When you're looking for a new 4-string bass guitar, it doesn't matter whether you're a beginner or a pro - you want a bass that plays well and sounds great. What style of music do you play? One of the first things you'll notice on any bass is its combination of pickups. In Sweetwater Studios, we regularly find that jazz players tend to favor single-coil pickups, while rock and blues players typically prefer humbucking pickups. Single-coil pickups on a bass generally have a midrange-emphasized voice, perfect for cutting through the mix. Humbuckers have relatively higher output and more low-end power, making them popular with hard rockers.
You'll also find some 4-string bass guitars that are equipped with a piezo pickup, similar to the type used in acoustic-electric instruments. A piezo bass pickup offers some interesting sonic options you don't have with a magnetic pickup. The sonic response is wider, which makes upper-mids and treble more apparent, perfect for emulating the sound of an acoustic bass. Some basses even allow you to blend magnetic and piezo pickup signals together for hybrid tones. Many bass players at Sweetwater use this trick to help give their tone a bit more presence without adding unwanted brightness.
Whether you prefer the sound of humbuckers or single-coil pickups, your bass guitar's onboard electronics can allow you to explore a wide range of sounds. Basses with passive electronics typically offer basic volume and tone controls, while instruments with active electronics often offer multiband EQs for shaping your sound around other instruments, bass emphasis switches for adding low-end power, and other tone-shaping controls for fine-tuning your sound. How much control you want over your tone directly from your instrument is a matter of personal preference - if you often perform and record direct (without an amplifier), you'll probably want the added sonic control that active electronics and EQ provide.
Scale length - the length between the nut and the bridge - plays a large role both in how your strings feel and the overall voice of your instrument. The most common scale length you'll see on 4-string basses is 34". Scale lengths longer than that will make your strings feel tighter and are typically perceived as sounding deeper or heavier. Shorter scale lengths will make your strings feel looser and easier to bend, and they're often perceived as sounding brighter or having more presence to be heard in a mix. It's worth noting that short-scale basses are generally more comfortable for younger players or smaller hands.
With so many 4-string basses available in so many different configurations, why take a guess at investing in a new instrument? Many Sweetwater Sales Engineers are gigging bassists, and the rest of us spend more time learning about basses and other music gear than anyone. When you're uncertain whether a bass is right for your specific needs, just give us a call, and we'll be happy to help. Learn More
Sweetwater's Sales Engineers are regarded as the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the music industry, with extensive music backgrounds and intense training on the latest products and technologies. They are available to offer you personalized product advice any time you need it.