Factors to Consider when buying a Bass guitar

Purpose and Budget

 
When it comes to buying a new bass guitar, many people enter the world of bass guitars blindly, not knowing whether to go for a 4-string, 5-string, or even being able to answer the question “what is a bass guitar?”
This article should both shed some light on the wonderfully powerful instrument that is a bass guitar, as well as pointing you in the right direction to getting your own bass guitar.
Before you think about buying your first bass guitar, you will need to understand the genre of music you want to play. Some people want to play Country, rock, metal, blues and all mixture of genres. Ones you have identified what music you want to play then next is the budget. In my case I do not see it important to buy an expensive guitar if you even do not know why the guitar is good. Guitars come in different shapes, colors, picks up and more and if you are not careful you may find yourself in a confused state. The best place start on is just simple entry level guitar on a lower budget to make you realise if really you have a passion for it.

Bass Guitar Construction and Design - Parts And Their Functions

It’s important to have a good understanding of the basic parts of a bass guitar before you start shopping. Understanding how the instrument is designed and built, and knowing what the different parts are called will help you ask good questions and make informed decisions.

Neck

The neck of a bass guitar, like the neck of any guitar, includes the headstock, fretboard and internal truss rod, which connect to the body of the bass.

Headstock

The headstock is the wide portion at the top of the neck, where the bass strings terminate at tuning pegs. These tuning pegs—also called tuning keys, tuning machines, or tuners—adjust the tension of each string, changing the pitch. The strings are routed down the neck by the nut—a notched strip of hard plastic or bone attached to the top of the fretboard where the headstock meets the rest of the neck.

Fretboard

The fretboard or fingerboard is usually a thin piece of wood— typically rosewood, maple, or ebony. All are excellent woods for the purpose but can vary in quality. The best fretboards are smooth, hard, and dense so that they wear slowly. Fretboards are usually arched from side to side. This arch is called the radius, referring to an imaginary circle that would be formed if the arch of the fretboard were extended to make a circle. Some bass fretboards are close to flat, while others may have a radius as short as ten inches. The shorter the radius, the more pronounced the arch of the fretboard. The fretboard is embedded with frets which are narrow strips of metal. These frets divide the neck into half-step increments, and determine where each note is played along the length of the neck.
A few electric basses are fretless, allowing smoother glissando effects but also requiring greater skill on the part of the bassist. They’re not usually a good choice for beginning bassists.
Some basses have fretboards that are an integral part of the neck rather than being a separate glued-on layer.

Do your Research

 

Before click the buy now button, you should have a clear idea of what you want. Doing research in advance will narrow down your options. Check out product reviews, ads, catalogs and manufacturer websites to become familiar with the features and specs of various models. Find out what your favorite bassists are playing.

Youtube is another place to get information about the kind of bass that you will need to buy. Youtubers will always either give you a demo of a particular guitar and how they like it.

Once you’ve pinpointed a few basses that appeal to you, learn all you can about them. What woods are they made of? What kind of pickups and electronics do they have? How long is the scale? The more familiar you are with specs, the easier it is to identify what features you like.

Never let your decisions be influenced exclusively by what your favorite players use, peer pressure or recommendations from a salesperson. “Choose a bass that you like to look at and always want to play. It’s a very personal decision, almost like choosing a mate.”

Once you have a good idea what you want, it’s time to visit a few stores and try out some basses. Once you’re in the store, focus on the basses within your price range, but don’t be afraid to try instruments beyond your budget. Trying a more expensive bass can give you a great perspective on how a well-crafted bass is supposed to look and feel.

Check out details like the fretwork, how the neck feels, what the finish looks like and how carefully the hardware is installed, and compare these features to the basses you can afford. If an instrument you’ve selected seems similar to a much more expensive axe, chances are it’s a great value.

