Types Of Bass Guitars (An Introduction)

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Bass guitars usually look big and have thick strings. It produces different notes and appeals to different types of musicians. You may be keen to pick up bass, too. 

Suppose you are looking to start playing bass. In this case, knowing the types of bass guitars and how you should choose one for yourself may be helpful. What are the types of bass guitars?

The popular types of bass guitars include:

  • Electric Bass
  • Acoustic Bass
  • Electric-Acoustic Bass
  • Hollow Body Bass
  • Extra-String Bass
  • Fretless Bass
  • Extra Long Scale Bass
  • Short Scale Bass
  • Standing Bass

In this post, we explore each bass guitar’s strengths and weaknesses. We also look at factors you should consider when shopping for a bass guitar.

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Types Of Bass Guitars (An Introduction)


What Makes A Bass Guitar Different?

Bass guitars are different from regular guitars. It has a different look and sound range. Bass guitars also play a different role in a musical ensemble and require separate skills.

Bass guitars are not the same as your other types of guitars. In fact, it is so different it forms its own culture, style, and followings.

Aside from those differences, there are other ways a bass guitar is different from other guitars.


Put a bass guitar side by side with a regular acoustic or electric guitar, and you can immediately tell the difference. The design, build, and setup are starkly different. 

As a start, bass guitars have longer necks and look more thick and robust. This may be because the lower frequent notes require the guitar to be more able to withstand vibrations. 

A regular bass guitar has only four strings, while normal guitars usually have six. The strings on bass guitars are also thicker to allow it to play lower notes and handle slaps.

Bass guitars also look more simple. Usually, it does not have whammy bars or too many knobs for you to adjust the sounds. 

Sound Range

Regular guitars produce sound or notes of a higher octave or pitch range. This is because they are meant to be the lead, playing the main melodies that lead an ensemble. 

Bass guitar, in turn, plays notes that are of lower octave. These lower notes serve as the background or complementary melody to the lead performance. 

In some cases, the low-range sounds bass guitar makes can also become a lead, although this is less common.

Skills Needed

In general, a good guitarist may not make a good bass player, and vice versa. This is because the skills required may be different, although related.

Regular guitars are played by strumming or picking. Aside from those, players are also usually required to integrate techniques such as bends, using whammy bars or pedals. 

These skills may not be too important in bass guitar playing. Bassists usually pluck or slap their bass strings when playing. Bass players may also use much less equipment, such as whammy bars of pedals. 

What Are The Types Of Bass Guitars?

Bass GuitarsProsCons
Electric BassPopular optionCan connect to ampsRobustHard to hear without ampHeavy
Acoustic BassDoes not require ampAffordableCannot connect to ampFragile
Electric Acoustic BassCan be played with or without ampExpensiveFragile
Hollow Body BassBetter feedbackLightCan be played with or without ampExpensiveFragile
Extra-String BassBetter note rangeBetter creativityHarder to playSlightly more complicated to maintain
Fretless BassNot limited by fret linesUnique lookHarder to play wellNot all styles suit fretless bass
Extra Long Scale BassStronger, defined, edgy soundLonger neckHeavier
Short Scale BassShorterLighterEasier to control and playFat and round sound, seen as less clear
Standing BassClassic lookWide note rangeLarge and heavyNo fretlines

Electric Bass

Probably the most common bass guitar you can see, it is a staple in popular music. Many arrangements use it for its deep, resonant notes and perfect background accompaniment. Electric bass works just like an electric guitar.

You first connect it to an amp. When you pluck a note, the pickup on the guitar’s bridge will pick up the vibration of the string, converting it into an electric signal. The signal then travels to the amp, which sends a signal to the speaker to play the note out.

The electric bass is usually quite robust in build, able to handle knocks and occasional drops. It is less fragile compared to some bass guitars here. It is also popular, meaning it can be quite affordable, and most luthiers can service and repair them. 

The issue with electric bass is the sound. If not connected to an amp and speaker, you may not be able to hear the sound of the strings. You must also purchase an amp and speakers to get an electric bass.

Acoustic Bass

Acoustic bass guitars are the low-pitch version of your acoustic guitar. It is built similarly to an electric bass but has a hollow body designed to amplify the sound made by the strings. 

