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

Bass or Guitar

If you want to become a true rock legend, choosing the right instrument is essential. Lucky for you, you get to have all these resources at your disposal to help you make that decision. To make it even easier for you to choose one of these two instruments, let me share my experience, knowledge, and opinion.

To make the right choice between the bass and the guitar, you must take a look at what would be your biggest inspiration for playing.

Therefore, the first step is to define your favorite genre, band, and of course, your favorite artist.

This might not be a definitive answer but will get you on the right path.

Another thing you should do is take a look at both alternatives, and maybe even try them, before making the final choice.

This will grant you a deeper look into your options and which instrument is ideal for you to start your music journey.

Similarities between guitar and bass

Having experience with both instruments, I can say that they are very close relatives.

The bass and the guitar primarily belong to the family of string instruments. This means that in order to produce the sound you have to make the strings vibrate. The techniques for this are similar – picking the strings with the fingers on the right hand or with a pick.

The second obvious similarity is their construction. They have a wooden body, neck, fretboard, headstock, and tuning pegs.

What amplifies the sound are the pickups. In both cases, their role is to detect the vibrations and convert them into electrical signals which are then emitted from the amplifier.

Of course, there are also acoustic guitars and bass. The difference is that there are no pickups and the body is hollow. It is the hole of the body that resonates and converts vibrations into acoustic sound.

The number of frets on the bass and the guitar is the same and ranges between 21 and 24, depending on their models.

The number of strings however is different, the standard guitar has six strings, while the bass has four.

Find more about best acoustic bass guitar 2020

What’s the difference between guitar and bass?

Although these two instruments seem to be very similar, it is no coincidence that they have different names and functions.

I have divided all these differences into three parts – tuning, size, and roll. Let’s examine them one by one.

1. Bass vs Guitar tuning:

The way the system works with the string instruments also applies here. Each of the strings is stretched and produces a specific note. According to the guitar, the names of the strings are E, A, D, G, B, and E…

For the bass guitar, the names of the open strings are the same as for the guitar (E, A, D, and G), but the pitch is different. The frequencies produced by the bass are twice as low. This means that although the names are the same, the pitch is lower for one octave. That’s why the bass has a deeper, dominant, and more stable sound.

The tuning method on the bass and the guitar is the same. The strings are placed between the bridge and the tuning pegs on the headstock.

While the strings are firmly placed on the bridge, they are wound on the tuning pegs through which they are tightened or relaxed.

Tightening the strings raises the frequency and controls the pitch. By relaxing the strings the opposite effect is achieved – the frequencies of each of the strings are reduced.

2. The role of the bass and the guitar:

When playing with a band, these two instruments have very different roles.

The guitar has two roles – as harmonic (for playing chords) or lead (for soloing and playing melodies).

It is ideal for using effects such as overdrive, distortion, delay, chorus, etc.

All this only strengthens the role of the guitar as an additional instrument.

The story of the bass guitar is very different. Due to the depth of the notes it produces, it is used as a pillar of music, along with the drums. This combination is also called the rhythm section.

In some cases, especially in jazz music, the bass can also have the role of a solo instrument. The other exception is when the bass players use guitar effects, which is most common in punk, rock, and metal music.

3. The size:

The first impression is that these guitars have the same shape and size. But that is not exactly the case. The biggest difference is in the size of the neck, the fretboard, and the strings.

The thickness of the strings greatly affects the power and the pitch. The guitar has rather thin strings. This is the reason for the high, light, and crispy sound.

The bass guitar has much thicker strings that can produce a stable sound even at very low frequencies.

Their thickness directly affects the neck and the fretboard. Due to their thickness, the frets of the bass are wider, and therefore the neck is longer than that of the guitar.

…the guitar sounds much more complicated. It allows you to play many chords with different names and types (major, minor, diminished, sus, 9, etc), as well as melodies, and solos…

Which is easier, guitar or bass?

It is logical to say that the bass guitar is easier to learn, at least in the beginning. This is because it is usually played one note at a time.

But this should not be taken for granted. The role of this instrument holds a much greater responsibility because together with the drums they form the basis in the band.

On the other hand, the guitar sounds much more complicated. It allows you to play many chords with different names and types (major, minor, diminished, sus, 9, etc), as well as melodies, and solos.

But while the guitar may be a bit more difficult to learn in the beginning and you might have a slower start, it does not mean that when progressing as a musician, it will be a harder instrument to master.

Bottom line

If you have a music idol, choosing between the bass and the guitar is easy, considering you are one step closer to making an informed decision. But before making the final choice, double-check the similarities and differences between these two instruments. Think about your playing habits and your ambitions and see which instrument would be a better fit. 

It cannot hurt to take a look at both alternatives, try them, and see which “fits” better. 

And last, but not least, commit to it. Playing and mastering an instrument takes time, so once you do make the choice, it is up to you to give it your best.

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