Making your guitar sound like a bass can be handy when you want to write some parts for a song, or lay down some bass tracks on a recording.
While you could buy a cheap bass and learn how to play bass, there are alternatives that can give you a decent bass sound using your guitar.
There are four ways you can make your guitar sound like a bass:
- Use an octave pedal or pitch shifter
- Use a MIDI pickup
- Use a plugin in a DAW for recording
- Use the EHX BASS9 Pedal
Each of these methods will give you different results, so in this guide, I’ll explain the above methods in more detail so you know which one is best for you to make your guitar sound like a bass.
If you do have a bass, find out if you can use a bass with your guitar amp in this guide. Or find out if you can use guitar pedals with bass here.
Using an Octave Pedal to Make Your Guitar Sound Like a Bass
The easiest way to make your guitar sound like a bass is to use an octave pedal. Set the octave pedal to shift the pitch down one octave and turn the original signal off.
The idea behind this method is that a bass guitar is one octave lower than a regular guitar.
By using an octave pedal, you can shift your guitar’s pitch down to a bass guitar’s range.
Any octave pedal works as long as it gives you control for the individual octave levels.
The below octave pedal is the EHX Micro POG (link to my review for details) and is perfect for making your guitar sound like a bass.
Any of the POG pedals (EHX have a few different options as covered in my review) can be used to make your guitar sound like a bass.
Simply turn the ‘Sub Octave’ knob up and turn the ‘Dry’ and ‘Octave Up’ knobs all the way down to zero.
What you will end up with is a signal one octave lower than normal and will sound like a bass guitar.
Not all octave pedals will be able to make your guitar sound like a bass. So make sure the pedal you choose has a knob to turn down the dry or original signal.
Here is an example of the type of bass tone you can get using an octave pedal:
The above clip uses an octave pedal to shift the guitar’s pitch down to bass levels and a compressor to fatten up the tone.
It’s not perfect, but it can give you a decent starting point for coming up with bass parts.
Find out more about octave pedals as well as how to dial in different tones with your guitar amp in my Guitar Effects Course. In the course, you’ll learn about all types of guitar effects and how to combine them for interesting tones.
Here are some other pedals you can use to make your guitar sound like a bass:
- DigiTech Whammy DT (link to my full review)
- TC Electronic Sub’n’Up
- DigiTech Drop (link to my full review)
With any of the above pedals, make sure you follow the tips covered at the end of this guide to get a better bass tone from your guitar.
Using a MIDI Pickup to Make Your Guitar Sound Like a Bass
Using an octave pedal is an easy way to get a bass tone from your guitar, but if you want a more realistic bass tone, there is a better option.
My Ultimate Guide to MIDI Guitar covers everything you need to know if you are interested in learning about MIDI.
A MIDI pickup converts your guitar signal into a MIDI signal. A MIDI signal can then be used to turn your guitar into almost any instrument you want.
This is a MIDI pickup:
There are a few different options, but they all sit under your guitar’s strings.
The MIDI pickup is then sent to a processing unit such as the BOSS GP-10:
Once you have a MIDI pickup and a processor, you simply select a bass preset and you’ll get a seriously impressive bass tone.
Unless you’ve tried out a guitar with a MIDI pickup before, it can be hard to emphasize how good these tones can sound.
This is clearly a more expensive option than the other methods covered in this guide, but it’s a useful option if you want to experiment with a lot of different instrument tones.
The benefit of this option is that it creates a great sounding bass.
You don’t need to worry about what pickups you use or adjusting EQ on your guitar amp because the MIDI processor does everything to create a great bass tone.
If you are interested in using a MIDI pickup to make your guitar sound like a bass, violin, piano, saxophone, or any other instrument, check out my Ultimate Guide to MIDI Guitar here.
Using a Plugin in a DAW to Make Your Guitar Sound Like a Bass
If you want to make your guitar sound like a bass for recordings, you can make any guitar recording sound like a bass from within your DAW (learn about the best DAWs for guitar here).
There are a lot of different plugins you can use to turn a guitar tone into a bass tone (check out the best guitar VST plugins in this guide).
