Best Bass Guitar for Starters

Best Bass Guitar for Starters

Bass is an awesome way to start learning music, so you’ve come to the right place to begin your instrumental journey.

Lucky for you, there’s a big selection of starter basses out there, and we’ve chosen the top 5 best bass guitars for beginners to give you a head start toward musical mastery.

Our Recommendation

Unless you’re buying for a kid or have very small hands, the Raptor EB38 wouldn’t be my first choice. It’s simply too small to give you a real bass playing experience.

Totally opposite of this, the Squier by Fender Affinity Series Precision Bass Pack comes completely ready to rock.

With this pack, you can jump right into tackling the bass guitar in your beginning days.

Top 5 Starter Bass Guitars in 2020 – Overview

#5 Raptor EB38CO-TS 3/4 Size Kids Junior 4 String Electric P Bass Package

Specs

  • Body – Basswood
  • Neck – Maple
  • Fingerboard – Rosewood
  • Electronics – P-style split-coil pickup

Pros

  • Inexpensive players pack with amp and accessories
  • Small size great for kids or small hands
  • Battery-powered amp for playing on the go

Cons

  • Smaller than a guitar; doesn’t feel like a bass

Review

Construction

Raptor is one of hundreds of little-known budget instrument makers, and there’s really not a lot of info available about their construction process.

What I do know is that this little 3/4-size bass guitar is made with the usual basswood body and maple neck.

I was shocked to see it has a rosewood fretboard, which is pretty unusual on basses at this price.

Like many affordable guitars, the tuning machines on this EB38 bass don’t hold pitch very well, but they’ll get you through a few songs before needing a tweak.

Sound

Since it’s such a small bass, it doesn’t have a lot of the same low-end power of full-size models.

It’s definitely more twangy than the average bass, but the EB38 does have a decent amount of punch thanks to the split-coil pickup.

The package you get includes the basic gear you need to get jamming – even a battery-powered 5-watt amp.

Of course, 5 watts isn’t going to blow the roof off a club, but it’s awesome for bedroom practice (especially if you’re buying this for your kid).

Playability

I gotta say, this is the smallest bass I’ve ever seen.

It’s actually an inch shorter than your average electric guitar and hardly feels like a bass at all.

The small neck is fun to jam on, yeah, but you’ll want a larger bass eventually.

Ready for an upgrade? Take a look at our top-rated bass guitars under $300.

I wouldn’t recommend this for most adults unless you have really small hands and just really can’t grapple with a bigger model.

But for young kids, like ages 3-11, there’s no better bass around.

Summary

This combo pack comes at a really great price and is a great way to introduce children to music.

Its low volume will save your ears from the earliest days of practice but is still enough to keep the beat bumping.

#4 Z ZTDM Electric Bass Guitar

Specs

  • Body – Basswood
  • Neck – Maple
  • Fingerboard – Rosewood
  • Electronics – P-style split single-coil pickup

Pros

  • The most affordable starter bass guitar
  • Makes a great project instrument
  • Good wiring for the price

Cons

  • Sharp fret edges can actually cut hands

Review

Construction

This Z ZTDM bass, like most other starter models, combines a lightweight basswood body with a bolt-on maple neck.

I’m not gonna lie – basses at this price point (which is extremely low) are hit-or-miss when it comes to the quality of their build.

It’s in the details where things can need some work:

  • The pickups might be too high.
  • The frets might need ground down.
  • The tuning machines might need to be replaced.

All of these are relatively easy problems to fix. This makes the Z ZTDM bass great if you want to learn some guitar repair skills.

None of these issues are going to make the bass unplayable, but they can be frustrating as you gain more experience.

So if you go with this option, be aware that it might underperform until you put a little elbow grease into it.

Sound

The Z ZTDM is outfitted with a single P-style pickup.

P pickups work a lot like humbuckers although they’re single-coil. So, you should get a pretty full tone without any feedback.

With a single tone knob, you can cut the treble frequencies for a rounder sound more focused on the low-end. Otherwise, keep it dialed back for a balance between all frequencies.

Playability

With a nut that’s slightly more narrow than average, I think the Z ZTDM is perfectly playable.

It’s a full-scale bass guitar with only 20 frets, so you’ll be working on your reach like a bassist should.

One of the major complaints about this model is its sharp frets.

This isn’t uncommon in starter guitars, but they seem extra sharp on this bass. I highly recommend getting this fixed as soon as possible.

Summary

At less than $100, this is an incredibly affordable bass guitar. You even get an instrument cable!

If it turns out not to be the instrument for you, you shouldn’t suffer too much buyer’s regret, but I think chances are you’ll have a great time learning your licks on the Z ZTDM.

