The Fender Bass Player Gift Guide
Buying a bass player a gift can be a tricky thing. The first thing to consider is the level of the player. Buying a gift for a beginner is the most straightforward because you most likely will be looking at budget basses and accessories. For more experienced players it can get a little more involved but I put together some bass gift ideas that hopefully will help.
Beginner Bass Packs
Not that long ago finding a decent starter bass was not easy, as most were poorly built and sounded pretty bad. Fortunately today there are many quality beginner basses at very affordable prices. Fender has two budget lines, the Squire line and the Affinity series that are very popular with beginner bassists or those on a tight budget. Some of these basses can be bought new for about $200 and always be sure to look for sales and specials which are very common in the music industry. However I think the best deal out there is the beginner bass pack.
Fender offers the Affinity starter sets that include a bass guitar, small bass amplifier, gig bag, instrument cable, bass strap, and picks all in one package. This not only allows the new bassist to start playing and learning right away but also saves money as you get a great deal on the combo package, that would otherwise cost much more bought separately.
You can get either the Precision Bass or Jazz Bass pack, and keep in mind these are actual Fender instruments, built with alder bodies, maple necks, rosewood fingerboards and vintage style pickups just like the higher end Fender models. Excellent instruments to learn bass on and an amazing deal too, with most packs running only about $300. The amplifier is a Fender Rumble 15 watt Combo Amp that's perfect for practicing and low level gigs. The amp also features a handy CD input and headphone jack for quiet jamming. When I was first starting out I don't think they offered the bass packs because if they did I'm sure I would have bought it.
A bass guitar effect pedal always makes a great gift. Even if the bassist isn't big on using effects, there are plenty of useful pedals like tuners and equalizers that would make any bass player happy. If they are an effects kind of player there so many different effects out there it can be overwhelming. There are however some effects that work best with bass that I would recommend.
First off are distortion pedals. Distortion is very useful with bass as it helps the bass tone pop out more in the mix by adding higher frequencies while providing a rawer, gritter sound that's perfect for hard rock and other styles. I would try to stick with distortion effects designed specifically for bass as guitar distortion pedals aren't EQ'd properly for bass and usually kill the bottom end of the bass tone.
Next I would suggest a chorus pedal. Chorus is a time based effect that can give a bass sound the illusion of two basses playing at once. Often used for soloing the effect can also give your tone cool whooshing, warbly and liquidy sounds depending on the settings. Lightly using chorus is a great way to give your bass a richer tone.
Another fun and useful effect for bassists is the octave divider. This effect pedal creates a synthesized note one octave (or more) below the note being played, which is very useful when the bassist is playing high up the neck as it retains the bottom end in the tone and plus it sounds real cool too. Excellent pedal for solos and when you need an extra thick tone. You have to be careful though when playing in the lower notes as the tone can bottom out and get ugly.
The last pedal I would recommend is the compressor. While not as fun as the others it might be the most useful for bassists. The compressor pedal won't give you any wild or crazy sounds but it's the kind of effect that many bass players find indispensable. A compressor will shorten (squeeze) the dynamic range of the bass which can give your tone more punch and evenness across the enitre sonic spectrum. At higher settings it can give you a more dramatic squashed tone useful for slapping or heavy pick playing.
Bass Accessories make great gifts and stocking stuffers. This type of gift is always a good choice as every bass player needs some sort of accessory and it seems you can never enough of them.
Bass Straps are always a good gift for any bassist. Straps wear out, are lost and they are always coming out with better bass straps every year. Just make sure that you get a strap specifically made for basses as they are wider, stronger and have more padding that can better handle the heavier weight of the bass guitar making them more comfortable than most guitar straps.
Strings are another great gift for a bass player. Bassists always need strings even if they're just backups. Find out what type of strings they prefer as many bassists have favorites. Factors to consider are roundwounds, flatwounds, half-rounds, tape-wounds not to mention brands and materials such as steel or nickle plated steel etc. Once you know their type of string, look for value packs and special deals.
Some other good gift ideas are gig bags, tuners and bass stands. Gig bags are great for the bassist who either doesn't have anything to lug their bass around or they have a hard case but need something lighter for short trips. I would look for one with good padding and extra pouches for carrying tools and supplies.
Tuners are a great gift as every bass player needs one. They come in several different forms, such as foot pedals, hand held, headstock clip attachments and rack mounted tuners. Most tuners today are very accurate and well made but the most accurate are the strobe tuners.
A bass stand makes a great gift even if they already have one, as most bassists need more than one. Look for a sturdy stand and make sure it's foldable for easy storage and transport. If the bassist has several bass guitars you can even get a multiple stand setup to hold them all.
There are many other accessories such as cables, picks, polishes, tools and of course books, DVDs and CDs or even a paid subscription to a bass magazine or online course. In fact I think it's a great idea to combine different gifts together...that always adds a nice personal touch.