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9 Best Beginner Bass Guitars: Top Picks for New Players

So you’ve decided you want to take up the bass guitar? Great move. Bass guitars are awesome instruments and essential to the foundation of most modern music, providing depth and harmony that glue the rhythm and melody together.

The selection of bass guitars we’ve compiled here are designed with the novice in mind, optimized for playability, comfort in handling, and affordability. They provide new players with a user-friendly approach to learning and mastering the instrument’s basics before potentially moving on to more complex and specialized models.

After thorough research and hands-on testing with numerous beginner models, here’s our pick of the best beginner bass guitars that strike the right balance between quality, affordability, and playability without breaking the bank. It’s time to find your first bass!

Best Beginner Bass Guitars: Product Roundup

Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass

Spec:

  • Slim “C”-shaped neck profile
  • PJ pickup configuration
  • Open-gear tuning machines
  • 4-saddle bass bridge

If you’re starting your bass journey, the Squier Affinity P Bass offers a comfortable playing experience with a sound that punches above its weight.

The Squier Affinity P Bass facilitates your musical forays with its thoughtfully light body, which means you can play for hours without feeling weighed down. As you cradle this bass, its slim “C” shaped neck rests comfortably in your hand, simplifying scale navigation and offering a more gratifying practice session. The hallmark PJ pickup configuration earns its stripes by delivering a penetrating sound, perfect for getting that mix of precision and jazz tones right from the get-go.

Turning your attention to the instrument’s hardware, you’ll appreciate how easy it is to tweak the open-gear tuners, ensuring your bass stays in tune throughout your practice. The 4-saddle bridge provides solid support for sustain and adjustments, further refining your sound. Plucking the strings, you sense the punchiness typically associated with the Fender family, a quality that shines through regardless of your skill level.

Finally, consideration for long-term use: you might find it necessary to perform initial maintenance, such as setting the action or addressing any string buzz issues. Nevertheless, the inviting shape and sound of this Precision Bass will likely overshadow such minor caveats, leaving you with a bass that’s not just an aesthetic standout in Lake Placid Blue, but a stalwart companion on your musical journey.

What we liked:

  • Lightweight design makes for comfortable playing sessions
  • The slim neck profile suits beginners for ease of playability
  • Versatile PJ pickup configuration provides a range of tones

Squier Classic Vibe 70s Jazz Bass

Spec:

  • Dual Fender-Designed alnico single-coil pickups
  • C-shaped neck profile
  • 9.5”-radius fingerboard and narrow-tall frets

If you’re dipping your toes into the world of bass guitars, this Squier model offers a blend of vintage aesthetics and modern playability you’ll appreciate.

The crisp clarity when plucking the strings of the Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Jazz Bass is the first thing I notice, reminiscent of old-school funk and soul lines that defined the era. The maple neck is smooth under my fingers, and the slim “C”-shaped profile is as agreeable to beginner hands as it is reassuring to those more seasoned.

I find the balance between the bass’s nostalgic appearance and its solid build particularly striking. It’s not just a visual treat; it feels like a sturdy instrument that could weather hours of practice and gigging alike. The vintage-tinted gloss on the neck gives it that sought-after retro vibe that’s usually reserved for higher-priced instruments, making it quite the eye-catcher.

However, perfection out of the box is a rarity. Some tinkering with the bridge and truss rod might be necessary to achieve the ideal action, but it’s a straightforward process even for novices. Once dialed in, the sound quality is impressive for a bass at this price point, delivering that classic Jazz Bass growl that’s versatile for various musical styles. The nickel-plated hardware not only enhances the look but contributes to the instrument’s overall reliability.

The Squier 70s Jazz Bass commands attention both for its formidable tone and its vintage-inspired charm, fitting for novices yet suitable for anyone on a budget craving that Fender vibe.

What we liked:

  • Rich, versatile tone with its Fender-Designed alnico pickups
  • Comfortable playability with a slim “C”-shaped neck profile
  • High-quality finish and looks for an affordable price

Ibanez GSRM20BS

Spec:

  • Short-scale (28.6″) fretboard
  • Both P-bass and J-bass style pickups
  • PHAT-II active bass circuit

With its player-friendly features and robust build quality, the Ibanez GSRM20BS is an excellent bass guitar to kick-start your musical journey.

