In this post, we’ll go over the six best 4-string bass guitars of 2023 so you can improve your sound by making the right decision.
Bass players are the fundamental and most important piece of practically every musical project, not only to cover the low-frequency range but also to tighten and glue the parts together. From beginners to professionals, an instrument capable of bringing out the best in every musician is essential.
It is known that the perfect bass does not exist, but today there is a wide range of options that cover all kinds of tones, musical styles, technical skills, and, most importantly, all budgets. Are you just starting to play bass? Are you about to record a new album or go on tour? This is the right place. Let’s get started!
The 6 Best 4-String Bass Guitars 2023 (On Any Budget)
1. Gibson SG Standard Bass
Let’s start with a reissue of the classic Gibson EB-3, the Gibson SG Standard Bass.
One of the most versatile instruments in terms of low range, with a unique appearance. It maintains all features of a classic Gibson sound and feel but, at the same time, presents small changes that lead to a better search for new possibilities and musical styles.
- Warm low-end sound
- The choice of certain types of wood is decisive in defining a large part of an instrument’s sound. The body and neck are made from Mahogany, while the fretboard is made from Rosewood. Like most Gibson models, this combination provides a good resonance and greatly contributes to a characteristic warm low-end tone.
- Fundamental tone
- The SG Standard has a 30.5″ scale length, and this has a certain influence on the overall sound. Harmonics distribution has a straight relation with string length. Therefore, instruments with short scales give notes with more fundamental tone richness due to shorter strings.
- Sound mix and control
The neck pickup is a TB+ humbucker with a more treble tone, and the bridge pickup is a mini humbucker that gets a brighter sound. Each pickup has its own volume control. This means that a wide frequency range is covered to achieve the perfect mix. Unlike its predecessor, this model comes with a single Master Tone control but no Varitone switch.
- Comfortable and easy to play
A 12″ radius fretboard combined with a short scale length makes this bass guitar easy to play, providing technical versatility, especially for small-hand players. The 3-point adjustable bridge gets great sustain and tuning stability. Lighter than the Gibson EB-3, it’s comfortable for playing for long periods of time.
Character & Sound:
From beginners to professional bass players, the Gibson SG Standard Bass is always a reliable instrument. Solid construction, powerful sound, and easy to play, it can fulfill almost any musical need. A classic warm low-end tone, humbucker pickups combination, and a short scale length for a more fundamental sound that allows you to explore further possibilities.
This reissue not only kept all the features that were already great on the Gibson EB-3 but improved them to go one step further, according to the 21st-century musician.
First, it has a great sound. The TB+ humbucker pickup adds a little more treble tone without losing warm and low-end sound, sitting better in the low-range mix. A short scale length with a flat fretboard that makes it easy to play. Traditional sound and look, this is a classic bass guitar that can still fit in almost any music quest today.
If you are looking for a harmonic richer tone, this may be not an option. And it wouldn’t be either for most short-scale length instruments. Although it’s easy to play, when it comes to slap and popping technique, it won’t meet all your expectations. Combination possibilities with pickups are more than enough, but if you need a more specific tone search, you may want to go for the classic EB-3.
2. Rickenbacker 4003S
In second place is the iconic Rickenbacker 4003 in its special version, the Rickenbacker 4003S.
The letter S stands for “Special.” You may be wondering what makes this bass special that hasn’t been done before. Honestly, not much. But considering the new aesthetic details, different sound possibilities, and being a little more affordable at the same time without losing the essentials of this true classic, it is something special to consider.
- Minimalist design
For regular Rickenbacker bass users, there are two details that you will notice at a glance. On the one hand, instead of a triangle, this model features dotted inlays on the fretboard. On the other hand, it has no binding around the body. You can think of it as a bit more minimalist in terms of aesthetic design.
- Overall tone
In contrast to the Gibson SG Standard, the wood type for this bass guitar points in another direction. The body and neck are made of maple, which is very common in electric basses for many reasons. One of them is that it generates a bright sound with more transparency in the mid-high range. To compensate for and balance the overall sound, a rosewood fretboard adds a bit of bass and warmth.
- Sound versatility
Two single coil pickups in neck and bridge position, a 3-way toggle switch, and individual volume and tone control for each pickup let you adjust different sounds. The bridge pickup gives a treble and sharp sound. A combination of both features higher mids and a warm to cut through the mix. The neck pickup has a little less gain and focuses more on a low-mid range, which is very useful for soft musical passages with controlled dynamics.
