Yamaha makes an excellent bass and their inexpensive models are the best in their class. Cliff Burton played a Yamaha bass. As for an amp, get a good used Ampeg combo solid state amp. The BX50 is plenty of amp and it's not too large. The BX100 is also a good amp, but because it has a larger speaker cabinet, it's more difficult to move around.
Fernandes also makes a good bass, but the workmanship - even on their higher end basses - is not as good as Yamaha. Yseult, the blonde chick who played bass in the band White Zombie - played a Fernandes.
Avoid Samick bass guitars. They are total junk.
A nice bass for a chick is the Fender Lyte. You might find a used one for a good price, The dinky body style is classic and because it's cut away from the neck even at the highest frets, it's easy to reach - which is important for those of us with smaller fingers.
Avoid a heavy bass like the Fender Jazz or Fender Precision bass. They sound great and the American-made basses are good stuff, but it's a lot of bass for a beginner.
If you ever find a BC Rich custom shop mockingbird bass for a reasonable price, snatch it up. It's one of the finest bass guitars on the planet.
When looking at amps, avoid a tube amp for a beginning bass player. A bass amp has two sets of tubes - the pre-amp tubes and the power tubes. Replacing power tubes is very expensive, which is why a lot of musicians (pros included) use a tube pre-amp with a mofset power supply. The Ampeg SVT-III head is the touring standard along with an Ampeg 8x10 cabinet. This is expensive gear, but if your friend masters the bass and gets serious, it's the amplifier she should aspire to. You can sometimes find a good deal for used gear in good condition.
In addition to an amp, she may wish to get an effects pedal. My first bass pedal was the DOD American Fuzz (the guitar pedal). It allows a bass player to add some nice distortion and a bit of distortion means more sustain. Another pedal I like is the Pearl Octava. They are hard to find, but if you ever see one for sale in good shape, snatch it up. A custom pedal that's really cool is the Woolly Mammoth.
Now, when you go bass shopping, the most important thing you want to look for is back bow in the neck. This is a death sentence for a bass because it is impossible to set the action low and the bass will have no sustain. Also, avoid any bass made with a Warmoth neck. In my experience, Warmoth does not honor their warranty and they trivialize serious problems, such as back bow. Carvin necks are machined to 1/1000th of an inch across the fingerboard, but there have been some problems with truss rods not properly seated. That means you're looking at replacing the truss down the road, which is a fairly expensive job for a professional luthier. The truss problem isn't common on the 4-string Carvins, but does rear its ugly head on Carvin bass guitars with more than 4 strings.
You may wish to ask your friend if she prefers a chunky D-shaped neck or a slimmer C-shaped neck. I'm a chick and I prefer a chunky neck because you can shape your hand around the back of the neck. My hand cramps up on a bass with a C-shaped neck. All Carvin and Ibanez necks are C-shaped.
If you buy a new bass amp and speaker cabinet (or a combo amp), you have to break it in properly. You should get someone who is a good bass player (or if you are talented guitar player, you could play bass and break it yourself). To break in a bass speaker cabinet you run scales from the lowest note to the highest and back down. Over and over. If you don't break in the speakers properly, they will never sound good. DO NOT PLUG YOUR GUITAR INTO A BASS AMP THAT HAS NOT BEEN BROKEN IN. The high frequencies on the guitar will color the speakers differently and it might become great for a synth player , but it will suck for bass. Most combo amps have a crossover, but you still want to break in the speakers properly.
Also, you should know about the common guages on bass strings. I like 105's and they are hard to find. Most sets are 107's. I rarely use 94's except on an 8-string bass, which has 4 bass strings and 4 octave strings. Sometimes, the strings on a bass will sound tinny when new. The solution to that problem is boil them for a few minutes in water. As you probably know, you don't have to change strings on a bass as often as you do on a guitar.
Finally, have your friend try out some straps. My favorite bass strap is nylon with a fleece pad over the shoulder. I also have some traditional padded leather straps, but that nylon thing is definitely the easiest to adjust and the most comfortable. Because a bass is a fairly heavy instrument, make sure your friend gets a good pair of strap locks. A bass falling on the floor is an awesome sight to watch, but kinda sad when you go to pick up pieces.
Answered By: Victoria - 8/4/2010