Bass vs Guitar: Difference, Difficulty and Which is Better for You

Bass vs Guitar: Do you want to be a real-life guitar hero like Led Zeppelin's legendary Jimmy Page?
Bass vs Guitar: Do you want to be a real-life guitar hero like Led Zeppelin's legendary Jimmy Page? | Source

Bass or Guitar?

If you are trying to decide between guitar and bass, then you have a lot of thinking ahead of you. Maybe you’re picking up an instrument for the first time and you’re having a tough time choosing which to learn. You may not know much about either instrument, and your mind may be filled with dozens of questions.

Rest assured: Even though this might seem like the decision of a lifetime, if you take a step back and think things through you can make the best choice for your situation right now, and worry about everything else later.

Or, maybe you already play guitar and your buddies are bugging you to switch to bass and join their band. This is a path many musicians follow when first deciding to pick up the bass guitar, this author included.

I played lead guitar for fifteen years before ever joining a band as a bassist, and it was really a hard decision. In this case, it’s very important to understand what you’re getting yourself into before you commit to a project and spend money on gear, only to end up regretting it.

In this article we’ll examine the electric guitar and the electric bass guitar. With each, you'll earn some facts and information that will help you make the choice between two great instruments.

What’s the Difference Between Guitar and Bass?

If you are an absolute newbie to music you may not even understand the basic differences between guitar and bass. The two instruments are more similar than you probably realize.

The electric guitar is a six-stringed instrument, and standard tuning is: EADGBE. That means the lowest string is tuned to the note E, the next to the note A, the next to D and so on. But knowing the notes isn’t really important right now, as much as understanding how the guitar and bass are related.

The standard bass guitar has only four strings, and is a slightly larger instrument. The tuning of a bass guitar is the same as the lowest four strings of a regular guitar, except one whole octave down in pitch. Therefore, the strings of bass guitar are tuned EADG, just like the lowest four strings on a regular guitar. .

In many ways, the bass is exactly the same as the guitar, except with two fewer strings and lower tuning. The same scales, chords and music theory you might learn on one carries over to the other. The two instruments are directly related.

This is important to realize, because many players think they have to learn one or the other when first starting out. Realizing there is a direct correlation between the two might make your choice seem a bit less stressful. What you learn on guitar will apply to bass and vice versa. You can make the switch at any time.

Keep in mind, there are all kinds of different tunings used on both instruments, and all kinds of variations of each instrument. There are 7- and 8-string guitars, and 5- and 6-string basses. Don’t let any of that worry you. Once you understand the basics of one instrument, the rest is easy to figure out.

Steve Harris of Iron Maiden is a bassist with tremendous skills both on his instrument and as a songwriter.
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden is a bassist with tremendous skills both on his instrument and as a songwriter. | Source

The Role of Bass vs Guitar

Even though both instruments are theoretically similar, sonically there are major differences. Also, their roles in modern music are usually very different.


One thing many young musicians wonder is why a rock band ever needs a bassist. I know I always did — until I became one! They’re just in the background, and many bands are so drum and guitar-heavy on their albums that you can’t even hear the bass. This is especially true now that so many guitarists are detuning down to the frequencies once occupied only by the bassist.

In truth, while average bass players may be content with taking a backseat, a good bassist knows that his or her job is to carry the band. They provide the backbone that holds up the other instruments. In genres like jazz and blues, this means settling into a groove and working with the drummer. In metal and hard rock, it means supplying the meat of the guitar riff, that part of the sound that puts the audience through the back wall.

Good bassists are indeed very valuable, so if bass is the path you decide on, then wear your choice proudly!

Malcolm Young may not get the same glory as his brother Angus, but his rhythm playing was just as responsible for the massive guitar sounds behind AC/DC.
Malcolm Young may not get the same glory as his brother Angus, but his rhythm playing was just as responsible for the massive guitar sounds behind AC/DC. | Source


Guitar has a much more varied role than bass. Where the drums and bass are generally considered the “rhythm” section of a band, the guitar player has more freedom to go off-script with solos and embellishments. Of course, in most genres the guitarist needs to provide a certain amount of rhythm support too, but the whole band is less likely to go out of whack should the guitar player miss a beat.

Don't be confused by terms like "lead" guitar or "rhythm" guitar. Of course, these guys both play the same instrument, but lead guitarists are more likely to play solos and other intricate pieces, where the rhythm guitarist plays mostly chords. In many rock bands, two guitar players share these duties, or one player takes on both roles.

Guitarists are generally considered more musical than bassists, and in rock music they tend to attract a great deal of attention. After all, it’s their riffs and solos that are most memorable in many forms of modern music.

To sum up: There’s a reason there is a video game called Guitar Hero and not one called Bass Hero. As a guitarist, your job is to write great riffs, play great solos, and know how to play rhythm when you need to. As a bassist, you need to be the driving force behind your band, and you’ll most likely be an unsung hero.

