The best electric bass guitar
Bass is a vital instrument in all kinds of music, from punk and metal to pop and R & B. Whether you're a beginner or an advanced player, an electric bass guitar is your gateway to joining a band, recording at home, or simply playing for fun.
Read on for our guide to electric bass guitars, containing all the relevant information to help you pick the right instrument. Our top choice is Schecter's Session Stiletto-4 Bass Guitar, which looks great and sounds even better.
Considerations when choosing electric bass guitars
A bass guitar's body shape makes very little difference to its sound or playability, so it's best to pick a body shape based on your aesthetic preferences. Popular body shapes include P-bass or J-bass shapes (which look quite similar to Fender Stratocaster guitars), angular thunderbirds and flying Vs, and curvy Les Paul basses.
The term "tonewood" refers to the wood that the body of the bass is made from and is so called because the type of wood used affects the tone (though less than some would have you believe). Common tonewoods include maple for excellent sustain, basswood with little sustain for fast-playing styles, and ash for bright and balanced tones and a hugely attractive grain.
Pickups can make a huge difference to how your bass sounds. Single-coil and split-coil pickups produce bright tones but can sound a little thin for some purposes. Humbuckers create fuller, punchier tones. Active pickups (such as EMGs) require batteries to work. They give you excellent sustain and reduce hiss, so they're ideal for high-gain genres and playing styles.
Through necks are glued all the way through the body of the bass, unlike bolt-on necks or set necks. This improves sustain and resonance, but you pay more for a bass with a through neck.
The term hardware describes the metal parts on your guitar such as the bridge, tuning pegs, and volume/tone knobs. These are often silver but can be other colors like black or gold to better complement the body of the bass guitar.
Color or finish
You can find electric bass guitars in a range of solid colors, as well as in multicolored finishes such as sunburst, or with a natural wood finish.
At the low end of the price spectrum, you can find basic electric bass guitars for less than $100, whereas high-end models can cost several thousand. Expect to pay between around $300 and $700 for an average mid-range bass.
Q. What are the knobs on the body of my bass for?
A. At the very least, you have a single knob on your bass that controls the volume, but usually there's a second to control the tone or balance. If your bass has two sets of pickups, you may have four knobs: a volume and a tone control for each pickup. This can vary, however, as some bass guitars also feature equalizer knobs or knobs to balance the blend of sounds from each pickup. If in doubt, check the manual (should you receive one) or look up the information for your particular bass online.
Q. How can I improve my bass-playing skills?
A. Whether you're a beginner or an advanced player, you can always improve your skills. Group or one-on-one lessons from a professional music instructor are arguably the most effective way to improve your skills. However, you can also teach yourself using books or online tutorials.
Electric bass guitars we recommend
Best of the best: Schecter's Session Stiletto-4 Bass Guitar
Our take: An excellent bass that plays well enough for advanced players but is not so expensive it would put intermediate players off.
What we like: Rich tone from the swamp ash body. Active EMG pickups. Black hardware looks great against the natural light wood finish. Left-handed option available.
What we dislike: A little pricey for a first bass guitar.
Best bang for your buck: Goplus' Electric Bass Guitar
Our take: A highly affordable bass guitar suitable for anyone just starting out.
What we like: Includes a gig bag, strap, lead, and plectrum, so you just need an amp to get started. Comes in black or blue. Full size.
What we dislike: Sound and quality aren't great, so you may want to upgrade before too long.
Our take: This mid-range bass sounds great for the price and comes from a respected guitar manufacturer.
What we like: Split single-coil pickup. Impressive resonance thanks to the basswood body. Includes controls for volume, balance, and a two-band equalizer.
What we dislike: Occasional issues with fret buzz, but this can often be resolved by a professional setup.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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