What’s Harder Guitar or Bass? Survey Results & Reasons

I’ve been into music and playing guitar, and I never learned bass guitar until I had been playing guitar for quite a while. 

I found it relatively easy but I was already pretty good on guitar. So, I decided to do a survey to find out whether most people find bass guitar or regular harder. Here’s what I found.

Overall, 76.2% of people reported that regular guitar is harder than bass guitar. A survey asked the question: which is harder bass or guitar. 101 people responded and the vast majority said that regular guitar is harder than bass guitar.

Interestingly, another survey I performed showed that bass guitar, electric, and acoustic guitar are the easiest instruments to learn out of all instruments.

There are a number of reasons why, so below I will provide the reasons why regular guitar is harder than bass guitar based on people’s comments.

Read on to find out why bass guitar is easier than regular guitar.

Why Guitar is Harder Than Bass Guitar

I’ve provided a list of 8 reasons why guitar is harder than bass guitar below. But, first here’s the data from the surveys:

Question: Is bass guitar harder than regular guitar?Percentage of people that agreed
No, bass guitar is easier than regular guitar76.2%
Yes, bass guitar is harder than regular guitar23.6%

The number of people who responded to the survey was 101. And it was carried out in August 2021. It was also asked in a forum thread about guitar. Because of that it’s very likely respondents had some experience playing both instruments.

Through researching this question I came across many comments from people that seemed to paint a clear picture about why guitar is harder than bass. In my own experience, I have found that the reasons people gave are very similar to what I’ve found in playing both instruments. But, some I hadn’t thought about before. So, I’ve compiled them below:

1. You’re not expected to carry the song like a guitarist

A guitarist is generally in charge of the main riff. Which is also called the hook of the song. This is the catchy part of the song which makes it unique to other songs. And the drummer is responsible for keeping time in a band.

As a general rule, the bassist has more of a supporting role. Whereas, the guitarist, drummer and vocalist are in charge of holding the song together. As a result, they need to have more skill because the song depends on it.

This is related to another reason that bass guitar is easier, which is that you can’t really hear the bass guitar in a band.

2. You can’t hear the bass guitar as much in a song unlike a guitar

Before I started playing guitar, I would listen to music but it seemed like a mish mash of sounds and I had no real frame of reference around what each individual sounds.

I had a vague idea that there was a guitar, drums, and a singer. 

But, I couldn’t really pick out the individual instruments.

Now that I’ve been playing guitar for a long time I can easily pick out the individual instruments. One thing I’ve noticed is that bass guitar is very difficult to pick out by ear.

It also doesn’t play a lead role in most songs. There are rare songs where the bass line forms the main hook. But, in the vast majority of songs the guitar creates the main hook of the song.

In music terms this is the part of the song that really gets you going, that you whistle or sing along too. 

Because of that you could almost play nothing and no one would notice. However, it does provide a depth to the music and without it, it does sound like something is missing.

Therefore, there isn’t as much pressure on a bass guitarist and they can be not as good, and still form an integral part of a band.

3. People don’t expect you to do bass solos and prefer you don’t

Bass solos in a band generally don’t sound as good as a guitar solo. Most people find a drum solo can sound OK. But, unless you’re really into music theory – you won’t really enjoy listening to a bass or drum solo.

There are exceptions where a drummer or bassist is particularly talented. For example, I could listen to a Danny Carey drum solo over and over again.

However, for the most part it’s not expected that a bass guitarist should do a solo. Whereas, on a guitar it’s almost mandatory that a guitarist does a solo in every song.

This means a guitarist needs to have a lot more skill.  

4. Bass lines are generally one note at a time and are very simple

Bass lines in most songs only involve playing one note at a time one after the other. Whereas, with guitar most songs mix in chords, and solos. Solos are generally where one note is played at a time and at a fast speed.

But, bass lines for the most part are quite slow, and provide emphasis to the drums. For that reason it’s much easier to play bass well enough to play in a band.

Whereas, it’s much harder to learn everything you need to play guitar in a band.

Some of the most popular songs everyone knows and loves, have incredibly easy bass lines. The bass lines are fairly slow and repeat over and over again.

A good example is the song ‘Stand By Me’. Here’s a video that shows how to play it:

5. The frets are wider so your fingering doesn’t need to be as precise

A standard electric bass guitar like those sold by Fender measures 34 inches (86.36 cm). And a typical acoustic bass guitar is 30.3 inches long (77 cm). 

There are various lengths of bass guitar necks. For example, there are long scale, medium scale, and short scale. However, none of them are under 30 inches (76 cm) long.

