Posted by: Jon | November 14, 2006

The Perfect Bass Rig for Beginners

– by Jon Cheema 

Guitar Center, Guitar Center, Guitar Center, Oh how I love Guitar Center, the Walmart of Music stores. You probally can already sense some sarcasm coming on. As you are probally already aware, when you walk into that store you are immediatly bombarded by numerous sales assosiates just begging to make some money off of you. Unfortunatly, the vast majority of employees that I have come into contact with @ G.C. tend to know absolutly nothing regarding the products that they sell. To illustrate this point, I once had a sales assosiate pick up a strat and try to convince me it was a bass. I told him he should think of getting a new job. lol Anways, the point that I am trying to make is simple; Don’t step foot into Guitar Center unless you are well educated and and know exactly what you are going to buy. Otherwise, the majority of the time, you will get burned. Ok enough rambling, the purpose of this post is to educate beginner bassists so they can purchase a quality rig suited for beginners.

The Guitar
The first step when an instrument is to determine how much you are willing to spend. The number one mistake I think people tend to make when starting out is buying cheap gear. I know from experience that you are better off biting the bullet and buying something that, yes may cost more. Because, in the long run it will be well worth your money, as quality instruments A.) Will sound better and B.) Will be easier to sell when the time comes. The quality of the instruments that guitar companies are producing today is much, much better than it was, say 10-15 years ago. Many, if not all bass guitar bodies are computer cut, and therefore are very consistent. The only thing you are really paying for in a musical instrument is the quality of the electrical and hardware componants, as well as some minor detail work. The basses made in America are the best, however will generally cost you much much more. I highly recommend FENDER bass guitars for several reasons, the first being that with Fender you tend to get the most for your money. Fender instruments are also extremly easy to upgrade, modify, and repair, and are very well built. Fender has been around since the 50’s boasting years of experience, and their instruments have been used by countless musicians. As you can probally already notice, I am very biased towards Fender, but for good reason. I have owned a Jazz bass, and P-bass for 4 years and haven’t had one problem yet. When purchasing a bass, there are many features that you should consider such as fretted/fretless, single coil/humbucker pickups, and neck shape. These features are honestly all personal preference and I would highly recommend visiting a music store and seeing what YOU like. Although I feel Fender is the best choice bass-wise, I would also recommend Gibson, Calvin, Tobias, Rickenbacker, and Dean basses. However, I would stay away from the Squier line of basses made by Fender, as I feel they are of very poor quality. Like I mentioned earlier though, you really can’t go wrong with a Fender.

The Amp
The second area that comes into play when looking to play bass guitar is your amplifier. Without a decent amp, your bass will sound, well…….not so pretty. The amp is really the key to sounding good. As with guitar you can own a crummy guitar with a great amp, and still sound decent. The same concept applies to bass as well. Today, their are many decent bass amp companies out there. Ampeg, Fender,Harke, and GK are what I like to call the Big four. They are the biggest brands, and tend to produce the best products. Hartke, Fender, and GK produce fairly priced amps that sound great and give you more bang for your buck. (They also produce higher end “pro” lines, but most of those products tend to be overpriced.) I would caution you to stay away from brands like Behringer as they tend to be poorly made. If you are an absolute tone freak like myself, go with a Ampeg and you won’t be disapointed. Ampegs run pretty pricey but produce a unique, classic tone unlike any other amp. They are also made 100% in America. When deciding which amp to purchase there are many features that you are faced with. These may include Head/Cab amp or Combo amp, Tube powered or solid state, Graphic EQ or basic EQ, and different speaker sizes. To make this process simple, first decide what you will be using your amp for. If you are just looking to play in your bedroom, then concider a low wattage small combo amp that weighs less. If you plan to be playing in large stadium sized venues, then consider going with a seperate “Head” and “Cab” design. Also refered to as a “stack”. Next decide what sound you are going for. If you are playing mainly jazz, or country music, look for an amp that sports a large single speaker. (Sizes normally run 15 or 18 inchs). If you are looking for a more crisp “Rock” sound go for a cab that has 2, 4, 6+ smaller speakers (such as 10’s or 12’s). Next, decide if you are looking for a warmer sound. If you are you probally would be wise to invest in a tube powered amp. However, for beginners I would recommend starting with a solid state, as they are generally cheaper, and weigh less.
The Accesories
Just as important as the amp and guitar, assesories play a crucial role in a bass player’s rig. When looking for a strap, use this rule of thumb… Comfort comes 1st, looks come 2nd. No matter how cool those metal spikes look on your strap, they will in no way affect how well it feels. Levy makes some very nice padded straps that look cool and don’t kill your shoulder. They unfortunatly cost a little more as well. A cord and Tuner are also critical to a bass player. I highly recommend George L cables as you can quickly create them yourself, and fix them if they do indeed break. KORG makes the best tuners and suprisinly they run around $15-20. The model I would recommend would be the GA-30. Its very compact, uses 2 AAA batteries, and is only $14.99 @ Guitar Center.

