Bass guitars are becoming more and more popular because they allow us to explore a wide range of tonal options. Other than the difference in the number of strings, there are many types of the bass guitar are available in the market.
Here I’m explaining all the types of basses and help you choose which one is best suited for your needs?
So, How Many Types of Bass Guitars are there?
There are mainly 5 types of bass guitars, electric bass, acoustic bass, fretless bass, hollow-body bass, and double bass. Based on the number of strings, basses are of 3 types – 4 string bass, 5 string bass, and 6 string bass. Depending on their scale length, it can also be divided into two types – long-scale and short-scale bass.
Let’s get into the details of each of these types, and figure out which one fits your needs to get started with.
The electric bass guitar is a wildly used bass all over the world, which is also considered as a standard bass. The modern bass guitar instantly gains popularity as it is a cheaper, more portable, and louder alternative for double bass.
As the name is suggesting, This bass comes with electronics and pickups, which are required to amplify the sound. Also, different control knobs are given, usually on the top of the body that allows you to control the tone as per your needs.
There are 5-strings and 6-string bass models are also available, but most bass players prefer traditional 4-string electric bass, due to its simplicity. Although additional strings provide extended low-range, which definitely increases the versatility, but if you’re just starting out, it’s always recommended to stick with a 4-string bass.
Electric bass guitar strings come with the E-A-D-G tuning, which is similar to the first four strings of an electric guitar. The only difference is, the bass is tuned at one octave lower, and that’s why it is able to provide us a unique and deep-sounding tone with great resonance in it.
The electric bass guitar is used to play low-pitched sounds know as bass lines, that provide support for other instruments. It is commonly used in genres like rock, pop, country, metal, jazz, etc. due to its ability to produce a wide range of tones.
Based on the scale length, bass guitars can be further divided into two types: Long-Scale Bass and Short-Scale Bass.
Scale Length is basically the distance between the nut and the bride of the bass. It’s quite important because it highly impacts the overall playability and sound quality of the bass guitar.
Long-Scale Bass Guitars
Long-scale basses are the most common type of bass guitars. Although anything from 32 inches and more is considered as a long scale, but thanks to the Leo fender, 34 inches is now considered as a standard scale length for bass guitars.
Coming towards the tension and the tone of this bass, the longer the length of strings, the more tension is going to be there. and that’s why long-scale basses usually provide you more focused and defined high-end tones.
Also, in terms of weight, longer-scale basses are relatively more heavier due to the extra material of the longer neck area. This can be a deciding factor between long-scale and short-scale bass, especially if you’re going to play in a standing position for long period, or while carrying a bass in its case.
Short-Scale Bass Guitars
As a general rule, short-scale bass has 30 inches of scale length and personally, I think they are the coolest types of bass guitars. shorter scale basses are becoming more and more popular because many popular musicians start playing with them.
One more thing that I like about these basses is their portability. Due to its smaller size, it can be transported more easily and this comes very handy, especially if you’re often going to travel with your bass for gigs or something.
Is a Short-Scale Bass Easier to Play?
The short-scale bass is easier to play because it has low string tension that allows you to fret the note without pressing too hard. Also, the frets on a short-scale bass are closer, which makes chords, fast melodic riffs, string bending, and finger stretches easy to accomplish as compared to the standard bass.
On average, short-scale basses are 4 inches shorter than standard bass guitars. that’s why there is a significant decrease in the weight which directly impacts the playability and makes it more beginner-friendly.
Does Short-Scale Basses Sound Different?
Short-scale bass guitars provide a darker, peculiar, rounder, and relatively rich-sounding tone which is different than standard long-scale basses. Due to the shorter length of strings, it has lower string tension that makes it’s tonelessly defined, thicker with fatter low-end.
Electric Bass Guitars are Best for Rock, Metal, Pop, Loud Music on Stage, Using with Effect Pedals, etc.
2. Acoustic Bass Guitars
The acoustic bass guitar is a bass instrument that has a hollow wooden body, unlike electric bass that comes with a solid body. It commonly has 4-strings that are normally tuned to E-A-D-G, but one octave lower, which is the same tuning pitch as an electric bass.
Along with the standard 4-string acoustic bass, models with 5-strings and more are available too but are not very popular.
