It doesn’t take too long for the new guitar player with aspirations of playing in a band to realize that there are generally more gigs available to bass players than there are to guitar players. One reason for that is purely in the numbers. Scientifically speaking, for every one bass player on the planet, there are about a zillion guitar players! Okay, that may not be an official count, but you get the idea. Us guitar players are a dime a dozen. We’re everywhere you turn. But good bass players – and I reiterate, “good” bass players – are much fewer in numbers. Why are “good” bass players harder to find? One big reason is that many so called “bass players” are actually nothing more than converted former guitar players.
This is the guitar player that sees the amount of competition for “guitar” band gigs, and then sees the availability of “bass” gigs and says – “I think I’ll become a bass player”!
Unfortunately this often results in a “frustrated” guitar player that eventually becomes a “frustrated” bass player.
Why? Because playing guitar, and playing bass, are two totally different animals. Simply put, the frustrated guitar player usually assumes that knowing how to play guitar means that you automatically know how to play bass… Wrong.
There are fundamental and practical differences in playing guitar, verses playing bass that you need to be aware of if you are thinking of “converting”.
1. The “mindset” of a real bass player is completely different than that of a guitar player. Whereas, the guitar player is focused on rhythmical patterns based on melodies, as well as solos – the bass player (in a band situation) is responsible, along with the drummer, for carrying the “bottom end” of the music. This is a huge difference.
2. The bass player often plays single notes, usually based on the root note of the chord being played by the guitar or keyboard. Conversely, the guitarist will often be playing or strumming multi note chords.
3. Musically speaking, bass lines serve as the foundation of the song. The bass player works in close conjunction with the drummer to lay a solid foundation, and bass lines often follow the “kick” drum to solidify that foundation.
Simply put, the guitar could be considered the “icing on the cake” – while the bass might be considered “the cake”.
4. Bass guitar requires a different course of study in terms of music theory and notation.
5. The equipment that the bassist uses is different than that of a guitarist. Bass guitars generally have less strings (4 or 5 in most cases), and the strings are a much heavier gauge than a standard guitar. This is what produces the low pitch bass sound.
Because of the low frequencies that a bass produces, a bass guitar should be played through a bass amplifier that is designed to handle the load. These amps typically are of a higher wattage than most guitar amps, and have speakers designed to handle bass frequencies.
The conversion of a guitar player to a bass player is much more common than you might imagine. And if this is something you are considering then this article is not meant to discourage you. Only to make you aware that guitar and bass should be treated as two totally separate entities. Don’t assume that because you can play one that you can easily play the other.
However, if you truly have a desire and passion to learn how to play the bass guitar devote yourself to it 100% and approach it from a completely separate angle than you do your guitar studies. Do this and they’ll be calling you for “bass player wanted” gigs before you know it!