Should You Learn Guitar Before Bass? (The Pros & Cons)


So, you’re on the fence over which instrument to learn first, and maybe you have heard some different opinions.

Guitar or bass, is there a correct order to learn these instruments in? Can you jump straight into bass without any knowledge of guitar?

Quite simply you don’t need to learn guitar before bass because they are two different instruments! While they are very similar in the way you play them, each has its own style and set of challenges that you will need to conquer when starting to learn.

So, the short answer is – learning bass doesn’t require you to know anything about playing guitar, however there are some pro and cons worth knowing.

Guitar bass and drums ready for gig

You Can Start With Guitar or Bass

The great thing about starting your guitar journey Is that you can start with either guitar or bass. Regardless of which one you pick, the skills you learn will be helpful when you want to learn the other. 

The reason your skills will carry over is that both guitar and bass use almost the exact same tuning for their strings. A guitar has 6 strings tuned E-A-D-G-B-E, whereas a bass has four strings tuned E-A-D-G. 

Bass has the same tuning minus the last two strings and the strings are an octave lower to give it that deep bass sound.

The choice of which one you choose to learn first comes down to what type of playing you want to start with. This decision will come down to what you want to get out of each instrument. 

Pros & Cons of Learning Bass First

The great thing about choosing to learn bass first is that it will allow you to understand the groove and rhythm of a band dynamic. 

When performing in a band the bass player is most closely tied to the drummer. Between the pair, they create the groove of a song through the bass line and drum beat. 

To play bass means you’re playing to create the structure of the song that the rest of the band follows.

1. Timing & Control

This makes learning bass first a great way to learn the disciplines of timing and control in your playstyle. Without a bass line, most songs would fall apart, it’s the glue that keeps it all together.  

2. Basslines Can Be Simple

Learning bass first also means you don’t have to worry about using multiple fingers at once right away. Basslines are usually played one note at a time. This can be simpler than learning guitar where you’ll often learn chords first that use multiple fingers at once. 

A lot of simple bass lines don’t even make use of more than 1 or 2 strings. This gives you a chance to get familiar with your bass before having to learn any technique. In fact, most people will be able to play a song or two in their first practice.

3. Playing Bass by Yourself

On the downside, bass can be more difficult to learn if you’re playing by yourself a lot. Playing bass is all about setting the groove for the rest of the band and this is where a lot of the enjoyment for this instrument comes from. 

This can make playing by yourself a bit unsatisfying especially when compared to guitar, where you can play easily recognizable chords and melodies solo.

4. Thick Strings

Some people may also find bass strings harder to press down than guitar strings. This is due to bass strings being thicker to give them their low sound. Mastering pressing down on bass strings takes time but once you’ve got the technique it will feel natural and comfortable. 

Pros & Cons of Learning Guitar First

Starting with guitar first will mean you can play more recognizable parts of songs which can make practicing by yourself a lot easier than on bass.

Being able to play the chords to a song you love or trying to learn your favorite guitar solo is a great motivator when you’re learning.

You may also find that learning materials and tutorials are easier to find for guitar than for bass. This is due to learning guitar being a more popular choice. 

1. Playing Music With Guitarists

Leaning guitar first will allow you to get familiar with the chords that make up most songs. Learning these chords will give you a great advantage when playing bass, because you will easily be able to play along with guitarists. 

All you’ll need to do is play the root note of these chords to play the bass line. The root note of a chord is typically the note on the first string you strum when playing a chord 

2. Length of Learning Time

Learning chords first does have its downside though. It will take you a bit longer to be able to play full songs on a guitar than it will on bass.

On bass, you only have to learn single notes and memorize the order of them to get playing. On guitar, you’ll need to memorize a few chords before you’re able to play any songs. 

Learning these chords can get a bit confusing as each chord is a completely different shape that requires you to use every finger on your left hand, (or right hand if you’re left-handed!) 

So not only are you memorizing the order of the chords but you have to remember the chords themselves. This can present a roadblock to rocking out if you. 

3. Moving Around the Fretboard

Another thing to keep in mind if learning guitar first is that changing between chords is a lot harder than changing between single notes.

On bass, you can move a single finger up and down the fretboard to create a bass line. On guitar, you need to practice getting up to four fingers in place between chords. 

Go With Your Gut – Do What YOU Feel Is Best!

At the end of the day, your choice between learning bass first or learning guitar first comes down to which one of these instruments YOU are drawn to. 

There is honestly no use in learning guitar first just so that you can eventually learn bass. If playing bass is what feels right in your gut, then just go for it! 

Both of these instruments come with challenges you will have to face to master them. These challenges are what make playing an instrument so satisfying. The challenges you’ll face on bass are different from those on a guitar. So pick the one you want to master. 

As you practice and improve you’ll discover new ways to enjoy playing the instrument you’ve decided to learn and with that comes new ways to have fun playing. 

Go with your gut because regardless of whether you learn bass or guitar first, both will teach you skills that will help you learn faster when you try the other.