Now is the part you have all been waiting for, the Ultimate Bass Rig for Beginners….

Bass Guitar >>>> Fender Standard P-bass or Dean Edge bass ($429 or $189)
Amp >>>> Fender Rumble 25 watt or Gallien-Krueger Blackline 112 70 watt ($189 and $229)
1/4 Cable >>>> George L’s pre-made cable ($24.99)
Strap >>>> Levy’s Soft Suede Strap ($24.99)
Tuner >>>> Korg GA-30 ($14.99



  1. My heart goes pitter-patter when I see that there’s a new entry at WGG, for you have a gift. Once again, very pertinent and helpful information – not many folks stick their necks out and recommend specific models and prices, but you are right on the mark here. Keep up the great work!

  2. I’d love to see a blog about the importance of a proper set-up job on a guitar (4 or 6 string). I think this is one of the most overlooked things for guitar/bass players. A properly setup instrument will: Have better action, stay in tune, and will be more enjoyable because it sounds better.

  3. Just as a head’s up y’all, the bass posts are written by Jon Cheema, one of the students in our youth group, and an awesome bass player… 😉

  4. Thanks for the suggestion Jeff, I will take that into consideration for a future post. I agree that properly setting up your instrument leads to an overall better sound, and less stress.
    Thanks guys for the comments, and support!

  5. this is right on time I’m looking to pick up a bass


  6. GC is the scourge of my existence….I have to deal with the dolts in the drum dept every friggin’ day….they’re all one firing away from working at Mickey D’s (sorry Mickey D’s employees, get a better job)

  7. GC… sigh. It is the WalMart of gear. Was looking at a new amp there one time. Was ready to drop around $1,000 on an amp. Moron sales guy offers to get me a guitar to plug in. I tell him I play a Gibson Les Paul. He comes back with an IBANEZ WITH A FLOATING TREM – the “anti-Paul” – and offers some lame thing about how I can’t play one of their Pauls for “insurance reasons”.

    I bought my Boogie somewhere else…

  8. Nice Post Jon. Thanks for your contribution. Guess that is the good thing about living 2 hours away from a guitar center, it is easier for me to deal with the local shop owner, who just happens to be a bass player.

  9. Oh how thankful I am for my local privately-owned music store that I have faithfully been doing business with for almost 20 years! GC reminds me of our local motorcycle dealer… they want you to spend lots of money on products that you can’t sit on (or play in the case of GC…)

    Keep up the good work WGG!

  10. Good advice, but buy any Fender that has good action & sounds good not-amplified, it should “ring” long & clear. You should be able to feel the vibrations against your body. Then buy all the power you can. A guitarist with a 25 watt weenie amp blows away a 100 watt bass head. Also, I think Behringer makes a killer 410 bass combo, I wouldn’t be afraid of buy Behringer.

  11. From my personal experience with Behringer, I would recommend highly against it at all costs. They’re amps seem to flab, rather than boom when lows are introduced. I also had an issue with the fact that the tone i got was not crisp, clear and full. Seemed to me to be muddy and dull. Anyways, you dont have to listen to me, but if a Behringer is your price range, get a PEAVEY. You will be much happier!

  12. I’m a Jazz Bass man myself, but I think you forgot an important brand. Jazz Bass and SWR amps/cabs go together like. . .Well you get the picture. I started using one of the new WorkingPro 400’s and I love it. It helps me slice me right through the mix in my five piece funk band.

  13. I’m not a bass man myself, 😛 but I’ve always liked the tone from SWR amps. The guys I’ve heard play them really impress me with their sound.

  14. ooooh! yeah! For example: Jacques Jones uses an SWR RedHead, the JuniorIII, and the Son of Bertha with a Marcus style Jazz Bass. He gets that crisp, traditional funk sound. You can hear it on Victor Wooten, “Soul Circus.”

  15. The GCs in So. Cal are pretty cool, they have to know their stuff.

  16. I’ll have to agree with both sides of the coin… I’ve always disliked GC… BUT I live in Fresno Ca and lemme tell you, THEY HOOK ME UP!!! I went to the local (non GC) shop and tried to try out an AC30… and they told me i was too loud…!!! Hello?! do you not understand the concept of trying out a $1000 tube amp?! (mind you I’ve shop @ this store since I was little and bought most of my stuff there) So I went to GC where the salesman unrapped brand new pedals from the store (that I normally play with but didn’t bring) and he followed me around for an hour or two trying different amps… and he actually turned the amp UP for me! Not only was my experience there good, but the pretty much sell me stuff at cost or right above it now, so I love GC, they treat me like royalty 🙂

  17. Guitar Center can be GREAT if you know who to deal with. Most of the managers have it together.

  18. You guys are all slateing the guitar centre here in the UK we have nothing like it. Ive been looking for a new bass for a while but cant find any to play on to try out and dont want a gamble with buying something ive never played over the net. If i was in the US i’d be straight to a GC spend a while playing anything in my price range

  19. Chema (and sometimes me) will rip on Guitar Center a bit, but I’ll assure you we spend a fair amount of money there. I think that’s one thing that we in the States need to appreciate more is the wonderful access we have to quality gear over here. (Oh, and be thankful to you Brits for awesome inventions like Vox, Marshall, and Orange amps, and Ric guitars… 🙂 You guys definitely dialed it in on those things.)