Acoustic bass provides you the classic sound of the double bass guitar, in addition to its comfort and excellent playability. It allows you to produce a great sounding tone in lower music registers with superb resonance in it. this is the reason why many peoples love acoustic bass guitars over standard guitars.
One more reason why beginners should go with acoustic basses instead of electric one is their simplicity. If you’re just starting out with basses and want to work on your playing technique first, acoustic bass is a great instrument to opt-in for.
Are Acoustic Bass Guitars any Good?
Acoustic bass guitars are a great option for practicing at home without an amp or to rehearse something quitely. As a whole, acoustic basses are very boxy sounding and have unbalanced string volume, unless you spend decent money on it.
Generally, acoustic basses don’t have any kind of electronics or pickup with them, because they produce sound through the soundbox present in their hollow body.
Even though acoustic bass definitely sounds louder than unplugged electric bass guitar, but it can’t compete with a bass connected to an amp. that’s why it’s not considered a good choice if you want to play in a band, or for a larger audience.
Even if you only want to practice alone at home or perform for some people in a small room, sometimes it can be difficult to hear some lower notes on acoustic bass due to its relatively smaller body. that’s where the concept of acoustic-electric basses comes into play.
Acoustic-Electric Bass Guitars
Acoustic-electric bass guitars have a hollow wooden body (Similar to Acoustic Basses), but it comes with pickups, so they can be amplified by plugging it in the bass amp.
That’s why this type of bass is great for both performing unplugged gigs as well as other kinds of bigger events. These little extra features come in very handy, especially if you’re jamming with other guitarists and drummers.
With those onboard electronics and control knobs, you get an option to turn your volume up, so you can match the output level with other instruments and won’t get drown in the crowd.
Some semi-acoustic basses come with fairly simple electronics systems, while other features advanced preamps that allow you for onboard tone-shaping capabilities.
All I want to say is:
If you’re going to buy an acoustic bass guitar, you should be clear about your needs in terms of your budget, style of music, and other features that you want.
Acoustic Bass guitars are Best for Blues, Jazz, Warmer Tones, Using in the Studio, For the Richer Tone.
3. Hollowbody Bass Guitars
Hollowbody basses have hollow chambers inside the body similar to the acoustic bass. Due to such body design, their weight is usually very less as compared to their solid body counterparts.
This definitely gives you a positive edge if you’re planning to spend a lot of time playing bass in the standup position. Also, these bass guitars produce incredible sounding tone even when played unplugged and that’s why they are considered as an alternative to acoustic bass guitars.
Although, these types of basses don’t summon up a great deal of sustain (as compared to solid-body electric basses) but hollow bodies are capable of a wide range of tonal options.
Once you connect your bass to the amplifier, you’ll instantly notice the warmer and rich tonality that Hollowbody adds to the sound. It delivers a nice versatile tone along with its little bit of woodier and earthly element into the sound.
One of the major downsides that hollow bodies come with is, they can have some feedback issues when amplified for a long time or if you turn them too loud.
Here’re some of the old-school ways to solve this problem:
Don’t Turn your Amp up so Much (Which is definitely not always practical!)
Shove a Sock inside the Hollobody (Not recommended for Daily Practice)
Put a Solid Block of Wood in the Body Centre, to make it shallow
Many manufactures have opted for these solutions and that’s where semi-hollow bass guitars come into existence. Semi-hollow basses are built in such a way that, they can deliver the most value of both hollow-body and solid-body bass guitars.
Choosing between a hollow and solid bass comes down to personal preference. If you’re concern about the bass guitar weight and want to play your bass in both plugged and unplugged mode, Hollowbody basses got you covered.
Hollowbody Bass Guitars are Best for genres like Rock, Jazz, or Blues.
4. Fretless Bass Guitars
Fretless bass comes with a smoother fingerboard with no frets on it. Frets are basically the verticle metal wires up and down beneath the bass strings. Their main purpose is to divide the strings accurately in notes, so players can easily find them while playing.
But, with fretless bass, you don’t get any kind of such string divisions.
Other than this, Both fretless and a standard bass (fretted) are virtually similar. All the factors including body type, the material used, neck profile, electronics, everything can be completely identical, depending upon the bass models you’re looking at.
