Buying one of the best beginner bass guitars has become a much less stressful feat in recent years. The quality and playability of beginner basses is much better and more consistent now than it's ever been - something which is crucially important when first starting out on the bass. There's lots of choice when it comes to buying a beginner bass, so we're here to help you cut through the noise and find the right one for you.
We’ve found some top-rated options from some of the biggest brands including Squier, Epiphone, Yamaha and Harley Benton. From hard-rock monsters to versatile models that will handle whatever you throw at them, in this guide there's something for everyone.
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 link 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab). 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 (opens in new tab), 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
Best beginner bass guitars: Buying advice
What you should know about buying a beginner bass
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.
Who makes the best beginner bass guitars?
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.
Do I need a short or long scale bass?
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.
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