Bass guitar and an electric guitar are different. They sound different, have different number of strings (mostly), and have different sized necks.
But let’s say you need a bass guitar at the moment, and you only have an electric one. For example, maybe you need to record bass guitar. You have bass strings, but not the guitar.
You may wonder this. Is it possible to put bass strings on a guitar? Will it sound different? Is it bad for a guitar?
You can put bass strings on a guitar, technically. Still, it is not advisable to do so. Bass strings are thicker. They exert much stronger tension on a neck. Electric guitar neck is not adjusted to that amount of tension. Also, you’ll have to adjust nut slots (make them wider) and bridge. And still, it will probably sound bad.
There’s this video on Youtube, showing a guy playing his electric guitar with bass strings.
Still, keep in mind that this video is for comedy purpose. Yes, it sounds cool, but I wouldn’t advise you to try this at home.
If you’re really experimental type of guy, then do it on some old guitar you don’t care much of. There’s no need risking the damage on a guitar you value.
Bass Guitar Strings Will Bend Your Electric Guitar’s Neck
This is the first, and main, reason why you shouldn’t put bass strings on your electric guitar.
Bass guitar strings are heavier and thicker than regular electric guitar strings. Therefore, the tension they’d provide on a guitar neck would be much stronger than tension provided by set of regular guitar strings.
You can see the difference in tension with a Stringjoy String Tension Calculator. There you can play with different presets and options, just to see the difference.
Here, take a look at the picture below.
As you can see from this picture above, the average tension produces by regular guitar strings is around 114 lbs.
When you play with options, set the strings to be bass strings. You’ll notice that the average tension for bass strings is around 164 lbs.
Therefore, we can conclude that bass strings exert significantly stronger tension on guitar’s neck.
But how then, you may ask, bass guitars handle those heavy bass strings? It’s because bass strings have longer necks. Longer neck is also a stronger neck. Also, bass guitars have stronger truss rod.
Truss rod is a part of the guitar located inside guitar neck. It provides a counter tension to the tension that’s caused by guitar strings. Strings pull neck in one direction. Truss rod pulls neck in the opposite direction.
That’s how the balance is achieved.
If you were to put bass guitar strings on an electric guitar, you’d need to tighten up a truss rod. That would certainly help, but it still wouldn’t be a healthy thing to do to your electric guitar.
Anyway, the thickness of bass strings is the main reason why bass strings are more expensive than regular guitar strings. If you want to know more about this, check the article from this site about it.
Bass Guitar And Electric Guitar Have Different Nut Slots
This is another reason why putting bass string on your guitar is a bad idea. Every guitar has its nut. Every nut has its nut slots. However, almost every guitar (whether it’s bass or electric) has different nut slots gauges.
Electric guitars have narrower nut slots than bass guitars. That makes sense, since bass guitar strings are way thicker than guitar strings. That’s why bass guitars have wider nut slots.
Putting those thick bass strings on a guitar, to sit in very narrow slots isn’t going to work. Since nut slots are too narrow for a bass string to sit in, those bass strings will likely slide away from their nut slots.
Therefore, you’d have to change the nut on your guitar. But isn’t it simpler to just buy yourself a new bass guitar?
You’d Have To Adjust Action Height
Another reason why you shouldn’t put bass strings on your guitar. Action height. It’s the distance between the fret and the bottom of a string.
Since bass strings are thicker and bigger, they take more space than regular guitar strings do. Therefore, if you were to put bass strings on your guitar, you’d have to adjust the action height.
To be more precise, you’d have to increase the height of action. All of this can be complicated. Why just not get yourself a new bass guitar?
Bass Strings On A Guitar Just Don’t Sound Good
Even if you have the will to adjust all of the things described above, it would still probably sound crappy in the end.
You’d have to struggle in order to find a good sound. It would probably take some guitar pedals to change the sound completely. If you’re a guitar beginner, you’d almost certainly get lost in a bad sound you’d get in the end.
Although there are reports of guitarists claiming they got a good sound, it’s still not worth the time. Unless, of course, you don’t have anything better to do, or if you’re enthusiastic experimental guy.
Can You Put Guitar Strings On A Bass?
OK, now we concluded that putting bass strings on a guitar is a bad idea. But can you put guitar strings on a bass?
Still, it’s not a good idea. I mean, it would sound crappy in the end. Also, guitar strings on a bass will almost certainly buzz. That’s because those nut slots on a bass are too wide for thin guitar strings.
Guitar strings would then dance, each one in its own slot. Then the problem arises because of the action height. Again, the same set of problems arise, just the other way around.
I hope this article provided you some valuable information about this topic. Now, let’s recap the content.
Here’s why putting bass strings on an electric guitar is a bad idea.
- bass strings are thicker
Bass strings are thicker and heavier. Therefore they’ll exert too strong tension for a guitar neck.
- action height
Since bass strings are thicker, they take more space than regular guitar strings. Therefore, you’d have to increase action on your guitar.
- truss rod
Truss rod on a bass guitar is different than the one in electric guitar. They’re not compatible to provide equal amounts of counter tensions.
Even if you make proper adjustments, the sound will most probably be bad. You’d have to find the sound that’s good enough. In that struggle, you’d have to use guitar pedals and have to know all of the options on your guitar amp.
If you’re a beginner, you’d probably end up lost in the sea of a bad sound.
OK, now we’ve recapped this topic.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article, as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. If that’s the case, I’m more than happy about it.
Don’t forget to check out other interesting articles about various guitar topics and issues!
Cheers, and rock on!