#3 Squier by Fender Affinity Series Jazz Bass

Specs

  • Body – Poplar
  • Neck – Maple
  • Fingerboard – Indian laurel
  • Electronics – Dual J-style Standard single-coil pickups

Pros

  • Fender’s premier bass model at an entry-level cost
  • Full, rich tone with lots of punch and power
  • Stable open-gear tuning machines hold pitch as you play

Cons

  • Tone knob does little to cut high frequencies

Review

Construction

The Fender Jazz Bass is one of the most popular models of all time, and Squier’s version lets you get a good idea of why in your very first days of playing.

Though they use poplar for the body rather than the traditional alder or ash and an Indian laurel fretboard instead of rosewood, the Affinity Jazz Bass is still a solid low-end axe.

It outdoes many other basses in this category by giving you high-quality tuning machines that actually do their job.

All in all, this is one of the best builds you can find in a starter bass.

Sound

Holding true to the original, the Squier Jazz Bass is equipped with two single-coil “J” pickups.

Unlike a normal single-coil pickup, these Jazz pups have two pole-pieces for each string.

What this means is that a wider range of overtones is picked up, resulting in a richer, fuller sound.

It’s got plenty of thump and drive, even enough to play a show with in my opinion.

One thing you might notice is that the Tone control doesn’t change too much of your sound, but the volume pots do a fine enough job of blending the pickups for most beginner purposes.

Playability

The Affinity Series Jazz Bass strikes a balance between comfort and speed.

Your fingers will curve smoothly around the 9.5-inch radius fretboard and find movement between the strings easy thanks to the narrow 1.5-inch nut.

The maple neck is formed in the classic and comfortable “C” shape, making walking bass lines a piece and cake up and down the fingerboard.

Summary

Squier’s Jazz Bass is one of my favorite starter instruments.

With a tone big enough to back a band, this is a bass you could even gig or record with once you’ve got your chops down.

#2 Ibanez GSR205BWNF 5 String Walnut Flat Finish Electric Bass with Gig Bag, Stand, Tuner

Specs

  • Body – Poplar/Mahogany/Nyatoh
  • Neck – Maple
  • Fingerboard – Jatoba/Treated New Zealand pine
  • Electronics – Dual Ibanez humbuckers and active Phat II EQ preamp

Pros

  • Reliable construction with high-quality hardware
  • Phat II EQ amplifies your low signals for big bass voice
  • Includes stand, gig bag, and tuner

Cons

  • Unknown tonewood use from model to model

Review

Construction

The Ibanez GSR205B is a difficult bass to pin down because of frequent changes in tonewood choice.

Since its release around 5 years ago, this same model has been manufactured with several different kinds of wood depending on the year and country it was built in.

I can’t say for sure which series you’ll receive, so you could get a poplar, mahogany, or nyatoh body and a fretboard made of jatoba or treated pine.

This isn’t extremely important in an electric bass, though it’s obviously better to get a high-quality mahogany guitar rather than a cheaper poplar.

I wish I could do better than this for you, but the exact composition remains a mystery.

Sound

Regardless of the tonewood choice, you can expect a strong, prominent voice from the GSR205B.

Nyatoh and mahogany are both similar in their warm, dark sounds, while poplar is a bit brighter but still plenty resonant.

Fender does a great job explaining the tonewood differences here.

The main factor affecting your tone here though is the pickups. In this Ibanez 5-string, you get two powerful humbuckers.

These drive your tone with force, giving you a deep, powerful sound that’s great for heavier genres.

You can kick on the Phat II EQ preamp for added bass boom or roll it off when you want your highs to cut through the mix.

Playability

Like all Ibanez instruments, the GSR205B plays fast thanks to its thin, narrow neck.

Whether you get a jatoba or New Zealand pine fingerboard, the response is the same – articulate, responsive, and smooth.

With smooth, deep cutaways, you can easily shred all the way up to the 22nd fret on all 5 strings.

Summary

This is the most inexpensive, yet highest quality, 5-string bass around.

As a bonus, you also get a stand, a gig bag, and a tuner – all essential starter accessories.

That low B string and dual humbucker combo make Ibanez’s GSR205B a beginner bass built to rock.

A prime choice for metal or hard rock, you’ll boost any band’s signal with this killer bass guitar.

#1 Squier by Fender Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ Beginner Pack

Specs

  • Body – Poplar
  • Neck – Maple
  • Fingerboard – Indian laurel
  • Electronics – Middle: Standard Split Single-coil Precision Bass pickup; Bridge: Standard Single-coil Jazz Bass pickup

Pros

  • Starter pack has all you need to get grooving
  • Includes free 3-month trial to Fender Play online lessons
  • Versatile tonal voicings from P/J pickup combo

Cons

  • Frets need to be ground down

Review

Construction

Another hit from Fender’s Squier, the Affinity Series Precision Bass Beginner Pack comes with all the gear you need to plug in and jam.

You get the P/J Precision Bass made from poplar, maple, and Indian laurel – the typical tonewood combo in Squier basses.