Remember, this is all very general. Many musicians have and will continue to push both instruments outside of their traditional roles. Try telling Geddy Lee of Rush or Steve Harris of Iron Maiden that they can’t write riffs like a guitar player, or tell Les Claypool of Primus that bassists can't be as musically expressive as guitarists.

Les Claypool and Primus

Which is more Difficult to Play?

Which is easier, guitar or bass? You may think that because the bass only has four strings that it’s an easier instrument to master, but that’s not necessarily true. Depending on what musical genre you’re interested in, and how hard you want to push yourself, both guitar and bass can be fairly easy or extremely hard.

Kurt Cobain proved you don’t need to be a good guitar player to succeed in rock. From that perspective, it’s pretty easy to learn a few chords and start writing songs on a guitar.

On the other hand, guys like Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Van Halen, and Jimi Hendrix made their marks by being great musicians and pushing the guitar to new heights. Looking at it from this angle, you could spend the rest of your life practicing and still never live up to your own expectations.

The same is true of bass. Sure, you can join a band as a bassist and, in some genres, as long as you play the right basic notes you’re doing all you need to do. Then again, if you want to play progressive rock or jazz, then you have a long road ahead of you as a bassist, and a lot to learn.

Physically, some newbies may find the guitar easier. The bass is a larger instrument, with thicker strings, and some new players struggle to fret the notes correctly. But if your heart is set on the bass, don’t let this stop you.

The verdict? If you just want to join a band and get playing as quickly as possible, then it is probably easier to be a bassist. But, if you’re really interested in mastering the instrument, neither is an easy choice. They are both extremely challenging if you want to be one of the best.

Nothing Yngwie Does is Easy

Let Your Personality Decide

Ultimately, you may want to make your decision after taking a hard look at your own personality. This might be the best way to decide if you’d be happier as a guitar player or a bassist. Consider the following:

  1. Do you enjoy the spotlight? Are you a “Type-A” personality? Do you want to be the major creative force in your band, and write the majority of the music? Are you willing to put in the necessary time it takes to learn music theory? Is personal creativity and expression the main reason you are interested in music?

    Or . . .

  2. Do you consider yourself unconventional, even among other unconventional people? Does being part of a team mean a lot to you? Does the rhythm of the music move you more than the melody? Does the enjoyment of working hard on something mean more to you than the accolades? Do you prefer to lay low rather than being the focus of attention?

If you said “Yes!” more often in paragraph #1 you might be happier as a guitar player. If paragraph #2 got more yesses then you could be better off on bass.

Once again, this is all generally speaking. There are plenty of bass players who are the focus of attention in their bands, and lots of guitar players who work on in obscurity.

Guitarist or Bassist: What Does Your Future Hold?

I hope you’re a little closer to making your decision. Here are a few final things to consider:

Firstly, the instrument you choose today may or may not be the one you eventually go on to make your mark with. Plenty of musicians, this author included, play guitar and bass, and it’s great to be versed on both instruments. That way more opportunities are open to you when it comes to finding a band. It also helps you understand where the other guy is coming from when composing music together.

The point is, it’s good to be versatile. Right now, make the best choice you can between guitar and bass, but don’t feel like you can’t change your mind later on. And, don’t be afraid to learn both.

Know also that it doesn’t matter which you learn first. Because the tuning is so similar, much of what you’ll learn can transfer from one instrument to the other. In fact, most guitar instructors teach bass too.

Good luck on your journey to becoming whatever musician you are meant to be. There are no wrong choices, as long as you commit yourself to improving and learning, whether it’s on guitar, or bass, or both.

Bass vs Guitar

What Have You Decided?

  • Guitar!
  • Bass!
  • Both!
  • I still don't know!
See results without voting

More Guitar and Bass

Still need some help figuring out whether you'd rather play bass or guitar? Check out these articles:

Best Guitar for Beginners

  • Check out some of the options for your first guitar, and get some advice on how to handle yourself when you visit the guitar store for the first time. Whether you choose bass or guitar, the information presented here applies.

Best Bass for Beginners

  • See some of the top bass guitar options for newbies. If these instruments light your fire, it is a sure sign you are destined to be a bass player!

Best Way to Learn Guitar and Bass

  • Whenever you start learning a new instrument you have to choose your path. This article will present some options for new guitarists and/or bassists, so you can better decide which learning method is right for you.

More by this Author

Comments 74 comments

lions44 profile image

lions44 2 years ago from Auburn, WA

Great article. I don't play guitar but this was very interesting. Love the Malmsteen reference. Voted up.

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Thanks lions44!

Moo 2 years ago

I play the double bass (classical version of bass guitar) so I would find easy to switch to bass guitar, however it does get tiring always being at the back of the band/orchestra, so I think I might choose the guitar, especially as I now know that the bottom four strings are the same. Thank you!

