Bass Guitar vs Electric Bass – 2021 Review

Craig
| Last Updated: March 16, 2021

Probably every teenager wanted to play the guitar at some point.

But, in reality, many people will struggle to tell a difference between electric bass and electric guitar.

But, while they look very similar, their sound and the role they have in the song structure are very different. Let’s find out more!

What is an Electric Bass and What Genres is it Used For? 

Electric bass guitar is used everywhere these days. It has become such a standard that you don’t have to emphasize the word electric at all. It’s used as a foundation of every modern song and it’s one of those elements you may probably feel missing only. 

It’s quite rare to find a genre where it can’t fit or do better than other instruments. Yes, other instruments such as synthesizers or even piano, organ, or Rhodes can substitute the electric bass for a specific song, but it will be hard to find someone who would object to having a real electric bass guitar instead.

When Was the Electric Bass Invented?

Electric bass is a younger instrument than an electric guitar. After World War II, life restarted and one of the main lifestyle events were modern big bands which were getting bigger, louder, and more professional. This required certain changes to double bass instruments as it was getting problematic in both sound and transport logistics.

That’s why Leo Fender has rewritten the world of modern music and instead of playing it upright designed an electric bass guitar that heavily relied on the electric guitar shape - Fender Precision. Soon after the good reception, he made another bass guitar to make the transition easier from the double bass, Fender Jazz Bass. This bass guitar had a bit cleaner and softer tone that resembled the sound of the original double bass better.

How Many Strings on an Electric Bass?

The typical electric bass has 4 steel-made strings with different wiring materials such as nickel or stainless steel. It also comes in 5 string or 6 string options and some experimental models are coming with more strings including the infamous Chapman Stick.

What Key is Electric Bass In?

Usually, the electric bass guitar is tuned in the E with strings tuned in perfect fourths. In the case of 5-strings, the additional low B string is added above the E string while the 6 string bass guitar adds to the bottom, the high C string.

Some may experiment with drop D tunings to get more low-end from a regular 4 bass string though.

What Does an Electric Bass Sound Like?

Electric bass guitar generates a sound that could be described the best as playing low short notes on a piano or perhaps that low-key male vocals from be-boop vocal bands.

What is an Electric Guitar and What Genres is it Best For?

Electric guitar is a string instrument made out of solid wood. Unlike acoustic guitar, it doesn’t have a soundhole that utilizes air space and it uses steel strings (instead of nylon) and magnetic pickups to produce a sound by capturing the string vibrations.

When you say guitar it’s usually rock, punk, or heavy metal that you think of. But, a lot of different genres use the guitar as well - jazz, blues, soul, or funk. 80’s pop music was relying heavily on guitar sound as well and even nowadays there are pop songs that use it as an important instrument. We dare to say that the whole of 20-century commercial music was heavily influenced by this instrument.

When Was the Electric Guitar Invented?

It was invented as a solution for guitarists who wanted to play a lead in big bands and couldn’t get in front because of all other instruments' sounds combined.

And while the people relate to the Fender Telecaster and Gibson Les Paul of the 1950s, the first electric guitar prototype that resembled the look of the real guitar was made in 1936. There were some other prototypes made before.

How Many Strings On An Electric Guitar?

Most electric guitars have six strings. Some models come with seven or eight strings and those can have additional lower strings very useful for heavier music.

What Key is Electric Guitar In?

The standard tuning is in the E key so that the highest note is exactly one octave higher from the lowest. There is an easy way to memorize all the tuning of the EBGDAE - just remember the phrase “Every Boy Gets Donuts After Eating” and use the capital letters.

But, apart from the E key, it’s not so rare that guitarists use different tunings such as drop D or open E that change a single string tuning or many other unorthodox approaches such as DADGAD or open C6.

On the other hand, as heavy metal guitars require more power in the low-end players often decide to tune down the whole instrument even for two notes while keeping the string position the same (changing note E into C, B into G, and so on).

What Does an Electric Guitar Sound Like?

In general, if you remove all the effects (overdrive, distortion) its sound may resemble an acoustic guitar but thinner due to the nature of the electric guitar strings gauges. 

Bass Guitar vs Electric Bass 

Okay, so now that you have a bass guitar and electric guitar in front of you, you may notice some obvious elements. But what else might be in there? We’re about to address you with the most important aspects of both instruments and try to aid you further with your choice:

Electric Guitar and Bass Similarities

Both instruments play by using the fretboard. Yes, the bass guitar has a bit longer fretboard.

