For some musicians, mobility onstage is the key. Bass guitars, in general, are bulky instruments that can take their toll on your posture and stamina, especially if you're playing long sets or recording for long periods.
Lightweight bass guitars provide the perfect solution. They are designed to make moving around a stage less strenuous or for people who perhaps have a smaller than average frame.
Best Lightweight Bass Guitars - Play Comfortably
Table of Contents
- Best Lightweight Bass Guitars - Play Comfortably
- Choosing the Right Pickups on a Lightweight Bass Guitar
- Other Key Qualities
The Ibanez SR500E is a stunning lightweight bass guitar, both in terms of appearance and tone. It’s comprised of top quality materials, making the playing experience smooth and effortless.
To complement the lightweight structure, the neck of the SR500E is made from an immaculate 5-piece jatoba and walnut combination. It has an SR4 profile, which is known to promote swift transitions up and down the frets.
The body of this Ibanez bass looks like it should be much heavier than it is. Despite its lightweight, it is not made from sub-par or flimsy material, with Okoume the wood of choice, contoured and balanced for added comfort.
The SR500E is made for those long, grueling playing sessions which would result in a sore shoulder with a heavier bass guitar. It can be played for hours without taking its toll on your gas tank.
Tonally, the bass produces a rich range of low-end punch that will rattle the speaker cone, and the highs are jazzy and crisp. With a 3-band onboard EQ, you can tailor the output to suit your style of playing.
The pickups installed on the Ibanez SR500E are Bartolini BH2 humbuckers. These produce a thick overall tone and co-exist perfectly with the aforementioned woods that make up the body and neck of the bass.
The StingRay bass guitar is designed in the same manner as the original Ernie Ball models, but this variety, the Ray4, has a considerably reduced weight. It has many useful features, like an adjustable truss rod 2-band active preamp.
This lightweight bass is available in a variety of color schemes. The body is composed of basswood, a material known for promoting sustain, making it perfect for ringing out those low-end notes.
The humbucker pickup that has been installed within the Ray4 further enhances its thick, well-rounded tone. You also get volume control and a 2-band EQ that is linked to the active preamp, providing the option of tweaking the frequency response of the instrument.
Short-scale basses provide a great alternative to heavier models. The Ibanez MiKro GSRM20 may be lacking in weight, but it certainly doesn't lack in value for money. Ideal for bassists with small hands, this bass boasts a balanced tone and comfortable playability.
The pickups installed in the GSRM20 are quite interesting. Essentially you get two options that cater to different styles and genres. With a combination of J style and P style pickups, the resulting tone is punchy and substantial.
If you value sustain, then this affordable lightweight bass might be the perfect option. It has a B10 bridge that promotes this attribute, and with a slim neck profile, it's very easy to slide up and down the fretboard.
The body of the Ibanez Mikro GSRM20 is made from compact poplar. This material is great for providing balance and can be worn on your shoulder for long periods without causing fatigue.
The Danelectro ’56 is a beautiful, understated bass guitar that pays homage to the iconic vintage model with it’s classic “Dano” body shape. One of the most recognizable and popular short-scale basses, it’s a lightweight option with a thick tone.
Fitted with two high-output, high-impedance Lipstick pickups, the '56 muster up plenty of low-end power, making it perfect for rock and heavy styles of music. It has the best features of the original models, with some modern improvements to boot.
The light body is composed of a combo of hardboard and plywood, two materials that are rarely used for bass guitar but work perfectly in this case. The neck is made from maple and plays fast and smooth.
The playability of the Danelectro ’56 is further enhanced by the exquisite Pau Ferro fingerboard, makes fast transitions, and runs a simple task. There's also an adjustable bridge so that you can set the intonation exactly how you like it.
Also installed on this lightweight bass is a 3-way pickup selector, which greatly impacts the color of the output. To add finishing touches, Danelectro has mounted volume and tone controls for each pickup.
