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Please Help A Complete Bass Guitar Newbie

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by TheSpook, Feb 21, 2008.

  1. TheSpook

    TheSpook BOO!

    Feb 19, 2008
    Bluefield, VA/WV
    Over the last few weeks, and really years in general, I've been playing around with wanting to learn how to play a musical instrument. And in my rock and roll dreams, I've always envisioned myself as playing either bass guitar or drums. The older I have gotten, the more I have fancied myself playing bass because...

    A. The majority of musicians I admire to varying extents are bassists.

    B. More often than not, whenever I'm doing my music listening/appreciating/etc., I have a tendency to pick out the basslines and thump/tap/simply follow along with them more than other instruments. And have been doing that for quite sometime...since at least my early teens.


    C. I think bass is easily one of the more underappreciated instruments, and there are a lot more awesome sounds that thing can produce than people think. (For a great...GREAT example of a bass producing un-'bass-like' sounds, check out Stanley Jordan's cover of "Eleanor Rigby", with every single note and sound done on a bass guitar.)

    Lately, I have started to have a serious thing for finally wanting to learn to play bass because I'm not getting any younger, and as someone who really, REALLY loves music, I want to no longer be just a listener, but finally be able to say that I can play an instrument, even if it is just as a hobby.

    So all of that said, here are my questions:

    1. What is the best brand of bass guitar to look into for an absolute beginner?

    I have briefly looked at bass guitars made by Austin, Silvertone, Peavey, Yamaha, SX, Fender/Squire, and ESP...with the ESP B50 looking to be the most highly recommended bass for beginners AND in general. The only rub with the ESP B50 for me is that I cannot help but be tempted by a package that would allow me to not only get a bass guitar, but also an amp, and most of the accessories I would need to use the guitar and keep it in decent condition. Which leads to my next question...

    2. Would I be better off going with a package deal or getting the amp and accessories separate?

    If I end up going this route, I find one of the SX packages or the Fender/Squire Jazz Bass package rather tempting...


    3. If I don't go the package route, what are some recommended amps that are not ridiculously expensive and would get the job done for just having something to practice on?

    With all the research I am doing, I'm sure I will think of some other things to ask, but those are good for starters...

    - Caroline
  2. 1. SX or Ibanez bass

    2. the packages are decent

    3. try a sammick bass amp.
  3. eedre


    Feb 26, 2007
    St. Louis,MO
    If you're a beginner - it's hard to not spring for the packages because it's tough to get all your stones in a row with all the new jargon and brands. But you really will be more satisfied if you pick out your bass and your amp separately. I've found the amps they put in those packages are almost worthless.

    It helps to know your budget and what you enjoy playing in making purchases. For $300, the price of the package, it's going to be hard finding separate prices on a guitar and an amp for that budget.

    Check back here once you've figured out a budget.
  4. arai

    arai Banned

    Jul 16, 2007
    totally agree with that
  5. Hawaii Islander

    Hawaii Islander Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2007
    Rio Rico, AZ
    Establishing a realistic budget is they key as other posters have pointed out. Look online to compare prices and get an idea of what fits in your budget. Then, try and visit as many music stores as possible to look at and try gear in person. Some bass gear looks great on the websites but is less than impressive in person. Ask questions at the stores and in this thread as your search progresses.

    Good Luck! ;)
  6. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    Welcome to Talkbass!

    Bass playing is so great. I think you'll really like it, and you seem to have thought this through pretty thoroughly.

    I have taught a lot of beginners. The first thing I would recommend is finding a teacher, even if it's just a guitar-playing friend who can show you a few things. A pro teacher would be better, especially a bass teacher, if you can find one.

    For an absolute beginner, I would get the cheapest bass you can find, without sacrificing playability. Tone is not a big factor at this point.

    You will develop preferences for tone and feel (neck shape, neck size, nut width, string spacing, rosewood versus maple fretboards, body shape, body weight, number of strings, pickup configuration, active vs. passive, string gauge, etc) as time passes. Don't worry about those details right off the bat. Just get a bass that makes a sound and that is playable. By playable, if you're *just* starting, I pretty much just mean that the action (height of the strings off the neck) is not so high that you're having serious trouble holding down the strings in order to play notes. It's okay if it's a little difficult at first - it takes at least 2-3 weeks to build up callouses, and at lease an hour a day of practice for a month before you build up your forearm muscles enough that it won't really cause cramping to play for more than an hour at a time. (If your technique is good, you should *never* get cramps, ideally, and it really shouldn't take much strength in your forearms etc if you're doing it right, but it takes time to develop good technique, so...)

    I would definitely recommend a "Bass Pack." Ibanez and Squier and SX a.k.a. Essex (from Rondo Music) all make decent ones, and honestly, they are all about the same. This should be just perfect for your first 6 months or so, until you really know what your preferences are (4-string? 5-string? Single-coil split pickup? Neck profile? etc). Some people love SX basses and even working pros use them, after upgrading the pickups and making a few other modifications. They are really not bad at all and definitely an amazing deal for beginners.

