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Groove and Rhythm: Best Bass Guitars

  1. Lakland The Decade Bass Guitar
  2. Takamine Acoustic-Electric Upright Bass Guitar
  3. Godin A4 Ultra Fretless Bass Guitar
  4. Aria Bass Guitar
  5. Alembic Stanley Clarke Signature Standard Bass Guitar
  6. Ken Smith Black Tiger
  7. Alembic Stanley Clarke Signature Standard Bass Guitar
  8. Warwick Thumb NT6 6-String Bass Guitar
  9. Buyer's Guide

Incessant pop singles may have reaffirmed it in recent years, but musicians throughout history can confirm that it has, in fact, always been all about that bass. The bass guitar is a staple of popular music, playing a significant role in genres such as rock, jazz, soul, funk, R&B, hip hop, and more. And while its cousin the electric guitar may have a slight advantage in the popularity category, the bass guitar plays an integral role in both holding down the bottom end of the mix as well as enhancing the groove and rhythm of a song. If you’re looking to buy a bass guitar, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from in this list of the best bass guitars in 2022. We’ve highlighted some important things to keep in mind in our bass guitar buyer’s guide below.

Comparing the Best Bass Guitars for 2022

best Lakland The Decade Bass Guitar

Lakland The Decade Bass Guitar - Best Bass Guitar Overall

The magic of the Lakland Skyline Decade begins with its all-mahogany body, which resonates with a dark and deep tone that all bass players seek to capture with their instruments. This bass guitar also features a slim maple neck that you’ll thank Lakland for later, after you’ve been playing for hours and don’t feel any discomfort in your hands and wrists.

The Skyline Decade is equipped with specialized single-coil Chi-Sonic pickups, created in partnership by Lakland and Hanson Pickups. Thanks to this electronic system, you have a wide dynamic range of tones at your fingertips. Whether it’s thick, bass-heavy sounds or more treble-driven, melodic-favoring tone, you can find what works best for you. Further craft that tone using the on-board tone knob and two volume knobs. Whether you’re looking to groove out on the low end or take melodic, jazz-like solos, you’ll find that the Skyline Decade is a reliable axe to have.

best Takamine Acoustic-Electric Upright Bass Guitar

Takamine Acoustic-Electric Upright Bass Guitar - Runner Up

Holding the Takamine TB10 Acoustic-Electric Upright Bass is an experience that’s not easy to forget, largely because there are very few fretless instruments out there that are anything like this axe. As stated before, there are no frets, so it is perfectly capable of being played in the style of an upright bass, a fact further supported by the dual f-holes in a body comprised of an arched spruce top and arched maple back. The resulting sound is very tone heavy and versatile enough to be played in several different settings.

The fingerboard on this instrument is also curved like a double-bass which means that one could play the TB10 with a bow if they so desired. If playing this more like a regular bass guitar is more up your alley, have no fear as it excels in that department as well. Driving the acoustic signal out is a Palathetic pickup, heralded as one of the most accurately organic sounding acoustic-electric pickups in the business. A Cool Tube preamp offers frequency controls, a built-in tuner, and a second RCA input so you can connect a secondary pickup or microphone into your signal.

Godin A4 Ultra Fretless Bass Guitar - Honorable Mention

Looking for the traditional sound and feel of an acoustic bass? Godin’s A4 Ultra Natural fretless has got you covered, with a fluidly free-flowing tone only attainable from the lack of those pesky confining frets. Its silver maple leaf body provides clarity to a sound which is already balanced and sings, thanks to its solid spruce top. The Lace Sensor pickup in this axe works together with a customized preamp to capture the precise tone and attack of the strings so this guitar sounds like the real deal.

Looking to do some stuff that you would never think to be possible with an acoustic bass guitar? Well, the A4 Ultra Natural fretless can also play for that side of the fence, too. This instrument is equipped with a unique 13-pin MIDI connector, through which you can trigger sounds from the Roland GR Series and Axon AX100 guitar synths. Why be limited to one tone when you can now voice several different voices and instruments in one reliable package?

best Aria Bass Guitar

Aria Bass Guitar - Consider

In the late 1970s, Japanese guitar manufacturer Aria changed the game with the introduction of their SB1000 bass guitar, an instrument so impressive it quickly garnered a list of high-profile fans, including Cream’s Jack Bruce who abandoned his trusty Gibson EB3 bass to lay his hands on the Aria. Decades later, the company has let the beast out of its cage again, with a reissue of the legendary SRB1000RIB, which captures the same high-end magic of its predecessor.

