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Could the function of the bassist and the rhythm guitarist be combined into one guitar player with a guitar like this for instance? Maybe just me playing this thing and a drummer and a regular guitarist?

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    I submit to you the bands The White Stripes and The Presidents of the United States of America and Local H and Sleater-Kinney. There's probably more but that's all I can think of right now. Honorable mention: Ned's Atomic Dustbin. Feb 23 at 20:31
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    @ToddWilcox And also "Royal Blood", a 2 members band where Mike Kerr sings, and uses his bass to produce bass and guitar sounds
    – vc 74
    Feb 24 at 20:08
  • Lead, rhythm and bass. youtu.be/y_x7GwORySQ?si=LDSwkhXfD0zniKPn
    – wabisabied
    Mar 24 at 19:04

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An actual bass part is really a function of harmony and a bass part could be played on just about any instrument not necessarily the usual low range bass instruments.

We don't need a complete definition to answer your question, but a functional bass will play a preponderance of chord roots, and to provide harmonic variety and melodic shape, other chord tones and scale steps will be mixed with roots.

You can play a bass part while playing simultaneously other accompaniment patterns with one guitar. In fact a lot of fingerpicking styles do that. The functional bass part will be there, but it be an octave higher than the typical bass guitar range.

You could work with various kinds of guitars with extra strings to get a wider range that overlaps the low range of bass and the higher range of guitar.

You might be interested to know that keyboard sometimes replaces the bass guitar. In rock music The Doors were famous for Ray Manzarek playing bass parts on keyboard for live performances. Also, some rock bands use bass pedals, although not necessarily to replace bass guitar.

I don't know what style of music you want to play, but another thing to consider is checking out bands that take a different approach to the typical guitar and bass rhythm section. The band The Presidents of the United States of America comes to mind. They used alternate stringing and created what they called a basitar and a guitbass.

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This instrument is a Bass VI, originally made by Fender and now also available for about $500 from Squier. It is a guitar that is tuned one octave lower than a guitar with a longer scale length and thicker strings. These have been around since the 60’s and have been used by many famous rock bands, the Beatles among them.

You can theoretically use it to function as both a guitar and bass but it also depends on the style of music you’re playing and how much you want to try to do at once. You have to keep in mind that when you are playing lines in the bass register (lower strings, lower frets) whatever you play in the upper register in same position will sound an octave lower than an actual guitar would. This may or may not work well for what you are trying to accomplish. The only way to know for sure is to spend a good amount of time trying one out to see if you can get the desired results you want from it.

Another thing to be aware of is you will probably not truly sound like two players, you will be compromising each part a bit to try and cover them both. It may still be fine, it depends on your musical goals.

EDIT: I remembered a bassist friend who played in a blues/rock power trio and sometimes used an 8 string bass, the kind that has four double strings in octaves so each note sounds like a bass and a guitar in unison. This instrument is more suited to play actual bass lines than chords. It also might work well for the format you mentioned. Historically there have also been many guitar-bass-drum trios over the years such as Cream, Hendrix, Creedence (at times) and Nirvana to name a few.

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  • I imagine that chords played on this instrument have a tendency to sound quite muddy. Never tried one, though.
    – Tim
    Feb 24 at 9:27
  • Do you know if the lowest E1 string on the Bass VI was the same gauge as a regular electric bass guitar? Well, really, I'm wondering about all four of the lowest strings, whether all the gauges were the same. Feb 24 at 14:16
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    @MichaelCurtis They are comprable to regular bass. Fender sells a set that is 24-34-44-65-80-100 which is average for a regular bass. Other companies make sets that end with a lighter E, .084 or .090. Feb 24 at 16:46
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    @Tim There are some YouTube videos that demonstrate this bass. Chordal playing is doable but better confined to higher strings and/or higher positions. Feb 24 at 17:06
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Yes, it's possible. I've sometimes done that with a strat and an Electro-Harmonix Bass9 pedal. https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/electro-harmonix-bass9-bass-machine

It's not optimal, but does the job, better than having no bass player at all.

In the Split Bass mode, the Bass9 adds a bass tone only to the lowest octave plus a couple of semitones up to about F#, so I can play guitar chords quite normally, and it sounds like there's a bass player as well. Well, almost.

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  • That would sort out the lack of bass player, but can it also play the guitar sounds at guitar pitch? There are several 'bass pedals' that drop the inputted guitar by an octave or two, but that's everything all the time.
    – Tim
    Feb 24 at 9:31
  • @Tim I use the Split Bass mode of the EHX Bass9. It only adds a bass note to the lowest octave of the guitar, plus a couple of semitones up to about F#. All higher notes are left untouched, so you can play guitar chords almost normally. Just avoid voicings which have, say, a fifth on the bass strings. Feb 24 at 13:59
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Could a single player perform a bass guitar part and a rhythm guitar part on a Bass VI? Probably, but the Bass VI wasn't really designed for it. In order to play the deep bass notes the rhythm guitar notes will be in a lower register than a lot of songs want. On the other hand, Stanley Jordan was able to play these kinds of dual parts on a regular guitar using a two-handed tapping technique rather than traditional fretting/strumming, so with dedication and a customized fretboard it can be done well.

In my opinion this is easier (and better) accomplished on a Chapman Stick, which was designed for this kind of dual role.

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In the nu-metal and prog rock space, 8-string guitars are popular for something like this. To get a really clean deep bass sound, having a normal 32" or 34" bass scale helps though, especially if your band is tuning below standard E to start with. It's always a compromise. Boris uses a double neck guitar/bass, but of course only one side can be played at a time. (Unless you're Michael Angelo)

I have a strat with a 28.75" neck (so like 1" shorter than a Bass VI) that I have been playing finger-picking counterpoint with. It can create an illusion of simple bass playing with guitar, but again loses the highest treble.

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