Are you wondering what all of the different parts of the bass guitar are called? Don’t know your tuning pegs from your tuning posts? Well, fret not, as all will be revealed in my massive electric bass guitar anatomy guide below!
After reading this page you will be able to name all of the key parts of the bass. Furthermore, you will also discover the purpose of each of the parts of the bass so that you know the function of all of them!
To ensure that this guide is as easy to follow as possible I have made sure to include a handy electric bass guitar parts diagram, as well as a series of more in-depth diagrams looking more closely at each section of the instrument.
As a bass player, understanding how each of the different parts of a bass guitar function together is incredibly useful to know. For this reason, I would highly encourage you to continue reading past the basic diagrams to really boost your knowledge.
What Are The Sections Of A Bass?
Before we dive into the individual parts of a bass guitar we first need to understand the 3 basic sections that the instrument is comprised of.
- The body of the bass guitar is the section where you will pick the strings.
- The bass neck is the part that you hold with your fretting hand.
- The head (also known as the headstock) is where you tune the bass guitar.
Every type of electric bass guitar will have these same three basic sections, aside from models designed with no headstock (called headless basses).
Further down the page, we will examine each of these separate sections in greater detail.
Bass Guitar Parts Diagram
In the following handy bass guitar parts diagram I have highlighted all of the main parts of the bass.
Once you have memorized all of the different parts of the bass, move on to the next section of this guide where you can discover the purpose of each of these pieces.
What Are The Parts Of A Bass Guitar?
Let’s start at the top of the bass (the headstock), and work our way down the instrument as we go.
As we’ve also touched on above, the headstock (also referred to as the head) is the area at the top of the instrument where you can tune your bass strings.
The tuners are made up of several individual parts including the tuning pegs and tuning posts, but as a whole, we can simply refer to them as tuners. By rotating the tuners, we can either tighten or loosen the bass guitar strings until they reach the required pitch.
The larger parts of the tuner that you rotate with your fingers are known as the tuning pegs. The area that the string is wound around is called the tuning post. Of course, tuners consist of other parts as well, but these two are the most important to be familiar with.
On many bass guitars (such as the Fender shown above on the left), you will find a string tree located on the headstock. You’ll notice that the two highest bass guitar strings ‘hook’ underneath this little metal section.
One function of this part is to exert a little downward pressure on the strings to make sure that they don’t accidentally jump out of their position in the nut.
Furthermore, the string tree also provides a little extra sustain when playing open notes. That is, the notes will ring out for longer.
Truss Rod Cover
On bass guitars such as a Gibson SG bass (shown above on the right), you’ll notice a little sheet of plastic screwed into the headstock. Underneath this cover, there is a small cavity where you can access and adjust the truss rod.
You will find out more about the truss rod when we look at the various parts of the bass neck below.
Where the headstock meets the bass guitar’s neck you will find a little strip of plastic or bone called the nut. The function of the nut is to hold the strings in place at the correct distance apart.
The nut features slots of varying widths so as to snugly accommodate each individual string.
The neck is the area of the bass guitar located between the body and the headstock. People often confuse the neck with the fretboard, but it is important to note that these parts of the bass are not the same!
When you are playing bass your thumb will slide up and down the back of the neck. You cannot actually see the front of the neck due to the fretboard covering it up.
Most commonly, bass necks will be built from either maple or mahogany. They are often either one solid piece of wood, or can be constructed by sandwiching together several layers of wood (this is called laminating).
Fretboard (or Fingerboard)
Glued to the top of the neck we find a thin slice of wood known as the fretboard, which can also be referred to as the fingerboard.
The tone and feel of a fretboard are determined by the wood that it is built from. The most commonly used woods are rosewood, maple, and ebony. Check out my fretboard wood guide for more information.
The metal wires that divide the fretboard up into different sections are called frets. If you press your finger down on a string it will make contact with one of these frets (called fretting), and this will determine what note is played.
For the most part, a bass will generally have between 19 and 24 frets, with 21, 22, or 24 being the most common.
Models do exist without frets – called fretless basses.
We’ve already mentioned the truss rod quite a bit in this guide. So, let’s finally find out what this magical device actually does!
Sandwiched between the neck and the fretboard is a long metal pole called the truss rod. Its purpose is to adjust the curvature of the bass neck, as well as to help reinforce the neck against the pull of the bass strings.
