Choosing Your First Bass

The Big Three

Choosing your first bass is an exciting step on your musical journey. The key is to find a bass that makes you eager to pick it up and play whenever you can. Here are three essential factors to consider when selecting an instrument:

  1. Looks: Your bass should be visually appealing and inspire you to pick it up regularly. The more you play, the better you’ll get!

  2. Feel: When you hold the bass, it should feel comfortable in your hands. It should not feel too heavy when played in a standing position, although this can be remedied somewhat with a wider strap. Watch out for “neck dive” – some models are poorly balanced, and the end with the tuning pegs will tend to swing downwards.

  3. Sound: While it doesn’t need to be perfect, you should genuinely like the sound of your bass. This is a subjective preference, so trust your instincts.

Remember, your first bass is just the beginning, not the final destination. As you learn and grow, you’ll discover your preferences, guiding your choice for future instruments.

Price Range

Avoid going for an extremely cheap option. A quality beginner bass can be found in the $200-400 range. Steer clear of the misconception that you’ll “grow into” an expensive bass; your musical journey may take unexpected turns.

When it comes to price, buy the best you can afford, up to around $1000. Beyond this range, the differences between basses become minor and specific. Don’t settle for a subpar $50 bass; invest in something reasonable.

If your budget allows, opt for a new bass to avoid potential issues associated with used instruments. New purchases often come with store support, minimizing headaches related to defects or damage.

Try Them Out

If possible, try as many basses as possible in-store to find one that feels right for you. Big-box retailers tend to have floor models that are not set up properly; without a proper setup, even a great bass can be frustrating to play. A smaller dealer would be your best bet to find great instruments to experiment with.

Don’t be afraid to look at “short-scale” bass models. These tend to be easier for beginners to play, but are still legitimate instruments with a great sound.

If you’re unsure about committing, consider renting a bass initially. It allows you to test the waters before making a long-term investment.


Remember to factor in additional necessities – your bass won’t do much on its own. At the very least, you’ll need:

  • an amp
  • instrument cable

Although not strictly required, these are highly recommended:

  • tuner
  • strap
  • stand
  • picks
  • a case or gig bag
  • extra strings

“All-in-one” bundles may seem tempting, but in general you should steer clear of them to ensure you’re getting a quality instrument.


Investing in a professional setup is crucial. Learning on an instrument that doesn’t perform optimally can hinder your progress. You’ll want to learn how to do this yourself eventually, but for a new player it is well worth having a luthier or repair tech handle the task, since it is possible to break your instrument during the process.


Consider reliable brands such as Yamaha, Ibanez, and Squier. For a budget-friendly option, Yamaha’s TRBX 304 or TRBX 174 is a solid choice.

Choosing your first bass is a personal journey, so take your time, explore different options, and find the one that resonates with you. Happy playing!