Bass Guitars At The Music Zoo
At The Music Zoo, we don't overlook our friends who hold down the low-end - evidenced by our impressive selection of bass guitars! Whether you're looking for that one-of-a-kind custom shop piece, just starting out, seeking a modern or extended range instrument, or simply looking for the best thunder for your dollar, we're the destination with the best mix of the unique and the everyday must-haves. Buy your next bass guitar online at The Music Zoo or visit our New York showroom to shop today - we're an authorized dealer for all your favorite bass guitar brands, and our used inventory is packed to the brim.
Bass Guitar History
While the original acoustic "double bass" - as seen in orchestras and big bands, has been around for centuries, just like the electric guitar, amplified bass tones became a necessity in the 20th century. The first commercially successful electric bass was created by Leo Fender in 1951 - the Precision Bass, which is affectionately called the P-Bass by many. It featured a single pickup, double cutaway body, a 34" scale, and larger strings, so it could be tuned an octave lower than the electric guitar. It was a revelation, as lugging around a "double bass" was not fun.
Not to be outdone, Gibson followed soon after in 1953 with a shorter 30" scale "violin" style electric bass that eventually evolved into the "EB" series bass guitars. Today, the "Violin" style bass is now mainly attributed to Hofner, as the EB bases evolved into a double-cutaway solid body shape, similar to an SG.
Both Fender and Gibson did not stop there - Fender introduced the Jazz Bass in the 1959, which featured 2 pickups and a slimmer neck. Despite it's name, it is a versatile bass that was designed to be used for any genre of music. Gibson answered again soon after in 1963 with the Thunderbird, their second most recognizable bass instrument. This was Gibson's first 34" scale bass and it also featured neck-through body construction.
That '50s and '60s era also saw the rise of several other household name bass manufacturers, including Rickenbacker, Hofner, and Danelectro. In the '60s and '70s, influence spread to Japan and gave us new offerings from Yamaha, Ibanez, and many others. In the mid '70s, Leo Fender, along with other former Fender employees Forrest White and Tommy Walker, introduced the Music Man Stingray bass - a design and company which lives on to this day. Other modern bass manufacturers such as Warwick and Spector, eventually emerged in the '80s - an era which also saw the introduction of Steinberger basses - the first "headless" bass guitars.
The bass guitar has continually evolved alongside it's electric guitar cousin. It's influence brought about the rise of the first active pickups, developed by Alembic in the early '70s but made into a commercial success with the introduction of the Stingray bass. Just like electric guitars, more strings were eventually offered, different body materials and styles were developed, and the fretless neck was also developed, as a nod to the original double bass neck style.
Bass Guitar Types
Solid Body vs. Hollow
To this day most bass guitars are closely modeled after the original Fender Precision and Jazz Bass. But just like electric guitars, semi-hollow and hollowbody basses should not be ignored. The tonal differences are similar to the tonal differences with electric guitars - solid body basses tend to have more punch and play nicely in a rock band setting, while semi and full-hollow body basses excel at clean tones. This is not to say that the roles for these bass styles are locked-in - you can always explore and find our own tone!
Active vs Passive Electronics
Bass guitars generally have one of two types of pickup systems - active or passive. A bass with active pickups pairs a battery powered preamp with the pickups inside the bass, to give more tonal flexibility, lower noise, power (when needed) and headroom. Active pickups generally do not require as many coil winds because of this. Passive pickups on the other hand, are simply copper coil wrapped magnets with no extra preamp. They generally offer a wider dynamic range, and a bit more individual tonal character. Both pickup options are equally viable, it's totally up to player.
Short Scale vs Long Scale
Scale length on a bass guitar can impact several factors. While the standard 34" Fender-created scale is today's standard, shorter scale (30" - 33") instruments have not completely gone out of style. Aside from the usual smaller body size and minimized distance between the frets on a short-scale instrument, they tend to trade the depth and punch of a 34" scale bass with a bit more of a softer and warmer tone, especially in their hollowbody form. Some would juxtapose the differences with the tonalities of a dreadnought acoustic vs a small bodied acoustic - where one can trade warmth and midrange bloom for a bold, powerful sound and a tone with a wider frequency range.