7 Best Bass Guitar for Beginners of 2023

Whether you’re just getting started on your musical journey or have been playing for years but have never ventured into the low-end realm, picking the best beginner bass guitar can be a daunting task.

Videos by American Songwriter

There are so many high-quality brands offering dozens of bass guitars with a myriad of outstanding features, all of which can leave a beginner (and even veteran musicians) feeling overwhelmed.

We’re here to help! We’ve compiled a list of the best bass guitars for beginners and put together a detailed guide to help you figure out exactly what you need from your new instrument.

Our top pick is the Yamaha BB234 because of its straightforward design, classic look, and great affordability.

Quick Summary of the Best Bass Guitar for Beginners

  1. Yamaha BB234 (Our Top Pick)
  2. Ibanez GSRM20B (Best Short Scale Bass Guitar)
  3. Squier Classic Vibe ‘60s Jazz Bass (Best Under $500)
  4. Jackson JS Series Spectra Bass JS3Q (Best Active Bass)
  5. Sterling By Music Man StingRay Ray34HH (Best Under $1000)
  6. Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II Short-Scale (Best Under $300)
  7. Fender American Professional II Precision Bass (Best for a Big Budget)

Best Bass Guitar for Beginners

1. Our Top Pick – Yamaha BB234

Yamaha BB234


  • Body, Neck, and Fretboard: Solid Alder, Maple, and Rosewood
  • Strings: 4
  • Frets: 21, medium-scale bass (34”)
  • Controls: 2 x volume, 1 x master tone

The BB234 is a member of Yamaha’s iconic line of BB bass guitars and offers the excellent sound and quality build that has characterized Yamaha as a premium guitar and bass manufacturer for decades.

The BB234 comes in a smaller body that makes it an ideal beginner bass guitar. Its thinner C-shaped maple neck makes it very comfortable to play with. Its design is a stunning blend of a classic style with modern touches and is very visually appealing.

An expertly crafted solid alder body with a P-J pickup configuration and a rosewood fretboard provides this bass guitar with a well-balanced sound, offering the warm and rich low-end growl of the P-bass neck pickup with the punchy fingerstyle sounds of the J-style bridge pickup.

Its volume and master tone controls are simple to use, making this a very straightforward, no-frills instrument and arguably the best bass guitar for beginners.

2. Best Short Scale Bass Guitar – Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro

Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro


  • Body, Neck, and Fretboard: Poplar, Maple, and Jatoba
  • Strings: 4
  • Frets: 22, short-scale bass (28.6″)
  • Controls: 2 x volume, 1 x master tone

This Ibanez miKro GSRM20 was designed with young bass guitarists in mind. Its short scale length, narrower frets, slim neck, and generous bottom cutaway are great features to aid smaller hands in learning the basics without any finger fatigue.

The Ibanez miKro GSRM20 features Dynamix P and Dynamix J pickups that can take your tone anywhere from heavy, thumping rock tones to soft and rich R&B sounds. Even though this is a fully passive bass, its versatility of sound is astounding.

Additionally, the B10 bridge and Ibanez die-cast tuners allow fully adjustable intonation and solid tuning stability, as well as offering incredible sustain.

Although the GSRM20 is intended for younger musicians, adults will also enjoy experimenting with this little powerhouse, which is also incredibly easy to carry around.

This is arguably the best beginner bass guitar you can find on a budget.

3. Best Under $500 – Squier Classic Vibe ‘60s Jazz Bass

Squier Classic Vibe ‘60s Jazz Bass


  • Body, Neck, and Fretboard: Poplar, Maple, and Indian Laurel
  • Strings: 4
  • Frets: 20, narrow-tall, medium-scale bass (34″)
  • Controls: 2 x volume, 1 x master tone

The Classic Vibe ‘60s Jazz Bass is a modern bass guitar with vintage features that are meant to emulate the look, play, feel, and sound of Fender’s iconic 1960s-era Jazz Bass. This beautiful bass guitar achieves this goal wonderfully and at an incredibly affordable price.

The Classic Vibe Jazz Bass combines its predecessor’s luxurious playability with the versatility and massive tone of its dual Fender-Designed alnico single-coil pickups.

Its sound is vibrant, rich, and transparent, with excellent sustain and a voice that resonates even when unplugged.

Its slim and comfortable C-shaped bolt-on maple neck profile with narrow-tall frets and a vintage-style bridge with threaded saddles make the Classic Vibe ‘60s one of the best beginner bass guitars, as well as one of the highest-selling from the squier classic vibe series.

4. Best Active Bass – Jackson JS Series Spectra Bass JS3Q

Jackson JS Series Spectra Bass JS3Q


  • Body, Neck, and Fretboard: Poplar, Maple, and Laurel
  • Strings: 4
  • Frets: 20, jumbo, medium scale bass (34″)

Versatile style and enormous sound collide in the beautiful Jackson JS Series Spectra Bass JS3Q.