    Hope this helps!!! Feel free to ask anything you'd like; we love answering questions around here ;)

    Congratulations on your first step on a WONDERFUL journey!

    - Dave
  7. I would suggest at this stage that you spend the majority of your money on a good practice amp. You will always need a good small amp to play in your room or if you live in an apartment. Get something good and it will last you a long long time.

    There are alot of decent inexpensive basses. I personally have a Squier Vintage Modified Precision TB. I like it a lot. The VM series gets alot of positive reviews and is a good value for the money. Musiciansfriend.com has them selling for under $300 with free shipping.

    Good luck and have fun!
  8. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    In my humble opinion, bass amps under about $300 are pretty much worthless.

    The "amps" that come with bass packs are adequate for your first month, and after that, they are fine for practicing by yourself.

    In a month or two, after you've gotten a feel for the instrument and know what you plan to do with bass, goal- & application-wise (play in a band? play at church? jam in your garage with some friends?), we can recommend an amp for you, based on what tone you want and the amount of power you'll need. Honestly, I think an amp better than a free, bass-pack one is unnecessary until you can play at least a little bit.

    Although I definitely think that the amp is more important (tonally) than the bass itself, it's like buying snow tires for a brand-new driver: For gigging (driving in the snow), an good amp (snow tires) is very important, but you should go ahead and learn how to drive first!
  9. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    I disagree with this, sorry! I think you should save your money until you know your preferences better. Get a decent, cheap bass and a decent, cheap practice amp and take some lessons or buy some educational DVDs. Then, once you have a feel for it and develop some preferences, go shopping, and you'll know what to look for.

    I recommend spending a month with this DVD before you lay out more than $200 for a bass pack:


    This one is not a DVD, but highly recommended around here:


    Hope this helps!
  10. wave rider

    wave rider

    Jan 5, 2005
    I've had great luck buying used mostly via Craigslist; don't know about your area's resources.

    Got a good deal on a MIM (made in Mexico) Fender Precision that sat in a youngster's closet for a few years, he made me buy the little practice amp he had with it. The bass felt right the first time but the amp was very marginal; let's just say it made some noise.

    Later, I came upon a head/cabinet for an excellent price; the "real" amp made the Fender and my initial acoustic/electric bass come alive.

    The moral of my long winded post is to save for a decent amp, it is worth it. Maybe start out with a headphone amp to practice with? I've started with the bass at an older age and am of dubious talent; that disclaimed, my first "vibrate stuff off a shelf" experience with the "real" amp tickled the h*ll out of me.

  11. LuvMusic


    Aug 18, 2007
    Oak Park, IL
    Depending on yoru budget, I'd also suggest checking out Squier VM's and maybe Jay Turser's.

    I wouldn't go with a package. As mentioned the amps that come with packages are pretty wimpy.

    That said, I did see a Squier package that came with a Fender Bdec amp which would be great for someone getting into bass.
  12. stroh874


    Feb 15, 2008
    SX basses are a great value. My SX jazz fretless plays so much better than my squier p bass, and it was half the price. Rondo music ships fast and they have great service too. I would lean towards a separate bass and amp rather than a package. From what ive read, the packaged Sx's are much lower quality, and usually the included amps are pretty worthless. For 300, you could pick up an SX jazz or precision and be able to get a 10 or 15 watt practice amp.
  13. bassalo


    Jan 23, 2008
    As a former drummer and a noob bassist I can empathize a bit with you. Definitely go with the bass (well go with your heart, but if you seek advice...), especially considering its playability in most environments. What I mean is you can't play drums any time, any where like you can with a bass or a guitar.
    And yes, it's a rewarding instrument if you put in the time.

    Regarding all those packages and what to buy: in the beginning, it's easy to fall for the packaged stuff for the economic aspect. But think about how you'd feel after six months. You may wish you spent some more cash on a bass that feels good for you and slowly add on the necessary pieces such as amps. Myself, recently getting back into playing bass for the second time, purchase a bass and a bass pod with headphones. You can hear yourself play (through head phones), produce a lot of cool different amp sounds which can help you develop a sound you like, and the best part is, as a beginner, you don't need to amplify the fact that you can't play yet to the whole world. Over time when your skills improve and with the money you've saved, you can invest in a nice amp with a sound you know you like (thanks to using the Pod). So get a good bass, buy the Pod and save for a nicer amp and when you can play well, amplify it to the world!!
  14. TheSpook

    TheSpook BOO!

    Feb 19, 2008
    Bluefield, VA/WV
    First off, thanks a lot y'all for such fantastic response! :) I'm making notes, mental and written, of everything said.

