How to Choose a Bass Guitar – Buying Guide

A guide to buying bass guitars

A bass guitar gives the rhythm taste in almost every music genre. Despite the fact that bass is often one of the most overlooked instruments in a music group, it is probably the most critical instrument. A bass guitar is a plucked string instrument and produces lower frequencies. Its shape looks like an electric guitar, but it has a longer neck and a longer scale length. The bass guitar consists of four, five or six strings.

The bass traditionally fulfills two basic and important functions within a band or group:

  1. It provides the rhythmic basis: A rhythmic basis is the constant, even pulse, rhythm or beat of the music.
  2. It forms the harmonic basis: In music harmony is the simultaneous playing of several different notes.

Buying guide for bass guitar content

How to choose a bass guitar

There are many, many things to consider when buying a bass guitar. Let us not be overwhelmed and proceed step by step. In this article we will guide you through the important features you should look for when looking for a bass guitar.

The number of strings

There are three types of bass guitars in terms of the number of strings. They come in four, five or six strings. What are the differences between these?

Four-string bass guitar:

A four-string bass guitar has a much narrower neck than a five- or six-string guitar. The four-string guitar is easier to use and learn to play, so it’s useful for beginners. It is matched in the standard E-A-D-G format.

Five-string bass guitar:

A four-string bass guitar is easy to use, but there are musical styles that prefer the five-string bass guitar like country music. A five-string bass guitar plays in B-E-A-D-G.

Six-string bass guitar:

Six-string bass guitars are useful for bass soloists. It is matched B-E-A-D-G-C.

Bass guitar strings

Fretted vs. Fretless

The differences between fret and fretless bass are important. A standard bass guitar has a collar with steel frets that divide every half step of the chromatic scale. This makes it easier to find the right grades and is therefore useful for beginners. On the other hand, a bass without a collar has a neck that has no steel frets, but only wood. With a neck without a collar, the player’s fingers are the only factor that determines the length of the vibrating string. Therefore, it takes skill and practice to play a bass guitar with a neckless fret. A bass guitar with a neckless fret has a different sound. it has a warm singing quality. In addition, the player can easily slide from note to note.

Passive vs. active pickups

A bass pickup consists of a magnet, around which a copper wire is wound. If the vibrations of a bass guitar string disturb the magnetic field of the magnet, small voltage fluctuations occur in the copper coil. These fluctuations are then transmitted to the bass amplifier, amplified and converted into sound. In other words, a pickup is responsible for producing the sound of the guitar.

What is the difference between a passive and an active pickup?

Passive pickups:

Passive pickups provide a dynamic sound and a warm and full sound. On the other hand, you have less control over the sound of the instrument. This is good for those who like bold and punchy.

Active pickups:

Active pickups produce a bright, percussive and clear sound on a bass guitar. They also include a built-in battery powered preamplifier, which means they produce much higher performance than passive pickups.

Electric bass body types

Solid:

Solidbody bass guitars are the most common types. These often consist of a solid piece of wood that transmits vibrations well.

Hollow body:

Hollow body bass guitars have a hollow body like an acoustic guitar, but use the same magnetic pickups as solid body bass guitars. They are mainly used by jazz and folk players. It is intended for quieter music that requires a more acoustic sound. This feedback easier.

Another type of hollow body bass guitar is the acoustic-electric. This has the same structure as an acoustic guitar and is usually equipped with a piezo pickup. Instead of using a magnet to generate an electrical signal, piezo pickups use crystals to generate the electrical signal needed to amplify the sound from the guitar.

Half hollow body:

Semi-hollowbody bass guitars have a solid center block and hollow outer body halves. These are less prone to feedback.

Bolt-on neck vs neck through

Screw on:

A screwed neck is a separate piece of wood that is screwed onto the body. This is the more common and traditional body design. An advantage of this type of neck is that the player can replace the neck if it is damaged.

Neck through:

A neck spans the entire length of the instrument. This function offers sustainability and a more direct energy transfer.

Bolt on vs neck by bass guitars
Source: blog.andertons.co.uk

Precision vs. Jazz bass

The difference between precision and jazz bass guitars lies in the body, neck and pickups.

Body design:

In 1951, the precision bass guitar had a deeply doubled cutaway and forward raked design. In 1954 it took over the contoured body of the new Stratocaster. The shaped recessions at the top and bottom made it comfortable to hold.

