Can You Play Bass if You Know Guitar? Explained

play bass if you know guitar

Are you tired of playing guitar and do you want to start playing bass? Or maybe you are learning guitar and you want to know if you can play bass if you know guitar?

Although you might be able to play bass if you know guitar the skills required to play both instruments are different.

In this guide, we will go over some of the most common questions about playing bass if you know guitar.

If you know how to play guitar can you play bass?

Yes, guitar players can often play bass as well. However, the techniques required for each instrument are different. Guitar players will often rely on a pick to hit the strings, and although some bass players also use picks it is a lot more common to play with the fingers.

If you have a good fingerstyle technique on the guitar you might be able to play the bass with the fingers easily. Although guitar and bass finger techniques are different, knowing one will allow you to be better at playing both instruments.

Another aspect to consider is that guitars have 6 strings, while most basses have 4 strings. This means that most of the chords you are used to playing on the guitar need to be adjusted on the bass. 

You can also consider getting a 6 string bass which is in many ways similar to a guitar.

You will also need to adapt your style of playing from the guitar to the bass. Guitar players tend to focus on chords, and solos, bass is a completely different instrument. 

Most bass players just play the root notes of a chord, to provide the harmonic foundation for a band, whereas guitar can be played in a variety of ways to create a multitude of sounds. 

Is it hard to switch from guitar to bass?

To switch from guitar to bass you need to be able to adjust to a few changes:

  • Most bases only have 4 strings
  • Bass strings are heavier than guitar strings
  • The bass neck is longer than the guitar
  • You will also need to learn bass finger techniques

Most bases only have 4 strings

As a guitar player, one of the first things you need to adapt when transitioning to bass is that most basses only have 4 strings. While most guitars have 6 strings, in the beginning, you might find yourself looking for those lower B and E strings.

While this might be a challenge when you initially switch from guitar to bass, you will easily get used to it. Additionally, you can also consider getting a 5 or even 6-string bass. This will make the transition easier.

Bass strings are heavier than guitar strings

You will also notice that bass strings tend to be much heavier and thick than guitar strings. They also will feel a little wobbly. You will have to adjust to it, and you will need to pressure the strings harder to make sure you hit the note correctly.

This takes a little practice to get used to, and it is not uncommon when you first start playing the bass to get wrist pain. This is because you need to pressure the strings harder.

The bass neck is longer than the guitar

There is also a large difference between the neck of a guitar and a bass. The bass neck tends to be a lot longer, with wider frets. This can make it difficult for guitar players with smaller hands to adjust.

Your hands also need to move around the fretboard faster, because the distance between each fret is longer. You need to give it at least a week before you finally adapt to the long neck.

You will also need to learn bass finger techniques

Finally, if you are starting to play the bass and you know the guitar, you need to start learning bass finger techniques. This includes bass plucking, which is one of the most basic bass fingerstyle techniques, as well as start experimenting with some of the most advanced like slapping.

If you already have a solid guitar fingerstyle technique you should have no problem mastering some of the basic bass techniques. Give it at least two weeks before you look and sound like a professional bass player.

Is bass hard for guitar players?

If a guitar player has experience playing fingerstyle guitar, it can be easy to transition to bass. However, if they are used to playing mostly with a guitar pick, it might take a few weeks or a month or two to be able to learn all the bass techniques.

Is bass easy if you play guitar?

While most guitar players will find it easy to start playing the bass, they still need a period to adjust completely. Especially to learn new techniques, and adapt their fingerstyle from the guitar to the bass.

Can most guitar players play bass?

Yes, most guitar players can play bass. However, most of them will feel the urge to use a pick when playing the bass. Although you can do this, to get the best bass tone and the right dynamic playing you need to develop bass finger techniques.

You also notice a big difference in the tone of the bass player with the fingers and with a pick.

Can all guitar players play bass?

While most guitar players will be able to noodle around in a bass, not every guitar player will be able to adapt completely right off the bat. Playing any instrument requires practice, and you need to learn different techniques in order to be able to sound good.

Bass is no different, and even if you are an experienced guitar player it might still be difficult to play the bass at an advanced level.

Is bass easier to play than guitar?

Yes and no. Let’s be honest, the guitar is more difficult than the bass. To start off you have 2 additional strings, and you will need to learn and practice a lot more on the guitar to be able to play live gigs. 

You need to know how to make different chords, and transitions, and if you are playing lead guitar you still need to learn solos and how to improvise.

Basslines tend to be a lot more simple since they focus on the root note of the chord. Most rock and pop bass players do not use complicated chord voicings, or exotic scalers, they focus on creating the foundation for the song.

In many ways, this is simpler than playing guitar. However, this does not mean that you do not have a lot of amazing bass players that completely eclipse some well-known guitar players.

Let’s take the example of Victor Wooten, which is perhaps one of the most outstanding bass players. Most of his techniques and skills are very difficult to replicate, and he also has extensive knowledge of music theory.

Every instrument can be mastered in a different way, and that does not mean that is better or worse than the other one.

Are bass and guitar chords the same?

Yes, in theory, guitar and bass chords are the same. But you should keep a few things in mind:

  • Most basses only have 4 strings
  • Most bass players rarely play chords
  • Strumming chords on a guitar is not the same as a bass

Most basses only have 4 strings

Perhaps the biggest difference when playing chords on a guitar vs a bass is that most basses only have 4 strings. For that reason, you will only be able to play the same chords on a guitar and bass as long as they only use the lower 4 strings. 

You can adapt some chord voicing to be played on a 4-string bass, or you can buy a 5 or 6-string bass that resembles a guitar.

Most bass players rarely play chords

It is rare for bass players to play chords since most basslines only include individual notes. However, playing chords on bass will not have the same sound as a guitar. Since the bass accentuates lower frequencies playing a chord on bass can often have a strange sound. 

Strumming chords on a guitar is not the same as a bass

Strumming chords is one of the most common ways for guitar players to create harmony. However, bass players rarely use strumming. To start bassists do not use picks, and basslines are usually focused around the root note and single notes.

Can you strum a bass?

Yes, you can strum a bass, however, the sound will be nothing like a guitar. On one hand, some bass players will rarely strum their basses. Only for a certain song, or when they want to accentuate notes or a chord.

When you strum a bass the sound tends to be very muddy, and weird. This is because bass strings are heavier and they also tend to be wobblier. Additionally, the low frequencies the bass produce are not very dynamic when it comes to chords, specifically strumming.

Will playing bass improve my guitar playing?

Yes, although this is a very debated topic there is a strong case to be made in favor of playing bass to develop your guitar playing.

It should be said that if you are trying to become a better guitar player you should focus solely on practicing guitar. However, playing the bass can be a great way to get musical inspiration. 

It also allows you to understand how your band’s bassist is playing, and even incorporate some bass techniques into your own guitar playing.

Understanding basslines and how they are played and composed can also be a great way to make your solos and compositions more groovy.

Are bass players failed guitar players?

No, the bass is a unique instrument that also happens to be a string instrument. However, the techniques required to be a good bass player are in many ways different than playing guitar. 

Although it is common for guitar players to start playing the bass because their bands need a bass player, or because it is easier, that does not mean that they are failed, guitar players.

There are also plenty of musicians who happen to be excellent bass players, and their love for the instrument allows them to constantly get better.


While playing guitar can be an advantage when start playing bass you will still need to develop a lot of basic bass techniques that are required to master the instrument.

Guitar players certainly have an edge if they are learning how to play bass, but knowing how to play guitar does not automatically make you a good bass player.

Remember to start by learning the basics, and practice to develop your skills.

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