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

Updated on April 3, 2019
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Michael is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.

Bass vs Guitar: Do you want to be a real-life guitar hero, or hold down the low end like a boss?
Bass vs Guitar: Do you want to be a real-life guitar hero, or hold down the low end like a boss?

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: E-A-D-G-B-E. 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 the bass guitar are tuned E-A-D-G, 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.

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.

Bass

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!

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

Guitar

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:

  • 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 . . .

  • 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.

Guitar vs. Bass Size

Up until this point this article has dealt with inspirational issues. I think it is important for new musicians to start out on a path that inspires them, even if that path eventually leads them somewhere they never expected. In the beginning, choose whichever instrument gets you the most excited!

Unfortunately, this advice still leaves some new musicians stumped. What if both guitar and bass get you equally fired up? Or, what you simply want to choose the instrument that gives you the best chance at success, with the understanding that you can learn the other later on?

In those cases, you may wish to consider some of the practical aspects of guitar and bass. The bass guitar is a bigger instrument, with thicker strings. This can make it a bit daunting for new players, especially smaller people.

The difference in size between guitar and bass is illustrated by a measurement called scale length. Put as simply as possibly, scale length is the distance from the end of the fretboard on your left (if you are a right-handed guitarist) to where the strings meet the bridge.

Put more accurately, scale length is calculated by measuring the distance between the nut and the middle of the 12th fret, and then multiplying by two. But you don’t need to know that right now.

Here is what you do need to know: Most six-string electric guitars have a scale length measuring between 24.75 inches and 25.5 inches, where most four-string electric basses have a 34-inch scale length. That doesn’t mean bass guitars have more frets, necessarily. It just means the instrument is bigger.

There are also “short-scale” basses with a scale length of 30 inches. They’re smaller than full-size bass guitars, but still a bit chunkier than electric guitars.

If you are having trouble visualizing this, hop in a car and head on down to a local guitar store. Spend some time with both instruments. Hold an electric guitar on your lap, and then try a bass. Which feels more comfortable? You might find the bass is too large to manage. Or, it might feel perfect in your hands.

Let the person at the guitar shop know you are trying to decide between guitar and bass. Those folks are used helping newbies choose a first instrument, so there is no reason to feel embarrassed by any questions you might have.

Eddie Van Halen plays mind-blowing solos as well as holds down rhythm guitar duties.
Eddie Van Halen plays mind-blowing solos as well as holds down rhythm guitar duties. | Source

Getting Started

I hope you’re a little closer to making your decision. If you’ve already made your choice there is no point in delaying things. One of two things is going to happen from here:

  1. You’re going to start learning an instrument, and never regret it. Maybe it will be guitar, or maybe it will be bass, and maybe you’ll switch in a few years. It doesn’t matter. Whatever you choose, get started in music. Because choice #2 isn’t the one you want to make.
  2. You’ll put off learning an instrument. You’ll procrastinate. It won’t happen this year. You’ll put it off again next year. Suddenly, one day, you’ll realize years of your life have passed, and you’ll find yourself wishing you had gotten into music long ago.

If that sounds harsh, it is meant to be. I do everything I can to encourage people to get into music, because for me it was one of the best choices I ever made. I don’t care if you learn guitar, or bass, or the drums, or the bassoon. If you have a desire to get into music, do it!

As a new guitarist or bassist your road is relatively easy (as opposed to learning the bassoon). There are excellent beginner guitars and bass guitars for under $200, and you can get an awesome starter amp for around $100. There are also starter packs that come with everything you need.

After you have your instrument, you have to pick a path. Should you take lessons? I’d advise at least considering it. Guitar lessons are not for everyone, but if you can find a good teacher and you learn well in that environment you will move along much faster on the instrument.

There are also many online learning resources available, and there's even software available for your computer. If you want to learn bass or guitar, you'll have a lot of help.

Once you’ve gotten started, the important thing is not to quit! Even if you only have a little bit of time to spend with the instrument every week, keep it up. Quitting is another regret you want to avoid!

Guitarist or Bassist: What Does Your Future Hold?

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?

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    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      2 weeks ago

      @SeleneMac - Is your goal to play guitar or bass? If your goal is to switch to guitar why not start with guitar? If you'd rather focus on bass first I suggest advancing beyond the beginner level before adding another instrument. This may take six months or a year, but many less, but it really depends on how fast you learn and how hard you work.

    • profile image

      SeleneMac 

      2 weeks ago

      I want to learn both, and I have learnt piano and a bit of drums previously. I'm starting off with bass, and I'm trying to convince my friend who already plays to give me lessons (he's not patient enough but i'm getting there). How long do you think I'll be able to switch to guitar?

