5 Reasons Every Guitarist Should Play Bass

It may not have the glamour and glory of nailing that face melting solo, but it seems we guitarists can learn a thing or two from picking up a bass once in a while!

The benefits of playing a second instrument are well documented and it is odd indeed that more of us six string aficionados don’t choose the bass as a fun side line. We look at 5 reasons to take a walk (no pun) on the boomy side!

1. Timing and rhythm

What is it guitarists famously struggle to master and yet drummers and bass players excel in? Timing and time feel. Yes, that uncanny ability to make even the simplest riffs, lines and even single notes groove!

Us guitarists tend to musically ‘sit’ on top of the band like fancy icing on a cake. Our bass toting cousins, however, have a very different role within the song/band; they are firmly a part of the rhythm section and more attuned to the drums than our relentless guitar riffing.

Playing the bass, or at least some famous bass parts, will give you a window into a different way of thinking about and approaching rhythm. Want to make people dance, lay down some simple yet magical riffs or explore new ways to phrase rhythmically when improvising? A stint on the old 4 string might be in order!

2. Take the pressure off

This is a great diversion if you are experiencing a playing rut or a lull in your confidence. Playing guitar puts us firmly in the limelight, with a certain degree of exposure and an expectation to be technically on our A game all the time.

Playing the bass as a supportive instrument, laying down the groove and harmony is a departure from the front man experience of lead and rhythm guitar. The simple stuff sounds great and there is no pressure to play anything ‘impressive’ or fancy; just locking in with the drummer and making the song work! It feels good to take a backseat for a while!

Sure there are crazy techniques and virtuosity should you chose to seek it out, but you can also say a lot with very little on the bass.

3. More playing opportunities

Getting together with other players to jam or gig is simply the best and a vital part of developing as a guitar player. We are, unfortunately, pretty common; you only need to search any musicians wanted classified ad for ‘guitarist available’ as proof of this. Good (or even average) bassists are hard to come by. Having some reasonable bass playing skills and a respectable repertoire of bass lines under your fingers will put you in contact with more musicians; getting your foot in the door for more gigs than a dedicated 6 stringer alone.

Not to mention the ability to record your own bass parts when writing and recording!

4. Improvise like a pro

If you have battled with the eternal quest for better improvised licks and solos then you’ll be happy to know that, in the world of bass, improvisation is not only encouraged; it's expected!

Unlike performing a song or solo within the confines of the written part, playing a little bass gives you the freedom and knowledge to improvise around parts without the pressure of delivering a full solo. The benefit to improvising on bass is that you are often required to follow the chords or embellish the written part. This is a great way to learn how to solo in a much more musical way; using restrictions as an advantage. You will also gain a crash course in when to improvise or when to keep things simple.

5. You already have a head start!

Whilst it is true that a bass player’s mindset differs significantly to that of a guitarist; the instrument, tuning and arrangement of the fretboard is the same as the guitar. This means there is no huge adjustment period or the experience of having to start as a beginner on a new instrument. Sure, there are some bigger stretches for your fingers and a host of new techniques, but nothing which can’t be drawn from your existing guitar skill set.