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Piccolo Bass Vs Guitar: The Ultimate Guide [2021 Edition]

If you’re wondering what the difference is between a piccolo bass vs guitar, this post is for you!

I’ve been playing guitar since 2003 and have messed around with plenty of instruments since then. 

So what’s the difference between a piccolo bass and a standard guitar?

Check out the table below to get a sense of their differences:

Quality
Piccolo Bass
Standard Guitar
Acoustic or Electric
Electric only
Acoustic or electric
Standard Tuning
EADG (the exact same as the last 4 strings of a standard guitar and one octave higher than a standard bass)
EADGBE
Scale Length
30 – 34 inches
24.5 – 25.5 inches
String Gauge
Heavier
Lighter
Sound
Bass techniques in the tonal range of the guitar
Highly flexible
Price
Higher
Lower
Learning Materials
Fewer
More

I’ll explore these differences more in the sections below.

And if you want to know more about the piccolo bass specifically, check out this post.

Piccolo Bass Vs Guitar: Acoustic or Electric?

Many musicians adjust their standard electric bass to accommodate strings tuned one octave higher than standard bass tuning by swapping the nut to support lighter strings and putting lighter gauge strings on their instrument.

(And sometimes, they don’t even swap the nut, they just put piccolo strings on their standard electric bass.)

However, some manufacturers actually make piccolo basses that have shorter scale lengths like Ibanez’s Gio short-scale bass.

Thus, an electric piccolo bass has the same or shorter scale length as a standard electric bass.

Generally, an acoustic piccolo bass refers to a stand-up double bass with an alternate tuning.

However, you could certainly put lighter strings on an acoustic bass guitar and tune up an octave to get an acoustic piccolo bass in the bass guitar family.

And as you probably know, the acoustic guitar comes in countless acoustic, electric, and electro-acoustic models.

In short, you can only really find electric piccolo basses.

But you can find either acoustic or electric standard guitars.

Piccolo Bass Vs Guitar: Tuning

Like I stated above, a piccolo bass is tuned one octave higher than a standard bass.

It actually has the exact same tuning as the lower four strings of the standard guitar.

Thus, the piccolo bass has the same tuning as a standard guitar without strings one and two.

Comparing Scale Length

You can better understand the scale length of these instruments and how they compare with each other with some examples.

Instrument
Scale Length (Inches)
34
30.3
24.6

Of course, the instruments in the table above are simply examples and any one instrument may not follow these generalizations.

However, the scale length (and overall instrument size) tends to follow this pattern:

standard electric bass > piccolo electric bass > standard electric guitar.

Piccolo Bass Vs Guitar: Strings

Even though a piccolo bass is tuned the same as a standard guitar, it has heavier gauge strings.

The string gauge on the piccolo bass will give it more of that bass feel while allowing you to play in the tonal range of the standard guitar.

You can compare these instruments’ string gauges to each other and other closely related instruments in the table below.

Strings for Instrument Type
1st String Gauge (Inches)
2nd String Gauge
(Inches)
3rd String Gauge (Inches)
4th String Gauge (Inches)
5th String Gauge (Inches)
6th String Gauge (Inches)
.05
.07
.085
.105
NA
NA
.02
.032
.042
.052
NA
NA
.01
.013
.017
.026
.036
.046

These string gauges are simply examples and not necessarily representative of all instruments’ string gauges in their given category.

However, most strings will be at least close in gauge to these string gauges in their given category.

Sound Comparison

Check out the video below to get a great sense of the piccolo bass’s sound.

You’ll notice that, even though this instrument shares the same tuning as the last four strings of a standard guitar, it still manages to have that distinct bass sound.

That sound likely comes from using bass guitar techniques with the twist of using them in the tonal range of a standard guitar.

Surprisingly enough, the standard guitar sounds different than a piccolo bass (to me) even though they have the same tuning as you can tell in the video below.

Maybe if someone played the exact same riff on the piccolo bass and electric guitar, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

But it seems like there’s something distinct about that piccolo bass sound.

Price

Specialty instruments sometimes skip the low-range, entry-level price point since they aren’t for beginners.

This can have its pros and cons.

One pro is that you have greater odds of receiving a higher-quality instrument when purchasing a specialty instrument you haven’t test-played when it’s priced higher.

However, the obvious con is that there are fewer lower-cost options.

These pros and cons hold true for the piccolo bass.

That said, you can easily convert a standard bass into a piccolo bass.

Thus, if you really want a piccolo bass, you can have one for the cost of converting a standard electric bass to a piccolo.

On the other hand, there are countless options from entry-level to extremely expensive for the standard guitar.

Piccolo Bass Vs Guitar: Learning Materials

You can find tons of learning materials for the standard guitar.

However, most consider the piccolo bass simply another type of bass.

Due to this and the novelty of this instrument, learning materials for the piccolo bass just aren’t very common.

That said, you can find some helpful educational content on the piccolo bass if you search YouTube for tutorials.

Which instrument should you pursue?

So, which instrument should you pursue? Check out this table to find out:

You might pursue the piccolo bass if several of the following are true.
You might pursue the guitar if several of the following are true.
You already play the standard bass and want to explore bass techniques in the tonal range of a standard guitar.
You want to pursue one of the most popular instruments of all time.
You have an extra standard electric bass that you would be willing to convert to a piccolo or are willing to pay a premium for a piccolo.
You want an instrument with countless options at every price point.
You are willing to learn this twist on your instrument with almost no dedicated learning materials.
You want to have an abundance of learning materials.

Piccolo Bass Vs Guitar: Conclusion

I hope this article helped you learn more about the difference between these instruments!

As usual, let me know in the comments if you have any further questions about the piccolo bass or guitar (or any other music-related question)!

I don’t know if I will be able to help, but I’d love to try.

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