- Vintage and Modern
The bridge pickup has a push-pull configuration. When it’s activated, a capacitor acts like a filter giving a high-end “Vintage” sound, which you can hear in songs like Tom Sawyer by Rush. The Modern option instead is less sharp and has more gain. Combined with the neck pickup, volume, and tone controls, it can offer many possibilities.
Lighter than the 4003 model, a 33.25″ scale length neck-through design that helps to get better access to the highest notes and more sustain. Contoured D-shape neck and a 10″ radius fretboard make it fast and easy to play, especially when it comes to a more melodic approach.
Character & Sound:
Definitely, this is an instrument with sound and character. Treble tone with presence and punch balanced with a mid-low range that gives you a chance to come out front for soloing or sit in the mix and glue with the band. If we add the possible pickup combinations and the fact that it is comfortable and easy to play, the result is a musical tool that has been present with several artists, from pop to heavy metal.
Changes have been made in the aesthetic appearance and maintain everything you expect from a Rickenbacker bass guitar. Its sound versatility and playability help to keep always improving at any level. The wide tone spectrum possibilities lead to a new modern music spectrum. Maple’s strength and durability ensure a long life.
This reissue doesn’t have the Rick-O-Sound. These are two output jacks that give you the option to go through a stereo configuration. Instead, it has only a mono jack output. Also, if you are looking for a deeper low-end, or darker sound, you may consider another option.
3. Fender Player Series P-Bass Maple Neck
A Fender electric bass is always a good choice. Let’s see, in this case, the Player Series P-Bass.
As an evolution of its standard line of instruments, you can get close to the tone and build quality of an American Fender bass guitar without breaking your budget. New colors and features, along with that unmistakable sound and feel.
- Signature tone
Maple is one of the most widely used woods by Fender instruments, and there is no exception for this bass’s body and neck. It provides a brighter sound as well as a good attack. Fretboard is made of alder, a soft and light wood with high resonant qualities. It can usually be found on bass guitars with a sunburst finish.
- Alnico V Precision Split Single-coil
Coil splitting gives the possibility to go from low-end to midrange and aggressive treble tone. This can be achieved with the Alnico V Split Single-coil pickup. It provides a higher output level to compensate for less string vibration that usually happens at the bridge position. Only one master tone and one master volume.
- Good grip and fast fingers
Comfortable C-shaped neck for a good grip and accessible for higher notes. A 9.5″ radius fretboard with 20 medium jumbo frets for fast playing. Although it is very suitable for beginners, it’s also chosen by highly skilled musicians due to its playability for different musical genres.
- Intonation and sustain
There are three things that contribute to good stability and intonation. The standard 4-saddle bridge provides great sustain, and a synthetic bone nut helps transfer string vibrations to the Fender standard tuners for stability.
Character & Sound:
For studio or stage situations, this bass more than meets the bill, and many bass players confirm this. Characteristic bright and clear tone without losing low frequencies to maintain that punchy and fat Fender sound. Highly recommended for music styles like pop, R&B, soft rock, and blues, it also can be adapted to different needs thanks to its new electronic and design features.
Traditional and modern at the same time, it is an economical alternative to get a close Fender P-Bass experience. The split single-coil for more tone range and the facility to move the fingers around the neck creates a good starting point for beginners and a good base for those who want to continue exploring technical possibilities and sounds.
Having only one volume and tone control may fall a bit short for those looking for precise blending tones. The same thing happens if the goal is to play music styles that require a lot of low-end power, like hard-rock or heavy metal. If this is the case, it would be a good idea to look at models close to the American Professional series or directly go for other options.
4. Yamaha TRBX 304
We’ll now take a look at one of the newer models on this list, the Yamaha TRBX 304.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a guitar, a keyboard, a piano, or a bass; the quality of Yamaha can be seen in almost all the instruments that this company manufactures. The TRBX series has been around since 2013, which means no more than ten years on the market, and proves my point. Lots of great features and sound options.
- Accurate built and design
Let’s be honest; it looks great. But there is more to say. Sleek, rounded body with no hard edges making it comfortable to play. It is also lighter with a good weight balance avoiding back and neck pain from long sessions.
- A lot of bass tone
A warm, smooth, and powerful low-end tone is what you will get from this bass guitar. This is mainly due to the mahogany body and rosewood fingerboard. A 5-piece neck design combines Mahogany and maple. The latter helps balance the overall sound by adding a brighter tone and fast response.
