Used Bass Guitar Buying Guide

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Used Bass Guitar Buying Guide

The bass guitar is an exciting musical instrument. Its distinctive sound and driving bass beat is an integral part of rock music and other musical genres. The bass guitarist drives the bass beat rhythm in the music mix of the band while playing melodic chords, riffs and lines. In appearance, a slightly longer neck and string scale length distinguishes the bass guitar from other electric guitars.

About Used Bass Guitars

Buying a used bass guitar is a great option for players just starting out with this instrument. Whether studying music at school; joining a band or musical group; playing the guitar as a hobby; or as a keen collector, there are a wide range of bass guitars designs and models available. From classic vintage collector models to the latest hybrid bass guitars, the key factor is the unique sound the guitar player is after. As bass guitars are played through amplifiers and speakers, several pieces of equipment may have to be looked at as part of the bass guitar package.

Choosing a Used Bass Guitar

There are several key factors to consider when buying a used bass guitar, and these include; design features, brand, sound quality, purpose, and price.

Design Features

The electric bass guitar (like all electric guitars) is composed of three main elements – the body, neck, and head. Strings attach at the base of the body and stretch along the length of the neck to the head of the instrument.

Design Features



The guitar body is commonly made of wood, with a variety of woods commonly used, including alder, mahogany, walnut, and the widely available poplar. Exotic, rare woods tend to be used to construct high-end and customised models. Finishes can be highly polished, lacquered, or waxed. Decorative carvings and patterns are often part of the body design. Graphite is another material used to construct the body. Bold and contrasting colours are often applied to the body finish, which usually has a smooth and slick sexy surface. Wide ranges of shapes are available, ranging from angular minimalist in style to organic curved and highly decorated wood forms.


Bass guitar necks are usually made of wood or graphite, and generally bolted or glued on to the body. The length of the neck makes an impact on the tones generated by the guitar. While one neck is standard for a bass guitar, two, three, and even four neck models exist. Expert bass players create different sound effects with the one guitar instead of having to switch to a different guitar for a different sound.


The head contains the tuners for the strings. It is another design element, often made in contrasting colour and material to the neck and body.

Sound Quality

While every component of the bass guitar can be considered to contribute to the overall sound quality - the strings, frets and pickup are particularly important.




Standard bass guitars have four metal strings, though models with five to eight strings are available. Additional strings provide the musician with a wider range of notes and tones to play. Strings can also have special coatings that influence the sound quality.


Bass guitars can have necks with or without frets. The locations of frets provide different tones when the strings are played. Without frets, a different sound quality is achieved. Fretless basses are often used in jazz bands.

Pickups and Switches

The body of the bass usually includes a pickup and sound and volume controls. When the strings are played, the pickup transmits the sound to an amplifier. Different modes can be set, with resulting different musical tones achieved.


There are a huge number of bass guitar brands and models on the market. Here are some of the more well-known and popular brands that might help in narrowing down the search for the right guitar.




Fender has been in operation since the 1950s and is an industry standard. Revolutionary in its early days, Fender designs are still popular. Several models are very popular with jazz musicians.


Gibson is a contemporary of the Fender brand, producing bass guitars since the 1950s. Their smooth and slick designs are generally smaller than Fender basses.


Steinberger is known for innovative designs, incorporating graphite and other materials. Angular, clean minimalist design, headless basses, and slick modern finishes are all part of this brand.


The condition of the bass guitar will greatly affect the sound quality and longevity of the instrument.




The state of a used bass guitar can range from scrap quality to almost brand new. Check that any visible damage is only cosmetic, and the instrument has all its original functionality and is operational.


Vintage instruments can be extremely expensive, many brands and models having become highly valuable as collectors’ items over the years. If they are particularly valuable, then they will have generally been well looked after.

Manufacturer refurbished

Manufacturers approve specific vendors to restore and refurbish bass guitars to their specifications. The condition of the instrument can be expected to be fully functional and operational and may include a warranty of sorts.

Seller refurbished

These may be restored to differing levels of quality dependent upon the skills of the seller. They are higher risk than manufacturer refurbished, but may still offer good value. Buyers need to carefully examine all features and ask some probing questions on the output sound quality of the bass guitar.


There is a range of equipment and accessories that buyers might need to consider buying alongside the bass guitar.




Bass guitars play through amplifiers, so these are essential equipment. Make sure all cables, leads, and other necessary parts are included.


Speakers compatible with the amplifiers and bass guitar model are also essential equipment.


There is little point in buying a good quality bass guitar if it is not properly protected from accidental damage. A sturdy guitar case is essential here.


Straps are part of the musicians’ attire, and a wide range is available to complement both the individual's and band's style.

Chord Charts

This is a useful accessory for beginner bass players. It displays how to play common chords.

Finding Used Bass Guitars on eBay

A great place to find a good range of used bass guitars is on eBay. Tracking down the most suitable guitar is easily achieved by following defined menu paths. The most direct menu path to follow is from the eBay Home Page. Hover the cursor over All Categories in the top left hand section of the page. This will display a list of the major categories of items on eBay. Next, select the category Musical Instruments from this list. On the Musical Instruments page, a category for Guitars is clearly displayed, and the sub-category Bass should be seen underneath it. Select this link and the listings page for Bass Guitars displays. Refine and sort the search results by such characteristics as guitar type, brand, strings, and condition.


Used bass guitars are a great option for beginners just starting out with this stalwart instrument of rock and jazz bands. Used bass guitars may also provide an excellent choice for vintage instrument collectors. Purchasing the right bass guitar that is fully operational and will last for a good period of time requires the buyer to put in some homework on the features they want in the instrument. Design style, colours, materials, music genre, and size and shape all need to be considered. Some careful questioning of the vendor on the condition of the instrument up for sale, along with the above pointers will help the budding or experienced musician get a bass guitar that is just right for them.

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