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Good luck, Moo! I was going to say I thought the double bass is tuned in 5ths, but a little quick research tells me tuning is the same as an electric bass, so you should have no trouble transferring what you already know to a new instrument. Whichever you choose, (guitar or bass) you can always pick up the other down the road.

NKLSILVER 2 years ago

Wow, this was very helpful. Thank you for bringing some good insights.

Tara 2 years ago

Sweet! This really helps! I already play guitar, but I think I might do bass as well. Thank you

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

You're welcome, Tara. I struggled a long time with whether I should concentrate on guitar or bass. Eventually I decided its to just play both! Thanks and glad this helps!

Maria 2 years ago

Good writing,it helped a lot.I just got a guitar and i'm learning to play,but maybe later i'll pick up a bass since no one i know plays it.Thx.

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Thanks Maria! It's a great idea to learn bass too. Bassists never have trouble finding a band! But no need to rush into it. Learning the guitar will prepare you for bass as well. Good luck!

Gollum and the Evil One 2 years ago

People should be like John Paul Jones. Be good at tons of instruments, don't limit yourself!

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Totally agree, Gollum. The more you learn the better you get at each of them. I keep threatening my wife that I'm taking up the bagpipes.

Treasuresofheaven profile image

Treasuresofheaven 2 years ago from Michigan

Excellent information. My son wants to play bass. This is very informative because I see you can play guitar and still learn what is necessary for a bass player. I like the questions about personality. I will certainly share this write up with my son.

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Thanks Treasuresofheaven. I hope your son has a wonderful career as a bassist!

Steve 2 years ago

Do both, like Paul McCartney.

Tater The Bass Player(and guitar too) 23 months ago

This is probably one of the best ways I have seen it described. I always get asked by people which is easier, most pf the time the assume it Bass. The way I explain it is " its easier to learn bass but harder to show a creative side, and guitar is slightly harder to learn but easier for creativity." Personally I play both and love to incorporate techniques from one to the other.

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Guitar Gopher 23 months ago Author

Thanks Tater! I appreciate the kind words, and I'm glad you liked the article!

nick birkenmaier 21 months ago

i love this article its helped me a lot with my speech in class

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Guitar Gopher 21 months ago Author

Glad to help, Nick! Hope you got a good grade!

Jaco 18 months ago

Thanks for this great article!

I have been struggling with my problem for quite some time now and especially last month. I am a drummer, a bad one but I play it. I don't practice when I really should practice. The last month I'm thinking that I drifted away from playing the drums because I don't like it that much anymore but still like it enough to keep going to my lessons. However I have always liked playing air guitar and was always interested in playing guitar myself. However I always thought it would be way too hard for me and will have to play guitar for 2 years to get a little bit better. Bass guitar had always been something I didn't look up to.

Although last month I played the bass guitar at school for some event with music. The music class of my grade played for all the other people at school. After we had done our performances I was kind of sad that it was over. I was jamming so hard on the bass and was having a wonderful time playing a song called 'Seasons of love' on the bass guitar. Since then I have been thinking about learning guitar and/or bass guitar and dropping drum lessons more and more. Before I ask my questions. I have electric drums and an electric guitar at home. However I have a little bit experience with an electric guitar. I like to play and listen to rock songs, songs with a great and fun-to-play guitar. After all this information I am asking you for your advice. Should I home tutor myself for both guitars? Should I have lessons in one of the guitars? If yes which one? What should I do with my drum lessons?

Sorry for this really long rant but I it is something that's been bothering me for awhile now. I am 17 years old btw. ^^'

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Guitar Gopher 18 months ago Author

Hi Jaco. You seem to have a few different issues here so let me try to break it down.

Guitar vs Bass vs Drums: You said you already have electronic drums and a guitar, so don't look at it as giving anything up if you decide to pick up bass as well. Learn them all! Many musicians play multiple instruments.

As far as where to put your focus, that really comes down to following your heart. Sounds like you are a little tired of drums, so maybe start playing bass and work on your guitar as well. You can do both. As you read in this article, the tuning is the same for both instruments, so what you learn on one can be transferred to the other as far as theory goes.

Should you home tutor yourself on both bass and guitar? Definitely! Whether or not you decide to take lessons you should be learning on your own as well. If you wish to take lessons (that's up to you), I'd study guitar at first so you get the basics down, and continue to practice bass on your own in your spare time. If you eventually decide to focus on bass, you can find an instructor that specializes in bass guitar.

As far as drum lessons, you have to decide if you still have the fire for it. No point in beating your head against the wall if you are sick of it. Or maybe you just need a break where you focus on another instrument for a while. You can still play drums, and you'll get better without lessons, but you only have so much time in the day so you have to choose where to put your effort.

