Are you passionate about learning how to play the guitar and wondering whether you could use your old bass amp for your new guitar? Or maybe you are just looking forward to experimenting with your funky licks at your next gig with a bass amp instead, but don’t exactly know if it would work or not? Let me save you the worry- read on!
You can definitely use a bass amp for a guitar. In fact, many renowned guitar players over the years prefer bass amps over guitar amplifiers due to their unique tone on guitars. However, bass amps are not ideal for guitars because they don’t provide sufficient overdrive or distortion usually needed by guitar players.
A few things make bass amps a very desirable option for guitar players over guitar amps. But there are also a lot of reasons why you probably shouldn’t use them for your guitar. And at the end of the day, it really depends on you, the guitar player, and what you’re trying to achieve.
So in this article, you’ll learn about the pros and cons of using a bass amp for your guitar, some famous guitar players who use or have used bass amps in the past, and then we’ll finish it off with my recommendations on some of the best bass amps for both the electric and bass guitar.
But first, let’s start off with the difference between a bass amp and a guitar amp.
Bass Amp vs. Guitar Amp: What’s the Difference?
|Area||Bass Amp||Guitar Amp|
|Frequency Response||Full-rage frequency response||Mid-range frequency response|
|Speaker Size||Big speakers: 10 – 15 inches in size||Small speakers: 5 – 12 inches in size|
|Power Rating||High power rating: 150-350W||Low power rating: 10-120W|
For many people, the only difference between a bass amp and a guitar amp is the size. However, there are few differences under the hood.
Bass amps have a full-range frequency response.
Humans can hear sounds ranging from 20Hz to 20kHz, which drops to about 16kHz in adults. A typical bass guitar has a fundamental range that extends down to about 31 Hz and up to an overtone upper range of about 5kHz Frequency response. On the flip side, an electric guitar has a range of about 100Hz to 5kHz.
Bass guitars usually have a wider frequency response than electric guitars. For this reason, modern bass amps are made to have a wider frequency response as well. Now, bass amps manufacturers include tweeters in their speaker cabinets to accommodate the high frequencies from bass playing techniques like slaps and pops.
The bass guitar amp provides this wide-range frequency response, giving you a clear sound output – a priceless experience.
Bass amps have bigger speakers.
A significant and noticeable difference between a bass amp and guitar amps is that bass amps usually have a bigger speaker. This is because the bass is usually harder to hear compared to the mids and high frequencies.
For this reason, the bass guitar sound has to be played much louder so that they can be heard, especially in the midst of other musical instruments.
Bass combos typically range from 10 to 15 inches in diameter. The higher the diameter, the louder and more ‘boomy’ they are.
Don’t get me wrong; there are smaller-sized bass amps available. An example is the Fender Rumble 25 Bass Amp (on Amazon). Unless you take a closer look at this amp, you might mistake it for a guitar amp. These smaller bass amps tend to offer a more distinct and cleaner tone than the usual bigger bass amps.
However, they are only good for practice purposes. So if you are looking for a bass amp for practicing purposes, the Fender Rumble 25 Bass Amp is an excellent option. But they are not great for live performances and playing with a band. That’s because they are just not loud enough.
This ties into the previous point. Bass amps usually require a lot more power to work. Bass amps require a high wattage supply in order to give the rich sound output they deliver. In typical loud and outdoor settings, a 350W amp or even a one with a higher wattage would be a perfect choice for bass guitars.
This is because it takes more power to play these low-note frequencies from bass guitar through bass amps. That’s because low notes have longer waveforms.
But in the case of an electric guitar, relatively shorter waveforms are created when notes are played. These take relatively lesser power to produce.
Here are the few things that make guitar amps different from bass amps.
Guitar amps have a mid-range frequency response.
Since electric guitars produce a wider and higher range of frequencies, it is prudent that their amps are able to respond to them adequately. As such, guitar amps have a mid to high-range frequency response. You will learn more about frequency responses in the course of this write-up.
Guitar amps have smaller speakers.
It is no news that bass amps are mostly bigger than guitar amps. Even more, so do their speakers differ in size. As I mentioned earlier, bass amp speakers typically range from 10 to 15 inches in diameter. On the other hand, guitar amps typically range from 5 to 12 inches in diameter.
The speakers are also significantly thinner in order to handle the high and fast frequency response action associated with the note frequencies of the electric guitar. This is totally unlike bass combos which have thicker speakers designed to handle the relatively heavy vibrations.
Another key thing about guitar amps is their typically lower wattage requirements, as compared with bass amps. Guitar amps require less power to drive the mid-range or higher frequencies of the signals received from a guitar to produce sounds audibly.
A guitar amp’s typical wattage ranges from 10-120W. There are definitely many guitar amps with power rating higher than 120W. However, those amps are not commonly used. Because they are too loud and also expensive. Amps with power rating between 10-120W is usually the range guitar players go for.