    Even before I started reading all of the responses thus far, I had already started to lean towards getting everything separate...based on further research, it seems that not only a better amp can be obtained that way, but so can a better entry level (and possibly immediate level too) guitar.

    That said, even though I am aware of my needing to do some actual musician store window shopping, I have to admit that I have two favorites thanks to further reading/research...the aforementioned ESP B50 and the Fender/Squier Standard Jazz Bass (NOT the Precision Affinity Jazz Bass, which was the one featured in the package I once found tempting). Both basses are getting very highly favorable reviews everywhere I visit, and I have to admit the Fender/Squire SJB has the appeal of being an entry level version of one of my absolute favorite bassists*, Guy Pratt's preferred bass in the Fender SJB. But, I realize that's my fandom talkin'...and that I'll certainly be better off holding some basses to discover one that feels right.

    Again, thanks! And keep the advice coming!

    - Caroline

    * - If I had to name any other absolute favorites besides Pratt, I'd have to go with Tony Levin and Chris Squire. I really have A LOT of favorite bassists, but those three, especially Pratt and Levin (aided by the fact that I happen to be a HUGE nut for Pink Floyd (my first ever favorite band!!), Roxy Music, and King Crimson) really take the cake for me.
  15. warwick.hoy


    Aug 20, 2006
    Spokane, WA.
    Beta Tester: Source Audio.
    Another route to go is getting a better, easier bass to play, followed by a cheapo used amp on craigslist or paper publication. Perhaps even finding a sympathetic musician with excess gear lying around. First amp I had was a $25 beat up old crusty Kustom keyboard (I think) amp. It wasn't very powerful, but it had a 10 or 12 inch speaker that sounded loads better than the clock radio speakers you find in those practice amps packages.

    I do think it is worth mentioning that hard work and dedication is what makes a bassist, the bass is just the tool. That being said it appears that you have your heart set on a better bass than what you see in those packages, and that is absolutely okay if you are prepared to shell out for something that may not be a sure thing. Be prepared though if you aren't into it and want to sell it that will wind up being a "my loss is your gain" type situation. Folks won't pay a whole lot for a second hand MIM (Made in Mexico) Fender, or any other bottom feeder bass.

    Edit: In rereading my first paragraph I should probably mention that a Bass or Keyboard amp is what you should be looking for. A guitar amp might work, but it will be full of stuff that you as a bassist won't need. Kind of like how a guitar has extra strings that you as a bassist won't need. ;)
  16. GearGod


    Aug 10, 2006
    Akron, Ohio
    I say this because if you buy a crappy bass with any amp, you might not like the way the bass feels. A crappy bass may make you hate bass. This is bad! My first bass was a used Ovation short scale acoustic that was/IS butter in my hands! I loved the feel and sound of it and it made me want to play more, and learn more. I haven't learned much about playing yet, but I feel the bass to a noobie is much more important than the amp. Maybe you should get an acoustic like I did, no need for an amp and good ones can be had for less than $300! You might want to get the bass professionally set up, unless you have a friend who can! I recommend learning to set up your own bass because it is both cheaper and rewarding! Set up is crucial! Take a bicycle for example, A $10,000 bike that was assembled by a monkey is both dangerous and exasperating. Doesn't shift right, brakes may not work so on! A $300 bike that was assembled by a good mechanic feels better, shifts, and stops when you want it to! I feel an amp is secondary because you can learn to play without it, buy a crappy bass may make you HATE the instrument!
  17. zazz


    Feb 27, 2004
    seems to me the main question is that if you buy a bass/amp that is no good it will put the student off learning the instrument and wasting money.

    ..and on the other hand if he buys a really good setup and then gives up then he has wasted even more money.

    personally i would reccomend buying a nylon classical guitar ...amazing for messing around on and the bottom four strings are basically a bass trainer....very easy on the fingers.

    then i would get something like a secondhand shortscale like a musicmaster that you can flog on easily for your first long scale.

    and the amp doesnt really matter too much there are lots of options....for low volume stuff i use a roland micro cube!! and it sounds fine for late night messing ....you do not need a bass rig to amplify low volume bass ..and when you are starting out best you dont play loud anyway.
  18. ThierryA

    ThierryA Banned

    Aug 7, 2008
    Wow, people are actually giving thoughtful advice on this post. I'd post too, but there's no need. I just started a thread for calling out people who give bad advice to beginners. For every good decision there are a dozen bad ones. Same for thing goes for advice. It should get pretty funny.
  19. RickenBoogie


    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    I have a freind, a girl, who after playing around on one of my basses, decided to learn as well. She bought a Squire P package deal, and it's actually a very nice starter pack indeed. I was impressed with the quality of the Squire P bass, having never owned one, and she's doing very well with it. Whatever you start out with, you'll eventually want something else later, anyway, so might as well start off with something inexpensive to get your feet wet.

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