So, I guess my advice is to play all three. Don't quit any instrument (including drums) but really examine your interests and decide where you want to spend your time. Pick one to focus on, and play around with the other two when you have the time. You may change your mind in six months and decide to start taking drum lessons again, or that you are tired of guitar and want to focus solely on bass for a while. That's fine. Just don't quit anything.

Hope this helped. Good luck!

Jaco 18 months ago

YOU ARE AMAZING!!! You are absolutely right and you have helped me a lot. I don't know why I made such a big deal about it. It's not a decision that will determine the rest of my life. While typing this comment I discovered my problem. My problem is not about choosing an instrument to play. It's more about the money I have to pay for the instruments. It's not like my family is rich or that I earn a lot. I am hiring my drums now, so I don't own them and my mom pays for it every month. Like I told you already I have an electric guitar at home but I don't have a bass guitar. Should I buy drums and a bass guitar if I can afford it? Once again thank you for your big support! I am really glad I found somebody on the internet who gives me extremely helpful and supportive advice! :D

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Guitar Gopher 18 months ago Author

Glad to help Jaco. IMO, you shouldn't stretch yourself past what you can afford, and of course I'm sure you are grateful for the help your family is giving you and you don't want to take advantage of that. You can start learning guitar on your own now (since you already have one) and begin to save up some money for a bass. Bass starter packs from brands like Squier are very affordable and more than good enough to learn on. If it takes you months or a year to save the money, you will already have a head start on bass since you have been learning guitar.

So your decision comes down to whether or not you want to keep spending the money to rent the drums and take lessons, or put that money toward either the bass or taking lessons on guitar. Since it sounds like your mom is bankrolling that, IMO it is fair to speak with her about your thoughts so she knows where you are coming from. If you want to keep up with all three it seems like you'll have to keep taking drum lessons and learn guitar on your own.

Taking the time to explain your problem to your mom will hopefully mean she'll understand your wide interest in music and see it as a good thing, rather than thinking you are just bouncing around from one instrument to the other. She may even have an opinion on what you should do. :-)

Good luck!

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Krista Barnish 16 months ago from Casper, Wy

This is great! Love it :)

Ann 15 months ago

Fleetwood Mac was my very favorite band growing up. I always thought if I were in a band I'd want to do what John McVie does.I found myself listening To the bassline In all the songs Especially in " go your own way" In my twenties I tried to learn to play acoustic guitar but never got the hang of it. My fingers just wouldn't go where they were supposed to. Now I'm 56 and still wish I could play. Your article taught me a lot but do you think it is too late for this old dog to learn a new trick? Thanks.

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Guitar Gopher 15 months ago Author

Hi Ann. It's never too late! It sounds like you definitely have the inspiration. Now all you need is a little courage. You may not be in your twenties anymore, but you still have a long way to go on this ride of life, and there is no reason to spend one more day wishing you were a guitar and/or bass player. I say go for it. You won't regret it!

Yougotyouropb 12 months ago

Great article! I've been learning guitar for 2 months now on my own and really like it however, I'm noticing a couple of things, just naturally I seem to want to gravitate to making bass sounds on the guitar, my right hand moves way faster and seems to have more ryththm than my left and my left hand fingers are somewhat crooked and I have difficulty in getting them to spread out. Starting to wonder if bass would be better for me.

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Guitar Gopher 12 months ago Author

Hi Yougot . . . After only 2 months of playing it's hard to say where your strengths and weaknesses are. You may well be a natural bassist, but its not a bad idea to stick with guitar for now until you understand a bit more about how the instrument works. You still need good left-hand technique as a bassist, and the frets are further apart, so either way you need to work on getting your fretting hand to cooperate. It takes time. Whatever you do, don't give up! Like me and many others, you may end up playing both bass and guitar!

Melvin 12 months ago

I play both guitar, bass and drums. Personally, if I see a guitar player perform that string breaking, glass shattering riffs, it seems normal. If I see a drummer play like he is going to die the next day, it seems normal too. But if I see a bass player grooves..then he gets my attention.

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Guitar Gopher 12 months ago Author

I think I get your meaning, Melvin. To me there is certainly a different attitude needed for bass when compared to guitar.

Yougotyouropb 12 months ago

Yeah, I went by my local guitar shop to try the bass and didn't really get into it. I'm still going to plug away at the guitar even though I feel so limited with my left hand fingers, they just wont stretch or listen very well! I'm getting bored with just the 4-5 chords I know so I'm going to start some scales.

