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Beginner's tips for buying your first bass guitar

bass clef image

Before you buy:

When buying your first bass or electric guitar rig, you have to keep several things in mind before you ever spend a dime. The most important item you will be looking at will be the bass itself, but don't plan your budget on the bass/guitar alone. True, it may be one of the most expensive items on your list, but there are other things to remember.  Such as amplifiers, straps, picks, chords, etc.... especially amplifiers.  With most electric basses, you've got to have at least a practice amp if you want to hear anything.  Otherwise, the un-amplified bass is just barely audible. Unless, of course, you are planning on purchasing and playing an acoustic bass. But we all want to be rock stars, right?  So plan on laying down some green for an amp as well, otherwise you can't really practice. Well, you can, but you wont hear it very well, and you most likely won't feel it. And if you had only budgeted for the bass guitar itself, well.... bam!  The stack 'o cash you had set aside for your "Ax" just got a little shorter. And depending on the initial budget you had in mind, this may be a serious setback.

Starter Pack?  or not?

The good news is that nowadays, companies such as Ibanez, Fender and others now offer starter packages for beginners in both the electric bass and guitar variety. These generally included everything that you need (bass or guitar, amp, strap, instructional material, picks, etc.) for around $350.00.  The bad news is - most times, you get what you pay for. And unless you have a quality instrument to learn on, you may get discouraged early on in the game, due to having to learn on a hunk of junk.

That's not to say that all starter packs are junk. I'm just saying that if you do decide to purchase one, have a qualified guitar technician check out the equipment beforehand if at all possible. I've heard stories about people purchasing a starter pack that had a guitar neck so out of whack, it was virtually unplayable.  And to the unwary beginner, it may not be noticeable, thus making them believe that they just can't play.  An unfortunate situation, but it happens. My suggestion to overcome this pitfall is to talk with an reputable bass player/guitarist before you buy anything!  If you don't know one personally, just ask around. Almost everyone knows someone who knows their stuff about guitars, etc. If that fails, the next time you're out at your favorite local bar, and your favorite local band is playing, ask one of those guys during a break or after the show.  Most will be glad to help you out.

Making your decision

When it came time for me to buy my stuff, I chose to buy gear separately, since I kind-of knew ahead of time what to be looking out for.  I knew that I wanted to buy a good bass that would last me a long time to come, and was afraid that the starter basses would be limited on features and adjustability. In the end, I chose an Ibanez Soundgear SR300DX because of Ibanez's longtime reputation, the SR300's current reviews, overall style, and playability. It's definitely not a top of the line model, but it's not just a "practice" bass either. It offers combo Precision and Jazz style pickups, as well as other features I was specifically looking for.  I'm not saying rush out and buy an Ibanez, but rather do your homework -- figure out what type of music you want to play, look at those artist to see what they play. If their equipment is reputable stuff, then chances are the company will have something in an affordable price range with similar features as "your hero's".

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