Fretboard Notation

Both instruments play by using the fretboard. Yes, the bass guitar has a bit longer fretboard and the frets might be larger but the concept is pretty much the same - you press the string at the specific fret position and the tone is produced. 

Once you learn to play the guitar or bass you may apply the same notation and scales to other instruments and shift within a second.

Body Shape and Material

As we already said, the first commercial bass guitar was made upon the Fender Stratocaster model. That’s why there is no big difference between the shapes of those two instruments. Ibanez went even a step further and decided to make their standard bass guitar necks as wide as electric guitars and this is why so many guitarists prefer Ibanez bass guitars.

Electric Guitar and Bass Differences 

Besides obvious differences such as the number of the strings or headstock size, here are some other important differences between these instruments:

Playing Techniques

Usually, you would use fingers for bass guitar and picks on electric guitar.

But, for some genres where fast playing techniques are required, the pick can be used on a bass guitar as well, too. Fingerstyle playing on an electric guitar is not that common and there are only a few music genres that prefer this type of playing, such as jazz.

Needless to say, other playing techniques differences are also present, so you should slap or pop only on a bass guitar while string bending is much more appropriate on a guitar. And, of course, whammy bar or tremolo is something that is found on electric guitars only and it’s very useful for playing solo parts.

Music virtuosos who love to play fast and technically demanding parts are usually much more oriented towards electric guitars. 

Sound

Bass guitar produces a sound that is oriented towards the low end. Sometimes it’s not what you hear from the bass, it’s more what you feel. Bass guitar gives your track that feel of thickness that you notice only when it’s missing. It’s what makes everyone’s head nod. 

The bass guitar sound is often described as clean and punchy. They are not so keen on effects such as reverb, delay - even drive pedals are rarely used.

On the other hand, the electric guitar sound is what makes people go wild. It can sound both low and high but most of the time it’s focused in the mid spectrum providing your track with either rhythm or lead sound. 

Versatility

Electric guitar is a much more versatile instrument than a bass guitar. While the bass is used to build a strong foundation of every song, an electric guitar can do a lot of different things. 

It can be used both as an important song element or a special track that will spice up the mix. It can be used for themes, rhythm, percussive tracks, or even create some special effects as there are a bunch of effect processors in the form of stompbox, racks, or pedals made for electric guitar. With the current list of software, options might be endless for electric guitar.

Weight and Size

Bass guitars are larger than electric guitars. This form factor makes guitars more appealing for kids and also, due to the string gauge requires less effort to produce a tone.

But, in case you’re not physically considered as a big guy or girl, and still want to play a bass perhaps you should know that there are short-scale bass guitar models made for people just like you.

Price

While the initial price for the instrument might be similar, the real fun starts when you invest in effects and other external equipment. Also, you may use one bass guitar for most of your gigs, while sooner or later you may feel that you need another guitar because of a different pickup setup.

Top Pick Between Bass Guitar and Electric Bass

So, should you pick a bass guitar or electric guitar? It depends on your mindset because the personality behind these instruments varies a lot. 

If it feels natural to you to stand in front and take a lead, then an electric guitar is a better choice. The Bass guitar role may feel unnatural if you have that “urge” in you. 

Also, the good side of being a guitarist is that you can team up with another guitar player within a band and collaborate. But, playing those tasty and memorable licks and building that sweet tone we all love requires a lot of practice and experience.

However, being a leader is not for everyone. It takes a lot of work, devotion, and responsibility. That’s why sometimes it is completely fine to be “a sidekick”.

It’s safe to say that most bass players are mostly team players. They are still incredibly important for song structure as they form a song beat along with the drummer, but their role is not to stand out in front like guitar players or singers. They also have that unpleasant position to hold all the strings in a band together that only a few will notice. 

But, once you make a mistake, everyone will notice that something went wrong. You may find out that wrong notes played in the low end are just much more audible than guitar skips or mistakes. That’s exactly why musicians all across the globe appreciate reliable and good bass players, sometimes even more than guitarists. No guitarist can replace the real bass player.

And looking from the point of your musical career, you will need much less time to become a fully operational bass player than a guitarist. We should point out that if you’re looking to find a band there are always like four guitarists to one bass player available, so your chances might be a lot better if you go with the bass guitar. 

It may sound cold, but the best way to get some musical experience is to go out and play.

