We will try to cover enough information about Bass Guitars in this overview to give you enough insight on what’s available, and also an idea of what some of the differences are (Tone, Action, Styles, Costs, etc). This information should give you a better idea of what to look for when you go to purchase your first Bass Guitar.
Bass Guitars come in many shapes, sizes, colors, styles, types, and tones!
Here are some things you should know, understand, and consider before buying a bass guitar for the first time…
There are many different styles of bass guitars available, and they will all have their own “unique” sound (tone). It is very important that you take the time to play and listen to several bass guitars before deciding on buying one. Not all bass guitars sound the same, if they did, there would only need to be “1” model, and all you would have to do is select a color or shape…
Go to a music store, sit there and try out all the bass guitars that you can. Even better, if you are a beginner, have the sales guy (who should be a bass guitarist) play something on a few Bass Guitars to see what they sound like. Listen to the “sound” of each bass guitar to make sure that the “tone” is exactly what you are looking for…
Playability (The Action)
A bass guitar can look great, and even sound great, but if it is extremely hard to play and tough on the fingers – it may not be the guitar for you. It is very important that the “action” (how far the strings are from the fret board) is low and adequate for you to handle (without busting up your fingertips). Action Handout Here!
Note: If the action is extremely low, make sure you listen for “buzzing” on different frets and also listen for any “dead spots” on the fret board.
Play the guitar, check the action, and make sure that the “Playability” is smooth and the “Action” is low (and there is no “buzzing” on the neck anywhere).
The “Type” (4-string, 5-string, 6-string, Acoustic)
It used to be easy to pick out a bass guitar (the standard used to be the 4-string) , but now there are several choices that you can make. More than ever, bass players are turning to 5-string, 6-string, and even 7 and 8-string basses.
Note: If you are just starting out and want to play the bass guitar – this is the time that you would want to decide whether or not to stick to the standard 4-string or start off on a 5-string bass? I would recommend that beginners do not start off with a “6-string” or a “Fretless” type bass guitar at first, but that is entirely up to you (if you feel that you want to give it a try, go for it). Either way – now is the best time to decide on the “type” of bass guitar you want to play (while you are in the beginning stages of playing). Switching to a 5 or 6-string, or even a Fretless bass once your skills improve is always an option for you – we are just trying to point out that now is the “best” time to make the choice. Acoustic basses can be kind of cool also, it wouldn’t hurt to give one a try just to see how they feel and sound.
The “Look” (Shape, Style, Color, Size)
Once you are happy with the type, sound, and “feel” of the bass guitar – it’s now time to pick a color (and sometimes a shape of the bass guitar). Although the color of the bass guitar will not affect the “tone” and / or “playability” you still might have to pick a color (you’re the one who has to play it and be seen with it – so pick a color you can live with). On some models you may or may not get a choice of color (or the choice will be very limited), but if you do get to pick a color – pick one that you feel “good” about.
Plays great, sounds great, looks great = A very happy Bass Guitar player.
When you purchase your new Bass Guitar (or any type of music equipment) you must feel “good” about the purchase. Don’t just be all “hyped up” that you have a new guitar, you really need to feel good about the purchase (no second thoughts or feeling unsure about buying it, etc). This is important – To walk out of the music store with a great feeling about your new guitar will be the final stage of the purchase. If you have a doubt, go eat some lunch, then go back to the music store, and keep trying bass guitars until you find the one you really want.
Also, once you are ready to pay for the guitar don’t forget to ask the salesman to throw in some strings or Fast Fret in for free. They may or may not do it, but it won’t hurt to try…
Common Mistakes Made
a) Purchasing an expensive bass (on-line) without playing it first: We aren’t talking about the “Combo Packages” which sound good and are great for beginners (and you can get great deals on-line on these packages). We are referring to the expensive models, and just want to recommend that you never buy something you haven’t played or held in your hands. Don’t take someone else’s word for it – what sounds good or plays good to someone else does not necessarily mean it will sound good or play good to you. Don’t take the chance.
b) As a beginner, you should start with a very inexpensive bass guitar combo package. As a beginner, don’t go out and buy an $1,800 bass guitar (Such as the model – below left) to start off with. Why? What if you decide not to play bass anymore – you will never get back the money you paid for it. Start off small with something like the Bass Combo Package shown below so if you decide to stop playing, you should be able to get at least half of the money back that you spent on it. If you continue to play and are ready to move on to something more expensive – you can sell your beginners package and put the money towards your new bass guitar (waiting will also give you extra time to save up some cash to get your dream bass).
Remember that selecting a bass is a “subjective” process, and the final decision should be made by the person who is going to be playing it. If you are a beginner it will make perfect sense to start with a “Combo Package” (this is the most logical thing that you can, and should do). If you end up going to a music store it may be helpful to take a few musician friends along to assist you, but just make sure that you are the final decision maker on your new bass guitar purchase (and you feel good about your decision).
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