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Best beginner bass guitars 2021: Slam dunk the funk for less with these 8 epic beginner basses

Best beginner bass guitars 2021: Slam dunk the funk for less with these 8 epic beginner basses
(Image credit: Future)

Bass guitars have come a long way in a few short years, meaning there’s more choice than ever when buying one of the best beginner bass guitars. Although vocalists and guitarists steal most of the limelight, true musicians know that without a solid bass underpinning everything else, your tunes would sound weak, and probably fall to pieces. 

In this guide we’ll talk you through what you should be looking out for when choosing your first bass, as well as the best beginner bass guitar brands to make a beeline for. 

We’ve found some top-rated options from brands including Squier, Epiphone and Yamaha. From riff-ready metal machines to versatile models that will handle whatever you throw at them, we’ve got something for everyone here.

So if you’re new to the instrument, and you want something a little more newcomer-friendly than the world’s very best bass guitars, then you’re in the right place here with our guide to this year’s top-rated beginner’s bass guitars. 

We've included some expert buying advice at the end of this guide - so click the 'buying advice' tab above if that's what you're after. If you'd rather get straight to the products, then keep scrolling.

What is the best beginner bass guitar?

It's pretty tough to pick out just one specific model as 'the best' beginner bass, as there are so many options available. After much deliberation though, the Squier Affinity Precision comes in at number one - as when you take into account the pedigree, versatility, looks and playability of the Precision, it's hard to argue against. 

Bass newcomers looking to invest in something that’s a little more high quality would do well to check out the Sterling Stingray Ray4. This beginner bass offers exceptional build quality and superb tones for the money.

We've got to also give a shout out also to the Squier Bronco, which we’d recommend as the best beginner bass guitar for younger players or those with small hands.

Best beginner bass guitars: Product guide

Best beginner bass guitars: Squier Affinity Precision

(Image credit: Fender )

1. Squier Affinity Precision

The best beginner bass guitar for classic style and tone

Specifications
Launch price: $229/£199/€228
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
Pickups: 1 x split-coil, 1 x Jazz
Finishes: Black, Olympic White, Race Red
Reasons to buy
+Looks as great as they ever did+Great colour options+Comes with free online bass lessons trial
Reasons to avoid
-You might want something less obvious 

In the guitar world there is the Stratocaster, and in the bass world we have the famous Precision or ‘P’ bass. The Squier Affinity Precision is the entry-level model, yet still features enough quality and a broad enough tonal palette to make this a serious instrument in its own right. 

We like the 2020/21 colour options, including the decision to offer a black pickguard on each, making these beginner bass guitars a far cry from the more basic options of the past. Whichever style of music you play, the Squier Affinity Precision will get you started on the right foot. 

Best beginner bass guitars: Sterling by Music Man Stingray Ray4

(Image credit: Music Man )

2. Sterling by Music Man Stingray Ray4

A serious beginner’s bass for the committed learner

Specifications
Launch price: $299/£299/€369
Body: Basswood
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Rosewood or Maple
Pickups: 1 x humbucker
Finishes: Walnut stain, Satin transparent black, Satin transparent blue, Vintage cream, Ruby red burst
Reasons to buy
+Active electronics for a strong sound+Classic looks+Huge brand pedigree  
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive than the others 

If you’re just dabbling in the bass, and maybe looking for a cheap and cheerful model to toy around with, then the Sterling Stingray Ray4 probably isn’t for you. If, however, you’re looking for a good quality, reliable instrument that will grow with you as you develop, the Sterling by Music Man Stingray Ray4 might just be the best beginner’s bass guitar for you. 

It boasts active electronics which, essentially, give you more options to shape your tone when amplified. This makes the Stingray Ray4 ideal for beginners looking to join a band or perform, as you can be sure you’ll have a superb, commanding tone wherever you might be playing. 

