Bass guitars are probably the most underestimated instruments in the music industry, especially since most bass guitar players are quickly classified as regular guitar players, but no one really knows just how essential bass guitars are to any band or music piece.
There are many kinds of bass guitars in the market, such as electric bass, string bass guitars like 5 string bass or four-string bass, jazz bass, string basses, and even vintage-style bass guitars, thanks to modern technology and innovations that lead to the improvement and flexibility of bass guitars.
As a bass guitar player for different bands for 10 years now, I’ve learned that with the massive availability of all kinds of bass guitars, from electric bass guitars to jazz bass guitars, I found that the best bass guitar is still the Fender American Performer Precision Bass that dominates all other bass guitars, vintage style or not.
However, I like the p bass because of its modernized design from the vintage-style precision bass, but the best bass guitar for me is not the best bass guitar for every, as others can have different preferences with their bass guitars, be it a five-string bass, four-string bass guitar, or other string bass guitars.
For that reason, I’ve come up with a list of the 10 best bass guitars in this article and a buying guide listing different factors like price tag to help buyers like you lessen the choices you have to make when buying a bass guitar.
The Best Bass Guitars
- Fender American Performer Precision Bass – Best Overall Bass Guitar
- Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Precision Bass – Best Alternative for Fender Precision Bass
- Yamaha BB435 Bass Guitar – Best Modernized Bass Guitar
- Schecter Stiletto Studio 5 – Best Bass Guitar with 3-band EQ
- Epiphone Thunderbird Vintage PRO -Best Rock-n-Roll Bass Guitar
- Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass – Best Jazz Bass Guitar
- Ibanez TMB35 Bass Guitar – Best Bass Guitar Under 300 USD
- Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay Special – Best Bass Under 500 USD
- Fender Special Edition Mustang PJ Bass – Best Short-Scale Bass Guitar
- G&L Tribute L-2000 Bass Guitar – Best Long-Scale Bass Under 800 USD
The Precision Bass by Fender American Performer is the best electric bass guitar with a classic vibe, as it is a modern remodeling (for lack of a better word) of the vintage Precision Bass, giving you a high-quality bass sound thanks to the incorporated modern technology.
The Precision Bass by Fender American is a four-string jazz bass that comes with a maple neck and an alder body, keeping the entire jazz bass guitar lightweight, yet still completely durable and capable of giving quality bass.
Fender retained the design of the classic P bass with its C-shaped neck joint to keep the precision bass comfortable among many things, which is why it is a top pick among the best bass guitars for beginners.
Your skills will shine and never go wrong with the Fender jazz bass and p bass pickup (or precision bass pickup) that both allow for a versatile pickup configuration, maintaining both the fat punchy sound of a precision bass single-coil pickup and the growl of a jazz bass pickup for any setting to play in.
However, you may find that the P bass can be difficult to tune to modern music, as it was really designed for jazz bass, but it shouldn’t be a problem if you dedicate the time to really figure the instrument out and adjust it to your play style.
- P bass body is designed for comfort and style
- Versatile p bass pickup and jazz bass pickup
- Maple neck and alder design maintains durability while lessening weight
- C-shaped neck joint for comfort
- Can take time to suit modern music style
The Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Precision Bass is another one of the best bass guitars due to its great capability to closely resemble the design and sound of the original Fender P bass, making it a good alternative to the original.
The body shape of the Classic Vibe ’60s Precision Bass obviously resembles the C-shaped neck joint of the original P bass, but is made from different materials like a poplar body, maple neck, and Indian laurel fingerboard.
The volume and tone of the Fender deluxe original are also almost perfectly duplicated using a split single-coil pickup, though it doesn’t really capture the full sound of the original Fender P bass because it lacks the versatile P/J bass pickup.
The four-string jazz bass guitar was designed to closely resemble the original Fender guitar architecture to maintain comfortability while playing, such as giving enough space for your hands at the neck joint.
As mentioned, the body and neck of the bass guitar are made of different materials from the original Fender string bass guitar, so the durability and weight of the Classic Vibe ’60s Precision Bass are clearly going to be far from close to the original Fender.
- Four-string bass guitar
- Closely resembles the sound of the original Fender jazz bass
- Poplar body and maple neck
- Split single-coil pickup
- Durability and weight are widely different from the original Fender jazz bass
The Yamaha BB435 is a 5-string bass guitar that is another modern take by class bass guitar manufacturers, making a more affordable version of the powerful original, the BB bass by Yamaha.
The scale length of the BB435 is 34 inches – similar to the modernized Fender P bass – making it a long-scale bass to give you a higher tone, and a generally lighter and calmer sound.
