The Best Bass Guitars of All Time

Identifying and creating a list of the best bass guitars of all time is quite subjective. Ask 10 accomplished bassists to list their top basses of all time, and you might get 10 different lists. Today there are a vast number of basses – many that could be considered among the best. And listing the best of all time would certainly reflect the different styles, and tastes of individual bassists.

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With that said I do believe that I can narrow down the top 5 best bass guitars of all time by using the following criteria: the impact it had on the history of modern music, the innovations and developments it had on the design and sound of the electric bass as a whole, and it’s popularity among bass players among all genres at various playing abilities and levels.

I expect (and hope) that there will be many comments in response to my list and welcome any ideas and suggestions about what you all believe is the best bass guitar of all time. The comments are open, so please post away!

So without further ado, here is my list of the Top 5 Best Bass Guitars of all Time:

5. 1988 Alembic Stanley Clarke Signature

Best Bass Guitars of All Time - Alembic Stanley Clark Bass

Alembic introduced the use of exotic woods and active electronics in the manufacturing of their bass guitars starting in the early 1970’s. The company created a variety of amazing basses, but it is the Stanley Clarke Signature model introduced in 1988 that stands out as the best. It’s 30.75 inch scale with 24 frets and ebony fingerboard made it by far one of the easiest basses to play. The frets were built closer together, allowing a less stretched position at the lower frets. With a mahogany and rosewood body this bass produced an unprecedented well-rounded and warm sound. It’s a bass that revolutionized the course of the sound and manufacture of bass guitars. 

4. 1976 Musicman Stingray

1976 Music Man Sting Ray Ernie Ball

Leo Fender joined Musicman in 1975 and created the Musicman Stingray in 1976. It included two major innovations –  the 3 to 1 tuner positioning on the headstock to help with balance, and the 8 pole humbucker pickup for rich, high-gain tone. The active bass had unprecedented power and punch. The curved body aided comfort, while it’s versatile equalizer allowed for a punchy tone that made it ideal for slap style funk players. 

3. 1960 Fender Jazz Bass

1960 Fender Jazz Bass

The Fender Jazz Bass was a redesign of the Precision Bass and was introduced in 1960. Billed as the deluxe model of the P Bass, it came with several key differences. Its shape with a more pronounced tail end was designed to be more comfortable and playable. The Jazz Bass had 2 single coil pickups which resulted in a very clean tone that had more mid-range than the Precision. There are also separate volume controls that allowed for dialing in a precise sound with a much larger range of tones.  The Jazz Bass is undoubtedly one of the most popular basses of all time played by an abundance of the world’s most accomplished bassists. 

2. 1961 Rickenbacker 4001

Best Bass Guitars of All Time - 1961 Rickenbacker 4001

A redesign of the original Rickenbacker Bass, the 4001 was released in 1961. It included an additional pickup near the neck with the classic Rickenbacker design. If we were ranking basses on style, the 4001 would be at the top of the list. It’s simply a cool looking bass that is today one of the most highly sought after – proving style is a big factor in bass popularity. While some have called the design flawed, the Rickenbacker 4001 produces a unique sound that creates fret noise is known as the “Rickenbacker Clank”. You can hear the Rickenbacker 4001 in just about any genre of music and has been used by many world-class players such as Lemmy, Geddy Lee, Paul McCartney, and Cliff Burton

1. 1951 Fender Precision

Though not the first electric bass guitar ever designed, it is the bass that started the design and sound of the bass guitar that all others have been based on since.  The specifications are primarily the same today as they were when it was introduced in 1951. By 1957 the P Bass achieved the main characteristics that we know today – the contours to make it a more comfortable instrument, with the split coil humbucker pickup that increased power and reduced noise at the same time. The result was the classic punchy tone in a bass that has been one of the most widely used instruments in the history rock and pop music. 

So there you have it – my list of the Top 5 Best Bass Guitars of All Time. As I mentioned above, I expect and welcome comments and would love to hear any suggestions or ideas related to this topic – so please post away below!!

If you are interested in taking online bass lessons we also highly recommend JamPlay Bass Lessons. Bass Player Center provided a review of their site and services - click here to check it out!

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The Best Bass Guitars of All Time

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