I am just asking if guitar-style shredding is possible on a 4-string electric bass.

  • 4
    Does Victor Wooten count? Sep 18 '21 at 16:01
  • 1
    People will point to bassists shredding. But then I'll show them a video of any decent guitarist actually shredding. A great bassist can do great things-- but competing with a hero guitar solo isn't one of them. Sep 19 '21 at 9:15
  • 6
    It probably depends on what you mean by "shredding". Here's a video of bassist Charles Berthoud playing versions of guitar solos: youtube.com/watch?v=4b_IzayG13k - if that counts as "shredding" for you, then yes. (Berthoud also performs original virtuoso bass solos.)
    – Semiprime
    Sep 19 '21 at 11:41
  • Don't forget Jaco Pastorius Sep 20 '21 at 13:38
  • In addition to Victor and Jaco... Geddy Lee, Billy Sheehan, Cliff Burton, Les Claypool
    – ToastMan
    Sep 21 '21 at 19:47

I wouldn't like to say it isn't possible - I'm sure there are lots of videos out there on youtube claiming to feature 'shred' bass. But compared to guitar, there are a few things that will slow you down:

  • To get a full, bassy sound out of a bass string, you need to pick or pluck it quite fully; so 'brushing' it as you would with fast sweep picking won't necessarily produce a satisfying sound
  • Some shredding techniques depend on distortion; high levels of distortion on bass aren't always what you want for the mix
  • Muting on bass is arguably harder and more important than on guitar, so you need to focus on that a little more as well as your fast note changes. (This is especially true if using a lot of distortion on bass).
  • the frets are further apart, slowing down left hand work
  • the strings are further apart, slowing down picking
  • it takes a little longer for the human ear to recognize the frequency of bass notes, so a very fast bassline is going to sound rather noisy/messy

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