If you’re a big fan of bass, learning the instrument is only a matter of time. Bass is easier than guitar because you mostly play single notes rather than chords. Ideally, it has four strings and requires no specific strumming pattern for playing music.
Beginners like playing bass for a couple more reasons. We’ll be going over all of them so you can commit to bass and have fun!
A part of today’s article will answer the question- “Is bass easier than guitar?” and the other part will show you how similarly (yet different) these two instruments perform in real life. You don’t want to miss this one out!
Bass and guitar share a few fundamental skills. So, if you have some experience with guitar, you can comfortably carry it on to bass.
- 1. The Main Differences Between Bass and Guitar
- 2. Similarities Between Bass and Guitar that Will Blow Your Mind!
- 3. 6 Reasons Why Bass is Easier than Guitar!
- 4. Bottom Line
The Main Differences Between Bass and Guitar
Compared to a standard guitar, a bass guitar has different looks, playing techniques, and sound textures. Even an electric guitar, despite looking pretty identical to bass, sounds nothing like one!
Here’s what’s really surprising-
Both instruments have the E, A, D, G notes and a similar tuning pattern to hit it off.
Then what makes bass different from a guitar?
We can show you 7 reasons why bass and guitar sound like totally different instruments! Make sure to keep reading!
Number of Strings
A bass guitar is a four-stringed instrument. It has thicker strings and is usually larger than acoustic guitars.
Depending on personal preference, bass players often go for 3, 5, and 6-string basses. The rule here is pretty simple.
If you want to hit high notes without moving down the fret too much, then a six-stringed instrument is perfect!
Both acoustic and electric guitars have 6 metal strings. Yes, you might have seen a 12-stringed guitar. The string tension there is crazy, but the warm, resonating sound is worth it. Well, it was good enough for Led Zeppelin!
Like we said before, the bass guitar is a larger instrument. So, it’s obvious that it has a longer scale, no? It’s the playable length of the open strings on your instrument. Or, in simple words, it’s twice the distance between the edge of the nut and the 12th fret.
The most common scale length for a standard guitar is 25.5 inches. For an average bass guitar, it’s about 34 inches.
But why are we telling you this?
Surprisingly, this measurement that we’re talking about affects the sound of your guitar.
Holding string gauges and lengths equal, a shorter scale translates to louder sound. The strings are also easy to fret; which ultimately means you’ll have an easier time playing guitar than bass.
Do acoustic guitars have pickups? Yes, some of them do. Instruments without onboard electronics are a bit tricky to amplify. But that doesn’t mean you can’t.
In terms of preamps, bass guitars already got the ball rolling. They have one pickup close to the fretboard and another near the bridge. The first one produces a smooth, low tone and the second one creates a bright tone. Single-coil pickups are popular for their sharp, focused sound. However, the modern humbucker pickups can eliminate feedback and fret buzz better.
Acoustic guitars follow a linear tuning, and it goes like E-A-D-G-B-E from the bottom string to the top.
The four strings on a standard bass guitar are E, A, D and G.
If you’ve spent some time with both musical instruments, you’ll notice that the bottom four strings on a guitar have the exact names!
The reason for that is-
Bass strings are one octave lower than your bottom four guitar strings (E, A, D, G). They’re tuned in fourths so that you have no trouble playing the basslines.
In an electric guitar, the high G is an eleventh lower than the middle C. Therefore, it’s the same standard tuning as that of a double bass- E1-A1-D2-G2.
Range of Notes
Guitars offer you a wide range of notes, making song arrangements complex and versatile. Not to mention, you can rock an entire song without pedals and special effects.
Bass guitars fill in between the drums and treble, building up the song’s genuine rhythm. Just because it’s less prominent than acoustic guitars, you can’t take bass lightly.
You know what we’re saying?
Imagine the legendary track Hysteria without its arpeggio solos and groovy bass; and that’s your answer!
So, the bottom line is- simple bass lines can sound dynamic in the right setting. But their pitch is often hard to hear behind the lead vocal and other band instruments.
Clean Power Chords
Remember the power chords in Hells Bells by AC/DC? These are two-note chords that use a root and a fifth. Bassists have the most fun playing these chords in metal, blues, punk and rock music.
Does that mean power chords are easier to play on a bass guitar?
We’re going to say yes!
First of all, bass guitars have well-spaced strings and a larger fret. It immediately makes them a better option for practicing advanced techniques and fast-paced chords.
Secondly, the distance between the root note and the 5th note is pretty wide in a bass guitar. Therefore, the frequencies of these two are much cleaner.
Roles in a Band
So far, we’ve shared the musical difference between bass and guitar. But how these two perform in a band may give you a different perspective.
For example, if you like having the spotlight on you, an electric guitar is a more fitting instrument.
It puts you in the center of attention throughout the entire performance. However, it’s not the dream role for many guitar players out there.
