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New at Bass, how do i pick an Instrument

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bass_Dumb, Apr 21, 2004.

  1. Bass_Dumb


    Apr 21, 2004
    Columbus, Ohio
    thanks in advance....

    i'm in a band and am currently moving from singer and rythm guitar to singer and bassist.

    right now i'm playing on other people's stuff:
    a low end, beginner ibanez four string
    and a hartke 200 watt head with a 4x10 cab

    now i'm begining the long search for my own gear and sound...

    where do i begin in finding the correct bass for the sound i want, and cabnet as well.. do i look for a 5 or 6 string since i'm family with the guitar?

    any suggestions, or gear you use in your band

    my band is a basic three piece, bass, guitar, and drums and we play rock. i just want to lay down a nice smooth rythm, with some punchy lead parts... nothing too fancy.
  2. christle


    Jan 26, 2002
    Winnipeg, MB
    The best thing you could do would be to go and play as many basses of varying configurations at all the store you can find. play with a critical view and let your hands, ears, and heart tell you what you need. Just be open to what you feel.

  3. dabbadon8


    Oct 11, 2003
    You pick an instrument with your fingers or a plectrum.
  4. christle


    Jan 26, 2002
    Winnipeg, MB
    I should also add that because you are a guitartist you should be able judge quality fairly easily. If you have any questions let us know. Lots of help here.

  5. Here are some general guidelines!

    Buying Your First Bass and Amp

    Most importantly I would advise you not to spend too much money on your first bass. Choosing the right bass won’t be easy until after you’ve been playing for a while. Once you have a good year of lessons behind you, you can make wiser choices with your money.


    Bass is a large instrument. It can be played with any size hands, but for most everyone it will require some stretching in the beginning that you are not used to. For beginners, it is a little easier starting on a bass that has a smaller neck. For instance, Ibanez basses have very thin and easy to play necks, where Fender basses have quite large necks. If your hands are smaller, go with the smaller neck. If you have large, meaty hands, go with the bigger necks if you prefer.


    I could go on and on about tonal differences in basses, but in the few hundred dollars range the differences aren't that big. Get a bass that has two pickup configurations. Typically there are P-pickups and J-pickups. They are named after Fender's Precision bass and Jazz bass. The P-pickups look like two offset rectangles - one under each pair of strings. The J-pickups look like a long, thin rectangle. Both have their own sound. Also the placement of the pickups affects the tone. A beginning bass with a P-J setup will give you the most tonal variety.
    Where was it made?

    Most basses are now made in foreign countries. I have taught many beginner students and seen many beginner basses. The poorest quality basses seem to come from China, Mexico, Malaysia and Indonesia. The best quality basses seem to come from the U.S.A., Japan and Korea. This is definitely something you should pay attention to. It is usually clearly marked somewhere on the bass.

    4-String or 5-String?

    For a long time 4-string basses were your only option. Now there are 5- and 6-string basses. The difference is a 5-string bass has an extra lower string. This allows you to play 5 lower notes than a 4-string bass in standard tuning. This is pretty low! For most styles of music you don't need these lower notes. A 4-string bass can be tuned lower to get two of those lower notes. So you only really gain three extra notes on a 5-string. If you intend to play the hardest heavy metal, you probably do want a 5-string. Those extra notes will be used often.
    I think it is easier to start on 4-string. Some of the technique is easier in the beginning and changing over later is not too hard. Also, cheaper 5-string basses rarely sound very good.

    Buying Your First Bass Amp

    You will need an amplifier of some sort. Again, you will develop unique preferences for different sounding amps so don’t spend big yet.


    Watts basically describe how powerful the amp is. More watts means more power which means more volume. If you are just going to be practicing by yourself at home, you don't need but 20 to 50 watts. If you plan on playing with a guitarist or keyboard player, you may need 200 watts. And if you plan to play in a band with a drummer right away, you need 300-400 watts. You don't want to turn up an amp more than 3/4 of the way. It sounds better to have more watts not turned up so much than fewer watts turned all the way up.

    Speaker Size

    Don't be fooled thinking a big speaker means more bass. A good 10-inch speaker can deliver more bass than a cheap 18-inch speaker. Smaller speakers have a punchier sound and bigger speakers have more boominess. A 12-inch or 15-inch speaker should serve you well.

