Guitar Aficionado is supported by readers. If you buy something after clicking on one of our links, we may get an affiliate commission from that & it won’t cost you anything.
So, you want to play your bass but you don’t have an amp or the one you normally use is broken. Anyone who has ever learned how to play the bass is likely familiar with this situation. Still, what can you do? Is it even possible to play an electric bass without an amp?
Bass guitar can be played without an amplifier in a number of different ways. If you’re just trying to hear it yourself, guitar headphones or a small bathroom with good acoustics should work. If you want to play in the open, your computer or an effects pedal can double as an amplifier of sorts.
If you’d like some tips on how to make your bass sound louder without an amplifier, we’ve got you covered. We’ll highlight some of the most common alternatives to amps that you may already own, then we’ll turn our attention to what you can do without anything at all. So grab your bass and get ready to start practicing again.
Alternatives To A Guitar Amplifier
An amp isn’t the only thing you can plug your bass guitar into. With the right cables or an adapter, you’ll find several viable options at home, including:
- Guitar Headphones: This is perfect if you’re just trying to hear your bass while you practice. You just take the bass guitar headphones and plug them in where you’d normally connect your amp. This has the added benefit of getting a full-bodied sound when you practice without disturbing anyone who may live with or near you.
- Stereo with Aux Input: On amazon you can find amp cables with one end that can be plugged into a stereo via the auxiliary input. Generally, a speaker won’t have quite as much power as an amplifier does, however it’ll work just fine if you’re practicing at home or playing in a small venue.
- Effects Pedal: If you own a guitar effects pedal, it can double as a basic amplifier for any electric guitar including a bass. Just remember it probably won’t get quite as loud as a standard amp.
- Computer: There are a number of ways you can link your bass to your computer and use it as an amplifier. You can use adaptors built for recording, the mic input or even an auxiliary port. With the powerful speaker’ many people use on their computers today, this may be the best option for you.
- IOS Device: Whether you’re using your iPhone or your iPad, there are loads of apps that are meant to act as virtual amplifiers. In order to connect your bass to your device, you will need an adaptor, however, they will be far cheaper than buying a new amplifier.
What About Micro Amps?
Okay, this is kind of cheating, as these are technically amplifiers. Still, microamps are far cheaper than standard amplifiers and come with some unique benefits. In terms of price, they tend to run between $30 and $50.
Micro amps are basically small speakers that–for the purposes of style–look like tiny versions of regular amps. They run on battery power and can usually be clipped to a belt for easy movement while you’re playing.
In terms of quality, you’re getting what you paid for. They don’t really have a great tone, but hey at least they will let you play your music loudly between buying a new amp or playing in a more restrictive environment. They are certainly better than having to play with no amp at all.
Options For Going Unplugged
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of hooking your bass up to your computer or a set of speakers there are a few ways that you can make your bass sound louder on its own.
- Check your strings: Before you do anything else to play your bass unplugged, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not using old strings. Newer and higher quality strings will not only sound better, but they will also be louder as well.
- Play in a small bathroom: If you’ve been around the music world you’ve probably heard people say they get great acoustics in their bathroom. Because of the reflective surfaces used in showers and bathtubs, sound tends to bounce around and sound louder. Though it may sound silly, playing your bass unplugged in the bathroom is a great way to hear it better.
- Play against a wooden wall: If you sit nearby a wooden wall or even a door, you can gently press your guitar’s headstock against it for a louder sound. This is because of the vibration the sound waves cause in the wall or door. Just remember not to press too hard so you don’t scratch up your guitar.
- Play against your chin: This works because of the same concept behind playing against a wall. If you rest your chin on the upper part of the bass, the vibrations of sound waves will move through your jaw and be projected out a little bit louder. This brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “use your head.”
- Use an acoustic bass instead of an electric: Most acoustic basses work either with or without an amplifier. If you’re looking to buy a bass but you don’t have enough for an amp, you should consider buying an acoustic base. In the next section we’ll further break down what options you’ll have if you do choose to go acoustic.
Acoustic Bass Options
There are several different brands and models of bass guitars that are meant to be played acoustically and therefore don’t require an amplifier. We’ve gathered 4 of the best on the market based on their quality and budget below.
- Fender FA-450CE: You can’t really mention bass guitars without bringing up the brand Fender. Not only does this acoustic bass come with a beautiful design (solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany sides and neck) it’s got a full sound.
- Taylor GS Mini-E Koa: Though this Bass is expensive, it is one of the best on the market. It sports a fingerboard of roasted maple as well as solid Hawian koa top for a great sound and a unique look.
- D’Angelico Premier Mott: With 20 frets, its classic look to the mahogany sides, this acoustic bass really brings it where it counts.
- Dean EAB: This mahogany bass isn’t perfect but it may be just right if you’re on a budget. For its length (long neck with 24 frets) and size, it is surprisingly light. While it may not be the best for large venues, it’s great for playing at home or for a small group of friends.
So, Can Bass Guitar Really Be Played Without An Amplifier?
Absolutely! If you want to play your bass but your amp is out of commission or you don’t own one, there are a couple of routes you can take. If you just want to play the bass unplugged, finding a small room with reflective surfaces on the walls is the best way to go. Most people find that bathrooms work splendidly.
If you don’t have that you can gently press the headstock against a door or wooden wall and allow the vibrations to echo louder.
If you’re not averse to repurposing technology you may already have around your house, you can very quickly find a substitute amplifier for your bass. Computers, IOS Devices, speakers, and effects pedals have the ability to do this as long as you have the right cables or adapters to get your bass hooked up.
So there you have it, there’s no excuse not to start practicing right now!
Last Updated on March 15, 2021.