In 1960 the jazz bass guitars were released. These had a body with a shifted waist. This moved the body mass forward and out of the way of the guitarist’s right arm.

C-shaped neck:

Most precision and jazz bass guitars have a modern C-shaped neck. The difference between precision and jazz bass guitars in terms of their neck shape is that the precision bass maintains a uniform thickness and tapers slightly as it approaches the mother while jazz starts with its strings at a noticeably closer distance from the mother, which results in a tapered feeling and some players feel easier to finger.

Bass guitar pickups

Pickups are electromagnetic devices that record the sound of the vibrating strings and bass body and convert them into an electronic signal.

Single coils were the first type of pickup. The precision bass guitar initially had a single-coil pickup with a chrome-plated cover. A few years later, it was created with a split-coil pickup that has a solid and defined bass sound. On the other hand, the jazz bass guitar was released with two eight-pin humbucker pickups that offered players a wider range of sound options.

Humbucker pickups are designed to suppress the hum or noise of the individual coil. The humbucker has a thicker, cleaner sound, more possibilities for sound variation and is noiseless. However, the humbucker sound can get muddy at higher volumes.

Tonewoods

The type of wood that makes up the bass guitar has a significant impact on its sound. Let us examine the different tones that each type of wood produces on a bass guitar:

Mahogany:

Mahogany bass guitars sound warm and full-bodied. They have good sustain but are difficult.

Ash and alder:

Both ash and alder are very similar. Both offer a sustained, full and evenly balanced sound that is rich in harmonic overtones.

Agathis:

In terms of sound, bass guitars made of Agathis wood create a medium between Ash / Alder and mahogany.

Basswood:

In nature, the quality of linden is very soft, which absorbs vibrations. It has a shorter sustain and is therefore ideal for more complex playing techniques.

Maple:

Maple is a heavy and very dense wood that produces a very good sustain and a bright, crisp tone.

Bass guitar making

The construction of a bass guitar

After talking about what to consider when buying a bass in general, we should check what to look for when building a bass guitar:

Neck:

The necks are available in different shapes. round, oval, flat back, “V” and asymmetrical (thinner on either the bass or the high side). The choice of neck type for a bass guitar depends on the size of your hand.

Scale length:

A longer scale provides a clearer sound on the lower strings, while a shorter scale is acceptable for four-string basses and is good for smaller hands.

String number:

Consider buying a four-string guitar as it is easier to play.

Tuning machines:

Closed machine heads do not require as much maintenance or replacement as open tuning machines because the heads resist rust and corrosive substances in the air.

Intonation:

Intonation refers to the instrument that is tuned along the fingerboard. If the distance between the frets (usually above the 12thth Bund) is switched off, then the bass guitar can no longer be correct.

Screw on or neck through:

Neck-through basses are stronger with better sustain and note resolution. Screwed necks, on the other hand, have a more powerful sound. Choose the one that suits your style.

Fingerboard:

A coated fingerboard creates a treble and wailing sound and longer sustain. While uncoated fingerboards have a warmer and more natural sound.

Number of frets:

Most basses have 21, 22 or 24 frets and it is a matter of personal preference to choose a bass guitar with the desired number of frets. Since there are bass guitars with frets and others without frets, choose one with frets unless you are an expert and ready for a challenge.

Wood:

The choice of woods influences the sound and weight of the guitar. So if you are standing and playing for long hours, a light weight guitar is preferable. On the other hand, if you want to play sitting, choose a bass that sounds better to you with the wood of your choice.

Completion of our purchasing guide for bass guitars

When buying a bass guitar, keep the following in mind:

  1. Price range: A bass guitar can be expensive. Buy one you can afford, but remember that good bass makes learning easy.
  2. Height / age of the player: There are different shapes, sizes and weights of bass guitars. The age, size and hand size of a player play a role when choosing a bass guitar. It is important to find one that suits the player physically best. Bassists who are younger or smaller are well suited for basses with a thin neck, short scales and light weight. On the other hand, bass players who are tall or have large hands feel comfortable with heavier basses with wider necks and longer scales.
  3. Music style you want to play: The style of music you play requires the right instrument for the job. Some basses are known for their versatility and are used for different music genres. Other basses are genre-specific. So choose the bass guitar that matches the music genre you want to play.
  4. Electric bass guitar package: This is useful for beginners as it comes with a variety of accessories that can be useful. Accessories such as amplifiers, instrument cables, belts, gig bags, etc.

Further equipment evaluations and instructions in the Reich …



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