The Basics of Electric Bass Guitars

If you’ve decided you want to give the bass guitar a try, then you’re in store for a fun and funky journey ahead. 

The bass guitar can help drive a song, and adds a more dynamic and flavourful sound to any genre of music. 

It’s a great instrument for any beginner looking to get their start in music, or for anyone looking to add a new rhythm instrument to their repertoire. 

And as bass player Thundercat would say, once you choose the bass, the bass chooses you. 

So, what do you need to know before buying your first bass guitar?

Basics of the Bass Guitar

The electric bass guitar has become the most commonly used form of bass in modern music, and is the lowest-pitched guitar. They most commonly come in 4 strings, but can be found in 5 and 6 string variants. 

If you are planning to buy a bass guitar, it can be helpful to understand the different parts that make up the bass. This can help you start to understand the different terminology and jargon when reading advice online. 

It’s not the most exciting part of playing an instrument, but it’s going to help give you a big head start in helping you learn. 

The gorgeous Fender Precision Bass used in this infographic is currently available for preorder. This is not for the faint of heart though, and this beast will ideally suit a more experienced player.


This is where we get to see the pretty colours and finishes. It’s also where a lot of your action is happening. 


Bridge - your strings rest here and are anchored to the bottom of the bass. Your bridge can have an impact on the tone of your guitar, and can make a difference in attack, sustain and the overall solidity of the notes you're playing. 

Pickups - these ‘pick up’ the vibration from your strings, and then turns it into an electric signal which can be transmitted through an amp. 

We could probably talk all day about just how important the pickups are to the bass’ overall sound, but this is just the basics, so we’ll keep it short and sweet. 

The closer your pickups are to the neck, the muddier your sound will be. The closer they are to the bridge, the brighter your sound will be. This is why many bass guitars have multiple pickups. 

When it comes to deciding between humbucker or single coil pickups… you’re best to test it out for yourself and see what works for your favoured genre of music. 

Volume and tone controls - a little self explanatory, but we’ll explain it anyway! These knobs are used to control the sound and tone of your bass. If you have multiple pickups, you will have separate knobs for each pick up so you can adjust them to your liking. 

Strap buttons - This is where you can attach your fancy strap when you’re ready to get comfortable or fashionable. 

On the body of your bass you will also have an output jack so that you can plug your cable into your guitar, and then feed it into your amplifier. 


This is the part that’s gonna make your fingers ache, but it’s also where a lot of the fun is happening. 

Nut - this little piece of metal lifts your strings from the fretboard, and makes sure that you can actually make some sound. 

Frets - these little strips show you where to place your fingers so you can play different notes. 

Fretboard - this is the wood that goes from the body of your guitar up to your headstock. There are many different types of wood and neck shapes that are used to achieve different sounds and tones. 

On your neck you also have fret markers, which are the little dots that are in between frets, making it easier for you to locate the fret you want to play. 


Tuning keys - these tuning pegs are used to either tighten or loosen your strings so that you can tune your bass guitar. 

On your headstock, you also have your string tree, which keeps your strings in place. You might also get a nifty logo here to show off how cool and hip you are. 

Alright, now that you have a bit more of an understanding on what makes up a bass, now we can talk about what bass might be right for you. 

Picking Your First Bass Guitar

If you want to learn to play the bass guitar, then you’re gonna need a bass to call your own. Picking your first instrument can be a little intimidating, so here’s some tips to keep you on the right track. 

Keep it simple 

Playing the bass is something that is relatively easy to learn, but incredibly difficult to master. 

Sticking with a 4 string bass is going to make things less complicated. Once you’ve got the basics down, then you can start thinking about pulling off the crazy cool chords your favourite musician has been playing. 

If you are choosing a bass for a younger person, or someone with smaller hands, you may also want to consider a short scale bass as an option for you to start with. 

Think about the style of music you want to play

If you’re having trouble making a decision, this is one of the easiest ways to narrow down your options. If you want to play a specific genre of music, then you can do some research into the style of bass that will best suit this. 

This can make the decision process a whole lot easier, and you can also make sure that you aren’t setting yourself up for future disappointment if your guitar doesn’t flow well with your preferred style. 

Keep it in your budget

While quality is always best, sometimes it’s just not realistic to buy a super expensive bass when you’ve just started playing. 

If you have the budget for a better bass, then by all means go for it. However, there are plenty of affordable bass options by reliable and reputable brands that are super good quality for beginners. 

Ideally, you want to get the best quality bass that you can afford, as that is going to make learning easier. 

Get one you like the look of

Aesthetics aren’t everything, and as a beginner they should probably be low down on your list of priorities. 

However… the more you like how your bass looks, the more likely you are to stick to playing it. 

In store and online we have a massive range of different bass guitars in different colours, finishes and styles, so there is sure to be one that makes your heart sing. 

Play It Yourself First! 

This will always be one of the best ways you can help make your mind up on any musical instrument. Trying out the different bass guitars you are deciding between can help you understand how each one feels in your hands, how comfortable they are to hold, and how much you like their sound. 

All you have to do is visit us in our Shake It Up Music megastore in Nambour, Sunshine Coast, and we’ll hook you up with a few different bass guitars to try out. 

The team is full of knowledgeable musicians who can answer any of your burning questions, and give you any advice you might need!