This is put together in standard Squier fashion.

So while the bulk of the build is solid, the tuning machines could use an upgrade.

The amp in this bundle is a sweet little 15-watt Rumble with an 8-inch speaker. It’s not big enough for gigging, but it’ll let your low notes roll clear for perfect practice sessions.

Sound

Two single-coil pickups, one split-coil and one standard, pump up this bass’ voice.

Each is controlled by its own volume knob, while a master tone lets you emphasize highs or lows to your liking.

You can use this bass in jazz, blues, rock, funk – the possibilities are endless.

The Rumble amplifier is complete with 3-band EQ for further tone shaping. It leaves a little to be desired in overall clarity and presence, but it’s by far good enough for beginners.

Playability

The Precision Bass has a wider neck than the Jazz Bass but is still comfortable to play.

It uses the same “C” neck shape and fingerboard radius, providing a good base for your thumb and effortless access to each string.

The Indian laurel fingerboard feels and plays quite similar to rosewood so you can move all over the neck with ease.

There might be a few sharp fret edges to contend with, but nothing like on some cheaper models.

Summary

With one of the highest quality beginner basses available, a gig bag, cable, and amplifier, the Squier by Fender Affinity Series Precision Bass Pack is my top recommendation for new players.

With 3-months’ free access to online lessons through Fender Play, this bundle provides everything you need to learn the bass guitar.

Buyer’s Guide

What Can You Expect in a Beginner Bass Guitar?

To tell you what to expect in a beginner bass guitar, we first need to define what a beginner bass is.

I would generally call a beginner bass a lower-cost model that emphasizes easy playability while still giving you plenty of beefy bass tone.

They have comfortable necks – often with shorter scale lengths – and typically feature simple tone controls so you can focus more on technique twisting knobs.

You won’t find many with high-quality body woods like mahogany, alder, or ash.

Instead, beginner basses are usually made with basswood or poplar, keeping production costs low.

I usually recommend beginners spend no more than a few hundred dollars on their first instrument, just in case you decide playing bass might not be for you.

You can see our full list of the best budget basses in this review. [INSERT BUDGET BASSES LINK]

Regardless of their low prices, these are all 100% functioning basses that you can learn every bass guitar technique on just as well as you could a multi-thousand dollar Fender.

Can I Teach Myself Bass Guitar?

The real question here is: Can you teach yourself?

Everyone learns things in different ways and at different paces.

Whether or not you can teach yourself bass depends on how well you learn things independently in the first place.

Fortunately for you, there are tons of free online resources to help you along the way.

You can learn from tabs, videos, blogs, books, and more.

Now, is this really teaching yourself? I’d say sure.

Unless you have an actual person in the room with you who can point out your mistakes, you’re pretty much on your own.

It’s really important in this case to learn proper technique and posture right from the start. If you get into the habit of poor form, it can be super tough to break.

This is where a teacher is really great.

If you do get stuck, an experienced player can give you bass guitar pro tips to help get you over the hump.

Plus, a great teacher should always be pushing you to outperform yourself.

Learning on your own, you might hit a plateau and stay there for a long time.

My advice? Get a bass and see what you can learn without formal lessons.

You might surprise yourself!

And if you find that it’s just not something you can do on your own, there’s nothing stopping you from finding a trainer later down the road.

What’s the Best Bass Guitar for Beginners?

The best bass guitar for beginners changes from player to player.

What you really want to know is, what’s the best bass guitar for YOU?

For example, if you’re a metalhead and want to rip through some thrash, a 5 string bass with humbuckers might be your top choice.

If you want the funk like Bootsy Collins, a more traditional Jazz-style bass with dual single-coil pickups could be your best bet.

You might have no idea what style you want to play, in which case a bass with both P- and J-style pickups is gonna give the versatility you need.

Small hands? Short-scale options are better.

Fat fingers? Flat fretboard basses will help you shred.

See what I mean? There’s no one-size-fits-all best starter bass guitar.

The best thing you can do is go play a variety of different models, but that’s not always possible (especially during a global pandemic).

Otherwise, listen to recordings of the basses you might want. See what people say about the playability.

And try your best to match up your musical aspirations with the tone and performance of the bass you buy.

Is It Hard to Learn to Play Bass Guitar?

Like with any instrument, this depends on how far you want to take it.

Is it hard to play the opening riff of “Smoke on the Water?” Not a bit.

Is it hard to play the 8-minute bass solos Billy Sheehan shredded in Mr. Big? Well, yeah.

Bass has its own special set of techniques and tricks. Just because it’s got fewer strings than a guitar (usually), doesn’t mean it’s easier to master.

The Final Word

The bass is a vital instrument in almost every popular genre today and a great choice of starter guitar.

With the best bass guitar for beginners, you can start learning what it takes to be the backbone of a band and be on your way to fame in no time.

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