Precision basses need no introduction. These exemplary instruments have been responsible for some incredible basslines and tones over the decades. The only issue can be the price tag. But thankfully, with the lightweight Classic Vibe 60’s model, Squier has made a more affordable version.
This bass provides you with a thick, powerful, 60’s style tone. Thanks to the alnico split single-coil pickup that was designed by none other than Fender themselves, the output is almost identical to that of a genuine 60’s P-bass.
To add to the vintage feel of this lightweight bass, Squier has utilized a 4-saddle bridge, so you don’t need to worry about your intonation wavering. In terms of comfort, the bass has been shaped with a C-profile neck that slots nicely underhand.
The fingerboard is made from Indian laurel, a luxuriously smooth material. Even the tuning pegs have a vintage look, to add to the authenticity of this Precision bass.
The Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light bass is one of those instruments that makes one do a double-take. At first glance, it almost looks bizarre, but upon further inspection, it becomes apparent that the strange design serves a purpose.
Designed specifically to be as lightweight as physically possible, the Ultra-Light bass provides a full-scale feel whilst remaining extremely mobile. Despite its reduced size and weight, it has a 30-inch scale length.
The pickup system installed on this Traveler Guitar bass is of the piezo variety. This style of pickup compensates for the smaller body size by boosting the power of the amplified tone. It’s a truly unique instrument that is sure to intrigue everyone who sees it!
Choosing the Right Pickups on a Lightweight Bass Guitar
Due to the reduced size and weight, manufacturers have to choose both the materials used to comprise a bass guitar and the pickups, to make sure they don't lack power compared to heavier options.
The pickups used will greatly determine the tone that a lightweight bass is capable of producing. Some pickups lend themselves to certain styles rather than others, so it’s important to know what the characteristics of the most commonly used ones are.
Single Coil Bass Pickups
Commonly referred to as "J-bass pickups", single-coils are used in pairs on a bass guitar. They are chosen due to their ability to produce punchy tones, especially in the mid-range and treble end of the instrument.
In years gone by, single coils were problematic due to the unwanted noise they produced, but this is no longer the case.
Humbucker Bass Pickups
Humbucker pickups, which are also called "P-bass pickups", were invented to combat the problems associated with single coils. They eliminate hum by using a pair of pickups, with 2 coils under each string.
This means they pick up a widened signal, canceling the phase. The result is a thicker tone that is preferred in rock music.
Some basses provide you with both of these varieties. You can switch between J-bass and P-bass pickups and get the best of both worlds.
Other Key Qualities
For a bass guitar to be classed as ‘short scale’, it should have a scale length of 30 inches or less. Lightweight basses inevitably have shorter scales than heavier instruments.
It might take a little getting used to if you’re accustomed to playing full-sized bass guitars, but in my experience, short scales offer many benefits.
These include being able to play more confidently without needing to look down at the fretboard, which is a byproduct of not having to stretch to reach the notes. Additionally, the tone of a short-scale bass tends to be punchy and warm.
Along with the scale length of the bass guitar, another factor that impacts its weight is the materials used to construct it, particularly the choice of the body wood.
Basswood is a popular choice on mid-priced options, and this is regarded as a lightweight material.
Alder and mahogany, which are two tonewoods used on many flagship, high-end bass guitars, are considerably heavier than basswood.
One of the most common concerns that bassists have about lightweight models is that they will be slightly flimsy and struggle to hold tuning as a result. However, this isn’t the case on most good-quality lightweight basses.
If you’re concerned about tuning stability, the most important thing you can do is ensure that you’re using good-quality strings on your bass. Its lightweight design is unlikely to impact its ability to stay in tune.
Using locking tuners with your lightweight bass also offers some advantages, but they are mainly centered around the speed they allow you to change your strings rather than improving overall tuning stability.
Lightweight bass guitars are, in my opinion, a joy to play. It's refreshing being able to freely move around on a stage for long periods and not get the dreaded strap-burn on your shoulder, or feel your feet become sore.
When choosing the right option to suit your needs, consider the style that you predominantly play, and check that this lines up with the materials used and the pickups installed on the bass.