The Best Bass Guitar of All Time

Written by Jack Sutherland

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 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.

Jazz bass 90s 2
Jack playing his Fender Jazz with Dismoire Cove in 1999.

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.

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

But why should you buy one?

I wrote this article to help anyone who's shopping for a bass guitar make an informed decision. Picking the right instrument will likely be the difference in whether or not you stick with this hobby that I am so fond of. For the sake of transparency, if you purchase through the links I've provided below, a small profit will go to help me and my band, continue to make the music we love. 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!

Best Bass Guitar for Any Skill Level or Genre

Fender Jazz Bass

If you could only buy one bass, regardless of music style or skill level, this should be it. It's the most versatile and well rounded electric bass on the market.



Best Bass for Beginners or Bassists on a Tight Budget

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 Offer Overall 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 for Rock Bassists

Fender Precision Bass

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



Best Bass for Beginning Rock Bassists or a Tight Budget

Squier Precision Bass

If you're not ready to make a purchase just yet, bookmark this link and come back once you are. The products I've shared are limited offers, so I plan to update this article as stock changes and better deals come along. If you have any questions, please reach out to me on the form below. I try to answer all inquiries within 24-48 hours, and love talking shop!

And if you're still not convinced that the Fender Jazz and P-Basses are the best, here's a list of the well-known bass players who also love and play Jazz and P-Basses, taken from the Fender site at this link. I'm sure there's somebody that you listen to that plays Fender...

Jazz Bass

  • Jack Casady (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna)
  • Noel Redding (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)
  • Larry Graham (Sly and the Family Stone)
  • Herbie Flowers Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake and Palmer)
  • Jaco Pastorius (Weather Report)
  • John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)
  • Joe Osborn (The Wrecking Crew, International Submarine Band)
  • Sting (Police) Geddy Lee (Rush)
  • Marcus Miller
  • Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
  • Ron Blair (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)
  • Adam Clayton (U2)
  • Verdine White (Earth, Wind & Fire)

P-Bass

  • Jet Harris (the Shadows)
  • James Jamerson
  • William "Monk" Montgomery (Lionel Hampton)
  • Brian Wilson (the Beach Boys)
  • Carol Kaye (the Wrecking Crew)
  • George Porter Jr.
  • Roger Waters (Pink Floyd)
  • Donald "Duck" Dunn (Booker T. & the M.G.'s)
  • Dee Dee Ramone (the Ramones)
  • Sting (the Police)
  • Brian Foxton (the Jam)
  • Bruce Thomas (Elvis Costello and the Attractions)
  • Paul Simonon (the Clash)
  • Steve Harris (Iron Maiden)
  • Tony Franklin
  • Duff McKagan (Guns N' Roses)
  • Mike Dirnt (Green Day)
  • Nate Mendel (Foo Fighters)

Fightin FooBar

It sounds arrogant to say "the best" but it really is true... You don't need anything more than a J-Bass. Better yet, a split J-Bass P-Bass pickups!

About the Author

Jack Sutherland

Fender Jazz, Warwick Thumb & Streamer Basses

Jack bought a Fender Jazz bass and Technics turntable in 1993, and immediately became entrenched with creating new sounds. A couple of years later after studying Jazz at CPCC , he was headlining his first band, Hillside Groove, a funk/hip-hop hybrid, performing in local clubs throughout the Charlotte-Metro area. Since then he has gained over 20 years of experience playing bass for The Dismoire Cover Trio, Pistola (an Incubus cover band), as well as performing at events and filling in at recording studios.

Find Jack Sutherland at https://www.jacksutherland.com

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