Maybe you are experimenting with your electric guitar’s sound, or you simply forgot to bring your amp to band practice. Whatever your reason, you might wonder whether or not it’s a good idea to plug your guitar into a bass amp. It is always worth researching beforehand when experimenting with your expensive equipment because the last thing you want is to damage your amp or cause an electrical outage!
Can you use a bass amp for guitar?
While it may seem like a strange thing to do, you can definitely use a bass amp for guitar! In fact, some guitarists even prefer the deeper sound they can get from bass amps.
Bass amps have a larger frequency range, so these amps can handle the high frequencies of electric guitars while also adding more bass frequencies. Bass amps are also typically more powerful with higher wattage.
But will it damage your bass amp speakers?
The answer is no. Bass amps are designed to handle lower frequencies. Lower frequencies require more voltage to transfer sound from the instrument to the speaker. Guitars produce a higher frequency sound than basses. So this means that when you play guitar through your bass amp, the amp is using less power than it would if you were using it to play bass. Less power means your amp is not working as hard and can easily handle the output.
Difference between bass amps and guitar amps
Although they look very similar, guitar amps and bass amps are quite different. Bass amps require different frequencies, power, and speaker size to produce a resonating sound that you can feel in your chest.
The human ear can hear sounds as low as 20hz and up to 20khz. A bass amp has a full-range frequency response because it is designed to handle sound frequencies from 31hz-5khz, while guitar amps can only handle frequencies from 100hz-5khz. This means that while guitar amps are not designed to handle the lower frequencies of a bass, bass amps can handle the higher frequencies of a guitar.
How loud an amp can get is measured in wattage. Bass amps require a lot of power because of the lower frequency sound they are designed to produce. A typical bass amp is between 300-400 watts. On the other hand, a guitar amp with this kind of power would be VERY powerful and loud. Most guitarists only need an amp with an absolute maximum of 100 watts.
Bass amps used for live performances are generally much larger than their guitar counterparts. This is because lower frequency sounds require larger speakers to produce audible sound in those frequencies. Guitar amp speakers are generally around 6-12 inches in diameter, while bass amp speakers will be 10-18 inches in diameter.
Check out my article that breaks down the differences between guitar and bass amps extensively.
Why does size matter?
The speaker size makes a huge difference for bass notes. Have you ever seen a subwoofer with 4-inch speakers? Didn’t think so. This is because small speakers have a small sound and can barely handle low bass frequencies. So, as you increase the speaker size and wattage, your amp will inherently be able to handle more bass frequencies.
Pros and cons of using a bass amp to play guitar
Many guitars prefer to use bass amps for guitar. Some famous guitarists who love using bass amps are Josh Humme of Queens of the Stone Age and the late great Jimi Hendrix. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of using a bass amp to play guitar.
- Get a deeper tone from your guitar
- Clearer sound (less distortion)
- Boosted bass levels for single coil pickups
- No natural distortion or overdrive as you increase the gain of the amp
- Bass amps generally lack the built-in effects that guitar amps have
Can you play bass through a guitar amp?
Now that you know it is possible and even beneficial to use a bass amp to play guitar, you may wonder if it works the other way around. Unfortunately, playing bass out of a guitar amp is not a good idea, especially at high volumes. Guitar amps are not made to handle low bass frequencies, so playing your bass through your guitar amp could potentially blow out the amp speakers.
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions regarding your equipment or want some tips on how to make your gear sound as good as possible. I’m happy to help out!