Somewhere, there’s a bass just for you
By Jon Liebman
August 25, 2023
It happens all the time. Someone decides to learn bass and gets all excited. He or she may have a few bucks to spare and they’re tempted to go out and buy something pretty high level. And expensive.
But is all that really necessary?
In a word, no. Even a big-time bassist with a world-famous rock band doesn’t necessarily need to spend a fortune on gear. But that’s another story…
Basically, it all comes down to whatever you need. And when you’re just getting started, you really don’t need all that much.
Recently, I was talking to Rob Turner, founder of EMG pickups, in a conversation published as this week’s FBPO interview.
Also taking part in the discussion was Jim Reilly, author of the just-released biography, Chasing Tone: How Rob Turner and EMG Revolutionized the Guitar’s Sound (awesome book!)
We talked a lot about tone, of course. I also asked Rob what advice he had for someone who’s learning bass and isn’t sure what kind of instrument to get.
Here’s what you need
“Well, the first thing I would do is find a bass that you like to play,” Rob says. “You need an instrument that you’re comfortable with. And if you have more than one, then you’re blessed. That’s the only way that you can really look at it in the first place.”
Great point, I thought. Don’t make it any harder than it is.
After all, your primary focus should be learning how to fulfill the role of the bass player, which means learning how to lock in with the drummer, set the foundation for the band, and make the music feel good.
Sure, you’ll need to develop a certain amount of technical proficiency and learn some music theory basics along the way, but the good news is: You don’t have to spend a fortune to do that. For as little as a few hundred dollars or less, you can get a decent bass that feels good, sounds good, and gets the job done.
Ibanez makes some great inexpensive basses. Sire basses are very popular too. And you definitely won’t go wrong with a Fender Jazz or Precision. Go to your local music store or check out Sweetwater or Guitar Center. Somewhere, there’s a bass for you.
Eventually, should you decide that you want something specific, like a 5-string or a fretless, for example, you can always upgrade once you know what you want.
Technique may be a factor too
“And it depends on whether a guy plays with a pick or not,” Rob says, “whether he plays with his thumb or whether he plays with one or two fingers. You know, what his technique is like. Those are the things that I sort of listen to. There’s a Jack Casady and there’s a Duck Dunn. You figure it out!” he says, laughing.
When you’re first learning bass, don’t get hung up on what kind of bass you need, or how many basses to buy. My advice is to start simple, with a decent, inexpensive bass. Once you get into it, you can always move up.
How about you?
What kind of experience have you had in deciding what kind of bass to buy? Leave a comment below and let me know. In the meantime, check out my interview with Rob and Jim here.