Guitars by comparison are about 10% shorter. For example, one of the most famous electric guitars, the Gibson Les Paul, is 24.8 inches long (62.9 cm). 

A guitar and a bass guitar have around the same amount of frets. And on average have about 20 frets.

A bass guitar can tend to have slightly less and have around 20, whereas an electric guitar has about 22 frets. But, individual makes and models do vary quite a bit.

As a side note, interestingly a classical guitar always has 19 frets. 12 that are before the body of the guitar and can be played easily while keeping the same hand position. 

The remaining 7 frets, due to their location, mean you need to change the positioning of your hand and it’s very difficult to play the very high ends of the range.

Because the length of a bass guitar is quite a bit longer, but it has about the same amount of frets, the frets are much wider. 

This means there is more room to place your finger, and you can miss the middle of the fret by quite a bit more than on a guitar.

6. Two fingers are used – easier than fingerstyle guitar or using pick

Bass guitar is mostly played with your index and middle finger. Where the wrist rests on the top of the guitar. Or, the thumb is pressed against the bass guitar above the strings to stabilize the hand.

As you move from the top string to each string below the thumb rests on the string above it. Which makes it very easy to have a point of reference so your fingers are always in the correct position to play.

Whereas, if you use a pick, you need to keep your hand off the entire guitar, and move your hand using your arm. This requires more dexterity. And although it can be mastered fairly easily. It does take more time to learn and is harder than the plucking techniques used on the bass.

Fingerpicking in the classical, fingerstyle, and flamenco genres involves using the thumb on the top 4 strings. And playing the bottom three strings with your index, middle, and ring finger.

Where the pinking doesn’t play at all. Interestingly, the two finger picking technique used in bass guitar is also used in flamenco, fingerstyle, and classical guitar. It’s used when fast runs of notes are needed to be played. Where one finger just can’t keep up.

Many people wonder whether fingerpicking is hard. I recently analyzed whether it is or not and summarized it in this article about whether fingerstyle guitar is hard.

7. Bass strings are wider apart, giving more space and margin for error

Classical guitars have a wide neck, compared to a steel string or electric guitar. When you position the fingers on your fretting hand you can be less careful with where you place them. 

Because it’s easier for the tops and bottoms of your fingertips to not make contact with the string above and below them.

But, on steel string and electric guitars this can be more of an issue because the strings are closer together and you have less room for your fingertips. Bass guitar has even more space between the strings. 

Which gives you even more margin for error. Because of that you can be a lot less careful how you place your fingers, and playing overall is easier.

Many people wonder whether electric guitar is hard to learn. I looked at how hard electric guitar is compared to the other types of guitar – classical, and steel string – and summarized it in this article about whether electric guitar is hard.

8. Guitars have 2 more strings than a bass which makes it more complex

A typical bass guitar has 4 strings. This reduces the number of notes you can play and makes it much simpler to play. As you may know, the top 4 strings of a guitar are tuned in the exact same way as the strings of a bass guitar.

Bass guitar is about 66% as complicated to learn and play as guitar. Since, 4 66% of 6. Therefore, you don’t need to worry and learn about 2 additional strings. This makes it much easier to play. As well as to learn new songs. 

To use an analogy. Imagine you had to learn 4 different mathematics formulas, how they work, and why they’re used. But, now instead of 4 you have to learn 6. It takes more time to learn 4 rather than 6. Although, it each isn’t more difficult to learn than the other, the fact that you need to learn and remember more takes up more mental bandwidth.

This becomes tricky when learning the music theory. Each string has it’s own tuning. And the notes on each string are unique. For example, the note on the first fret on the top string, is different to the first fret on the second string. So, adding additional strings increases how many notes you need to learn.

How acoustic and electric bass guitar compare to other instruments

There are a tonne of different instruments, and I’ve found they each have unique aspects about them that made me interested to learn them. For example, a flute sounds really pretty. And a harmonic is very small and easy to carry around. But, I wanted to know what instruments are considered the hardest to learn.

I did a survey, and 155 people responded. Here’s the results:

InstrumentPeople who voted it is the hardest to learn and play
Strings – guitar only10%
Piano or Keyboard20.67%
Wind instruments – for example flute, saxophone24.67%
Strings all others – such as, violin, cello32%

Guitar came in first with only 10% of people voting for it as the hardest instrument to learn. Followed closely by the drums. Stringed instruments like the violin, and cello were voted as the hardest instruments to play.

Bass guitar is technically a guitar. However, it is very similar to the double bass, also called a stand up bass. However, since bass guitar was voted much easier than other types of guitar. It’s not in the same category as violin, and stand up bass. 

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