First Bass guitar suggestions

After seeing the topic on guitar suggestions I decided to start one for Bass. I started playing a month or two ago and so far I’ve been renting equipment from the place I get lessons from. I am thinking about buying one, currently I am using a Stagg 4-string fusion, and I was wondering if any readers here have any input on the subject.

There are a lot of good deals for entry level basses these days. Yamaha’s low end basses are surprisingly good rock basses for the money. A friend of mine picked up a Yamaha 5-string for $300 and sometimes prefers the rock tone to his $2000 Alembic.

The same advice from the other thread applies here as well: go to a music store and spend an afternoon jamming. There are a lot of very solid options in the under-$400 range from just about any manufacturer.

avoid a 5 string or fretless if your just starting. Make sure the place your buying from can set it up for you. Bass setup makes a lot of difference to how it plays. That’s assuming you buy one that can be setup, which you want. Should probably define that, you can adjust how far off the fretboard the strings are. To far and it becomes difficult to push the string down far enough, especially with your pinky, to close has it’s own set of problems.

I personally own a yamaha fretless and a fender p-bass.

Thanks for the tips, I’ll probably start looking around this weekend.

Fender Squiers are good-playing, good-sounding, low-cost starter basses. Hell I played a Squier Jazz for about 10 years before ever wanting another bass. That said, they’re a bit hit or miss in terms of quality. The one point of advice I would offer is do not buy a lower price instrument (or any instrument, really) from a catalog. Quality can vary from bass to bass dramatically and you really want to try out the instrument you’re interested in first.

Ibanez are a good mid-price player-friendly bass (i.e. thin necks) that sound great right out of the box.

The Fender Bass is still the Man’s bass. 12 years ago when I switched from guitar to bass, the longtime bass players I talked to (and I’m talking about guys who play in or record bands for a living, not jazzbos and techdorks) said go Fender. There’s no better bass for combining being easy to learn and also being the bass you’ll keep and use onstage and in-studio.

That said, this is my baby:

(No, that specific one isn’t mine; mine is the same color and in the same case as that one though). I bought a Vox cabinet and had a guy put Ampeg guts in it. I love it.

Thank’s for the help, and nice bass. Are there any websites that have good reviews of Bass’s? Like I said before, I really have no idea what I’m looking for.

I had a good cry the other day when I remembered not being able to afford the $500 1979 Fender Fretless hanging on the wall at the local music store… Now going for about 2100$ on Ebay, and of course, it was perfect.

Now for a hijack - any suggestions for a good fretless 5 string?

Red, reviews are great and all, but…

…you really need to go to a guitar store and just sort of dork around with what they have there to find your bass.

Let me reiterate: you want a Fender bass, whether it’s their introductory line (the Squire basses), their standard line (the Precision, or “P-Bass”) or the Jazz Bass. Fender is to basses what Crayola is to crayons. You could go with another brand, but don’t, not at this stage at least.

So anyway. Doesn’t matter whether you can play or not. Just head down to a store and ask them to let you play with a few of the basses. At this stage, you’re not going to be too awfully concerned with how the bass sounds; you want a bass that “feels” good. You want good “action”–closeness of the strings to the fretboard, which makes playing easier at a bit of sacrifice to sound. You want fret distances that feel right for your hands (I can’t play a Jazz Bass at all, my fingers just can’t handle the frets at the top of the neck without cramping up after one song). If you play around with 4-6 basses, you’ll see what I mean; some basses in the Fender line are just going to be more comfortable to you.

One step I always recommend for new bassists: see if you can find a store that will let you rent equipment. It’d suck to drop 400-800 bucks on a bass and amp setup and then decide it isn’t for you. A lot of places will let you rent a good bass (a Fender) with a decent practice amp for like 20-40 bucks a month. After a month or two, if you’re still into it, you’re hooked. That’s when you want to get serious about putting together a full-time rig, starting with the instrument itself, and then working your way to the amp and head. The other advantage of that approach is that presumably you’ll develop a “comfort zone” with a bass, and when you go to buy one with your hard-earned cash, you’ll have a better feel for what works for you, having played one for a month or two.

Good luck! It’s a very fun instrument. Once you start learning the various blues scales in the keys of A, E, and G or D, you can basically sit there and just play lead figures and they come off like brilliant bass lines.

One final thing: don’t be shy about using a pick to play your bass with. Sure, it’s cool to try to look like Entwistle or McCartney and fingerpick a bass. I recommend against starting off that way–it can be really frustrating, and until you develop some real hand strength and callouses, you’re not going to sound as good as with a pick anyway. The very best bassist in the midwest (besides our own Hido, that is) still uses a pick on about 90% of the songs he plays. Don’t get hung up on it. Learn proper picking technique, and then later on when you become a jazzbo you can do the fingerpicking thing to impress the muso mouthbreathers.

I would respectivly disagree with the suggestion to use a pick. You have to get the callouses somehow, and the only way to do it is by playing. To many styles can’t be picked, and you lose a significant amount of versitality. That being said, renting and taking some classical guitar courses is actually a good way to build up finger strength and technique that translates pretty well to bass playing. The suggestion on renting is an outstanding one.

