Learning guitar to play bass better.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by guac mole, Jun 6, 2001.

  1. guac mole

    guac mole

    Jun 6, 2001
    San Diego, Ca
    the other day the guitarist in my band, who also plays some bass, told me that learning the guitar will improve my bassplaying. does anyone believe this holds any truth? if i do decide to learn guitar it will be taking time away from my bassplaying. should i cheat on my bass or is monogamy the way to go? suggestions are welcome.
  2. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    I don't know if it works for everyone, but in my own experience, learning how to play the guitar passably well enough to fool non-musicians has helped me out in a couple of ways;

    - chord construction and what to play against the guitarist is doing instead of mimicing what he is doing.

    - constructing solos that don't sound like so many dumb, boring, bass solos of the past.

    - IMO, the guitar is better suited to song composition.

    You don't have to become proficient. But learning how to think like a guitarist is a benefit to a bassist, IMO.
  3. It never hurts to learn a new instrument, and I agree with rickbass1, learning chord structure is one benefit that springs to mind.
  4. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    When I played in a band with two guitarists who didn't know the names of any notes or the names of the chords they played or what key we were in, etc., I LONGED to know enough about guitar that I could look at their fingers and figure out for myself what they were doing.

    If I had just known enough then, it would have helped me immensely, plus I might have been able to help them to at least identify the chords they played by name.

    Even to this day I wish I knew at least a modicum of guitar fundamentals because guitar and bass are related instruments. I tremendously admire the sound of slide guitar and would love to be able to play that way.

    Still, it would be helpful if your guitarists would tell you exactly why they believe learning guitar will make you a better bassist. For example, what is it about your bass playing that they feel will be improved by playing guitar? Timing, fingering, fretboard familiarization, improvization, writing, what?

    When my son attended Indiana University, many of the dorm guys were students in the IU School of Music. They were all required to learn the piano, regardless of the instrument they were majoring in. Your guitarists want you to learn guitar, but maybe learning to play the keyboard would be just as helpful or even more so.

    Then, too, Billy Sheehan says bassists should learn to play drums, because it is such a tremedous help to their timing and sense of rhythm.

    Or maybe just stick with your bass for now. Maybe your guitarist could tell you in what way you need to improve your playing. You might be able to improve faster with targeted lessons and exercises on your bass to improve that area he sees as requiring attention.
  5. Definitely. Same goes for piano. Or, get a 6 or 7-string bass. Any instrument where you can play more complicated and longer scales, chords and progressions will give you a greater insight into your playing and make you a better musician.

    You should also learn some classical and jazz theory.

    - Dave
  6. King David

    King David

    Dec 13, 1999
    I started playing bass. I have recently picked up the guitar. I think it has helped me some. I know the basic chords, G,C,D,EM,C2,E2,A,AM etc. I can play a lot of stuff with these. I can look at a guitarist and know what chords he is playing. It has opened some chord work for me on bass. I think chord on bas sound kind of stinky sometimes. Chords using 1,5 seem to sound decent for endings and emphasis. I have a little better finger technique and more nimble fingers now. Just a few, I am sure I willlearn more. I believe it will be better to write songs on too.
  7. guac mole

    guac mole

    Jun 6, 2001
    San Diego, Ca
    I see how learning a multitude of instruments will no doubtedly make one a better musician. But let's say i average 3 hours on bass everyday going over scales and theory, is it worth taking an hour away from bass to spend learning guitar? bass is just too much fun and i would rather be great at one thing, then good and so-so at two things. anyone feel this way?
  8. King David

    King David

    Dec 13, 1999
    I guess it depends. I feel I am a decent bassist. I am a poor guitar player right now. I like playing my bass with others, but my guitar right now is more fum to play by myself. If you spend a week on guitar and a week on bass or some other arrangement, I don't think it will hurt you any. You are still using your fingers. The frets are different, but I use my hands differently, so it is not that difficult to switch.

    Do it if you want, but don't if you don't.

    I don't think that playing guitar will make you an awesome guitar player. It may help, but I am not convinced that it is super helpful. I haven't been playing either for too long, so get other opinions!
  9. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I admire, respect and envy multi-instrumentalists, meaning those who play several instruments well, but I think the dedication and time they devoted to get to that level may not be within the reach of some folks who just don't have the time and have other committments to school, work or family to attempt to master or even familiarize themselves with more than one or two instruments at the most.
  10. i play guitar as much as i play bass, and it's great for writing songs in that you don't have to ask the guitar player to come up with something that sounds good with your bassline, you can write it yourself.

    and, let's face it: unless you're victor wooten, you'll never impress girls by just picking up the bass and diddling around on it. but you can pick up an acoustic guitar, strum some dave matthews, and they'll be all over you. ;)

    another thing: it helps with your rhythm if you sing and play guitar at the same time. it's easier than singing and playing bass, but it's still a very good exercise.
  11. King David

    King David

    Dec 13, 1999
    I agree dancehallclasher! It is easier to pay and sing on a guitar than playing bass. I am not quite sure why. I think for me the guitar kind of follows the vocal lines better while the bass kind ties the vocals, guitars, and drums all together. Some may disagree with the next statement (and that is cool with me), but I think to make it music, it is a delicate combination of leading and following. It is following the flow and feel that makes it music and not structured noise. It is leading to keep the tempo and rythm. It is both an acompaniment instrument and a leading instrument. Doing this makes it hard to ing sometimes. Ok....bla bla bla so I digress.....

