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6 Most Popular Types of Bass Guitars Explained in Details

These six types tend to be the most popular types of bass guitars available, but this is not an exhaustive list.

Even though the bass player may not receive huge accolades, they are a fundamental part of any band. They assume different roles, but the key to playing with excellence rests on timing and consistency. The main function of the bass is holding up the lower register of the sound and keeping other band members in a tight rhythmic pattern. Here, we discuss the different types of bass guitars.

Six Most Popular Types of Bass Guitars

popular types of bass guitar

Bass guitars come in different sizes and shapes. They tend to be larger and longer versions of electric guitars with four to five thick strings. There are also differences between bass guitars. Below, we outline the different bass guitars and how to find the best guitar type for your skillset.

1. Long Scale Bass Guitar

When getting to know a new bass, you need to be aware of scale length. Scale length refers to the distance between the bridge and the nut. It affects the quality of the instrument’s sound, playability, and the tone of the strings. The longer the strings, the lower the pitch will be.

The standard is 34” in the long scale bass. However, there are shorter ones (30-32”), medium ones (32-34”), and ones that are extra long (36” and over). Not all the scale lengths are similar. There are no firm rules in this area from manufacturers, but it is something people should be aware of. 

Many players have challenges choosing string length. To do so, you need to know the scale length. Long-scale basses are the most common. The Fender Jazz uses a 34” scale length. This works great for most people, but don’t be afraid to try other bass guitars to find the one best suited for you.

2. Short Scale Bass Guitars

This bass is a great instrument as it provides the foundation for the other instruments in the band. Bass guitars are rapidly gaining in popularity. Modern techniques are quickly developing, and professional players can obtain different sounds from the guitar, explaining why so many people love this instrument.

While this guitar is often overlooked for the long-scale bass, short-scale basses are known for their sound. A regular bass contains a heavier weight with a longer body, turning many people away from learning it. However, a short-scale bass is easier to play and tune, which is useful for those with shorter hands and for younger players.

Short-scale basses play distinctive tones that are different from a standard bass.

The difference between a long scale and a short scale is that most people see the short scale as a child’s toy, devaluing the guitar’s cool factor and turning serious bassists towards a long-scale guitar.

During the sixties, short-scale basses were not built well and contained poor electronics. Therefore, people avoided them. However, today they are becoming increasingly common. They are better built using quality parts that have a similar sound to the larger bass.

The benefit of this bass is its physical size. The distance between the frets is shorter and more compact because of the shorter maple neck, making it feel like an in-between between a guitar and bass and allowing for a smoother transition between the instruments. It also has a big sound accompanied by a fat, low end.

3. Fretless Bass Guitar

The first thing you may wonder if you are a beginner is what a fretless bass is. A fretless bass guitar has no frets over its fretboard, making it smooth. Frets are metal wires found up and down the bass’s neck beneath the strings.

The purpose of frets is to divide the notes found on each string when pressed down. Without frets, the player needs to accurately locate and play notes on each string, making sure they are in tune for good sound quality. They are used in western instruments like guitar or bass to generate proper note intervals.

A traditional Western chromatic scale will have 12 tones between octaves, which is what players get with a fretted guitar. Fretless bass guitars eliminate the limitation of those 12 tones, giving you more possibilities when playing a different type of musical genre or style. They also provide a microtone between the regular notes, offering technique and sound options above a fretted bass.

4. Acoustic-Electric Bass Guitar

Acoustic basses come with sets of electronics accompanying them. They are wonderful for unplugged events but also come in handy when playing other venues. An acoustic guitar can cause players to struggle with the amplitude and hurt their fingers, so an electric guitar is often preferable.

An acoustic-electric guitar enables you to match the output levels of different instruments. In terms of complexity, there are simple systems available. When plugging into a PA system or amp, you need an elaborate preamp to provide more tone-shaping capabilities.

5. Acoustic Bass Guitar

This bass has no pickups or electrics (though there are a select few that do). They are great if you enjoy playing unplugged or are just learning. You don’t need to plug it in to play, as the body on the guitar produces a sound louder than a standard electric bass guitar (without a bass amp). To use it, you just pick it up and begin playing.

The drawback is that an acoustic bass isn’t loud and cannot compete with basses with amps. When you join a group or play in large venues, other instruments are likely to dampen the sound. The bass will become less prominent.

For a louder acoustic bass, examine basses with larger bodies. An acoustic bass guitar is like a double bass, which is why people adore it. It produces resonant sounds in lower music registers, making it different from standard guitars. The pitch is also lower.

It is worth noting that there are a variety of acoustic bass guitars. They are also very different from their electric bass guitar counterparts. They have a unique tone and can meld music differently than a standard bass.

Many see an acoustic bass as a mix between an electric bass for playability and upright bass for sound. While not entirely true, it is a good definition. Most techniques that you use on a standard bass you can also use on the acoustic. The possibilities are vast with this guitar.

When looking for this instrument, know what features you want. Depending on your specific genre and budget, not every guitar will meet your needs.

6. Electric Bass Guitar

This bass guitar is a four-string. However, five- and six-string models have been gaining popularity since the eighties. The extra string offers the bass player an additional low-end range.

The first four high-pitch strings are tuned and played like a standard bass. If you are just beginning, stick with a four-string, especially if you lack musical experience. It will allow you to keep the learning experience simple and become less frustrating.

You can play a wide range of chords and notes using four bass strings. Fewer strings mean there is less to be concerned about when performing live, allowing you to enjoy playing more. It will also allow newer musicians to refine their playing techniques and develop their style.

If you have musical experience, you can upgrade to more bass strings. A five-string bass will permit you to play additional notes that aren’t possible with a four-string bass. Six-string bass guitars allows you to play the most notes out of all three.

Fingers need to do more stretching around the guitar’s neck, which takes practice, especially if you aren’t used to playing with this many strings. If you have never played bass, begin with a four-string. Even if you have experience with an acoustic or electric guitar, learning to play bass is simply developing a new skill using the same basic technique.

In mastering the electric bass, you need to learn how to refine your bass playing techniques and learn to shape them as well. Five- and six-string bass guitars are great for heavy metal, rock, or metal. The extra strings allow you to reach lower notes without returning and de-tuning the guitar.

Final Thoughts

These six types tend to be the most popular types of bass guitars available, but this is not an exhaustive list. If you’re adventurous, check out a double bass or even a violin bass. There are several more popular options as well that may benefit different users.

The bass guitar you choose will largely depend on your skill level, whether you are transitioning from a guitar to bass, and what genre of music you play. There are distinct variations among bass guitars, so it is important to establish exactly what you are looking for.

When it comes to the different types of bass guitars, find one that is the most comfortable for you both experience-wise and physically. Try it out before making a final purchase to ensure that it is the best bass guitar for you.

Happy Playing!

Passionately invested in the music world for over 20 years, Jake studied music for 14 years at the Royal Conservatory Of Toronto. He has a degree from Champlain College & Bishop’s University in Business & Music. He is the owner of Fly Away Music & Media Studio in Montreal since 2014, with over 500 happy artists recorded, mixed and mastered.

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