The Rickenbacker 4003 Bass Guitar

Cliff Burton’s 4001 bass featured iconic design features, including its neck-through body, metal strings (originally flat-wound but usually replaced with round-wound), twin truss rods, and triangular pointy fret inlays. Most Rickenbacker basses today use Ric-O-Sound output system that allows users to run each pickup through individual channels for stereo effects.

Body & Neck

The 4003 features a solid maple neck that lends the instrument its signature jangly sound, as well as being extremely resistant to warping or twisting. A thick rosewood fingerboard adds warmth and harmonic complexity that perfectly compliments its powerful treble punch and crisp bass notes. Furthermore, its narrower neck profile enables players with shorter fingers to comfortably reach all frets on it.

Rickenbacker basses are composed of multiple appearance-matched wood laminations glued together with epoxy resin glue, often up to eleven separate sections in order to reach maximum strength and stability. Unlike competing instruments which may only use one or two laminations, each part of a Rickenbacker bass must be individually carved before being assembled together and finally sealed off using this time-consuming process – but its end result is an incredibly lightweight yet long-term durable bass that will only get better with age!

Rickenbackers can be customized with either active or passive pickups. Active models feature preamps connected directly to each pickup for more tonal flexibility and more power at higher volumes; passive models, in contrast, use copper coil wrapped magnets without additional preamps for functioning – it depends on personal choice and the music style you plan on performing with your Rickenbacker bass guitar.

Most Rickenbacker basses come equipped with two output jacks – one for each pickup – so you can plug your neck and bridge pickups directly into an amplifier, recording device, or recording software for instant stereo sound. Some models, like the 4003, may offer additional options like Rick-O-Sound which allows each pickup to go to its own channel of your amp in order to produce immersive stereo sounds.

No matter which model is selected, Rickenbackers all feature a bound body and Rosewood fingerboard inlaid with triangular pearloid marker dots for its distinctive appearance. Deluxe models such as the 4002 also boast intricate binding; an art form rarely seen elsewhere – which adds comfort and durability for increased longevity of performance. While binding can be expensive, it adds value by providing added support during performance.


The Rickenbacker 4003 bass has made an indelible mark on music history through the hands of numerous musicians, most notably Chris Squire and Geddy Lee of Yes for creating their progressive rock sound; Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister of Motorhead also used one for their signature combination of punk rock and metal sounds.

These instruments are well-known for their long sustain and balanced playability, making them incredibly versatile instruments that can easily switch between bright funk to darker rock sounds. Boasting neck-thru construction with maple body and fingerboard as well as dual pickups and stereo output, a Rickenbacker bass is an ideal option for any bassist looking to expand their sound palette.

Though Rickenbacker guitars offer many advantages, there can be downsides to owning one. One is their steep price tag; another issue may be with its design which makes owning it frustrating; for example, its bridge system can be finicky and may pull off from the body if careless handling occurs; additionally truss rods may be difficult to adjust and there could even be issues with pickups that lead to inconsistent tone quality.

Recently, however, the company has taken steps to alleviate some of these problems with more streamlined models like those from its 4004 series of basses. These models retain their classic 4003 shape but offer conventional bridge systems and smaller Schaller machine heads for easier playing experience – along with being available with different pickups and finishes.

Another incredible feature of the 4004 bass is its distinctive ‘Ric-O-Sound’ output jack. This allows two separate outputs from an effects pedal or amp to run simultaneously and produce different-voiced bass tones simultaneously, providing bassists with another way of splitting signal for creating different tones simultaneously. Although not exactly practical for playing bass music, it gives this model an edge over its competitors; plus special edition and signature models feature similar additions!


Rickenbacker basses stand out from other solid-body electric basses by their distinctive tone. Even when compared with Precisions and Jazz Basses, nothing else comes close to matching its trademark clang, deep, powerful tones – no other bass can compete. While some modern basses come closer than others to sounding similar to these iconic instruments.

The 4000-series basses can trace their distinctive sound back to three groundbreaking innovations in instrument pickup technology: Horseshoe single-coil pickup, High-Gain pickup and Toaster neck pickups were introduced into bass guitar manufacturing during the early 1930s and revolutionized bass guitar playability by eliminating feedback issues faced by musicians at that time. Furthermore, this allowed manufacturers to develop models with smaller bodies than ever before.

These pickups, when combined with the Horseshoe, produce a rich and full sound with plenty of clarity and low end depth, making them versatile enough to be used across various music genres and styles from country to punk and metal. Over the decades they have become staples among bassists of all genres as well as appearing on many famous recordings by various musicians.

Though 4000-series basses may have some downsides (tightening their truss rod can be cumbersome, their Ric-O-Sound output can be novel but ultimately useless and their strings tend to break easily), no one can deny their unmistakable sound – from Macca to Lemmy, they have played an integral part in many iconic bass lines and songs throughout history.

The company also created a more streamlined version of their iconic bass, the 4004. Although retaining its classic shape and 33″ scale length signature of its predecessor (the 4001), this version included smaller pickups, an easier control layout and conventional bridge system compared to its predecessor – features which made this bass exceptionally popular among players such as Inge Johansson from Against Me! and Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr..


One of the primary draws to rickenbacker bass guitars for many guitarists is its distinctive sound. Although equipped with single-coil pickups, its sound remains distinct. Furthermore, these versatile instruments can be utilized across any musical genre: be it rock, blues, country or jazz music!

Many are drawn to purchasing a Rickenbacker bass for its long history and widespread popularity, which have attracted some of the biggest names in music. Notably, some guitarists consider owning one a status symbol. Unfortunately, there can be drawbacks associated with owning such an instrument: finding good prices may be challenging (some websites selling such basses don’t list their pricing info) which may prove frustrating when shopping on a budget.

Rickenbacker bass models often boast the Ric-O-Sound output system. This gives each channel of its pickups stereo output capabilities; you can tell whether a guitar has this feature by counting its number of output jacks on its body; typically you can use a standard Y-cable to connect two separate output jacks together and split your signal into two distinct tones.

Rickenbacker’s 4000 series bass was one of its signature products that catapulted it onto the global stage, quickly becoming an indispensable staple of many rock and roll bands. These basses are known for their asymmetrical body design and powerful yet punchy sound; legendary bassists Paul McCartney and Chris Squire were particular fans.

Though there are numerous great alternatives to a Rickenbacker bass, few can rival its quality and style. One popular choice among bassists is the Peavey T-40; its cost makes it more accessible compared to most Rickenbackers and it provides lightweight comfort in your hands. Another choice would be Epiphone Dot bass; similar in both look and construction to Rickenbackers.