Types of Basses
There are two major categories of basses when people use the term “bass” string bass and bass guitar. A string bass is the big bass you often see in orchestras and jazz groups. It’s like a violin on steroids. It is also often called a ‘double bass’ or ‘upright bass’.
A bass guitar looks like a guitar and hangs around your neck. That’s what the focus of this bass buying guide and website is.
Types of Bass Guitars
The most common type of bass guitar is an electric bass guitar. Electric basses have solid bodies. An electric bass needs to plug into a bass amplifier to be heard. A bass amplifier, or ‘bass amp’, is essentially a powered speaker. If you get an electric bass, you will also need a bass amp.
You will also come across acoustic bass guitars. These have a large hollow body and a sound hole where the vibrating air (sound) comes out. Sometimes the holes are called ‘f-holes’ when they are shaped like an F.
Then there are acoustic-electrics (or, electric-acoustics) which are acoustic bass guitars that can be plugged into bass amps so they can be heard well in larger venues.
Another type of bass is the semi-acoustic bass. It is only partially hollow. Hofner’s Beatle bass is a good example. It’s the violin-shaped bass Paul McCartney often plays.
Which Type of Bass Do I Want?
Most likely you want an electric bass guitar. This is what you hear on most recordings and in most live performances. Plus, it will be what most people wanting a bass player will want you to play.
Personally, most acoustic bass guitars I’ve played have had a mediocre sound to them unless you pay a high price for one. The better sounding ones have very big bodies. As pitch goes lower, you need more air to push out those low notes. That’s why the double bass, or upright bass, is so large. There’s a lot of air in the body of the double bass. So, if you do get an acoustic bass guitar, look for the biggest one you can find and compare its sound to the others you find. You should hear a difference.
For your first bass guitar, I recommend choosing an electric bass guitar. Later, if you still want an acoustic bass guitar, you can always get one as a second bass.