Bass Guitar Buying Guide

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Bass Guitar Buying Guide

The bass guitar is considered to be the glue that holds the rhythm section of any band together and its sound forms the bare bones of any piece of music. Not to be underappreciated as a backing instrument, however, the bass guitar makes an impressive solo instrument, too. Many people enjoy playing the bass guitar and many others have a secret desire to learn to play.

Whether you are a beginner looking for your first instrument, or a more experienced player looking to upgrade, the purchase of a bass guitar is an important moment in anyone's musical career. It is one which should be given a great deal of thought in advance to make sure that the instrument chosen is the right one for the individual musician.

Origins of the Bass Guitar

The bass guitar is essentially a modern version of the orchestral instrument called the double bass. In the 1950s, Leo Fender created the first mass-production bass guitar, and many other guitar companies soon followed suit. Since the 1960s, with that decade's development of modern ‘pop' music, the bass guitar has constantly been at the heart of the rhythm section of most popular music, providing the recognisable bass lines to many hit songs.

Over the decades there have been many notable bass guitar players who have created many well-known and well-loved bass lines, including John Deacon of Queen; Mark King of Level 42; John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, and, of course, Sir Paul McCartney of The Beatles.

What to Look for When Buying a Bass Guitar

Once the decision has been made to buy a bass guitar, there are a great deal of options to be looked into and decisions to be made. There are several different kinds of bass guitar in many different styles. It is well worth spending quite some time researching the different varieties of bass guitars available before deciding which instrument is most suitable. Here are some of the key features and options to look out for when researching the different types of bass guitars available.

Main Types of Bass Guitar

There are generally agreed to be three main types of bass guitar to choose from. Firstly, and most commonly, is the electric bass guitar. This guitar has a solid body and needs to be plugged into an electric bass amplifier, in order for the sounds from the strings to be heard. An electric bass guitar will have separate dials on the body to control both the volume and the tone.

An acoustic bass guitar does not require amplification. It has a hollow body with a sound hole, which amplifies the sound to an audible level. It has no volume control - the volume can only be changed by the guitar player changing the strength with which he or she picks at or slaps the strings.

Finally, there is also a hybrid acoustic electric bass which, as the name suggests, is an acoustic guitar that can also be plugged into to a bass amplifier if required, enabling the sound to be heard better in larger spaces.

It is interesting to note that bass guitars generally come in a configuration that assumes the player is right handed (left handed guitars are available). Many left handed people simply teach themselves to use a standard guitar.

Number of Strings

Although it is technically possible to have any number of strings on a bass guitar, the most popular and commonly found option is four strings. The original bass guitars were created with four strings and for many years, four strings was the only option. However, in the 1970s and 1980s, bass guitars with 5 or 6 strings were created and became more popular with professional musicians looking for a greater range for their instrument. It is generally agreed that, for beginners, a four stringed bass guitar will be the most suitable.

Frets or Fretless

The frets on a bass guitar are the short raised wires on the neck of the guitar underneath the strings. Their primary purpose is to guide the players in where to place their fingers to achieve an accurate note. It is recommended that beginners buy a fretted bass guitar as it will help them with the finger positioning, and, therefore, the likelihood of hitting the correct note. More experienced players may wish to switch to a fretless bass once they are confident in their playing.

Construction Material

Bass guitars are generally made from wood with a lacquer, wax, or varnish finish. Many musicians believe that the different kinds of wood available produce a different sound or tone. The type of wood used in the construction of the bass guitar will have a direct bearing on the price and weight of the finished instrument.

Bass Guitar Accessories

When buying a bass guitar, there are a number of accessories that may prove a useful addition to the guitar itself. If buying either an electric or acoustic electric guitar, the purchaser should also bear in mind that they will also need a suitable amplifier in order to hear the sound from the instrument. It is also worth considering purchasing a set of headphones, so that minimal disruption is caused to housemates and/or neighbours. A stand is also a good idea for keeping a guitar safely stored when not in use, and a guitar case or bag to protect the instrument in transit is recommended. There are a wide variety of straps for holding the guitar on the shoulder, in a wide variety of lengths and materials. Finally, a guitar tuner will help beginners to keep their instrument in tune at all times.

How to Buy a Bass Guitar

Bass guitars are available from a number of outlets, ranging from large general retailers to more specialised music shops. They can be purchased either online or in stores. Alternatively, a huge range of both new and used bass guitars can be found at all times on eBay.

Find a Bass Guitar on eBay

When looking for a bass guitar on eBay, it is best to look first in the music instruments section. Click on the heading All Categories and then select Musical Instruments.. Select Guitars, and then from the options on the left hand side of the page, select Bass.

Within the bass guitar section, options are given to select from the different types of bass guitar as listed above. An option is also available to select a starter package , which usually includes a guitar, amplifier and other selected accessories.

If a particular make or model of guitar is sought, then it is also possible to select listings for a particular model or manufacturer of guitar. It is also possible to select from a variety of conditions of bass guitar such as new, used, manufacturer refurbished instruments, or even broken instruments to be used for spare or repair.

Any purchasers looking specifically for a left-handed bass guitar should also check the listings under Left Handed in the Guitars section. It is often worth typing ‘bass guitar' into the general search box to look for any instruments that may have been put into categories other than musical instruments.


When looking for a bass guitar, there are many choices to be taken into account, many of which will be very personal choices from the person buying the guitar. Any prospective buyer should spend time deciding what is important to them and what they want from their bass guitar. Using the information given in this guide, alongside any additional research from other sources, should ensure that the right guitar is purchased.


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