Truth be told, one of the best features of any song is the bass beat.
The sound of a bass guitar adds a lot of flavor to your music. Let’s face it, we’ve all turned up the bass while jamming to songs like The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” Rush’s “YYZ” and Queen’s “Under Pressure.”
As a musician, I can truly say that there is nothing quite as enjoyable as nailing those iconic bass lines on my own bass guitar. This desire is what drove me to find my Fender American Standard Precision Bass. I prefer rocking out with a four-string model, so that is where I focused my search.
Top Pick: Fender American Standard PrecisionBuy from Amazon
We found this aesthetically pleasing bass that has a classic Fender design that helped make it our top pick. But it wasn’t all looks. Since 1951, the Fender American Standard Precision bass guitar has been a favorite both because of its durability and ability to create deep resonating tones that sound incredible.
Why You Should Trust Us
I have played instruments since I was four years old. My parents started me off with a violin that I soon grew to love. From that point on, my love for string instruments grew. I began playing the clarinet when I was eight years of age, and at the age of ten, I became deeply involved in learning to play the piano.
I have always had a love for instruments, but when we started exploring the guitar in my seventh-grade music class, I was hooked. The guitar is an amazing instrument that immediately connected with my soul, so I began to talk to guitar experts at local music stores to see if there was a low-cost guitar that my parents would not mind purchasing for me.
I decided to go with a bass guitar, and the Yamaha TRBX204 Electric Bass Old Violin with its Sunburst design was the model that spoke to me. I played that very bass guitar for about four hours a day on a daily basis throughout my high school years. Today, it sits amongst my guitar collection, and I still pick it up from time to time.
How to Choose a 4-String Bass Guitar
Before I share some of the basses that made the top of my list during my search for a new bass, let me walk you through some of the essential features that you will want to take into consideration when you purchase your first bass guitar.
The very first thing that you should consider is the amount of money that you have to spend on the instrument. Some bass guitars can be purchased for three to five hundred dollars, which is not a bad price for a bass, but others are not near as budget-friendly.
Some of the most beautiful bass guitars that I have seen were priced in the upper $2,000 range, which may be out of range for those who are working with a budget. Fortunately, many guitar stores offer a payment plan that gives you the option to split the price up into a few payments to make them easier to manage.
If you a beginner, you may not want to spend a lot on a bass until you are sure that it is an instrument that you will continue to play.
Type of Music
Some bass guitars are known for being versatile instruments that work for every genre of music, while others are a bit more specialized and are designed to play a certain type. Before you decide on a bass, make sure that you know what type of music you will most likely enjoy playing. If you are unsure, get a versatile instrument.
Another consideration is the type of strumming you will be doing. Some bass guitars sound great when you finger the strings, but sound less than optimal when you slap it. Test out your favorite play style before making a decision.
Number of Strings
As a rule of thumb, a new bass player should begin with a four-string model. It is the standard design for a bass guitar, and it is easier for a new musician to handle. They accommodate most styles of music.
Five-string and six-string bass guitars give the instrument a larger range, but the additional strings also mean that the bass guitar can have a wider fretboard that can be difficult to get accustomed to for beginners.
The scale of the bass is the measurement between the nut and the bridge, that is, the length from the base of the headstock to the area where the strings connect. The most common length is 34 inches, but if you have a smaller reach, a smaller scale length can be found on some bass guitars.
The wood that makes up the body of a bass guitar will determine the tone that it produces. This is a feature that a lot of talented musicians take into consideration to create a specific sound. Agathis and alder wood create a rich, balanced sound. Ash creates a bright, full sound, while basswood is good for flatter notes that do not resonate fully. Maple and mahogany create warm tones and longer sustains.
Many bass guitars feature a solid body that transfers the vibration well. Hollow-bodied bass guitars are also great options that are often used for softer sounding music.
The aesthetic style of the bass guitar that you select will not change the tone in any way; it is merely a personal preference for how you want your guitar to look. The finish is also something that you may want to consider if you are going for a specific look.
Type of Neck
A bass guitar can have three types of necks:
- The most common one is a bolt-on neck that is designed exactly like the name sounds. The neck is bolted to the body to create a stable, unbreakable connection.
- Some guitars have a set neck, which means that that the neck of the bass will be connected by way of a dovetail joint.
- The final style is the thru-body neck that is most often found on high-end guitars. With this style, there is no break in the wood of the guitar that can hinder the vibrations of the bass.
