Bass vs. guitar – which one is better? It’s a question that musicians have debated for years, and it’s a common one that comes up with beginners who are looking to start learning an instrument. Both instruments have pros and cons, and ultimately, the answer is up to the individual player. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the primary differences between bass and guitar and see if we can answer the question once and for all.
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The Main Differences Between Bass vs. Guitar
There are some key differences between bass and guitar that should be considered when making your decision. Read ahead to find out what they are!
Size & Weight
Bass guitars are larger and weigh more than electric guitars, and this can make them more challenging to play for beginners and those with smaller hands. They are also slightly harder to transport and may require a bigger case.
Conversely, guitars can weigh significantly less and a bit easier to carry around. If you have aspirations to jam with friends and play gigs, this could be an important factor to think about when the time comes. The lighter weight can simply feel more comfortable even when sitting down and playing too. In my experience, these have never really been a deciding factor when choosing what to play, but it may be for you.
The differences in construction are quite significant, though, and the sizes and weights of these instruments are correlated to their strings and the tones that they produce, which is something you’ll learn about in the next section.
Strings & Tonal Range
For starters, bass guitars have fewer strings than electric guitars. A standard bass will have four strings, whereas a regular guitar will have six strings. This discrepancy can be seen as an advantage or disadvantage, depending on your level of experience. If you’re a beginner, fewer strings may be simpler to learn on.
However, more experienced players may find that they have more freedom with more strings, which is what a guitar can provide right away. That doesn’t mean that people can get more strings on a bass, though – 5-string basses are super popular, and 6-string ones are also readily accessible.
Bass guitars also have a lower range than electric guitars. This again can be seen as either an advantage or disadvantage – depending on your musical needs. If you’re looking for an instrument that can provide deep, rich tones, then a bass guitar may be ideal, and that’s why it’s a more robust instrument. On the other hand, if you want an instrument that can reach higher registers, a guitar may be a better option for you.
For bass, many beginners find that the string gauge (the thickness of the strings) can be difficult to get used to, but some finger pain is something that even new guitarists will encounter when starting out. Still, the thinner string gauges on a guitar may be more appealing for someone trying to get into playing music.
Guitars, though, are not without their own challenges, and it can take a lot more work to get to the level of expression you want, particularly if you want to play lead guitar. It’s harder to sound good playing lead guitar parts when starting out than playing beginner basslines.
While both bass and guitar have their own sets of techniques that can be considered advanced and require a lot of time to master, the bass guitar is usually the one that people have an easier time picking up and playing.
Electric guitars are typically played with a pick, while bass guitars are usually played with fingers. However, playing with a pick on the bass is also incredibly common. For many people, playing bass with a pick is considered to be easier, especially if you already have experience using one – for instance, if you started out learning the guitar first.
It can be incredibly difficult to reach the speeds of a pick by using your fingers on the bass, but it’s possible, and it’s really impressive. But, of course, either way of playing is all a matter of preference, and both styles of playing produce different sounds that have been used on countless records.
Overall, some people might describe the bass guitar as having a low skill floor and a high skill ceiling – essentially, it’s easier to pick up and get started but hard to master. Guitar has more techniques to learn early on, like chords, bending notes, vibrato, etc., but it’s still beginner-friendly, and everyone knows how skillful a guitarist can become as they commit to it. In my opinion, though, it’s a lot harder to learn slap bass than it is to sweep pick on an electric guitar.
When it comes to maintenance, electric guitars also require more attention than bass guitars, as they must be regularly restrung. Bass strings need to be replaced every once in a while, but they don’t get worn down as fast as electric guitar strings and will last a lot longer. They also don’t snap!
People often run into many more problems with their guitars, such as tuning instability and bridge issues, to name a couple of examples. Of course, these can happen with basses too, but it’s less frequent, so bass maintenance can be a lot less challenging and time-consuming than electric guitar maintenance, and this can make the learning experience less frustrating when learning how to play an instrument.
If you choose to go with an electric guitar, be sure to get yourself a guitar setup so that your action is set to the right height so that it feels comfortable to play, your guitar stays in tune, and it’s intonated. Needless to say, this is still something you should do if you choose to get a bass guitar, but it’s especially important for guitarists because it can prevent and eliminate a lot of the chronic and annoying problems that new guitarists face.
So, which is better – bass or guitar? Ultimately, it comes down to what you’re looking for in an instrument. If you want something that is simple to learn and play, then bass may be the way to go. However, the electric guitar may be a better option if you’re looking for an instrument with more range and freedom. The choice is yours! You can even go to your local guitar store and try them out before buying one.
At the end of the day, the decision of whether to play bass or guitar is a personal one, and they’re both great for beginners and a lot of skills can overlap. So, which one resonates with you the most and makes you feel inspired to learn? With that in mind, hopefully, the factors here will also help you make the best decision for yourself.