The simplest difference between guitar and bass guitar is the pitch range of the instruments. Bass guitar plays notes an octave lower than a regular guitar. Think of the song ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by Queen. The first few notes you hear are the sound of the bass guitar. In fact, that is the sound of the lowest note on the most common type of bass guitar.
The next difference is the role the instruments play in a group. Traditionally, bass guitar plays a supportive role along with the drummer to create the pulse of the music and set the music's foundation. Think again of that Queen song and how you can immediately tap your foot to the music. That’s a large part of what a bassist does.
Guitar, with its higher range, also plays a supportive role and solos are more common on guitar. Traditionally guitar is a bit more out front and in the spotlight. But, the bass is very critical in a band. You will see many bands without guitarists and without drummers, but not many without a bass player. That should tell you the importance of the bass guitar in a band. Furthermore, the bass still has all the same possibilities as the guitar. You can solo and play many things like a guitarist does. It’s just not the traditional role the bass plays and what people often want from a bass player.
Musician's Friend asked me and several other bassists How did you get into bass guitar? You might find it interesting how there are so many unique paths leading to playing bass.
Next: Is bass easy?
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