Bass guitar is a guitar-like instrument that plays a somewhat unique role in a band. Unlike other instruments that take either melodic or rhythmic role, bass guitar plays a role as a bridge between harmony and rhythm. It has in itself the essence of rhythmic sound with rather constant duration of its notes and also the essence of melody and harmony with its multi-pitch sound.
Although it looks similar to a guitar, bass guitar and guitar are actually two very different instruments, both in terms of construction and their role in a band. Here we will discuss specifically about what bass guitar is and its function in a band.
The Construction of a Bass Guitar
There are several aspects of the construction of a bass guitar that distinguishes it from a guitar and makes it a truly unique instrument.
1. Overall Structure
Overall, a bass guitar and a guitar look very much identical. Both are stringed instruments that have body, neck, headstock, and many smaller components that look the same. However, if you look at a bass guitar closely, you will see that the neck of a bass guitar is actually longer than its guitar counterpart. The longer neck, together with the thick strings, is useful for producing low-pitch notes typical of a bass.
A bass guitar normally has four strings which are tuned E, A, D, and G and correspond the four lowest pitched strings of a guitar. 5 and 6-string variants of a bass guitar are also available, with double-neck bass may carry eight strings, but the 4-string model is still the canonical.
Due to bass guitar’s low pitch, it must be loud enough to be heard in a band. This is the reason why bass guitar is mostly electric. An acoustic bass is also available, but it must be large enough (double bass) or it must use a pickup. The standard type of today’s guitar bass is the electric one.
Those are features that distinguish a guitar bass from a guitar. Read on to understand the role of a guitar bass in a band.
The Function of a Guitar Bass in a Band
What role does a guitar bass play in a band? Here is a list of functions of a guitar bass in a band.
1. Bridging harmony and rhythm
As explained above, guitar bass’s constant duration and multi-pitch sound make it an excellent bridge between harmony and rhythm. It accompanies other melodic instruments with its melodies and—together with percussion—defines rhythm.
2. Defining the chords of a song
The easiest way to understand the chords of a song is by hearing its bass. Bass’s single tone represents the chord of a section of the song. One tone may represent both the major and minor variants, as well as other variants (such as augmented and diminished) of a chord. While other instruments such as guitar and piano may show the complex chords, you can find out the basic form of that chord by hearing the bass.