Parts of the Bass

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Parts of the Bass

Man playing bass guitar
WIN-Initiative / Getty Images

A bass guitar consists of many parts and pieces put together. All the parts of the bass are important to the sound the instrument produces. As you begin learning to play bass guitar, it will be worthwhile to know your way around it. This brief guide can help you get familiar with the parts of the bass.

There are essentially five important parts of the bass: the headstock, neck, body, pickups and bridge. Let's take a look at each one individually.

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Headstock - Parts of the Bass

Bass Guitar Headstock
Redferns / Getty Images

At the top of the bass guitar is the headstock. This is the part that houses the tuning pegs, those little knobs you use to change the pitch of the strings. Some bass guitars have the tuning pegs arranged in a row, while others have them on either side of the headstock.

Bass guitars make use of a "worm gear" for their tuning system. A spiraled screw thread (the "worm") and a gear lock together, so that rotating the screw will slowly move the gear around and tighten or loosen the string. The full tuning peg and worm gear apparatus is called a tuning machine or machine head. The tuning machine allows very fine adjustments to be made when tuning, and also prevents the strings' tension from pulling the gear back.

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Neck - Parts of the Bass

Bass guitar neck
" Bass guitar" ( Public Domain) by  piviso_com

Joining the headstock to the guitar body is the neck. At the top of the neck, where it meets the headstock, is a little bar with grooves for each string called the nut. The nut is where the strings make contact as they pass from the headstock down over the neck.

The surface of the neck is called the fretboard because it is divided up by little, raised metal bars called frets. When you push your finger down, the string will touch on a fret, even if your finger is behind the fret. They make sure the notes you play are in tune.

Certain frets have dots in between them. These dots are there as a reference to help you know where you are along the fretboard as you play. They help a lot when learning the names of notes on the bass.

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Body - Parts of the Bass

EB MM Stingray Body
" EB MM Stingray Body Close" ( CC BY-SA 2.0) by  Roadside Guitars

The largest component of the bass guitar is the body. The body is just a solid chunk of wood. Its primary purposes are cosmetic appeal and to serve as a base for attachment of all the other parts.

The classic shape of the body is rounded along the outside with two curved "horns" on either side of the protruding neck, but there are other shapes to choose from.

A guitar strap can attach to the body using strap buttons or strap pins. These are little metal protrusions that flare outward. One is at the bottom of the body (by the bridge) and the other is typically at the end of the top horn. Some guitars have a strap button at the end of the headstock.

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Pickups - Parts of the Bass

Warwick Thumb 5 Custom White - twin Bartolini pickups
By Simon Doggett (Flickr: Twin Bart Pups) [ CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In the center of the body are the pickups. These look like raised bars underneath the strings, usually housing rows of round metal buttons.

Often there are multiple sets of pickups in different positions. The different placement causes each set to get a different sound from the strings. By changing the balance between the different pickups, you can adjust your tone.

Each pickup is a little magnet surrounded by a coil of wire. When the metal string vibrates, it pulls the magnet up and down. The magnet's movement induces an electric current in the wire. This electric signal is sent to your amplifier.

Your bass guitar also has one or more knobs at the bottom right of the body. These control volume, tone, and sometimes bass, treble, or mid.

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Bridge - Parts of the Bass

Bass Guitar Bridge
slobo / Getty Images

Last but certainly not least is the bridge. This is where the strings end at the bottom of the bass guitar. Most bridges consist of a metal base with several components attached to it.

The bridge base is screwed directly into the wood of the body. At the bottom are holes where each string is strung through. Some bass guitars have holes going down through the body for the strings, but on most the strings only go through the bridge.

The strings each pass over a movable metal piece called a saddle. Each saddle has a groove in the middle for its string. It is connected to the bridge base with screws that can be used to adjust its position and height. These adjustments aren't something you should worry about if you're a beginner.