Can You Use A Bass Amp For A Guitar?
This is a common question among guitarists worldwide and the short answer is yes you can use a bass amp for guitar. In fact Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix pretty much always used bass amps. In this article we’ll cover all you need to know about running a guitar through a bass amp and more.
What’s The Difference Between Guitar Amps & Bass Amps?
To understand the way the different types of amps sound or more importantly how they will affect the way your guitar sounds, we need to look at the differences between both types of amp.
The frequency range of a bass guitar is around 30 hertz to 5,000 hertz whereas an electric guitar has a frequency range of around 100 hertz to 5,000 hertz. Bass amp manufacturers make their amps to have a wider frequency response than is necessary for an electric guitar amp.
Bass amps also have bigger speakers than electric guitar amps because the bass at lower frequencies is harder to hear among other musical instruments. So larger speakers create a bigger sound making the bass easier to hear when it’s being played with other members of the band.
To create that rich resonate sound, bass amps need more power, if an electric guitar needs 100W of power, the bass needs more like 350W. This is all down to the extra power needed to produce the low notes from a bass guitar. It’s due to the lower notes having a longer wavelength.
Electric guitar amps tend to be smaller than bass amps, require less power, and use smaller speakers as the sound they produce is in the mid to high range of frequencies. Not only are the speaker diameters smaller, but they’re also thinner as they don’t need to have such high vibrations as bass speakers.
As for power, the most powerful amps necessary are around the 120W size although 100W are still regularly used by guitarists. They don’t need to produce any more so why have them?
Why Use A Bass Amp?
Now we have an overview of the main differences between guitar amps and bass amps, and we know that bass amps have been designed for use with bass guitars. Why would you want to use a bass amp for an electric guitar?
Bass amps produce a deeper sound, much lower sounding and with less overdrive or distortion. This gives the guitarist a unique sound when compared with a guitar playing through a regular electric guitar amp.
Boosting Bass Tone
If you play a guitar with single-coil pick-ups you’ll know how thin the tone sounds. Single-coil pick-ups lack bass, using a bass amp can compensate for that. Many single-coil pick-up guitarists use a bass amp to create a sound with more depth.
Why Not Use A Bass Amp?
We’ve just given you some good examples of why you might want to use a bass amp with an electric guitar. So why wouldn’t you want to?
Lack Of Distortion
Bass amps play clean sounds, there’s no overdrive or distortion on a bass amp. They are designed to purely amplify the bass guitar’s sound. Not provide any form of distortion.
Most modern electric guitar amps have built-in effects, things like chorus, reverb and delay are built into the circuitry of the amp and can be accessed at the press of a button. Not so on bass amps, if a bass amp does have any built-in effects they’re designed specifically for bass guitars and won’t do much to enhance your guitar playing.
Will Using A Bass Amp Damage My Guitar?
The answer to this is no. Using a bass amp will not harm the guitar or the amp. As the bass amp is more powerful and has larger speakers it is more than able to handle anything an electric guitar can throw at it.
Flip that question on its head however, and it’s a whole different matter. Using a guitar amp for a bass can damage the amp and the speakers. This is because neither the amp or the speakers were designed to handle the low frequencies produced by the bass guitar.
Can A Bass Amp Be Used For Acoustic Guitar?
Using a bass amp for an acoustic guitar is perfectly acceptable because bass amps and acoustic amps have similar setups. Apart from bass amps have more bass of course, but this can easily be balanced using different EQ settings.
Top Tips For Getting The Most From Your Guitar & Bass Amp
Here are our top tips to get the best sound when using a bass amp for an electric guitar.
Tweak The Tone
The tone control on a bass amp will help you to get the best sound possible from your setup. There is no right or wrong setup, just the one that suits you. Most bass amps have two tone controls but some have five. However many your amp has, fiddle with them until you find your perfect tone.
Invest In An EQ Pedal
Most guitarists don’t bother with any EQ pedals because most amps have EQ controls built in the amp. But if you’re using a bass amp with an electric guitar, an EQ pedal will give you far more control with the tone. You will be able to change the bass frequencies, cutting the heavier bassier sounds and boost more trebly sounds.
Get A Multi-FX Processor
These guitar amp modelers or multi-FX processors are gradually replacing amps anyway, so it’s probably a good idea to get one so you don’t get left behind. Using one of these through a bass amp will help you to get far closer to the tone you’re looking for especially if you combine it with an EQ pedal.
Run The Guitar Through A Distortion Pedal
Bass amps can’t create overdrive or distortion, to achieve this effect you’ll need a pedal. This will give you that fuzzy tone a guitar amp has. Try a few pedals out until you find the one that suits you best.
Can Bass & Electric Guitars Be Used Through The Same Amp?
There are some modern amps that have the capacity to run a bass and an electric guitar through it at the same time. The sound quality will not be as good as using specialised equipment but it will be adequate. It’s always best to use individual amps but if money is tight, you could save by using one between two.
Look for something like the Peavey Vypyr VIP 2 guitar/bass amp or if you can find one, the Fender Bassman.
Well Known Guitarists Who Use Bass Amps
There are a few well known guitarists who use a bass amp to create their own unique sound. Here are a few examples;
Co-founder and guitarist with the band Kyuss and now founder member, songwriter and occasional guitarist with Queens of the Stoneage often uses the Ampeg 8×10 bass cabinet along with his Marshall 100-watt JCM900.
Kurt used to run his Fender Jaguars through a Fender Bassman during the recording of “Nevermind” in 1991.
There can’t be anyone who hasn’t heard Buddy Holly’s unique contribution to popular music. One of the most influential rock musicians from the 1950s until his untimely death in 1959. Once he and his band started playing at large venues he bought himself a Fender Bassman bass amp so he could be heard.
Everyone knows who Jimi Hendrix is/was but what’s not so widely known is Jimi used a Supro Thunderbolt bass amp.
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Another famous guitarist who met an untimely end, SRV was famous for the Texas blues sound along with his band Double Trouble. Stevie had around 30 amps including a Fender Bassman.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can play an electric guitar through a bass amp without causing any problems apart from differences in tonal quality. However, never try to play a bass through an electric guitar amp as this will probably damage the amp and speakers.
You can use a bass amp for an acoustic guitar. Bass amps and acoustic amps are similar in design.
Some of the guitarists that have used a bass amp include, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Buddy Holly.