Pop Punk Bass Starter Kit – Master 5 ESSENTIALS

Essential Pop Punk Bass Starter Kit

Let’s say you were forced to play bass in a pop punk band by your band mates. How about you’re new to the bass guitar and have decided you want to play pop punk, or you’re in a cover band and have never really listened to pop punk. What is the essentials you need for a Pop Punk Bass Starter Kit?

Fans of Blink 182, Green Day and The Offspring will want to study this essential Pop Punk Bass Starter Kit carefully if you wish to sound like your idols.

Did you watch the video?! Would you like to know when the next one is out?

The Essential Pop Punk Bass Starter Kit

You had a pop punk gig tonight, this is what your bass starter kit would look like.

In this Pop Punk Bass Starter Kit we will explore, why this is the perfect rig.

Defining Pop Punk

Let’s begin with the bands and more clearly, what do we mean by pop punk? Pop punk has its origins as far back as the 1970s and has had varied levels of success since then.

There will be some crossover between pop punk and punk rock but that is for another time. For the purpose of this guide, Pop Punk refers to the bands with a radio friendly veneer to their music but maintain much of the speed and attitude of classic punk rock – ergo Pop punk.

Punk Rock has more “grr” and attitude while Pop Punk is not as threatening. More specifically, we shall be reflecting over the pop punk bands who brought about the biggest cultural and musical changes during the mid 1990s and early 2000s.

Essential Pop Punk Bands – The Top 3

Blink 182 no doubt has had the biggest cultural impact on fashion and music in the name of pop punk. Without a doubt, they set the trends. Their most successful albums of this period are Enema of state and Take off your pants and jacket.

Green Day have certainly sold far more records than Blink 182 and should take top spot for sales alone. Green day walked so Blink could run. The most famous album of Green day’s is Dookie followed by the more culturally accepted American Idiot.

Third spot is a bit of a difficult one as you can play it by album sales or debate the cultural impact. Culturally, it would be The Offspring or Sum 41.

By album sales however it’s No Doubt and Avril Lavinge. Throw in Hayley Williams from Paramore in the later half of the 2000s. All very similar, competent female fronted bands who make extremely catchy popular punk tunes.

Gwen Stefani, Avril Lavgine and Hayley Williams opened up pop punk to a new audience of teenage girls and generously helped move the cultural needle.

Required Pop Punk listening

Honourable mentions to name a select few include the following; All have had major success in their own way and are required listening.

Essential Pop Punk Basses

What basses should be used in Pop Punk?

Almost 9 times out of 10 pop punk bands will use a Fender Precision Bass.

Look at Blink 182, Green day, The Offspring, Sum 41 and Alkaline trio to name a few. Pop punk should be synonymous with Precision basses, If you want to be authentic, get a precision bass. Essential Pop Punk Bass Starter Kit

Why are Precision basses used in Pop Punk?

There is no one reason, you can look as far back as pop punk grandfathers The Ramones and Sex Pistols using Artic white Precisions basses.

It just so happened to become the fashionable instrument in Punk and everyband had one. Alternatively, Precision basses are pretty affordable – always have been.

They are very simple instruments to mass  produce, copy and obtain. Even today a Precision of questionable quality can be bought from as little as $99 dollars.

If you really want to get into the weeds, Punk and Pop Punk by extension is a genre and a lifestyle about attitude and sticking it to the man.

Punks don’t want to be pretty and popular and if you brought a beautiful expensive boutique bass to a punk band you would certainly receive ridicule.

Features of a Precision bass in Pop Punk

The split coil pickup found on a Precision bass has a unique round bouncy tone that is unlike any other bass.

It happens to sit very well in a pop punk mix as the guitars are typically thinner and overdriven rather than distorted which would typically drown out the bass.

Clear Precision bass examples;

Precision basses are for beginners and used by professionals

Precision basses are simple instruments and work in the hands of beginners or professionals alike.

In 10 minutes after learning 3 notes you can play pop punk. It’s that easy. It’s extremely difficult to make a good precision bass sound bad.

What basses can I use in Pop Punk?

The decision is ultimately up to you of course however if you want to stay true to an authentic pop punk sound and aesthetic any Fender model bass will do, such as;

Fender basses used in a Pop Punk Bass Starter Kit;

Most pop punk bands will use Fender basses as they look the part and still keep that classic sound more often than not.

Other basses that can be used in Pop Punk

Those who are not fans of Fender basses can use other brands but be warned if you don’t play the standard P or J set up, you are quickly getting out of the realms of this Pop Punk Bass Starter Kit and “authentic” pop punk sound.

Pop Punk basses need to include

  • Passive pickups
  • 4 strings
  • Using split coil or single coil pickups

Example of other basses used in Pop Punk

Basses to avoid for Pop Punk

Avoid active basses, soap bar pickups and specialty humbuckers like Thunderbirds, Hofners, SGs, Rickenbackers or Stingrays. Brilliant basses in their own right but not for authentic pop punk.

Flagship basses for Pop Punk

Lastly, if you are going down a Precision bass route keep in mind the most authentic pop punk sound comes from a good quality Fender Precision, not a Squier or cheap Precision. There is a huge improvement in tone from the entry level precisions to the flagship models.

If you do own a questionable Precision already, consider upgrading the pickups to something a bit more traditional like the Fender Yosemite set or a beefy sound like Seymour Duncan Quarter pounds.

Changing your pickups is often the easiest and cheapest way to upgrade your bass.

The best bass amplifier for a Pop Punk Bass Starter Kit

There is only really one amplifier you will need in a Pop Punk Bass Starter Kit and that is an Ampeg SVT. Specifically the original SVT V-4B or conventional model like the SVT CL. The tonal character of pop punk bass in almost all circumstances is down to a Precision bass and Ampeg SVT.