Pros of Using Bass Amp for Guitar
Now you know about both bass and guitar amps, why should you still go in for a bass amp?
Bass Amps Give Guitars a Unique tone
Some guitar players prefer bass amps for their guitar because it doesn’t sound like a guitar amp (obviously). And that’s the whole point.
The guitar tone generated from a bass amp has more depth, more low end, and less overdrive or distortion. It’s a unique sound compared to a guitar sound running through a guitar amp.
And as you already know, music is art. And as long as you love the tone of a guitar played through a bass amp, then definitely go for it.
Fender Bassman, for instance, is a bass amp that became very popular because many guitar players preferred its unique sound. And although for bass guitars, it is now mostly identified with electric guitars.
Check out this video of a guitar player playing his guitar through the Fender Rumble 25W Bass Amp (Amazon) I mentioned earlier.
Get more bass from guitars with single-coil pickups.
If you own a guitar with single-coil pickups such as the Fender Player Stratocaster (on Amazon) or anything similar, you have probably noticed how thin the guitar sounds. Guitars with single-coil pickups usually lack a lot of bass in their tone. And using a bass amp is an excellent way to compensate for that.
Using a bass amp will boost the bass frequencies in guitars with single-coil pickups and make them more present. So if you own a guitar with single-coil pickups, it’s actually a good idea to pick up a bass amp if you’re looking for a guitar sound with more depth to it.
Cons of Using Bass Amp for Guitar
Ok. So why would you NOT want to go in for a bass amp for your electric guitar?
Inability to overdrive/distort your guitar’s sound.
Bass amps do a great job with electric guitars, except that sometimes, they produce sounds that are just too clean.
Guitar amps are designed in such a way that they begin to overdrive and distort a guitar signal as you increase the gain or volume of the amp. It’s an intentional feature made by guitar amp manufacturers. And that’s because it’s a sound desired by guitar players.
This is not the case for bass amps. Bass amps are designed to amplify a bass guitar’s sound with little to no distortion at all. There are few bass amps that provide some form of overdrive or distortion when you increase the preamp gain. However, even those amps do not provide enough overdrive that guitar players like.
Most bass amps don’t have built-in effects.
Many modern solid-state guitar amps have built-in effects. Effects like reverb, delay, and chorus are quite common in many guitar amps. For this reason, guitar players are able to get a decent tone from guitar amps without the need to use effect pedals or multi-FX processors.
This is not the case for bass amps. Bass amps usually don’t have built-in effects. And even if they do, they are not effects that are really useful and needed by guitar players.
Is it bad to plug a guitar into a bass amp?
It’s not bad and dangerous to use a bass amp for guitar. Bass amps are powerful enough to handle a guitar signal without any possible damage.
As we’ve already discussed, bass amps have bigger speakers and are usually more powerful than guitar amps. And a guitar signal cannot possibly damage a guitar. They are more than powerful to handle any signal thrown at them.
Using a guitar amp for bass guitar is rather dangerous and bad for the guitar amp. That’s because guitar amps can’t handle low frequencies. And just as I explained in my article on how bass damage speakers, the low bass frequencies can blow your guitar amp speakers.
Tips for using Bass Amp for Guitar
Here are a few tips on how to effectively use your bass amp with your guitar.
Adjust Tone Control on Bass Amp
Just as the name depicts, tone control essentially controls the tone of the signal coming into the amp. What tone control on amps does is that it allows you to boost or reduce certain frequencies till you get a tone you actually like.
The reason why this is important is that bass amps were obviously not made for guitars. And you may not like how it sounds right off the bat. So you want to spend some time tweaking the tone control knobs to calibrate the bass amp to sound good for your guitar.
Many bass amps have only two tone control knobs. At the same time, some bass amps have up to five-tone control knobs. And this allows you to have more control over the tone.
There is no right or wrong way to adjust the tone control settings on your amp. Just adjust it until you’re satisfied with the sound you’re getting from the amp.
Use an EQ Pedal
Many guitar players don’t own an EQ pedal. And that’s because they don’t consider it to be relevant. However, EQ pedals are one of the most versatile pedals you can possibly own in your guitar rig. And we have an article exclusively on EQ pedals. You should definitely check it out here.
Using an EQ pedal is one sure way to even have more control over the tone you get from a bass amp. With an EQ pedal, you’ll be able to adjust the bass amp’s frequency response. You can cut some of the muddy frequencies from the bass amp and boost certain frequencies that will make your guitar sound even great through them.
Use Overdrive/Distortion Pedal
As I mentioned earlier, bass amps cannot drive or distort your guitar. They are not designed that way. So if you’re looking for an overdriven or distorted tone, you need an Overdrive or Distortion pedal.
