Bass Guitar Buyer's guide

Bass Guitar Buyer's Guide

It takes top-shelf gear to bring that low end and a bass player's one-stop shopping destination is AMS. If you've never purchased a bass before we will help you find your first. If you've been slugging it out in clubs or on the road we've got the gear you need for that huge live sound. 4 string basses? 5 string basses? 4x10 cabs? 8x10 cabs? Effects pedals? The AMS Buyer's Guide for Electric Bass is the only resource you'll need.

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Advice for First Time Buyers

Before you start searching for your first bass guitar consider the following:

    1. Price range.
  • Set an appropriate price range based on the player's ability and personal preference. You can sort your search results by price (Low to High or High to Low) in order to make your search easier.
    2. Size/age of the player.
  • Bass guitars are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and weights so it's important to find one that will be the best physical fit for the player. Consider the player's age, height and the size of their hands. Bass players who are younger or smaller in size will do best with basses that have thin necks, short scales and are light weight. Bass players who are tall or have large hands will probably be more comfortable with heavier basses with wider necks and longer scales. In order to properly play your instrument you have to be able to handle it comfortably.
    3. Style of music you want to play.
  • Rock, Metal, Punk or Jazz the style of music you play requires the right tool for the job. There are a wide range of instruments to choose from: some basses are known for their versatility and are used across several genres of music and some basses have a reputation for being genre-specific. Identify your favorite bands and bass players and research the gear they use: the guy in the jazz trio most likely isn't using the same gear as the guy in the metal band.
    4. Electric Bass Guitar Package - Safe bet for the beginner.
  • If you're new to playing bass or just need a quality instrument with all the accessories, an Electric Bass Guitar Package may just be the ticket. Available in a variety of styles, these packages feature everything you need to start jamming including an amp, instrument cable, strap, gig bag and more.
Advice for First Time Buyers

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Electric Bass Diagram

Diagram for Bass Guitar Return to top

Types of Basses

Four String BassFive String Bass Six String BassFrettedFretless
    Four String Bass
  • Standard electric basses have four strings.
  • These are the most commonly used basses.
  • Standard Tuning:
    From low to high EADG.

    right button
    left button
    Five String Bass
  • Five String Basses have a low B string.
  • Players can access low notes not capable of being produced on a standard Four String Bass.
  • Standard Tuning:
    From low to high BEADG.

    right button
    left button
    Six String Bass
  • Six String Basses have a low B string and a high C string.
  • Players can access low and high notes not capable of being produced on a standard Four String Bass.
  • Standard Tuning:
    From low to high BEADGC.

    right button
    left button
  • The majority of electric basses have fretted fingerboards.
  • Fretted basses are used across all genres of music.
  • New players are urged strongly to learn on a fretted bass.

    right button
    left button
  • Advanced bass players might be interested in adding a fretless bass to their repertoire. Fretless basses sound closer to traditional upright basses.
  • Great for Jazz and Blues.
  • right button
    left button
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Maple Neck Mahognay Neck
  • Look: Blonde
  • Feel: Heavy
  • Sound: Bright, sharp tone with plenty of sustain.
  • Look: Light to dark brown
  • Feel: Medium to heavy
  • Sound: Warm sounding tone with
    good sustain.
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Rosewood FingerboardMaple Fingerboard Ebony Fingerboard
  • Look: Light-dark brown
  • Feel: Smooth
  • Sound: Warm
  • Look: Blonde
  • Feel: Hard
  • Sound: Bright
  • Look: Black
  • Feel: Hard
  • Sound: Bright
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Scale Length

Scale length refers to the distance between the nut at the guitar's headstock and the bridge at the base of the guitar. This area is where the strings vibrate when strummed. Different scales will create different levels of tension on the strings and effects tone and playability.

Long Length Short Length
    Long/Standard Scale
  • 34"
  • Higher tension
  • Sharp sound
  • The low B string on 5-string basses has more punch on a long scale neck.
  • 30"
  • Lower tension
  • Round sound
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Neck Settings

Neck Settings: Bolt On
Neck Settings: Set Neck
Neck Settings: Neck - Through Body
    Bolt-On Neck
  • - The neck and body are separate pieces with the neck bolted to the body.
  • - Easy to adjust.
    Set Neck
  • - The neck and body are separate pieces with the neck attached permanently to the body.
  • - Great sustain and resonance.
  • - The neck and middle of the body are one piece with two separate pieces used to create the top and bottom of the body.
  • - Great sustain.
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Body Wood

A major part of a guitar's tone is shaped by the wood used to create the body, neck and fingerboard. The most commonly used woods include Alder, Ash, Mahogany, Maple and Rosewood. Each type of wood has its own color, grain and density and creates its own unique tone.

Body Wood Alder Body Wood Ash Body Wood MahoganyBody Wood Maple
  • Look: Light blonde
  • Feel: Light
  • Sound: Alder creates a full sound with a balanced mix of high, middle and low frequencies
  • Look: Light blonde
  • Feel: Ranges from light to heavy depending on the type of Ash
  • Sound: Ash creates a bright sound with good sustain
  • Look: Light to dark brown
  • Feel: Medium to heavy
  • Sound: Mahogany creates a warm sounding tone with good sustain
  • Look: Blonde
  • Feel: Heavy
  • Sound: Maple creates a bright, sharp tone with plenty of sustain
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Single-Coil Pickups Humbucker Pickups Passive Pickups Active Pickups
    Single-Coil Pickups
  • Specs: Each pickup has only one coil and one set of magnets. The narrow magnetic field produces a very focused tone that cuts through a mix well, making it perfect for recording.
  • Sound: Bright and clear.
    Humbucker Pickups
  • Specs: Humbucker pickups are comprised of two single-coils. The two coils are wired out of phase, reducing the hum that is sometimes produced by single-coil pickups.
  • Sound: Warm and full.
    Passive Pickups
  • Specs: The majority of basses come with passive pickups which generate a signal from the string vibrating over a magnet wrapped with a coil, producing a minute voltage that is amplified externally.
  • Sound: Traditional and vintage.
    Active Pickups
  • Specs: The pickups are powered by a 9-Volt battery. Functionally the same as passive pickups with a higher output and wider frequency range.
  • Sound: A fuller range of tone, very modern.
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Passive Electronics Active Electronics Passive/Active Electronics
    Passive Electronics
  • Specs:The majority of basses come with passive electronics: Basic Volume, Tone (high frequency attenuation only) and switches.
  • Sound: Vintage, traditional.
    Active Electronics
  • Specs: Active electronics are powered by a 9-Volt battery making them capable of boosting or cutting frequencies
  • Sound: Extra bass, treble and overall output
    Passive/Active Electronics
  • Specs: Players are able to switch between passive and active electronics on the fly.
  • Sound: The best of both worlds.
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Bridges: Standard Through Bridge Bridges: String-Through Body Bridge and Tailpiece Combination
    Standard Through-Bridge
  • The strings are fed through the back of the bridge over the saddles.
    Each string can be adjusted for height and length.
    String-Through Body
  • The strings are fed through the back of the body over the saddles.
    Each string can be adjusted for height and length.
    Bridge & Tailpiece Combination
  • The strings are fed through the tailpiece which is separate from the
    saddles. With this two-piece set up the string length can be adjusted
    individually but string height cannot.
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