learn toward the Ibanez. You can still dial in those classic rock tones.
Best of luck learning bass. If you work hard you can indeed be great, so don't be afraid to aim high.
Jcoll on August 09, 2019:
Love how broke down your thoughts best beginner basses. I am waffling between the Affinity Squire PJ and the Ibanez GSM200. I was going to pull the trigger on the Squire Starter Pack but am hesitating because I favor heavy rock and metal but also love my Rush/Zeppelin/Hendrix. I had no illusions that I will be a great player. This is really a personal thing and have always wanted to learn the bass. I don’t think I can go wrong and the slight price differential for the Ibanez is not a detractor. Being an absolute beginner what do think is my best bet?
Carlo on December 04, 2017:
The reason why I like the bass compared to the guitar is the sound of the bass. I like it's throaty sound and the lower pitch compared to the guitar. You're The Supporting Cast and you're the member as well as a drummer that's keeping the band grounded meaning you're the meat and potatoes and you're keeping the Rhythm aspect of the band going. It's not so much a background instrument anymore for the most part it's starting to become the lead instrument. You could do without a guitar in my opinion as long as you have bass and drums a keyboard player and even a horn section I think you're good to go. My favorite bases are... John Entwistle of The Who, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Billy Cox and Noel Redding of Jimi Hendrix and the band of gypsys and the experience, John Parish of rare earth, Verdine White of Earth Wind & Fire just to name a few but they are the backbone of the group and just as important. I admire and look up to these guys. Oh must I forget there are a couple of females that are just as good at playing bass Rhonda Smith and Tal Wilkenfeld both who have played with legendary guitar player Jeff Beck.
Guitar Gopher (author) on August 21, 2017:
Hi Vladamir! Congrats on your decision. The best advice I can give is just play as much as you can, and listen as much as you can. Those books you have are a good start. Work on the lessons there, but also play on your own. The more hours you can spend with the bass in your hands the better you will get. Listen to as much music as you can, especially bands with great bassists. And don't quit when things seem tough. The players who get good are the ones who don't give up! Good luck!
Vladimir Vasquez on August 19, 2017:
Thank you. Nice post. I ended buying the Yamaha TRBX174 because after I heard some videos and read some reviews it's sound is better than Ibanez. I also bought the Hal Leonard bass method (books 1,2,3) and Bass Guitar for dummies. What advise can you give me in my journey?
Guitar Gopher (author) on June 02, 2017:
Thanks Cory! Good luck learning bass. You're going to have a blast!
CORY on June 01, 2017:
this was a great writeup and answered alot of questions I needed answered. Not to mention the ones I didn't know I needed to know. Greatly appreciated this! Im excited to get started.
Guitar Gopher (author) on May 29, 2017:
@ Fred: I don't believe Vester exists anymore. Some people really liked them though. If you can find a used bass for a good price go for it.
Fred on May 29, 2017:
What about Vester?