Themistoklis 11 months ago

It realy is very helpfull article it showed me the paths but i still cannot decide.I like metal a lot and well my main isue is that i like the sound of the guitar a lot more than the bass but depending on the personality it more suits me the bass (reason my lack of creativity especialy if i am a major creative force in a band). Well i decided to save some money for a guitar or a bass but i have some questions 1st) in a band withc one get the more repsonsible place the guitarist or the bassist? 2ond ) This is realy confusing me the guitarist leads and the bassist follows? (idk if something like this realy exists :P ) 3rd) Witch is easier in terms of playing the music of a song? 4th) i am a total newbie so i think i will go to some lessons so i want to make a decision because i truly found that i love music (especialy metal) but i want to make a star with an instrument that would suit me best and love to play and later on try the other one (mostly is the finance in the way cause the lessons and the equipment is gonna cost)

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Guitar Gopher 11 months ago Author

Hi Themistoklis! First, congratulations on taking the step to learn guitar, or bass, whatever you end up choosing! You won't regret it. I'll try to answer your questions as best I can here:

1. I think you're asking who is the focus in a band, guitar or bass? Really, it depends on the band. In most rock music it is the guitar. But, in jazz, funk and in some progressive forms of rock, the bassist can certainly take a lead role. I wouldn't get hung up on this too much. You can cut your own path whichever instrument you choose. Most songwriters are guitar players in a band, but there is no reason bassists can't write too. Steve Harris of Iron Maiden is a good examples of a metal bassist who is major creative force in his band.

2. The role of the guitar and bass is again dependent on the music. In most forms of music the bass line is considered part of the foundation of the music. The bassist needs to lock in with the drummer and play "in the pocket". In metal and hard rock the bassist still needs to work with the drummer, but his bass lines will often parallel and accentuate the guitar riffs. The might be a little confusing at first, so maybe the best thing to do is listen to different bands in different types of music and try to pick out what the bassist is doing.

3. They are both hard. :-) But it's nothing you can't handle. Looking for the easy way is never a good approach in music, or anything really. As I said in the article, you may be able to get into a band and play basic stuff easier as a bassist, but if you really want to be good at any instrument it takes a lot of hard work. Don't let this turn you off. It's all part of the fun.

4. Choosing one instrument over the other isn't easy. Honestly, I've played bass for over 20 years and guitar for over 30 and I still struggle with which I will focus on for any given day. I do think in many ways it was good that I had experience on guitar before I went to bass. If you are really on the fence, starting out with guitar isn't a bad idea.

But you have to decide which is right for you. The only thing you can do is search your soul and try to figure out what you want the most. Don't worry about which is harder, or how to get into a band, or what your role will be when you do. Think about what gets you the most excited.

Good luck. Hope this helped!

Experienced Musician 11 months ago

Voted both. In the band I'm forming, I and another guitar player may be trading off, and I've always wanted to learn both anyway.

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Guitar Gopher 11 months ago Author

That's an interesting idea! Good luck with your band!

another ordinary drummer 10 months ago

Hello, I've been interested lately in picking up another instrumment apart from drums, i love them, but I wanted to try something new.

However, I don't want to take on a very difficult instrument, mainly because I want to start playing songs and having fun right away.

So far i've taken a glance at the ukelele and it seems quite "easy" and fun to play. I've seen people playing hotel california on the ukelele and it sounds amazing!!! they are also quite cheaper than a bass or guitar, which helps...

Anyway, I'm still doubting and I'd love to be able to play some cool solos in the guitar, but I know It's not easy and It may be long until I can pay pantera and guns n roses solos...

Also, bass, since I already play drums, I think wuold be easier and it seems way easier than a guitar, and I already like its sound, but still, I'd do solos sooner than play a bass.

So, knowing my sittuation, should I start playing ukelele now and have fun, or should I try to tackle the bass since drums help me, or maybe the guitar is the instrument for me?

Also, I should remark again that I do not want to kill myself in the way of earning a new instrument, I have small hands so i'm not sure with a so big bass, but anyway...

What are your thoughts on this sooo long post? :)

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Guitar Gopher 10 months ago Author

Hey there, Ordinary Drummer! There is no harm in taking up the ukulele if you want. But I'd suggest this is a separate issue from whether or not you choose to learn guitar or bass. You can strum a uke, learn a few chords, play it for fun, but I don't know that it will scratch the same itch as guitar. That's not to say there aren't some awesome ukulele players out there (check out Ukes of Hazzard), but I think you may not be as satisfied with it as you would guitar or bass. You can always start there and see.

As for guitar/bass, if you are looking for easy and fun my advice is to grab an inexpensive acoustic guitar and start learning little by little. It really doesn't have to be any harder than learning ukulele at first. If you learn a handful of chords you can play many songs. Then, see where it goes. Maybe the bug will bite you and you'll be inspired to put more effort into it, switch to electric and learn those Pantera solos. Or, maybe switch to bass. You'll have begun to lay a foundation where you have several choices, including simply sticking with acoustic guitar.

Try not to stress over it. There is no reason you can't learn drums AND bass AND acoustic guitar AND ukulele AND electric guitar over your lifetime. Just try to think about what you would most enjoying doing next. Good luck!

hi world :) 10 months ago

Hi, just a short question

Do knowing how to play the drums make it easier to learn bass or it just doesn't matter?