The pegs on the headstock can either be 4-inline or 2×2, one is not better than the other, it is simply a matter of personal opinion when it comes to the design. The shape and the design of your headstock can vary, so make sure the one that you select is right for you.
Fretboards can be crafted from maple, ebony, or rosewood. Most fretboards are designed to be comfortable to play, but finding the best one for your hands can be a process. Not all bass guitars have 24 frets. If you are not planning to play the higher octaves, then 21 or 22 fret bass guitars are also available.
The pickups are designed to actually pick up the vibrations that the strings create for a unique electric signal. Most bass guitars have a pickup near the bridge and another one on the fret board.
There are two types of pickups that you can choose from. The original single coil creates a bright, focused sound that can be excessively noisy. The humbucking pickup is designed to cut out the humming sound.
Additional Purchases to Consider:
When you purchase a bass guitar, there are typically accessory items that you will need. Not all of the accessories will be required right away, but in the event that a string breaks, you will want to be prepared.
Some of the accessories that you should consider are as follows:
- An amp
- An extra set of strings
- A string cutter and winder
- A few picks
- A guitar strap
- Cables to plug in
- A tuner
- A guitar stand
- A bass guitar case
After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.
|Resembles the violin bass that was made famous by The Beatles.||$299.27|
|Versatile instrument that can create deep resonating sounds as well as brighter tones.||$229.00|
|Crafted from beautiful ash tonewood|
|Maple neck sports a beautiful rosewood fretboard with crown-shaped mother-of-pearl inlays on the surface||$2,599.99|
|Vintage legend||Check on Amazon|
|Cutaway design of the mahogany body not only looks amazing but creates a soft, warm, undertone||Out of stock|
|Warm growl that the bass creates resonates perfectly through sustains||$599.99|
|Fretboard is constructed of mahogany, maple, and rosewood||Out of stock|
|Fretboard is constructed of mahogany, maple, and rosewood||$279.99|
Our Top Recommendation:
The Fender American Standard Precision Bass
I’ve always loved Fender guitars, but The Fender American Standard Precision bass guitar ($599.99 on Amazon.com) really is a beast of an instrument. I mean, look at that starburst finish and that beautiful maple fingerboard. If you prefer a lighter coloration, the fingerboard is also available with a darker rosewood construction that is just as stunning.
Starting with looks, this is an aesthetically pleasing bass that has a classic Fender design. The three color sunburst is an amazing feature that simply sparkles in the lights on stage, which makes the guitar look even more amazing.
The neck has a C-shaped design that feels perfect in your hand; even those of you with smaller hands will have a comfortable grip as it is only 9.5 inches in diameter. In addition, this bass guitar has a scale length of 34 inches, so even my very short arms can easily reach the farthest fret without issue.
I love the way that the fretboard contrasts the body of the bass guitar. It is one of the main reasons that I looked at this Fender to begin with. It has 20 frets on the neck, which are designed in the medium jumbo range. This means that you cannot hit the higher notes, but I’ve never really had a problem missing the last three frets that some bass guitars feature.
Originally introduced in 1951, The Fender American Standard Precision bass guitar has been a favorite of musicians old and new. Not only is it built to be durable, it has the ability to create deep resonating tones that simply sound amazing, especially when iconic bass tones are sent through these strings.
It has a string-thru body and a 4-in line headstock that is breathtaking. The high-mass vintage bridge and the Fender Custom Shop ’60s Precision Bass split single-coil pickup helps to create the warm bass tones that I love. The instrument features volume and a master tone knobs that are finished in chrome, which helps this bass guitar keep the classic look that I personally have grown to love and appreciate.
This bass is my recommendation because it is a solid instrument that will not let you down. It has the perfect tone and a stunning body that will give you points on stage. The best part is that I was able to purchase this high-quality Fender for right around one grand (YMMV), which is an amazing value for such an iconic guitar.
Runner Up: Ibanez SR1800E Premium Electric Bass
Choosing a base can be a difficult decision, and trust me, I did not make my choice quickly. There was another bass guitar that was always in the back of my mind. It fell into the same price range, and it had an out of this world design that I loved. Which bass was my second choice? It was the Ibanez SR1800E Premium Electric Bass ($1,299.99 on Amazon.com).
The first thing that caught my eye with this bass was the solid, double-cut body. The base of the instrument is made from ash, but there are two walnut stripes that are positioned like racing stripes down the center of the bass.
The neck of this Ibanez is designed with a stunning rosewood and maple fretboard. In addition, this bass has all 24 frets, which is what made it come in so close to the top of my list. On top of all of the beautiful wood on this beast, the Ibanez features a four-saddled mono-rail bridge with gold plating that makes this bass look like it was designed for a rock star.
