I want to play guitar! Or maybe bass! Help me choose!

Yep. I, like so many other college students, have a dream of starting a band. I have other like-minded people to start. What I (or any of us) don’t have is: Instruments, Musical Knowledge or Talent (that we know of). Anyhow, that’s pretty much irrelelvant because I want to learn to play either guitar or bass (electric in both cases).

Any suggestions on which one? I have no musical experience, if that effects things. Also, I’m 6’7", but have fairly small hands for someone of my stature, so size of the thing isn’t really a factor (I think).

Also, any recommendations as to specific make/model is more than welcome, as is advice on how to go about learning.

Bass. There is a terrific demand for even the most rudimentary bass players. Buy a bass, practice with CD’s awhile, then join a band and let someone teach you what to play. Not kidding.

Think about what sort of person you are:

Do you want to be in the spotlight? Have the chicks hit on you every night? Get your ya-yas out without worrying about what everyone else is doing? You’re a lead guitar player.

Are you a steady type, always making sure everyting is OK? Would you rather hide in the shadows and let someone else take the credit? Buy a bass and practice, practice, practice.

Get someone experienced (or hire a teacher) to go with you when you plan to purchase your instrument. Getting a playable instrument is not something a beginner can do easily.

I vote bass. I got no reassons why, I just think bass is cool.


Long time player here:

Learn guitar. If you learn guitar you can pick up the basics of bass in about 5 minutes. The reverse is NOT true.

Long time guitarist here.

Guitar - dime-a-dozen (although song-oriented, good guitarists are always in demand) comfortable with the spotlight (unless you exclusively play rhythm guitar and purposely stay in the background).

Bass - always in demand, simpler to learn the basics (assuming you are starting with basic rock/punk/blues), having a decent sense of rhythm and being willing to hold down the bottom end is key (no one likes a lead bassists - with obvious exceptions like Primus or something, which you won’t be playing for about 15 years…)

From a size standpoint (I am 6’ 4", btw) it really doesn’t matter. Maybe a bass looks a little more proportional to your size, but who cares? If you like bass and what it means to play bass, do it. Ditto for guitar.

Either way - go for it!!! Pick one, and get a decent solid-body instrument (again, assuming we’re talkin’ rock/punk/blues here). Fender’s Squire instruments can be bought new for $150 - $300. Have a more experienced friend help you choose and MAKE SURE THAT THE INSTRUMENT IS PROPERLY SET UP!!! (i.e., can be tuned and holds the tuning for a couple of hours, the action - distance between fretboard and strings is low without buzzing, neck is straight, pickups are right distance from strings, etc…). An improperly set up guitar/bass is a main reason beginners sound SO bad and why they give up playing.

You can get good deals on eBay - the problem is that you really need to be an expert to recognize a good deal. If you can’t play the instrument - and have an experienced friend play it, too - don’t buy it.

If at all possible, get an inexpense tube amp that is quiet enough to allow late night practicing, but loud enough to play over drums. 20 - 30 watts RMS should do it.

Enough for now - rock on, dude!

Oh, and as for recco’s:

Gibson Guitars

Rickenbacher Basses

Others may disagree.

I agree with J.C. for the following reasons:

  1. It is very hard to write a song on bass. You might come up with some cool lines on your own, but it’s usually boring to practice bass by yourself.

  2. It helps to be able to watch the guitar player’s hands and know what they’re doing.

  3. H.O.!

  4. It’s easier to learn basic theory (I-IV-V) on a guitar.

  5. Most bass players are bad guitar players.

Bruce_Daddy, bassist for 10 years.

I would advise you to really put some thought into which of those two instruments you’d rather play, and not base your decision on who is gonna need your services once you learn, or on the supposed personality type required for one over the other. No offense to the other posters, of course. But if you pick an instrument that in the end you have no desire to play, you’re not gonna practice, you’ll lose interest, and you’ll just end up wasting your time.

And in that vein, go down to your local music store. Tell the salesman of your predicatment. Have him get down a bass and guitar and show you a few licks. Pick 'em up yourself. Fondle those babies. See if one feels more comfortable, in your hands, if one screams out, PLAY ME! Maybe if you’re lucky the instrument will chose you.

I play both guitar and bass and I find guitar more satisfying in just about every aspect. If you are just looking to learn an instrument as fast as possible to be band-viable then bass is the best option. But, if your all starting out without experience then someone has to take up guitar so I’d grab it while the spot is still open. Guitar requires dedication to learn even simple stuff while bass doesn’t. If you think you may have interest in music beyond getting laid at college then don’t get too seduced by the ease with which you can pick up bass. Do you find yourself following bass lines in tunes often?

