Setting your child up for success means getting the best kids bass guitar for them and your pocket.
Paul McCartney may have been more popular than George Harrison, but they were both parts of the legendary Beatles.
The only difference? One played guitar and one played bass. However, they were both just as important in making the iconic music we all know and love today. While they may not get the love they deserve, bass guitars are also an amazing way for your child to get started in music.
What is a Bass?
A bass guitar is the attitude of the band, giving the music a deeper element that completes a tune.
Basses are four-stringed instruments that create a low pitch sound, linking the harmony and rhythm of a song. A bassist will usually play the instrument by plucking the strings in a steady rhythm, keeping the time of the other instruments.
Bassists will usually pluck with either their fingers or thumb and sometimes with a pick. Similar to electric guitars, electric basses must be hooked up to an amplifier and speaker during play.
Overall, a kids bass guitar is a string instrument cousin to the stand-up double bass and guitar, a plucked instrument that produces low-frequency tones and keeps the beat.
Basses are also tuned the same as a double bass, despite playing notes an octave lower. As most basses are electric, the electric bass was created in 1935 by the Audiovox corporation, however, the modern bass was reimagined and produced by Fender back in 1951.
Shortly after, the Fender Jazz Bass was created to play the middle and upper registers of the bass for jazz jam sessions. This “J-bass” was narrower than a regular bass and had two single-coil pick-ups to highlight easier access to the lower notes.
This created the commonly used bass lingo “J” pickups for jazz and “P” pickups for precision. With the 1960s explosion of rock music, bass guitars began being mass-produced by major musical brands like Yamaha.
In 1961, the Beatles put bass guitar more or less on the map as Paul McCartney began playing a specific type of Rickenbacker violin bass, specifically in the top hit “Love Me Do”.
Most bands will emphasize their guitarists over bassists, mainly because most songs can not be created without the melody of a guitar, while the low-pitch sounds of the bass are optional. Although basses fill out a tune and add so much to a song, hit music can be created without it.
Basses are usually overlooked in the musical process, and rarely get their time to shine. Most bands don’t even find bassists to join anymore, and instead, hire backup bassists to fill in where necessary on tour.
How is it different from a guitar?
They may look the same, but these two instruments are quite different. six-stringed guitars can be both acoustic and electric, while four-stringed basses are almost always electric.
The four strings on a bass are an equal distance from each other musically, which is much different than the strings and chords on a guitar. The main function of bass is to play a lower pitch than a guitar, meant to fill the lower end of the sound spectrum in a song.
The Queen song “Another One Bites the Dust” is the perfect example of how the deep notes of the bass fill out a melody. Physically, bass is much longer than a guitar, as longer strings have a lower pitch.
In a band, a guitar will create the melody while the bass links the melody to the rhythm of the drums. This moves the song along and creates a full sound.
Many people believe the drums keep the rhythm and time of a band, but the bass can actually be attributed to a lot of the rhythm-keeping.
Another key difference is the way these instruments are played. As a guitarist strums the strings in a specific pattern while also playing a chord up the neck of the instrument, bassists pluck their four strings.
Most bassists stay in one spot on stage so they can keep their rhythm, while the crazy guitarists will run around the stage with ease.
Although it has many differences from a guitar, basses are surprisingly easy to play for seasoned guitar-junkies. While the guitar creates a chord-based harmony, the bass highlights the roots notes and plays in tune with drums.
It is true that the guitar is much more valuable to a band or song, but the bass is one of the most important jobs in the group- to keep the band on-beat.
If a guitarist misses a chord or note, not many people would likely notice. However, when a bassist gets off-beat, the entire band tips on the verge of falling apart, and the listeners are sure to notice.
To become a bassist, you must not have a need for attention. Guitarists get the majority of attention and praise from listeners and audience members, and being a bassist requires an easy-going attitude that is okay with being under-appreciated.
Bassists must enjoy watching the spotlight from behind the leaders, bobbing back and forth, and rocking to the beat.
Some may say guitarists are more talented than bassists due to their melodical contribution, however, most songs are composed of the same few chords strung together. It’s not that one is better than the other, it’s about how you push yourself to new limits with your instrument.
How do I find the right bass?
Although the internet can be a great research tool to find the best bass for your child, nothing beats holding the instrument in person.
I recommend carving out the time to go in-person shopping and get a feel for which basses your child likes best. Take advantage of the experts in the music shops and ask the workers what kind of bass is best for the style of music they want to play.
Keep their favorite bassists and music styles in mind when researching types of basses, and ask any bassists you know for advice. Most top-notches professional basses cost around $500-$800, but for your child’s first, expect to spend between $100-$300.