Yamaha took into careful consideration the design of the alder body of the BB435, making it easily fit into the contours of any player’s body easily, so you don’t have to bend and reach awkwardly when playing while sitting down.
The P/J pickup technology of the BB435 is one of the best single-coil pickups, the Yamaha YGD Custom V5 Alnico V single-coil pickup, making for a very versatile and intuitive design, which is why it is one of the best bass guitars for beginners.
Despite all the great features of the BB435, nitpickers might be annoyed at the white lines on the grain that doesn’t come off, otherwise, the 5-string bass guitar has fat and rich tone that outweighs such a minor detail.
- Scale length is 34 inches
- Comfortable design for great ergonomics
- Comes with Yamaha YGD Custom V5 Alnico V pickups
- A modern version of the BB bass
- White lines that stay on the grain don’t come off
The Schecter Stiletto Studio 5 is a five-string bass guitar that is made for bassists who prefer lighter tones to match different bass styles, with a bonus design of a beautiful satin finish to please the eyes of many.
The scale length of the Shecter Stiletto Studio 5 is 35 inches, which is longer than the Schecter Stiletto Extreme 4 but similar to the Schecter Stiletto Extreme 5, also making it longer than the Fender P bass to give an even higher and lighter sound.
Schecter Stiletto Studio 5 also comes with a 3-band EQ, which helps you come up with almost any bass tone to easily match the adjustments in your playstyle on the go, paired with a beautiful honey satin finish to please not only your eyes but also your audience’s.
The 3-band EQ of the Stiletto Studio 5 has been carefully designed to give you ease in adjusting the frequencies, but you might have some trouble when it comes to adjusting it to your amplifier, so give it a test run before you actually play on-stage to have it adjusted properly
- Beautiful honey satin finish
- 3-band EQ for easy adjustment of tones
- 35-inch scale for lighter tones
- Mahogany body, maple neck, and rosewood fretboard
- Takes some time adjusting to amplifiers
The Epiphone Thunderbird Vintage PRO is one of the best among the four-string rock-and-roll bass guitars along with the Epiphone Eb, coming in a mahogany body, mahogany and walnut neck, and iconic design that separates it from the modernized Epiphone Eb.
Epiphone Thunderbird Vintage PRO belongs to the list of best bass guitars thanks to its unique old-school look and great sound, improving upon the volume and tone of the classic ’60s Epiphone Thunderbird.
The Epiphone Thunderbird comes with ProBucker 760TM humbucking pickups, which are basically split-coil pickups that can be rewired to be single-coil pickups, or maintained as split-coil pickups to maintain that wonderful sound from the ’60s classic.
Design-wise, the Epiphone Thunderbird may not be the best for those looking to play ergonomically, as the body shape is very unique and doesn’t easily match up to the normal curvature of your body, which may be a problem if you prefer to play while sitting down.
- 34-inch scale
- Body and neck are mahogany and walnut
- Comes with ProBucker 760TM humbucking pickups
- Good for rock-and-roll bass
- Curves like the neck joint are not made for comfort
Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass earns the title “best jazz bass guitar” due to its high-performance capability in a lightweight and uniquely-style body, essentially helping you achieve your best performance at jazz bass.
Aerodyne Jazz Bass is built with a basswood body, a maple neck, and a rosewood fretboard line with chrome hardware to give the ultimate jazz bass sound in an extremely unique architecture.
The Aerodyne Jazz Bass is a Fender deluxe bass guitar suited only for those who can bring out its full potential, especially when it comes with a split-coil pickup and single-coil jazz in chrome hardware to produce ultra-rich sound and versatility.
The best bass guitars always come in a carefully thought-of design, meant to easily adapt to the natural curves of your body, such as a wonderfully curved neck joint to help you get deeper into the fretboard for unique jazz bass sounds.
However, you might find that the natural hum in jazz bass guitars can be extremely prominent in the Aerodyne Jazz Bass, which is expected, but you can always “edit” the guitar to your liking if you want to get rid of the hum.
- Comes with P/J bass pickups
- Lightweight body
- Carefully designed for great ergonomics
- High-performance capability
- The humming sound is extremely prominent
The TMB35 Bass Guitar by Ibanez is one of the cheaper, yet still great-sounding bass guitars in the market, as it has two different bass pickups, a great build, and a wonderful design that helps you play comfortably.
The P/J bass pickup that comes on the TMB35 is Talman’s Dynamix P and J pickups, with the Dynamix P Split Single-coil pickup being the neck pickup, and the Dynamix J style single-coil pickup controlling the bridge.
