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The cognitive dissonance of picking up an electric guitar

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Lunatique, Nov 7, 2019.

  1. Lunatique

    Lunatique Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2007
    Lincoln, CA
    I started on the guitar at age 14 (late-80's), and then keyboard and drums. It wasn't until the late aughts did I start on the bass. Then I stopped playing music for several years, focusing on my writing (just finished a novel recently).

    For the last year, I've picked up the bass again, and only the bass. And after playing nothing but bass for the past year, yesterday when I was in Guitar Center, I picked up a guitar on a whim (been wondering if I should start playing guitar again too). The cognitive dissonance hit me so hard as I stared at those incredibly thin strings with such tight spacing and felt the razor wires on my fingertips. For a moment I even forgot how to play a guitar like a guitar, and my bass-playing muscle memory kicked in and I was plucking the thing as if it was a bass. I had to stop myself, recollect my thoughts, then focus on finger picking and strumming like how a guitarist should. It was such a surreal experience.

    That's when it was again reaffirmed why I chose to pick up the bass again and not the guitar. I just enjoy playing bass so much more, because I can really dig in, pluck hard, slap hard, and enjoy all the visceral satisfaction of playing something that can take the amount of force you exert when you want to get a little aggressive, but also can be handled delicately when you want to play soft. Even just the fret and string spacing is so much more comfortable and freeing to play because you have much more room to move around and not feel cramped.

    Just wanted to share that.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2019
    rutrho, Larchi, BassmanM and 23 others like this.
  2. I play acoustic guitar. Me and electric 6 strings just don't mix. I do sound pretty decent on almost any acoustic though. I always figured it has a lot to do with the thicker, rougher strings and horrendous action. It's what I'm used to. Always felt right. Spacing is still terrible no matter what guitar I pick up though. I'll never get used to basically having to play with my finger nails.
  3. Mike Vee

    Mike Vee

    Oct 8, 2012
    i like guitar, but i am no good really. I often just gently strum chords through expensive pedals and use the vibrato bar a bit, haha.

    Bass is more substantial and satisfying feeling. You are the groove.
    bovinehost and CRich0205 like this.
  4. groove pump

    groove pump

    Oct 24, 2006
    Same here. I went a little guitar crazy over the last year and a half, but all I really needed was a decent sounding little amp. The old 80's Electra that I had all along is sounding and playing as well as anything I could conceivably blow my money on... and I was looking good and hard at a couple of US made PRS guitars.

    You're right - once your are the groove, you need the groove. The harmonic dimension of the guitar can be nice, but it's just not the same.
    Mike Whitfield and mexicanyella like this.
  5. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    I know exactly what you mean.
    Bought two guitars this past year...back they went after a day or two.
  6. marqueemoon


    Oct 8, 2019
    I like guitar and bass equally, but to me they are distinctly different instruments and require different approaches.
    vvvmmm, dramatwist, ajkula66 and 5 others like this.
  7. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Ever time I picked one up I would complain how thin the strings are, and so close together.
    In the last 3 months I started playing an acoustic guitar. Not so uncomfortable now.
    Mike Whitfield likes this.
  8. oZZma


    Sep 13, 2018
    Wisebass likes this.
  9. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru.......... Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2006
    I play both bass and guitar equally well (or bad, depending on one's POV). I finally sold off the electric guitar gear and am concentrating on my original fingerstyle acoustic music, mostly in alternate tunings, when not playing bass.
    ZB5, dmt, Mike Whitfield and 2 others like this.
  10. I play both equally well, more or less, which is to say pretty good but not nearly as good as the time invested would suggest.

    I still learn songs on guitar first, and I play guitar when I want to sing lead. I mean, I can sing and play bass, but it doesn’t come natural. It’s alien enough still that it hampers my lead singing, although it’s less of an issue with vocal harmonies.

