When it comes to modern stringed instruments, we inevitably arrive at the crossroads of guitar vs bass. If you’re just starting out & need help deciding which instrument to choose, read on!
Both bass and guitar share similarities but at a quick glance you can see that one has six strings (guitar) & the other only 4 thicker strings (bass).
They both have different roles in a band & are more prominent in varying genres of music. Bass for example is more audible in funk, soul, & reggae, while guitar stands out more in rock, pop, & country music. They do overlap however & are not exclusive to the genres.
In this article we will go over all the differences & minute details on which is better for what situation, tuning, which his easier, & answer some frequently asked questions.
What is a Guitar?
A typical electric guitar has six strings, and the instrument is often responsible for carrying the song’s main melody. They have been around for hundreds of years & you can find more about their history in (this article)
In modern music, guitars often play melodies, licks or riffs, & even perform guitar solos to some extent. There are even some music groups that focus solely on this instrument & their main guitar players such as Buckethead, Paul Gilbert, & Steve Vai.
While it’s simple to pick up & start playing guitar, it can take a significant amount of effort to master it and become a virtuoso.
There are also 2 main branches of this instrument, there are acoustic guitars & electric guitars. Each favored in different genres of music, have a different guitar sound, & are used for different situations.
Obviously rock music & metal favors the electric, but the acoustic guitar is often more associated with country, pop, & bluegrass.
What is a Bass Guitar?
The bass guitar looks like a beefier & much larger version of the guitar, however it typically only has 4 strings instead of 6. However, there is such a thing as a six string bass.
The octaves or tonal range is also lower & produces more of a deeper tone that is not always heard but felt.
The bass guitar also doesn’t play many chords & more often plays single notes in succession. It can have the occasional bass solo but it’s primarily a supporting instrument.
Being support, means that it mainly helps to keep time, build on the rhythm of the song, & offer a solid foundation for the guitar to play off of.
Like the guitar, there are also 2 variations, the acoustic bass & the electric one. Each is used for different music styles & you will be hard pressed to find too many acoustic basses in rock or metal.
Related: Can You Use Guitar Cables On A Bass
The Key Differences between Guitars & Bass Guitars?
While a guitar and bass may look like the same instrument, there are many differences that you should be aware of, here are the key ones:
If you’re not a musician or haven’t been around too many instruments, you won’t be able to tell much of a difference between a bass and a guitar. They look very similar, but if you place the two instruments side-by-side, you will notice the big size difference.
When referring to a bass or a guitar, one thing that stands out is the scale length. While the total height of a bass guitar and a standard guitar can vary, the scale length is the distance between the bridge and the nut of a musical instrument.
That said, the bass is bigger than a guitar, and while basses have different scales, such as the short scale and long scale, their necks are typically longer & wider than guitar necks.
A bass can also have around 20 to 24 frets, but this depends on the instrument’s neck length, how far apart are the frets, and the style of the bass.
The guitar’s scale length can go from 24 inches to 30 inches. However, most six-string guitars have a scale length of 24 to 25.5 inches.
When it comes to the guitar vs. bass, one of the biggest differences between the two instruments is the amount of strings & string thickness.
Most guitars are accompanied by six strings, while most bass guitars have only four strings. However, there are a few exceptions, because some guitars can come with up to twelve strings.
On the other hand, bass guitars are also common in 5 string configurations & sometimes even 6. Some guitars like the baritone guitars also fill in the difference of being somewhere between a bass & a guitar.
As far as thickness is concerned, bass strings are thicker than guitar strings and are also costlier. If you are using an electric guitar, it is better to use nickel or steel strings. Also the bass strings tend to last a bit longer before needing to be replaced.
However, if you are using an acoustic guitar, you can go for soft nylon strings or metal strings. While guitarists have many options, bassists have an even wider range of options when it comes to strings.
Bassists can choose from flatwound strings, tape-wound strings, round-wound strings, and ground-wound strings.
While the lowest four guitar strings correspond to the four strings on the bass guitar when played in an open position, the bass guitar is typically tuned much lower than the standard guitar.
Bass guitars are tuned one octave lower in pitch. While the lowest toned pitch on the bass and the guitar are tuned to E, on the bass the E will be a full octave lower than the lowest E string on the guitar.
Finally, The tuning of guitar strings is usually E-A-D-G-B-E (starting from the thickest string to the thinnest), while bass strings are typically tuned to E-A-D-G (starting from the thickest string to the thinnest). This is because bass guitars produce lower frequencies and therefore require fewer strings to cover the same pitch range as a guitar.
Guitar vs Bass: Which is Better?
Now that we have identified the key differences between the two instruments, which one is better? The first thing you need to consider is your own interest.
