If you’re curious about the difference between the 8 string guitar vs bass, this post is for you.
For context, I’ve been a guitar player since 2003 and have messed around with all sorts of instruments since then.
From guitar hybrids to banjos, mandolins, and more, I’m a multi-instrumentalist with some experience in this domain.
I don’t have it all figured out when it comes to the 8 string guitar and bass, but I’m happy to share my research on these instruments here on the blog.
Many people are curious about the relationship between the 8 string guitar and the bass because they want to know if the two additional low strings on the 8 string can actually compare to a bass guitar?
In order to answer this question, we should define each instrument first:
- 8 String Guitar: A guitar with two additional low strings compared to the standard guitar. These new strings are tuned to F# and B, respectively. So, the tuning of the 8 string guitar is: F#-B-E-A-D-G-B-E.
- Bass Guitar: The electric counterpart of the double bass, shaped like an electric guitar. The standard version comes with 4 strings tuned E-A-D-G, one octave lower than the last 4 strings of the standard guitar.
In short, you can see that that they are totally different instruments.
However, the line between the bass guitar’s top strings and the 8 string guitar’s bottom strings gets blurry in terms of tuning and sound.
How The 8 String Guitar and Bass Guitar Differ and How This Plays Into Which Instrument You Should Learn
So, you want to play an instrument and you are deciding between the 8 string guitar and the bass guitar?
The first thing you should consider is which sound you like the most. As simple as it seems, the first thing you fall in love with when it comes to a musical instrument is its sound.
However, there are other elements you should be considering, too. Here’s a list to help you see the differences between the 8 string guitar and the bass guitar:
8 String Guitar
Has 8 strings
Has 4 strings
Focused on the mid and high register
Focused on the low register
Chords are easier to play
Chords are harder to play
Strumming is easier
Strumming is harder
The frets are smaller, distances are easier to reach
The frets are larger, distances are harder to reach
Focuses mainly on chords & solos
Focuses mainly on bass & groove lines
Strings are reasonably easy to press down
Strings are harder to press down
Few learning materials available that consider the additional strings
Abundant learning materials
Played in few genres
Played in nearly every genre
Guitar strings are easier to press down.
Even when both instruments share almost the same tuning, the bass guitar’s scale is bigger than that of the 8 string guitar.
As a result, the bass guitar’s frets are wider and the strings’ tension higher. Therefore, you will have to press down harder in order to produce a perfectly clean note.
The 8 string guitar has a neck that is wider than a regular guitar’s, but the scale is still smaller than that of a bass guitar. Thus, a normal pressure will suffice to get a good, clean tone.
Bass Guitar’s Frets Are Larger
Given the large scale of a bass guitar, the distance between each fret is larger than that of the 8 string guitar.
You’ll find that your fingers will need to do longer stretches in order to cover the distance between the frets. This might be a problem if you have small hands and can make learning the bass guitar a bit more difficult for beginners.
However, this should not be a problem once you get comfortable with the instrument.
On the other hand, the distance between the frets on the 8 string guitar is smaller.
What Can You Play With A Bass Guitar?
The role of the bass guitar is to provide harmonic support to the songs through a melody called bass line.
What does it mean?
Well, just as guitar player play harmony through chords, bass players provide harmony by playing the individual notes of the chords.
More often than not bass players will play the root, which is the note that gives a chord its name.
For instance, if a guitar player is playing a C major, F major, and G major chords, the bass player might play the notes C, F, and G.
Since the bass guitar focuses on the low register, a bass player will provide depth of sound to the music.
Normally, a bass player will not be required to perform lots of chords and solos to do a good job.
Indeed, a nice bass line with just a few notes outlining the chords will often be enough for most songs.
This makes it easier for beginners to quickly dive into playing the bass since they can learn these notes faster than learning chords and strumming patterns.
One of the greatest things about being a bass player is that you are wanted in nearly any music genre. To put it simply, there are hardly any musical genres that don’t want or need a bass player!
What Can You Play on an 8 String Guitar?
The role of the 8 string guitar is quite versatile.
The additional low F# and B strings gives you the opportunity to play heavier and stronger riffs.
Genres like djent, progressive, and math rock are making good use of the instrument because of the melodic and harmonic possibilities.
Since the low F# and B strings are also tuned in perfect 4ths, you can still play there the same riffs and power chords you play in your regular guitar.
The distortion in these strings makes the sound heavier and darker, ideal for extreme metal genres. Bands like Scar Symmetry and Animals as Leaders have creative and powerful riffs and lines using the 8 string, particularly the low 7th and 8th strings!
Interestingly, the low F# and B strings are pretty close to the register of the low strings of a bass guitar. This means that you can also play bass lines here!
The 8 string guitar will give you the opportunity to explore harmony and melody like a regular guitar with extra strings to play bass lines too.
You can get a sense of an 8 string guitar’s sound from the video below of Tosin Abasi.
It is amazing how you can combine bass, harmony, and melody all in a single instrument!
Learning Materials Available
The 8 String Guitar
Although 8 string guitars have been available since 2007, there are few dedicated learning resources for this instrument.
The 8 string guitar is still considered more of a specialty instrument.
As a result, I recommend you acquaint yourself with the 6 string guitar before jumping into the 8 string model.
But don’t worry.
You will still find several interesting YouTube videos showing you how to play things on the 8 string guitar.
Most of them, however, are aimed at the intermediate guitar player trying a new instrument.
Therefore, 8 string guitar learning materials typically assume a solid foundation of knowledge with the standard guitar.
The Bass Guitar
The bass guitar has been around since at least the 1950s, so you can count on more than 60 years of dedicated learning materials for this instrument.
Plus, bands in nearly every genre have a bass guitar player.
Thus, you will find plenty of learning material available for the bass guitar player of any skill level.
8 String Guitar Vs Bass: The Final Verdict
You might want to pursue an 8 string guitar if you:
- Are already an intermediate guitar player
- Are into metal genres
- Are willing to pay a bit more for a specialty instrument.
You might want to pursue the bass guitar instead if you:
- Are choosing your first musical instrument.
- Want to have the flexibility of playing in several different genres.
- Want to be able to learn your instrument quickly with plenty of dedicated learning materials.
How hard is it to play an 8 string guitar?
Learning to play an 8 string guitar could be very difficult if you don’t play the guitar already. An additional two string can be overwhelming if you are not already familiar with the 6 string guitar. In short, this is not a beginner’s instrument.
How hard is it to play the bass guitar?
Playing the bass guitar might be difficult for beginners because of the strength and hand-stretching required to play well. However, once you get enough practice time, your hands will get used to the distance. You will have to learn just a few single notes in order to play most songs. Therefore, the bass guitar is probably easier than the 8 string guitar.
8 String Guitar Vs Bass: Conclusion
Hve more questions about the bass vs 8 string guitar?
Let me know in the comments!