If you’re thinking about learning the guitar, you may have some questions about which variation of the instrument is right for you. For example, do you want to learn to play the bass guitar or an acoustic guitar?
What’s the difference between a bass guitar and an acoustic guitar in the first place, and which one is easier to learn? To help you answer some of these queries, the team at Melbourne Music Centre have put together some essential information around the difference between a bass and a guitar, as well as which one might be right for you.
Difference Between Bass and Guitar
Right away you’ll notice some differences between a bass guitar and an acoustic guitar. A bass guitar has four strings, after all, while an acoustic guitar has six. The strings on a bass are E-A-D-G, while the strings on a guitar are E-A-D-G-B-E. But there is so much more that you need to know to understand the complexities of each instrument.
In terms of sound, the bass guitar’s sound is much lower than that of an acoustic guitar. The role of bass within a band, for example, is to work with the drummer to form the band’s rhythm section, which lays down a foundation and creates space for the other musicians to work within. The role of a guitar, however, is usually to fill up that space that’s been created by the band’s rhythm section.
Another difference between the bass and the acoustic guitar is the size and physicality of each instrument. Guitars tend to be smaller and lighter, while bass guitars are usually bigger in size and heavier in weight. The strings on a guitar are also smaller and lighter, while the strings of a bass are thicker and heavier. Guitarists can also play both individual notes (mostly when soloing) as well as chords or strumming while singing. And while bassists can play chords, they generally tend to stick to playing one note at a time.
With this in mind, guitar players, in general, tend to get more of the spotlight than bass players. While most people are familiar with famous guitar players like Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, and The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, not a lot of people can name their favourite bass player. There are exceptions, of course, like Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Geddy Lee of Rush, but generally, the bassist gets less of the spotlight than their guitar-playing counterparts.
Think of it like a sports team: you need a solid defence to hold down the fort and provide opportunities for your offence to score goals. Similarly, you need a good bass player (along with the drummer) to form the band’s rhythm section and give the guitarist more space to do their thing. That means, though, that like the athlete playing offence and scoring goals, the guitar player gets more attention and is more often seen as the “lead” or “star” of a band. Like a defensive player on the team, a bassist is more like a support player, and less likely to be the focal point of people’s attention. So, if it’s the spotlight you seek, the guitar may be the instrument for you.
When you’re starting out, and perhaps already have a guitar, but can’t afford to buy a new bass at the moment, you can learn some bass-ics (pun intended) on your guitar’s E-A-D-G strings.
Some of what you learned on one instrument can easily be switched over to the other one, but there will still be a learning curve based on the differences between a guitar and a bass guitar. And at the end of the day, you can’t replace a bass guitar with an acoustic guitar within a band, or vice versa, because the sounds are too different and each instrument plays a distinctive, yet equally important, role within a piece of music.
You may also be wondering, when it comes to acoustic vs. bass guitar, which one is easier to play. It’s important to know that they both have their challenges, and bear in mind that it can take years to master any instrument. You may find it a little easier to start on the bass guitar since, as mentioned above, bassists are more likely to play only one note at a time and fewer chords.
Another advantage to playing bass is that while there are a million guitarists out there, there tend to be fewer bassists, so when you’re starting, you may have an easier time finding other musicians to play with. With that being said, you may feel that, because the strings on a bass guitar tend to be harder and thicker, you may find the bass harder to learn at first.
At the same time, one of the hardest parts about learning to play the guitar is the chords. Chords require you to put three fingers from your fretting (non-strumming) hand on the guitar’s strings at the same time while holding your pick correctly and knowing the rhythm and strumming pattern of the song. For this reason, you may find learning to play the guitar more difficult than learning to play the bass.
Deciding on Bass Guitar vs Acoustic Guitar
As we mentioned, when you’re trying to decide between bass guitar vs acoustic guitar, you’ve got a lot of factors to take into consideration. What is the difference between a guitar and a bass guitar, and what are the similarities? Which instrument is easier to learn, and which one will get you out there faster and playing music with your friends?
There are a lot of differences between the guitar and the bass guitar in terms of the size, weight, sound, and role each instrument plays within a band and a piece of music. Do you want to stand out and be the star of the show, or are you happy with being in a supporting role? Of course, you don’t have to make a final decision right away. At the end of the day what really matters is that you’re having fun, which is what making music is all about.
Feel free to drop by Melbourne Music Centre and let us help you. We have a wide variety of musical instruments available, from our guitar cases down to covers and screws, and our friendly staff would be happy to help you get started on your musical journey!