Getting a cheap bass guitar may be your only option if you're not looking to spend a lot of money but need to get your hands on a decent instrument. This quick guide will offer some bass tone tips on what to consider before investing in cheap basses.
The first thing is to determine exactly why you want a bass guitar in the first place. Are you considering joining or starting a band or do you just plan to 'mess around' in your basement or bedroom? For those who aren't serious about committing to the instrument for more than six months - you'll be wise to buy a cheap bass guitar. This way if you resell the bass you should be able to get most of your money back. However, if you end up playing bass guitar in a band - especially a few times a month or if you start recording - you may have to upgrade your bass before you realize it.
The advantages of buying new are mostly obvious: a shiny new bass guitar that is the exact style and color that you want (at least out of what's available in the store). However, it's necessary to note that not all new basses - especially cheap electric basses - are free from defects. Cheap tools are affordable for a reason; they are mass-produced offshore with lesser quality materials, so just remember that in mind before you buy. Make sure you know about any warranty options as well; having a warranty is often the best reason even to consider buying a new and cheap bass.
Buying a used bass for cheap may not initially seem like a good idea because the chances are increased that you may end up with someone else's garbage instrument. However, it is possible to get your hands on a far superior quality bass guitar for less money if you go for a cheap used bass guitar. Many used basses sell for 50% of what the equivalent models would cost in a store. With the current fragile economy, many people are opting to sell instruments they rarely use - often at a greatly reduced price if they're hurting for money. If you're savvy and patient, you might just score a great deal! However - you can only spot a great deal if you know what to look for in a used bass - which would easily be another article in itself! My recommendation is to only buy a used bass if there is a warranty of some kind or if you have an experienced bassist who you trust also think it's a good deal.
Here are some of the suggestions to help you make an informed choice on buying a decent bass guitar at a low cost. Let me restate one more time that you should always try before you buy. I recommend playing as many basses as you can in any given store (even a few that you can't afford) as research to find out what your preferences are. Here are a few of my recommendations for those starting out.
Go for an electric bass with passive electronics - at cheap price ranges the electronics in active basses are often substandard and adds a lot of noise to the signal, you can buy a pedal if you want to give your bass a little more kick in the volume department.
Make sure the bass fits you well. Try it sitting down, play it on a strap and make sure it feels comfortable to you otherwise you'll never want to play it.
Warranty - Unless you have money to burn (in which case you'd probably not bother with a cheap bass in the first place) make sure the bass has a warranty of some kind. A new bass should have a year or more, and a used bass should have 30 days or so (if you buy from a reputable store).
Play as many as you can because at low price ranges the quality of these instruments can vary uncontrollably from one to the next. You might like the black bass, but the same model in green may be much better - you'll never know unless you play them both. It's hard when you start out to do this, but let your ears and hands be the judge, avoid buying purely on color or the shape/style of the bass.
Chances are a cheap bass isn't going to be perfect, but the more of these things you can look out for the better your odds are of picking up an affordable bass that will last until you can upgrade or get you some money back if you sell. For those who now feel even more intimidated by buying an inexpensive bass, some music stores also allow you to rent instruments at a low monthly price. This may be ideal if you're not certain that you want to take the plunge and own an instrument right away.
What are some other great tips for players with a cheap bass?