What Is the Best Bass Guitar of All Time?

Classic Olympic White Fender Jazz Bass

It's crazy to think that just about 70 years ago, electric guitars were rocking stages throughout the world without a single electric bass to accompany them. However, it didn't take long for Leo Fender, the founder of the Fender Corporation, to recognize this void, and fill with the most iconic guitars in electric bass history. In October of 1951 Leo created the Fender Precision Bass, or P-Bass, the first ever mass-produced electric bass. 9 years later he followed it with the Fender Jazz Bass, a similar bass with subtle differences in the body, neck, and pickups. Fast-forward 70 years to today, and they're still the biggest names and best sellers in electric bass guitars. Many would even argue that they're the best basses ever made.

The Top 5 Bass Guitars

#5 Gibson Thunderbird

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The Gibson Thunderbird bass guitar is an iconic instrument with a distinctive design that is instantly recognizable. First introduced in the 1960s, the Thunderbird quickly gained popularity among rock bassists due to its powerful sound and unique appearance. The instrument's sleek, reverse body shape and dual humbucking pickups make it a standout on stage, and it has been used by many famous musicians over the years. The Thunderbird's unique tone and versatility have helped it remain a popular choice among bassists across genres, cementing its place in bass guitar history.

#4 Rickenbacker 4001

The Rickenbacker 4001 bass guitar is a classic instrument that was first introduced in the 1960s. Known for its unique body design, distinctive sound, and solid construction, the 4001 quickly became a popular choice among bassists of the era, including Paul McCartney of The Beatles. The instrument's powerful tone and high-quality craftsmanship have made it a favorite of musicians across genres, and it has been used by many famous bassists over the years. The 4001's unique tonal characteristics, including its bright and punchy sound, have helped it become a true icon in the world of bass guitars.

#3 Music Man StingRay

One of my personal favorites having played on for 15 years, the Music Man StingRay bass guitar is an absolute classic bass that was introduced in the 1970s. Known for its powerful and versatile tone, the StingRay has become a staple in many genres, from funk to rock. The instrument's innovative design, including a large humbucking pickup and active electronics, has helped it become a favorite of bassists looking for a distinctive sound. The StingRay's solid construction and comfortable playability have also contributed to its popularity among musicians over the years, making it a true classic in the world of bass guitars.

#2 Fender Precision Bass

The Fender Precision Bass, also known as the "P-Bass," is an iconic instrument that has been in production since 1951. Known for its distinctive design, comfortable playability, and versatile sound, the Precision Bass quickly became a favorite of bassists in many genres, from rock to jazz to country. The instrument's split-coil pickup and solid construction have helped it become one of the most popular bass guitars of all time, and it has been used by many famous musicians over the years, including James Jamerson, John Entwistle, and Sting. The Precision Bass remains a staple in the world of bass guitars, and its influence can be heard in countless recordings from the past and present.

#1 Fender Jazz Bass

Free playing jazz bass
Iconic design and timeless style – the classic Sunburst Fender Jazz Bass

The Fender Jazz Bass is widely appreciated for its versatile sound, comfortable playability, and iconic design. Since its introduction in 1960, the Jazz Bass has gained immense popularity among bassists in various genres, making it a top choice for many. With its unique dual single-coil pickups and slim neck profile, the Jazz Bass has consistently delivered a distinctive and versatile tone. Its incredible influence on music has made it an all-time classic and solidified its place as the best bass guitar of all time!

Fender Jazz Bass: Sound

The famous musicians that play these basses, like Flea, Jaco Pastorius, Sting, Geddy Lee, and countless others (see my full list below), are a testimony to their greatness. No matter what style of music you listen to, you've heard someone play one. In recording studios many believe that capturing a Fender bass sound is an absolute must. And it's not just the sound that musicians love, the weight, balance and body shape make it one of the most comfortable basses to play, while the quality, value, and name recognition, make it extremely versatile for all genres and skill levels.