Specifically, look out for a short-scale bass if you can, as it has a shorter neck and can be better for younger kids who can not support the weight of a long-necked bass.
When buying a bass, it’s important to keep these things in mind:
- Tune- One main issue with instruments is whether they will stay in tune for long periods of time. Although this problem isn’t hugely common with basses, it’s important to know how long tuning will last on your instrument, and make sure to buy a good tuner as well.
- Size- If you’ve played guitar, holding a bass may be uncomfortable due to how long the neck is. Especially when buying a bass for your child, it’s most important that they feel comfortable holding the size and shape of a bass. I recommend bringing your child into music stores and getting used to holding a variety of basses before choosing the one they prefer. Also note that younger children may prefer a narrower neck, as it provides less space to navigate.
- Electronics- Since most basses are fully electronic, you must check the condition of the technicals, especially if you are buying a used bass. Before purchasing, test the bass with an amp and see how the volume and tone play out. Crackling sounds can indicate underlying damage with the bass’s electronics and wiring.
- Frets- Having level frets is key to having a consistently working bass. If the frets are uneven, the bass can produce bad notes and other niche malfunctions. By looking and feeling the bass’s neck, you should be able to tell if it has even or uneven frets.
Electric vs. Acoustic
Another thing you must ask yourself in the bass purchasing process is the type of bass you prefer. Even though electric basses are much more common, acoustic basses are still sold and utilized by many musicians.
Due to its short scales, smaller size, and variety of tones, electric basses are much better for children learning to play. The electronic amplification allows for players to plug their instrument into headphones and alter the volume and tone with the click of a button.
The main downside is similar to that of an electric guitar, as additional accessories like amps and cables increase the overall cost. The best electric bass for your child is probably a four-string, but once that is mastered they can move up to a five- or six-stringed bass for a larger range of notes.
However, if your child is specifically interested in learning folk or world music, a kids bass guitar may be the right choice for you. With the look of an acoustic guitar, acoustic basses are portable and do not require an amp, which saves a cost.
Unfortunately, this type of bass does require more skill to handle the heavy strings, which makes it less suitable for younger learners.
When buying your bass, it’s important to choose the right instrument that fights your needs.
Although it may be tempting to purchase a cheaper, off-brand bass for your child, it’s much more lucrative to invest in a high-quality branded bass. Be aware that when purchasing a bass, not only do you need the guitar but also an array of accessories that will dramatically increase the cost.
Amps, cables, headphones, a tuner, a comfortable strap, extra strings, a case, and some picks are all necessary to create the best learning experience possible.
Before shopping for a kids bass guitar, you must understand the children’s guitar size chart.
|4-6||3’3” to 3’9”||1/4|
|5-8||3’10” to 4’5”||1/2|
If your child is just beginning their interest in the bass, make sure to spend wisely on a full starter kit- complete with amp, cable, bag, and picks. Here are the top seven best children’s guitars available online.
- Ibanez ¾: This smaller, high-quality bass is perfect for younger kids who can not hold a full-size bass comfortably, and at $179 it is quite a steal.
- SX Ursa ¾: Not only do you get a solid, kid-friendly bass, but a full starter kit complete with amp, picks, gigbag, and cables. For $120, this seems like a great deal if you or your child is just getting started on bass.
- Cordoba Acoustic: For $190, this mahogany acoustic bass can plug into an amp and give that desired acoustic sound.
- Squier: This full-size bass guitar was made specifically for beginners with a “C”-shaped neck and lighter weight. This $329 bass and starter kit is definitely an investment, but the high-quality instrument is worth the money for an old child who has already shown interest.
- Dean Custom: At $249, this neon green bass would make a fantastic Christmas or birthday gift for a bass-obsessed kid to begin his collection.
- Squier Bronco– With a slimmer neck and double-cutaway body, this smaller classic bass is only $199 and great for a young beginner.
- Hofner Ignition– If you’re looking for a unique, authentic bass, this is the instrument for you. For $349, this quality violin bass is a cool addition to any teenage bassist’s collection.
The products listed above are all over $100, but well worth it for your child’s musical adventure. If you’re looking for something cheaper than any of these options, you’ll probably have to go to a local toy store for a lower-quality bass kit.
For children under the age of eight, I would recommend starting them out on a toy bass to first survey their interest in music. As we all know, children lose interest in activities and toys quite fast, so fully understanding their commitment to bass guitar- or any instrument for that matter- is incredibly important before spending hundreds of dollars on a high-quality professional bass.
Overall, remember not to pressure your child into musical instruments, and let them pick their own path. If they want to play bass, don’t force them into piano lessons- play bass!