Anyone who wants to learn either the bass or the electric guitar may be wondering: what are the differences between these instruments? What makes a bass different from a guitar, and what are these two instruments used for?
While these instruments appear very similar, there are some significant differences between them.
Bass guitars are larger and heavier than electric guitars. Basses have fewer strings, are easier to learn, and require fewer techniques to get started. Guitars have more strings and are more difficult to understand initially. Still, they are more versatile and functional than bass guitars.
Electric guitars and bass guitars are entirely different instruments. There are some similarities between them, but the way these instruments are used are completely different, as are the playing techniques and the basic designs of these instruments.
Let’s explore electric guitar vs bass to determine what makes these instruments different.
The Bass Guitar
If you want to learn how to play the bass guitar – regardless of if you already play other instruments – it is crucial to understand the bass along with its capabilities and what the instrument is like to play before committing to it.
The bass guitar is something special. This instrument is essentially a combination of the upright acoustic bass and the electric guitar, making the bass a truly unique and versatile instrument like nothing else.
The typical bass has four strings, all of which are very thick and held in at tension. These strings are why the bass guitar is so big and part of the reason why the bass is so heavy.
Bass guitars are much heavier than other guitar types. They need to be much stronger and denser than other instruments to accommodate the thick strings and the high tension these strings require.
The heavy strings and high tension also mean that the bass guitar must be significantly longer and larger than other stringed instruments. The size enables the strings to be held at high tension without making them so tight that they become unplayable.
The bass can be challenging to handle at first, but it becomes very manageable with time and practice.
The bass guitar is a wonderfully versatile instrument that requires several different playing techniques and styles to master.
Bass can be used as a rhythm instrument, lead instrument, support instrument, or for all of these roles combined. The role of a bass guitar within a musical ensemble varies, and the modern bass player must be ready for anything.
The ability to play intricate lead lines, keep perfect rhythm and timing, play with feel and groove, and be versatile are all requirements for the modern bass player, especially those who play in bands or other musical ensembles.
The bass has an extensive range of pitch as well. The bass guitar can play very low notes or play higher notes that fall into the range of other string instruments.
Bass guitars with extended string ranges, such as five or six-string bass guitars, are even more versatile, but they are more complicated to play.
If you want to play a string instrument, the bass guitar is among the best options, as it is very usable, very versatile, and incredibly fun to play!
The Electric Guitar
The electric guitar is another strong contender for those who want to learn to play a stringed instrument.
Almost no instrument, stringed or otherwise, is as versatile as the electric guitar. There is no other instrument more popular either – except for piano, depending on which metric you’re measuring popularity on!
The electric guitar is typically a six-stringed instrument with a vast range. There are no other string instruments with a natural range as wide as an electric guitar with twenty-four frets.
Because this instrument is versatile, and it can be used for almost any purpose. Intricate lead playing, simple rhythmic strumming, and interesting combinations of techniques and playing styles are all possible on this instrument.
This makes it an ideal instrument for those who seek a challenge and those who simply want to play basic pieces well.
There is no instrument like the electric guitar. It is capable of multiple different sounds, making it ideal for almost any type of music or genre – like metal! It opens the guitar up to various techniques and playing methods.
All of this versatility can make the guitar a very daunting instrument. Still, under the proper guidance, anyone can learn to play the electric guitar to the desired level of complexity.
The electric guitar is the ideal instrument to learn for the music lover, as there is no genre that this instrument cannot handle. If you are the type of music-lover who enjoys various musical styles, you can learn to play all of them on the electric guitar.
Other instruments are limited by their range, functionality, and the sounds that they can produce. Still, when the electric guitar is combined with an amplifier, or some guitar pedals, there is almost nothing that this instrument cannot do in the hands of a skilled player.
The electric guitar is smaller and lighter than the bass guitar, which makes it slightly more accessible. Electric guitars are available at almost every price range. There is a great multitude of electric guitar styles to choose from.
All of this means that there is an electric guitar to suit you, regardless of what type of music you want to play, what your style is, or how much money you have to spend.
Bass Vs. Electric Guitar: The Important Differences
Now that we have outlined the essential features and characteristics of the bass guitar and the electric guitar, it is important to directly compare the two instruments.
This will help determine which may be better for you and highlight some of the crucial differences between them.
There are several differences between these two stringed instruments, but the list below highlights the most important differences for anyone choosing between playing the bass or playing the electric guitar.
Size and Weight
The electric guitar and the bass guitar are both similar in appearance, but the apparent difference between them is the size and the weight of these instruments.
Even though standard bass guitars have fewer strings than guitars, bass guitars are significantly bigger and heavier than electric guitars.
