(No. 5 in a Series) For this installment, we enlisted help from professional bass player and teacher Tim Hays, director of the music business and applied music programs at Elmhurst College.

There are three basic types of bass guitars: electric, acoustic, and upright bass – also called the string bass or double bass.  This article will focus on the electric bass, the most popular type of bass guitar.

As we discussed in Part 1, buying a brand-name will ensure a certain level of quality, enable you to find replacement parts when repairs are needed, and get you a higher resale value when it’s time to trade up. For your first bass, there are only a couple of brands you need to consider:

  • Fender (or Squier)
  • Yamaha

What should a new player look for when buying their first bass, and what should they avoid?

The bass should have good action and be easy to play, that’s the most important issue. It should have basic tone/volume controls — NOT too many knobs!

Would you recommend anything different for a young beginner vs. and adult beginner?

A younger student with smaller hands should get a bass that has a smaller scale (not 2 8va scale) and the body should not be huge. For any player, being comfortable with the instrument is critical in the early stages of learning.

What is the minimum amount you should expect to spend?

You will need an amplifier, and there are starter packages available new for around $300.  Keep in mind that if you start with a package, you will eventually want to replace both the amp and the bass if you stick with it.

You can get used equipment for less, but unless you have an experienced player to help you evaluate used instruments, it is better to buy from a local music store.  With a local shop you will have a place for service and repairs, and be able to return or exchange the instrument if needed.

In Part 1, we suggested that you buy brand-name equipment at a price that is appropriate to the level of commitment you (or the recipient if it’s a gift) have to the instrument. But don’t go so cheap that the instrument will discourage a beginner.


Fender Affinity Precision Bass Pack Black – $299.99

Fender Affinity Precision Bass Pack Black

Yamaha RBX170 Bass Dark Blue Metallic – $179.99


Yamaha RBX170 Bass Dark Blue Metallic

Acoustic B20 1X12 Bass Combo Amplifier – $149.99


Acoustic B20 1X12 Bass Combo Amplifier


Fender Standard Precision Bass Guitar Brown Sunburst Rosewood Fretboard – $549.99


Fender Standard Precision Bass Guitar Brown Sunburst Rosewood Fretboard