As a beginner, you’re constantly worrying about embarrassing yourself in a room full of people.
You don’t want to mismatch a chord and have everyone call you a bad bassist.
This is where playing the bass guitar is a little more profitable. You can fret out your notes without the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Similarities Between Bass and Guitar that Will Blow Your Mind!
How amazing would it be if you could play guitar and bass with the same knowledge?
It’s possible; in fact, you could be a pretty good bassist with the guitar lessons still fresh in your mind.
Despite having their differences, a guitar and a bass guitar share some pretty awesome similarities. You’re probably excited to know what they are. Let’s get started then, shall we?
If this is your first time hearing about arpeggios, you’re in for a lot of fun! It’s a technique where you play the individual notes of a guitar chord in a sequence. You start from the lowest note and end on the highest note.
A good example of arpeggios would be Hotel California by Eagles and Weird Fishes by Radiohead.
Since you play the notes in arpeggiated chords one after the other (rather than one over the other), they might turn out muddy on a bass guitar. To prevent the frequencies from overlapping, you need to do one simple thing.
Release your finger from the fret before playing the next note. Alternatively, you may play above the 12th fret of the bass.
So, the conclusion is-
you can play arpeggiated chords on either instrument, but guitar definitely has a head start in this arena.
A professional bass player needs to play fewer chords in a song, which leaves us with acoustic guitars. There are six major chords that accomplished guitarists play in the open position- A, C, D, E, F, G.
Bass strings are comparable to the bottom four strings on a guitar. So, you get to play most of these open chords on your bass. However, the strings are tuned in fourths and an octave lower than guitar strings.
So, you might miss out on some of those diminished, extended, and cowboy chords. Nevertheless, open chords can be easily played on a bass guitar using arpeggios.
This amazing technique exists in popular music, and rock bassists will definitely play at least one open arpeggiated chord in their concerts.
Plucking the Strings
This skill is easily transferable from guitar to bass and vice versa. But there’s one case where things can go south for the beginners, and that is plucking.
Bass has heavier strings than any musical instrument, so it takes more effort to play them. Regardless, the same fingerpicking technique is applicable to both instruments.
Want to give your audience amazing bass lines to vibe to? Then make sure you’re doing all three of these things right-
Number one, remember to mute strings when you’re not playing them. Buzzing is a real issue, and it can make your music come out as confused as your feelings.
Number two- be gentle!
Bass strings are tough. You don’t want to push down too hard on the strings. It can slow you down and you might not catch that riff in time.
Finally, learn how to play the root notes and octaves.
What they’ll do is-
Give you a proper understanding of what guitar chords are based on and how to play chords on a different scale.
The same music theory applies to guitar and its bass counterpart. So, although the bass guitar is two strings short, it could play something other than basslines.
But at what cost?
There’s a reason why acoustic guitar songs don’t sound the same on a bass guitar. First, the strings are low-pitched. So, when you make the same chord shapes and strum, the background sound you get is pretty muddy.
Playing your guitar chords an octave higher could take it up a notch. But you’ll have to rearrange the chords and eventually break them down to their fundamental notes.
It might get you thinking- what makes bass easier than guitar? The answer is just a few scrolls away!
Our own experience with the whole “guitar chords on bass” situation had been a disaster. But we soon found out the easiest way to play bass.
Put your guitar knowledge to work and start with two-note chords. They sound really good on bass for the most part. If you feel like fattening the sound, hit that bassline with a three-finger power chord. It’s going to change your entire bass game.
If you know how to tune an acoustic guitar, you can tune a bass guitar the same way. Assuming that you don’t, we’re going to give you a short overview of how it’s done.
First off, you can use a clip-on tuner. You clip it onto the headstock of your guitar, check the readings, and bring each string to pitch.
Alternatively, you could use a free mobile app. But it’s going to take you a bit of time before tuning your guitar “by ear”.
Bass guitar strings are tuned in fourths. Since we’re talking about similarities, we should point out that the E string is the thickest string on both instruments. It’s the 4th string on your bass and the 6th (top) string on the guitar.
If you keep that in mind, it’s quite easy to keep your E, A, D, G bass notes sorted. Drop D tuning is as popular for bass guitars as it is for acoustic guitars. It goes like D, A, D, G, and you can easily achieve it by “dropping” the E string down to the D note. It makes the bass guitar sound heavy- like you’re in a metal band!
6 Reasons Why Bass is Easier than Guitar!
A guitar is a tricky little instrument. It requires a good amount of finger coordination, strumming, and practice. A bass guitar is easy to play with simple bass notes. Chances are- you’ll master this instrument sooner than becoming a full-blown guitarist.
Let’s see, once and for all, which one is easier to play! Pay attention, because we think number 6 will surprise you.
Fewer Strings Bring Fewer Sorrows
If six guitar strings look too intimidating, then four bass strings should be just fine. Besides, the fact that you’ll deal with a 4-string instrument makes it easier for you to get started.
