Choosing your first Bass Guitar Bass Series #1

Bass Series #1 - Choosing your first Bass Guitar
So you want to take up the bass guitar. Where do you start?

Here in this multi-part series, our resident bass guitar expert, Choo Packer, will discuss many of the considerations involved with the purchase of a new bass for the first time player. These include things like the style and size of the bass, the type of music you want to play and emulate, the type of instrument that is best suited to your body type and age group, and of course what is the best value within your budget. These questions, as well as those typically asked by newbies will all be answered. Now let’s get started!

Electric basses come in a wide variety of styles, finishes and sizes. Many styles are based on designs that were first introduced in the 1950’s and are still relevant and popular today. As the electric bass is a relatively new instrument, refinements and experiments with design continue to this day.

What Size Bass?
The first consideration should always be given to the overall feel and comfort of the instrument. The bass is a larger instrument than the electric guitar and generally weighs considerably more. This is important as you will be holding your bass for long periods of time. Its neck scale (or string length) is also longer which requires greater finger stretches to reach and play the frets. If you are a young beginner or of smaller stature, the smaller/thinner body design will be the most suitable choice.

There are also different neck widths and profiles, and it is important to find the one which suits your hand size and fingers. For younger beginners, you can also get ¾ sized basses as well as one called a short-scale bass, where the neck is not as long as a standard bass.

Pickups and Hardware, Finish and Playability

The sound on a solid body electric bass is generated by the magnetic pickups and accompanying circuitry. There are a number of pickup styles and configurations available on the market and I would suggest for the widest range of tones, a twin pickup setup is preferable. This consists of a neck pickup (better for bass response) and a bridge pickup (greater mid-range and treble response). You can generally blend between pickups to allow a wide range of tones and playing styles.

The hardware refers to the tuning pegs (machine heads), bridge, control knobs and output jacks. It is important that these be of solid construction and have a positive feel. These fittings generally come in a chrome finish but are also commonly found in gold and black.

Basses come in many finishes ranging from hard gloss enamel through to bare wood. Colour choice comes down to personal preference, but make sure the finish is even and not blemished and does not display any obvious faults.

Necks come with either a Maple veneer or dark Rosewood fingerboard (make sure it is actually Rosewood, not just painted hardwood).

Playability refers to how easily strings are fretted, the height of the strings from the fingerboard and the evenness and straightness of the neck. If you can get an experienced player to inspect the instrument, they will be able to tell if adjustments are needed. You are within your rights that the instrument be adjusted to optimized playability before you complete your purchase. And if buying online, make sure that the instrument will be checked before dispatch.