Is It Worth Putting Bass Strings On A Guitar?

Experimentation is an intrinsic part of music; it’s how new sounds are discovered and how musicians push the boundaries of what is possible. But when it comes to placing bass strings on a guitar, there’s a lot to consider.

In this article, we’ll dive into the details and implications and provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision about adding bass guitar strings to your standard acoustic or electric guitar.

Can You Put Bass Strings On A Guitar?

First comes first; let’s answer a common question that you’ve probably been wondering: is it possible to put bass strings on a guitar?

Yes, but while it’s technically possible to put bass strings on your guitar, it’s not advisable due to potential damage to the instrument and the overall sound quality.

Not only that, it can take a lot of work to do this task!

With that in mind, there is a lot of curiosity surrounding this topic, and as you continue to read, you’ll learn more about the challenges and risks that can come with taking on this type of project.

The Allure Of Bass Strings On A Guitar

At first glance, bass strings on a guitar might seem like a strange concept. After all, a bass and a regular guitar are different instruments designed for different sounds and roles within various types of music. 

However, the idea of using bass strings on a guitar has been explored by musicians looking for a unique sound or different tonal qualities. However, this curiosity can come with a cost and a whole lot of effort.

Even if you overcome the technical challenges, there’s still the matter of sound quality. The timbre produced by bass strings on a guitar is vastly different from that of regular guitar strings. 

While some musicians may find this new sound intriguing or appealing, it’s generally considered inferior to the sound produced by strings designed for the specific instrument.

Despite the risks and challenges, some musicians may be tempted to put bass strings on a guitar for the sake of experimentation. In this case, it would be better to use an old or inexpensive instrument that wouldn’t be a significant loss if damaged.

Still, it’s worth understanding what you’re getting into before committing to this type of project, and the following sections will cover what you can expect.

The Technical Challenges Of Installing Bass Strings On A Guitar

The most significant issues arise from the physical differences between bass and guitar strings. Bass strings are notably thicker and heavier than regular guitar strings. 

This difference increases tension when placed on a guitar neck, which can cause damage over time.

The Neck Tension Dilemma

The increased tension from bass strings can put a lot of strain on the guitar’s neck. This is due to the higher mass of the bass strings, which results in a stronger pull on the neck. 

A guitar’s neck, whether it’s on an acoustic or electric one, is not designed to handle this level of tension, and it can cause warping or bending.

Nut Slot Adjustments

Another technical issue arises from the size of the nut slots on a guitar.  These slots are designed to accommodate the thinner strings of a standard guitar. Being much thicker, bass strings would only fit into these with modifications. 

This would involve widening the slots, which could damage it if not done correctly. If you wish to go back to regular guitar strings, you’d need a new nut entirely because now the spacing will be too wide.

Tuning Head Issues

A significant roadblock you’ll run into relates to the tuning heads on your guitar. Like everything related to the bass, the tuners are also much bigger to accommodate the strings.

Drilling and installing bass tuning pegs would ruin the headstock of your guitar, so the only workaround is to unwind the bass strings enough so that it fits through the hole of your guitar tuners. For many people, this is more effort than its worth.

Action Height Alterations

The action height, or the distance between the strings and the fretboard, would also need to be adjusted if you were to put bass strings on a guitar. 

Bass strings are larger and require more space. This would necessitate raising the action height, which can affect the playability and sound of the guitar even if you get the action as low as possible without buzzing.

The Consequences Of Bass Strings On A Guitar

If you manage to put on some bass strings on your guitar, here are some issues you can run into, one of which isn’t related to damaging the instrument.

Intonation Issues

Due to the shorter scale length of a guitar compared to bass, you may encounter intonation problems

As you tune the strings to pitch, you might find that the guitar sounds out of tune at certain points along the fretboard. This intonation issue would be particularly noticeable when playing chords.

The Impact On Neck Durability

As you’ve read already earlier, there’s also concern about the long-term durability of the guitar’s neck. The increased tension from the bass strings could cause the neck to bend over time. 

This is particularly likely in environments with fluctuating temperatures and humidity, which can exacerbate the warping process. If you’re set on putting bass strings on a guitar, be sure to get yourself a hygrometer and act accordingly from there, such as finding a humidifier or dehumidifier.

Ibanez 4 String Bass Guitar, Right Handed, Gray (GSR200SMNGT)
  • Spalted Maple top/Mahogany body
  • Rosewood Frets
  • 22 Frets

The Verdict: Should You Put Bass Strings On A Guitar?

While you theoretically can put bass strings on a guitar, the risks and challenges outweigh the potential benefits. 

The increased tension can damage the guitar, modifications will take a tremendous amount of work, the sound quality is likely to be rather poor, and there may be intonation issues.

For those genuinely interested in exploring the lower register, investing in a real bass guitar would be more beneficial. Affordable basses are readily available and designed to handle the tension and properly produce the sound of bass strings.

In conclusion, while creative experimentation is a vital part of music, it’s essential to understand the implications fully. Putting bass strings on a guitar might sound interesting, but it’s a venture best undertaken with caution and a sound understanding of the potential risks involved.