All you have to do is learn the notes in the basic chords. The chord shapes can wait! Once you’re a couple of chords through, you’ll notice that the notes are repeating themselves. That bit is for you to practice, but we can give you one piece of advice-
Learning a bass guitar is in fact easier than learning guitar. However, you need to put in the effort if you want to learn either instrument inside out.
When in Doubt, Slap n Pop!
Guitars have more variations to offer. But there’s one technique that never gets old! If you want to spice up those basslines, make sure your slap/pop action is on point!
People credit the slap style to funk bassist Larry Graham. It’s when you slap the string with the middle of your thumb and allow it to vibrate against the metal frets. It gives your bass guitar riffs an exciting percussive tone.
Ideally, you slap the lower E and A strings on a bass guitar. Ghost notes, slides and hammer-ons are techniques built around the slap n pop riff. Alright, let’s talk about popping!
For this, you have to pull the D and G strings away from the guitar body, letting them bounce off the fret. Popping produces a high-frequency buzzing tone and is much loved in jazz, disco, R&B, funk and rock music.
Variety in Chord Inversion
Can’t make heads or tails of a chord progression? Is it taking you a lot of time to switch chords on your guitar?
We know a simple solution to both of these problems. And the best part is- it works on the bass and the guitar at the same time!
The first thing you need to do is learn the root notes of the existing chords in a song. For example, C major has the notes C, E, and G. And F major has the notes F, A, and C.
You need to play your chords in a way that they move together as smoothly as possible. Therefore, when you shift from Cmaj (C-E-G) to Fmaj (F-A-C), you have to move your fingers and land them immediately on the right frets.
It’s easier said than done, which is why most first-timers struggle with this particular transition.
What you can do instead is invert the F chord (F-A-C) to C-F-A. This way, C remains on the lowest note. And it’s easier to play C-E-G, C-F-A than C-E-G, F-A-C.
Chord inversions are important. They make sure that you’re doing minimum finger movement on the fretboard, and therefore, playing your guitar at the right pace.
Easy Chords & Single Notes
A bass and a regular guitar have so much in common. But there’s one thing we had a hard time wrapping our head around, at least while we were playing bass for the first time.
Okay, here it goes-
Bass players don’t play chords as often as other musicians. They play single notes and pluck the individual strings instead.
It’s easy for a rhythm guitarist to play bass guitars because they probably play scales faster than the speed of light. So, if you’re aiming for that level of efficiency, learning how to play a bass guitar is worth considering.
Anyhow, you’ll enjoy playing the bass guitar more than a guitar if you like any of these three scenarios:
Before jumping to painful chords, you want to build your finger strength first. Two, you want to learn chord notes so that you can play the pentatonic scales on guitar one day. And three- develop a better sense of coordination with fewer strings to fret.
Actually, the Chords Can Go!
Have you recently seen a bassist perform live? Then you might have noticed that he plays fewer chords than the lead guitarist.
It makes learning the bass easier because you don’t have to hold down more than one or two strings at a time. Then what exactly do you do with a bass guitar?
You play the single notes that make up a chord, and then play those notes in any order you like.
An easy example of this would be the C major chord. To make a Cmaj chord shape on your acoustic guitar, you have to put your pointer finger on the 1st fret 2nd string, middle finger on the 2nd fret 4th string, and ring finger on the 3rd fret 5th string.
This chord is difficult to hold for beginners; guitarists too if they haven’t practiced in a while.
Now, the C major chord is made out of three notes- C, E, and G. You have to play these notes at the same time to get the final Cmaj tone on a guitar. And that’s why the finger movement is so tricky.
Fortunately, bass players can get off easy by creating an impression of the Cmaj chord. They can repeat the root notes, change their order, and the sound implication will still be that of a guitar Cmaj.
No More Strumming!
Did you recently join guitar classes? But most importantly, did they hand you a big book of chords and strumming patterns?
If yes, you’re probably not enjoying rhythm guitar as much as you thought you would.
But we have good news!
You don’t strum a bass guitar; you just pluck its strings. The voice in your head that goes “down-down-up-up-down” will finally stop. And it was a good enough reason for some amazing bassists to pursue bass first, and move on to guitar later!
So, how exactly do you play bass?
You just pluck the strings! It’s very similar to how you play scales on an acoustic guitar- fingerpicking one string at a time!
Performers outside alternative music and progressive jazz rarely strum their Fender Geddy Lee.
For rock bassists, it’s crucial that you keep up with the rhythm and speed of a song. Turns out- fingerpicking strings takes more concentrated effort than strumming. Cooler guitarists alternate between their index finger and middle finger for this purpose.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to your personal preference. If you’re big on bass lines, you don’t need to think twice about playing bass. It’s one of the fastest instruments you can learn in a short period of time.
But it’s going to take consistent practice to master bass like Bootsy Collins or Victor Wooten. All the best!