Bass Amp Alternatives

Stuck with a bass guitar and no amplifier? No problem – read about Bass Amp Alternatives to find out how to deal with it.

Sooner or later it happens to every bassist, you have a bass guitar and no bass amp.

The reasons may vary; a beginner may not have enough for an amp and a quality bass guitar, an experienced bassist may need their bass amp repaired or the unthinkable could happen – your bass amp could be stolen.

What to do?

If you’re in the situation where you need to play bass and either can’t afford or don’t want to buy a bass amp just yet, this article is for you.  I’ve included some options you can explore that range from free to less money than what you’d spend on a typical amp.

Keep in mind that these ideas will let you play and hear your bass guitar mainly for practice purposes and are not recommended to get you through a live gig.

Bass Guitar Unplugged

Here are a few tricks to ‘hear’ your bass guitar better if you’re without a bass amp and need to practice.

  1. Use your chin. Sit down with your bass guitar in your lap as you’d normally do while playing, and rest your chin on the upper horn of the bass. The vibrations of the wood will go through your lower jawbone making the bass guitar sound louder!
  2. While playing, lightly touch the top of the headstock against a wooden door or wall. The wood will vibrate and amplify the sound of your bass – just be careful you don’t push against the wall too hard – the bass guitar will slip and you may dent, ding or scrape the finish of your bass!
  3. Put on new bass strings – fresh strings are always louder than broken-in bass strings.
  4. Play in a small room with highly reflective surfaces like a bathroom. The sound waves have nowhere to go and make it easier to hear what you’re playing.

Bass Guitar Plugged In

I know what you’re thinking, “How can I plug my bass guitar in if I don’t have a bass amp?” There are a few other items you can plug into to hear your bass besides a bass amplifier such as:

  1. Your computer – it’s not just for playing solitaire or for email anymore. Most computers today come standard with a sound card and with the right attachment you can plug your instrument cable directly into the back of your computer. All you need is a set of computer speakers. Don’t expect any miracles, the sound will distort easily if you use lots of low-end.
  2. Effects pedals. If you’re lucky to own a digital multi-effects bass guitar pedal, they generally tend to have a headphone jack that you can use to listen to yourself play – great for practicing.
  3. Your stereo – if you have access to a 4 track or 8 track, you can often monitor a track without recording and output it to an AUX IN (or auxiliary input) on a stereo. Depending on the quality of your stereo, you might not miss your bass amp too much with this setup. Again – beware of damaging your speakers, you may want to remove unnecessary bass frequencies and lighten up your attack.

If you don’t have access to any of these three options, here’s a low cost solution for you – a tiny bass amp that plugs right into your bass and costs less than $50 – click here to check out the Vox Bass amplug, you don’t even need a patch cable!

While these options are less than ideal, they can help you to hear your bass guitar when there’s no bass amp around to plug into. Use discretion when plugging into computers, and stereos – these devices aren’t generally equipped for dealing with the output of a bass guitar and you could damage them, use at your own risk!

Aside from finding some great bass guitar lessons to improve your proficiency on the instrument, being able to make the most of your bass with or without an amplifier is another great skill that will serve you well as a bassist.

Thanks for reading about bass amp alternatives, stick around for more info from bass guitar rocks!

  • Hey.. i was just wondering if you can plug a bass guitar into “Logitech X-530” speakers??If it’s possible,what cables etc would i need?i’m looking at buying my first bass guitar and have a yamaha rbx170 in mind but i can’t afford to buy an amp yet..

  • Chris Mitchell says:

    hi thanks for all this info im getting my first bass tomorrow and everything i needed is on this site so thanks so much it helped me alot because i dont have any money left now so i cant get an amp so this was so helpful cheers

  • Chris,

    When I first started out I couldn’t afford an amp after purchasing my first bass either – so I understand where you’re coming from. This is why I wanted to put the bass amp alternatives post together. There are a lot more options to be able to ‘hear’ your bass without an amplifier today compared to back in 1990/91 when I first started!

    Let me be to the first to welcome you to the brotherhood of the low end!

  • Hello please respond quick cues I’m getting a used guitar todday and want to make sure it works what cables/software do I need to plug the guitar into my computer??

    Thanks Nathan

  • Hey Nathan. I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to your comment sooner (question is more like it). There are a lot of options out there, bottom line is you’ll either need a device that you can plug your 1/4 cable into that has either a USB output or 1/8th output to mate up to the computer. I’ve been meaning to flesh out this article with more details and perhaps some photos if possible…if interested please leave me a comment and let me know you want more on this topic!

  • Thanks mike this really helped me and I got the guitar for almost nothing I traded him a 20$ radio for it

  • Sounds like a good trade! Hopefully the new bass works out well for you!

  • Ok. then if I connect my sub woofer directly by audio out cable, will it work?

  • So glad someone else knows about the whole chin on the top horn trick. I do it all the time. I also do a thing I call a “hoodie amp” which utilizes the same vibration technique. But instead of my chin, Ill wear a hoodie withe hood up and press the edge of the hood against the bass body. It amplifies the sound and uses the hood to contain it. It’s really cool. But I’ve never encountered anyone else who does it or even knows it’s possible.

  • Pretty Killer Austin, I’m going to have to try this “hoodie amp” out for myself soon!

  • Christine says:

    Wondering what you mean with hoodie? English is not my mother language… could you please provide a pic of your “hoodie amp” trick?

  • Hey Christine,

    A “hoodie” is a typically a sweater or “jumper” with a hood, it can either be a pull-over or it can have a zipper. I have yet to try the ‘hoodie amp’ trick so I can’t say how well it works as yet…stay tuned for more. 😉

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