  20. Yes, I could not agree with what Gerry said any more. Although we sometimes slam guitar center, we really love it at heart. Americans are truly blessed to have such a great music chain in our country.

  21. Calvin – did you mean Carvin – Most excellent HardWare & WooD…I have a 4-String from 1975 and a 6-String from 2000ish…I run these through Aphex Punch-Factory (which has a buildt in DI which goes to my Mesa-Boogie Scout (15″) cab and Walk-About head (Also DI Out)(SweetNeSS) this is for medium/larger venues (the big rig (Carvin 4×10″ + horn hi-pack and 18″ low-pack and crossover/power-amp rack)stays at rehearsal as I don’t get into the major physical labor, hauling around town cabs and racks I used to)…For WorShip Team and smaller venues I take the Aphex into a SVT DI – Nothin’ better and my whole rig fits in both hands – 1-Trip!!!


    BobbyC on Bottom
    HigH HeeL

  22. Confirming what Jon said GC can be Great if you deal w/ the right people… I know most of the peeps at my local GC cause i’m there basically every day trying new stuff and buying new strings (lead guitarist of our team loves to break strings and we still can’t figure out why he goes through a new set every few days, week at most)… But yeah… I wanted to sell my acoustic and get a Gretsch Electromatic… Guy said he can give me $100 for the acoustic and i still had $550 to pay for the Gretsch so we talked for a bit and he gave me the Gretsch for $400.. Basically i sold my acoustic for $250 instead of the $100 max… Now i’m saving for a Vox Tonelab LE… And i was so pumped up and my mind was set on it until i read the Musician’s Friend reviews where most people said that it’s good but the Boss GT-8 was better…. And now i’m torn between the TL LE and GT-8… Any ideas/suggestions?… I’d greatly appreciate anything

  23. im a beginner and im happy to find such a detailed explanation on the basics of bassist hardware.

    i am actualy looking for a new bass amp (combo)

    while searching i found a very good looking amp combo from SWR

    is this a good choice? SWR LA12 1×12 Bass Combo Amplifier

    • how does it sound to u?

      • what quantus said…

  24. Excellent article and very useful. I’m a firm believer that there’s a world of class bass gear outside of the American box tho. Warwick in my opinion make the best basses by far. Built in Germany they have incredible tonal ranges and are beautifully made. I’ve had numerous Fenders and although they have classic tone I find them to be “creaky” and the single coil pickups are so noisy. They are also quite limited in their range. Warwick basses are so versatile and just like German cars they ooze class. Warwick also make a cheaper option called “Rockbass” which are incredible value for money. For about $450 you can get a Rockbass that will blow most $1500 dollar basses out of the water.
    As for amps I couldn’t not mention Ashdown or Trace Elliott. Trace Elliot are awesome uk amps and are used by tons of pro’s worldwide. In the UK Fender and Hartke are seen as low value and v low quality for bass amps. Trace elliott have bright sharp amps that sing. Ashdown amps are so warm and toneful. Ashdown is and American company and the ABM series stuff they do is utterly brilliant and looks classic too.
    As mentioned before we have no GC equivalent in the uk which is a crying shame cos with the help of websites like this we don’t need sales assistants!

  25. great review thanks, Can you give me some direction for equipment for a 10 year old looking to pick up the bass guitar as a third instrument after viola and piano?

    I assume the Fender is too large for a child to start out on.

  26. Just read you blog, great for beginner bassists. I am in the UK and opted for an Ashdown rig. These are British made and absolutely fantastic for the price. I use a head and 15″ cab in church, with a P-copy and flats for a mellow “James Jameson sound”. With my band I had a couple of 10″ speakers and use a Jazz to get a bit more rock bite. Works great. As a beginner bass I really recommend both the Classic Vibe series from Fender and also Bass Collection Jazz and P copies.

  27. As for GC, I totally agree…The Bass should ring againist your body when not run through an amp and the neck has to feel like a part of you…Peavey in the past supplied me with a rig of a 210 and 115 Mark VI rig with a Bass of my choice and it turned out to be a Foundation 4 string….now after 40 years of playing and trying out all that is out there GK and Lakland are now at my door with gifts….I thank the Lord for this talent He has given me to play with most of the top Blues artists and travel the world to spread the Word when the time arises…..keep up the great work and God Bless

  28. Thanks for the information. It was really helpful.

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