Navigating the fretboard of the Ibanez GSRM20BS feels almost effortless, especially when moving quickly between notes; something beginners will appreciate. Its reduced scale facilitates fast learning and fosters confidence as you don’t have to stretch your fingers too far. The slim maple neck offers comfortable playability, a feature that definitely improves the practice sessions.

The tone produced by this bass is surprisingly full and rich, given the smaller body size. Plucking the strings, you get a vibrant sound that is praiseworthy for such a budget-friendly instrument. The P pickup works wonders to deliver clear lows that can drive a song forward without overwhelming the mix.

After a solid playing session, it’s clear the Ibanez GSRM20BS holds its tune remarkably well, so you spend more time playing and less on maintenance. It feels sturdy, and the lightweight nature is a back-saver, making it a go-to for lengthy practice sessions or jamming with friends. Although it’s made with the beginner in mind, even seasoned players might enjoy its ease of use and portability.

What we liked:

  • Compact and lightweight design suited for continuous hours of playing
  • Short scale length ideal for players with smaller hands or those who prefer a closer fret reach
  • Excellent tone quality from the dynamic P pickup, which is uncommon at this price point

Sterling by Music Man SUB StingRay Ray4

Spec:

  • 34″ scale length and 9.5″ fingerboard
  • Single ceramic humbucker
  • 2-band active preamp for shaping your tone

If you’re stepping into the world of bass playing, the Sterling StingRay Ray4 offers a great starting point with qualities that impress even seasoned players.

Holding the Sterling StingRay Ray4, you immediately notice the solid build that gives it a professional feel. The basswood body, finished in a sleek black, has a reassuring weight to it, indicative of its robust construction. It’s clear that the design philosophy was to provide a strong sonic foundation for budding bassists without overwhelming them with complexity.

The sound is powerful and crisp, with the ceramic pickup delivering a deep low-end that’s incredibly satisfying during play. Whether thumbing through smooth blues lines or plucking out upbeat funk grooves, the tonal versatility shines through. The preamp controls are intuitive, providing ample shaping power for bass and treble frequencies, allowing you to dial in your ideal sound with ease.

In practice, the maple neck feels smooth and allows for fast transitions between notes. Despite its relative affordability, the Ray4 doesn’t cut corners where it matters, providing a playability that mirrors more expensive models. This quality alone makes it a joy for practice sessions; within minutes you can get lost in the music, forgetting you’re holding a so-called ‘beginner’ instrument.

As with many instruments straight from the factory, you might need to tweak the setup to suit your own style. A change of strings and a quick action adjustment could elevate your playing experience, but these are minor and easily done or learned tasks that provide a good learning opportunity. Despite these tweaks, the instrument doesn’t compromise on being performance-ready and serves as a reliable companion for learning and growth on the bass.

What we liked:

  • Fat, punchy tone from the humbucking pickup
  • Comfortable maple neck aids playability
  • onboard active preamp for fine-tuning your sound

Ibanez Talman TMB30

Spec:

  • Short-scale 30” neck
  • Mahogany body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard
  • Ibanez Dynamix P neck pickup
  • Dynamix J bridge pickup

With its user-friendly design and excellent tonal variety, the Ibanez TMB30 is a solid choice for any new bassist.

The moment you lay hands on the Ibanez TMB30, the commitment to quality is apparent. The classic Ibanez body style is not just for looks; it’s contoured for comfort, whether you’re practicing at home or jamming with friends. The short scale neck glides under your fingertips, a design choice that fosters swift learning.

Clarity is vital for a bassist, and this guitar delivers with its dynamic P & J pickups. Whether you’re plucking softly for a mellow line or digging in for something more driven, the response is lively and articulate. Playing with the 2-band EQ transports you through a spectrum of sounds, from deep growling lows to crisp, bright highs, perfect for finding your groove in any genre.

As you spend time with the TMB30, small details stand out. The wide neck, often praised for its solid feel, can take some adjusting, but it offers a steady grip for developing fingers. A potential string upgrade might be on your mind as you progress, a small investment to elevate your sound. Despite any slight adjustments, the Ibanez TMB30 remains a bass that invites you to play for just one more song, again and again.