To emphasize triggercut, every bass is different, even ones in the same product line. You really have to try the individual bass to see how well it fits you.

As with anything creative, get started with a used entry level one and upgrade when you outgrow it. The “blank canvas” of good and new is quite intimidating to me. I like to grab something that I can beat to death and experiment with without worrying about getting it scuffed. Also, it saves moolah. Also, use your fingertips until they bleed. It sounds weird and masochistic, I know, but you want your skin to harden, so you can play with stamina.

I’m told an alternative is to dip your fingers in surgical spirit daily. This allegedly toughens the skin.

Yeah, good call with the rent. Before I ever got my Squier, I rented for several months. Well, technically, my parents rented the bass and amp for me, just to make sure I was serious enough about the instrument. Seventeen years later, yeah, I’m serious. As an aside, the night I got my bass and practice amp, I went over to my best friend’s house (he was a drummer), we hooked up a tape recorder and recorded everything we played that night. I literally have a record of some of the first notes I ever played on bass. And boy were they *good.

Anyway, I also recommend skipping the pick and getting straight to working out the fingerpluck problems right away. Yeah, it feels weird at first but all it takes is some discipline and you’ll have it. I used to sit my bass on my knee while watching TV, and just pluck open strings with my first and second finger–1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2 ad infinitum, until it became second nature.

Pick playing is a great skill to know and much easier on the fingers–and to be sure there are some great pickers out there (Steve Swallow comes immediately to mind)–but the sooner you get your fingers in the mix the more you’ll like the bass IMO.

    • shitty

great suggestion about sitting while watching tv. After awhile you would want to add basic 4 note runs up and down each string just to work on stretches and left hand strength.

Ok, thanks for the tips. Right now I am renting a Stagg bass and a basic amp. I don’t really like the stagg though, probably stop by the store this weekend and check out what else they have.

Sorry for the double post, but a friend of a friend is selling an almost brand new Fender Squire Jazz Bass for $200. I’ll hopefully ake a look at it this weekend. Anyone have any experience with these?

Squire is Fender’s “budget line”, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a solid piece of instrument. I believe the Jazz is the top of the Squire line. Play it and see if it “fits” you. Also, look for wear and tear that comes with a used bass or guitar–you don’t want to buy something that will need a major repair in a few months. Mostly, look at the neck, and where it enters the body and where it enters the head. That’s where you’ll see “pulling”–gaps and cracks there–that will kill your sound, and your instrument. Play every string in every fret–make sure the notes ring “true”; you want to listen for flat notes, or notes that have string buzz caused by bad or loose frets or imperfections on the fingerboard itself.

Also, price it out new. I don’t know how much they list for now…but back when I was buying, $200 for a Squire bass new wasn’t too far off the mark. Just make sure that if you like it, you’re getting a deal.

I’m late to the thread, and really can only back up what other people say – Fender is probably still the king when it comes to affordable but still-quality basses.

I’m partial to the Fender Jazz myself and they’re affordable and, if you think you’ll be sticking with the bass for a long time, will be a solid bass that you’ll be able to stick and grow with.

I’ve got a Fender J-bass and a Washburn acoustic/electric. Not pictured is an ultra-cheapie second hand bass I picked up off a friend – a powder blue girlie bass (smaller body size; my husband calls it my Power Puff bass), a cheapie 50-year-old Gibson Kalamazoo. Surprisingly, it’s become my favorite bass even though it’s so low end. It’s just really fun to noodle on.

You’ve been happy with the washburn? Was messing around with one the other day and enjoyed it. I questioned what I would use it for though.

Oh, hell yes. I’ve got it strung with Ernie Ball flatwounds at the moment, and while I know a lot of bass players don’t prefer flatwounds, when playing the Washburn acoustically it gives it a really warm sound. I had some Dean Markley Cold Steel roundwounds on there for a while; that was a mistake. WAY too twangy, even after I let them settle in and played it a while. Plugged in, the bass just has a really awesome, warm acoustic sound to it.

Physically it’s a much thicker, bigger bass, which is odd when switching too and from my J-bass or my little Gibson. The neck is thicker, so that could take some getting used to if you’re used to an electric.

The Washburn is by far the bass I play the most.

As for what you’d use it for, my dad gave it to me as a college gift and says he’s regretted giving it up every since. :) He’s a bass player himself and his unfortunately-now-defunct rock/blues band put out their 2nd CD last year, and now he’s with a group that’s doing more roots-based blues. He said that because of that, he’s going to shop for a Washburn himself because it’s more appropriate to the style. I myself prefer playing blues and roots music, and the Washburn really, really fits that style.

If you’re accustomed to playing an upright bass, or even a cello, go fretless. Period. Do not even bother with an instrument with frets. Trying to learn to play with frets held me back years on being able to really play the damned thing.

To this day, I can’t play an instrument with frets. Never gonna do it.