The electric bass is one of those fundamental instruments in any musical style and genre. It’s in charge of the base frequencies of any musical mix, but it also plays a vital role in the rhythmic work. The bass must be consistent and very well executed to give the rest of the group a clear harmonic and rhythmic base that helps them keep up with the song’s tempo.
To better understand the use or function of the bass in music, it is good to know the essential aspects of this noble instrument. The first thing is that there are electric basses with 4 strings, 5, 6, or even 7 strings. They usually have a tuning similar to the guitar’s but an octave lower to bring the low frequencies to your music and give it a fuller, rounder, and more powerful sound.
My Top 3 Picks
- Ibanez GSR206B – Best Overall
- ESP LTD D-6 – Best for Live Gigs
- Warwick Thumb NT 6 string – Best for Big Budgets
If you have played any other plucked string instrument before, like the guitar, or even a 4-string bass, you won’t feel weird using a five-string bass or more. But, if it’s your first time picking up an instrument or you want to start with the basics, then it’s best to start with a 4 string bass to understand the technique better so you can play easier.
Now, before we get in, let me introduce to you my background concerning bass guitars. Though I did start off playing bass and later on switched to electric guitar, I have a deep soft spot for progressive metal, jazz, and RnB- all genres where you would find a 6 string bass. My utmost revered band of all time is an Australian alternative progressive metal band called Karnivool. A kind of milkshake of Radiohead mixed with Tool and delivered on a Incubus vocal- style platter. Let me introduce their bass player: Jon Stockman:
Don’t get me wrong: a 6-string bass is akin to many more genres than metal. It’s a beast of a bass, also found amongst many Jazz players, and lately, I’ve been delighted to find an upcoming- well, not new to the musical scene. Still, he is catching the spotlight for his collabs with Sonic Silk and Mac Miller: Thundercat, a former member of Flying Lotus.
Why Would I Want a 6-String Bass?
If you are asking this question, you really don’t need more than 4 strings. You see, a traditional 4-string bass is more than enough for music styles such as rock, blues, pop, ballads, even salsa, merengue, and other styles. They have thinner necks that are easier to manipulate and a standard tuning that is more comfortable for the
However, for other musical styles such as metal, funk, and other genres that require complicated techniques and virtuosity, bassists will always prefer 5 or 6 string basses, as they allow a much greater range, give you more versatility on stage, and you will be able to show off with amazing bass solos.
Perks of a 6-string bass:
- Bottom B string!
- A wider range of sound
- You are musically less limited
- They look badass. Nuf said.
Choosing Your First 6-String Bass Guitar
Know Thy Brands
Knowing your guitar brands is also important to know what prices they usually adjust to and automatically trust some renowned brands. Cort and Ibanez are very common and have products in the whole range of prices. Musicman and Warwick are top-tier brands, and LTD are known for their more aggressive, metal-oriented guitars. Squier is the subsidiary of Fender and often lacks the quality you would be looking for if you’re not a complete entry-level player.
My criteria, to which I owe my choosing the best possible option for you, is the same I apply myself when searching for my instruments: The best option for the amount of money spent. Being a musician doesn’t get you rich unless you’re winning Grammys, so- let’s face it.
We’d rather go with the best. Yes, the top-tier are appealing, and looking up to the musicians you admire can lead you to the right instrument. But if you can afford it yet, I’d be looking at:
- Correlation price to value
- Type of wood used. It affects your sound, longevity of the instrument, and tone.
- Hardware, bridge, pickups, and electronics used (what mix of signal and pickups can you get?)
- The appeal of the brand (I reference the kind of instrument they are known to make). Makes a huge deal, in fact.
- Customer service. I’ve had the odd time where I’ve received a bad product and had to ship it back.
- Which leads to the most important: Try the bass you intend to buy at a physical store. Independently of what you intend to get. Playing an instrument is all about the feel. So if you yourself can’t suss out what a good 6-string bass guitar should feel like, bring a friend.
So this 6-string bass, despite being aimed at beginners, features a fairly large fingerboard and neck, made for bassists who want to explore a wider musical range. It is made with a mahogany body and maple neck, which gives it that light color that contrasts with the dark reddish of the mahogany.