    • profile image

      Rod 

      3 weeks ago

      Sounds good advice thank you

    • profile image

      Godhimseelf 

      4 weeks ago

      If you chose bass, don't immediately try slapping or anything fancy. I'll admit, as a bassist i had it so easy starting off not needing to learn chords and fretting a million notes at once. The best thing you can do is start on really easy basslines and slowly go onto more intricate lines.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      2 months ago

      Thanks, Dan, and good luck. Here is an article you might find helpful:

      https://spinditty.com/learning/10-Reasons-Youre-Ne...

    • profile image

      Dan 

      2 months ago

      @Guitar Gopher

      Thanks a lot for the reply and words of inspiration! I will take that advice on board and use it to my advantage.

      Great article by the way :)

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      2 months ago

      @Dan - If you are inspired by bass you should give it a shot. Take it slow and have realistic expectations and there is no reason you can't do it! In my opinion, there are few things in this life worse than regret. If you really want to play, you can certainly make it happen. Good luck!

    • profile image

      Dan 

      2 months ago

      I wish I could play Bass. I got a guitar about 10 years ago but never really had the motivation to stick with it. I think, like most people, I expected results way too quickly and I needed to learn perseverance. I am a software developer, so for me, it was a major distraction from instruments.

      As I get older (30's now) I am finding my love and appreciation of the bass guitar is growing very strong. Main influences for me are Duran Duran, Chic, Bernie Edwards (ofc) - So much talented musicians out there.

      I like to think that the deep, thunderous bass touches the body and soul, while the guitar provides the mind journey with facemelting solos.

    • profile image

      Rory Casey 

      3 months ago

      Learn to play the bass you will always be in demand there are not enough bass players around.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 months ago

      @Chuck - Not exactly sure what you're asking. Are you saying they recommend a better quality bass over a Chinese-made bass? In my opinion there are some good instruments made overseas, especially for beginners and intermediate players.

      If that's not what you mean please clarify.

    • profile image

      Ash 

      3 months ago

      I wanna play bass 'cause of Mikey Way. But after I learn bass, I'm gonna learn guitar 'cause of Frank Iero, but I'm not going to play on the floor. The band MCR sparked my music. I kinda wanna learn bass first 'cause um, I originally played trombone, so yeah...kind of know how to hold a long instrument. (I'm really short, so I had to stretch to reach 7th position) And, low brass to bass. And I'm used to playing the bass-line, cause that's all the low brass would play. :)

    • profile image

      Chuck 

      3 months ago

      the local music store put emphasis on the quality over non-Chinese made bass.comments?

    • profile image

      Daniel Flaherty 

      4 months ago

      I've been playing Guitar since January of this year. I think its easier for me to learn how to play guitar since I know how to read sheet music in Treble clef because of playing Trumpet since 6th grade.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      5 months ago

      @ Lil chicken strips - Nobody knows anything when they start. Just start somewhere!

    • profile image

      Lil chicken strips 

      5 months ago

      im having a proplem myself idk if i should play gutar or bass but the problem is that idk how to play any of them

    • profile image

      Steve from Brooklyn 

      7 months ago

      I saw on your first blog a gentleman, Sam Chapman, near my age, who was having some similar issues as I. Maybe my experience could help him. I also have a Strat. I almost gave up at first, but it's gets better the more you do it.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      7 months ago

      @Steve - Good advice, and congrats on getting back into music! Thanks for sharing your inspirational story.

    • profile image

      Steve From Brooklyn 

      7 months ago

      I played bass in a band when I was 15 - 18 years old. Regrettably, I stopped for 40 years! When I decided to return to playing, I knew I loved the bass, but would be mostly be playing alone. I taught myself acoustic 6 string, acoustic 12 and finally, at the old age of 68, got into electric! Love it. My first song - Jimi Hendrix's the Wind Cries Mary. (Hey, why start at the bottom.) Frustrating at first, but getting the first verse down.

      I absolutely love it and do regret waiting so long to return, but it's never too late! My advice: Play and don't stop. Enjoy it. It's often frustrating, but the rewards outweigh the pain of learning.

      Oh, I also returned to bass. I missed it too much!

      Enjoy!

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      7 months ago

      @Daniel - If you like bass you can certainly stick with it. You have plenty of time ahead of you to learn any instrument you want. Also remember that you can play more than one instrument. So, if you decide to learn guitar or keyboard or drums it doesn't mean you have to quit bass.