It comes in a poplar body with curves on the body shape that help the guitar sit comfortably on on your lap, around your upper body, and for your fingers near the neck joint when you play it, as well as a maple neck and a jatoba fretboard for easy and durable playability.
However, the maple neck of the guitar can be very heavy, which makes the TMB35 quite tiring to play, so you might want to take breaks every few minutes after playing.
- Poplar body and maple neck
- Comes with Dynamix P and J pickups
- 30-inch scale length for a warmer tone
- Good sound for under 300 USD
- Maple neck can be heavy
The Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay Special is a four-string short-scale bass that comes with very easy playability and amazing sound, looking very much like a class bass equipped with all the modern tech.
The scale length of the Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay Special is 30 inches, making the distance between each fret much smaller than normal and the tone much warmer and fatter, all of which suit a jazz bass playstyle.
The StingRay Special comes equipped with the Sterling by Music Man humbucker, allowing the bass to have a higher output, a passive boost, and a rotary pickup selector.
However, there are some design failures that may upset you if you consider every tiny detail like craftsmanship, but even if the craftsmanship of the bass is not an A-lister, it still creates good sound, which is the purpose of the bass.
- 30 inches short-scale bass
- Mahogany body
- Equipped with Sterling by Music Man humbucker
- Classic design
- Craftsmanship is not great
Fender designed the Special Edition Mustang PJ Bass to have a small and compact body, giving the perfect ratio between the body and the scale length for players – especially those with small hands – to play easily, as most short-scale basses are not designed to match the body and scale.
The duet of the P and J pickups gives a highly flexible and clear-sounding combination to pump out only the best, dynamic, and intense tone.
- Comes with P/J pickups
- Small, compact, and lightweight body
- Best short-scale bass
- Fatter and warmer tone
- Is not an all-vintage bass
The G&L Tribute L-2000 is a long-scale bass made of durable and easily playable material, made exactly for players who look for flexibility and limitless tone in their bass.
G&L has incorporated Magnetic Field Design humbuckers to the Tribute L-2000, which are patented G&L pickups that allow you to adjust pole pieces attached to a ceramic bar magnet to give you total control of your tone.
The Tri-Tone control system by G&L also offers even greater flexibility for you, as it gives near-unlimited tone control options like choosing pickups, switchable signal routing options, and more!
You do have to note that the Tribute L-2000 by G&L is made for higher-gauged strings to achieve a deeper tone, as you will get a buzz in the frets if you switch the strings with a lighter gauge.
- Swamp ash body, hard rock maple neck, Brazilian cherry fretboard
- Designed for comfort and aesthetic
- Magnetic Field Design pickups
- Tri-Tone control system
- Works best only with heavy-gauged strings
One can say that there are too many choices in the bass guitar market, which is why I’ve come up with a buying guide to list down the important factors you need to consider before purchasing your very own guitar.
The most obvious thing you have to consider when buying a bass is its price tag, as you have to choose one that is well within your considerable price range so you still have some spare to buy additional gear and the like.
Never go with a bass guitar whose price tag is greater than your own price range to avoid getting in debt and regretting your purchase, as playing the bass should be something you truly enjoy.
Woodwork and the materials used in a bass are very important, as they determine not only the durability and quality of a guitar, but the sound it produces as well.
There are many kinds of materials used in bass bodies, like an alder body, ashwood body, and even a maple and mahogany body!
Take into careful consideration which body works best for your and your playstyle, as it can highly influence the tone, sound, and volume of your bass.
Bass guitars can come with different-numbered strings, as you can have a five-string bass, four-string basses, or even six-string basses.
Choose a bass with the number of strings that works well for your playstyle, as that can help you achieve more tone or pitches depending on the genre of songs you play.
While short-scale basses are making a new trend in the world of bass guitars, long-scale basses are still very useful and great-sounding in certain genres, which is why it is another factor you should consider when buying yourself a bass guitar.
Are short-scale basses better than long-scale bass guitars?
In some genres, short-scale bass guitars are better than long-scale bass guitars, as they can produce a deeper and warmer tone that suits the style of the music, but long-scale bass guitars are still good because they are made for their own genre.
Does the material and finish of a bass guitar matter?
While the material of a bass guitar matters largely, the finish doesn’t really matter, as the finish is only added for aesthetic purposes unless they are engineered to help your bass guitar give a better sound.
For me, the best bass guitar is truly the cult class Fender American Performer Precision Bass, as it gives good sound thanks to its incorporated modern sound engineering, while still keeping that iconic ’60s bass design.
Yet, there are still other bass guitars that can do almost as well as the best bass guitar, so take your pick and carefully consider the factors when it comes to viewing each and every product!