    When you learn how to play something, go around to all the music stores in town and play every bass and amp you can find. After a while you will begin to notice the subtle differences between various basses and amps. Then you can make your own decision based on your newly developed ears, eyes and hands.

    I recommend, Fender Basses and Ampeg Amps.

    Welcome to the world of BASS!

  6. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    Good Post Treena

    Also, other than same number of strings, a 6 string bass isn't going to be even remotely like a six string guitar.

    If you are just starting I would suggest you start on a 4 like Treena said, and if you decide you need a 5,6,7,8,9, or 15 string bass later then you can buy one.

    P.S. Since you are a guitarist coming to bass, don't just pedal root notes :D . Welcome to the lows
  7. Don't worry about spending a ton of cash just yet, look for used equipment that sounds good and is comfortable for YOU to play. My "main" bass is a cheapo Ibanez GSR200 that I bought used for $120, three years ago. While far from perfect, it has and still does serve me well even after countless live shows and practice sessions in a freezing garage - my point: don't judge gear based solely on the price tag!!
    Do some research here, you have already gotten some excelent advice in this thread and TB has tons more to offer via the search tool - take advantage of it.
    P.S. Have fun, be yourself, and good luck!!
  8. Yes, Good informative post, Treena!

    (I assume that your recommendations on the bass and amp are ment for later on, because Fender basses and Ampeg amps will cost more than I would recommend a beginning bassplayer)
  9. First, my rig. Then, some math :D

    My recently purchased beginning rig (I'm a 32yo musician who's just starting bass):

    Yamaha rbx774 4 string, $250 at MF clearance new. Free shipping. I don't know if you can still find that deal or not. You can still get rbx775 5 strings for $320 or less. new, full warranty.

    Roland db500 bass amp. Digital effects, 160 watts, built like a tank, single 12" speaker. Loud enough for practice :) and realistically loud enough for most small gigs unless you're playing sonic boom level. $319 refurbished (full warranty) at Sam Ash, free shipping.

    Now, it may not be fender/ampeg, but it's working great for me so far.

    What I picked up while doing my initial shopping, condensed for your easy consumption:
    I played a lot of $250 basses. Then I played the yamaha, which is more like a $450 bass. Unsurprisingly it was a lot nicer.

    In my experience with other instruments--guitars, for example--there seems to be a low end of what you need to spend to get function at all. For a bass, it seems that's about $150, which is to say that you can't really spend much less than that new without making some major sacrifice. But here's the fun part: When you jump from spending $200 to $250, you think you've only gone up $50. but what you have also done is DOUBLED the 'extra' amount (over $150) that they spent making the bass nice. that's why a $400 bass is so much nicer than a $250 bass, while the jump from $600 to $750 is somewhat less obvious. Ergo: shop clearance. get quality. you can always get a color you like later.
  10. Kaz's advice.

    Used Fender. Or old(er) used higher/mid end Ibanez.
  11. Ray-R of course.

    Fender and Ampeg are my personal choices but keep in mind, I've been playing/performing for over 33 years now so, my taste and/or preferences are different then a beginners would be.

    BUT, if someone has the money and the desire to purchase great gear to begin with, by all means, GO FOR IT! Nothing dictates that a beginner should purchase crap!( for the lack of a better word!) :eek:

    Resale value is something to consider also!

  12. kserg


    Feb 20, 2004
    San Jose, CA
    i went with a new bass for my 1st bass... i am happy because i got it cheaper then it would cost me used...

    But i would think if you are starter... pick a bass you like by playing them all in local stores and then in order not spending tons of money antil you know what you want for sure i'd get used (could be in same store you look around like in san jose its starving musician... good used selection):/ Simply because you probebly do not know what style you going to like when you are better...

    I am not saying because you are begginner purchase crap... i mean thats not even what i did... i purchased something i liked (its 380$ in store) but if you really dont know what bass you will like i am saying used is a good choice becuase once you start playing you will begine to figure out what bass you might want

    I might be lucky because i really love my dean... and i got it just by playing it in store with out much knowlage... everything is very nice wit it except that the Lowest F on E string doesnt sound that great (probebly because i teared my fingers into blood and they hurt like hell so i cant squeze it as hard) besides that i love the damn thing, play it with DR's its nice...

    Good luck... and trust these people here... very nice crowd... I love em:]

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