      So there is no reason to feel pressure or confusion. Play the instruments you are interested in, practice every day, and everything will become clearer to you in time. Good luck!

    • profile image

      Daniel 

      7 months ago

      I like bass because it is the first instrument I learnt to play on my own ,

      unlike drum and keyboard I also like bass for the fills and gaps it occupies even if I am still confused plus Mr gopher I need your advice I'm still 14yrs and I am very determined .

    • profile image

      Owen 

      9 months ago

      I like bass because of the feel that it makes

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      9 months ago

      @Kya - I think it's great that you intend to continue with music even after school. Good luck with your decision! Remember there is no wrong answer here and you can always learn the other (bass or guitar) later on.

    • profile image

      Kya 

      9 months ago

      What a coincidence, I'm actually looking to transition from bassoon to bass or guitar!! (still deciding). Played for 6 years but now that I've finished school I can't use theirs anymore and I definitely can't afford my own yet (hopefully one day!). I really miss playing in a band though and want to play different genres of music, so hoping to start bass or guitar in the new year. I always loved the versatility of bassoon, you really get to play everything from bass lines and harmonies to the melody and some great solos, so I'm still having some trouble deciding between bass and guitar. Thank you for this article though, definitely gave me some new perspective and things to consider :)

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      9 months ago

      @Elston - Me too! He is a great musician and a huge influence for me as a bassist. I think new and experienced players alike can learn from him.

    • profile image

      Elston 

      9 months ago

      I want to be steve harris

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      12 months ago

      Hi Lilli. Glad you are so excited about bass! In addition to the bass and amp you'll need an instrument cable, an inexpensive tuner and probably a strap if you intend to play standing up. You can get some guitar picks if you wish, though many bassists play with their fingers. You may also consider an instruction book, but I think new players can learn anything they need to know online for free. Good luck!

    • profile image

      Lilli Schneider 

      12 months ago

      Very helpful and great article! Thanks for helping me choosing, I'm in love with the bass since my childhood, so I'm definitely going for BASS. Please what do I need to buy besides the bass and the amp, any other necessary purchase for a beginner? Thanks for answering me

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      12 months ago

      @Universe - If you think the singing is a key part of what you want to do, by all means experiment with bass and rhythm guitar until you find what you're looking for. It never hurt to be versatile, either.

      I agree about the Painkiller solo. Amazing!

    • profile image

      Universe 

      12 months ago

      I play both but I have decided to give more attention to the bass. I think that it serves the music and also I can sing with it while on guitar I would be constantly learning solos that for me always seemed to be just a rest from more interesting parts of songs (with few exceptions like amazing Painkiller solo). This would eat my singing routine time. If it turns out to be to hard to play bass and sing I will turn to rhytm-ish guitar. Any thoughts on that?

    • profile image

      IHaveNoName 

      12 months ago

      I just prefer strumming and... why are bassists COOLER. I like classical, but my school only does bass so I will also learn bass, but I already know how play classical, Andy bass and classical are not that different.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      12 months ago

      @George B - I think it is probably easier to go from guitar to bass. If you learn chords and scales and a little music theory on guitar it is easily applicable to bass. The same is true going from bass to guitar, but I think perhaps it won't be quite as clear.

      Good luck, wherever you choose to start!

    • profile image

      George B 

      12 months ago

      Hi, I'm one of those people who are planning to learn both bass and guitar. The question is, which instrument is easier to transition from? I'm torn, please help

    • profile image

      Jimbo 

      13 months ago

      Very informative, thanks.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      14 months ago

      Thanks for the kind words, Jake. I appreciate comments like this so much. I wish you the best of luck in learning guitar and acheiving your dreams.

    • profile image

      Jake 

      14 months ago

      This is such a good article, a mouthful sometimes but an good one. It helped me realize I'd rather be a guitarist, I love the spotlight and I look up to guys like Kirk Hammet, thank you for inspiring me on my way to playing the best guitar ever. (I hope)

    • profile image

      Wilson 

      16 months ago

      After playing bass in middle school and some of high school but losing interest due to a lack of connection with my teacher, I just started playing again a few months ago. Now I’m 19 with a fender jbass I had to force myself to pay for as motivation to get good, and I’m loving it! Obviously I’m still learning basically from scratch, but getting decent just from diligently playing at least an hour a day. I bought myself a cheap squirt strat a couple weeks ago just for fun and so I can have friends over to accompany me, but playing it myself has really helped my fingering on bass, as well as really understanding the concept of outlining chords

    • profile image

      nick 

      17 months ago

      I've been playing rhythm guitar for a little over a year and a few guys asked me to be bassist in their band so we'll see what happens

    • profile image

      Andrew 

      17 months ago

      Thanks for your positive article. It validated the choice I made to focus on bass for the next few years.

