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Learning guitar to get better on the bass?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by keyofnight, Aug 14, 2012.

  1. keyofnight


    Jun 3, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    I recently decided to learn how to play guitar, so I bought a strat and I've been learning to play it fingerstyle. (Mark Knopfler being my principle example.)

    So far, learning the guitar has helped me simplify how I fret for different bass lines: instead of doing complex hammer-ons/pull-offs, I can just fret a chord that puts me close to everything. I'm also learning when it's alright to play a chord on the bass, and where I can do it on the fretboard without it sounding muddy. It's pretty exciting—probably just the fresh start I needed! :hyper:

    Have any of you guys had this experience? If so, do you have any suggestions for what else we can learn about playing the bass through playing the guitar?
  2. dean owens

    dean owens

    Sep 23, 2008
    pittsboro, nc
    i don't have any advice but i agree. i started playing bass over 20 years ago and about 8 months in started playing guitar too. having an understanding of guitar and knowing chord shapes helps me to just drop in with someone when i don't know the song. as long as i can see the guitarist's hands i'm ok. i would say that it's made me a better bassist. good for you for expanding and not getting stuck in a rut.
  3. I've been playing guitar for 40 years now, but I've only been playing bass since 2007. I found that my guitar experience was invaluable in learning to play bass. I already knew my scales from playing guitar, so transferring them to bass was easy. It also made learning the bass fretboard a lot easier for me, since they're both the same, other than the obvious differences. The thing I had to learn on bass was playing with less notes than on guitar, and learning to serve the song rather than myself.
  4. Freight Train

    Freight Train Earth-based Alternative Scientist, Sex Researcher

    Feb 25, 2012
    Dallas, Texas
    Having an understanding of guitar could do nothing but help a bass player imo. And also just in my opinion, learning good rhythm guitar techniques would be most helpful, both chord structure and rhythm-wise. I think when people dis guitarist who play bass is when it's a frustrated lead player who plays bass like a frustrated lead player, and don't really have a feel for being a component of the rhythm section. One of my favorite bassists is Ronnie Wood, and I'm convinced he's so good on bass because he's an excellent rhythm guitarist. Mediocre on lead, great on rhythm guitar and bass.
  5. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars
    Every time I play guitar for awhile I feel more acquainted with the fretboard, on both instruments. I think partly because I have to play the guitar very differently than a bass, using a neck/tuning that is almost the same.

    I also like to play banjo and apply that to the bass. It's really fun to combine some of the rolls/rhythmic structure into my bass playing.
  6. FrednBass


    Feb 24, 2012
    It does help.
    Any bassplayer that refuse to learn guitar because... well, i don't know; is missing a great opportunity improve his ability.
  7. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he lóòks

    Dec 7, 2010
    22 ft below sea level
    I play my son's guitar every now and then. I like to do all kind of chords, both fingerstyle and picking. Understanding the chords makes me a better jammer on the bass.
  8. portlandguy


    Feb 15, 2011
    Portland, OR
    I hate guitars
  9. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    I had originally wanted to be a bass player, but my dad bought me a guitar when I was 14. Being a kid of the non-spoiled variety, I was properly psyched anyway. But when I did switch to bass at 16 (23 years ago now, yikes!), I found that having a background in a chord instrument helped me greatly.
  10. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Check out TB's guitar thread link in my sig.

    Lots of bass playing guitar players and vice-versa.
  11. Mr L

    Mr L

    Jul 22, 2012
    Vancouver BC
    I did the opposite of you, i have played guitar for 5 years and switch to bass less than a year ago. I could take nearly everything i had learned about guitar and translate it into bass. I don't know how well it works the other way as the technique used for guitar is much different than bass but I'm sure you can figure it out much easier than a complete beginner.
  12. Pure.Fusion


    Dec 12, 2010
    Yup - exactly the opposite here. Guitarist for 25 years, now playing bass as well.

    My opinion to your question? Yes, a lot of stuff translates across.

    Maybe, if you're not careful it would ruin bass technique? I dunno.

    As a (relatively newbie) bass player thats playing finger style, I tend to hammer on notes where they should be finger picked (I'm assuming that each note gets plucked on a bass here), dodging the right hand finger picking practice that I really shouold be concentrating on and using.

    .. why does my fretting hand ache so much after 3 minutes of playing the low strings at he low frets :eyebrow:

    Hope this helps.
  13. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Hammer-ons are perfectly OK on bass, but on a bass, nuance is everything, and a hammered note does not sound the same as a plucked one. So be sure of what sound you're going for. And definitely don't neglect your plucking technique. Most of your rhythm comes from that, and on bass, rhythm is everything too.