Over time, all bass necks will bow due to the effects of humidity and temperature. Or, even just from changing to a different gauge of strings! We can use the truss rod to counter these effects and make sure the bass remains easy to play.
To find out more about how to adjust the truss rod, check out my huge guide to guitar setups.
To help navigate the fretboard you will find a series of small dots or blocks that indicate the fret numbers. These are called inlays, but can also be referred to as position markers or fret markers.
Inlays are usually found at frets 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, 17, 19, 21, and 24. The 12th and 24th fret inlays usually have a different design to help distinguish these octave positions. This is usually just two dots as opposed to one.
Position markers are also generally found on the top edge of the fingerboard in the form of smaller dots.
A skunk stripe is a thin section of wood that you might find on the back of some bass necks. On bass designs where the truss rod channel is routed on the back of the neck, we need to fill that space back in once the rod is mounted.
This is all the skunk strip is! A decorative strip of contrasting (often walnut) wood to make the neck whole again.
Neck plates are only found on bass guitars where the neck is screwed onto the body – known as a bolt-on neck. These metal plates help to evenly distribute the force of the screws.
Now we’re getting to the area where the majority of the parts of the electric bass guitar are found. The bass guitar’s body is the section of the instrument where you will pick the bass strings, plug into an amp, and adjust the tones.
Fairly obvious, but the strap buttons are the metal pins to which you will attach your bass strap when standing up to play. The button found at the lower end of the bass is referred to as the endpin.
The decorative plastic sheet found on top of the body is known as the scratchplate or the pickguard. Its main purpose is to help protect the body finish from being damaged while you play.
Many bass guitars do not use a scratchplate as modern finishes are extremely tough and difficult to damage.
A bass pickup will take the vibrations from the strings passing over it and convert those into the sounds that you will hear from your amplifier. As such, they play a vital role in determining the tones produced by your instrument.
The pickup found nearest to the neck is referred to as the neck pickup. The one beside the bridge is called the bridge pickup.
The two most common designs are split coil and single coil pickups.
The Fender Jazz bass shown in the bass guitar parts diagram above uses two single coil pickups. A split coil pickup is generally found on Fender Precision basses. It is essentially two single coil pickups split apart, covering two bass strings each.
The bridge is the part of the bass where the strings connect to the body. The distance between the nut and the bridge determines the vibrating length of each bass string.
A saddle is an adjustable metal section that holds the bass string at the correct height and distance apart from the others. In addition, they also transfer the vibration from the bass strings to the bridge. Each string will generally have its own saddle.
Each saddle can be adjusted to raise and lower the height of the strings. They can also be moved back and forwards to help determine the length of each string and therefore ensure perfect intonation.
The output jack (also referred to as the jack socket) is the hole which you will plug your bass cable into. This cable will then connect to your effects or amplifier.
It is often wrongly referred to as the input jack. However, this is incorrect as the signal actually leaves your bass guitar from here!
Volume and Tone Knobs
You won’t be surprised to hear that the volume and tone knobs are for controlling the volume and tone levels of your bass!
Depending on your own bass there may be several of these controls with varying functions. Most basses will have a master volume knob to control the overall loudness of the instrument.
Simpler basses may have a single tone knob that controls the treble frequencies. Others may have separate controls for the bass, middle, and treble frequencies. You may also find a blend control which is used to blend the bridge and neck pickup sounds.
Although fairly rare to see, a thumb rest can be found on either the treble or bass side of the strings.
When it is above the strings you can rest your thumb on it and play with the fingers. When it is below the strings (also known as a tug bar), you can anchor your fingers to it and then play the strings with your thumb.
A cutaway is simply a section of the bass body that has been ‘cut away’ to provide improved reach to the upper frets.
The neck pocket is simply the section of the body where the neck is bolted to (as shown above), or glued to the bass body.
So that the bass resonates freely, the neck pocket has to be accurately routed to ensure that the bond between the body and neck is as tight and secure as possible.
Parts Of The Bass – Complete!
Congratulations on making it to the end of this guide to the different parts of a bass guitar. I hope that by now you’ll understand the names and functions of each important piece! This new knowledge should really help you to play bass guitar to the best of your ability.
If you haven’t yet delved into the world of bass, make sure to check out my guide to beginner bass guitars.