An easy example is to use an amp and effects modeling plugin such as AmpliTube 4, BIAS FX, or Line 6 Helix Native. In this example, I’ll use AmpliTube 4 (read my full review here).
First, apply the plugin to your recording track.
This is usually as easy as dragging the plugin over the track you want to use.
Next, add an octave effect or pitch shifter effect inside the plugin.
In the above screenshot of AmpliTube 4, you can see I added a few pedals to test to make your guitar sound like a bass. Different plugins will have different options, but they’re all similar.
One option is the ‘Octav’ effect. If you use this pedal, turn the ‘Direct Level’ knob all the way down and adjust the ‘Oct 2’ knob up to the right level.
For my guitar, the Octav effect sounded terrible and the tracking was awful.
A second option is the ‘Pitch Shifter’ effect. Set the ‘Course’ knob to -12, which is an octave down. Set the ‘Fine’ knob to 0 and adjust the ‘Level’ knob as you like.
This effect was significantly better than the Octav effect. The tracking was fine and the bass tone produced was pretty good.
A third option is the ‘Wharmonator’ effect. Set the mode to ‘Bend’ and adjust the ‘Bend’ knob to show ‘-Oct’, which means to lower the pitch an octave. Push the pedal all the way down and you’ll hear your guitar pitch shift down an octave.
This option sounded as good as the Pitch Shifter effect with good tracking and a good tone.
Other plugins will have similar pedals, so follow the above advice to shift your guitar pitch down an octave.
Once you have a pitch-shifting pedal set up properly, go to the amp section and choose a bass amp model.
In the above photo, you can see I’ve chosen a bass guitar amp in AmpliTube, which will help turn my pitch-shifted guitar tone into a decent bass tone.
Here is the result of using a plugin like AmpliTube to make your guitar sound like a bass:
The above clip is the tone produced by adding a pitch shifter pedal in AmpliTube and selecting a bass amp. It gives you a good starting point and tweaking the settings would bring this tone even closer to an authentic-sounding bass tone.
You might notice some slight fret buzzing in this recording. If you hear a similar buzzing noise, check out my guide on Guitar Action Height to fix this issue.
Find out more about using amp and effects plugins like AmpliTube in my Guitar Effects Course.
Using the EHX BASS9 Pedal to Make Your Guitar Sound Like a Bass
While an octave pedal can create a decent bass-like tone with your guitar, there is a better pedal worth considering.
The EHX BASS9 Bass Machine was designed to take a guitar signal and turn it into a variety of different bass tones.
As you can see from the nine different options on the pedal, you can choose from a wide range of bass tones.
A pedal like this would suit a guitarist who likes the idea of experimenting with bass tones but doesn’t want to buy a bass.
You can hear all of the different bass tones you can get out of this pedal in the below video:
As you can hear in the above video, the pedal can create some impressive bass tones from a regular guitar.
I’d love to do a review of the BASS9, but I haven’t seen one in my local guitar store. So if anybody from Electro-Harmonix wants to help me out, I’d love to do a full review and tutorial.
Tips for Making a Guitar Sound Like a Bass
To get a better bass tone, follow these tips:
- Use a neck or middle pickup to get a smoother tone
- Use your thumb to pluck the notes
- If you use a pick, pick the string away from the bridge
- Adjust the EQ on your guitar amp to suit a bass tone
- Use a compressor pedal to get a beefier tone
- Play on the lower strings
- Think and play like a bassist
If you follow the above tips and set up your gear properly, you can come up with a convincing bass tone from your guitar.
Playing a Real Bass
While the above methods can create a decent bass tone using your guitar, nothing beats an actual bass.
If you want to write bass tracks, record bass tracks, or just mess around with bass riffs, you might want to consider buying a bass.
Bass can be easy to learn as a lot of techniques and skills you have learned on guitar can transfer to bass. The above guide gives you a step-by-step method to getting started learning bass.
Find out if you can play a bass through a guitar amp in this guide. This guide will help you decide whether you need to buy a separate bass amp or if you can use your guitar amp to play both guitar and bass.
Find out what guitar pedals you can use on a bass in this guide. You might be surprised with what you can or can’t use with your bass.
If you do buy a bass, work on these bass exercises every day to build up your bass skills.