    Regarding your fretting hand. You may want to have a pro check out the bass and make sure it is set up correctly.
  14. gavinspoon


    Feb 11, 2008
    Cardiff UK
    It's a cross pollination thing.

    Playing guitar can provide useful insights to your bass playing, and playing bass provides useful insights to guitar playing.

    It's possible to be great on either without playing the other, but i'm happy that I play both, and I believe it's made me a better musician than I would of otherwise been.

    It's not just guitar. Pick up a bit of piano if you can, it makes all the theory stuff a little more accessible. I was having trouble once with a guitarist in a band years ago who couldn't seem to understand the interplay between Bass and Guitar. He thought that whatever chord he was playing was "the chord" we were playing, and he could't get the idea that I was changing "the chord" by playing different notes underneath him. I told him to think of it like a piano. I'm the left hand, your the right hand. He had one of those epiphany moments, where he suddenly got it, which was nice :)

    And if you don't already, learn to sing. Even if your a rubbish singer, being able to sit down and perform in public by yourself singing and playing guitar is a growth experience.

    I've also had a bash at drumming. My drummer was kind enough to give me some informal lessons to the point that I know what all the bits of the kit are called and I can keep a basic beat. This became very useful later when I started mixing songs.
  15. keyofnight


    Jun 3, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    Playing the guitar finger style is making me aware of how unsophisticated my bass finger style can be and how I can improve. Even more, learning to play guitar fingerstyle is like being given a box of tools and being told "Go build a house."

    For example, I have tons of options for strumming: I can do Spanish-style pinky strums, I can put my thumb and index together to make an impromptu pick, or I can strum with four digits at the same time. The best part is they all sound different. I guess it's more like being given a ton of brushes, lots of paint, and a blank canvas.

    In the end, I feel like we never put enough into our finger style technique…and it's a shame too, because that's where the rhythm, timbre, and "envelope" come from.

    There's a lot of tension on the strings close to the witness points—the nut and the bridge saddles. On the guitar, this doesn't seem to put a lot of strain on the hand or wrist. The tension (I think) pushes into the finger pads instead causing blistering or callousing. (I hear some kids play their new Squier Strats until their fingers bleed. \m/ :bassist:)

    Your fretting technique might be bad, but I doubt it after 25 years of playing guitar. It could be that your nut action is too high, so take it to someone (like Eris said). It also could be that you're not used to the tension; in that case, you'll either get used to it or find lighter gauge strings.
  16. FrednBass


    Feb 24, 2012
    This +11

    Except that i already know quite a bit about drums because my dad's a drummer
  17. Yes it definitely does. I started to play bass when I was 15 years old, and by the time I was 18 I had a lot of bad habits in my technique and fingering positions. I didn’t use my pinky finger for almost nothing in any of my playing. Also bad precision in rhythm, plucking, punching, transporting, you name it, my bass technique was preposterous.

    When I started college I took guitar lessons, and my music teacher said that it would considerably help my bass playing and technique in an all of the aspects. I must say that those were the best 2 years and a half of music training I have ever had. I learn almost all of the exercises for strengthening the fingers ( I would say the most crucial and important part for the formation of any musician), vast amount of chords and scales(this helped me which notes to use in any progression), different styles and rhythmic patterns that helped me be more dynamic and versatile, and also he taught me music theory that instructed me to be a more professional musician in both ambits of playing and academics.

    Immediately I started to see results in my fingering position ( I started to use all of my fingers!!!), and more importantly in my technique. The best part was that I could see that my fingering hand was positioned like most profesional bass players do in their performances.

    I recommend for any bass player to learn guitar, this would help him transform to a better musician and skyrocket his music knowledge.

    My advice is to warm up with the guitar exercises that keep strengthening the hands and fingers. Also the change of chords in rhythm patterns also helps acquire versatility and speed in the hands.
  18. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    On bass with the rest of the band ... hammer-on, legato, slide between semitone ... none of that will really make a difference.

    On a fretless you may hear a difference between legato and all plucked note and obviously the slide but otherwise no, you won't hear a difference with the band in.
  19. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    Bad practice only reinforce bad habits. If I'm a bad driver and I never try to correct my mystake or bad habits, I'll always dry baddly, same thing with music.

    How long you play isn't a proof you are going to be good.
  20. Keyser Soze

    Keyser Soze Supporting Member

    Funny that I don't think I've seen this mentioned yet: A huge advantage of being a guitar-playing bassist is enjoying the ability to watch a guitar player's left hand and being able to recognize the chord being played and adapt on the fly. Works wonders a/f/a learning tunes in "real time" and at jams.

    Plus all the other good points made above.

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