If you like playing bass, or you like the look & feel, you can go for it, but if you are confused about which instrument to choose, read on.
Since the bass is bigger than a guitar, it is difficult to instrument to handle for young kids or beginners. The bass also has thicker strings than the guitar and is tough to press those strings down.
For beginners, the guitar is the better option because it is easier to play songs and handle than the bass. Also, if you like being in the spotlight, the guitar is more suitable for you, because guitarists usually get exciting or solo parts of a song.
That said, if you want to learn an instrument to support the band and have fun, then the bass guitar is a suitable option for you. Like other musical instruments, you will only get a kick out of the bass guitar if you put effort into learning the instrument.
Regardless of whether you pick a bass or a guitar, it will take a lot of practice to get comfortable with the instrument.
Is The Bass Easier Than Guitar?
No, the bass may look easier because it has less strings, but that doesn’t mean its easier. The bass strings are thicker and require more precise playing to play it good. There maybe a lot of bassists, but few of them play it well.
Choosing the right instrument should depend on the sound you like, the playing experience, and which calls to you. Not which will be easier.
Should I Learn The Guitar or Bass First?
Learn the instrument you want to learn. Cut to the chase and don’t worry if you aren’t ready for it yet. It is going to be challenging learning an instrument, so you might as well learn the one that you will enjoy more. Y
ou will still need the learn the fundamentals of music theory, practicing, and playing with others. Learning guitar (or bass) can make it easier to learn the other.
Is Bass More Fun Than Guitar?
Some might say that the bass playing is more fun than the guitar. But it depends on where you derive your joy from.
Often times bass players are more behind the scenes. You carry the rhythm of the band and have to have great “feel”. Many people enjoy the carefree and fun experience of the bass guitar.
If you like to play chords, soloing, or want to be the lead guitar, than the guitar might be more fun for you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is The Bass A Good Beginner Instrument?
Any instrument you choose is a good beginner instrument. The bass can be less daunting to understand because it only has 4 strings.
But when it comes to playing, it is not easier than the guitar. Good rhythm is so important to learn as a bassist, not to mention its larger size can make it difficult for smaller people. If you wan to play guitar, play guitar, if you want to play bass, play bass.
Why Is Bass So Difficult?
The thicker strings of the bass can make it difficult to master. You might get tired sooner, and take longer developing the perfect technique.
Playing the bass requires precise movements and control over the notes being played. The length and volume of the notes must be executed accurately.
Also utilizing the fingers of the right hand can be a challenge to those who have only ever used guitar picks.
What Is The Best Age To Learn Bass?
The sooner the better & as with any skill, learning bass can take some time. Scientists have suggested that anywhere between the ages of 5 – 25 would be optimal for learning music since that is when our brains are developing and we can still retain lots of information.
Is It Too Late To Learn Bass Guitar?
It’s never too late to learn an instrument. The most important thing to master when starting your musical journey is persistence!
If you are thinking about learning to play bass then you should consider taking lessons or watching online videos. That being said, learning to play bass is a challenge, it is best to get started today!
Are Guitar & Bass Strings the same?
Yes, they are very similar, but since both instruments have a deep sound, we recommend fretting the chords a bit.
The notes of the top 4 strings are the same, but the bass has a much lower pitch range, and the guitar has a higher pitch range.
The low E string on the bass is an octave lower than on the guitar. You cannot use electric guitar and bass strings interchangeably.
Is an Amplifier necessary for a Bass?
While an amplifier is not necessary for bass, it can be helpful. If you do use the amplifier while playing bass, it is best to first rehearse, so you can easily control the sound.
It can be hard to hear the electric bass accurately without an amplifier. Also, it is possible to blow out a guitar amp if you plug in your bass to it and play too loudly.
Which is More Difficult Electric or Acoustic Guitar?
If you’re thinking about learning to play guitar, you might be wondering which kind you should purchase. Acoustic and electric guitar are equally difficult.
Acoustic guitar can be more difficult for beginners because of the thicker strings tenancy to buzz. The strings are also difficult to barre chords with a clear sound.
Acoustic guitar often requires a lot of strumming and ghost strumming to maintain a steady tempo. If you like to play a lot of guitar chords you might enjoy playing the acoustic guitar.
On the other hand, electric guitar can be more difficult because it often has more frets & techniques to master such as pinch harmonics, divebombs, palm muting, & much more!
In this article, we pointed out the key differences between a bass vs guitar. While both instruments look similar, they have different strings, designs, sizes & roles in modern music.
If you are torn between the bass and guitar, you should choose to play the instrument you enjoy the sound and feel of the most. Learning music is challenging but as long as you stay resilient, you will become a great musician!
You’ve heard our verdict in this article, but what matters is which instrument you are comfortable with.