If you feel like getting your Cliff Burton on and want to dance away at the frets which are usually too high for bassists to ever even access, this is the bass guitar for you. Its cutaway body shape gives you a perfect entry point to hit all 24 of its frets. The neck-through-body design of its maple neck makes this instrument have an incredible amount of sustain. The electronics in this guitar are simple yet effective; a single humbucker gives you the ability to punch through the frequency range so the bass player will definitely be heard in the mix for once. A BB-Circuit provides a clear and distinct tone while eschewing any unwanted noise.

best Alembic Stanley Clarke Signature Standard Bass Guitar

Alembic Stanley Clarke Signature Standard Bass Guitar - Best High End Bass Guitar

Alembic got its start working hands-on with artists, beginning as a consulting firm that worked closely with bands like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and more. The company sought to improve the quality of live sound and recording live concerts, but they would soon switch their focus to ensuring the sound coming out of the musician’s instrument was top-notch. They have earned a reputation as the Cadillac of bass guitars, and with their Stanley Clarke Signature Standard model, it’s easy to understand why.

A renown bassist whose technique is a style all its own, Stanley Clarke would need a bass guitar that is versatile and built to provide impeccable sound, and Alembic has not failed in this regard whatsoever. This 5-string handmade axe has a thin taper and an ebony fingerboard that provide players with the ability to nimbly zip up and down the frets without fatigue or discomfort. AXY56 pickups provide a sound that is warm and has character, making this an ideal instrument for playing deep rhythms as well as taking on more of a melodic lead approach. And with volume, pan, and low-pass filter controls onboard, you’ll really be able to make this axe the star of the show, by manipulating your tone to fit your exact desire.

best Ken Smith Black Tiger

Ken Smith Black Tiger - Best High End Bass Guitar

As one goes deeper down the rabbit hole of high-end, customized bass guitars, it’s amazing to see what kind of care and craftsmanship is waiting to be discovered. Take Ken Smith, for instance; he’s developed a reputation over the years for creating truly impressive and one-of-a-kind instruments for those in the bass community looking for something more. That’s exactly what he’s done again with the Black Tiger bass guitar. Cherry-picking a limited amount of a purchase of an already-scarce black walnut tree wood, this instrument has a look and feel which speaks to the rare nature of its origin.

The aforementioned walnut comprises parts of the neck and body wings, while the fingerboard has a smooth and rich feel thanks to the macassar ebony. This bass guitar can take on a variety of sounds and it definitely shines for those of you who like to slap and pop, offering up that certain brand of “ping” which is hard to describe unless you hear it yourself.

The electronics in the Black Tiger are made up of a B.M.T. 3-Band EQ 18-volt circuit. This setup consists of internal 4-way adjustable frequency switches for each band, which makes adjusting the tone on this thing about as precise as microsurgery. Series/parallel switches are available for each set of custom soapbar humbucking pickups. Put simply, you’ve probably never heard or played anything like this before, and if you’re really looking to go high-end, this is a destination where you’ll want to end up.

best Alembic Stanley Clarke Signature Standard Bass Guitar

Alembic Stanley Clarke Signature Standard Bass Guitar - Best High End Bass Guitar

Alembic got its start working hands-on with artists, beginning as a consulting firm that worked closely with bands like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and more. The company sought to improve the quality of live sound and recording live concerts, but they would soon switch their focus to ensuring the sound coming out of the musician’s instrument was top-notch. They have earned a reputation as the Cadillac of bass guitars, and with their Stanley Clarke Signature Standard model, it’s easy to understand why.

