Bass Guitar Buyers Guide

By PAUL BOTHNER MUSIC | November 25, 2017

bass guitar buyers guide

So you’ve decided to play bass? Good choice! This Bass Guitar Buyers guide hopes to guide you to finding the perfect starter bass. You are the soul of the band. You’re there to keep everyone together when the guitarist goes off on a tangent. So it’s important to get a bass that can do the job.

 Basic Buyers Guide

1) Check the action; the distance between the fretboard and the string is called the action – the higher the action is the harder it is to play the bass, so make sure you get a bass with a low, comfortable action

2) Straightness of the neck – if the bass neck is even slightly warped, you will get a buzzing noise when you play, regardless of how hard you push the string down

3) Gauge of string – ensure that your bass has a light gauge of string

4) Tuning – all bass guitars go out of tune, this is normal. Be sure to purchase an electronic  tuner and ask your salesperson to show you how to tune your bass. Playing in the right place on an out of tune bass will make it sound as if you are making mistakes even when your aren’t!

5) Make sure to get a gig bag, and keep your bass in the bag whenever you are not playing it -this will help the strings last a lot longer


In-Depth Buyers Guide

Buying a good first bass can be a complicated process. But if you’re armed with the right information, then you can be sure to take the guesswork out of the process!

So, what should you be looking for?

Bass Guitar Buyers Guide Tips:

Electric vs Acoustic

Most bass players start off with an electronic bass. Many aren’t even aware that there is an acoustic option. No, I don’t mean a big double bass. I mean an acoustic bass guitar.

While the electric bass is more popular, it isn’t as convenient. I’m sure you’ve been to a braai and seen “that guy” with his acoustic guitar strumming along. The bass has the option to be “that guy” as well!

Both the electronic bass and the acoustic bass have different sounds and applications, but the acoustic bass is less versatile. You can comfortably play an electronic bass in an acoustic band and fit in tonally, but you cannot use an acoustic bass in a situation where distortion is needed.

In all honesty, an acoustic bass is a great second bass, but not a great first bass. Unless you know that all you ever want to play is acoustic and folk style music, in which case, go for the acoustic!


There is no one bass that is a “Jack of all trades” so to speak. There are however a few bases which have been built for a specific purpose.

If you want to play metal, and metal only, then go for a single function bass. If however, you like an eclectic and varied style of music, then look for something that can handle a variety of tones. Something like the Fender P-Bass is great for many rock tones, while the Jazz Bass is awesome for jazz and acoustic tones.

The Cort Action bass sounds even better than it looks! The ideal 5 string student bass!

Passive vs Active Pickups

The differences between active and passive pickups are vast. Just about everything from construction to tone are different.

The practical difference between the two is that passive pickups are in essence transducers, whereas active picks are electromagnets.

A passive pickup is made by wrapping copper wire around a magnet. This causes the string above pickup to magnetise. When the string moves, this disrupts the magnetic field which in turn creates an electronic signal in the copper wire.

Active pickups use copper coilings as well but require far fewer. Their circuitry is powered by a 9volt battery and includes an active preamp. This preamp is needed to boost the signal and the EQ.

The big advantage of an active pickup is that it eliminates noise. However, many players say that the noise created by pick-ups gives certain instruments a distinctive tone.

So ultimately, when selecting which to go for, listen to both and decided for yourself which is better. Here is a link to more information on passive vs active pickups.


The action of the bass is the distance between the strings and the fretboard of the bass. The higher the strings are, the harder it is to push them down. When you start playing, your fingers will get sore. This pain will be amplified if you have to push harder than you really need to.

The action on basses can be modified. Ask the salesman helping you whether or not the action on the guitar has been lowered. If not, ask the store to lower the action as much as possible before you buy it.

The Cort Action Junior is a traditional 4 string bass, in a slightly smaller size. This is one of the easiest basses to start playing on!

Where you buy the bass

Where you buy the bass makes a huge difference. Second-hand shops are less selective about what products they stock. Most music stores, on the other hand, will ensure that the stock they carry is suitable for learning on.

Building a relationship with your local music store will offer benefits like advice from professional guitarists on everything from music lessons to repairs and more.

Overall Quality

You don’t need to break the bank in order to get your first bass. It is, however, important that you don’t buy a poor quality one either. Higher quality instruments will have better components that will help your guitar stay in tune longer.

When you first start learning to play the bass, your ears will still be untrained. Because of this, it is important that you get a guitar that can stay in tune for longer. You don’t want to train your ears to think that an out of tune bass sounds ok.

Back-up Service

When you get your first bass, it should be something that will last you for years. Ensure that you find a music store that offers backup service. Even if nothing ever goes wrong with the guitar, you will still need to have new strings put on the guitar every 6-8 weeks depending on how often you play. Some players change their strings as often as every 3 weeks!

Cort Action Junior


Key Features
This is the perfect bass to start learning on. It has the traditional 4 strings and a slightly smaller size. This means that children and people with smaller hands will be comfortable playing this bass

For more information on this guitar, or to request a quote, simply pop into the nearest Paul Bothner Music store or drop us an email.

Cort Action 5 string


Key Features

The Cort Action 5 string bass are great basses at an even better price. They sound fantastic and look so good you’ll want to hang one on your wall! This is perfect for any beginner bass player who wants to either start on a 5 string bass, or who wants to move onto a 5 string bass from a 4 string.

For more information on this guitar, or to request a quote, simply pop into the nearest Paul Bothner Music store or drop us an email.


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