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I want to learn guitar and bass. Should I get a Bass VI?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Sgroh87, Feb 9, 2013.

  1. Sgroh87


    Dec 4, 2012
    DFW, Texas
    I started on the bass when I was in middle school and proceeded to not do any serious work on it for about eight years, so I sold it to help finance a saxophone (which had become my main instrument in high school). Now I'm working in a music store and I want to learn guitar and (re)learn bass, so I went to the store and picked up an Epiphone Sheraton II and a Sterling Ray34CA.

    Here's the thing: I love low voices in a melodic context (the cello is my favorite orchestral instrument and I play the baritone sax, which sits in about the same range as the cello). I was originally looking into a six string bass, but my teacher recommended that I start with four or maybe five while I'm learning the basics. Now I'm wondering if I should consider returning my Ray34 and getting a Schecter Hellcat VI or a Fender Bass VI instead.

    I'm very tempted to do so for a couple of reasons. First of all, it would give me the range of the bass while providing an extended upper range for solo performance. Secondly, I'm not incredibly interested in playing traditional bass lines: as I said earlier, I prefer low voices in a melodic context. In fact, one of my favorite bassists (Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath fame) started as a rhythm guitarist, and on their earlier albums you can hear him either mirroring the guitar or providing a countermelody underneath the guitar. Lastly, I think that the Bass VI is similar enough to guitar that I could just learn the guitar and not have to split my focus between multiple instruments, techniques, and styles.

    What do you guys think? I know that on a bass forum I'm probably going to get lots of comments saying to stick with the bass, but I hope that I'll get comments that are well explained or well-reasoned. I've also considered getting a baritone guitar, but I don't know if its worth it to have to learn to transpose between a standard E guitar and a B baritone guitar. I listen to everything from rap to metal to funk, but I plan on playing blues and jazz for the most part, if that makes a difference. Any advice is appreciated!
  2. Justbleazy


    Apr 3, 2011
    Houston, TX
    I personally would suggest that you learn the guitar first because once you learn the chords on the guitar you will already know the root notes and the progressions and how they work when switching to the bass. I've always had a guitar around the house as a kid and would fiddle around with it until I picked up a few chords and understood a few progressions. The first day I had my bass, I was able to play Marvin Gayes "Inner City Blues" because I was some what familiar with the fret board.

    However, if you are up to learning both at once with a good teacher, go for it. Learning both will definately make you a better musician.
  3. greggster59


    Oct 31, 2006
    New Jersey
    It sounds like you already have the answer.

    You have identified that an extended range bass will help you accomplish your goals on the instrument.

    Reading between the lines a little bit I'll wager that you are already a musician of some proficiency and understand the fundamental role that the bass guitar plays. You can learn the basics on an extended range bass as well as you can on a four banger.

    Follow your instincts. Practice often. Have fun.
  4. Hobobob

    Hobobob Don't feed the troll, folks.

    Jan 25, 2011
    Camarillo, CA
    The only drawback to a bass VI is the super narrow string spacing. It's not very conducive to fingerstyle, but if you plan to play with a pick you shouldn't have a problem.
  5. blue4


    Feb 3, 2013
    St. Louis area
    I would do the bass VI if you are intent on learning both.
  6. FrenchBassQC

    FrenchBassQC Supporting Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    Gatineau QC CA
    Since this is a Bass forum, I would suggest that you learn guitar. :confused:
  7. Justbleazy


    Apr 3, 2011
    Houston, TX
    Lol! Well, people are surprised when I tell them I've been playing the bass for 3 years :smug:
  8. I learned bass first then picked up the guitar really quickly as a result. Of course, I had been playing bass for around 8 years before I started learning guitar.

    I play in a progressive metal band and I play melodic lines and lines that follow the guitar on a four string Rickenbacker.
  9. BtHt83


    Feb 3, 2013

    Yeah, I'd go for the VI. You sound like you're on to something there. It's a cool and versatile instrument, especially for the non-traditional way you are talking about playing.

