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Transitioning From Guitar to Bass

Adding Bass to Your Repertoire

If you have been playing guitar for a while, you may decide to expand your musical spectrum by trying out the bass guitar. You would hardly be the first; many guitarists occasionally play bass, and vice versa. This is often the case for bassists who write songs. Many bassists started out as guitarists before making bass their instrument of choice.

The thing you need to understand is that, although 6-strings and bass guitars are mechanically quite similar, their roles in music are typically quite different. This article will review similarities and differences between the two and provide helpful steps to get you started.

The Similarities and the Differences

With few exceptions, most manufacturers of electric 6-strings also make one or more models of bass guitar. Indeed, some basses are styled after their higher-pitched counterparts. The mechanics of both instruments are basically the same: They are built from wood and use strings that vibrate over an electric pickup which carries the sound through a cable to an amplifier. The tuning mechanisms, bodies, necks, and bridges look quite similar.

The major physical difference is size and weight. Most basses are bigger, have longer necks and weigh considerably more. More than one multi-instrumentalist has stated that after playing the bass for a while, the guitar feels and plays like a ukulele!

The Role of Bass vs. Guitar

Both instruments require a basic grasp of chord structure. The bottom, or root note, of a given chord is the basis for bass playing. Bass is also played in chords, but the notes are generally played one by one. Put another way, bass lines typically are played a note at a time rather than several at a time.

This reflects the major difference between the two instruments and their roles: With very few exceptions, bass guitar is a support instrument, and almost never used as a lead instrument. Its essential function is to serve as a liaison of sorts between the drums and the other instruments. A good bassist has the ability to support the structure and the melody of a song, and at the same time, “lock in” with the drummer.  

Being the “anchor” of a band is a very important role. It is therefore good that you have started on guitar; in a short time you will understand the relation between the two instruments.

Getting Started on Bass

The process of choosing a new bass guitar is, in many ways, the same as your search for your guitar. There is a multitude of basses available, from well-known brands as well as lesser-known brands. They come in multiple styles and designs. More importantly, they come in different pickup configurations, all of which can affect the tone.

Because you are starting out, there is no need to break the bank. Check out several basic models and choose the one that feels and plays right to you. The vast majority of bassists use a 4-string model; stick with that for starters. As you progress, you will have a better grasp of what will work best for what you are trying to achieve, and that will affect your eventual purchase of a higher-end model.

Be Good to Yourself

The bass is a new instrument to you, so you will need to apply the same discipline and patience you used to learn guitar. Relax and enjoy your new journey!

Phone Glenn Sutton at: 619-306-3664.

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