Wondering what are the different electric bass guitar types? On this page, you will have the answer.

Electric Bass Guitar


1. Different models.

The electric bass guitar as we know was invented by Leo Fender. Paul Tutmarc designed an early model in the 1930’s, but the first mass-produced bass was made in 1951. Its name was: the Precision. Some years after that, Fender struck again and invented the Jazz. And with those two bass guitars, the foundations were laid.

After that, a lot of companies tried, with more or less success, to keep up with Fender. Among the most known, Rickenbacker, Gibson, Höfner… They did well, but never really reached the top.

Nowadays, a lot of companies build basses, and propose different types. Let’s see what are the most common :

  • Fender Precision: this one stayed from scratch and is still popular today. It is fitted to a lot of musical genres. As for its price, it ranges from quite low (Fender Squier Precision can be found at around 200$) to really expensive (more than 5000$).
  • Fender Jazz: despite its name, this bass is also used in many music styles. But as it sounds clearer and richer (especially above mid-range), it obtained more success for music that needed a strong bass line (jazz, reggae, funk…). The price range is quite similar to the Precision.
Fender Precision Bass 51 Patent Sketch

Patent from the first Fender Precision (1951)

  • Höfner: The Beatles made this brand popular back in the 1960’s. Almost all their basses have a violin shape, which resembles a lot the Gibson EB-1. The 500/1 is the most known and has been played by numerous bass players.
  • Music Man Sterling & StingRay: also designed by Leo Fender (Sterling Ball and Forrest White were involved too), it’s no wonder that its look is quite close to Fender basses. The Sterling is more budget-friendly than its brother.
  • Gibson / Epiphone Thunderbird: Gibson never made it as far as they did for guitars. But some basses are still worth the try. The Thunderbird is one of them. Highly appreciated in heavy music. As for its price, Epiphone – as usual – gives away Thunderbirds at a fair price (around 500$). Gibson products are more expensive.

Other companies produce great basses. If you’re looking for a bass guitar at a good price, Yamaha and Ibanez are a nice choice. If your budget is much larger, then Rickenbacker and Sandberg creates high quality products. There are many basses out there, don’t hesitate to go out and try them in a music shop.

2. More strings?

Does having more strings on a bass make it a guitar? Not entirely. The extra strings are still thicker than on a guitar, so don’t worry about that. The question is : do you need more of them? That depends on what you intend to play, and on your level.

If you plan to make advanced melodies with your bass – like in jazz – then purchasing an instrument with more strings can be a good option. However, if your goal is to be a backup player in a band, and do basic bass lines, then stick with the traditional four-string.

Let’s see what we have on the market:

  • Five-string bass: a lot of renown companies (Fender, Yamaha…) propose extended versions of their four-string basses. The added string is often a low B, but can also be a high C.
  • Six-string bass: less popular than the 5-string, it still gets some success (with jazz player, notably). The added strings are in general a low B and a high C.
  • If you’re looking for basses with more strings… Hem. There are. But it comes with the price.

3. Other electric bass guitars.

3.1. The Fretless.

Fretless Bass

A fretless bass.
The lines help the bassist finding his way along the neck.

This instrument was invented in 1961 by Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones) and major makes followed him some years after by introducing their own model (Ampeg was the first one).

The greatest asset of such a bass is its expression. It renders slides easy and smooth and allows microtones to be played. It’s not rare to see jazz and funk players adopt this kind of bass guitar.

3.2. The headless.

What? No head? Yeah, my friend. They dared to do that.

Steinberger is probably the most famous headless bass maker which also products headless guitar nowadays. The tuning is found in fact on the instrument’s body.

3.3. The multi-neck.

Although less wide spread than the guitar, the multi-neck electric bass guitar has already been played by known artists such as Chris Squire (from Yes). It gives the bassist several tuning options.

On double-neck basses, it’s not rare to see a neck with four strings, and the other one with eight (four courses of two strings). Sometimes, it’s also a guitar and a bass attached.

4. Last words.

Determining what you need will save you loads of money. If you never played any instrument, you might not know which instrument will suit you. Try some basses in a music store. And if after that, you still don’t know, then you’ll probably better off with a basic four-chords bass, such as a Precision.

If you’re interested in bass history, know that there’s an excellent article on this website.

The bass is not your kind of instrument? Then, maybe you wanna try the following articles: