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.

Advice for First Time Buyers

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

Electric Bass Guitar Starter Packages Check out the complete listing of Bass Guitar Packages 1. Price range
Set an appropriate price range. You can easily filter your search results on AMS using the price range selection filters on the left side of the page or sort by 'Low to High' or 'High to Low' to see all products in order of price.

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.

Electric Bass Diagram

Bass Guitar Diagram

Types of Basses

Four String Bass

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

Browse Four String Basses
Five String Bass

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

Browse Five String Basses
Six String Bass

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

Browse Six String Basses
Fretted

Fretted
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.

Browse Fretted Basses
Fretless

Fretless
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.

Browse Fretless Basses

Necks & Fingerboards

Necks
Maple Neck

Maple
Look: Blonde
Sound: Bright, sharp tone with plenty of sustain.

Mahogany Neck

Mahogany
Look: Light to dark brown
Sound: Warm sounding tone with good sustain.

Fingerboards
Rosewood Fingerboard

Rosewood
Look: Light-dark brown
Feel: Smooth
Sound: Warm

Maple Fingerboard

Maple
Look: Blonde
Feel: Hard
Sound: Bright

Ebony Fingerboard

Ebony
Look: Black
Feel: Hard
Sound: Bright

Scale Length & Neck Setting

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/Standard Scale

Long/Standard Scale
34"
Higher tension
Sharp sound
The low B string on 5-string basses has more punch on a long scale neck.

Short-Scale

Short-Scale
30"
Lower tension
Round sound

Neck Settings
Bolt-On

Bolt-On Neck
The neck and body are separate pieces with the neck bolted to the body.
Easy to adjust.

Set Neck

Set Neck
The neck and body are separate pieces with the neck attached permanently to the body.
Great sustain and resonance.

Neck-Through-Body

Neck-Through-Body
The neck extends thru the length of the guitar with the body attached to the sides of the neck.
Thru neck construction offers unmatched sustain.

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

Alder
Look: Light blonde
Feel: Light
Sound: Alder creates a full sound with a balanced mix of high, middle and low frequencies

Body Wood Ash

Ash
Look: Light blonde
Feel: Ranges from light to heavy depending on the type of Ash
Sound: Ash creates a bright sound with good sustain

Body Wood Mahogany

Mahogany
Look: Light to dark brown
Feel: Medium to heavy
Sound: Mahogany creates a warm sounding tone with good sustain

Body Wood Maple

Maple
Look: Blonde
Feel: Heavy
Sound: Maple creates a bright, sharp tone with plenty of sustain

Pickups & Electronics

Pickups
Single-Coil 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

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

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

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.

Electronics
Passive 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

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

Passive/Active Electronics
Specs: Players are able to switch between passive and active electronics on the fly.
Sound: The best of both worlds.

Bridges

Standard Through-Bridge

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

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

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.

Fender American Pro Precision Bass Maple Neck 3 Color Sunburst w/Case
Fender American Pro Precision Bass Maple Neck 3 Color Sunburst w/Case
Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay 4 Classic Bass with Case Natural
Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay 4 Classic Bass with Case Natural
PRS Paul Reed Smith SE Kingfisher Bass with Gig Bag
PRS Paul Reed Smith SE Kingfisher Bass with Gig Bag
Epiphone Thunderbird Classic IV PRO Electric Bass Vintage Sunburst
Epiphone Thunderbird Classic IV PRO Electric Bass Vintage Sunburst
Ibanez Bass Workshop UB804 Upright Bass with Bag Mahogany Oil Burst
Ibanez Bass Workshop UB804 Upright Bass with Bag Mahogany Oil Burst
Epiphone EB3 Electric Bass Guitar Cherry
Epiphone EB3 Electric Bass Guitar Cherry
Squier Vintage Modified Bass VI 6 String Olympic White
Squier Vintage Modified Bass VI 6 String Olympic White
Ibanez Bass Workshop SRSC805 Electric Bass Deep Twilight Flat
Ibanez Bass Workshop SRSC805 Electric Bass Deep Twilight Flat
Ibanez Bass Workshop SRFF806 Multiscale 6 String Electric Bass Black
Ibanez Bass Workshop SRFF806 Multiscale 6 String Electric Bass Black
PRS Grainger 4String Bass Faded Whale Blue with Case
PRS Grainger 4String Bass Faded Whale Blue with Case
Spector Legend 5 Neck Thru Bass Faded Blue Gloss
Spector Legend 5 Neck Thru Bass Faded Blue Gloss
Hagstrom Super Swede Bass Natural Mahogany
Hagstrom Super Swede Bass Natural Mahogany