As far as tone, the single-coil pickups are perfectly placed to create fully sustained tones that are unbelievable. There is also a master volume knob, a balance knob, an equalizer knob, a frequency switch, and an on/off switch that allows you to quickly control the way your music sounds.
Other Guitars to Consider
This Hofner is a bass guitar that is designed to resemble the violin bass that was made famous by The Beatles. Though this one is not in my personal collection as of yet, it has one of the most amazing sounds. The intonation is perfect and the notes sound is right where I want it to be for a classic rock bass line.
The reason that this guitar is on the top of my list, is that it has a 30-inch scale, which is the perfect distance for my short arm reach. The pickups give this bass a nice clean sound that would make Paul McCartney proud, but don’t get stuck in Beatles mode, because this versatile bass sounds great with all genres of music.
If you want to get a really nice vintage sound out of this bass guitar, add some flatwound strings to the instrument. The sound it produces will blow you away. The only real issue that I have with this bass is that the neck is much heavier than the rest of the instrument, which makes it more cumbersome to play with my small arms.
Amazon.com price: $299.27
When searching the many options, the Ibanez brand was one category that I already knew would bring a quality instrument to the table. The Ibanez GSR200SM 4-String Electric Bass Guitar has a delightful natural gray burst that stands out from a lot of other bass guitars.
The sound that resonates from this instrument is bright, and the pickups are very responsive, which creates an amazing tone. It is an extremely lightweight instrument, which is great for me because I am a smaller individual. It is a versatile instrument that can create deep resonating sounds as well as brighter tones.
The pickups on this bass do produce a very slight buzzing sound, but it is not prominent in any of the musical selections that I enjoy playing when I test out a guitar.
My first impressions of the Ibanez GSR200SM 4-String Electric Bass Guitar was from an image on a website, and when I saw it in person at the store, the sunburst design was not as spectacular as it seemed on the site. This is actually part of the reason that I did not pick this bass; not because of a flaw in the instrument, but because it was not what I imagined it would look like.
Amazon.com price: $229.00
Since a lot of my guitars are light in coloration, my search broadened out to more rich looking styles that I could enjoy playing. The PRS Paul Reed Smith SE Kingfisher Bass is crafted from beautiful ash tonewood that creates a bright, yet soulfully balanced bass sound. The maple and walnut neck combination further enhances that balance and creates sustain that will bring tears to your eyes.
Typically, I tend to go for lighter fretboards, but the rosewood fretboard and the inlays that are shaped like birds really drew my attention. The neck of this guitar is one of the most stunning aspects of the instrument.
This bass does have 24 frets, which is great, but it also has a scale length of 34 inches, which as I have already stated, is a bit difficult for me to play comfortably.
I do however love the neck through design, which is why it was still a bass that I was considering in the end. All-in-all, the biggest aspect that impressed me was the sound that this instrument could create, no matter which genre of music.
If my bass is not natural wood, then I love a design that has a bit of flair to catch the attention of my fans. The Spector Euro 4 Electric bass guitar is a unique 4-string beauty that fits my style perfectly, especially the black cherry body that is accented with gold hardware.
I absolutely loved everything about this model, except for the price. I am just not in the position to spend over $2,000 on a single instrument right now, but someday this beast will be a part of my collection.
The body is of solid alder, but wings are comprised of three layers, which consist of alder maple, and walnut. This combination of wood gives the bass a solid construction that will last for decades. In addition, the maple neck sports a beautiful rosewood fretboard with crown-shaped mother-of-pearl inlays on the surface.
I love how versatile the sound of this bass is. No matter what I play, whether it is a jazz bass line or slap bass, it sounds amazing. The volume of this bass is a little touchy, which is great when you want to amplify a bass solo, but it can be a bit overpowering at times if you have the volume cranked all the way up.
Amazon.com price: $2,599.99
When I first checked out this bass, I played around with the vintage sunburst model, which had a great sound, but I was not feeling the look. The next time that I went to my favorite local guitar store, they had an alpine white model of the same guitar that simply blew me away.
This guitar originated in 1963, and it has been a favorite to artists like Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Who, Kings of Leon, and Cheap Trick, so it was already on my radar. The main reason that I decided against purchasing this vintage legend is that it is a bit too heavy for my taste. In fact, simply strumming this bass for a few minutes at my local guitar store made my neck a little sore.
