Most guitar players will, at some point, find themselves interested in playing bass. This may be for recording purposes, for the sake of branching out as a musician, or simply learning to play something new.
However, buying a bass is expensive on its own, and if you already have a guitar amp do you need to buy a bass amp as well, or can you play bass through a guitar amp?
You can play bass on a guitar amp – but you should be careful. Bass guitars will damage a guitar amp if the volume is so high that it causes damage to the speaker. Playing bass through a guitar amplifier can sound very good if you take the time to dial in the tone and use a good compressor.
Whether or not it is possible to play a bass through a guitar amp is a commonly asked question, and many guitarists and bass players alike find themselves asking this.
Bass guitars are very different from regular electric guitars, and therefore the amplifiers are different as well. Is it even possible to use a bass with a guitar amp, and if it is, will it cause any damage to the gear? Let’s find out!
Can You Play Bass Through A Guitar Amplifier?
Bass guitars are low-end instruments that have a very different frequency range and response when compared to regular electric guitars.
The hardware that is designed to be used in conjunction with these instruments is very different as well, including the amplifier used for each instrument.
If you have a bass but no bass amp, is it possible to use a guitar amp instead? Well, the straightforward answer here is yes, you can use a guitar amp for a bass guitar. To be fair, another common question is whether you can use a guitar through a bass amp!
However, there are some vital things to know in this situation.
The bass guitar is capable of playing in frequency ranges that are significantly lower than the range of regular six-string electric guitars.
The low range frequencies from a bass have different properties to the frequencies produced by other string instruments and therefore require specialized equipment to amplify them correctly.
While guitar amps are not designed for use with bass, it is possible to play the bass guitar through a guitar amp. The amplifier itself is more capable of amplifying a bass guitar signal, but the trouble comes in with the speakers used in guitar amplifiers.
Every amplifier is fundamentally the same, but the speakers are very different. The speakers in a guitar amp are designed for guitar-specific frequency ranges, not for the notes produced by bass guitars.
This does not mean that the amp will not function with a bass; it only means that the amp may not perform or sound the way you may want it to.
Understanding that a bass will sound different through a guitar amp and will have some serious limitations due to the speaker within the amplifier is key to using a bass through a guitar amp.
If you can find a way to work around these issues, it is not only possible to play a bass through a regular guitar amplifier, but this combination of gear can sound very good as well.
Will Using A Bass Through A Guitar Amp Cause Damage?
It is said by some professionals that using a bass through a guitar amp is likely to damage the equipment. This statement is true to a certain point, but the probability of causing real damage is very low.
The reason why damage is unlikely is that the levels required to cause damage to the equipment are very high.
It is true that guitar amp speakers are very thin and can be blown easily by the frequencies produced by bass guitars, but the lower frequencies produced by these instruments require a lot of energy to be pushed hard enough to cause damage to a speaker.
This means that you are very unlikely to play a bass through a guitar amp loud enough to cause any damage, and you will probably turn the volume and gain down before any real issues occur.
This means that it is safe to play a bass through a guitar amp, so long as you do not push the levels up too high.
What Does A Bass Sound Like Through A Guitar Amp?
Bass guitars and regular electric guitars sound very different, and therefore the amplifiers that are designed for each instrument are made to make that particular instrument sound its best. What does a bass sound like through a guitar amp?
The truth is that it is possible to draw a fantastic bass sound from a guitar amp if you dial in the tone correctly and if the bass and the amp are suitable counterparts.
Some guitar amps work better for bass than others, but most guitar amps can produce a good sound with most bass guitars.
The trick is to understand your instrument and take the time to dial in a good tone without expecting the amp to respond the same way it would with a guitar.
Take your time to tweak the amp controls to find a good sound, and be sure to use the controls on the bass to contribute to the tone as well.
This is especially true for active bass guitars. Active basses may require you to turn down the volume on the bass for the best tone, as the signal may be too intense for the guitar amp.
If you take the time to find it, a bass through a guitar amp can produce an excellent tone suitable for live performances, practicing, and even recording.
Tips For Using A Bass With A Guitar Amp
Using a bass through a guitar amp is possible, but it takes some understanding and some tweaking to get it right. Here are some practical, useful tips to help you get the best tone from a bass through a guitar amp:
- Use A Compressor – using a compressor of some kind will provide more sustain and an overall more dense and well-controlled bass tone through a guitar amplifier.
- Keep The Volume Below Half – pushing the volume on the amp too high may result in damage to the speaker cone.
- Listen To The Sound – the best way to prevent damage and find an excellent tone is to attentively listen to the way the instrument and amp combo sounds and make necessary adjustments along the way, rather than assuming that everything should work as you expect it to.
- Reduce Active Bass Volume – turn the volume control down on your active bass for the best results with a guitar amp.
- Don’t Settle – take the time to get the best tone that you can from the gear that you are using rather than settling for getting any kind of sound. This will improve your experience and help you maintain interest in the project.
At the end of it, a bass does work through a guitar amp, and with some effort, it is possible to get a fantastic sound from this setup. Guitar amps are not designed for bass, but if you are careful, they can work very well.
Keep your volume at a reasonable level, use a compressor if you have one, and take the time to dial in the tone well, and you will be surprised at how good a bass can sound through a guitar amplifier!
As always, Happy Playing,