How To Choose The Right Bass

One size does not fit all.

<--break->I am amazed by just how many people end up with a bass that is completely wrong for their application. This is usually because not only do they have no idea what they need, but bass tone can be a bit of a mystery.

I would like to make a suggestion that I think will be helpful in making sure you end up with the bass you need instead of the one that the store knows to carry the biggest profit margin. My experience from visiting many musical instrument stores over the years tells me that a lot of the folks in sales are often not the most clued-up people when it comes to knowing what bass, amp, and pedals are right for each genre and application. Because of the nature of bass and how it functions in a mix, a lot of different basses can work in most environments. There are definitely some nuances that you will want to work out so that you are best equipped for the type of playing you want to do and the type of music that you will make.

Sales people are often not the most clued-up people when it comes to knowing what gear is right for each genre.

My “Massive” Revelation

We live in an era where we can find out almost anything about anyone through the beauty of the inter webs. My suggestion is to work out the genre of the music that you will primarily be playing and then do some sleuthing and find out what type of bass those players are using. In my experience, the players that I like and that play the music that I get to make usually play Fender Precision style basses.  I checked out the three piece bands that I liked and ended up with the right type of bass for my music and was very happy.

Try It On For Size

It is best if you can find an instrument that feels right in your hands, inspires you to play, and is versatile enough to play the genre of music that you will perform. Don’t be scared to play all the basses in the store and if you find one that sounds and feels right for you, then that bass could be the one. You might get a surprise in that it may not be the most expensive bass in the store. I bought an Indonesian 5-string Squire Precision bass that was inexpensive and works great for what I need it to do. I plan on a few modifications but I definitely have a bass that headed me in the right direction.


Daniel Ornellas, worship leader in the band "The Worship Republic" is originally from South Africa. He moved to the US with his band Tree 63 and has toured and recorded with numerous worship artists. He produces records and lives in Nashville with his wife Samantha and their two kids and is the bass instructor for Worship Artistry.

How To Choose The Right Bass

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the search for tone

This makes me think about an article I read back in the May/June 2016 Worship Musician magazine. There was an article by Gary Lunn about the quest for bass tone. It was both interesting, and kinda discouraging because he dives into the need for bass players to understand tone and know how to mimick and reproduce tone by the players we want to emulate, yet for me, even though I have a descent set of ears from playing music for decades, and developing mixing/mastering skills, being a newer bass player (a few years) I don't really have an ear for bass tone - at ALL.... I'm not sure where to start. I get that just listening is important, but I do that a LOT already - maybe I'm just impatient. Any suggestions on how to develop a better "tone ear" for bass? It seems that it would be helpful if there were 5 or 10 clips posted somewhere with variations on the "typical" bass tone so we can compare and contrast them and better understand the differences - and then see why they are different - is it the bass they use, the technique, the amp, the pedal? (probably combinations thereof)....

buing a second bass

.... and another question this brings up - I'm planning on getting a second bass. I have a fender Jazz bass, figured I'd just look for a P bass next to widen my choices. Is there a particular reason to stay in the "fender universe" - I'm inclined to do so just because I really like my J bass already, or is there a compelling reason to look for a different brand if just for more variety? I realize the importance of just playing several and figuring out what fits (and I work at Sweetwater so there's no shortage of instruments to play around on), but I'm just asking in general what should I be thinking about?

My bass

I chose the Lakeland 55-02 these are very versitial and have a whole lot of different bass configurations available. I have noticed this bass use by many worship musicians as well so upgraded my 55-01 Lakeland to the 55-02 and have found it covers just about any thing that I need.

Squire Indonesian 5 string.

Daniel after reading this blog I went and checked out the Squire 5 string you mentioned. I found he playability to be more to my liking than virtually any of my other basses including American and German instruments that are considered premium. Been playing it exclusively at my church for the last 5 months. I have been thinking about some upgrades in the electronics area. Just wondering what sort of mods you were thinking about doing as mentioned in your blog. Have you had a chance to do any of them? I have been looking at a Nordstrand replacement pick up.

Nice Up your cheap bass.

I like this article a lot. I’m not one who has $1,000 to spend on a guitar, so I’ve always played a cheaper guitar.
When I got my MIM Fender P I fell in love with the look, but not necessarily the quality or sound.

I decided to make it a project bass, and it’s now where I wanted it to be.
Sanded the fret edges - something the American series guys do in production but not always the MIM.

Then, I highly recommend shielding the cavity with copper tape. Any nuance with wiring or rooms or cables or all of the above will be fixed. I can play in the “dirtiest” (power) room and have zero issue with buzzing.

A quality DI makes a world of difference. I like the Radial J48 for the sound and price.

Lastly, save up and replace the pickups. Don’t just buy based on brand name. I listened to a lot of side by side comparisons and settled on a pair of Dominger Custom Killer Whale P pickups. They were handmade and still cheaper than the big names.

Now this guitar is one I’ll love and keep forever. All in all, I’ve got about $700 into it - which includes everything I mentioned above. Totally worth the investment.

Playability, Playability, Playability

Like my subject suggests, playability is the most important thing to consider, especially when one is going to start playing a bass. I dare to say that with all the fancy amps and peddles a person can get, one can get anything to sound like any thing else. Just keep in mind that if it isn't comfortable to play your progress with the bass will be a crawl. For the record, my money bass is a Fender jazz bass, I found in a pawn shop for penny's on the dollar. When not hooked to a sound board my amp is a thirty year old Tube Works 720 driving a 4x12 box.