Fender 0301575532 Squier Affinity Jazz 5 Strings Rosewood Fretboard Bass Guitar - Brown Sunburst

Fender 0301575532 Squier Affinity Jazz 5 Strings Rosewood Fretboard Bass Guitar - Brown Sunburst

Neck and Neck

Examine the neck first. Run your fretting hand along the neck and note how well it fits in your hand. Does the fingerboard feel too wide or narrow? Is it easy to play or do you struggle to fret notes? Don’t worry if you don’t know how to play or are just a beginner. If the instrument doesn’t feel comfortable in your hands it’s probably not right for you.

Check how the Bass guitar feels. If the guitar doesn’t feel well from the start, chances are it never will.

Try holding the bass both sitting down and standing up. Strap on the bass and release your hands. If the neck slides down and points to the ground, the neck is too heavy. While a bass with a heavy neck may be perfectly playable, it will cause muscle fatigue more quickly because your fretting hand is supporting the neck.

Next, play notes on every fret on every string as well as the open strings to check for buzzing and dead spots. If you can’t play well, bring along a friend who plays or your bass instructor.

CLASSIC VIBE '60S JAZZ BASS

Body materials: The cheapest basses on the market are often constructed of a plywood “butcher block” amalgamation of wood pieces that are glued together, heavily sanded, and covered with a single-piece veneer and a heavy finish. Some of those instruments can sound good but usually the wood is too heavy and doesn’t resonate well because it is full of glue, which has no resonant frequency.

Check manufacturer specs for details like a one-, two- or three-piece body. Don’t be fooled by terms like “solid” body or “wood” body, as this may not tell the whole story. While it’s getting more and more difficult to spot plywood construction, it’s often revealed when you look at the finish from a variety of angles. Look for uneven surfaces separated by straight lines, which are tell-tale signs that various pieces were glued together.

Saving for your dream Bass guitar

By now you should be holding a good bass in your hands. But before you lay down your hard-earned cash, consider saving money a little longer until you can afford an even better model. Don’t be afraid to spend more if an expensive instrument motivates you. It’s a better investment to buy a bass that you really want to play instead of one that you just like a little. If you’re serious about playing, the extra cost will seem insignificant after you’ve owned the instrument a few years.

You’re less likely to outgrow a more expensive instrument. Buying a cheap bass guitar with an intention of upgrading in future may make the deal to be too expensive and may even not get what you are looking for. So if you save a good budget for a bass guitar will be fine

Bass Guitar Types

 

Bass guitars come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. However, the right bass for you will come down to three main factors: the number of strings it has, whether or not the neck has frets, and the pickups it uses.

Strings

Bass guitars typically come in 4-, 5- and 6-string models. For those who are just starting, you’re better off sticking with a 4-string model that’s tuned to the standard E-A-D-G format. Most well-known rock groups go with this, and a 4-string bass will definitely be easier to play in the beginning stages. The neck of a 4-string bass guitar is also slimmer than a 5- or 6- string model, which makes it ideal for younger players with smaller hands. Of course, you can always move on to a 5- or 6-string bass guitar over time.

Frets

The two fretboard layouts you’ll encounter are known as fretted and fretless. The standard bass guitar neck is fretted, containing steel frets along the entire length of the fretboard. Basses with frets are naturally better to learn with, since they make finding the correct notes easier. On the other hand, fretless basses (as the name suggests) have no frets. Although fretless basses have a warm sound and play smoothly, beginners should stick with a fretted instrument so they can learn the proper fingering positions.

Pickups

The pickups on your bass have the job of turning string vibrations into electrical signals, which makes them a crucial part of the instrument. Usually, bass guitars have two sets of pickups: one near the fretboard, and another closer to the bridge. The pickup near the fretboard tends to create a smoother, low-end tone, while the one by the bridge produces a brighter, high-end sound.

Like guitars, bass pickups come in both single-coil and humbucker styles. Single-coils were the first pickup type, and are known for their sharp and focused sound. To help fight feedback, humbuckers were created soon after single-coils. Aside from cancelling out the hum commonly found with single-coils, humbuckers also produce a thicker tone.

While these are the two most common pickup types, you can also find a single-coil pickup that functions like a humbucker. These are called split-coil pickups, and combine the hum-free convenience of a humbucker with the bright sound of a single-coil. A good example of a split-coil can be found on the classic Fender Precision Bass.

