How much “should” you spend on a bass?

Learning bass doesn’t require spending thousands of dollars on an instrument

By Jon Liebman
Week of November 22, 2021

Suppose you’re new to the bass and eager to start playing. Or you’ve fooled around with a bass here and there and are now ready to get serious about learning bass. 

In either case, how much cash do you think you need to lay out in order to get an instrument that’s right for your needs?

The short answer: Not that much. Depending on your situation, you can probably get a decent instrument for a few hundred dollars. You don’t have to make yourself crazy looking at all the features, wood choices, craftsmanship, colors… When it comes to the quality of your instrument, in most cases, “good enough” is, well… good enough. 

I had a great conversation last week with Todd “Dammit” Kerns (Slash, Faster Pussycat), published as this week’s FBPO interview. When the subject of gear came up, Todd’s response got me to thinking.

“The nicest stuff I’ve ever seen is with people who aren’t really musicians,” says Todd. “They don’t really have any interest in playing beyond noodling around the house and that’s enough.”

If any of that description applies to you, that’s fine. Go for it.

Somehow, though, I don’t think that’s you. I suspect you want more out of learning bass.

At the end of the day, an okay instrument should be plenty good for you to learn your scales and theory, basic blues grooves, classic rock riffs, etc. And at this stage, don’t even worry about how old your strings are. 

Obviously, you don’t want an instrument that’s unplayable. But you don’t need to get too stressed out over it either. Unless you get called to play on the soundtrack for the next Spielberg movie or you’re going on the road with Beyoncé, you can relax.

“I know guys who drop a lot of cash on guitars who don’t play guitar!” Todd says. “They’re a dentist or a lawyer who’s got a bunch of extra money who just loves instruments and has great stuff.”

Fine with me. To each his own.

In most situations, though, a bass just needs to be playable, without any major defects. Can you push down on any fret and get a decent sound? Can the action be adjusted to an acceptable height? Is the neck in good shape? Are the volume controls in good working order without any crackling? I can go on, but I think you get the point. 

There are some incredible basses being made today. When you get to a certain point in your playing and you discover one you’ve just gotta have, by all means, buy it!

But when you’re just getting together with “the guys” to play some music and have a good time, you don’t have to go nuts over getting the latest and greatest bass in the world. And you certainly don’t have to break the bank. Get a decent instrument you like, learn to play bass, and have fun!

What about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Todd here.

Comments on How much “should” you spend on a bass?

  1. THOMAS BRANNAN says:

    without the bass and drums your just a lonesome solo act

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