Its contoured poplar body, double-cutaway, and large upper horn evenly distribute weight throughout this bass guitar, providing perfect balance for hours of comfortable playing.

The super slim C-shaped neck design of the Jackson Spectra Bass provides rock-solid reliability, while its compound radius, which flattens out toward the upper register, makes for lightning-fast playability.

The Spectra Bass JS3Q produces a truly unique sound that can be adapted for anything from funk to hard rock music or gospel. Its dual passive humbucking pickups create a monstrous low-end growl, while a Jackson HiMass bridge provides enhanced stability, improved sustain, and a bolder tone.

A two-way toggle switch for pickup coil splitting, 3-band EQ, blend control, and volume control with active/passive push/pull functionality give you even more control over your sound.

5. Best Under $1000 – Sterling By Music Man StingRay Ray34HH

Sterling By Music Man StingRay Ray34HH


  • Body, Neck, and Fretboard: Mahogany, Roasted Hard Maple, and Roasted Maple
  • Strings: 4
  • Frets: 20,narrow-tall, medium-scale bass (34″)
  • Controls: 1 x master volume, 3-band active preamp

The Sterling line by Music Man really knocked it out of the park with the StingRay Ray34HH with its expert craftsmanship and great sound quality.

Designed for a super smooth feel, the Ray34HH bass guitar features a roasted maple neck, and its mahogany body looks stunning as it delivers a warm, pleasing tone.

The Ray34HH also comes with 2 alnico humbuckers and large pole pieces that add a vintage feel to your tone.

It has an active preamp with a 3-band EQ and a 5-way pickup selector switch that lets you choose the way the pickups operate, whether humbucking or single-coil. All of this delivers the signature big and bold StingRay sound with added tonal versatility

All in all, the StingRay Ray34HH might be a bit beyond what you would expect to pay for a beginner bass guitar, but it is an excellent investment that you won’t regret.

6. Best Under $300 – Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II Short-Scale

Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II Short-Scale


  • Body, Neck, and Fretboard: Basswood, Maple, and Laurel
  • Strings: 4
  • Frets: 20, medium jumbo, short-scale bass (30.3″)
  • Controls: 1 x master volume, 1 x master tone

The Gretsch G2220 Electromatic Junior Jet Bass II is another great short-scale bass that offers comfortable playability at an even more comfortable price tag.

As we’ve seen with the Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro, short-scale basses are ideal for young bass players, beginner bassists, or just musicians who want a fun and easy-to-play bass, so the Junior Jet’s 30.3” scale length makes it one of the best beginner bass guitars.

The Junior Jet Bass II has a basswood body and a maple neck that add warmth and transparency to your tone. A pair of Gretsch single-coil bass pickups deliver a thundering sound, which can be commanded with a three-position pickup toggle switch, master volume, and master tone control.

The Junior Jet Bass II is a great bass if you like bending and a sound that’s a bit more trebly and throaty. This is an incredibly versatile instrument that, despite its size, is easily capable of filling a room with massive subsonic tones.

7. Best for a Big Budget – Fender American Professional II Precision Bass

Fender American Professional II Precision Bass


  • Body, Neck, and Fretboard: Alder, Maple, and Rosewood
  • Strings: 4
  • Frets: 20, narrow-tall, medium-scale bass (34″)
  • Controls: 1 x master volume, 1 x master ton

Fender wasn’t paying around when they created their iconic Precision Bass in 1951. Today, the American Professional II Precision Bass draws from more than sixty years of innovation, inspiration, and evolution to meet the demands of today’s bass players.

Its ’63 Precision Bass C-profile neck now sports smooth rolled fingerboard edges, a “Super-Natural” satin finish, and a newly sculpted neck heel for a supremely comfortable feel and easy access to the upper register.

The new V-Mod II Precision Bass split-coil pickup is more articulate than ever while delivering the punch and growl the P Bass is known for.

If you’re serious about bass guitars and want a premium instrument with a legendary tone and sonic versatility, the American Professional II is nothing short of perfection.

Its comfortable body shape and ease of playability make it one of the best beginner bass guitars, but it is also an instrument that will grow with you as you progress through your musical journey.

Best Bass Guitar for Beginners Buyer’s Guide

Number of Strings

Bass guitars are traditionally made with four strings (usually E, A, D, G), but more advanced models with five and six strings have become increasingly popular.

For beginner bass players, a 4-string model should be enough to master the basics and even to play your whole life. Many bass legends never expanded to 5- or 6-string basses, and you may find that you’re content with the standard four.

If, however, as your skillset grows and you want to explore more playing styles – you will want to update to a 5-string or 6-string bass guitar.


The first bass you get should be lightweight, comfortable, and durable. It should be easy to play and have a great tone that can easily be adjusted to different music genres and playing styles.

Even so, keep in mind that learning to play bass in and of itself can be uncomfortable at first, as your back, hands, and fingers get used to new positions and movements.

Most of this discomfort is due to the scale length of a bass, which is much longer than an electric guitar’s scale, making your fingers stretch and spread further.