Best beginner bass guitars: Squier Bronco Bass

(Image credit: Fender)

3. Squier Bronco Bass

Slim and short-scale, this is the best beginner’s bass guitar overall

Specifications
Launch price: $199/£179/€179
Body: Poplar
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Maple
Pickups: 1 x single coil
Finishes: Black, Torino Red
Reasons to buy
+Very affordable +Comfortable to play+Choice of finishes  
Reasons to avoid
-Not that versatile tonally 

Squier is one of the first names people look to when they’re learning guitar or bass, and for good reason. As a licenced sister brand to Fender, each of the models in the Squier range delivers a classic Fender playing experience but at a price that makes it accessible to the masses. 

The Squier Bronco is the best beginner’s bass guitar you’ll find, as it comes in a slightly shorter scale length which is ideal for younger learners. The tone and general build quality is also as good as we’ve come to expect from the brand, so for the low price there really isn’t anything much to complain about here.

Best beginner bass guitars: Yamaha TRBX174EW

(Image credit: Yamaha )

4. Yamaha TRBX174EW

The best beginner bass guitar that you can grow into

Specifications
Launch price: $249/£199/€239
Body: Mahogany
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Pickups: 1 x single coil, 1 x split coil
Finishes: Tobacco Brown Sunburst, Trans Black, Root Beer
Reasons to buy
+Superb build+Choice of tones+Great for home practice too 
Reasons to avoid
-Cheap-looking control knobs 

Yamaha makes some of the world’s best electric guitars for beginners, so it’s only natural that it also has a great selection of top beginner bass guitars in and around the sub-$/£200 mark, but here we’ve opted for the Yamaha TRBX174EW. While the name itself may be instantly forgettable, the bass itself is anything but thanks to the choice of tones on offer. These come courtesy of its two pickup options and the overall high level of build quality and reliability you get from Yamaha. 

The Yamaha TRBX174EW comes in three understated finishes, and finds that neat balance between being a bass you can learn on yet won’t outgrow in a hurry. A solid investment in your short to mid-term playing journey.

Best beginner bass guitars: Squier Affinity Jazz

(Image credit: Fender )

5. Squier Affinity Jazz Bass

The best beginner bass guitar for powerful tone

Specifications
Launch price: $229/£199/€225
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
Pickups: 2 x single coil
Finishes: Slick Silver, Race Red, Black, Brown Sunburst
Reasons to buy
+Huge tone+Easy to play sat down+Good range of finishes  
Reasons to avoid
-You’ll need a stand to store it safely 

As arguably the second-most famous bass style in the world, the Squier Affinity Jazz offers a nice alternative to anyone set on a Fender-style but who isn’t drawn to the P-bass. The Jazz models are more ergonomic, making for a more comfortable playing experience while sat down, yet these ideal beginner bass guitars are still capable of some impressive heft from those two single-coil pickups. 

The only downside of the body shape is that you’ll need a good stand to store it – trust us – but there’s a lot to love about the Jazz bass. Play one and you’ll see why so many players are drawn to it. 

Best beginner bass guitars: Ibanez Gio GSR200

(Image credit: Ibanez)

6. Ibanez Gio GSR200

The best beginner’s bass guitar for rock and metal styles

Specifications
Launch price: $249/£199/€239
Body: Mahogany with spalted maple top
Neck: Spalted maple
Fingerboard: Jatoba
Pickups: 1 x single coil, 1 x split coil
Finishes: Spalted maple gray burst, Black, Jewel blue, Pearl white, Spalted maple charcoal brown burst, Transparent red, Walnut flat
Reasons to buy
+Loads of colourways +Comfortable neck +Built for speed 
Reasons to avoid
-Non-metallers, look elsewhere 

Ibanez is the go-to brand for many rock and metal players. These basses are made for fast, tight playing, and the Ibanez Gio GSR200 line is the perfect example of why. It features that trademark, lithe neck, ideal for moving up and down the fretboard as your speed develops. We also like the onboard electronics that provide an active bass boost for even more sonic mayhem. 

