Electric Bass Guitar Buyers Guide

Electric Bass Guitar Guide

It takes top-shelf gear to bring that low end. 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. Four-string basses? Five-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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Whether you're buying your first guitar or your 10th guitar it's important to know which instrument will suit your needs best and the AMS Buyer's Guide will help you find it.


First Time Buyers: Tips & Advice

Before and during the search for your first bass consider the following:

Electric bass guitar packages
    1. Price range
  • Set an appropriate price range. If this is the first bass you’ve ever purchased it’s best not to spend too much. 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
  • In order to properly play your instrument you have to be able to handle it comfortably. Bass guitars are available in numerous shapes, sizes and weights so it’s important to find one that will be the best physical fit for you. Consider your age, height and the size of your hands. If you are younger or smaller in size you will do better with basses that have thinner necks, shorter scales and are lighter in weight. If you are tall or have large hands you will probably be more comfortable with heavier basses with wider necks and longer scales.
    3. Style of music you want to play
  • Rock, metal, punk or jazz; the style of music you play will require the right tool for the job. Some basses are known for their versatility and are used across several genres of music and some basses are favored for specific genres. 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. Starter Packages
  • AMS offers several Electric Bass Guitar Packages for new bass players.  These packages are a one-stop-shopping experience for the essentials needed to get started.
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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 and are most commonly used.
  • Standard Tuning:
    From high to low GDAE.

    right button
    left button
    Five String Bass
  • Five-string basses have a low B string for low notes not capable of being produced on a standard four-string bass
  • Standard Tuning:
    From high to low GDAEB.

    right button
    left button
    Six String Bass
  • Six-string basses have a low B string and a high C string for low and high notes not capable of being produced on a standard four-string bass
  • Standard Tuning:
    From high to low CGDAEB

    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 FingerboardEbony 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 and the bridge. Different scales 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, the neck is permanently attached to the body to look seamless
  • 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

Basses are known for being made from a variety of exotic woods, particularly neck-through basses. Each wood has a unique sound and feel and plays a major role in shaping the instrument’s tone.

Body Wood Alder Body Wood Ash Body Wood MahoganyBody Wood Maple
  • Look: Light blonde
  • Feel: Light
  • Sound: Full, 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: Bright, with good sustain
  • Look: Light to dark brown
  • Feel: Medium to heavy
  • Sound: Warm tone with good sustain
  • Look: Blonde
  • Feel: Heavy
  • Sound: Bright and sharp tone with plenty of sustain
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Impedance and magnet strength affect the tone and volume of the pickup. These can be coupled

Single-Coil Pickups Humbucker Pickups Passive Pickups Active Pickups
    Single-Coil Pickups
  • Specs: Each pickup has one coil and one set of magnets which produces a narrow magnetic field creating a very focused tone that cuts through a mix well and is perfect for recording
  • Sound: Bright and clear.
    Humbucker Pickups
  • Specs:Humbucker pickups are comprised of two single-coil pickups. The two coils are wired out of phase which reduces the hum and feedback that is sometimes produced by single-coil pickups.
  • Sound: Warm and full.
    Passive Pickups
  • Specs: Most basses come with passive pickups. The coil-wrapped magnets in passive pickups generate a signal from the strings’ vibrations, producing a minute voltage that is amplified externally.
  • Sound: Traditional and vintage.
    Active Pickups
  • Specs: Active pickups are powered by a 9-Volt battery. While functionally the same as passive pickups active pickups have 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:Most 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 a separate tailpiece, then over the bridge. String height is adjusted by raising or lowering the entire bridge. String length can be adjusted individually (in most cases) by moving the individual bridge saddles.
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