Don’t be discouraged, though! Soon, your body will adjust to your new bass guitar to the point where holding it will feel like second nature.

There is also the option of buying shorter-scale models, which are also great for children or people with smaller hands.

You should also get a feel for the overall balance of the bass you’re looking to buy. A poorly balanced bass guitar is more difficult and painful to play.


Pickups in an electric bass guitar create a magnetic field around the bass’ metal strings. When the strings vibrate, an electronic signal is produced, which is then sent to a bass amplifier and translated into sound.

The pickups have a great influence on your bass guitar’s tone, so it’s very important to know what to look for because every pickup type has its pros and cons.

There are 3 basic pickup designs that you’ll encounter on most bass guitars.

Single-coil pickups have one coil wrapped around the pickup’s magnet inside the housing. The sound they produce is bright, clear, and punchy.

One downside to single coils is that they can pick up noise or hum from external sources such as computers or radio waves. This problem inspired the creation of the humbucker and the split-coil pickups.

Humbuckers or double-coil pickups are essentially two single-coil pickups glued together and out of phase with each other to cancel out the dreaded single-coil hum. They also have a greater output than single-coil pickups and generally sound darker and fuller.

Finally, we have the split-coil pickups, which are basically double-coil pickup split in two, with each half under one pair of strings. They deliver a sound characterized by fat lows and punchy mids but less high-end sparkle than single-coil or humbucker pickups.

Precision Bass and Jazz Bass

These terms refer to pickup layouts, so familiarizing yourself with these concepts is essential.

First, we have the Precision layout, known as Precision bass or P-bass. It consists of one split-coil pickup at the neck position and provides a deep, warm tone with a strong mid-range presence and a percussive, heavy growl.

Next is the Jazz layout, known as Jazz bass or J-bass. It’s made up of two single-coil pickups—one at the bridge position and one at the neck—and offers more versatility and clarity than the P-bass but without the heavy growl.

Finally, we have the P/J configuration, which is the most popular among beginner bassists. This is because the combination of both Precision and Jazz pickups gives you the best of both worlds.

Passive vs Active

Pickups can be split into two categories.

Passive pickups are standard on beginner models since they’re usually cheaper to manufacture and don’t require a battery power source.

Passive pickups don’t give you much control over your tone since you can only turn down—or cut—the bass and treble frequencies from the tone of your bass guitar.

Passive pickups have a sound that is warm, full, round, punchy, and dynamic, which is a big part of their appeal.

A passive pickup should be more than enough for beginners who are getting their first bass.

Active pickups use a battery-powered pre-amplifier that allows you to both cut and boost frequencies, giving you more control over your tone.

Some pre-amp models give you more control than others, though. Some are only equipped with bass and treble control, while others can have mid-range controls and other extras.

Active basses can also eliminate any noise or interference; there is less signal degradation, and will deliver a hotter signal.

Active pickups tend to be bright, clear, and snappy sounding.

Body Woods

The type of wood a bass is made of will have a huge impact on its sound.

Harder woods will sound more acute and percussive, while softer woods will produce a warmer and more mellow tone.

The most common woods used in bass guitars are Alder, Swamp Ash, Basswood, Ebony, Rosewood, Maple, and Mahogany.

If you are buying your first bass guitar, though, don’t worry too much about the intricacies of the materials just yet. Give different ones a try, and pick the one that sounds best to you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What accessories will you need as a beginner bass player?

The first item on your list should be an amplifier. It might be a good idea to buy one simultaneously with your bass so you can have feedback as you practice. You will also need a bass cable.

If you’re looking for a more defined sound, consider buying some picks—if you want to play metal, punk, or rock, for example.

Some other important accessories include a tuner to make tuning your bass easier, a strap, and a case or bag if you need to transport your new bass around or even if you want to keep it safe from the elements.

How much should you spend on a beginner bass guitar?

This will, of course, depend mostly on your budget but also on your personal preferences and what you want your bass for.

As a beginner, anywhere in the $200 to $500 range

Knowing which bass to buy can be tricky, especially for beginners who might need to learn the details of what’s available in the market.

While it is undoubtedly true that investing in a very high-end instrument with a good sonic appeal will likely encourage you to practice more, it is by no means necessary (or even standard) for beginners to splurge on an expensive model.


We have no doubt that whichever one you choose, you’ll be taking home a bass that is comfortable, sounds incredible, and, most importantly, is a ton of fun to play.

Our top pick of the best beginner bass guitar is the Yamaha BB234 because of its classic design, ease of playability, and affordable price.

Another excellent choice is the Ibanez GSRM20B. Its short scale length makes it ideal for young bassists and people with smaller hands who would otherwise struggle with a longer-scale bass.

Remember that it takes a lot of time and practice to become a great bass player, but with the right attitude and a healthy dose of persistence, you’ll be well on your way to rocking like a pro in no time!

Leave a Reply

Toad The Wet Sprocket Announces Greatest Hits Album and Summer Tour Dates

electric guitars

Best Electric Guitars of 2023