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Do you think bassists typically know more about their instrument than guitarists?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by cantstoplt021, Aug 17, 2016.

  1. cantstoplt021


    Sep 18, 2014
    I've often wondered if studied bassists typically know more about the instrument (notes, arps, scale tones, etc.) than guitarists. I'm generalizing here, but a lot of guitarists learn some chords and some minor pentatonic positions and don't learn a whole lot more than that. As a guitarist you can get away with playing a whole lot of music with just that. Since bass is typically charged with playing lines that connect through chords (as opposed to strumming chords) one would assume you need to know more about the instrument to play solid lines. I'm sure there are many bassists who just know the basics and are fine so maybe my point is moot, but this is something I've wondered about. Obviously there are many guitarists who know the instrument up and down, but they're probably in the minority of guitar players.
    aaronious likes this.
  2. Grumry


    Jul 6, 2016
    I never grew up taking lessons or studying theory so I had to start with tabs and learn with my ear. That was 15 years ago so I've since figured some things out on my own and having people show me some tricks.

    That being said, I make a living as an engineer, not a musician.
  3. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I don't think you can generalize ... I play bass, but also keys and guitar. I don't know less about music when I'm not on the bass ... ;)
  4. tlc1976


    Aug 2, 2016
    I think it all just depends on the person, what they prefer, how their mind works, etc. I happen to think guitar is a lot harder than bass. Sure there are a lot of guitar players who are in it just for show and to make noise, but there are also a lot of bass players who are just frustrated guitar players and took it up because "somebody had to".
  5. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    timocharis and Jeff Bonny like this.
  6. You can't generalize And at the same time I'm amazed at the number of people on this board who don't play much more than the root and maybe the fifth.

    I wouldn't say we are a particularly outstanding collection of players with respect to musical knowledge.
    lfmn16 and Killed_by_Death like this.
  7. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    that's not knowing more about the instrument, that's knowing more about music.

    The answer is no.
    Guitar and bass have different "lowest common denominators" of knowledge before one can simply go out and play.
    A guitarist who has achieved the LCD for guitar will know things the LCD bassist will not, and vice versa.
  8. Yes, I've been surprised by the amount of times I've read "Bass players don't play chords!" right here on this very forum.

    I think just for the general plethora of knowledge to soak up about guitars, that guitarists might actually think they know more than bass players, but...
    I also think many of them are drinking the kool-aid when it comes to what I would consider snake oil & hokum.

    You get that with bass players as well, but IME it's far wider spread with guitar players.
  9. From my little bit of experience I would say bass players I've known have more knowledge of music than the guitar players I have known. But of course that doesn't go for everyone that's just the ones I know or have known. Most of the bassists I've known can improvise something as long as they know the chords, but I've met guitarists who can play a song perfectly note for note but were unable to play a basic 1,4,5 progression if asked on the spot. Many of them had no knowledge of scales or arpeggios or even what I was talking about. Yet some of them could improv beautifully without the knowledge. Some bassists are like that too, but most of the ones I've known could improv on the spot pretty well with a key or chord chart or something.
  10. I regularly attend a jam session with below average musicians. The simple guitar players know more than the simple bass players.

    You can get a long way on bass just playing open strings and the frets with dots. Guitarists at least need to know a minor pentatonic shape to play a solo.

    I also play in bands with guys from the local university. Once the study of music becomes a primary factor, there is no real difference between instruments.
    Josh Randall and Killed_by_Death like this.
  11. GManfromOz


    Jul 27, 2016
    Hell, I've played with guitarists who have decades of playing under their belt and my meagre technical knowledge is often well ahead. First off, I can count. That's usually the biggest problem with guitarists
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2016
  12. bench


    Dec 28, 2007
    i think of it more in categories like musician vs non-musician... on electric bass or guitar you can actually get around and have fun without being what i would call a musician... on most other instruments that's not so easy if not impossible...
  13. Grumry


    Jul 6, 2016
    I can make musical things happen when the stars are aligned but I don't technically know what is happening. Vibrations and waves and stuff.
    catcauphonic and Killed_by_Death like this.
  14. tinyd


    Mar 11, 2003
    I think that bass players are more likely to know what they don't know than guitarists :)
  15. This is basically an unanswerable question, unless you were able to nail it down to a particular demographic.
    Any answers we give here are pure conjecture of only what we've observed.

    I know a teen guitar player who is a savant of some sort when it comes to guitar, but he knows sod all about musical notation.
    He learned it all with tabs & by ear.

    Then if you take in an international perspective, how about European bass players vs. guitar players, or Latin America?
    Even pinning it exclusively to North America isn't narrow enough, or to California or New York.

    I can think of some folks who might have a more informed opinion, music instructors that deal with new students at a higher level. They would probably know a lot about what the students who come to their first classes already know, or not know.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2016
  16. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    Yeah, same answer here. I know a guitarist who's a total gearhead and spends the time he's not playing with expanding his knowledge.
    I know a bass player who is super compentent playing wise, but all he knows is he plays a Fender, and it is red.
    Killed_by_Death likes this.
  17. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    Hard to say. The majority of guitarist I have played with have had at least a fair knowledge of theory. Another generality, but I'd say keyboardists are way ahead of everyone in that department.
    AaronVonRock likes this.
  18. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    Agree. It's easy to "fake it" on bass and still sound ok. More difficult to do on guitar. Really difficult to do on keys or piano.

    If someone really wants to learn about music and an instrument, I think piano is the best place to start.
    One Drop likes this.
  19. I think no matter how you slice it the drummer has no idea what you or the guitar player are talking about and will timelessly suggest starting from the top again while you attempt to decipher the key from the vauge clues the guitar player has provided about the chords being used. It's a 1-4-5...with a 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 100, 666, and a 0. Meanwhile, the singer wants to know if you can stretch the verse to match the syllables.
    hillerup and Billybladez66 like this.
  20. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    I think educated players will generally know more than uneducated ones.
    Regardless of instrument.
    if you 'get away' with stuff depends on who it is you are working with and what it is you are working on.
    Your perception of the typical guitarist is removed quite a bit from mine.
    I have not worked with the type you describe for quite a few years.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2016

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