The Bass Guitar is undoubtedly a fundamental part of the punk genre. A Punk Bass helps create groove via simple but well-placed riffs and energy via fast repeated phrases. Ever since the first bass player was conceived, there has been a significant lack of appreciation for the effort of playing bass. Bass is often not as distinct as an element in a Punk song such as a lead guitar or a lead vocal. Therefore, the focus is usually not on the bass for the listener. But without bass, the music would have looked pale.
There are different attributes that different Bass Guitars will add to your overall sound and playstyle. Some Bass Guitars will work in every situation, and some will be more inclined towards certain sounds. The paradox of choice when choosing a Bass for Punk is that anything works for Punk! However, I hope this article will give you some points of reference when selecting a Bass Guitar for Punk to suit YOUR sound.
Fender Precision Bass
To no surprise, there are many renditions of the Fender P Bass. The P Bass has had arguably the biggest influence on the Punk sound out of any of the models on this list.
The P Bass was one of the first electric basses to gain attention and use across the globe. It was originally created as a mechanism for upright bass players to go electric. It has not only been influencing the entire scope of the Punk genre significantly but also every single style of music. If you like your meat and potatoes, here they are.
The P Bass has a solid sound, given by the standard two-piece split-coil humbucker. It provides the player with room to express their play style and a decent bass sound. It would be suited in most scenarios where you want a consistent bass line in the mid to low register. The Fender Player Series Precision Bass is a publicly accepted rendition of the classic P Bass, which gives a very similar sound for a lower price. Dee Dee Ramone of the Ramones famously played a white Fender Precision Bass with a black pickguard, using this tool to shape Punk’s sound.
Music Man StingRay Bass
Leo Fender, who designed the Fender P-Bass, created the company Music Man after parting ways with Fender. Much like the Fender P-Bass, the Stingray is perfectly compatible in multiple different genres. The Stingrays will appropriately have a punchy sound in general. It makes them popular when mid-range punchiness is desirable. If you are looking for a bass where slapping techniques are encouraged by the already punchy sound, the Stingray is worth considering.
The standard Stingray features a Maple neck, Ash body, and Ebony fretboard. The Stingray’s core sound will be punchier than a lot of other options; therefore, it will be more distinct sounding in a recording. For musicians who want their bass to stand out more, the Stingray can give a good starting point.
Rickenbacker 4003 Bass
Two single-coil pickups and a sound often described as thin, crisp, and hollow. The Rickenbacker 4003 is not shy of uniqueness, in look and sound. Historical use of the Rickenbacker in Punk has been underrepresented, but that makes it even more Punk to use one. The Rickenbacker has been used to success by Paul McCartney, Randy Meisner, and many different artists from different genres.
The sound of a Rickenbacker is very distinct. If you grow fond of the sound, it will likely be a perfect bass. Hand in hand with the Music Man Stingray, the Rickenbacker might be more suited for a player who wants to explore new Punk Rocking ways on bass.
Fender Jazz Bass
We talked about the P Bass, and now it is time for the J. The Fender Jazz Bass has been used heavily in Punk music, though not as much as the Precision bass. The Fender Jazz bass uses two single coil pickups to create a clean tone with just a tad more mid-range than the Precision bass. Darryl Jenifer, the bassist for the band Bad Brains, used a J Bass. Bad Brains started as a jazz fusion band but morphed into Hardcore Punk. This shines some credit on the adaptability of the J Bass.
When playing, you also have access to a vast range of tone selection due to the ability to separate volume controls and blend between the two pickups. The J Bass has a smaller neck closer to the headstock than the P Bass atoned for fast changes and easy navigating in the lower registers. Jazz players want to shine through in the mix, and so the two single-coil pickups in the J Bass gives it brightness and treble. The tone controls are so flexible; however, there is no problem adjusting it to have a good portion of mid-range grit when a song needs it.
You might find yourself lacking if you use a J Bass in a Punk Rock situation where the song calls for a mid/low heavy punchy bass line. The J Bass will be in the scope of a bass player again, looking to use the instrument in a way that is not commonly used. Ultimately, providing a smoother core sound than the P Bass.
Is a J Bass Punk enough? Of course! Anything goes as the essence of Punk!
Gibson SG Bass
The Gibson SG Standard bass is along with the Rickenbacker, one of the lookers on this list.
Looks are undoubtedly a big part of almost any list of criteria when purchasing a new instrument. Some people will put a higher weight on look than others. If you know you want a bad-ass looking bass for Punk Rock to give you a different image as a performer, the SG Standard Bass is a worthy pick. If none of that matters to you, the SG Standard Bass still lacks personality in sound.
The makeup of the SG Bass features a mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard. Pickups are SG’s own Rhythm SG Bass neck pickup and Lead SG Bass bridge pickup. You will have access to two volume knobs and one for master tone.
So What is the Best Bass Guitar for Punk?
The thought of using something in punk just because it has been named best for genre might be contradicting to many. Is it not in the very spirit of punk to not do as the majority?
At this stage, punk is a very defined genre. It has several artists that sound similar and use similar techniques to write their music. Although the style is very specified, the music still is a symbol of rebellion, independence, and not choosing to act like the majority. The specific instrument used to create Punk music does not get in the way of the meaning of the music it is producing. Therefore, the best bass for the punk genre as an overall choice is the Fender Precision Bass.
Many Punk players will have started using a different, more niched bass to create a unique Punk sound, but at a later stage in their journey came around using the Fender P Bass. The P Bass has been proven to provide the tonal output needed to produce a satisfying chunky bassline. There is a wide range of prices if you are looking for a P Bass, which adds viability within Punk Rock’s genre as you sometimes are going to fancy an instrument you can swing around for a bit.
The Bass Guitar that is most expensive in this list is also the most exciting for the genre. There is something very appealing about taking a Rickenbacker and applying some Punk to it.
The Rickenbacker 4003 and Gibson SG are competing in this list when it comes to looks. Just as the Fender P Bass is competing with the Fender J Bass when it comes to tonal quality. What a player has to realize is that nobody can say who is the winner of these competitions but themselves. If you have a defined goal of how you want your instrument to sound, you can start looking for instruments that fit that.
The purpose of this list is to give you a slight look into the different core sounds that the different basses come with. Some will have the ability to put out more trebly, clear tones with less power but more transparency, and some will be able to thump out a fat rhythm that lacks clarity but rattles teeth. The ability to modify the output sound of your bass with amplification and effect pedals is endless.
But if you know what kind of sound you want from your bass before purchasing it, you will save time with switching between pedals and amps to make up for your instrument’s core tone.