This is partially down to fashion and a “successful formula”. “Well The Ramones, Bad Religion and Greeday used it I should too”.

Every pop punk player uses Ampeg – The big bands always have done. What the Fender Precision does for the bass, the Ampeg SVT does for amplifiers.

It sounds brilliant, it’s on nearly every record you can think of across every genre. It’s ubiquitous and found in studios and countries worldwide. If it ain’t broke don’t , fix it.

The Ampeg sound generally speaking is a thick lower to mid range with some exaggeration on the top end – call it clicky. The Ampeg sound is that of a rebellious teenager.

The only amplifier used in Pop Rock are Ampegs

Alternatives to Ampeg amplifiers

Alternatively you could look at Fender Bassman amplifiers and cabinets. They generally have cleaner amplifiers and are more faithful to what your bass should sound like. Secondly, consider Gallien Kruger. The tone could be somewhere in the middle of the previous two. A thick tone, faithful to your bass but with its own natural character that is not very clicky.

Bass amplifiers to avoid in Pop Punk

Avoid amplifiers like Mesa Boogie, Orange or Darkglass. All very good amplifiers but not authentic to pop punk. Amplifiers like these could colour the sound away from pop punk and more into the darker metal genres removing brightness.

The best bass strings in Pop Punk

For the essential Pop Punk Bass Starter Kit you will need Ernie Ball Super Slinkys. More often than not you will want light gauge strings somewhere between 40-100 or mediums 45-105.

Ernie Ball nickel strings are a must have for the Pop Punk Bass Starter Kit

It is unusual to use anything heavier than .105 for Pop Punk but as always with strings it’s best you try it for yourself.

Lighter strings are easier to pick and help give the music that sense of airiness and urgency. Heavier strings will sound thicker and perceptively speaking slow down the music.

Ernie Ball strings are the best Pop Punk bass string

In terms of brands, almost every pop punk band uses Ernie Ball, likely the most popular string brand on the planet. Everybody uses them.

They have a fantastic feel and super sound but die out quicker than competitors.

Strings are the easiest component of your sound you can change and you are encouraged to do so. However if you want pop punk authenticity, get the Super Slinkys.

Alternative bass strings to Ernie Ball

Alternatively have a look at the Rotosound swing bass set. They provide for a large roster of popular players and make excellent strings.

Alternative Pop Punk Bass Strings

Bass string brands to avoid in Pop Punk

Avoid any and all “signature artist series” or glow in the dark /neon sets – you don’t need them. You should also stay away from flat wounds as that ain’t punk at all.

Artist sets usually have unusual pairings or coatings and flat wounds are purposely designed to give a flatter duller sound like a double bass.

Bass tuning in Pop Punk

Tuning is an artistic choice, however authentic pop punk will be tuned to E standard.

9 times out of 10 bands record in E standard but play E flat live. This makes the vocalist’s life a bit easier and could serve the purpose of making the songs slightly darker with a slight looseness on the strings for you.

If you really want to push the envelope you can play Drop D.

Essential Pop Punk Bass Starter Effects Pedals

Effects pedals for Pop Punk bassists aren’t a staple of the genre. Most bassists would create their tone from their pickups, amplifiers or way of play amd The drive or the grit will tend to come from the amplifier alone.

Of course there are exceptions and just like the guitarists, bassists can lean into overdrive pedals for a bit more bite during songs. Most overdrives all serve a similar purpose with very little difference between them.

Just like the strings argument, you will have to find one with the flavour that works for you. But if we stick to pop punk authenticity then a very mild overdrive is reccomended.

Find a mild overdrive for Pop Punk

Pop Punk and bass fuzz pedals

Fuzz pedals are a great alternative to overdrive when used in moderation. They provide a unique sound that really flavours a song and is unusual.

There are tons of Fuzz pedals on the market, go with something tried and tested. Like a Big Muff from Electro Harmonix or your overseas reproductions.

Pop punk and distortion pedals

Distortion pedals like the BOSS DS1 are a rare option but can be quite harsh given the overall style of the genre.

They also tend to suck out the bottom end of your tone and reccomended to avoid.

Other effects used on bass for Pop Punk

Other effects can be used on the bass for pop punk during your bridges or middle 8s. Effects on the bass are used more for tonal emphasis rather than “always on” like distortion in metal.

Pop Punk occasionally uses modulation effects

Essential Pop Punk plectrums for bass

One more item to mention is plectrum choice which is not a massive deal overall but it does help tie your sound together.

Pop punk bass is only played using plectrums and there is no deviation to finger play or slapping at all. Plectrum only.

Players will be expected to use Torex plectrums from point 50mil to point 88mil at the most.

Plectrum sizes (from lightest to thickest)

The lighter the plectrum size the more snappy your tone will be and faster to play. Heavier plectrums require more stamina to play but make your sound dynamically louder.

Experiment to find a balance between what is most comfortable for you and sounds best.

The Essential Pop Punk Bass Starter Kit

In summary, putting those constituent parts together. If you had a pop punk gig tonight, this is what your bass starter kit would look like.


Watch more from Know Your Bass Player

Head back to The Which Bass Know Your Bass Player YouTube channel for more bass rigs from the biggest bands.

If you’re new to the channel, can I recommend that you go and watch my Les Claypool bass rig or Cliff Burton bass rig videos? They’re very popular.

As always, if there’s a bass rig you want to see on this channel, let me know by Twitter and I might just do it!

Tweet to @alfiewilliamsuk


Continue watching the most popular bass rig videos