Choosing a Bass Guitar

Imagine a rock song that sounds empty, as if the bottom were missing. Even the least experienced musician would know there was something wrong, and something must be added to make the sound complete. This is where your bass guitar fits in. As with a guitar, the bass guitar offers many options and is a versatile and very important instrument. When choosing which bass you’d like to play, there are several categorizations to consider.

Acoustic or Electric?

Begin by asking yourself what type of music you’d like to play most. The acoustic bass guitar or upright bass is built very similarly to the acoustic guitar, with hollow body (or soundbox) to amplify the sound. Some have pickups so that they can be amplified – or else they’d be very difficult to hear when played with other instruments. These types of bass guitars are best suited for country, bluegrass, jazz, and classical music.

Electric basses do not have a soundbox but instead are built with a solid body. You will only hear sound though the pickup, which is generally quite powerful. Electric bass guitars are best suited for more contemporary music such as rock, pop, blues and metal.

How Many Strings?

Bass guitars come in four, five, six, and eight-stringed varieties. The number of strings determines the scale and pitch of the bass’s sound. The more strings you choose, the more difficult the instrument becomes. The five, six, and eight-stringed basses are typically used for very complicated playing, particularly those songs that require complex lead work by the bassist. These would be useful in progressive rock or stringed ensembles.

Most bassists choose to play the four-string bass for a variety of reasons. The four-stringed bass guitar is a standard instrument, plentiful, simpler to play, and the most versatile of all. Strings and accessories are easier to find, and brands and body types are plentiful. A good bass player can play anything on the four-stringed bass.


Nearly all guitars and bass guitars have frets. Frets are the metal lines embedded on the fretboard (neck), over which the strings run. The frets are a very important part of the guitar because they help you determine where to put your fingertips to produce a precise tone. All standard guitars and bass guitars have frets.

Some accomplished professional musicians choose to play the fretless bass. The reasons include less fret buzz and difference in tone that only a truly advance musician would recognize. They also allow for more seamless sliding and transitions. These bass guitars are much more difficult to play and take a lot of practice to master. Those who play fretless basses usually have perfect pitch and can tell by sound and touch what notes they are playing at all times.


Now that you’ve determined the type of bass guitar you want to play, you still have many choices between brands and body style. Most body styles are just that: styles. The fun shapes and colors that your bass may come in don’t necessarily determine its tone or playability, although you will want to find one that is comfortable for you.

Here is a brief listing of some of the most trusted bass guitar manufacturers:

  • Fender

    Electric bass guitar

    Electric bass guitar
    Guitar Lessons Poway
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  • Ernie Ball Music Man
  • Ibanez
  • Gibson
  • Warwick
  • Yamaha
  • Warmoth

There are many other finely crafted bass guitars out there, so enjoy playing with a variety of them before you choose to purchase one.

Beginner’s Advice

If this is your very first bass guitar, and you are just learning how to play, most instructors advise that you begin with a fretted, four-string electric bass. This style offers the most versatility, best value, and ease of learning.

Have fun!