The fingerboard, on the other hand, is made of rosewood. Add to that the two humbuckers with Phatti EQ and four controls for volume, bass, mid and treble, and you have a super versatile bass to experiment with from day one. This one rocks in just under 300€ on Amazon.
ESP LTD D-6
ESP offers this bass with a mahogany body, maple/mahogany neck-through 5-piece body, rosewood fingerboard, 24-fret extension, loaded with the ESP DB-6 pickup set, volume, and balance controls, ABQ3 3-band active EQ, and natural satin color.
All these features make this LTD a bass you can enjoy in your practice sessions and live gigs. You can find it in the UK here on Sweetwater
Ibanez SRMS806-BTT Workshop
The Ibanez Bartolini are my pick from this category, considering it as a multi-scale bass, made of really exotic woods; mahogany body, knotty poplar top, jatoba/walnut 5-piece neck, panga fingerboard with walnut binding, and all the rest:
- Capo width: 54mm.
- Scale of 864mm – 901,7mm
- 24 medium frets
- MR5S bridge
- 2 Bartolini BH2 pickups
- Ibanez Custom Electronics: 3-band EQ with EQ bypass circuit (passive tone control) and 3-way mid-frequency circuit
Sunburst Brown Topaz Burst.
- Find it in Europe here
La Créme De La Créme
If you want to spend more on your bass guitar than on your house, keep reading. The following two bass guitars are at the top of the bass league, made popular by the two players that use them:
Warwick Thumb NT 6 string
Jon Stockman from Karnivool sports this beauty, along with the standard version. It boasts massive tone and is used by metalheads and funk players for slapping alike.
IBANEZ TCB1006-ALM-AUTUMN LEAF BURST MATTE THUNDERCAT
What Pedals Might You Want To Check Out
Along with the right bass guitar, it is useful to have the right pedals to get all the juice you can from those extra 2 strings.
Darkglass Alpha Omega
This pedal acts as a preamp or distortion. This unique pedal was designed in collaboration with bassist Jon Stockman. The Darkglass Alpha Omega preamp is very flexible, with a 3-band EQ and a balanced XLR DI output.
The pedal also features 2 different distortion circuits (Alpha and Omega) that can be mixed via the ‘Mod’ control. The Alpha circuit provides bass overdrive with plenty of definition, while the Omega circuit delivers brutal, raw distortion.
The unit features a jack input, output, and parallel output.
Electro Harmonix Microsynth Bass
This pedal is a must-have and also quite fun. It rescues the old 80s sounding funk synth bass sound. If you hear a live bass in pop or commercial songs, chances are they have one of these in their signal chain.
Retails for just over 200€ depending on where you live.
Which Amps Might Fit?
Just in case you’re new to bass guitars and all the equipment surrounding them, I’ll leave a little suggestion as something you should keep a lookout for. Practicing bass at home on a Hi-Fi setup is fine. But get to the studio or the practice room, and you’ll want your bass to cut through the mix and carry all the definition and punch it can in the mix. I would highly recommend this amp, as it is as ubiquitous as it can get.
The Ampeg SVT-7 Stack consists of head plus cabinet, specifically the SVT-410LF model. It is one of the most sold among professionals, so it is easy to see it in video clips, live, and recording studios.
Its power leaves no one unmoved, and its 4×10-inch speakers will make the floor shake as it has no more and no less than 1000 watts. It is a tube bass amplifier built with the well-known 12AX7 and a class D power amp making it a hybrid.
In short, it is one of the most powerful choices on the market with a great performance. In it, you will find an optimal result for any situation in which we find ourselves. You can find the preamp head on Thomann.
A fretless bass, acoustic or electric, is designed without frets. It is widely used in genres such as jazz, funk, or R&B due to some aspects of its sonority that approximate the sound of a double bass. This kind of bass allows you to change notes by sliding between them, i.e., letting the notes change as you slide your hand along the instrument’s neck.
This results in much more natural and organic sounds, which adapt much better to some sonorities without the need for mixing. As it also uses the chromatic scale of twelve tempered tones, it offers greater expressive possibilities, although it is also more difficult to play masterfully.
How Does it Differ From the Traditional Bass?
- It has a smoother and more natural sound, although less clear and defined.
- It requires more attention and rehearsed playing.
- It creates compelling melodic bass lines without the need to play the strings with the forcefulness of the ordinary bass.
