Guitar vs Bass – Which One Should You Opt For?

Music is the food of the soul. It has the power to heal, and it has the power to change anyone’s mood almost instantly.

This is why no matter what our mood – sad, happy, or eccentric, we always love listening to music.

Though of course there are many musical instruments, like the saxophone, flute, piano, and more, the ones that are most popular are bass and guitar.

These instruments are easy to learn to play and create amazing music that attracts one and all. Now, the question running in your mind may be, which one should you opt for – a guitar or bass?

Well, continue reading and you shall discover your answer through a guitar vs bass comparison.

String Instruments

In the world of music, stringed instruments are among the most popular ones. These instruments are usually made of wood and have strings attached. They produce such an amazing impact that can leave behind most other instruments pretty easily.

No doubt most people want to make their career playing some type of stringed instrument.

The two most popular instruments in this category are guitar and bass. They look quite similar and yet are two completely different music devices. We shall first get to learn a bit about both and then draw a comparison.

What Is A Bass?

Video: “The Role of the Bass in Music | StudyBass”

Bass is an instrument that is usually over-looked in musical groups. Audience members generally do not even know what a bass is. Yet, the fact cannot be denied, that a bass is one of the most important instruments in every group.

You will hardly ever come across a band that does not have any bass player. If you have decided to learn to play this instrument, be happy, as you have a promising career ahead.

The Roles of a Bass Player

Usually, a bass has two basic and important functions to perform in a group or a band.

  • Bass offers the rhythmic foundation
  • Bass offers the harmonic foundation

What is The Rhythmic Foundation?

The steady pulse of the music is the rhythmic foundation. It is the responsibility of a skilled bassist to support their group by offering a steady pulse that feels amazing.

Any music that is enjoyed by people always has a steady beat or a rhythm to it. And, this is what a bassist always has to take care of.

If a drummer is present in the group, they too help in creating the pulse. But, do not think that it is the task of a drummer to produce the pulse and that you are there only for the sake of it. Your rhythm sense needs to be great and not influenced by anyone else present in the group.

In fact, every member needs to have an independent good rhythm even when they play together.

As a bassist, you must give maximum attention to your rhythmic skills. Your selection of notes will not be that important. If you have your notes in the incorrect place rhythmically, it never is going to sound good.

What is The Harmonic Foundation?

There are still some people who understand that bass players offer the right rhythm. But, most people are not aware of the fact that they also serve another important function. They also support the harmony.

Harmony basically means together. In the case of music, when different notes are played together at a time then that is harmony. At times, just one person, like a pianist or guitarist, can create this type of harmony.

Other times, many people like a rock band, barbershop quartet, or an orchestra, together create this kind of harmony.

Every bass player plays a crucial role in how we shall hear harmonies. Whenever we hear many notes playing together, we listen to them in relation to the lowest sounding pitch, which is the bass note.

It is the second and equally important job of a bass player to define the harmony properly by application of the right fundamental notes.

Pros and Cons of Bass

Just like every other musical instrument, a bass too has its own share of pros and cons. And, we shall learn about them right away.

  • Bass is one of the most important instruments in every band. If a song does not have bass, it will not likely sound right ever.
  • There are many types of bass guitars available to choose from. You can select from the 4, 5, or 6 string instruments.
  • With bass, you can easily improvise and play an active role in the creation of a song.
  • You can easily find tabs for your bass guitars.
  • As the strings present on bass are bigger to offer the right tone, players may need to work hard to make their fingers strong.
  • Even the neck of the bass is pretty long. So, using a full-size bass can prove to be difficult for those musicians who have a smaller frame.

What Is A Guitar?

Video: “Basic Guitar Physics or How the Guitar Really Works”

A guitar is a chordophone or a plucked string instrument that produces sound by the vibration of its strings. Though most guitars have 6 strings, there are also those that come with as many as 18 strings. Traditionally, a guitar is made of wood and the strings are of steel, nylon, or gut.

If you plan to learn to play the guitar you first need to aware of the role of a guitar player.

The Roles of a Guitar Player

The roles of a guitar in both popular and classic music are immensely versatile. This is why it is one of the most rewarding and exciting instruments to learn. There are basically two important guitar roles – lead and rhythm. Let us get to learn about both of these.

The Role of a Lead Guitar

The lead guitar is basically the center of any musical piece. This part generally is single notes but may be reinforced by chords as well. Below is mentioned the different parts lead guitarists can play.

The Melody

In instrumental music, it is very common for the lead guitarist to play the melody. The guitar, generally, will be accompanied by some secondary lead instrument, like a saxophone or keyboard. This too plays the melody.

If a singer is also present then the lead guitarist may play a melody during the outro and intro of the songs.

A Counter-Melody

The counter melody is a sequence of notes, considered as a melody. It is played concurrently with a prominent lead melody.


Solos are played throughout any song. They are the center of interest and can be composed beforehand or improvised.


Fills are basically short solos that are peppered throughout any composition.

The Role of a Rhythm Guitar

Rhythm guitar is a term that describes the kinds of accompaniment that a guitarist plays. The different parts a guitarist can play have been mentioned below.

A Pad

This is a special effect that is created when a note or chord is struck and even sustained. Wind instruments, organ, or piano generally play pads. However, rhythm guitarists also can do so.

A Comping Part

This refers to a rhythm or pattern of chords. The chord may be played as arpeggio or at once. The effect can completely be percussive if the strings are muted. It is very common to have many rhythm guitarists play the complementary comping parts.

A Riff

These are just repeated musical ideas, called licks. Riffs are generally catchy and short.

Pros and Cons of Guitar

Before we move towards the guitar vs bass comparison, let us first discover the pros and cons of a guitar.

  • Though bass offers more freedom in any song, in case it is a solo, it goes generally to a lead guitarist.
  • There are many different styles of guitars that you can choose from. The choices are almost endless.
  • A guitar has smaller strings so it does not require much finger strength to learn to play it.
  • You can easily find tabs for music.
  • The guitar is a rhythmic instrument as much as is a lead instrument. So, one has to learn lots of chord shapes.
  • There are always many guitar players around so it will not be easy to get a gig.

Guitar vs Bass

Let us now compare both these instruments and learn how they are common and what makes them different.

What do they share in common?

  • Both of these are popular musical instruments and play a very important role in any live show.
  • The chords, music theory, and scales that you will learn on one will carry over to the other. Both of these instruments are directly related.
  • Both guitar and bass are available in different variations. For example, there are 5- and 6-string basses and there are 7- and 8-string guitars

How are they different?

  • Bass guitar plays notes an octave lower compared to a guitar.
  • The strings of a guitar are smaller than that of a bass, and thus easier to handle.
  • Bass guitar traditionally plays a supportive role. A guitar plays supportive as well as solos.


To conclude this guitar vs bass comparison it can be said that both these instruments are amazing in their own ways. Both look similar and helps produce great music. But, as you already now know, a guitar and bass have different roles to play.

You first need to decide what kind of role you are interested in. This will make it a lot easier for you to select between a guitar and a bass. But remember, no matter which one you choose, you have to be very dedicated and practice a lot. Only then will you be able to make your presence felt in the world of music.

Juan Stansbury
Juan Stansbury

I'm Juan Stansbury, author and owner of Homerecordio – your ultimate destination for everything about homerecording. With hands-on experience, courses, workshops, and industry research, I offer tips on selecting the best equipment, and mixing and mastering your recordings to achieve professional-quality results at home. Join me on this journey to explore the world of homerecording and music production.

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