Many jazz bassists might also be in the market for an affordable upright bass, so they can expand their sound options for playing with big bands or small combos. “Cheap” is a relative term when it comes to a sizeable instrument like an upright bass. The options below all come in at under $1,000, and are versatile enough for any playing setting.
These are, in our humble opinion, the 5 best cheap upright basses on the market:
Cecilio 1/2CDB-100 Upright Double Bass
This is the most affordable of the double bass options you’re likely to find. The Cecilio CDB-100 is an excellent option for the student player for a host of reasons beside the price. The most important of these is the fact that it’s fully adjustable to fit a wide range of player heights and builds. The height of the bridge can be adjusted using a thumb wheel to fit the position that’s most comfortable for you. It can then be further adjusted to grow with the student throughout their playing years.
In terms of the build, it uses oak for the fingerboard and tailpiece, with plated brass hardware. It also comes with an included bow and padded case, so you’ll have everything you need to play and transport your instrument. The build quality is very high considering the price, designed to stand up to the rigors of daily play. If you’re looking for a reliable workhorse instrument for a student, this is an excellent cheap double bass option.
Merano MB100 Full Size String Upright Bass
Another excellent contender for both students and doublers is the Merano MB100. It’s sold as a full-size student bass, but the sound that you can get out of it belies the beginner’s label. Compared to the models above, it can give you much more volume and resonance. The construction is arched-back, with solid maple on the back, neck, and sides and spruce for the top. It also comes with more useful accessories, including two extra sets of strings and a music stand for home practice.
The sound quality of the MB100 is rich and deep, both when it’s plucked and when it’s bowed. It comes with a French-style horsehair bow, which like the bass itself is built to last. The bridge height is easily adjustable so that you can find the string height that sounds and feels the best for your unique style. The instrument has a full mid-range and a clear top-end. Though some people find the low end a bit muddled with the strings that come on the instrument, changing to a new set will give you a nice, full sound across the range. The overall tone is richer and smoother than what you’ll get with many beginner basses, making it an especially popular choice for doublers.
Palatino VE-500 Electric Upright Bass
Now for something smaller. If you’re looking for the upright feel and sound but you don’t want to have to carry such a large instrument around with you to your gigs, consider an electric upright like the Palatino VE-500. Like most standard uprights, it uses a spruce top with maple for the back and sides, along with an ebony fingerboard, for a natural feel when you press the strings.
This option is better for jazz bassists who want an upright to double on than it is for an orchestral player. The sound will be relatively similar to an amplified upright bass but will not come as close to the sound of a purely acoustic upright like you’d see in a classical ensemble. For the jazz player, though, this can be an excellent option, letting you play with both plucked and bowed techniques and giving you a higher sound quality than other upright basses in the price range in a more portable package. This should be on anyone’s list of the best cheap upright basses.
Cecilio CDB-200 3/4 Size Upright Double Bass
If you’re looking for a larger option, Cecilio also has some larger options that are still an impressive value. Their CDB-200 is the next tier up from the CDB-100 model above, and gives you a different array of tonewood options in addition to the change in size. It uses oak wood for the fingerboard and ebony for the tailpiece, with a mother of pearl inlay that gives it a professional visual touch, despite its affordable price point.
The construction and accessories of the CDB-200 offer some variety, as well. It uses a flamed back, adding breadth to the tone and making it easier to play. The included Brazilwood bow uses Mongolian horsehair, with ebony for the frog, proving that Cecilio pays as much attention to the details on their student models as they do on their professional instruments. The bridge is fully adjustable to maximize player comfort, too, making it another very versatile option that can grow with a student as they develop.
Rata Beginner Upright Bass, Full Size
If you’re in the market more for a full-sized bass, whether for doubling in a jazz setting or for a student who’s in high school and older, the beginner upright from Rata is worth your consideration. The materials used in this one are of a slightly higher quality than those employed in many beginner basses. It uses maple for the sides, neck, and back, with a solid spruce top, similar tonewoods to what you’ll find employed on a variety of instruments at a higher price point. It also uses an alloy tailpiece and an ebonized fingerboard, the combination of which gives you both great aesthetic appeal and a consistent, rich tone, both when plucked and when bowed.
The included padded carrying case is very helpful for transporting the instrument to gigs, practice, or to and from school. It also comes with a genuine horsehair bow included, in the French style, which is known for both its durability and its sound quality. Every part of this bass and its components has been designed for playability, from the arched-back construction of the body to the Tyrolean-style machine head. This is one of the best cheap upright basses for the money.
Setting up a Cheap Double Bass
Most new instruments are going to need adjustment when you first get them, especially instruments that are purchased brand new and still in the box, and haven’t yet been played by anyone. An experienced bassist can make these adjustments on their own, but if the bass is for a student it’s probably a good idea to take it to a music store for an adjustment before it’s played.
The peripheral parts that come installed on student-model instruments are likely to be the most basic versions of the items that you can find. If you don’t like the sound you’re getting initially, try experimenting with different kinds of strings. Upgrading this part of the instrument is cheap and easy, and can help you to unlock the true potential of the instrument.
Finally, with even the best cheap upright basses, there will admittedly be some concessions made in the materials and craftsmanship, but you can still get quality sound out of any of the basses that are on this list with the right care and attention. Good luck!