Acoustic bass usually have 4-strings and are played like a regular electric bass. The best thing about acoustic bass guitar is that you do not need an amp to play it. You can hear what you play perfectly, just like an acoustic guitar

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Acoustic bass is also lighter since it has a hollow body. In many situations, acoustic bass may be cheaper than electric bass since you do not need to buy an amp to play with it.

However, since the acoustic bass is hollow, it is a bit more fragile. Strong impacts, such as hard drops, can damage your acoustic bass pretty badly. 

You also may not be able to use the instrument when playing with other electric instruments. This is because they can turn up their instrument’s volume through the amp, but you can’t.

Electric-Acoustic Bass

Some instrument makers try combining the best electric and acoustic bass. This resulted in a new type of bass guitar – the electric acoustic bass. 

The electric acoustic bass is usually built to resemble a regular one. However, it also comes with some form of pickup, which can pick up the strings’ vibration. The vibration is then turned into electric signals and sent to an amp and a speaker. 

You can distinguish electric acoustic bass from regular acoustic bass by looking at the instrument’s body. In most cases, you can see some kind of socket that you can plug an audio jack in.

Electric acoustic bass is very versatile, you can practice alone without using an amp, yet if you need to turn up the volume, you can electrify it. However, with this flexibility, you pay the price. Electric acoustic bass is usually quite expensive in price.

Hollow Body Bass

A hollow-body bass guitar is also similar to a hollow-body guitar but built to play like a bass guitar. This means that compared to regular hollow-body guitar, it has a longer neck, a bigger body, and usually only houses 4 strings instead of 6. 

A hollow-body bass also has a hollow body inside, which helps to amplify the sounds naturally. However, it generally does not produce sounds as loud as regular acoustic bass because the hollow body is not as large as regular acoustic bass. 

However, a hollow-body bass plays beautifully when connected to an amp. The unique construction encourages feedback, which gives the hollow-body bass guitar a unique, artsy sound. As a result, you see this instrument used in jazz or blues performances.

Extra-String Bass

Regular bass guitars come with four strings. However, some musicians started looking for more note ranges on their guitars, which gave birth to extra-string bass guitars. 

These are bass guitars with not just four, but five or six strings. There are also bass guitars with more strings than 6, which are uncommon and usually custom-built. Extra string bass could be in many styles. It can be electric, acoustic, or anything in between. 

Extra string bass gives you much more options in note range, allowing you to play higher or lower notes than what’s available in regular bass guitars. However, it can be hard to play since the frets are wider.  

The additional strings mean the guitar must be built sturdier to handle the stress. This usually means the guitar may get a little bigger and heavier.

Fretless Bass

Fretless basses are guitars that do not feature fret lines on the neck. For easier explanation, you can imagine the body of a bass guitar. Still, the neck looks like that on a violin.

A fretless bass can also be in many styles, from electric to acoustic and anything in between.

In Western music composition, sounds are broken into specific notes. These note changes are reflected on the fret lines on the neck of your guitar. Play within the fret lines, and you get a certain note. This also limits the notes you can play on your bass guitar.

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With a fretless bass, you are not controlled by the fretlines. This means you can play all sorts of notes, even those not standard in Western music styles. 

The issue with fretless bass is that you will struggle a lot as a new player, as you may not have the right feel on where to press to get the right note. You will need much more practice to play fretless bass than on regular bass.

Extra Long Scale Bass

An extra long-scale bass is a regular bass guitar with an elongated neck. A regular bass guitar is also called the long-scale bass and has a scale of 34 inches. 

This means the bass is 34 inches long, from the bridge to the nut. Anything longer than 34 inches, the guitar is considered to be an extra long scale. An extra long-scale bass can also be electric, acoustic, or anything in between.

Extra long-scale bass’s best advantage is the unique sound. Many consider extra long-scale bass to produce a very defined, edgy, and strong sound. Extra long-scale bass, however, does come with its own issue. 

When it is longer, it also becomes heavier and bulky. You may find playing an extra long-scale bass hard if you are small-statured. The frets may also be further apart, making it harder for those with smaller hands.