- So many possibilities
Two M3 Ceramic Dual-coil pickups on bridge and neck position. These humbuckers work together with four knobs. One pickup balancer, one master volume control, and two band active EQ controls for bass and treble, respectively. You can get an idea of the number of sound mixes and styles that can be achieved with these possibilities.
- Even more tone options
If the last feature was not enough for you, let me tell you that this model includes a 5-way Performance EQ switch. The options are Slap, Pick, Flat, Finger, and Solo. The first two presets cut the low-mid range between 300 Hz and 500 Hz, removing that muddy sound and leaving room for other instruments in the mix if needed, but with a boost on the high frequency at the same time. If you want more definition and presence, the Solo and Finger options are the ones to go for. As you can imagine, the Flat preset is a default option; it acts as a bypass.
- Great playability
Full 34″ scale length with a 10″ thin radius fretboard that provides a truly playable experience across all 24 frets for reaching higher notes. In case you opt for low tunings, don’t worry. Die-cast bridge along with Covered Die-cast tuners give tension stability for good intonation.
Character & Sound:
There are a lot of good things about this bass. Ergonomic design, thick low tone, clear high frequencies, plenty of sound options to pull off, and easy to play. It has everything you need for complex, fast, and powerful musical styles while being capable of responding in any studio or live situation.
Both beginners and advanced players will be more than satisfied with this instrument. Offers much more than its price suggests.
First of all, it’s worth noting its quality in construction and design, something that Yamaha has accustomed us to. The five-position switch offers great ease in having a sound reference point for different needs and musical situations, being able to finish shaping the final tone thanks to the possible combinations between pickups and their respective control knobs.
Although it features a full-scale length and 24 frets, the cutaway depth is not enough to play the really high notes on the last frets. Also, despite having multiple control options over the tone, the mid-frequency range is not well defined, and this can be a drawback for those who seek or play specific musical styles and need a lot of presence and definition.
Finally, it can be an expensive option if this is your first instrument and you’re on a tight budget.
5. Squier CV 60s P-Bass
Near the bottom of the list is the Squier CV 60s P-Bass.
If you’ve ever listened to Eric Clapton or The Who, you know what kind of bass and sound we’re talking about. Pino Palladino’s signature bass has been created based on the Precision Bass. It has received good reviews for getting a vintage 60s tone and feel at an affordable price.
- Crisp and clean
The type of wood selected for this model differs from the ones that Fender uses in its electric basses. The body is made of poplar, smooth and sparse, with fast response, sharpness, and clarity. The maple neck provides good resonance and a warm sound. The fretboard is made of Indian Laurel, it’s similar to Rosewood but a little less warm and a bit drier, so it should be hydrated with some kind of fretboard product from time to time.
- Twang sound and more
As for the pickups, you will find the Fender Alnico Single Split-Coil. In combination with the ones offered by the wood of the body and neck, you get that punchy and fat sound so characteristic of this class of basses, giving space to the rest of the instruments without losing weight in the mix. A tone and a master volume control let you explore other options if needed.
- Vintage Hardware
All remain classic in this model. A 4-saddle Vintage-style bridge provides good action and intonation adjustment. Passing the nut made of bone, the Vintage-style tuners ensure a stable tuning. The nickel plated on each hardware element enhances the finish and style.
- Comfort and balance
For good grip and playability, the Classic Vibe P-Bas features a bolt-on modern C-shaped neck with a 9.5″ radius fretboard. Low-end and harmonic content due to a full 34″ scale length. Thanks to the density of the body wood and weight distribution, it’s comfortable with a good balance, making long-standing sessions less tiring.
Character & Sound:
Regardless of whether you play with a pick or with your fingers, you always get that characteristic robust sound with great attack. This results in excellent balance within the mix, allowing vocals and guitars to remain clear in the midrange but with presence and definition when slapping or playing lead lines.
Of course, through its tone and volume controls, it widens the range of possibilities when you want to shape a less bright, smoother, and warmer tone. Let’s not forget that vintage style, quality design, and construction still fill in the boxes when you think of the P-Bass series, even for its price.
A good value for money in terms of construction and sound that, allows to get quite close to the classic tone of a P-Bass. Lighter and well-balanced with good playability. As we mentioned in the case of the Fender Player Series P-Bass Maple Neck, this is also a great first bass guitar to buy and start playing.
