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Many thanks to John from Guitar Listy for providing this guest post.
Acoustic and bass guitars are among the most played types of guitar. But the question is, which one is suitable for beginners to start with? Selecting the right instrument is important when starting to learn the guitar.
Know the Difference
When someone is completely new to learning guitar, they aren’t likely to even know the basic differences that exist between acoustic and bass guitars. Beginners know a little about the different type of guitars. Both the instruments are similar in a lot of ways. But there are some significant differences too.
The acoustic guitar is a 6-stringed instrument with its standard tuning being E-A-D-G-B-E. Its lowest string has been tuned to an E note (roughly 82 hertz in terms of frequency) and the next to an A note and then to D note, etc. But more than understanding the notes, it is quite necessary to know how the bass and acoustic are related.
Standard bass guitars come with just four strings and are a bit larger in size. Its tuning is quite similar to that of the regular guitar’s lowest four strings. However, the only difference that exists is that they are tuned a whole octave lower in pitch. The bass strings are tuned to E-A-D-G, similar to that of the lowest 4 strings on the acoustic guitar. But the low E on the bass is a whole octave lower (roughly 41 hertz).
The bass, in several ways, is identical to that of the acoustic guitar – only having 2 fewer strings and been tuned to a lower pitch.
The music theory, guitar chords, and scales learned on one are also used in the other. Hence, both the instruments are related to one another directly. It is something essential to realize since many players are of the opinion that they can to learn any kind when starting out first. A direct correlation does exist between the two, thus making a choice somewhat stressful.
It’s good to know that what is learned on the bass also applies to the acoustic and vice versa. Mastering guitar techniques for beginners doesn’t include only acoustic or only bass guitar. The switch to one or the other can be made at any time with some work.
This has, of course, only mentioned standard acoustic and bass guitars and standard tunings, but you can use different types of tunings on both the instruments and other variations. For example, you can get 5 & 6-string basses and 7 & 8-string guitars.
But there are other differences between acoustic guitars and bases besides the basic ones outlined above. The bass guitar has thicker strings which offer a different feeling, and tones that sound good on an acoustic guitar don’t necessarily sound good on a bass guitar. So, the feeling, tone, and style differ. Along with this, some techniques are typically exclusive to the bass or the acoustic guitar.
Another big difference between the two is the role that each tends to play.
Role of Acoustic and Bass Guitar
Although both instruments are theoretically and sonically similar, some major differences exist. Moreover, their roles noted in modern music are somewhat different.
One question that comes to the minds of the young musicians is why a bassist is required in any rock band. The bassist is seen to just play in the background. With several bands and guitars playing heavily, the bass may not really be listened to by the audience! This is more so, if the acoustic guitarists are found to detune the frequencies that were once occupied by the bassist only.
An experienced bassist is one who will know his job is to carry on the band. They form the backbone to help connect the other instruments being played. In genres such as blues and jazz, playing bass means settling into the groove and working with the drummer. For hard and metal rock, it means providing a good amount of music.
A bassist is an ultimate connection between the rhythm and melody of a song. They could be seen as part of the rhythm section and help a drummer drive the rhythm, but they must also play chords that work with what the other instruments (such as voice, guitar, keyboard, sax, etc.) are playing.
And the bass part of any song will help to drive energy, emotion, and movement from the audience, even if the audience is unaware that the bassist is providing this.
In truth, good bassists are quite precious. They will also know how to pick the best bass guitar for themselves. Hence, if the choice of a beginner is to play bass, they will can proudly learn to play this instrument.
Compared to bass, the acoustic guitar has a more varied role. In general, before purchasing acoustic guitar, people often use acoustic guitar buying guide because of the diversity of available models. Where bass and drums are regarded as the band’s rhythmic section, the guitar player is found to have more freedom to choose embellishments and off-script solos. The guitarist, in most genres, is also required to offer some rhythm support to the band.
The person is not to be confused with the terms such as “rhythm” or “lead” guitar. The same person can play both these roles. However, solos include other intricate pieces and are played by the lead guitarist, while the rhythm guitarist mostly plays chords. Two guitar players in most rock bands are to share such responsibilities, or one is said to assume both roles.
Guitarists are often considered more “musical” compared to bassists and tend to attract more attention in rock music. In many modern music forms, their solos and riffs are found to be memorable.
There is a genuine reason behind the creation of a video game named “Guitar Hero,” but none called “Bass Hero.” The guitarist’s job is to play great solos, come up with excellent riffs, and know how the proper and correct rhythm is to be played when required.
Again, as a bassist, the person needs to become the band’s driving force and that critical connection between rhythm and melody and emerge as an unsung hero. Selecting a type should depend more upon individual preference and personality, as both can achieve success.
Other comparison posts on the blog:
- Sapele vs Mahogany: What’s the Difference and Which is Better?
- Humbucker vs Single Coil: What Are They & Which Is Better?
- Guitar Hero vs Rock Band guitars
Author: John from Guitarlisty.com
FAQs Bass vs Guitar
I know many who might agree and I also know many who would disagree, and I hope that this is at least in some way illustrative of the fact that there is no definite answer. Though they look fairly similar, the traditional role of each is rather different and thus it does not even really bear comparing one as better than the other, lest we neglect what makes each unique. I have of late been drawn to playing the bass guitar in place of an electric guitar because I am fond of the tonal characteristics and how big a band can sound with two bassists, and yet I still would never choose one over the other, nor would I say that either is better.
Neither is inherently harder or easier than the other, for both require a different set of skills to master. Though they do look rather similar in some respects, the role that each traditionally takes in a band setting is often vastly different, and someone who is going from guitar to bass in the same live concert will need to be aware of their switching of roles, lest they start shredding when they are really meant to be acting as the glue between all the other instruments, whether melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic.
I do not suppose that it is a competition, but there are certain things that the bass traditionally has over the guitar. For one, the role of the bass within a band context can be a lot more fluid, at least in traditional types of music, ranging from harmonic foundation to rhythmic backing, and even going so far as to contribute considerably to the melody of a piece of music.
Stereotypically, yes, though I know a number of bassists who would say otherwise and who might even get a little upset at your saying so. The saying goes, as with other instruments, that the bass is easy to learn but difficult to master, and though this is a worn idiom it does serve to illustrate how the bass is perceived in a number of rock and pop contexts. The bass can easily and fluidly metamorphose between being a rhythmic and melodic and harmonic instrument, often doing all three within the space of a single song. However, to do so without exhibiting the very seams of the song, one has to be adept at their instrument, almost spiritually taming it.