Although both guitars have the same purpose, acoustic and electric bass guitars are very different instruments. Some people will choose the electric bass over the acoustic bass by default because electric bass guitars are much more popular. Consider the major similarities and differences of both below. You might decide that an acoustic bass is more suited to your needs. Or you might seek out the versatility of an electric bass.
What is an Acoustic Bass?
An acoustic bass guitar is a little bit different from a classic acoustic guitar. You will usually find six strings on an acoustic guitar, but only four strings on an acoustic bass guitar. The notes available are in a lower octave than a regular acoustic guitar. The acoustic bass is not widely popular due to its soft sound.
Some musicians will choose an acoustic bass over an electric bass due to its richer tones. Country, jazz, and several other music genres blend well with the sound of an acoustic bass guitar. However, it can be difficult to hear an acoustic bass once backing vocals and other instruments are added into the mix.
Here’s a really good acoustic bass solo:
What is an Electric Bass?
An electric bass guitar is an instrument with four strings that need to be connected to an amplifier. The typical electric bass features the notes E-A-D-G, making it a full octave lower than a regular acoustic or electric guitar.
Most musicians who perform on stage opt for the loud volume of an electric bass guitar. They can practice quietly with an unplugged bass but experiment with louder sound and unique effects once they hit the stage.
Here’s what the electric bass guitar looks and sounds like:
Both the acoustic bass and the electric bass guitar are similar instruments. They were created for the same purpose. You should understand the essential similarities between the two before you weigh their differences.
Both of these instruments are stringed instruments, which means you play them by plucking at the strings with your fingers or a guitar pick. They only have four strings because these guitars play a lower register of notes than a regular guitar.
An acoustic bass creates sound from the vibrations of the strings, which a simple soundboard amplifies. The electric bass is slightly different and uses an amplifier to produce sound.
Both electric and acoustic bass guitars are delicate instruments that require maintenance. If you neglect to care for either type of guitar, you can cause significant damage. You need to store them away in a guitar case any time they are not being played. You should also protect them from extremely cold and extremely hot temperatures. Be careful about how you clean your bass guitar, too. Do not use harsh chemicals or rough tools that could damage the body, frets, or fretboard.
The acoustic bass and the electric bass are two instruments that feature more differences than similarities. These differences mean that they are significantly different instruments. You might find that one is better suited to your needs than the other.
Amp or No Amp
Perhaps the biggest difference between these guitars is power. With an acoustic bass, you do not need any power. However, some acoustic bass models give you the option to hook up an amplifier to boost sound. If you own an electric bass, you must have an amplifier to create sound.
Many people are attracted to the acoustic bass for its distinct tone. The rich, clear tone of an acoustic bass cannot be replicated with the electric bass. While you might be able to modify and enhance the sound and tone with the electric bass, you will not be able to achieve the fullness of an acoustic bass guitar. This tone is often associated with jazz and country music.
The volume of an electric bass guitar is superior to the acoustic bass. You can try to make it louder or softer through your playing, but it may be harder to hear an acoustic bass over the sound of other instruments.
With an electric bass, you can amplify the sound and increase the volume with ease. You can also modify and enhance the sound with various controls on an amplifier.
The electric bass guitar should be at the top of your list if you are looking for versatility. Electric bass guitars are a popular instrument that works well in almost any genre of music. Rock, pop, hip hop, funk, and more are well-suited to the sound of an electric bass. Plus, you can use the amplifier to create a unique sound and tone to fit your music perfectly.
Acoustic bass guitars are seen more in a few select music genres. These instruments blend effortlessly with country and jazz music due to their distinct, rich tone. You are also not at liberty to play along with many other people or instruments due to the softer sound of an acoustic bass.
The extra components of an electric bass guitar mean that it is typically more expensive than an acoustic bass guitar. You can find acoustic bass options for as low as $150. However, there are more and more electric bass guitars on the market that do not cost too much more.
Ease for Beginners
For beginners, an acoustic bass is harder to learn. The strings are harder to press because they are made out of metal. The heavy strings are required to make more vibrations. Compared to an electric bass guitar, which does need to create as many vibrations with the strings to create sound.
You do not have to press too hard to pluck the thinner strings with the electric bass guitar. And the strings are set closer to the frets, making it easier to begin learning how to play the bass.
Electric bass guitars are hardier instruments. When you play the bass, you will see that you constantly slap, tap, and strum to get the desired effect of the music. On an acoustic bass, you can more easily damage delicate components. Players who do not have much experience may be too aggressive with an acoustic bass. Electric bass guitars are designed to resist damage.
Which Option is Better for You?
The answer to this question is not simple cut-and-dry. You need to consider several different factors before you make a decision. If you are a beginner, you might be attracted to the ease of learning how to play an electric bass guitar. But if you are more focused on the type of sound, you could decide on the acoustic bass. Someone with enough prior experience and skills can find a lot of success with an acoustic bass guitar.
Remember to think about your budget, too. Acoustic bass guitars are less expensive, but they might not hold up to rigorous playing. You can actually find many affordable electric bass options on the market compared to several years ago.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.