Although the bridge and tuners do their job well, these are items where they tend to cut costs; we recommend upgrading to higher-quality hardware when it’s possible. Poplar and Indian Laurel do not have the volume, tonal range, and sustain that Rosewood and alder naturally provide.
For intermediate and more advanced players, this can be an issue when a higher level and variety of sound is needed.
6. Ibanez GSRM20B-WNF (Budget)
Finally, we come to the last product on our list, and a great way to finish it off is with the Ibanez GSRM20B Walnut Flat.
The first thing we notice when we see this bass guitar is the size. I daresay it’s the smallest of all ones we’ve reviewed, but what a big sound it has. Without neglecting the main features of larger-scale models, it encourages beginners and small-hand players to enjoy the beginnings of a musical experience tailored to their needs.
- Defined brightness
A poplar body and maple neck will surely provide a combination where brightness and definition will not go unnoticed. The jatoba wood used for the body is little known, although it will not add much to the tone; shortly, we’ll talk about a property that makes it important for this model.
- The low and fundamental tone
As we know from previous products, having a short scale length has more than one benefit. Most importantly, it gives a big and powerful low-end sound. But this also limits higher harmonic content, leading to a more fundamental tone presence in each note.
- More music feel
The electronics contribute to a very important factor, the sound versatility that it can provide thanks to two passive Dynamix pickups. At the bridge position, there’s a J Single-coil pickup and a P Split Single-coil pickup for the neck. Each one has a volume control to mix them together and a master tone control so you can have from smooth bass sound or to high-end attack.
- So easy and fast
This is one of the most remarkable features of this instrument because it really has great playability. It’s not only due to the short scale length and dimensions but also because it has a 12″ radius fretboard and a GSRM4-shaped neck. It’s perfect for players who have small hands, are just getting started, or just want smooth, fast playing.
- Reliable hardware and durability
You can be sure that the Ibanez’s standard B10 bridge with four individual saddles and Ibanez’s die-cast tuners will do a good job of stability and good intonation, even at lower tunings. Many years of use are guaranteed due to the characteristics of the jatoba. This wood is very hard and durable; keep in mind that it’s usually used for the construction of floors and platforms.
Character & Sound:
Excellent for styles such as hard rock or heavy metal due to the excellent and fast playability for complex lines. At the same time, it delivers great power in the low range with defined high-end for a clean attack. In any case, it’s still really versatile for several music genres.
In case you are a musician or producer with your own studio, you will find that it’s very comfortable to work with thanks to being light and having small dimensions, allowing you to move freely while you play.
You get a really good bass guitar compared to what the price value reflects. Smooth and easy to play, that makes it ideal for young children, beginners, or just bass players who like a small instrument with enough low-end and punch. Reliable and durable.
It has unusual woods for the body and fretboard, which have less tonal richness. The low-end is fine, but it’s not recommended if what you are looking for is greater harmonic content. Small short, scale bass guitars are not for every musician.
We have reviewed many different options in terms of quality and possibilities. In line with the essence of this article, the choice will be made based on the budget, and that’s very important. But there are diverse moments and needs at each stage of a musician’s path, being necessary to find an instrument that brings out the best in each one.
For this reason, it’s important to take a moment and take into account characteristics and details that can clarify the panorama before making any final decision. Let’s look at some of the ones I consider most relevant.
First of all, if you are taking your first steps in the world of bass guitars, you need an instrument that allows you to feel comfortable, is easy to play, and has the elements and features to build a solid foundation from the beginning. The Fender Player Series P-Bass Maple Neck, Squier CV 60s P-Bass and Ibanez GSRM20B-WNF are really good options and very affordable.
In case that technique level is higher, but is your personal sound that you still cannot define, try to go for more versatility to shape the tone. Models like Yamaha TRBX 304 and Ibanez GSRM20B-WNF give you plenty of options when exploring different musical styles, and still without breaking your budget.
Now, for an advanced bass player who knows what he or she wants and has a little more money to spend, I suggest looking at a short-scale length like the Gibson SG Standard Bass or a full-scale Rickenbacker 4003S. These two basses have great build, sound, and playability.
As you can see, budget is important when making a decision, but you must be aware of the moment in which you find yourself as a musician. Dare to try and find the best for you, don’t get carried away only by a brand’s name or by the stories that are told about it. There is an instrument for every musician; find your special one.