A renown bassist whose technique is a style all its own, Stanley Clarke would need a bass guitar that is versatile and built to provide impeccable sound, and Alembic has not failed in this regard whatsoever. This 5-string handmade axe has a thin taper and an ebony fingerboard that provide players with the ability to nimbly zip up and down the frets without fatigue or discomfort. AXY56 pickups provide a sound that is warm and has character, making this an ideal instrument for playing deep rhythms as well as taking on more of a melodic lead approach. And with volume, pan, and low-pass filter controls onboard, you’ll really be able to make this axe the star of the show, by manipulating your tone to fit your exact desire.

best Warwick Thumb NT6 6-String Bass Guitar

Warwick Thumb NT6 6-String Bass Guitar - Best High End 6 String Bass Guitar

Warwick represents the perfect hybrid of old world craftsmanship and modern, present-day technology; if you need any further proof, just check out their Thumb NT-6 string bass guitar. With a body made from bubinga pommele and a natural oil finish, this instrument already has a jaw-dropping aesthetic. But the way that this axe is built is even more exciting than its looks. Warwick’s invisible fret technology installation (which it uses for all of its basses) provides all 26 frets with extra stability, which allows you to play with ease.

The 3D 2-piece bridge system has been crafted from solid brass, which is an incredible tone transfer alloy; while many other bridges will color or slightly tweak an instrument’s natural sound, this one does not. The adjustable nut system allows you to raise and lower the string height of the Thumb NT-6 for easy setup adjustments. The electronics of this 6-string (two J-style pickups) give this bass a wide range of sounds, from low end punch to smoother more balanced tone.

Buyer's Guide

When purchasing a bass guitar, there are many things to consider before even starting the selection process. Assessing what style of music you are going to play (along with what sort of approach or technique you want to utilize) will help steer you in the right direction. It’s also important to consider whether or not you think you will be using the instrument primarily in the recording studio or in a live environment. And acknowledging what skill level you currently play it can also make things clearer for the purchaser. Above all, remember that this is an instrument that you are going to be using for quite some time, so be sure to give yourself an opportunity to test out different models hands-on before making your purchase. In the meantime, we’ve outlined some key concepts to keep in mind before shopping for a bass guitar. 

Large, bold sections require a general overview of a particular feature and how it fits into the instruments overall functionality. Subsections have been included for additional information where applicable.

Body Style

Solid Body

As the name might imply, a solid body bass guitar is comprised of one solid piece of wood. It is the most common bass guitar body type, and is exemplified by some of the most popular models used today. Depending on the type of wood and electronic pick-up configuration, solid body bass guitars can pretty much be used for any genre or style of music. When not plugged in, these bass guitars barely make any sound at all.

Hollow Body

Hollow body bass guitars are more typically used for styles like jazz and folk. In contrast to solid body instruments, they are hollowed out by design and produce a warmer tone and deeper low-end range. They are lighter, but also don’t produce as strong an output signal as solid body bass guitars.

Neck Type

Bolt-on Neck

The neck is attached to the body of the bass guitar with four screws. This setup makes the bass guitar’s neck extremely accessible for repair. The configuration of a bolt-on neck doesn’t have much of an effect on the sound produced by the instrument, as long as the connection between the neck and body is tight enough to ensure enhanced sustain and vibration.

Neck-Through-Body

The neck extends throughout the length of the entire bass guitar. This configuration generally results in a greater amount of sustain and typically signifies that the bass guitar’s wood is of extremely high quality. This in turn increases the value of the instrument.

Strings

4-String

The more traditional configuration is the 4-string bass (E-A-D-G). Because this option offers the fewest amount of strings, 4-string basses tend to have smaller necks and are easier to handle, making them an ideal bass guitar for those who are just learning how to play.

5-String

The 5-string bass adds a low B string to the mix (B-E-A-D-G); this type of bass guitar provides more low-end, and is often preferred by bassists playing in genres such as jazz, hard rock, and metal. They also tend to be a little more difficult to play.

6-String

6-string basses add an additional higher string (B-E-A-D-G-C), resulting in the widest neck of all bass guitars. Though these are understandably even more difficult to handle, they provide great space for bassists who often solo and are seeking a wide range of notes to be able to play in their performances.