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Guitar Gopher 10 months ago Author

I think any time you can play one instrument, on some level it is going to help you with another. While drumming skills don't translate directly into bass-playing skills, you do have a head start on understanding rhythm and timing and other aspects of bass playing, and music in general. It's also important for the bassist and drummer to work together, so you'll have some insight into the "drummer's perspective" which may help you get along better in band situations.

Hope that makes sense!

jack 10 months ago

thanks i think i may do both

Akkx619nerf 10 months ago

Me and my buddies are planning to form a band. I am gonna be the lead vocalist, and we are short on guitarists.. so, me and my friend are planning to learn guitar in a few months.. but I'm confused whether to learn rhythm or bass guitar.. Are they lead vocalists who play bass guitar? Help who be really appreciated. Thanks in advance.. :)

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Guitar Gopher 10 months ago Author

Hi Akkx619nerf. There sure are bands where the bassist is also the lead vocalist. In fact, I was in one for a while. You've probably never heard of us, but I bet you've heard of a guy named Paul McCartney. He played bass and shared vocal duties in the Beatles. Sting, Gene Simmons of KISS and Tom Araya of Slayer are a few more bassists who also sing, just off the top of my head.

You can certainly do both: bass and vocals. Good luck with your band!

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Jordan West 9 months ago from Denver, CO

If only I had been able to read this article when I was 13. I bought a bass guitar before even really knowing the true difference between that and a regular six string. Long story short I ended up returning the bass in exchange for a regular guitar. While I still love bass and thinks it's extremely fun to play, it's just not as satisfying as a six string.

Good article!

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Guitar Gopher 9 months ago Author

Hi Jordan. I remember being very confused about the difference between guitar and bass when I was a kid too. That's one of the reasons I wrote this article. Thanks for the kind words!

anony 9 months ago

i don't think that section about personality is entirely accurate. I'm more of an introvert yet I still think I would still prefer the guitar

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Guitar Gopher 9 months ago Author

You're right anony. That part is meant as food for thought. I'd bet there are a lot of introverts that love guitar.

noble 6 months ago

this helped a lot i think ill start with bass thanks bra

Gary 4 months ago

I used to play the violin and thinking to switch either bass or guitar. In my place most guys play guitar and piano and i tried to learn guitar and works quite nice. Still i wonder if I should try the bass since it would look not so mainstream but do bassist really like have no attention when it comes to audiences? Kinda worries me since i kinda like in a spotlight and kinda not an trying to be different than my friends who mostly played the guitar, need advice from you! P.s nice article it really does help to sort things up!

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Guitar Gopher 4 months ago Author

Hi Gary! Bassists are often relegated to a utilitarian role in the band, but it doesn't have to be so. Some jazz bassists are the leaders of their group and the focal point. In rock music the guitar often takes the stoplight, but some rock bassists are the primary songwriters and the best musicians in their bands.

Really, its up to you. As with any instrument, you can go as far as your ambition and talent takes you. If your dream is being the star of your band as a bassist, there is no reason you can't do that.

graceepoc 4 months ago

Absolutely loved this article! I've been playing the piano for 7 years, but playing the bass has been a big dream of mine. I picked up the ukelele just to get my fingers used to the strings, and I'm starting my transition over to the acoustic guitar. Which hopefully will allow me to be prepared for the bass!

I'm concerned though about what you say about the bass's strings being thicker and harder to fret clearly. My hands aren't necessarily small, but I have trouble reaching chords because I'm not quite used to it yet. Should I be worried about starting the bass one day because of reaching the chords?

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Guitar Gopher 4 months ago Author

Hi graceepoc! Awesome to see you're going to start playing bass. I don't think you have to jump through all of these hoops though, unless you truly feel like learning uke and acoustic guitar. What not follow your dream and start learning bass right now?

As for reaching chords, it's not something you should let deter you. Even guys with big hands don't expect to be able to fret chords and scales the same way on bass as they do on guitar. Bass chords don't exactly mirror guitar chords, even though the theory is the same. There are work-arounds, and ways to play that are most efficient for your abilities. You'll still want to learn to stretch as far as you can, but trying to use the same fretting-hand technique on bass as on guitar isn't always realistic for anyone, let alone newbies.

You can do it if you put in the work. I say go for it and never look back. Good luck!

Random Guy 4 months ago

Hey Guitar Gopher,

First of all, I love your articles and you've helped me a lot, but I still can't decide between bass and guitar.

I recently took up acoustic guitar, a bit later, a friend introduced me to metal.

For about 5 months, I was planning to buy an electric guitar, buy then I discovered how fun bass is.

The problem here is that I like getting attention but I also think bass is very interesting too.

I'm going to purchase the instrument (I don't know which one) very soon and would like to know what you think. I really love Iron Maiden and they're the main reason why I want to pick up an instrument.

