The basic shape of the typical four-string bass and six-string electric guitar is the same. But since bass guitars have lesser strings than electric guitars, people naturally will ask this age-old question: is bass easier than guitar?
In the early stages of learning how to play the instrument, the bass is easier than the guitar. You can play the songs you like faster with the bass guitar. There is no need for you to learn chords with the bass guitar because bass parts are usually monophonic.
Learning time is the fastest with the bass guitar. Learning bass guitar from a complete novice to a competent band member takes much less time. It will take less time than learning to play drums, guitar, or piano. You only need to play one note at a time with a bass guitar compared to playing chords on the guitar.
Read on to learn more about the question, which is easier to learn, bass or guitar.
Is Bass Easier Than Guitar?
Monophonic Bass Guitars Parts
At the outset, the bass is easier than the guitar. You can quickly learn to play your favorite songs with a bass guitar. Bass guitar parts are monophonic. That means you only need to play one note at a time, compared to playing chords with the standard guitar or the piano.
Requires Only Root Notes
You can develop your skills quickly, from a total beginner to a competent band member with the bass guitar. The main reason is that you must play only the root notes, without any harmonious notes, all the time.
So, to play functionally, the bass guitar is easier to learn than the guitar. It also has only four strings, as against the standard guitar, which has six strings. The lesser the strings are, the easier they can be learned.
No Barre Chords
Music-wise, bass parts are simple and slower. There are no barre chords in bass guitars. But you should be aware that once you have gone past the basics, the question: “Is it easier to play bass than guitar?” completely loses its meaning.
Bass Is Easier to Learn During the Learning Stage
Especially with the current music development regarding bass guitars, the techniques, styles, and forms are as complex and intricate as any other band instrument. It’s only in the early stages of learning that bass is easier to understand than guitar.
A Good Bass Guitar Player Must Have the Same Skill Set as a Lead Guitarist
To be considered a good bass guitar player, you still need nearly the same skill set as a good lead guitarist. These two instruments play two different roles in a band. In that regard, they require additional musical capabilities and abilities.
The question: “Is bass easier than electric guitar?” is like comparing apples with oranges. If you choose bass because it is easier, you are not exploring your musical potential. In all things, you have to decide what works best for you, now and in the future.
Overview of Bass Guitar
There’s no question about it. You can learn to play the bass guitar faster than the guitar. However, unless you are satisfied with just playing the basic chords, the bass guitar is not an easy instrument to play.
Music is very subjective. There is no ceiling on the skills you need to play any musical instrument proficiently – including the bass guitar. It is subjective to say this bass guitar player is better than the other.
You may want to prove that this statement is true. If that’s the case, consider these prominent bass players:
- Jaco Pastorius,
- Stanley Clarke,
- Tal Wilkenfeld.
- Les Claypool, and
- Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton’s bassists.
These talented people have turned the bass guitar into an instrument that can be played by virtuosos who deeply understand the underrated musical instrument.
The worthiness of bass guitars is that they can teach you about melody, rhythm, and harmony earlier than other instrumentalists. Most instrumentalists, besides bassists, can only learn these things later in their careers.
How Is Bass Different from Guitar?
Standard guitars usually have six strings, whether they are nylon or steel strings. These strings are tuned to E-A-D-G-B-E (from the highest to the lowest pitch).
Meanwhile, a bass guitar, whether acoustic or electric, has only four strings. There are bass guitars today that have five strings. But we will limit ourselves in this article to the four-string bass guitar.
A Bass Is Usually a Background Instrument
The regular guitar is easily recognizable. It is also a very versatile instrument. The guitarist can play lead-like solos and note embellishments with a guitar. The guitarist can also play rhythms such as riffs and chords. As such, the standard guitar is very prominent in a piece of music.
Meanwhile, the bass part of a music piece is mainly relegated to the background. If it plays a prominent role in the piece, it will only be for short measures or periods – and not throughout the whole musical piece.
Bass Can Only Produce Lower Frequency Sounds
One of the main reasons for this is that the bass guitar can only produce sounds of lower frequencies from its thicker strings. These frequencies are soft to human ears, unlike the brilliant tones of higher frequencies produced by the lighter strings of standard guitars.
Up in close range, you can hardly hear the sound of that bass guitar unless you crank up the volume of its amplifier. However, lower frequency sounds travel farther than higher frequency sounds.
That’s why you will be able to hear the sound of the bass guitar hundreds of feet away from the source of the music. At that far distance, you will have to strain your ears to hear the sound of the lead guitar.
So, you can see the wisdom in saying that just because the lead guitar takes the lead, it is more important than the bass guitar, and that’s why it is easier to learn. These two guitars play two different roles in a band. We should not be comparing oranges with apples.
3. Size and Weight
Bass Guitars Are Bigger Than Standard Acoustic and Electric Guitars
The most apparent difference between a bass guitar and a guitar is their size. Bass guitars are almost always bigger than standard acoustic and electric guitars. They may have similar neck widths even if there are only four strings in bass guitars.
Standard Guitars Have Shorter Necks
But mostly, the necks of bass guitars are slightly longer than those of standard guitars. With these additional sizes, most bass guitars are heavier than traditional guitars. So, bass guitars are not for the feeble, short, and small hands.
For instance, a typical Fender Jazz weighs around 9 pounds. It measures 46 inches from end to end. It’s pretty heavy to carry this musical instrument if you are playing a 2 to 3 hours gig. You will feel this guitar’s weight on your shoulder, even if you are a big fellow.
The acoustic or electric guitar only weighs around 5 pounds, with a length of about 41 inches from its round base to the tip of the headstock.