Fret and Fretless Bass

Fret

Standard instruments have metal frets that partition the neck into half-step increments, much like any other type of guitar. This makes it easier to find the notes and positioning on the neck, making it an ideal bass guitar for beginners.

Fretless

These guitars offer a neck without any of the fret markings, similar to how an upright bass or violin is designed.

Many bassists prefer the sound that a fretless bass provides, citing added warmth and a smoother sound that has a unique character that cannot be achieved by standard bass guitars. However, this design also makes it more challenging to find the frets on the neck, making it a poor choice for beginning bassists.

Once bass players have built their skills on standard instruments and have excellent ears as well as muscle memory, they may find that they have an easier time handling a fretless bass.

Passive vs. Active Pickups

Passive

Passive bass guitars are generally easy to spot – they usually only offer a few knobs for volume, tone, and a blend knob that mixes the signal if the instrument has two pick-ups. The sound that a passive system bass guitar offers is relatively straightforward and simple to adjust.

Although it can be looked at as considerably lo-fi when compared to an active system, its biggest benefit is that it is not battery-powered; worrying about power supply is one extra thing to have to think about when onstage or in the studio.

Active

Active bass guitars, on the other hand, provide far greater control for players to shape their tone. Extensive EQ manipulation is available, and players can often rely on contour switches that instantly reset the EQ settings, meaning that you can spend as little (or as much) time as you’d like tweaking the perfect tone. These bass guitars depend on an on-board battery in order to stay powered.

Scale Length

Bass scale length refers to the distance between the bridge and the nut on a bass guitar. This distance can determine both the tone and pitch of an instrument. Bass guitars with longer necks (35-inch scale) offer more clarity for lower notes; these are typically found in 5 or 6-string bass guitars. The standard length for most bass guitars is 34 inches.

Smaller scale length options also exist; these options usually measure up to be around 30 inches, and are more ideal for beginners or players with smaller hands. This configuration is ideal for children, but not exclusive to younger players – during his time in the Beatles, Paul McCartney played a short scale bass.

Tonewoods

Ash/Alder

Both ash and alder are quite similar as they both provide a balanced and even tone to the bass guitar’s output. Many manufacturers also tend to favor ash because of its smooth-looking grain finish.

Agathis

Agathis is the go-to choice for beginner/low-budget bass guitars, as the material is generally less expensive. The sound that agathis bass guitars produce generally tends to lean more towards low-end frequencies, providing what is considered to be a very rich tone.

Mahogany

Mahogany bass guitars have a rich and fuller sound than the aforementioned tonewood types. Because of the dense nature of the material, these guitars are generally heavier – something to keep in mind if you’re going to be holding the instrument around your neck for long periods of time.

Basswood

Basswood is a preferable type of tonewood for styles of playing that rely on more complex and limber playing techniques, due mainly to the fact that the material tends to have a shorter sustain. It is a softer wood that also does not resonate as much as some of its other counterparts.

Maple

Maple wood bass guitars are similar to mahogany wood bass guitars, except for the fact that they tend to yield a brighter, more high-end tone. This gives it a significant advantage for studio recording.

Fender Precision vs. Jazz Basses

Precision

The Precision bass guitar debuted in 1951 and models its body shape after the classic Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, with sculpted grooves in the top and bottom of the instrument, which make it easier to hold.

The Precision’s neck maintains a consistent thickness, tapering off only slightly when approaching the nut of the instrument. As far as pick-ups are concerned, the Precision offers a classic split-coil configuration that has been praised for its solid and bass-driven tone.

Jazz

The Jazz bass guitar premiered nearly a decade after the Precision first hit stores, and there are some marked differences in all of the aforementioned instrument attributes between the two. Basing its body shape more along the lines of the Fender Jazzmaster electric guitar, the Jazz bass offers a body shape that is pushed more forward, freeing up space around the player’s right arm.

The Jazz neck is distinctly different from the Precision, in that there is a much more narrower spacing around the nut; many bass guitarists feel that this provides for easier fingering on the fretboard. And finally, the pick-ups that are typically featured in Jazz basses are dual 8-pole humbuckers – these allow for far greater tone control and manipulation, as well as a sound that many players believe to be clearer.

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