Short Scale Bass

Compared to extra long-scale bass, a short-scale bass is the other end of the spectrum. It has a shorter neck than usual, compared to regular long-scale bass. Common short-scale bass is around 30 inches, from bridge to nut.

Short-scale bass is smaller, which makes it a good option for those with smaller hands and bodies. Its smaller, more compact size makes it easier to handle and play, making it suitable for beginners.

Short-scale bass also has a round and fat sound, meaning it lacks less definition and clarity. This is caused by the reduced tension on the strings due to the shorter length. This may be seen as a strength or weakness, depending on the type of music. 

Standing Bass

A standing bass is a large bass guitar, large enough that you cannot sling it over your shoulder like a regular guitar. Instead, you stand the bass on the floor and play it standing or sitting.

A standing bass may be more common in orchestra or jazz performances. However, it can also be used for other music styles, although less common. A standing bass can be as large as 4.5 feet, making it much longer than any bass guitar. 

Standing bass can be hard to move around since it is large and, in some cases, rather heavy. Its size also makes it harder to play with, especially if you are smaller. You may need to play smaller-sized standing bass, usually around 3.7 feet in height.

Factors To Think About When Shopping For Bass Guitars

When shopping for a bass guitar, think about the following:

  • Playing style – some bass guitars are more suitable for certain styles of music. 
  • Experience – beginners may learn easier on certain types of bass guitar.
  • Pickup configuration – different pickups produce different sounds.
  • Brand reputation – different brands may give you different experiences. 
  • Budget – Only purchase bass guitars within your budget.

If you are shopping for a bass guitar, consider paying attention to the aspects below to ensure you get the best guitar for your money:

Types Of Bass Guitars (An Introduction)

Playing Style

Playing style can refer to many things. Some music genres require you to punish your bass strings, such as metal or hard rock. Some may need you to play groovy, jumpy notes, such as in jazz.

It may help to choose a bass guitar that suits your playing style. If you need something that can be loud and strong, an electric bass guitar may work. However, a hollow-body bass may be good if you want something groovy and fun.

Playing Experience

Your playing experience will heavily determine the type of bass guitar that suits you. Generally, beginners will appreciate easier controls, while experienced players want customizations. 

If you are new to bass guitar playing, grab something simple, such as a regular electric bass. This keeps the cost low and also makes it easier to learn. There are many lessons out there teaching you how to play bass. They almost all teach using regular bass guitars.

However, if you are experienced, pick what you like. Maybe you like to be able to play more notes, then the extra-string bass guitars will work. A short or long-scale bass guitar may be perfect if you want a certain sound.

Pickup Configuration

Pickups refer to the device that picks up the vibration of your bass guitar strings and turns it into electrical signals to send to the amp. 

Depending on the build and brand of your bass guitar, you may see different types of pickups. Common ones include humbucker, single coil, or split coil. Each pickup delivers a different quality of sound.

It may be good to spend time playing the bass guitar you are interested in before purchasing it. This allows you to hear how the pickup translates the bass sounds for the speaker and see if you like it or not.

Brand Reputation

Opt for established brands with a history of producing great quality bass guitars if possible. Like cars, you have high-end brands and reliable mass-manufactured brands in bass guitar. 

High-end brands may hand-build their guitars, focus on customization, and produce good sound quality. Features like this are perfect for experienced players. 

Stick with reliable, popular brands such as Ibanez, Yamaha, Fender, or Gibson for beginner or regular players. They are cheaper in general and can be easily serviced by a luthier. Compatible spare parts and accessories are also easy to get.


Finally, your choice of bass guitar may well be limited by your budget. 

Beginners usually do better off starting with an affordable, basic bass guitar from a reliable mass-production brand. These include Ibanez, Yamaha, or Fender. They are easy to play and maintain. 

If you decide not to continue with the hobby, you can always sell the guitar and not lose too much money. These bass guitars are quite popular; many will happily buy them from you. 

For experienced players, you can choose the best guitar that suits your needs based on your budget. In most cases, it may be worth it to spend a bit more, to get the guitar that gives you the satisfaction. However, do spend responsibly.

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