What we liked:

  • Compact size, ideal for players of any stature
  • Versatile sound with P & J pickups
  • Custom Ibanez EQ enhances tone shaping

Jackson JS Series Concert Bass

Your rock journey begins with a thunderous statement when you strap on the Jackson JS3 Concert Bass, a robust instrument with aesthetics and sound that match your bold musical aspirations.

Holding the JS3 Concert Bass tells you it’s made for the aspiring bassist—solid, with a presence that suggests durability and reliability. As you plug it in, the first strums reveal the deep, rich tones that the dual humbuckers are poised to disperse. It’s not only about the sound; the satin black finish and sleek contours will ensure you stand out on stage.

The neck feels reassuringly strong in your hands, testament to the graphite reinforcement. Swift finger transitions are a breeze thanks to the compound-radius fretboard, particularly if you’re switching between complex rhythms and swift lead licks. Still, remember that the high-string action might prompt a trip to the guitar shop for some tweaking.

For extended jamming sessions, the heft of the JS3 could become evident. While contributing to the tonal depth, it’s a factor to consider if you prefer a lightweight instrument. But when the final note fades, you appreciate the power and potential that this Jackson bass bestows—it encourages boldness and exudes the kind of confidence that beckons you to the stage or studio time and time again.

What we liked:

  • The blend of poplar body and humbucking pickups delivers a resonant tone with a punchy low-end.
  • Compound-radius fretboard eases the transition from rhythm to lead playing.
  • Reinforced maple neck offers sturdy support for adventurous bass lines.

Fender Player Jazz Bass

You’ll resonate with the classic Fender tone and style offered by the Player Jazz Bass—ideal for beginners seeking quality and versatility.

The moment you hold the Fender Player Jazz Bass, you’ll feel why it’s a preferred choice for newcomers. Its Alder body provides a stout foundation for that robust bass sound you’re after, while the maple fingerboard ensures every note is effortlessly played. Precision from dual single-coil pickups translates to a sound that’s punchy and tight, ideal for grooving along to your favorite tracks.

As you strum the first few notes, you’ll appreciate the alloy steel strings’ responsiveness—each pluck or slap reverberates with Fender’s signature timbre. Whether you’re in a studio or on stage, this instrument will confidently keep up with your creative barrage. From jazz to rock, the adaptability of this bass is a true highlight.

Bear in mind, perfecting the setup might be your first task with this guitar. This small hurdle is vastly overshadowed by the immediate sense of belonging you’ll feel with every resonant note. After some minor adjustments, the Fender Player Jazz Bass becomes a reliable companion for both practice and performance, delivering the quality sound and feel that musicians across the globe recognize and trust.

What we liked:

  • Authentic Fender tone that’s deep and punchy
  • Smooth maple fingerboard for comfortable playability
  • Sturdy build quality that you can rely on

Squier Affinity Series Jaguar Bass

Spec:

  • 32” medium scale length
  • Vintage-style open-gear tuning machines for smooth, accurate tuning
  • Squier humbucking pickup

For newcomers eager to start strong, this bass lays down the groove without a hitch.

Holding the Squier Jaguar Bass, you can immediately feel the difference its slim profile makes during a practice session. The body is light, relieving your shoulder as you stand, and the neck welcomes your grip as if inviting you to begin. Its “C”-shaped neck profile glides under your fingers, allowing for fast learning curves and less fatigue. Playability is top-notch, an essential for any starter instrument.

Quality sound production is a breeze with the robust humbucker. You’ll notice the warm, full tones that fill the room, giving your music a depth that is inspiring for any beginner. Tuning the bass is straightforward, thanks to the vintage-style open-gear tuning machines. Their smooth action facilitates precise adjustments, so you can focus on mastering the fretboard rather than fussing with the hardware.

Despite its straightforward electronics, which provide a solid tonal foundation, you may find yourself seeking more variety as you progress. However, for a beginner, the simplicity is a boon, not a hindrance. It keeps your learning environment clutter-free, allowing you to hone your technique with clarity. Remember, the Squier Jaguar Bass is designed with your growth in mind, and as your skills expand, so might your need for a more complex setup. But until then, this bass will serve you reliably, becoming a steady companion in your musical journey.