- It has a greater dynamic range due to the fact that it has no frets.
- It is known as the “bass of expressiveness.”
The options of 6-string, fretless bass guitars are not many, and above all, not cheap. But, if you’re going for a fretless 6-string, you are obviously not your run-of-the-mill player. There is the obvious option, a fretless version of the Warwick I mentioned above, and a new 2017 Ibanez model that looks absolutely fantastic:
- Warwick Pro Series Corvette Bub 6 FL: Made of Ovangkoll and Bubinga, its fretboard is made from beautiful tigerstripe ebony, 47″, and has 2 active MEC humbuckers.
Ibanez BTB846F: A modern bass for the contemporary player. Check it out here.
5-String Bass Options
- 5-String Cort B-001: Made for whoever is looking for a complete 5-string bass experience, this model can give you versatility in any genre or style of music. This is a bass made with a swamp ash body, a fairly common wood variety in this range of electric basses, and that not only gives it a very handsome finish in light tones, but a full and responsive sound. The neck is maple, the fingerboard is rosewood, and the pickups are two humbuckers with 5 separate controls for volume and EQ. Includes 3-band MarkBass preamp. It’s hard to find a better value-for-money 5-string bass.
- Musicman Sting Ray 35: Though a bit more pricey, with this bass you have the quality of a brand like Musicman, but through Sterling, one of its subsidiary brands. It is a 5 string bass with 22 frets and an alnico humbucker pickup. In addition, it has an active 3-band preamp, so the bass has volume control, as well as 3 EQ knobs for treble, bass, and midrange. Regarding the woods employed, it has an ash body, maple neck, and maple fingerboard, with a natural finish that gives it a pretty cool look, as well as an organic and very natural sound. The bridge is Musicman design and comes in 34″ long scale. As for the headstock, it has classic Fender-style electric bass pegs. Just over 1000€ on Thomann
- Marcus Miller M7 5ST BRS: A Marcus Miller signature bass made by Sire, with alder body, flamed maple top, bolt-on ‘C’ maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, dot inlays, 12 radius, 45mm saddle width, 35 scale, 24 medium frets, 2 Marcus Miller Pure humbuckers, Marcus Heritage-3 electronics with frequency control…An all-in-one: volume/tone controls, pickup combiner, treble control, low/ mid-frequency control, mini toggle for bass boost and system switching (active/passive). It also uses 2 9V batteries, a Marcus Miller Custom Big Mass2 bridge, black hardware. In sunburst, brown, and satin colors. Available for a bargain on Thomann
Conclusion and Summary
Be it sooner or later, deciding to move onto a 6 string bass is a big step. Many of the world’s most influential bass players have or have played a 6-string bass. Its rich sonority makes learning to mold your hand to a larger fretboard worth it.
If you are into more progressive or technically advanced genres, then it would be right down your alley.
It’s great to see people making the big stage nowadays (in terms of popularity) that sport this kind of huge instrument. Maybe it will open the industry up to having a wider array of
For now, the options might be limited, but in this article you definitely have your ground to cover and expensive options to drool over. I hope I’ve planted some kind of seed for more rockstars to come!
Question: How Much Should I Spend On a Bass Guitar?
Answer: Bass guitars can cost as little as less than 200€ if it is a
Question: Is Learning How to Play Bass Easy?
Answer: It depends a lot on the level you want to achieve and the style of music you want to play. Now, one difference between bass and guitar is that the bass strings are quite a bit thicker, and the instrument is bigger, so, for beginners, it can be more difficult than a guitar.
Question: Is it Worth Playing Bass as a Solo Artist?
Answer: Yes, absolutely. Just listen to bass geniuses like Victor Wooten, Abraham Laboriel, or Anthony Jackson. It’s a very versatile instrument, with great capabilities and a spectacular sound. You can do some incredible solos on a bass guitar.
Question: Is the Bass Guitar a Good Instrument to Start Off With?
Answer: As a general rule of thumb, the piano is the easiest instrument to understand music theory with. Having said that, I started out playing bass. The bass is an excellent instrument, as it allows you to understand harmony and rhythm from the beginning, which is the basis of music. I recommend you learn from the best jazz or progressive rock bass players. There are also many methods for electric bass that teach music theory and more general aspects.