When I began playing bass in the 90's, I was lucky enough to have a mentor that knew a lot about music and guitars, and bought me a Fender Jazz to learn on. Over the years my guitar and bass playing friends would upgrade their instruments, always in search of something better, but I could never find a new bass that I liked playing as well as my Jazz bass. And I've played quite a few basses, in multiple bands and in very demanding settings. I've owned and gigged with an Ernie Ball Music Man, Ibanez SR, Peavey, and I eventually developed a real affinity for Warwicks. However, I always eventually came back to my Fender Jazz. 20 years of performing live has convinced me that it's the best bass guitar money can buy.

Fender Jazz Bass Specs

The Jazz Bass is a highly customizable instrument that offers a range of specifications to suit a variety of playing styles. Some of the most notable specifications include the dual single-coil pickups, which provide a bright, articulate tone with plenty of clarity and definition. These pickups can be adjusted using the bass and treble controls, allowing for fine-tuning of the tone to match your playing style and the music you're playing.

Other key specifications of the Jazz Bass include the slim, comfortable neck profile, which allows for easy playability and extended playing sessions without experiencing discomfort. The instrument's sleek, offset body design is also a standout feature, providing a modern, stylish look that is instantly recognizable. Additionally, different models of the Jazz Bass may offer unique specifications, such as different bridge designs, pickguards, and finishes, providing even more options for customization. Overall, the Fender Jazz Bass is a versatile and reliable instrument that has been a favorite of bassists for over 60 years, and its specifications continue to make it an excellent choice for musicians of all levels and genres.

Fender Jazz Bass: Models

The Fender Jazz Bass has undergone several changes over the years, resulting in a variety of different models to choose from. Some of the most notable models include the American Standard Jazz Bass, the American Professional Jazz Bass, and the Geddy Lee Signature Jazz Bass.

The American Standard Jazz Bass is a classic model that features a sleek, comfortable design and Fender's legendary craftsmanship. It has a modern C-shaped neck profile and high-mass vintage-style bridge for improved sustain and tone.

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The ultimate combo of style and substance. The sleek ash body Fender Jazz Bass with a classic black pick guard.

The American Professional Jazz Bass offers a more modern take on the Jazz Bass, with updated pickups and electronics for a versatile, high-quality sound. It also features a slim "Modern C" neck profile and narrow-tall frets for easy playability.

The Geddy Lee Signature Jazz Bass is designed to Geddy Lee's specifications and features a unique look and sound. It has a black finish with a maple neck and white pearloid block inlays, and features custom pickups that provide a powerful, punchy sound.

Overall, each of these models has its own unique features and benefits, making them suitable for a range of playing styles and preferences.

Fender Jazz Bass: Price

The Fender Jazz Bass is available at a variety of price points to suit different budgets and preferences. At the entry-level, the Squier Jazz Bass can be purchased for around $200 to $400, offering an affordable option for those just starting out or on a tight budget. These basses are manufactured under Fender's Squier brand and offer a solid playing experience, albeit with more basic components and construction than their higher-end counterparts.

Moving up in price, the Fender Standard Jazz Bass offers improved components and construction for around $700 to $1,000, making it a mid-range option for those seeking a more premium playing experience. These basses typically feature higher-quality hardware, better pickups, and improved finishes, providing a higher level of craftsmanship overall.

At the top end of the spectrum, the Fender American Professional Jazz Bass is a premium instrument that can be purchased for over $1,500. These basses feature custom-wound pickups, premium woods, and advanced hardware, providing a high-end playing experience that is perfect for professional musicians.

In summary, the different price points of the Fender Jazz Bass offer a range of options for bass players of all levels and budgets. Whether you're a beginner, intermediate, or professional player, there is a Jazz Bass model available to suit your needs and provide a high-quality playing experience.

Famous Fender Bass Players

Fender bass guitars have been used by countless famous musicians over the years, making them a true staple in the world of bass guitar. Some of the most famous Fender bass players include James Jamerson, who played on many classic Motown recordings, and John Entwistle, the bassist for The Who, known for his aggressive playing style and use of distortion. Another notable Fender bass player is Paul McCartney of The Beatles, who famously used a Hofner bass early in his career before switching to a Fender Precision Bass.