    Basically I think it helps to know a little about both worlds.
  12. Guitar to help bass...?
    Yeah, it can help a bit. It especially helps if you're in a jam session, and the other guys say "Hey, let's play [a song]. D'you know how to play it?" indicating you. If you say 'no' and they say "well it's just root notes. Follow the chords I play." and you don't recognize the chords...well, you kinda screw up the session. :p

    I also prefer to write songs on guitar. I tend to get chord progressions going through my mind. Also, the creative process for melody in the sense of chords is a lot easier and faster than the rhythm & melody in the sense of a bass line. I also tend to write lyrics out with chord sheets. Afterwards, throw in a bass line and voila! I've almost got a song.

    What's most irritating for me, is when I do something like that, and then get a bass line I like, but am not fully satisfied with. Or even just writing a bass line for another song my guitarist's written. If I get chords earlier on, then it becomes easier for me to get a sense of how the song goes. I can go home and strum the chords on my guitar while thinking about a bass line.

    This only being my opinion, I don't know if it'll work for you. But whenever I hear a song, I tend to get a bass line going through my head. If it's a song by RHCP or something, then Flea doesn't really leave much to the imagination. But if it's something like Truly Madly Deeply, which is essentially roots, I get all sorts of ideas flying through my head. So when I write chord progressions with my guitar that I feel flow well, I get all sorts of ideas for bass lines flying into my mind.

    (Did this post REALLY make sense? I just watched TV for about 3 1/2 hours straight. I feel a little dumber than 3 1/2 hours earlier. :p)
  13. When there's a guitar lying around, I would sometimes use a guitar to transcribe guitar solos. I remember, i figured out a Grant Green solo and I figured out some Wes Montgomery and Santana. But I didn't practice guitar in order to be able to execute flawless technique. I never "practiced" the guitar to play it. I just used it to figure things out because the range was better suited for transcribing instruments with a higher range. And I would transcribe things in order to give me a different perspective - not so that I can play the same thing on my bass. Unfortunately (or fortunately:)), I relocated, leaving my roommate and his guitar behind, so now I'm relying strictly on my 4 strings to transcribe things I like.
  14. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999

    I agree with you about the piano; the part about a bass with strings to the nth power...I really don't see how that makes one a "better" musician. Would a drummer with a 20-piece kit necessarily have anything more viable to say than a drummer with a 4-piece kit? For my money, I'd rather hear Tony Williams on his kick-snare-tom-floor tom vs, ______________(fill in the blank). ;)
    It's TWELVE TONES(unless you're into microtonal stuff) ;) so, IMHO(as always), it's RHYTHM that makes each of us different...I totally buy the "think like a drummer" ideal. Learning guitar will help a bassist learn chord shapes/sounds/voicings; that's always nice to know.

    Awaiting the BBQ from both you & JT... :D
  15. A 6 or 7-string bass gives you the advantages you would get with a guitar in terms of chordal possibilities. Having this capability allows one to explore different voicings and progressions more extensively and you will learn more doing so than you could on a 4 or 5-string instrument. I think that this is an important part of becoming a better musician.

    - Dave
  16. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    Learning guitar has helped my bass playing tremendously. However, my biggest problem was trying to learn how to strum with a pick - it just didn't feel natural, no matter how hard I tried. (I never use a pick with bass.) I solved the problem by concentrating on fingerstyle guitar (think "Blackbird"). Now, my Seagull acoustic gets almost as much play as my basses.

    Works for me...
  17. albert


    Jun 8, 2001
    derby, england
    i'd agree with your guitarist... i've been playin bass over 20 years and have recently been learning more stuff on the old acoustic... i'd say, dependant on the type of style (ie if you want to play more melodically) that it won't harm your bass playing at all
  18. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    I started on guitar and started playing bass a year later. My guitar knowledge has helped me three ways:

    1: I can recognize what chords a guitarist's playing when I'm learning a new song;

    2: I can write songs on my own, and play them to the band the way I want 'em to sound;

    3: It shuts up all those people who think I'm a frustrated guitarist.

  19. Well...I'm still a frustrated guitarist in the sense that I can't quite get the feel for it as well as a bass, and I don't know many chords or enough theory to help me figure out how to play chords & stuff, but most of my guitar playing friends keep telling me I'm so good at guitar. Little do they know I'm playing the same song or same chords on my guitarist's guitar in the common room.

    Must be all the sampled/looped tracks in all that rap stuff they listen to. :p