    • profile image

      Ken Kopper 

      17 months ago

      Well I'm leaning toward Bass. I have an acoustic guitar but haven't done much with it. My personality seems to fit the bass. Plus I think I might like to experiment a bit more with the bass.

    • profile image

      HeritageBoy 

      19 months ago

      Joe Dart from Vulfpeck makes me want to learn bass.

    • profile image

      JJ 

      20 months ago

      I played lead and rhythm guitar for a long time, but was always fascinated with bass. I came up in the 6O's when Carol Kaye played the bass parts for the Temptations, Four Tops, Beach Boys and others. I loved that sound! Being that I have small hands, that presented a dilemma. I solved that with a short scale Epiphone EB-O which worked out quite well, once I got it set up correctly. It proved to be a great crossover instrument. I still play it, but I got the itch for a Fender Bass. I tried both the Jazz and Precision. The Jazz was easier with its narrow neck, but what I was really after was more the sound of an upright bass and the P-bass fit the bill! So I got one in 2014. Even though I've been playing most of my life, I still consider myself a newbie and always learning. I'm 64 now and still learning. I still love it. It puts me on cloud nine! You're never too old to begin!

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      20 months ago

      Thanks aaron! Good luck getting back to music!

    • profile image

      Aaron 

      20 months ago

      Played bass years ago and just pulled it out again. I've always wanted to play the guitar too. I think I'll learn both. Great article, thanks.

    • profile image

      Isaac 

      20 months ago

      Very informative and well written article...Thank you :-)

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      21 months ago

      @Ali - It sounds like you need to work on your right-hand technique (assuming you're a right-handed bassist). Many new players have the idea that to play clear-sounding notes they must pluck the strings carefully. That works, but as you describe you end up with a very weak sound. The way you pluck the strings has a direct impact on your tone, so try experimenting with different hand positions and don't be afraid to use a little more hand strength as you pluck the strings.

      Alternatively, you can use a pick for a more aggressive sound. I know a lot of players prefer the sound playing finger-style, but I do think getting used to playing with a pick gives a bassist one more useful skill in the bag of tricks. Good luck!

    • profile image

      Ali 

      21 months ago

      I play bass in my school and I just want to be a good bass guitarist and show everyone who's great at bass. My band agree that I play bass, but the problem is is that when I play, it is very quiet even if I put it at the loudest thing. I need your help Gopher.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      22 months ago

      @Argonaut Octopus - I'm not familiar with that band, but I'll check them out if I get a chance. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Argonaut Octopus 

      22 months ago

      Great article! I’m new to the world of music and this and many of your other works have given me tremendous insight.

      Have you ever heard of Om? Their past albums only had a drummer and a bassist, and the bass fills the role of the guitar with a very unique distorted tone.

    • profile image

      sdreamer 

      23 months ago

      I started out on guitar but want to learn bass in the future for two reasons:

      1. It is WAY EASIER to join a band and make $$$ since bass players are in short supply and high demand just as drummers are. Every kid wants to play lead guitar but few want the bass.

      2. I love hard hitting bass grooves from rock and metal. They drive the sound of the music.

      So probably want a seven or eight string guitar and hard hitting six string bass in the future!

    • profile image

      fghhh 

      24 months ago

      I play both, and guitar is much harder to learn, but in a different way.

      If you like songs with certain bass / guitar parts

      Then you will learn more quickly, because you really want to learn that part. And before you know it, you start playing better each day. So first play songs you like, instead of playing chords from paper.

    • profile image

      adam kent 

      2 years ago

      Moo it's not as easy as a transition as you may believe.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      2 years ago

      @Sonu: Neither is easy. However, depending on what kinds of music you are interested it, you may be able to get into a band quicker as a bassist.

    • profile image

      Mahoor 

      2 years ago

      it was helpful for me. Thank you

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      2 years ago

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Monte! I appreciate it!

    • profile image

      Monte Walsh 

      2 years ago

      In my previous post, I neglected to commend the author for a very good article. Forgive my lack of social manners! Thank you for providing interesting information and insight. I hope you continue to write articles like this, it keeps people interested in playing!

