Are Bass Guitars Hard to Play?

Written by: Matt Freeman

Bass guitars are a little harder to play than most people think. Bass players are more than just guitarists who have an instrument with two lesser strings. The bass guitar has a different feel, role, and tone. Also, bass guitarists may need to apply techniques and concepts that are quite different from those in a guitar.

Bass guitars play a huge role in all genres of music, especially Jazz and Rock. It is the foundation of the rhythm and tone in a track. It helps weigh music down and brings all the elements together. One question that plagues most artists is whether to start off by learning a guitar or a bass. It is important that you first learn the differences and then decide.

Related: How Important Is The Bass Guitar

The Bass Guitar

two hands holding a bass guitar

The bass guitar determines the feel and tone of the music. The bass, along with the drums, sets off the rhythm in any track. In Jazz and blues music, bass players often find themselves improvising their part and playing whatever feels right to them.

Where the electric guitar includes six strings, a standard bass guitar has only four. Furthermore, a bass guitar is slightly larger than an average guitar. The guitar has a standard tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E) while the bass has a similar tuning but only includes the four lowest strings (E-A-D-G).

In fact, most artists consider the two almost similar. One of the differences is that the notes are one octave down in terms of the pitch in a bass guitar. Another difference is that you can’t play chords on a bass guitar like you can with a standard guitar. Most guitarists can probably tune the pitch lower on their guitar to get a similar effect.

Is the Bass Guitar Right for Me?

Before you start to learn the bass, it is crucial that you decide whether the bass guitar is the right instrument for you. Otherwise, you could end up with new gear that probably cost a lot and is practically useless.

If you consider yourself to be quite unconventional and if you enjoy being a part of the team rather than individual stardom, then the bass guitar is perfect for you. Most artists deem them as the understated foundation. It is also perfect for those who enjoy the rhythm of the music more than the melody.

We highly recommend that you first rent out the equipment before buying a new one. Or you can try borrowing a bass guitar from a friend. This way you can get the feel of the music and learn what playing it is all about.

Four, Five, or Six-String Bass Guitars - Which One to Choose?

Although we stated before that bass guitars have 4 strings, this is not always the case. A bass player has a wide variety of choice to choose from. They can easily purchase a bass guitar with 4, 5, or 6 strings. As you might have guessed, the only difference is the availability of more notes.

These additional notes can be on either end of the spectrum, i.e. you might get two notes on the higher scale or the lower scale. For example, a 5-string guitar may be tuned as such either B-E-A-D-G or E-A-D-G-B.

Additional notes may seem enticing or even intimidating. For beginners, we highly recommend going with the traditional 4-string bass guitar.

Is It Easy or Hard to Play?

The obvious truth is that any musical instrument requires years of dedication and hard work. Whether it is a guitar or the drums, you can’t ever hope to master it without intense training and multiple practice sessions.

One of the major comparisons that beginners find themselves making is the bass vs. the guitar. Which is easier to learn? While it may seem that the bass with its 4 strings may be easier to play, the truth is far from it. You’re forgetting that the bass guitar forms the foundation of the track. It leads the rest of the instruments in terms of rhythm.

This means that you need to develop a strong sense of rhythm to play the bass guitar. Other than that, it can be much easier to play than a regular guitar. This is because you can lay low and as long as you play the right notes, you’re doing your job perfectly. On the other hand, some genres such as Jazz and Blues require you to push more and learn more than just a few notes.

You might find that the bass guitar is harder to play physically since it is larger and includes thick strings. However, learning it is quite easy. You can start off playing a few notes and gradually improve your technique.

Can I Transition to or from a Guitar?

a band using an electric guitar and bass guitar

Since the bass and the guitar are similar, the scales and music theory apply to both the instruments. What you may learn on a guitar, you can easily apply on a bass guitar and vice versa. Whichever one you choose to play first, it is crucial to learn the basics. After that, transitioning to the other instrument is almost always easy.

Pros and Cons of Playing the Bass Guitar

Following are some of the major pros and cons of playing the bass guitar:


  • It is the foundation of all the music and rhythm.
  • It allows you to improvise according to what you feel is right. There are no hard and fast rules for it.
  • The bass guitar is readily available in the markets.
  • It is easier to learn and transition from a guitar.
  • You can choose from various bass guitars based on the number of their strings.


  • Thicker strings on the bass mean you have to have stronger fingers.
  • The bass guitar is larger and heavier than a regular guitar.
  • Also, the neck of the instrument is quite long.
  • Artists with smaller frames might not find the instrument suitable for them.

Parting Notes

All in all, learning the bass guitar requires a lot of practice and hard work. In some aspects, it can be quite easy to play as it has fewer strings. At the same time, some may find it harder as it is larger and heavier. It simply depends on you and how well you can carry a rhythm.

Written By:
Matt is a professional guitar player in a rock band and a private instructor on the side. He actively writes for MSpot sharing his insightful knowledge of the guitar industry.

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