Alan has played guitar since 1995 . . . mostly acoustic Fenders.
Getting Started on Bass
I think that a bass guitar is much easier to play than a standard six string guitar. A lot of bass players might not like that answer, but I am speaking from experience. To be more specific, and to avoid the wrath of bassists around the world, I am simply referring to getting started on the instrument. Actually mastering the bass takes a lot of practice, dedication, and definitely a love of making music.
A bass guitar is not only physically easier to learn, it is also much less complex musically. Both of these characteristics make the bass much easier to start playing than a standard six string guitar.
Strings Are the Key
If you are reading this, then you probably already know that a bass guitar typically has four heavy gauge strings. The strings are much thicker than those on a standard six string guitar. This means that the strings will not hurt the tips of your fingers nearly as much. The thin strings on a standard guitar tend to dig into the fingertips of a beginner in a very painful way.
This fingertip pain is, without a doubt, the largest hurdle when it comes to starting out on a regular guitar. Even with lots of practice, it can take months to develop the calluses necessary to properly fret guitar strings. This is not really as big of an issue with the bass. Your fingers will toughen up enough to play the bigger strings much quicker.
Amazing Bass Solo
No Chords Required
Unlike a standard six string guitar, you do not play chords on a bass. A bassist normally plays only notes to create a backing rhythm. Learning to play notes is not necessarily easy, but it is much easier than learning a textbook full of complicated chord shapes. You will never be able to play much on a standard guitar without learning at least a few chords.
Learning the location of all the notes on a bass is not very hard. It is mostly involves studying how the notes progress on each string, and memorizing their locations on the fretboard. Some people may not realize that the four strings of a bass are tuned to the same notes as the top four strings of a standard guitar. So if playing a standard guitar is your ultimate goal, the bass can be a great place to start.
I personally wanted to start playing guitar about twenty-five years ago. I got an acoustic six string for my birthday, and I practiced with it for weeks. I became very frustrated with the pain in my fingertips and what seemed like very complex chord structures. I finally gave up and began searching for a different instrument to try. A friend of mine recommended the bass, probably because he was a bassist and had a used instrument for sale. Buying that bass turned out to be the best thing I could have done.
Within two or three weeks I was playing songs on that old bass, and I was very happy with my results. A few months later, with tougher fingers and a much better understanding of the fretboard, I picked that acoustic guitar back up. As I recall, my progress seemed to come much easier with just a little bass experience under my belt. Now, decades later, the standard six string guitar is my primary instrument, but I still love to play bass as well.
Differences in Bass and Guitar
|Standard Guitar||Bass Guitar|
Thin, Light Gauge
Thick, Heavy Gauge
Typical # of Strings
Chords and Notes
Typical Band Role
Rhythm and Lead
Difficulty to Learn
Bass Is Bigger
I should probably point out that a bass guitar is slightly larger than a standard six string. This results in a longer fretboard with a little more space between frets. You will have to stretch a bit further, but it also gives you plenty of room to get centered between the frets. In my opinion, playing the bass increases hand strength quickly because the fretboard is larger.
A Bass Is Still a Guitar
So if you are interested in learning to play guitar, consider the bass. After all, it is still a guitar. It is just a little easier to get started on the basics. If a standard six string is your final goal, the bass guitar can be a great stepping stone towards that. Who knows, you might just fall in love with the bass and never look back.