cover of article about top basses of all time

The most popular and iconic basses

In this article I will try to briefly talk about the most iconic bass guitars of all time. The most revolutionary, recognisable and sought after by musicians. And a couple of boutique instruments for a change. This is by no means a better/better rating. Just my subjective top list of bass guitars.

Fender Bass 1951

Fender Bass 1951 one of top basses of all time

I’m not referring specifically to bass guitars of this year’s release. There are very few of them and they are fabulously expensive. I’m rather talking about Fender a la 1951. It makes sense, because it’s the bass guitar that started it all! That’s the year I think rock’n’roll started!
*Yes – that’s the bass guitar with the telecaster head.

Rickenbacker 4001 V63 1961 reissue

Rickenbacker 4001 V63 1961 reissue

After the more traditional Rickenbacker bass guitars, it certainly looks like an instrument of completely alien origin. It looks weird. It sounds strange. But it’s a very recognisable and distinctive, truly legendary bass. Legends like Lemmy from Motorhead, Cliff Burton from Metallica, Paul McCartney have played it over the years. So it definitely deserves its place on the list of top bass guitars.

To anyone looking to buy a Rickenbacker, I would advise getting well acquainted with this instrument before purchase.

Fender Precision Bass

Fender Precision Bass

An entire era of rock music is associated with this bass. It’s simply impossible not to include it in the top bass guitars.

I could be wrong, but I’m guessing it’s the best selling and most popular bass guitar ever. About half of the music we listen to is recorded with this bass guitar.

fender precision

Fender American Pro II Precision Electric Bass

  • Body Material: Alder
  • Neck: Maple, 1963 “C”
  • Scale Length: 34″
  • Bridge: 4-Saddle HiMass Vintage

Motown legend James Jamerson also played a 1960s Fender Precision. He used flat-wound strings, which combined to create that very recognisable sound.

1966 Fender Mustang Bass

1966 Fender Mustang Bass

Originally designed specifically as a learning instrument, this bass guitar has slightly smaller proportions and feels slightly like a bass with a shorter neck.

Hofner Club 1967

Hofner Club 1967

A bass guitar for anyone who dreams of sounding like Sir Paul McCartney. Funny enough, Hofner bass owners all point out, as one and all, that this instrument has virtually no sustain. The note fades out almost instantly. But if you listen to the bass guitar parts in Beatles songs, it’s those short notes that are Paul McCartney’s main draw!

The Beatles vibes

Hofner Ignition Pro Edition Violin Bass Guitar

  • Hollowbody, Spruce Top, Maple
  • Two Humbucking Pickups
  • Rosewood

McCartney’s most famous bass guitar, the Hofner 500/1, was bought by him because of its symmetrical shape, as left-handed bass guitars were not yet made, and this one was easy to invert.

And also, as I remember, England was under some kind of sanctions from the USA in those years and American instruments were simply not to be found there.

Gibson Thunderbird 1976

Gibson Thunderbird 1976 in compilation of top basses of all time
The Beatles vibes
gibson thunderbird bass

Epiphone Thunderbird IV Electric Bass

  • Body: Alder
  • Neck: Maple
  • Shape: awesome

This thing is hot! Everything is smoking with Rock when this bass guitar comes into play. In terms of sustain, this bass guitar is the opposite of the previous one. The sustain on Gibson instruments has always been, and continues to be, lifelong. On the downside, it’s worth noting that the instrument is terribly well balanced. It’s conditioned by its non-standard shape. But the sound of the bass is awesome!

Fender Jazz Bass 1960

Fender Jazz Bass 1960
jazz bass fender

Fender Vintera II ’60s Jazz Electric Bass

  • Body Material: Alder
  • Neck: Maple, Early ’60s “C”
  • Fingerboard: Slab Rosewood
  • Tuning Machines: Vintage-Style Open-Back
  • Pickups: Vintage-Style ’60s Single-Coil Jazz Bass

In general, there is a separate article about Fender bass guitars. But talking about the top bass guitars of all time, I just can’t avoid mentioning, in my opinion, the most popular, the most versatile instrument on planet Earth… It’s a jazz bass and everybody plays it. Jaco Pastorius, Geddy Lee, Flea, John Paul Jones, Marcus Miller. A lot of musicians have chosen the Jazz Bass Fender as their main instrument.

It took Leo Fender almost ten(!) years to redefine the Fender Precision and release a brand new bass.

Music Man Stingray

Music Man Stingray
RATM vibes 🙂
music man stingray bass

Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay Special HH

  • Body Wood: Select Hardwood
  • Neck Wood: Select roasted maple neck
  • Fingerboard Wood: Roasted Maple
  • Frets: 22
  • Pickups: Dual Humbucking with Neodymium magnets

Where would one go without the legendary Music Man…

Leo Fender has left the music industry after selling his company to Fender. He made his triumphant return in 1976, to usher in a new revolution in the world of bass guitars!

The Music Man Stingray carries an enormous humbucker and an active preamp, which together give incredible power, punchy and original sound. The innovative 3/1 pickup arrangement enhances the balance, and is a trademark Music Man feature.

Strings through the case and a three-band EQ – what else do you need to be happy?

Warwick Thumb

Warwick Thumb
Made in Germany
warwick thumb

Warwick GPS German Pro Series Thumb BO 5

  • Neck Wood: Ovangkol neck
  • Body: 2-3 pcs Ovangkol
  • Fluorescent Side Dot: Illuminated Side Dots
  • Pickups: Active MEC J/J Pickups
  • Bridge: 2-piece Warwick Bridge

Yeah, the design of this bass guitar takes some getting used to. Just as in the case with the Rickanbacker, the bass guitar looks a bit alien. But goddamn it: how much Fender can be copied anymore? After all, this is one of the most compact bass guitars with an extended bend. Ultra-fast neck, 26 frets – what more could you ask for? Maybe that’s the reason why I see more and more top session musicians with Warwick Thumb.

By the way, there is a detailed article about Warwick basses on the website, so if you are interested please come on over.

Yamaha BB

Yamaha BB
Crafted in Japan
yamaha broad bass

Yamaha BB434

  • Body Materials: Alder
  • Neck Materials: Maple/ Mahogany 5pcs
  • Fingerboard Materials: Rosewood
  • Number of frets: 21

Bass guitars from the Japanese brand have been on the market for over 40 years and have become a recognized classic among musicians. How could I not include them in my personal top bass guitars?

The highest paid bass player in the world, Nathan East, has been playing Yamaha basses for 30 years. Almost all of Billy Sheehan’s career has been associated with Yamaha bass guitars.

Yamaha also makes a large number of budget instruments of reasonable quality for the aspiring musician.

Fodera Monarch

Fodera Monarch

Let’s add some expensive exotics.

Fodera Monarch is the first bass guitar released by the company, which is popular and sought after by musicians to this day. The Fodera Monarch bass guitar with serial number 037 was purchased in 1983 not by anyone, but by Victor Wooten himself!

Alembic Stanley Clark Signature

Alembic Stanley Clark Signature

Since you said about Fodera, it is worth to mention about Stanley Clark Signature bass from Alembic studio.

In general Alembic are famous for their experimentalism in the field of guitar construction. At various times they collaborated with Jack Cassidy of Jefferson Aeroplane, John Entwistle of The Who and many jazz musicians.

Who did I forget to include in the list?

Well, I think that’s enough for today. Don’t mind if I forgot to mention your favorite bass! You’d better write a comment about it – we’ll add it! The bass guitar is still one of the youngest instruments in the world. It grows and develops according to its age. The number of strings, electronics, fanned frets… What’s not to be expected these days. Let’s keep an eye on it!

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