It also has a really wide neck, which is cumbersome for small hands like mine. Even though this bass has a few downfalls, it is still an amazing instrument to have in your collection. The sound of the bass is absolutely phenomenal. I love the crisp clear sound that it produces and the sustained notes that it can create are remarkable.
Amazon.com price: Check on Amazon
The first feature of note on this bass is the craftsmanship, which is utterly amazing. Every aspect of the bass guitar from the rosewood fretboard to the mother of pearl inlays is quite stunning. The attention to detail that Gibson puts into the SG Standard Bass can be seen throughout the instrument, which is part of what makes this iconic rock bass guitar such a tempting purchase.
The cutaway design of the mahogany body not only looks amazing, the tonewood of the guitar creates a soft, warm, bassy undertone that resonates perfectly on a stage with other instruments. This bass guitar features 490R and 498T humbuckers, which offer great sustains, but they also don’t full reduce the annoying hum that can often be heard above the sounds of the soft bass.
If you are playing with other instruments, the hum gets drowned out, but it can be heard during a solo, and being that I love to dig into a great bass solo, that tiny hum weighted heavily on my decision on whether or not to purchase this bass guitar. If you are not a solo fanatic, then the quality and durable construction of this Gibson make it a great option for your new bass guitar.
Amazon.com price: Out of stock
I am sure you know already, I love a good Fender, and there are so many options that they create that look amazing. The Fender American Standard Dimension Bass IV HH was one of my top picks during my search for a new bass, but I was testing out the candy apple red model, and it was not really what I wanted at the time.
I loved the sound and the tones that the instrument produced, but since I could not find a color that jumped out at me, I put this bass on my maybe pile. The thing that I did not know was that Fender makes an ocean blue metallic model of this exact bass. I’ve always loved the way a deep blue finish looks on a bass that is creating an amazing and soulful bass line.
It may not have been my pick at the time, but this bass is still amazing; It is actually going to be my Christmas present to myself this year. Every time I try a new bass line on this instrument, I realize exactly how great it sounds. The warm growl that the bass creates resonates perfectly through sustains and it has a lot of volume options for when those bass solos arise.
Amazon.com price: Out of stock
Another one of the bass guitars that I considered was the Schecter Stiletto Custom 4 Electric Bass Guitar. The passive pickups and the mahogany body of this bass create a sound that resonates beautifully in jazz, classic, and even heavy rock. The fretboard is constructed of mahogany, maple, and rosewood, which adds an amazing amount of tone quality to the sound that the instrument produces.
There are 24 frets on the fretboard so that you can hit a wider range of notes. One thing that really impressed me is the amount of volume that you can get from the volume knob; turning it half way up can cause your neighbors to complain. It really does pack a punch, so you will need to be careful not to drown out the other instruments in your band.
If you like to play slap bass, then I’d actually suggest this bass guitar because that style of play on this instrument sounds amazing. Fingering this bass along the pickups creates a warm tone that is perfect for creating jazz music.
I have noticed that there is a slight buzz during my practice sessions at my local guitar store, but in my opinion, the sound is minor. The buzzing sound does not seem to be present when slapping this bass, so make sure to take that into account.
Amazon.com price: Out of stock
A bass guitar that is always a great choice is the Yamaha TRBX204 Electric Bass Old Violin. As I’ve mentioned above, this bass holds a place in my heart because it was the very first bass guitar that I ever owned. I still play it to this day. I choose the basswood body and the sunburst design, but there are several other body types and designs that you can select from when it comes to this Yamaha model.
The first thing that you will notice when you pick up this bass is that the sound is very clean and crisp. There is no mud in the tone that distorts the sound.
Take note that the finish that you see on an image is nowhere near as impressive as it appears on the actual bass. This is why the instrument caught my eye so easily all those years ago.
If you are a beginner, this bass is very comfortable to play and depending on current pricing, it should be a great value. If you are purchasing it for a child who you are not sure will stick with the instrument, it is the perfect option.
Amazon.com price: $279.99
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- Bass Guitar Buyer’s Guide. Retrieved from http://www.americanmusical.com/content–name-Bass-Buyers-Guide
- Paul, R. (2013, October 7). 2012 Fender American Precision Bass Review. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixeyBAGPd7c
- Musician’s Friend. (2014, January 27). NAMM 2014 – Ibanez SR1800 Premium Series Basses. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QggWtT3uL_I
- Emond, T. (2016, August 13). Personal Interview
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- Bass Basic. (2016, May 7). YAMAHA TRBX 204 Sound Sample Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukkde5Aq1_c