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If you are thinking of playing the bass but you only have a guitar amp, and you don’t know if you should plug it in? Or maybe you are looking to experiment with different sounds on your bass and you are considering a guitar amp?
Well in this article we will answer some of the most common questions about using playing bass through a guitar amp.
Can you play a bass through a guitar amp?
Yes, you can play a bass through a guitar amp. However, you need to be aware that the sound will be completely different. Additionally, there are also a few things you should avoid when using bass through a guitar amp.
Why bass amps are different from guitar amps
Bass amps and guitars are different for the main reason – they produce different frequencies. While the basis for any amplifier is similar, they are designed and built with different uses in mind.
While a bass amp is designed to produce lower frequencies and accentuate them, a guitar amp is meant to produce higher frequencies.
This is also reflected in the size of the speakers used in bass and guitar amps, and the output. Guitar amp speakers are much thinner, and they are designed to produce medium and high frequencies. While bass amp speakers are meant for lower frequencies. Usually, bass amps have a lot more watts to be as loud as a guitar amp.
Why do bass amps need more watts than guitar amps?
The reason is that the lower frequency waves are longer, and to be heard loud and clear they need more wattage when compared with a guitar amp that has more medium to high-frequency waves.
Plugging your bass into a guitar amp will produce higher frequencies than what you are used to with a bass amp.
Bass players using guitar amps
There are several bass players over the years that have used their basses through guitar amps. This allowed them to create a unique tone, that is still remembered today. One of the greatest examples of this is Jack Bruce, the bass player for Cream.
He was known for plugging his bass through a Marshall, and it was what allowed him to create a unique tone.
Guitar players using bass amps
In fact, guitar and bass players have been experimenting with different amps for years. Some amps that were initially designed for bass have become very popular with guitarists. One of those iconic models is the Fender Bassman. Initially designed for bass, but soon guitar players discovered the amazing tones they could get with this amp.
So while you can play a bass through a guitar amp, you need to understand that the sound will be very different from what you are used to. That is not necessarily bad, but it should have a lot higher frequencies, and you will notice your bass will sound a little like a guitar.
Does playing a bass through a guitar amp damage the amp?
While in most cases playing a bass through a guitar amp will not damage the amp or the bass, you should be careful when doing so.
The reason is that guitar speakers are thin, and if pushed to a certain limit by playing bass with a high volume or a lot of distortion, they can blow up.
We have a few things tips on things to avoid when playing a bass through a guitar amp!
What to avoid when playing a bass with a guitar amp
There are a few things that you should know before plugging your bass into your guitar amp. Here are some of the things to keep in mind:
- Avoid playing at high volumes and with distortion
- Do not use a tube amp for this, stick to solid-state amps
- Avoid using a bass with active pickups
Avoid playing at high volumes and with distortion
One of the easiest ways to blow up your guitar amp speaker is using bass through it with high volume. Bear in mind that this can even happen with a guitar, but with a bass, it is more likely to happen.
The reason is that guitar amps are designed to produce more medium and higher frequencies. When you plug a bass into a guitar amp, you are asking the amp to produce a lot lower frequencies through the speaker. Although the amp will be able to produce some lower frequencies at low volumes, when you push the volume higher and higher, you also push the speaker to its limit.
If you want to use your bass through a guitar amp, only play using low volume.
You also should avoid playing with distortion, especially using distortion at high volumes. This is a deadly combination for your guitar amp speaker. It will most likely blow it up.
The reason is that distortion pushes even lower frequencies through the amp speaker, and when you are already using a bass it will destroy your guitar amp speaker.
Avoid using a tube amp
Tube amps are extremely fragile. Not only are they expensive to buy but they are also expensive to repair. For that reason, if you want to play a bass through a guitar amp try to use a solid-state amp.
Avoid using a bass with active pickups
Lastly, you also want to avoid using a bass with active pickups. Active pickups increase the power of the signal the instrument is sending to the amp, which in turn gives it more volume and gain.
For that reason, if you are using a bass with active pickups, you can still play but you need to be extra careful with the volume settings you use. Always keep the volume and gain low.
How playing a bass through a guitar amp affects the tone
There are a few tone differences when using bass through a guitar amp as opposed to a bass amp. You will notice that your bass will sound a lot more bright, through a guitar amp. It is almost like a guitar tone but obviously, it still sounds like a bass.
You will notice that your bass will sound a lot sharper, and the dynamics of your picking will be a lot more noticeable. In a way, the tone is similar to a mix between a guitar and bass. The closest thing to it will be a bass amp, and with a bass with a high tone in the maximum position.
Although you can use a bass through a guitar amp you need to be careful when doing so. Avoid using tube amps, because damaging them will be very costly to repair.
Always play at low to medium volumes, and avoid using distortion and basses with active pickups.
I have been playing guitar for the past 15 years, and my knowledge and passion for guitars prompted me to start Guitaresque to share my knowledge, tips, and tricks with other guitar players. The sole purpose of this website is to help and inspire guitar players worldwide, to improve their playing and their love for guitars.