Others may, but as the proud owner of five Gibson guitars and one Rickenbacker bass (as well as a Rickenbacker 12-string), I wouldn’t be one of them!

From what I’ve seen, the sexier chicks really go for a man who can really handle a bass.

Now, unless you are damned good you have no business inflicting a bass ‘solo’ on another human being. I am not talking about quiet practice done until you are fairly proficient, but blasting away on it with no knowledge of basic musical theory.

I say this as someone who bought out of an apartment lease early partly because a downstairs neighbor would play an out of tune version of Metallica’s “Anasthesia (Pulling Teeth)” bass solo for hours on end.

Jonathan Chance and Biffy are right - Gibbies and Ricky’s are great instruments, but you can buy a down-scale Fender (e.g., a Squire made in Korea, or a Mexi-Strat) for much less.

Granted, you can get an Epiphone-by-Gibson guitar for about $300 - $400, too.

It really depends on the type of music you play - once you decide which you want to focus on - guitar or bass - then think about the players and music you listen to most and find out what they play.

Fenders are more “blue collar” - bolt-on necks, bigger neck scale (i.e., the neck is longer and the frets are a little farther apart - noticeable especially when starting to learn and/or have smaller hands). You can practically use a Fender-style guitar to hammer in nails and not really hurt it much.

Gibsons - especially Les Pauls and ES 335’s - are more “craftsmanly” (?) guitars. More craft goes into building them and the necks have a smaller scale. Gibsons are built in the traditional of finer fretted instruments, unlike Fenders, which brought a mass-production/efficiency sensibility to their guitars - don’t get me wrong, Fenders can be VERY well made - I am a Fender guy.

Ricky’s are more of a cult instrument - them that have 'em, love 'em, but they aren’t nearly as common as F’s and G’s. Also, they can be pretty pricey…

Actually, on further review, Wordman is right.

Gibson and Ricks are great and pricey. Better to get a knock off to start and invest in a real one when the right time comes.

Since you have zero previous training, get an acoustic guitar and test the waters with that (~$200), instead of a complete electric or bass rig (~$800). If you show the least ability on the guitar, the other options are still all there waiting for you.

On one level, I agree with you, Zenster - starting with an acoustic worked for me. On the other hand, depending on the type of music you want to play, Ender_Will, playing an electric might be more “inspiring” - e.g., it might be hard to visualize sounding cool trying to play Metallica’s Master of Puppets on an inexpensive Yamaha acoustic. Also, if you have a limited budget and want to play in a band, you may need to buy electric gear because you can only buy one thing and so it better be band-ready…


Well, acoustic and electric are really two different instruments. And it doesn’t have to cost that much for an electric rig; a serviceable electric guitar (like an Epiphone SG or Les Paul, or a Squier Stratocaster) can be had for two bills, add a practice amp (say a little 15-watt Marshall), picks, cords, strap, and a fuzzbox and you should have change left from $400.

Another guitar player chiming in here. Go with the guitar and then move to bass if you so desire.

For about 250 you can get a Squire Strat Pack. Has everything you need to start, Squire Strat (not great but okay for beginners), tuner, extra strings, picks, gig bag, and a 15 watt amp.

This is how I started but have sinced moved onto my Gibson LP. Still have the Strat and still occasionaly play it.

I think the kind of music you intend to play might affect your choice. I’m a bass player (so forgive the bass-centric post) and I find that a lot of modern rock has very bland bass lines; it’s all power chords by the guitars. Invest a little time listening to the bass playing on some of your favourite music and see if it’s the kind of thing you’d like to do.

Also maybe think about the different kinds of bass that are available.

I usually play a five string bass tuned to a low B, so I can run lower than a normal bass and often have enough room to drop the standard line down a whole octave and really make the walls shake. I find a five-string lends itself to fast playing with a pick and light strings in a way that’s much more guitar like.

Speaking as someone who lives on the fourth floor and owns a big Trace Elliot amp, I’d advise a little thought about the weight of your gear as well. Everything to do with a bass is heavy. The strings alone weigh more than most guitars. And cost. One bass string’ll set you back about the same as a complete set for a treble guitar.

Despite these minor disadvantages I wouldn’t trade my basses for anything.