    • profile image

      Monte Walsh 

      2 years ago

      Speaking from experience here. Learn to play both guitar and bass. Acoustic guitar and electric guitar. Jazz, rock, country, blues, metal if you must. Learn different styles, even ones you don't like. Learn the keyboard, learn theory, learn to read. Learn to sing lead and harmony. Be a musician. Just about anyone can think they sound good on high gain, so clean it up, play the blues, play country. Stevie Ray is clean. Get good at rhythm guitar, most don't. Learn to lay down a bass line that rules the band. Work with the drummer. Play less but better notes, both bass and lead. Who is really better, van Halen or BB King? Both are great, but who captures more emotion? And have fun!

    • profile image

      Derek 

      2 years ago

      I thought this article was misleading. The fretting and tunings of the two instruments and the fact that you must learn scales on both are about where the similarities between guitar and bass stop. A great bassist may never learn to play guitar, as guitar requires a study of chords (harmonies between multiple notes being strummed at the same time). A "boring" bassist can hear or read the chords the guitarist is playing and hold down the root note between the melody and drums, but a competent bassist understands the modes, how to play scales over the chords, when to fill, how to fill, how to shift the feel of the groove and how to "speak" to the drummer and guitarist to affect the momentum. The dedicated guitarists I meet frequently don't know what to do on a bass. In fact, a study of either instrument can take a lifetime just in terms of technique, let alone which theories are needed to become proficient. I'd argue that chording on a guitar has its own vast technical challenges as you're transitioning the position of all four fingers of the left hand and often fingering or picking with the right in complex patterns, and even an amazing bassist can NOT just switch over to the guitar and make it work.

      Bringing up 80's rock as an example is about the worst way to demotivate anyone looking to play bass. What about songs like Hysteria by Muse, or Red Hot Chilli Peppers, where Flea is extremely melodic, or Victor Wooten who brings an array of techniques to a different level? I would bet money that the most accomplished guitarists can't just switch to bass and do what these bassists do. Look at at Tal Wilkenfeld. She's so young, but plays with Beck and Herbie Hancock.

      It's really important to keep an open mind and try both instruments, but eventually the truth is that whichever one you pick, it will be really hard work to be good enough to play with other musicians. If you feel marginalized by your group, maybe they're holding you back - or maybe you need to push yourself harder. I highly recommend lessons for anyone at any stage of your career in music. Even the pros practice multiple instruments, but they definitely aren't easily interchangeable.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      2 years ago

      Thanks, Saurabh, and good luck!

    • profile image

      Saurabh 

      2 years ago

      Thanks to your article, I am sure that I want to pursue the bass!

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      2 years ago

      Thanks rockbass. I think Les Claypool is a pretty respectable bass player, no?

    • rockbass2560 profile image

      rockbass2560 

      2 years ago

      A good complement for this video would be adding a video with a good bass player.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      2 years ago

      Hi Wizard: Thanks for the kind woards! The reason some people might feel bass is boring to play alone is because a bassline in a song is usually a repetitive, supportive part of the music. You can make things more interesting by cranking up the song you are playing on your home audio system and playing along. Or, you can learn stand-alone pieces or tunes that focus more on the bass to make it more interesting. Some bassists even learn classical music written for cello or other string instruments.

      You can do whatever you want. Bass doesn't have to be boring!

    • profile image

      Wizard 

      2 years ago

      Hi,I really enjoyed your article.

      But i am still confused whether to choose guitar or bass.Some people say its boring when you play the bass alone and I am not planning to play for a band.So should i take up bass?

      Thanks

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      2 years ago

      @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!

    • profile image

      Fire 

      2 years ago

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

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      2 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      About to change musical direction 

      2 years 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 :)

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

      @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.

    • profile image

      MadKiwi 

      3 years 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

    • profile image

      Shelleyskydoe 

      3 years 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.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Felix 

      3 years 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.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Jarod 

      3 years 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.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Elizabeth 

      3 years 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.

    • profile image

      Random Guy 

      3 years ago

      Thanks again!

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      Random Guy 

      3 years 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.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

      @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.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

      @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.

    • profile image

      Random Guy 

      3 years 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?

    • profile image

      Random Guy 

      3 years ago

      Hey,

      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?

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Random Guy 

      3 years 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.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      Random Guy 

      3 years 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.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      graceepoc 

      3 years 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?

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Gary 

      3 years 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!

    • profile image

      noble 

      3 years ago

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

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anony 

      3 years 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

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

      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!

    • Jordan West profile image

      Jordan 

      3 years 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!

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

      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!

    • profile image

      Akkx619nerf 

      3 years 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.. :)

    • profile image

      jack 

      3 years ago

      thanks i think i may do both

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael James 

      3 years ago

      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!

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