Every song needs bass in the mix to get a full, well-rounded sound. A song without bass frequencies will sound dull and shallow. So, if you are in a band that doesn’t have a bass guitarist, you may want to find a way to make your guitar sound like a bass to fill in for the lack of low-frequency sounds. There are several ways to make your guitar sound like a bass. With certain effects pedals, you can push your entire sound down an octave. But you can also make your guitar sound “bassy” by adjusting the tone and settings of your instrument to emphasize the low sounds.
Main differences between bass and guitar
Guitar and bass serve different functions, but they are very similar instruments. A bass guitar generally has four strings, which are the bottom four strings of a guitar but tuned down an octave. Basses also have longer necks than guitars and have pickups installed that are designed for low-frequency notes.
Bass is a very important instrument in a song mix. Bass guitarists hold down the rhythm of a song and act as a bridge between the drums and the guitar. While guitarists definitely have a rhythmic function, the high-end frequencies of the instrument make guitar a much more melodic instrument than bass.
Best way to make your guitar sound like a bass
These are the two most effective methods for making your guitar sound like a bass.
Use an octave pedal
Octave pedals are the most obvious and, honestly, the best way to make your guitar sound like a bass. Octave pedals take the normal signal of your guitar and combine it with a copied frequency that is shifted an octave down. So essentially, you will play your guitar parts in unison with the octave-down part. In addition, octave pedals are super simple to use and relatively inexpensive. So, this is likely the best option if your band needs to fill in for a bass player. You can also use an octave pedal on bass to expand the high register of the instrument.
Use an EQ pedal
Using an EQ pedal in conjunction with an octave pedal is a great way to fine-tune the frequencies to get your bass tone sounding as good as possible. EQ pedals are also an excellent tool to have on your pedalboard because they allow you to tweak your tone very effectively. This is a useful thing to do regardless of whether you are trying to make your guitar sound like a bass or not.
How to make your guitar sound like a bass without pedals
You may not always be able to use pedals to make your guitar sound like a bass. Without an octave pedal, you won’t get the same results that you would with one. That said, you can still give your guitar a deeper tone making it sound very “bassy” without pedals. Here are my top tips for doing so.
Use thick gauge strings
Thicker strings have a warmer sound with more bass. So, if you want to make your guitar sound more like a bass, use a heavier string gauge. For more information, read my breakdown of guitar string gauge.
Adjust the tone knobs on your amp and guitar
You can get a similar result that you would get with an EQ pedal by turning down the tone knob on your guitar and turning up the bass frequency on your amp. This may not shift your guitar’s sound down an octave, but it will give it a bass-forward effect.
Use Drop Tunings
You can also make your guitar sound like a bass by drop-tuning your guitar or using alternate tunings. For example, tune your low E down to D or C, and you will get a much more bassy feel. Some guitarists will even tune their entire guitar down a whole step or more to get a heavier sound.
For more on alternate tunings, check my ultimate guide to tuning electric guitars.
Play closer to the neck of your guitar
Playing closer to the neck of your guitar and only using the neck pickup gives you a warmer tone, while the bridge pickup has a brighter tone. Using the neck pickup on a guitar will allow more bass frequencies to pass through to the amp.
Play like a bassist
The final tip for making your guitar sound like a bass is to play like a bassist. Use your thumb to pick notes and play simple rhythmic bass parts on the lower four strings of your guitar.
Can you use a bass amp for guitar?
Yes, you can use a bass amp for guitar. Many guitarists prefer these amps because they boost the bass levels of your guitar and give you a unique deep tone that you cannot get with a guitar amp. Avoid using a guitar amp for bass, though, as this can destroy your precious amp!
Is bass easier than guitar?
Bass is technically an easier instrument than guitar because there are fewer strings. Bassists generally play simpler parts than guitarists, and there is more space in between frets making fretting notes easier. However, the two instruments are very different with distinct functions, so the difficulty of bass vs. guitar is hard to compare at face value.