4. Scale Length
What Is a Scale Length
The guitar’s scale length is the distance from the end of the fretboard to the place where the strings meet the bridge. This length is determined by measuring the distance between the middle of the 12th fret and the nut. The space should be multiplied by two.
Standard vs. Bass Guitar Scale Length
The scale length of a typical guitar is between 24 3/4 inches to 25 1/2 inches. With most bass guitars, the scale length is around 34 inches.
But that doesn’t mean that bass guitars have additional frets on their necks. It only means that the frets of bass guitars are wider, making them longer, bigger, and heavier.
If you don’t know how different a bass guitar from a regular guitar is, go to a guitar shop where they sell both. Ask the shop attendant for a standard guitar, sit down, and put it on your lap.
After that, ask the shop attendant for a bass guitar. Place it also on your lap, and you will feel the difference. Which one do you feel more comfortable handling? It will likely be the regular guitar, not the bass guitar.
Again, is bass easier than guitar? Bass guitar parts are monophonic. So, you don’t have to learn chords to play songs using this guitar. This makes bass easier to learn than other guitars.
How to Choose Between the Bass and The Guitar
To be happy with the instrument you choose, it must be in harmony with your musical goals, personality, and preference. The regular guitar requires different skills and mindset than the bass guitar.
2. Solo Performer or Not
In terms of holding the rhythm, loving the groove, and enjoying an important but less flashy part of a band, the better instrument is the bass guitar. If you like to be the group’s focus, like solo playing, doing chords, and producing special effects, then your instrument is the guitar.
You must consider these things if you are still undecided about which guitar to choose. If you are still struggling between the two, you must listen to professional bass guitarists such as Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, etc.
After that, listen to famous guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Tommy Emmanuel, Steve Val, and other guitarists of the same level.
At this early stage, you might be intimidated at how these people can produce the sounds from their guitars, whether it’s a bass or a lead guitar. What you are trying to do is to look at yourself. Which instruments resonate with you the most?
If it’s the bass, then that’s what you need to choose. But you know what to do if it’s the lead guitar.
Is learning the bass easier than the guitar? Be aware that there will come a point in your exploration where the instrument is just the tool you use to explore music. If you get to that level, it is no longer critical which guitar is easier to play.
It does not make any difference if you have already attained a specific skill set. In other words, in due time, you will outgrow the need to know which of these two instruments is easier to learn and play.
What to Look for When Buying a Guitar
Whichever guitar you finally choose, buy quality ones. That does not mean you need to buy the most expensive guitar in the store. It means buying a guitar that you can best afford. If you are starting, the quality of the guitar you buy will make or break your musical potential.
It would help if you had an instrument that could stay with you at your present skill level and the following two or three levels. If you buy something that will not last long, you can get discouraged and drop the whole thing altogether just because of an imperfect instrument.
Today, you can buy good quality guitars at very affordable prices. There are Ibanez bass guitars that go for just less than $200. If you can afford a higher-priced bass guitar, there are Yamaha bass guitars priced at slightly more than $200.
The prices of good quality electric guitars will not be too different from bass guitars. They may be higher or lower. What’s more essential for you now is to buy your choice of the instrument at the price you can afford and then have fun with it. That’s how you will progress in your skills.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some answers to the most often asked questions about this topic. These answers can help you decide which of the two, bass or standard guitar, you will choose to learn and play:
Is It Easier to Learn Bass Than Guitar?
At the beginning stages of learning, yes. The bass guitar is easier to learn than the standard guitar. Firstly, in a bass guitar, you only play one note at a time.
You don’t have to worry about playing chords, as you must do with a regular guitar. Secondly, a bass guitar has only four strings, compared to the six strings of the standard guitar.
How Different Is the Bass Guitar from a Standard Guitar?
There are several differences between a bass guitar and a regular guitar:
- There are only four strings in a bass guitar. Standard guitars have six strings.
- Bass guitars are bigger than regular guitars. They have longer necks.
- Bass guitars are heavier mainly because of their bigger size.
- You only play one note at a time on a bass guitar. In regular guitars, you can play chords.
- Bass guitars play a supporting role in a band. Standard guitars can play lead and rhythm parts in a band.
Is Bass Guitar the Easiest Musical Instrument to Learn?
Suppose you mean learning how to play it, yes. The bass guitar is one of the easiest musical instruments to learn. You only have four strings to worry about. And then you are only required to play one note at a time.
However, playing the bass guitar in an elementary way will get you nowhere. You need to develop the skills of playing it like the most famous bassists today are playing it.
Listen to famous bassists like Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, Thundercat, and Joe Dart. If you hear them playing their bass guitars, it will be difficult for you to say that bass guitars are easy to play.
Is the Bass Guitar Important in a Band?
Yes, the bass guitar plays a crucial role in a band. It is an integral part of the rhythm section of any band. The bassist works closely with the drummer. These two form the backbone of any music piece. The bass adds depth to the music being played.
Without the bass sound, the music will be lifeless and will sound thin. However, because it only plays a supportive role to the lead guitar, it has been underrated by many people. You must understand that a piece of music is incomplete without backup support, especially the bass guitar.
Is It More Difficult to Sing While Playing Bass?
It depends on your musical ability. Some people find it confusing to sing while playing bass. However, many people can sing, even playing syncopated bass lines. The skill can be learned over time if you don’t have it at the beginning.
In Closing: Is It Easier to Play Bass Than Guitar?
If you are at the beginning stages of learning to play the instrument, the bass is easier than the guitar. So, it will be easier and faster for you to learn to play your favorite songs. Most parts are typically monophonic, so there is no need for you to learn chords.
However, this question will be pointless as you develop the skills and gain experience. Today, some bassists play instruments that will eclipse some lead guitarists. The bass guitar can be played or in complicated movements and patterns, as long as you have the ability.