The typical way to measure the length of a stringed instrument is to measure the instrument’s scale length which is the length of the strings in the usable range. In other words, the length of the strings that vibrates when you play.
Standard bass guitar scale length is 34 – 35 inches, while standard guitar scale length is 24 – 25 inches. This means that the length of the strings that you play on these instruments is a full 10 inches longer or shorter, respectively.
This does not account for the size of the instrument itself, which adds a significant amount of length on either side of the strings.
Bass guitars are typically much larger than electric guitars to accommodate the instrument’s larger scale length and keep the proportions of the instrument aesthetically pleasing.
The larger size of the bass guitar makes it significantly heavier than the electric guitar, which translates to more fatigue while playing, and less control over the instrument while standing up.
Number Of Strings
The next most obvious difference between the electric guitar and the bass guitar is each instrument’s number of strings.
The standard electric guitar has six strings, while the classic bass guitar is equipped with four strings – or sometimes five strings.
The six strings of an electric guitar provide a much more comprehensive note range than the fewer strings of the bass guitar. Guitar strings are thinner and closer together than bass strings.
While the guitar has more strings than the bass, the strings are more accessible and more useful than the four or five strings of a bass.
The more functional six strings of a guitar make this instrument capable of complex chords and melodies that are impossible on the bass guitar.
However, the fact that the bass guitar has fewer strings is not a limitation. This simply means that the instrument must be played with different techniques.
The bass is still highly versatile and usable, but the heavier strings can make it slightly more challenging to play in the beginning.
Electric guitars are slightly more versatile than bass guitars, and they are somewhat more functional. The guitar can be used for a broader range of techniques than the bass and, therefore, can be used in more contexts and varied situations.
The electric guitar is a flexible instrument that can be used solo or in ensemble situations. The guitar is also highly desirable; it is found in various bands that do not always include bass guitars.
This fact means that there are far more opportunities for guitar players than for bass players. However, it also means that more people play the guitar, which means more competition.
The guitar is highly versatile, which means that there is a lot to learn about the instrument. While highly functional, it is more challenging to make progress on the guitar than on the bass guitar.
There are many techniques to discover when learning to play the bass, but there are more straightforward techniques on the bass than there are on the guitar. The bass requires less practice to get going, and it is generally usable sooner than the guitar is.
You can learn some simple bass lines and begin playing in an ensemble. Guitar players must learn much more before they start playing seriously.
While the bass guitar is easier to get going on initially, it is also highly versatile, and it requires years of practice to master. The bass requires very complicated techniques for both hands to master, but the guitar can be played with simple strumming-hand techniques.
There are many facets to playing both of these instruments, and they each have their pros and cons. In short:
- The bass is easier to start playing, but it takes longer to get good on this instrument.
- The guitar is more difficult to get started with, but it becomes highly functional once the basics are out of the way.
Another consideration that must be made between these two instruments that are often forgotten when comparing them is the peripheral equipment these instruments require.
Both bass guitars and electric guitars require amplifiers and guitar cables to function. These instruments have no way of amplifying the sounds that they produce, which requires external amplifiers and a cable to connect the instrument to such amp.
Bass guitar amplifiers are less well-equipped than electric guitar amplifiers, but they do not need to be as well-equipped as the bass is not designed to be used with the same sounds as the electric guitar.
The simplicity of the bass tone also means that all a bass player requires is a simple yet proper amplifier and a cable to make their bass highly functional.
By comparison, the electric guitar requires significantly more peripheral equipment than the bass guitar.
Electric guitars need more sound functionality and therefore require amplifiers with a wide range of effects and sounds, making these amps more complicated and expensive than bass amps.
Electric guitars need a complicated amplifier or a complicated array of expensive foot pedals to be utilized fully. As a result, guitar players buy far more peripheral equipment than bass guitar players.
Guitar rigs are far more complicated and intricate than bass rigs, so consider using a bass over an electric guitar if you want to keep things simple.
For more great guitar-learning content, check out these other helpful articles on all things stringed!
- How Long Does It Take To Learn Guitar?
- Types of Electric Guitar Bridges Explained
- How To Tune A Guitar Without a Tuner!
- How to Choose a Guitar As a Beginner (Step-by-Step)
The bass guitar and the electric guitar are highly functional, wonderfully versatile instruments. They are also both relatively accessible for everyone to start learning. The deciding factor between them should ultimately be which instrument excites you more.
If you choose the instrument that excites you more, you are more likely to play and practice the instrument, which is more beneficial in the long run.
If you are choosing between guitar or bass, select the instrument that interests and inspires you more, and you will have more fun with the instrument.
As always, Happy Playing,