    But there’s little demand for my singing these days. My only remaining jam group needs me on bass, and I’m more than happy enough with that until I get out of school and have more time to get back in the band scene.
  11. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    it can indeed be a head scratcher, some have 0 problem switching back and forth, for a long time I didn't either, much. the action on my electric guitars was always slinky low and are now virtually unplayable after being back on bass for so long, I don't acclimate fast any more and it's just not important enuf these days to bother. the up side is my Classical / Flamenco guitar naturally has high action with wider spacing and is infinitely more accessible than when electric and steel were my main focus, plus I get in more time on Latin styles that appeal more to me now than trying to be a young Leslie West on a great nite. this also goes hand in glove with my preferring lows / low mids and lower volume these days thx to retirement ears which are finished with anything involving highs and real volume. the conundrum being I like bombastic Felix Pappalardi a bit too much for my own good lol
    Mike Whitfield and lizardking837 like this.
  12. Jack


    Sep 6, 2003
    Northumberland, UK
    One of the kids I work with calls that a 'truth bomb'. I can certainly relate.
    Max Bogosity, stonetone7 and equill like this.
  13. Can relate, especially after practising bass for an hour or so and then switching. After a few sessions with guitar, the strangeness went away, and now I bounce back and forth relatively comfortably.

    Oddly enough, that's what had me expand to EUB - when I dig in, I like to really dig in, and that doesn't combine so well with fretless bass.
    Max Bogosity likes this.
  14. Gothic


    Apr 13, 2008
    I had a similar experience lately. I've been playing guitar from the start, near some twenty years now, and I was more of a lead oriented player, as well. I consider myself competent enough. From the first time I picked up a bass, it seemed I had a natural affinity for it. Things just "clicked" better for me on the bass. Bigger strings, more room to move around, a mighty, thunderous tone, everything. Anyway, for the last few years, I'm mostly playing the bass, both in bands and at home.
    So, it was last week I believe, a band asked me to fill in for their guitar player. Songs I mostly knew, too. So I started rehearsing them, and it was at Ozzy's bark at the moon solo where I just got... "disenfranchised", if you will.

    I used to love playing lead guitar, loved the solos and the pageantry of it all but at that moment, I just didn't really want to do it. And mind you, I already knew the song, it's not that I had to sit down and learn it. In any case, I pushed onwards and found myself in that same situation for the rest of the playlist as well. The "shrill" metal tones, those puny, fragile little strings, small fretboard - it really felt cramped on there! Suffice to say, I quickly turned down the gig. I think I'm a bass player at heart, despite my years of playing (and loving) guitar.

    As an extra note, I don't really know whether this is an age/growing up kinda thing (doubt it), but, while I do still love heavy metal, I find myself drawn to the cleaner sound of an electric guitar, whenever I sit down to play or practice. It just speaks better to me, sounds more... "civilized"(?), even if I'm writing heavier stuff (see Sieges Even's "navigating by the stars, for example).

    Oh well, that's my rant.
    Bassic Needs likes this.
  15. Upside: There’s A LOT of time invested. So it’s (mostly) not as bad as it sounds.
  16. Ghook

    Ghook Supporting Member

    Sep 25, 2018
    Eastern US
    I go back and forth but mostly concentrate on bass. My jam bud of 40 years or so is why I returned to bass. He can do a blues lick that is so soulful I just get jealous. He has to be shown what key to play in, coached on his timing ( the bass has done wonders) but man I'm envious on how he obviously feels what's coming out of the amp. I realise I get in that same space playing the low end. For me it's all about that transcendent thing music provides.
  17. I thought I wanted to play the guitar when I was a kid. Then I tried bass, and realized that was where it was at. It's been no contest ever since. I have a couple guitars, and they're fun to play for about an hour, but the bass I can play for days on end.
  18. Dabndug

    Dabndug Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2017
    Somewhere in Oz
    C'mon Jeff, can't you play guitar and bass simultaneously?
    Jeff Scott likes this.
  19. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Bass players are often more comfortable with acoustic guitars than electric
  20. landrybass


    Oct 23, 2011
    I just bought a Vintera Jazzmaster and I like playing guitar. Switch it up, my guitar player can play bass so we switch it up all the time, but we still sound like ourselves. I think playing guitar works different muscles in my hands and arms that I don’t necessarily get worked when I play bass. The small spacing and chords really strengthens my left hand pinky. I’ve even been picking up slide guitar lately too which is a whole different animal and it’s turning out really great.
    Max Bogosity and equill like this.

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