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bass guitar guide

Guide to Buying Your First Bass Guitar

So you’re looking to buy a bass guitar. Congrats! Bass guitars are exciting to play and great instruments for beginners. And when it comes to searching for a bass, there are lots of choices for good, entry-level models that won’t empty your wallet.

From selecting different types and styles to figuring out which size to buy, this handy guide to buying your first bass guitar will have you rocking out in no time!

How to buy a bass guitar for beginners

The internet is a great tool for researching different types of bass guitars, but there’s no substitute for getting a hands-on feel for the bass that best suits you. Basses come in a variety of shapes and sizes and it’s a good idea to try them out in person to get a feel for how each plays. Making the time to go to a few stores will allow you to determine how each bass fits you.

When exploring your options, it’s helpful to make a list of your favorite bassists and think about what styles of music you want to learn to play. This will help the salesperson offer suggestions on particular models that will give you the sound you’re looking for.

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What to look for when buying a bass guitar

When looking for your first bass, there are many things to consider. You want a solid, well-built bass guitar that will inspire you to play. Here are a few things to look for:

anatomy of bass guitar

Different types of bass guitars

There are several different types of bass guitars. The two main categories are electric and acoustic. Electric bass guitars can be further divided into either solid-body basses or semi-hollow-body basses.

How to choose an electric bass guitar

The modern electric solid-body bass was invented in the early ‘50s by Leo Fender. It quickly became the standard for country and early rock-and-roll bands, and its role expanded even further with the advent of music genres like soul, funk and hard rock. Fender’s electric bass guitar was easier to play than the traditional upright, fretless bass — and much easier to transport. Electric bass guitars also produced a more substantial low-end rumble that filled the room.

If you want to play rock and roll, electric bass guitars are the best choice for beginners.

Advantages of an electric bass guitar

Disadvantages of an electric bass guitar


types of bass guitars

How to choose an acoustic bass guitar

Acoustic bass guitars (not to be confused with upright basses) have the same shape and look as acoustic guitars. They are hollow and have a sound hole in the top. Though rarely used in rock and pop songs, they are more common in genres like folk and world music. They have a mellower sound than the electric bass.

Advantages of an acoustic bass guitar

Disadvantages of an acoustic bass guitar

Fretless bass guitars and upright basses

There are two types of basses that shouldn’t be considered for beginners. Fretless electric basses, which have the metal frets that intonate the neck removed, are much more difficult to learn to play on because they require the player to have an already refined ear. Upright basses, a type of acoustic fretless bass typically used in jazz and bluegrass music, are also difficult to learn on due to their size.

Should you play a 4-, 5-, or 6-string bass guitar?

Standard electric basses have four strings, but there are many models available that have five or even six strings. While the additional strings do add an expanded range of notes, inexperienced bass players will probably want to start on a four-string bass, which is easier to learn on and by far the most common type of bass used in rock and pop music.

Fans of modern heavy metal may opt to buy a five-string as their first bass guitar since the lower range of notes available on the fifth string are commonly used in that genre. Expert players, particularly jazz musicians, may favor six-string basses, but the neck width makes playing them difficult even for adult beginners, let alone younger players.

How to choose the correct bass size

Choosing the best bass guitar size is an important consideration for any beginner. Full-scale basses are long instruments and smaller bassists may want to consider a short-scale model. For younger bassists, many manufacturers offer even smaller student sizes. To test for size, sit or stand with the bass in playing position. Your left hand should comfortably reach the first fret, with your elbow comfortably bent and relaxed.

Buying a new vs. used bass guitar

When selecting your bass guitar, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons between new and used instruments.

Advantages of buying a new bass guitar

Advantages of buying a used bass guitar

Best bass guitar brands for beginners

Now more than ever, there are great bass guitars available that have pro-level features on a beginner’s budget.

What are some affordable bass guitar brands?

The Squier brand (manufactured by Fender, a company known to have some of the best bass guitars around) has several fantastic models that will satisfy the needs of almost any new bassist. They have several versions of their popular Fender Precision Bass and Jazz Bass guitars as well as a short-scale Bronco Bass. Likewise, Epiphone makes great affordable versions of their classic Gibson models like the EB-3 and the Thunderbird.

There are other manufacturers competing at the same price point, such as Ibanez and Yamaha, that are making instruments of comparable quality. Gretsch also carries a short-scale line that is very affordable.

What are some more expensive bass guitar brands?

If you take a step up the cost scale, there are enough options to make your head spin. There are affordable Fender Jazz and Precision basses, popular Gibson models in the SG and Les Paul styles, and upscale instruments made by a lot of other brands that are totally cool. Some lesser-known brands, such as Rickenbacker, Lakland, and Warwick, offer basses with unique looks and sounds. All these bass guitar brands have good reputations for making quality instruments — the most important thing is whether the bass inspires the student.

Should you buy an off-brand bass guitar?

Starting out on a good instrument will also make learning much easier. It’s best to skip off-brand options and go with proven manufacturers. It’s also generally a good idea to start with a slight upgrade from the starter bass guitar packs, as most students will want to quickly upgrade after a few months. By buying a better bass, you will not only save money in the long run but also be happier and more inspired to practice. Playing a recognized brand makes a beginner feel like a pro and gives them confidence.

bass guitar accessories for beginners

Getting started with bass accessories


To get started, you’ll need the following bass guitar accessories:



What happens next?

We hope that with this guide makes buying your first bass guitar an easy, exciting and affordable experience. Make sure you try out several models to find the one that best fits your size, plays well and has the sound and style that you like. And there’s no better place to start learning to play your bass than the School of Rock.

We specialize in teaching beginners to play bass guitar and getting them playing with others almost immediately. Our staff of professional musicians will not only teach you how to play but also help you with picking out that first instrument that will start you on your musical journey.

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