Want to pick up a decent bass to start your low-end journey without spending a ton of cash? Then you’ll want to get yourself one of the best beginner bass guitars. Luckily, the selection on offer has never been better than it is today, with some great quality bass guitars available for less than you might think.
If you’re just starting out then, you might not want to spend too much on a musical instrument. Opting for one of the best beginner bass guitars will ensure that you get something that’s of a decent quality, is primarily (but not solely) aimed at players towards the start of their musical journey and doesn’t require you to spend too much. We know that you need to get to grips with the basics of the instrument when you’re just starting out, and all of our picks of the best beginner bass guitars will help you do just that.
Some of the best beginner basses might also suit more advanced players too. If you’re gigging regularly and you’d like a back-up to your prized American-made bass, then some of these make for quality, affordable plan B options that you can rely on when you need to.
Whether you’re looking to play rock, jazz, blues, metal, funk or anything else, our selection of the best beginner bass guitars covers all genres, musical styles and budgets.
What is the best beginner bass guitar?
There’s a lot to consider when trying to pin down the very best beginner bass guitar, but the Squier Affinity Precision does score very highly. It’s a classic model, made even more versatile with the addition of a Jazz pickup. It’s versatile, sounds good, looks great and comes in at a very reasonable price.
If you’ve got a little bit more to spend, then the Sterling by Music Man Sub Ray 4 is a great choice - it’s made to a really good standard and gives you a lot of the low-end power and rumble that you’d hear with the high-end American made models.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Harley Benton is one of the fastest-growing brands in the industry when it comes to beginner and budget-friendly electric guitars and basses. It’s the in-house brand of Thomann - a huge retailer with a great reputation - and its product catalogue continues to grow at an exceptional rate. The RB-414 - which is very obviously modelled off a certain iconic brand which rhymes with ‘Chickenbacker’ - is one of Harley Benton’s more recent additions.
A mahogany body and neck are not often seen on a bass guitar from this price bracket, so the fact that the RB-414 has both is a pleasant surprise. This combination, along with the Amaranth fingerboard, provides that gutsy, rich growl that is commonly associated with this style of bass guitar. If you’re a fan of the late Lemmy Kilminster, you’ll be all too aware of that tone - and this bass does get most of the way there.
That’s largely down to the pickups onboard. In the neck position you’ve got an Artec mini humbucker for either some warm cleans or creamy distorted tones, and the bridge single coil will provide you with plenty of brightness, for when you want to punch your way through the mix of any track.
Read the full Harley Benton JB-75 and RB-414BK review
This short-scale offering from Gretsch offers beginners and more seasoned bassists alike a variety of punchy low-end tones. You’ve got a pair of single coil pickups that can be used individually or together via the three-way pickup selector. Go from warm, thick and mellow sounds in the neck position to bright with a strong attack in the bridge position.
Gretsch guitars and basses have been used to play rock and roll, country, blues, indie and loads more, and from looking at the G2220, it’s easy to see why. It’s a versatile instrument and, as well as offering some amazing tones, it also looks superb. A single cutaway in the body means it’s easy to access the highest notes on the fretboard, and a comfortable neck profile makes for a pleasant playing experience for anyone.
Read our full Gretsch G2220 Electromatic Junior Jet Bass II review
Best beginner bass guitars: Buying advice
What you should know about buying a beginner bass
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So, how do you find the best beginner bass guitar for you? There are a few considerations to make that will help you pick the one that’s going to deliver everything you need it to.
You might notice that many of the best beginner bass guitars are based on old classic models. These more budget versions will be made using cheaper hardware, wood and pickups. That’s to be expected though and to be honest, for those just starting out, the difference in cost doesn’t necessarily justify the difference you’d feel or hear.
Models like the Jazz and Precision bass have been around for decades and have been used by an enormously wide range of players. So if you’re looking for something tried and tested, then going down this route could be worthwhile. Alternatively, there are newer designs even at the more affordable end of things that can help lend a fresher sound and look to your new bass.
Who makes the best beginner bass guitars?
The best beginner bass guitars are made by a variety of different brands. Well-known companies like Fender and Ernie Ball are used by professional musicians all around the world and, luckily for us, they also have sister companies – Squier and Sterling respectively – that produce quality versions of their well-known models at a much lower price. Other brands such as Yamaha, Ibanez and Gretsch are incredibly well known in the guitar and bass world and also offer some great options.
Do I need a short or long scale bass?
The scale length (that is the length of the string from the bridge at the bottom of the body to the nut at the top of the neck) is also something to think about when looking for the best beginner bass guitar.
A short-scale bass usually has a scale length of 30” and a long scale is usually 34”. Short-scale basses can be great for younger players as the necks are a little smaller (it’s worth remembering that full-size basses can be quite a bit bigger than guitars). So, for players with smaller arms or a smaller handspan, there’s less stretching. Guitar players moving over to bass might also feel a little more at home with a short-scale bass.
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What pickups are best?
The pickups are another key consideration when looking for the best beginner bass guitar, as these are the tonal generators at the heart of the instrument. Generally speaking there are two main categories of pickup - single coil and humbucker.
Single coil pickups are found on a lot of traditional models and tend to have a slightly lower output, meaning they’ll retain a clean sound for longer.
Humbuckers are usually touted as sounding bigger, thicker, with a hotter output. What’s right for you boils down to personal preference, but those interested in playing heavier music might be tempted by humbucker pickups.
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