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How to Buy the Right Bass for You

Are you looking to buy a bass, but don't know which to buy? This article is for you.

How to Buy a Bass Step 1: Decide on a budget. Some basses come with a hardshell case or gig bag, some don't, so factor that in.

Step 2: Play as many different models as you can. Be sure to play the same sets of riffs on all of the instruments so you can compare them. Do this unplugged first. If you like how it plays, plug it in and see how it sounds.

Step 3: When you find something you like, go to Amazon.com and read the reviews. Ignore all the comments about how much somebody does or does not like it - you like it and that's all that counts. What you're looking for are quality control issues such as defective wiring, bad truss rods, poorly seated frets, and so forth.

Step 4: If it checks out, buy it, preferably from your local dealer. If the price is higher than online, tell the salesman that. Maybe they will match the price. If not, decide if the extra money is worth the convenience of easy returns and knowing that the bass in your hands is the one you're getting as opposed to possibly getting a dud delivered via UPS.

I know, you want more detailed advice than that. Trust me, it really is that simple! Don't ever buy a bass because of the specifications on paper or because other people think it's great. If you like how it plays and sounds, that's all that counts. I will go into more detail later in the article, but for now I will just give you some quick tips.

Quick Tips

  • Decide on a standard set of riffs to play on every potential bass. Make sure the riffs cover all of the strings and move up and down the fretboard.
  • Include at least one difficult riff. Notice if you find it easier or harder to play on certain instruments.
  • Work all of the controls including the tuners to make sure they function properly.
  • If you use a pick, bring one with you.
  • Get a strap from the salesman, stand up, and play the damn thing like you would at a gig. What might be comfortable on your knee may not be comfortable across your shoulders.
  • Don't let a salesman tell you what you should or should not like. A good salesman will point out differences and let you decide what you like.
  • Fender basses suck.
  • Fender basses are the best.
  • Ignore the above two points - you will always find people who hate certain basses and other people you would think are being paid by the manufacturer to promote the brand. The goal is to figure out what you like.
  • So and so plays Brand X basses, and I love his sound. That's great if you get that sound when you play that model. Just remember there's a lot that goes into a player's "sound" besides just the model of bass. Check out my article on getting different tones from a single bass. If you buy a certain bass expecting to sound like someone else, you will probably be disappointed.
  • Be patient. You may find that you will keep an instrument for years. Personally, I have never sold an instrument, though a couple ended up on the scrap heap. I've had some instruments for over 20 years - that is until my house was robbed and all of my guitars and basses were stolen. An extra weekend or two of shopping is no big deal considering how long you may keep it.
  • Check out the Musicians Friend website to know in advance what various models cost - some stores make you ask for the price. Knowing prices in advance can be a big help when negotiating a deal.
  • Play models well out of your price range. You may be surprised to find that some $2,000 basses are crap (to you) compared to less expensive models. It's also good to learn what a quality instrument feels like.
  • Any price you can get today you can also get next week no matter what the salesman says. However, if a salesman says that certain instruments sell out as soon as they get in, he may be telling the truth. You may have to strike quickly or be willing to wait a month.
  • Play the instrument though a multi-effects pedal on bypass mode and listen with headphones, preferably a set you bring yourself. You will hear the uncolored tone of the bass better. Then try it with some effects. Play it through an amp as similar to yours as possible. Don't be embarrassed at how you play in the store. Nobody is listening anyway.

Personally, I think this is all you need to know. However, part 2 of this article goes into detail about necks, woods, pickups and other important points. Read part 2.

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