Electric guitars and bass guitars seem extremely similar. Both of these instruments have very similar dimensions and shapes, and they even have similar names. How different are these instruments? Are there any noticeable or significant differences between electric guitar and bass?
The truth is that there are some similarities between these two instruments, but they are, in fact, completely different. These instruments do not sound the same, nor are they played in the same way. Let’s identify and explore some of the major differences between the electric guitar and the bass guitar.
1. Electric Guitars Have Smaller Dimensions
The very first noticeable difference between the electric guitar and the bass guitar is the size difference between the two instruments.
If you have never held each of these instruments for yourself, you may not be fully aware of their scale, but the electric guitar is significantly smaller and lighter than the bass guitar.
Bass guitars have fewer strings than electric guitars, but the instrument has to be much larger and far more robust due to the nature of the strings that the instrument uses.
The bass uses much thicker strings, which requires the instrument to have a longer scale length, which is the playable length of the strings. This longer scale length necessitated by the thicker strings means that the instrument has to be longer and larger.
The longer and larger size of the bass allows the strings to be held in tension, allowing them to be tuned and played well. The strings that the guitar uses do not require as much tension, and thus the instrument can be made significantly smaller than the bass.
This is the first and most obvious difference between the two instruments, but there are many others to identify and explore.
2. Bass Strings Are Much Heavier Gauge
We have already eluded to the fact that the bass guitar has significantly thicker strings than those on the electric guitar, but this is another important difference that must be explored further.
Electric guitars are usually equipped with six strings. This is the standard string configuration, and the strings are tuned to the notes E A D G B E, covering three octaves between them.
These strings are made to various gauges, but the most common string sets range from 0.010” gauge to 0.046” gauge.
By comparison, the bass guitar is typically equipped with four strings, but these strings are most commonly in the gauge range of 0.045” to 0.105”, which is significantly thicker than electric guitar strings. The thinnest bass string is almost as thick as the heaviest guitar string.
These strings are also tuned E A D G, the same as the top four strings on the guitar, but the strings are tuned a full octave lower than those on the electric guitar.
3. Electric Guitar Has A Wider Note Range
The scale length, tuning, and gauge of the strings that these instruments use determine the note range that the instrument is capable of producing.
As indicated by its name, the bass guitar can produce notes in the bass frequency range, which is far lower than the range of the electric guitar. The electric guitar can produce notes that are much higher than is possible on the bass guitar.
There is some overlap between the possible notes on the bass and the electric guitar, but the fact that the electric guitar has six strings rather than four as standard means that it has a wider range and can produce more notes than the bass guitar.
4. Different Number Of Strings
The electric guitar is typically a six-string instrument, but there are variations that have seven, eight, or nine strings as well. There are some variations that have more than nine strings, but these are specialized instruments.
There are electric guitars with twelve strings, but these are twelve strings arranged in six courses, with each string in each course being an octave apart, and these instruments are played in the same way as regular guitars.
However, standard bass guitars are either four-string or five-string instruments, as five-string bass guitars are considered to be standard as well. There are basses with more strings, but any more than six strings on a bass guitar becomes highly difficult to play well.
5. Electric Guitar And Bass Use Different Playing Techniques
Another important difference between the bass and the electric guitar is the playing techniques that are used on these instruments.
The electric guitar is considered to be a lead instrument, but it can also function in a rhythm role. This instrument is well-known for fast solos and complicated strumming patterns that can be played with a. pick or with fingers.
The electric guitar is a highly versatile instrument that can be played with a great many techniques and methods to achieve several different sounds and tones.
The bass guitar is also highly versatile, but it has a less versatile tonal range. This means that the bass has fewer techniques to use while playing, but there are still many to learn.
Playing the bass is focused on learning finger-picking techniques, popping, slapping, and strumming, while the guitar has many more techniques to master.
6. Electric Guitar And Bass Sound Very Different
The overall tone and sound of these instruments are another major difference that sets them apart from each other.
The electric guitar is a very bright, rich, sweet-sounding instrument. Most electric guitar players use a variety of pedals and amplifier effects to change the way the instrument sounds, allowing it to function well in many different genres.
Most bass players use very minimal effects on their bass guitar, but this instrument is known for having a deep, powerful, intense tone that requires much skill from the player to use well.
7. Electric Guitar And Bass Have Different Musical Roles
The role of the instruments in a musical context is another important difference to consider.
The electric guitar is used either as a lead or rhythm instrument but is primarily considered to be a lead instrument that drives the sound of a band or performance forward.
The bass guitar is typically considered to be a rhythm instrument and usually plays in close conjunction with the drums in a band, but it has become a more widely used lead instrument in recent years.
The low-frequency range of the bass makes it better suited as a foundational instrument rather than a lead instrument in a musical ensemble.
Bass guitars and electric guitars are vastly different, even though they fall into the same musical family of strummed and plucked string instruments. The guitar and the bass sound different, they are played differently, and they are used differently in a musical context.
If you really want to find out how different these instruments are, find a way to hold each of them in your hands side by side. Try to play them and compare them to each other, and their many significant difference will become quickly apparent.