If I go with guitar, I have decided to buy ab Epiphone Les Paul Standard, and the bass I'd go with is a Squier Vintage Modified P Bass.

Would love to know what you think.

Thanks in advance.

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Guitar Gopher 4 months ago Author

Hi Random Guy. If you love Iron Maiden you might really enjoy starting on bass. Steve Harris is one of the best rock bassists of all time, and 'Maidens music has some amazing bass lines that are a lot of fun to play (and very challenging at times).

But really the choice is up to you. Remember that what you decide now doesn't have to be what you stick with forever. Maybe you'll end up playing both, so for now choose whichever gets you the most excited and learn the other in a year or two. It's not like if you choose bass now you can never, ever play guitar.

It's all a journey. Make the best decision you can right now, and adjust later on. Good luck!

Random Guy 4 months ago

Thanks a lot. I really appreciate your response and think you are right. Bass seems like a lot of fun so let's go with it. I already knew that sooner or later I'd have a second instrument, I just didn't know where to start.

And after this, I know whom to ask for advice.

Thank you a lot.

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Guitar Gopher 4 months ago Author

You're welcome, Random Guy, and good luck! Always feel free to post a question in the comments section of any of my articles. I do my best to respond as soon as possible.

Random Guy 4 months ago


Sorry to bother you but i decided to get a bass guitar. It's the Squier Affinity P Bass Pack. I really like it for it's price. But the amp gives me a disturbing hum and the frets buzz (not the Harris clicky sound). Is this supposed to happen? Also I really like playing it but I still feel nostalgic about guitar. So should I get the bass fixed up or sell it and get an Epi Les Paul?

Random Guy 3 months ago

Sorry to bother again, but I figured out the problem and gave the bass for repairing. I also bought an aux cable to play along with, but it doesn't sound really good and it doesn't catch some frequencies. Is this how it works, or does the amp need fixing too?

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Guitar Gopher 3 months ago Author

@Random Guy: I'd have a local guitar shop check out your rig. The bass likely needs a setup which ought to eliminate the fret buzz. Even expensive basses often need a little tweaking right out of the factory. I think that pack comes with a Rumble 15 amp, right? I have one of those and its a pretty decent little practice amp. The hum is possibly due to the bass, not the amp. Again, I'd have a local tech look at it and see what they think. The hum may be a faulty ground wire or something, but Precision basses are sometimes a little noisy so it may just be par for the course.

I wouldn't quit on bass just because gear is giving you headaches. That kind of goes with the territory for both guitar and bass. You have to do what makes you happiest.

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Guitar Gopher 3 months ago Author

@Random Guy again: If you mean you are using an aux-in to play music through your bass amp then most likely no, it will not sound as good as through regular stereo speakers. Bass amps are made to work with bass guitar frequencies. If you have a larger one with a tweeter it would sound better, but a basic 15-watt bass practice amp will be a little lacking in reproducing the full sound spectrum.

Random Guy 3 months ago

It's been about a week since I started practicing and I'm fascinated by what sounds a bass can produce! But I can't practice now because my fingers start blistering and hurt after playing for a while. Is this normal or am I doing something wrong? How can I prevent the pain and ''heal'' my fingers?

Thank you.

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Guitar Gopher 3 months ago Author

Hi Random Guy. It's all part of the process unfortunately. Your hands will eventually toughen up, but for now take it easy and give them a chance to heal. If the issue is primarily with your plucking hand you can switch to a pick for a while. It's good to have pick skills even if you intend to play with your fingers. Hang in there!

Random Guy 3 months ago

Thanks again!

Elizabeth 2 months ago

This was insanely helpful. I was planning on playing guitar anyways, but this made me sure. I mean, the main reason I chose to play violin instead of chello (my choice before I switched) was because I love playing the melody. I guess it makes sense, right? I'm going to try to convince my friend to play bass (she hasn't ever played), so wish me luck! And thank you.

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Guitar Gopher 2 months ago Author

Good luck, Elizabeth! And I'm glad this article helped you make your choice!

Jarod 2 months ago

I'm glad I read this article. Recently I have been getting a bit bored with bass just because so many of the riffs are simple in the songs I want to learn. I have debated picking up a guitar and seeing if I could find some music that is fun to play or at least different, but I didn't want to feel like I was giving up on bass and all my time was wasted. The way you put it, it sounds like the transition will not be too hard and it will open many doors for new songs. I hate it when You hear a song on the radio you really like but you find the bass tab and it is the same four notes being played 8 beats again and again. It's is just boring to play that especially for someone like me who isn't in a band or planning on joining one. I think the guitar will work better for someone who likes to play alone often. And there is so much similarity I won't have to quit bass altogether and I can still use my old amp and stuff.