There are plenty of different finish options on offer, including some with a gorgeous spalted maple top which shows off the incredible graining of the wood underneath. If you’re after a beginner bass guitar that can handle metal and rock and not think twice, this is the best option for you. We’d also recommend checking out our guide to the best metal guitars of all time if you play guitar too.

Best beginner bass guitars: Epiphone EB-0 beginner bass guitar

(Image credit: Epiphone )

7. Epiphone EB-0 beginner bass guitar

This stylish, short-scale bass would suit fans of sixties rock

Specifications
Launch price: $269/£249/€255
Body: Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Pickups: 1 x humbucker
Finishes: Cherry
Reasons to buy
+Ideal for younger players+Rich, warm sound +Classic body outline 
Reasons to avoid
-Can sound muddy at higher volume 

The Epiphone EB-0 was the first electric bass ever produced by the company, and they must have got something right because it went on to become used by some of the biggest artists in the 1960s. The EB-0 is a slightly shorter-scale than standard, allowing for faster playing and a more welcoming experience for beginner bass guitar players. 

When plugged in, the EB-0 is as rich and warm as you’d hope, although we found the neck pickup did make things start to sound a bit muddy when more volume or gain was employed. It’s a small criticism though, and overall the Epiphone EB0 is an easy recommendation thanks to its huge playability and cool vintage looks. 

Best beginner bass guitars: Jackson Concert JS3

(Image credit: Jackson )

8. Jackson Concert JS3

The best beginner bass guitar for budding thrashers

Specifications
Launch price: $299/£299/€379
Body: Poplar
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Amaranth
Pickups: 2 x high-output humbuckers
Finishes: Metallic blue
Reasons to buy
+Neck plays like a dream+Great tone-shaping tools +Active onboard electronics 
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most versatile 

Jackson is another name which is well-known in rock and metal circles, and has carved itself a nice niche in this world thanks to a range of instruments designed to encourage speed and precision. The Jackson Concert JS3 is almost the perfect guitar for fans of thrash metal, with its wafer-thin neck and active onboard electronics providing the perfect platform to support all manner of riffs.

While there are extra controls on the body to help shape your ideal tone, we would advise perhaps looking elsewhere for folk or pop styles. For metalheads, however, there aren’t many better options out there at this price. 

Best beginner bass guitars: Buying advice

Best beginner bass guitars: Man playing bass against purple background

(Image credit: Future)

When shopping at the entry level price point, you’ll find that the majority of shapes and styles available are familiar, which echo the instruments used by professionals but use lesser-quality components. Now, you may be put off by this - but don’t be. We all have to start somewhere and the fact is that, with modern manufacturing standards the way they are, you’ll struggle to find a poor instrument or one that will fall apart after a year. A lot of beginner-friendly bass guitars are capable of putting up with the rigours of honing your craft, from bedroom practice to light gigging.

When you’re looking for your first bass guitar to learn on, there are a few key things you should look out for. The big brands in the beginner’s bass guitar world include Squier, Yamaha and Ibanez. Each of these is well-known among guitarists, including those searching for the best acoustic guitars, and their bass offerings match those high standards of build quality, tone and playability. While each individual will have their own requirements, be that to fit a certain style of music or budget, so it pays to do your research beforehand. 

Some models, such as the Squier Bronco, offer a slightly shorter scale length to encourage younger players onto the instrument, but you might find you outgrow these quickly. Alternatively, you might want to go all-in at the start, and choose a full-sized model. If you’re coming from the guitar, or have never played a bass before, we should warn you that standard basses are not small instruments. Their longer necks and thicker strings make for a completely different playing experience to a regular guitar, so you’ll have to adjust your technique accordingly. 

It’s important to remember that it needs to be fun, first and foremost. Get something that feels comfortable to play and makes you happy when you play it, and the rest will follow.

Chris Corfield

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar gear and synths, to microphones and music production hardware.