Once you gather the experience you may easily shift to an electric guitar if you feel so. It’s not like you’re married for one instrument for the rest of your life and as those two instruments share the playing concept, it’s not so rare to find that a musician ends up learning both electric guitar and bass guitar.

Conclusion 

So, bass guitar or electric guitar, whatever you decide to play you can be sure that those instruments are here to stay and will be essential in all modern live music genres.

People Also Ask

The questions about bass and guitars are endless. It’s impossible to cover them all within one article, so we’ll try to pick a few most important, define for you the expected price range, and also explain a bit more about other instrument types you may stumble upon:

What’s the First Song Recorded with Electric Guitar and Bass?

First song ever recorded on electric guitar that resembles the tone and the look of the modern guitars is Eddie Durham’s “Hittin' the Bottle'' from 1935. 

As for bass guitar, the first track that included the sound of the electric bass was Day The Earth Stood Still from 1951.

Should I Learn Bass and Guitar?

If you’re interested in songwriting, learning more than one instrument is always a good thing and bass and guitar share the same “language”.

By learning any specific instrument you’re expanding your mindset as you understand how a certain instrument behaves and, eventually, it all leads to making your songs sound more professional.

Is Bass Easier Than Electric Guitar?

For the majority of players, it could be so. While you can be a virtuoso on a bass guitar, usually you would keep it cool and since there will be no need for you to play chords we can understand why it feels easier to learn it. But, bear in mind that it takes a lot of devotion to master it.

Are Bass and Guitar Chords the Same?

Yes, the chords are the same on both instruments. It’s just that the bass is tuned one octave lower, and the bass strings are tuned exactly like the first four strings of the electric guitar. But, due to the nature of its sound, you won’t play more than one note so often.

Can An Electric Guitar Be Played Like An Acoustic?

While electric guitar can’t be audible like an acoustic due to its solid body design, it can be played like an acoustic guitar. You can even practice without plugging it in to some reasonable extent.

But, if you’re looking for some middle ground, consider hollow body guitars instead.

Do You Need an Amp For an Electric Bass?

While it’s not mandatory, it's a pretty much-recommended setup. Nowadays there are so many software included which can substitute the need for a real amp, but you would still need a proper pair of headphones. And even then, nothing beats the real big woofer from your bass amp.

Is It Hard To Switch From Acoustic To Electric Guitar?

It takes some time to adapt, but, generally, it’s not the playing technique that will bother you most - it’s the mindset. It requires a bit of a different approach and there is a time you need to invest in learning how to create a tone for your electric guitar.

Are Acoustic Basses Any Good?

While they may not be versatile as electric bass, they might be useful for practicing purposes and some unplugged events. But, from our experience, most acoustic basses will still need some sort of amplification if you want to play it along with some other acoustic guitar.

What Is an Acoustic-Electric Guitar?

Acoustic-electric guitar has the shape of an acoustic guitar plus an additional pickup set either beneath bridge position or inside of the soundhole combined with the preamp. This allows you to play it on larger venues using amps or PA speakers or record it in the studio.

What Is a Fretless Bass?

Most bass guitars have frets on their fingerboard which are simply indicators of specific tones. But, just like a violin, there is a special bass guitar without any frets that excels in making a unique sound of gliding between tones. It requires a bit of practice to master it but the outcome is more than worth it.

What Is a Hollow Body Guitar?

Hollow body guitar is an electric guitar that is heavily used in jazz and blues with no wood inside the body. It has a much cleaner and mellow sound and acoustically it’s louder thanks to the f-shaped holes on the top. Classic rock from the ’50s and ’60s was heavily relying on semi-hollow guitars.

How Much Does a Bass Guitar Cost?

Basic bass guitars can be found even for $100 and it can go up to $5,000. However, a range between $300 and $750 will be good enough for most users, especially thanks to the Fender Squier and Ibanez Bass series which excels in making excellent budget bass guitar instruments.

How Much Does an Electric Guitar Cost?

The range is pretty much the same as we said about the bass guitar - newbies can find an instrument for $100 while the most will be satisfied with a guitar around $400-$500.

However, the differences between various electric guitars are much more distinctive, so it takes proper music genre-based research.

Craig

Hi there, my name is Craig. I took over Gear Savvy in mid-2019 and have had a blast writing content about music ever since. My role here is to steer the ship and ensure readers have the best information available for learning a thing or two. When I’m not working on content, I’m a husband and a dad. I enjoy spending time with my family, playing guitar, or messing around in my woodshop.