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Guitar Gopher 2 months ago Author

Hi Jarod. Picking up up guitar can certainly help expand your horizons and get you out of this funk. However, if you really like bass there are many musicians and genres that go much further than those boring, repetitive basslines. You might consider looking deeper into bass and finding those musicians who really push the boundaries of the instrument. Bass doesn't have to be boring! Good luck whatever you decide.

Felix 7 weeks ago

I am a bassist.

Not because I was a terrible guitar player, and had to change to bass. I WANTED to play the bass. But as a bass player, I don't want to be overlooked or cast aside. I'm the kinda bassist that gets your attention. The secret is yo get a nice, bright, punchy bass tone. You can use pedals, finger techniques to achieve this. Take Geddy Lee for example; he gets more attention that his guitarist, yes because he sings, but also because of his tone.

So bassists: don't be marginalized! Don't stay in the dark, assume your position! After all, bassists are just cooler guitarists.

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Guitar Gopher 7 weeks ago Author

"Bassists are just cooler guitarists" - I think that needs to be on a t-shirt, Felix! :-)

Shelleyskydoe 6 weeks ago

I play guitar and have played bass, but don't know if I'm willing to buy a new electric guitar or electric bass. So far I want both, but thinking of getting guitar first. Good article by the way.

MadKiwi 6 weeks ago

Thanks for this article. I am going to take up Bass, because as much as I love hearing all the full on guitar solos from my heros, I've always really felt the basslines coming through. I would like to learn guitar in the future also. Do you think it would be fair to say that it would be easier to learn guitar after learning bass? Basically if you can master the 4 strings, adding another 2 shouldn't be hard ( rythym guitar wise at least). Is this a fair call? Thanks

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Guitar Gopher 6 weeks ago Author

@MadKiwi: Certainly it would be a bit easier to learn guitar if you already know bass. Although, theory-wise, I think it is easier to learn bass after guitar. You'll still have some work to do learning guitar if you already know bass, and I wouldn't say it will be super easy, but you will have a good head start. Good luck!:

@Shelleyskydoe: Thanks for the kind words! Good luck with your decision.

About to change musical direction 11 days ago

Hi, thoroughly enjoyed your article and all the comments, too.

I have a background in violin and guitar, and be background I mean "I played awfully for a year or two". I stuck to piano on and off over the last five years, but just for the sake of plonking chords to accompany my songwriting.

I'm tired of being a better singer and writer than an instrumentalist, and I'm also tired of being dependent on a massive wooden thing I can't carry around (and I refuse to play a keyboard because I don't believe beggars can't be choosers haha).

So... the guitar.

Now I'm definitely not an acoustic girl. It'll never be me.

I remember being enchanted by electric guitars when I was 11 and feeling hope well up in my throat when I thought about playing. Funny how we forget dreams.

So your article was perfect because I recently learned that Royal Blood plays their main stuff on the bass. I think their album is pure gold, and the perfect proof of how effective simplicity can be.

So I guess my question is this:

Have there ever been bassists who were solo and sung? Sure, I'm reading about people who became stars in bands - but can one be solo with a bass? Is that a silly concept?

I like a challenge, and I'm not expecting to be performance ready any time soon. In fact I want to make this my lesson in consistency and patience. But I just wondered if it's a silly idea, as I know next to nothing abou guitars.

Also: I do lots of recorded a cappellas that are quite haunting, dark and deliberately empty - considering that, would a bass be enough? I'm not planning on doing happy full songs, but alternative stuff, hopefully with the occasional looped vocal for live performances (not too much, just enough for support). Do let me know what you think :)

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Guitar Gopher 10 days ago Author

Hi About to Change etc: Two pretty famous guys I think of right off the bat who played bass, sang and had solo careers are Sting and Paul McCartney. Of course they had backing bands behind them. If you are talking about playing bass only and singing, that's a tougher order but I don't see why you couldn't do it.

I listened to Royal Blood, whom I had never heard of before. The bassist is basically performing more in the role of rhythm guitarist. I actually liked them quite a bit, and they have a very unique sound. However, on live recordings they do sound somewhat thin, like a band without a bassist.

Point is, playing bass isn't just about what the instrument is supposed to do, but about what the bassist actually does. Compare that to Primus and Les Claypool, who has a similar role in his band as a bassist and even uses many of the same distorted sounds as the guy in Royal Blood. But, he still manages to hold down the bass's role in the music.

Both approaches are unique and effective. There are no "wrong" answers, and if you see a path on bass I highly encourage you to follow it. As the dude in Royal Blood shows, you don't have to follow tradition to create great music. Make it your own and break down some boundaries. It's more fun that way anyway! :-) Good luck!

Fire 9 days ago

Hello,I am not planning to play for a band.So should i choose to learn a guitar or a bass? Thanks.

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Guitar Gopher 8 days ago Author

@Fire: You have to choose whichever you think you'll like better. I can't answer that one for you. Good luck, and remember you can always learn both!

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