Types of Bass Guitars

Electric Bass Guitars

“Let there be bass.” Leo Fender

4 String Electric Bass

The 4-string electric bass is the most common type. There are several models and styles, but the tuning of the 4-string bass of E, A, D, G matches the bottom 4 strings of the 6-string electric guitar. One of the most popular models is the Fender® Precision Bass (or P-Bass).

4 String Electric Bass

Electric Fretless Bass

The electric fretless bass takes the playability of the upright bass and puts it into the smaller frame and versatility of the electric bass. Most often used in jazz music, the fretless bass is often used by players looking for a softer tone and more versatility in their ability to produce any note as well as semitones inbetween.

Fretless Electric Bass

5-String Electric Bass

The 5-string electric bass is the same as the 4-string, except that an extra low string is added. The bass is tuned to B, E, A, D, G and allows bass players to reach lower notes that are typically only available for keyboard players.

5 String Electric Bass

6-String Electric Bass

The 6-string electric bass is the same as the 5-string but adds a higher B string. The bass is tuned B, E, A, D, G, B and the higher string allows bass players to reach into the higher range of electric guitars. The 6-string bass is used in all types of music, but is often reserved for bass players who are featured in the forefront rather than solely as a part of the rhythm section.

6 String Electric Bass

8-String Electric Bass

The 8-string electric bass is essentially a 4-string bass but with strings played in octave pairs. Each string, tuned E, A, D, G, has another string tuned a full octave above. These strings are played together as a pair, allowing the bass player to often fill the tonal range of a bass and an electric guitar. 8-string basses are typically used in rock music, especially for bands with only one guitar player where the bass needs to fill more sonic space.

8 String Electric Bass

12-String Electric Bass

The 12-string electric bass is very much like the 8-string bass, but the octave string is doubled. The tuning is again E, A, D, G and is played like a 4-string with each set of 3 strings played together. The 3 string grouping includes a normal bass string, plus two strings tuned an octave higher. The two octave strings are tuned to the exact same note, but slight variations in the tension as the strings are played give a more full sound like plucking a piano. The 12-string bass adds a lot of tension to the neck of the guitar which, in addition to playing 3 strings at once, makes the 12-string bass much more difficult to play. However, the full sound lends itself well to rock trios.

12 String Electric Bass