Jermaine
Jermaine Jackson of the Jackson 5 playing a flat wound Fender Jazz Bass in the 1970's

Other famous Fender bass players include Jaco Pastorius, who revolutionized the use of fretless bass and played with Weather Report, and Sting of The Police, who used a Fender Precision Bass to help define the band's signature sound. In more recent years, the Fender Jazz Bass has been used by many notable musicians, including Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Marcus Miller, and Victor Wooten. These famous Fender bass players have helped to define the sound of popular music over the years and have contributed to the enduring popularity of Fender bass guitars among musicians of all levels and genres.

Famous Fender Jazz Bass Players

The comprehensive list of Fender Jazz bassists includes:

Famous Fender Precision Bass Players

In contrast, a distinguished group of bassists also made their mark using the Fender Precision Bass. Accomplished bassists such as James Jamerson, the influential Motown session player, and Carol Kaye of the legendary Wrecking Crew. Versatile musicians like Sting have showcased their talent by skillfully playing both Fender Jazz and P-Basses. 

The comprehensive P-Bass lineup features:

Fender Jazz Bass: Buying Guide

When deciding which bass guitar to buy, there are a few factors to consider. First, think about the type of music you plan to play and the sound you want to achieve. Different bass guitars have different tonal characteristics, so it's important to choose one that matches the style of music you play. For example, if you play rock or metal, you may want to consider a bass with active pickups and a heavy tone. On the other hand, if you play jazz or funk, you may want a bass with a more traditional, warm tone.

Another important factor to consider is the playability of the bass. The neck shape, weight, and overall feel of the bass can greatly affect your playing experience. It's important to choose a bass that feels comfortable in your hands and allows you to play for extended periods of time without discomfort. Additionally, consider the quality of the materials and construction of the bass, as this can affect its durability and longevity.

Ultimately, the best way to choose a bass guitar is to go to a music store and try out different models to see which one feels and sounds the best to you. 

Fender Jazz Bass

For the sake of transparency, if you purchase through the links I've provided below, a small profit will go to help support Band Pioneer to continue producing high quality content. Musicians supporting musicians. But that is not why I chose Fender. I could have created these links with nearly any bass for sale online. But I chose the Fender Jazz and P-Basses because I love them and feel 100% confident to recommend them to any bass player, regardless of skill level, the setting that you play in, or your musical style. And it's not just me, the greatest bassists on the planet play them. They're ergonomic, durable, not too heavy, reasonably priced, and have great name recognition. Bass players everywhere know and respect these basses.

It could quite literally be the first and only bass you'll ever need!

Most Versatile Bass Guitar

Best Bass Guitar under $500

Squier Jazz Bass

Squier is the lower budget version of Fender guitars, perfect for beginners or anyone on a tight budget. This is near identical to the bass I started on about 20 years ago, but much newer.



Best Bass Guitar for Beginners

Precision Bass PJ Beginner Pack, with Gig Bag, 15 Watt Rumble Amp, Strap, and Cable

This all-in-one pack is an incredible value for beginners. It has everything you need including a great little practice amp. I'm also a big fan of Fender's Rumble Amps. I've played many shows with the larger 800W version of the amp that comes in this kit.



Best Bass Guitar for Rock

Fender Precision Bass

Like the Jazz bass but with more aggression. Its split-coil pickups have a fatter, punchy sound.



Best Bass Guitar Brand

Squier Precision Bass



Best High End Bass Guitar

1962 Fender Jazz Bass

Fender Jazz Basses from 1960-1962 are considered the holy grail of bass guitars. It was the instrument that proved there was a high-end market for electric basses. By the mid-1960's they were produced in higher quantities to meet the demand. So finding one before 1963 is quite the gem!

Final Thoughts

The Fender Jazz Bass and Precision Bass have stood the test of time as the most iconic electric bass guitars in history. Leo Fender's innovation and vision filled a void in the music industry, and his creations have been embraced by musicians across genres and skill levels. The Jazz Bass, in particular, has become a top choice among bassists for its versatile sound, comfortable playability, and distinctive design. Its impact on music has solidified its place as the best bass guitar of all time. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, the Fender Jazz and Precision Basses are reliable, versatile, and respected instruments that are sure to satisfy any bassist's needs.


Leave a Reply!

Mister Bass Man

All of the Jazz variations are great basses. But the P-Bass takes the cake.

Joe

Bullshit, the p bass is not nearly as versatile as the jazz bass. Not even close

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