Fretless basses are also known for their smooth and woody sounding tone. instead of a punchy metallic tone like an electric bass, it produces a rounder tone with soft highs and boomy lows.
What is the Point of a Fretless Bass?
The fretless bass provides more freedom to move your finger around the fingerboard. It allows you to smoothly slide in between the notes to find all the micro-notes, which is their main benefit and key to their distinctive sounding tone. Also, it takes much less effort to press a string on fretless bass, once you learn to play pitches accurately.
While sliding up and down the neck you can feel the grooves which almost completely eliminates the stressing about the intonation part. It also enables you to play very smooth slides and vibrato on the strings, which makes it more suitable for singing and vocal part.
One of the biggest advantages of the fretless bass is you learn to hear the bass notes properly. If you want to play the accurate note on fretless bass, you don’t have any option but to remember how each note is sounding when played in tune.
It might seem to be a lot for you but with some dedicated practice sessions, you will start enjoying it and then doors of lot more tonal possibilities will open for you.
Is a Fretless Bass Harder to Play?
Playing a fretless bass is definitely more difficult as compared to the standard fretted bass. As there are no frets, you need to press the string on the right spot to play the proper note, which takes extra skills and accuracy that come with only a lot of practice.
Down the line, some advanced techniques like slapping, tapping, and playing chords can be tricky and difficult to play on fretless bass.
If you’re an absolute beginner and don’t have any prior experience, I suggest you start with a fretted bass first and get comfortable with it.
5. Double Bass Guitars
The double bass, also known as the standup bass guitar, is the lowest-pitched instrument in the violin family and is considered as a grandfather of all string instruments. It has a similar structure to the cello but makes a sound at one octave lower.
It is the largest (Usually, 6 ft. from scroll to peg) and lowest-pitched instrument that provides you the largest number of possible tunings and corresponded tonic triads. that’s the reason why it is a perfect example of an instrument that spanned so many genres.
You can play double bass with a bow as well as by plucking with your fingers, unlike standard bass guitars that are played with a pick.
Talking about strings, the double bass will always use flat-wound strings specifically made for double bass. These strings resonate in a much smoother way and deliver the warmer and incomparable sound of a double bass.
Even though both standard bass and double bass are tuned in E-A-D-G tuning, but it’s not easy for every bassist to master both. That’s because it comes with a fretless fingerboard and its neck has different interval lengths than the bass guitar.
What is the Double Bass Used for?
The double bass is extensively used in the symphonies and modern symphony orchestra of western classical music as a standard string instrument, due to its smooth, deep, and low-sounding tone. It is also used as a staple in other genres including Bluegrass, Punk, Jazz, Blues, and Rock.
How Expensive is a Double Bass?
On average, double bass cost around $3000 or less. Although you can get a decent beginner-friendly double bass for $1500, but fully carved double basses are the most expensive, costing anywhere from $5000 to $40000+.
In the early stages, double bass found its way into many famous music groups and even today, it is still a wildly used instrument. Whether you’re a budding orchestral student, a chamber musician, or a touring rockabilly artist, if you have a passion for music, you’ll get benefit by learning one.
What are the Best Bass Guitar Brands?
Here’s the list of popular bass guitar brands:
Final Thoughts on Types of Bass Guitar
I hope you get a complete idea about different types of bass guitars. I just want to highlight one more thing, the Bass industry is not limited to these basses only.
There are some bass models that are acoustic and fretless too. you can also find short-scale or long-scale variation in hollow body basses. All I’m saying is, along with these 5 popular types of basses, there are lots of custom models out there. You just need to understand what your needs are and pick the bass type accordingly.
It’s your turn now!
Which bass do you like the most? Is it an acoustic bass guitar or fretless bass guitar? or do you rather want to keep things simple by going with a standard electric bass?
I want you to comment your valuable thoughts in the comments, why do you think one specific type of bass is best for you than another. This way, you can also help other readers to make their choices.
Also, don’t forget to share this article, with your fellow bassist friends, so you both can start your bass journey together!
Hii, My name is Vishal Dorge and I am from India. I am the Creator of this site and want to help people just like you and me who enjoy music through the heart and want to learn it, especially about the guitar. Read More About Vishal Dorge Here