The type and treatment the tonewoods used to construct the instrument’s body have the most influence over its sound, while the construction techniques used will have the biggest impact on the instrument’s durability. A large instrument like a double bass (we use the terms “double bass,” “upright bass,” and “string bass” interchangeably here for they’re the same thing) can be an equally large monetary investment, and finding a model that will last you for many years to come will save you lots of expense and heartache down the line.
The four basses on this list both sound great and are very durable and playable—and though no upright bass comes cheap, they’re some of the top-valued instruments on the market. Below are, in our humble opinion, among the best upright basses on the market.
Becker uses well-seasoned tonewoods in the construction of all their basses, aging it over time to give their instruments a richer, sweeter, more complex sound. They’ve also chosen tonewoods that will enhance this complexity. The top of this model (see full specs) is made of laminated spruce, with maple for the back and sides, a classic combination that gives you a good balance of tone and power.
As far as the hardware goes, it uses ebony for the nut, tailpiece, and fingerboard and features a fully-fitted maple bridge and German machine heads. The bow that comes included is a Glasser model that uses a German grip for volume and power, complementing the rich tone of the instrument. This should be on anyone’s list of the best upright basses.
- Merano MB400BK 3/4 Size Black Student String Bass with Bag and Bow+Free Rosin
- Price: $1,999.99
- Price as of 08/14/2020 06:25 PDT(more info)
Merano is known for their colorful instruments, but there’s more to their line of basses than just the eye appeal. The MB400 uses similar tonewoods to other models on the market, with spruce on the top and maple on the back and sides. It also comes with a genuine horsehair French grip bow, which only makes it more of a great value.
This instrument is designed with a classical orchestra in mind but could also serve well in a jazz setting. The alloy tailpiece and ebonized fingerboard are extremely durable, and the high-quality arched back construction makes it perfect to gig with—one of the best string basses around.
Rata Beginner Upright Bass
- Rata Beginner Upright String Double Bass 4/4 Full Size for Students Teens Adults Orchestra Starter School
- Price: $1,999.99
- Price as of 08/13/2020 23:39 PDT(more info)
Like it says in the name, this is an excellent choice for the bass student who’s ready to own his or her own instrument, but isn’t ready or able to spend tons of money. The construction of the body is similar to the models above, with a laminated spruce top and maple on the back and sides.
The best thing about this bass for a student is its durability. It can take quite a bit of abuse without taking damage, excellent for a beginner who’s still learning how to play and handle it. This dependability also makes it an excellent back-up bass for a more experienced player, since you can use it at outdoor gigs and in other environments you’d be wary of using a more expensive instrument.
Cecilio CDB Upright Double Bass
- Cecilio CDB Upright Double Bass with an Adjustable Bridge, Bow, Rosin, and Gig Bag (Size 3/4, White)
- Price: $1,199.99
- Price as of 08/14/2020 06:25 PDT(more info)
Cecilio’s CDB Upright Double Bass is another great option for both beginning and intermediate players. It’s available in both ¾-size and full-size version (see it here), meaning all but the smallest players will be able to find one that’s comfortable for them. Whatever size you buy, you’ll get the same durable build and rich, full tone.
Both the fingerboard and tailpiece on this model are crafted out of oak. It not only has a classic, elegant look, but also makes for a very smooth playing experience. The hardware also helps to make it very playable. The bridge has an easy thumb wheel height adjustment and the plated brass machine heads are smooth-turning and reliable. If you’re buying for a beginner, you’ll be glad to know it comes with everything you need to play, including a gig bag, endpin plug, and horsehair bow. All told, it’s an excellent value for a great instrument.
You’ll probably notice reading through the descriptions that the materials all sound very similar. Many of the best upright basses use spruce for the top and maple for the back and sides. This combination gives them the resonance and rich low-end you want in a bass while still allow for crisp attacks and articulations. The difference between models tends to come from which variety of wood is used, where it was grown, and how it was cut and treated.
You’ll often hear the term “seasoned wood” used when talking about orchestral string instruments. Seasoning is a process by which the wood is dried and aged before being used to build the bass. Seasoning the wood makes the tone sweeter, darker, and more complex. The seasoning process doesn’t stop after construction, either; this is the main reason vintage violins and cellos are so sought after. Because it has to be stored somewhere while it’s aging and takes more effort to produce, it’s generally true that instruments made from seasoned wood are more expensive than those that aren’t, though for many players the improvement to the sound is well worth the extra investment.
Sizes of the Best Double Basses
Upright basses come in four sizes (1/4, 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4) which describe the scale length and height of the instrument. A 4/4, also called a full-sized bass, has a height of 74.8 inches and a scale length of 43.3 inches. A 3/4 bass, meanwhile, has a height of 71.6 and a scale length of 41.3 inches; 2/4 and 1/4 instruments are proportionally shorter. While those numbers above probably look pretty precise, there is some variation between individual manufacturers, as well, in terms of the exact scale length and instrument height, largely because so many professional upright basses are still made by hand.
There is no inherent quality difference between the different sizes of bass. It is more a matter of player comfort than it is one of sound quality. The 3/4 bass is by far the most popular size among students and professionals alike. Though 4/4 basses have been gaining popularity in recent years, unless you are exceptionally tall or have very large hands, there is no need to specifically seek out a full-sized bass. Even tall players may still find a ¾ size gives you a more comfortable playing experience.
As with most things concerning musician instruments, the best way to find out which size is best for you is to visit a musical instrument shop and try holding and playing various instruments in various sizes (then buy it there or online if it’s cheaper). Even if you don’t plan on buying the exact model they have at the store, you can get a sense of the overall feel of each distinct size, letting you figure out which one is right for you. And if you keep these ideas in mind, you’re sure to find the best upright bass for your needs. Good luck!
Micah Johnson started playing music in high school, when he taught himself the bass to join his friend’s band. He added guitar and drums during his twenties playing in local clubs, and along the way, he picked up unique, hands-on experience from hand drums to studio mixers. On Song Simian, he aims to share this knowledge from 20+ years playing and recording music. When not in gearhead mode, he enjoys photography and travel. Email him