Electronics: Passive vs. Active

The terms active and passive refer to the preamp circuitry of the bass. The preamp boosts the pickups’ output and provides tone-shaping controls.
Passive preamp systems operate without any power source and have fewer controls, usually a volume knob, a tone knob, and a blend control if there are two pickups. One advantage of the passive bass is that it doesn't depend on a battery that can die in the middle of a gig. Another plus is the simplicity of operation. Passive electronics have a more traditional low-fi sound that some players to the hi-fi sound of active electronics.
Active basses need power, usually provided by an onboard battery. The advantage of an active preamp system is stronger output and more control over tone shaping. Active basses often have separate EQ controls divided into frequency bands, such as a low-, mid-, and high-frequency boost/cut controls. They can also have contour switches which instantly reshape the EQ profile. Some have controls that let you change the wiring of your pickups on the fly from series to parallel for dramatic tonal shifts. A coil tap switch found on some basses with active electronics deactivates one set of coils in a humbucking pickup to make it sound like a single-coil.

 

Fender 0301575506 Squier Affinity Jazz 5 Strings Rosewood Fretboard Bass Guitar - Black

 

Bass Bridges

The bass guitar’s strings terminate at the bridge, where their vibrations are transmitted to the body creating the resonance and tone that the pickups capture and amplify. The strings pass over notches, called bridge saddles, which can be moved up and down to adjust the action, or forward and back to adjust the intonation. Better bridges are made of brass, and are often plated with chrome or nickel silver. A bridge with more mass and weight will usually anchor the strings better and transfer more vibration from the strings to the body.
There are three different bridge types on most electric bass guitars:
· Through-bridge
· String-through body
· Bridge and tailpiece combination
On a through-bridge, the strings are threaded through the back of the bridge, and over the saddles. On a string-through body bridge the strings are fed through the body of the bass and over the saddles. A bridge and tailpiece combination feeds the strings through a separate tailpiece that’s unconnected to the saddles.

 

 
 

Bass Tonewoods

The type of wood that is used in the body of the bass guitar will impact its tone and resonance. New players don’t need to be too concerned with the type of wood used for their bass guitar body. But if you are looking for a specific sound from your bass, then the body wood could be an important factor.

Alder

Alder is often used for bass guitar bodies. It creates a very balanced tone, with great clarity and a very full sound.

Agathis

Agathis is a popular body wood because it is relatively inexpensive. It provides a fairly balanced tone with a slight emphasis on low-mid tones that gives it a rich sound.

Ash

There are several species of ash used on bass guitar bodies, with subtle differences, but in general the wood produces a bright, full sound, similar to alder. Swamp ash is especially desirable due to its beautiful grain.

Basswood

Frequently used on less expensive instruments, it is a softer wood that does not resonate as much as other tonewood options. Some bass players think this creates a flat sound, while others feel the short sustain is ideal for fast, complex playing techniques.

Mahogany

Mahogany is a popular tonewood for bass guitars because it produces a soft, warm tone that emphasizes the low-mid and lower-range tones, and creates longer sustain. It is a dense wood, however, and will feel heavier on your shoulder than ash or agathis.

Maple

Maple is also a dense wood, so it creates a well-sustained sound like mahogany. Maple, however, produces a bright, clear tone that many musicians find valuable in a studio setting.
Many other woods are used for bass bodies. High-end models may be made of exotic species such as bubinga, wenge, koa, or cocobolo.

So Which Bass is Right for Me?

Here are a few guidelines (not rules) for the first-time bass buyer:
· Buy the best bass you can afford. A good bass will make learning easier and you won't outgrow it as quickly.
· Choose a fretted instrument, unless you are ready for the challenge of a fretless.
· Choose a short-scale bass if you are young, small, or have unusually small hands.
· For simplicity's sake, choose a 4-string instrument.
· Select a bass with simple controls so you can focus on the strings and not be distracted by knobs.
· Choose a bass in a color and shape that appeals to you. Its looks won't make it sound better, but a cool-looking bass can motivate you to play more.