Whether you just didn’t have access to a guitar amp for that jam session at your buddy’s garage or you’re exploring complex setups that blend guitar and bass amps for extended range instruments, both camps have the same question…

Can I use my guitar with a bass amp?

First and foremost we need to lay out the differences between what makes something a bass or guitar amp.

The two types of amplifiers are more similar than they are different – the circuitry is very similar, they often share EQ controls, and are both designed for the same job: to amplify an otherwise quiet signal.

The biggest differences you’ll see are power, speaker size, and of course frequency response.

When it comes to power, bass amps take the cake. They are significantly more powerful in order to reproduce those low frequencies at an adequate volume and still have a good amount of clean headroom before the tone starts to distort.

The goods news is that headroom is much greater for a guitar going through that amp. You can plug your guitar into a bass amp and not have to worry about any potential damage to any of the gear involved.

However, that’s not the full story…

A bass amplifier isn’t necessarily designed to create more bass as much as it is an inherent characteristic of using a larger speaker. The lower the frequency you want to support the larger the frequency must be. This is why small speakers seem to sound “tinny” when music is played through them. It’s also why you don’t see subwoofers made from 4’’ speakers.

These larger speakers are needed because the notes of a bass guitar sit in a much lower register than that of the guitar.

On the other hand, a traditional guitar doesn’t need a large speaker as it doesn’t produce those low frequencies in the first place, so it would be rather wasteful both in cost and size to use a similarly large speaker.

Both amps and speakers impart their own “sound” to the instrument. Speakers have an EQ curve of their own, and the EQ controls – while on both types of amps might be labeled treble/mid/bass – don’t impact the same frequency ranges. “Bass” on a guitar amp might be around 200Hz, whereas on a bass amp it will be much lower than that, perhaps 80Hz.

The reason behind these differences come down to the role each instrument plays in a band. Bass is not a lead instrument. The guitar is not a low-end rhythm instrument. As such, amp and speaker manufacturers design their products in a way that helps those instruments shine in their respective roles.

In short, tonally, you might not like what you hear from using a guitar through a bass amp because it simply isn’t designed with that purpose in mind.

So, dear friend, have no fear about plugging your guitar into that bass amp! Journey onward towards great jam sessions with friends!

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