    I'd disagree that you need to start out with a 4 string bass though, especially if you can play sax (I'm assuming you can read, and understand basic theory). It's not that hard, in fact I almost think it's easier than 4 string in a lot of ways. A 5 string is a 4 string with a low B in the way, and a tease of letting you get into the sweet range that high C gives you. A 5 string feels like it's missing something. And it is. If you don't go with the VI, get 4 or 6, but not 5. That's me though.
  10. Grey Sarcasm

    Grey Sarcasm

    Apr 25, 2012

    Although I can see how bass players would find fingerstyle on a Bass VI difficult, many jazz guitarists fingerpick guitars in a similar fashion as bassists do. They have no difficulty. I think a Bass VI would be a really good choice for you to learn both bass and guitar.
  11. Maybe you should got to your local GC & music stores, and try out some 5/6 stringers - see if you like them first.
    Also you also can tune a 5er to E - C rather than B - G.
  12. thewildest

    thewildest Supporting Member

    May 25, 2011
    What about a Warr Guitar, or a Chapman Stick... You can have guitar and bass at the same time... That's what I did....
  13. bassbombs84


    Dec 26, 2008
    I think you were right at the get go; learning on the two regular full sized instruments. You don't want to get overly comfortable with particular scales or dimensions of instruments, so that if you play one out of your "comfort zone" you are held back.

    Some people get to the point where they have trouble switching from the string spacing of a jazz bass to a precision bass. IMO this is ridiculous.

    I believe a bassist should be able to pick up ANY bass and rip. This applies to guitar as well.

    As you learn to play more instruments, the dimensions of the instruments and tension of the strings matter less and less. I regularly go from upright bass to my tele to my pbass w/flats to my acoustic guitar to my warwick with no problems.

    This IMO is the goal: to be able to express your musical ideas without thinking to much about the medium (instrument).

    That said ..... those bass VI's look sweet and I totally want one :D
  14. MrChrizmo


    Mar 31, 2012
    Vienna, Austria
    In between the lines, at least to me, it sounds as if you have made up your mind in favor of the 6 string bass already. In this case go for it.

    My opinion, since you have a guitar, it can be a very satisfying experience to have an instrument with a more limited tonal range, i.e. a 4 string bass.

    However, why not buy a 6-string bass in addition ?
  15. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    A bass VI is truly a bass guitar: it is just like a guitar but an octave down. There is no reason you cannot learn to play one from a guitar teacher and once you do that you automatically know how to play a bass guitar. Both the bass VI and the baritone guitar have longer scale lengths so that may may make forming certain chords difficult to impossible on the first few frets and it may limit your fingering speed on those frets too but that won't be a huge limitation, you just play further up the neck if need be.

    The big difference between a bass guitar and a bass VI is the tuning. Bass guitars are traditionally even tuned in fourths regardless of how many strings they have whereas guitars have one string interval that is a third and the bass VI follows the guitar practice since it was made to feel just like home for guitarists who also want to play bass. In other words the bass VI was made for people like you! If you want to decide between the two instrument families you should consider which tuning is best for the melodic work you want to do. An even tuning means anything you know how to do at one place on the fingerboard can be done just the same anywhere else on the fingerboard. With the guitar tuning the fingering patterns, like chords, have to be modified depending on where you are playing them. Perhaps the one smaller interval on a guitar makes certain melodic work easier. That is a good question to ask someone who teaches both bass and guitar well, I don't know the answer. Now both instrument families have advocates who use all kinds of tunings so the tuning difference is not a hard and fast difference, just tradition. Alternate tunings could be a can of worms for you at this point, especially when you look for a teacher. I am a self taught bassist who tunes in fifths. If I wanted to get a teacher I would need a bass teacher to give me bass playing instruction, a cello teacher to give me CGDA playing instruction, and a mandolin teacher to instruct me on chording in fifths!! :eek:

    Bottom line is that I think a bass VI could work well for you. I have also given some thought recently to replacing my five string bass with a bass VI or baritone guitar since my main reason for having it is to get more upper range for chording. If I did that I would tune either one in even fifths, FCGDAE, to keep the commonality with my four string basses. If you want to play both guitar and bass guitar then a bass VI in the standard guitar tuning would probably serve you slightly better than a six string bass tuned in even fourths since the skills would then be 100% transferable and the string spacing of a bass VI would not bother a guitar player in the least. You could keep your standard guitar or not, depending on whether you need its high end range or not.

  16. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    You can't play a Fender vi the way you can play a normal bass. The tight string spacing makes most fingerstyle ways of playing next to impossible, and it won't really sound like a guitar because it is an octave lower.

    If you want to learn bass and guitar then get a bass and a guitar. You can buy both for what a Fender vi would cost.
  17. NOVAX


    Feb 7, 2009
  18. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Doubleneck bass and guitar combo would be ideal for those wanting to play both guitar and bass imo.