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Bass or Guitar: Choosing Your Instrument

Jun 25, 2008
In music, as with many things, there are rivalries. One of the biggest of these rivalries involves bass players and guitar players. Though both instruments seem rather similar, there are deep differences between them, and even deeper differences in their roles in the band. Guitarists often view bass players as failed guitar players who migrated over to an "easier" instrument. Bass players often view guitar players as egotistical prima donnas, who can't play well with the rest of the band. An epic struggle, to be sure.

In all seriousness, though, both bass and guitar are essential in much of today's music. Additionally, both instruments are as challenging as you could ever wish them to be. There are many technically excellent bass players, and many guitarists with superb rhythm skills. Both instruments would make a great choice for a budding musician to start out with. The question becomes, which one is right for you?

As it turns out, there are several factors you need to be considering when choosing which instrument is best for you. Specifically, you need to consider your own unique skills and interests, in terms of where you feel you fit into the band role. Additionally, there are also some physical considerations to take into account that will affect which instrument is right for you. We will discuss all of these in the upcoming paragraphs.

The most important factor in choosing between guitar and bass is, by far, where you see yourself sitting in the band. Do you want to be out in front, carrying the melodies, and performing solos? Guitar is the instrument for you, then. Do you like to get in tight with the rhythm and fill out the song from the bottom up? Do you want to create the "groove" that gets people dancing? Then you should play the bass. If you're expecting to get a lot of flashy solos as the bass player, you'll most likely be disappointed. Conversely, if you want to provide a solid rhythmic base for the band, the guitarist role won't quite cut it all the time. It's your decision as to which one you prefer doing.

Another factor to consider is the physical size of the instrument. Simply put, the bass is much larger than the guitar. if you have really small hands, you might find the bass a little difficult to play. Conversely, if you have extremely large hands, you might find them getting a little cramped on the guitar fretboard. This shouldn't be your only deciding factor, but its something to think about none the less.

One other thing to consider is supply and demand. There are many, many guitar players out there, and a much smaller number of bass players. Therefore, in any given region, a good bass player will be in high demand. If your goal is to be able to play in as many bands as possible, taking up the bass might be a good choice. However, don't let this difference lead you to choose an instrument thats just flat-out wrong for your needs. You're going to want to choose based on what you like to play, not on what others want. However, it is something good to think about.

One advantage that the guitar clearly has over the bass, however, is its suitability for self accompaniment. You can't really bring a bass to strum by the campfire while you lead a sing-a-long. You can sing and play bass at the same time, for sure, but its not the same as singing with a guitar by a long-shot. Many bass players are OK with this, or simply have an acoustic guitar on the side to play for those spontaneous musical moments.

So, I hope this has helped give you a little insight into what the differences are between guitar and bass players, as well as helped you see where you fit in. Remember, there are many people who play both, and do well at both, so its not like you're making a decision that you'll be locked into for life. Both are wonderful instruments with critical roles in modern music, and you'll certainly have a great time playing either of them.
About the Author
David Wilson enjoys playing both bass and guitar. He invites you to shop for bass gear at Bass Gear Online. Alternatively, if guitar is more your thing, check out my effects pedals shop or my Fender guitar store.
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