These pedals will help you get that dirty and gritty tone you would normally get from a guitar amp through a bass amp. And I recommend you get an overdrive or distortion pedal that works well for the type of genre you play.
However, if you are looking for recommendations, then I highly recommend you pick up MXR Timmy Overdrive Pedal (on Amazon). This is one of the most sought-after overdrive pedals available today. This is because it sounds versatile and works for many genres. And its simple four knob interface allows you to tweak your sound quickly in no time.
Use a guitar amp modeler/Multi-FX Processor.
Using a guitar amp modeler or multi-effects processor is an excellent way to simulate your favorite guitar amps and guitar sounds, even when you’re using a bass amp. And although they may not sound exactly the same when you run them through a bass amp, you can get quite close to your desired tone when you combine it with EQ and tone control.
Amp modelers and multi-effects processors are gradually replacing traditional amps and pedalboards. And you should probably own one by now if you already don’t.
Can You Use a Bass Amp for an Acoustic Guitar?
In short, yes. You can use a bass amp for an acoustic guitar. That’s because bass amps are quite similar to acoustic guitar amps. The only difference is that bass amps have more bass. After making some EQ tweaks, a bass amp should sound excellent for an acoustic guitar.
Even without altering any of the EQ settings, you would still be good to go for the most part. However, it’s recommended that you tweak the EQ settings to get a flat frequency response from the bass amp to get an ideal acoustic guitar sound.
Guitarists who use bass amps
There are several big names in the guitar world who have also used bass amps several times. Some of these legends are:
Buddy Holly was an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter considered to be very influential in rock music in the 1950s.
He is reported to have bought for himself a Fender Bassman bass amp when the band he used to play in (the Crickets) began to play in very large venues. More will be said about this particular amp soon.
Josh Homme was the co-founder and guitarist for the rock band Kyuss from 1987 to 1995. Currently, he is the founder, main songwriter, and member of the band Queens of the Stone Age, where he still plays guitar occasionally.
According to Reverb, he is widely renowned for his unique sound and his kit, which favorites the Ampeg 8×10 bass cabinet (on Amazon) together with his Marshall 100-watt JCM900 (also on Amazon) from the 90s.
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie is best known as the guitarist and frontman for the famous blues-rock band called Double Trouble. He had a whole collection of about 30 different amps (mainly from Fender and Marshall), among which he frequented the Fender Bassman.
This is a name almost every guitar player most probably has come across before. Jimi was a legendary American rock guitarist, composer, and singer who patronized a Supro Thunderbolt bass amp.
Can You Use The Same Amp for Guitar and Bass?
Yes, you can use the same amp for guitar and bass. There are modern amps made to work well with both the bass and electric guitar. You won’t get the best tone as a dedicated guitar or bass amp. However, they sound decent for both instruments.
As always, there is a bit of a compromise if you decide to go for a single amp that will work for both an electric and a bass guitar. This is because these are two totally different instruments with totally different tones.
But if you’re looking to save some cash by just using one amp for both instruments, these are the best options you have.
Best Amp for Guitar and Bass
What are some of the best amps for guitar and bass?
Of course, I had to put the Fender Bassman first on the list. The Fender Bassman (on Reverb) is a legendary giant among its contemporaries. Coming into the scene in 1959, it quickly gained popularity when many renowned guitar players started using it, although it was made for the bass guitar.
It is a 4 x 10″ powerhouse with a 45-watt power requirement, with controls like presence, middle, bass, treble, volume (bright channel), and volume (normal channel). It is a 2- channel tube amp with a 3-band EQ. This amp is capable of producing clean and clipped tones alike and is compatible with pedals as well.
Unfortunately, this amp is very rare. And that’s because Fender discontinued it and then recently started making limited edition reissues. This means you may have to pay a premium to get them brand new. However, you can find used options in excellent condition on Reverb. But you can find used ones in excellent condition on Reverb.
Peavey Vypr VIP 2 Guitar Amp
Also, the Peavey Vypyr VIP 2 Guitar/Bass Amp (Amazon) is one amplifier (the first of its kind) with models for electric, bass, and acoustic guitars. In other words, it is in a class of its own, being compatible with these three instruments.
It is a 40- Watt amp with a 12- inch speaker with Trans-tube patented technology which boasts of an enhanced chromatic tuner, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get), controls, 16 presets, Aux/MP3/CD input, and Bi-directional USB – Data inputs. These functions and qualities make this amp a very wonderful choice for purchase when you are planning on buying an amp.
So yes, you sure can use your bass amp for your guitar without any potential issue or damage. Bass amps are powerful enough to handle and playback a guitar’s signal without any problem.
And some guitarists actually prefer them over traditional guitar amps because of the unique tone they will achieve with using a bass amp. However, keep in mind to use effect pedals and amp modelers or simulators to get your ideal guitar tone since you won’t get that from a bass amp.