What we liked:

  • Lightweight for long jam sessions without shoulder strain
  • A 32″ scale length ensures easier reach for less-stretched fingers
  • Rich, punchy tones from the well-engineered humbucker

Squier by Fender Mini Precision Short Scale Bass Guitar

Spec:

  • Squier Affinity Series Precision bass guitar
  • padded gig bag
  • Rumble 15 bass amp and cable
  • guitar strap
  • free 3-month subscription to Fender Play
  • 2-Year Limited Warranty

This pack gives you everything you need to start laying down the low end. The moment you pick up the bass, its slim “C” shaped maple neck feels inviting to your fingers, making it an immediate comfort to play. Its lightweight black poplar body ensures your jam sessions last long without strain.

Plugged into its companion Rumble 15 amp, the bass springs to life. The split single-coil P Bass neck pickup alongside the single-coil J Bass bridge pickup affords you a palette of tones—from deep, ground-shaking lows to punchy, articulate mids. Whether thumbing through smooth jazz lines or attacking a funky slap riff, the pickups respond with clarity and warmth.

Navigating your learning curve, you’ll also appreciate the supplementary three-month subscription to Fender Play. It’s like having a personal bass mentor guiding you through your initial steps. The included Rumble 15 amplifier, with its intuitive three-band EQ, allows enough sound shaping to dial in your desired tone for any practice scenario.

What we liked:

  • All-in-one package with amp and accessories great for the absolute beginner
  • Comfortable neck and lightweight design
  • Versatile P/J pickup configuration

How to choose the best beginner bass guitar for you?

Choosing the right bass guitar when starting can significantly impact one’s learning curve and enjoyment. To ensure a good fit, beginners should consider the guitar’s scale length, which affects the spacing and size of the frets, as well as the weight of the instrument, as a heavier bass can be cumbersome to a novice. Additionally, the type of wood used for the body and neck influences the sound and overall feel of the bass. Simplicity is also key; a beginner model with straightforward electronics allows new players to focus on technique rather than complex tone shaping.

Durability is paramount, particularly for a beginner instrument that might endure the knocks and bumps as one learns. A solidly built bass with a robust body and reliable tuning machines will withstand initial wear and tear while holding its tune over time. Lastly, listening to the different tonal qualities and deciding on a sound that resonates with your musical preferences can be just as important as the technical aspects.

Choosing the right beginner electric bass guitar involves a balance of playability, comfort, and sound quality. The right instrument will make learning more enjoyable and encourage constant practice.

Long vs short scale?

The scale length of a bass guitar, which is the distance from the nut to the bridge, typically falls into two main categories: long (34-36 inches) and short (30 inches or less). Short scale basses are often more comfortable for players with smaller hands or those who prefer a more compact instrument. They produce a warmer tone and are easier to play because of the shorter reach required. Long scale basses offer more tension and sustain, which is suitable for genres that demand a punchier, more pronounced bass sound.

Active bass vs passive bass guitar?

Bass guitars come with two types of electronics: active and passive. Passive basses are simpler, offering a warm and vintage sound, and they do not require batteries. With typically just volume and tone controls, they are user-friendly and low maintenance. Active basses, on the other hand, have built-in preamps powered by batteries, providing additional control over your sound with EQ sliders or knobs. They are characterized by a more powerful output and a clearer, punchier tone, which is adaptable to a variety of styles.

What type of wood is best?

Different woods impart different characters and tones to a bass guitar. For beginners, Basswood is a cost-effective yet balanced option. It’s lightweight, which is great for comfort and provides a neutral sound. Mahogany offers a warm, rich tone with plenty of low end, suitable for genres like rock and reggae. If you’re seeking clarity and punch, consider Alder; it’s a popular choice for its balanced, full-bodied sound and is commonly found in versatile basses.

What pickups are best?

Pickups are essentially the microphones of your bass; they hugely influence the sound. Beginners should look for P-J configurations (a split-coil P-bass pickup and a single-coil J-bass pickup) that offer a mix of the warm, round tone of a Precision Bass (P) with the brighter, edgier sound of a Jazz Bass (J). A bass with this setup can accommodate various genres, making it ideal for players still discovering their style. Single-coil pickups, while offering a clear sound, but can be noisy, so humbuckers might be a good alternative for those who value a quieter performance.

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About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

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